October 15, 2010
Law School Rankings by BigLaw Partners
Tax Prof Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.), Where Partners Come From -- Finding the Brass Ring:
This post reports preliminary results of a study examining what many law students view as the ultimate outcome measure: partnership in a big firm. Specifically, it attempts to gauge how successful graduates of each US law school have been at obtaining big-firm partnership status over the past 25 years. The study is limited to current partners (October 2010) in US offices of the NLJ 250.
My research assistants have almost completed the task of collecting the relevant information for all 250 firms from Martindale-Hubbell on-line. I have personally quality-checked the spreadsheets for the five largest law firms in the United States, which collectively employ 13,942 US lawyers – 11% of all US lawyers employed by the NLJ 250. This post reports the results for those five firms. The five firms studied (with their two largest US offices, measured by number of partners) are:
- Baker & McKenzie (Chicago, New York)
- DLA Piper (Chicago, New York)
- Jones Day (New York, Washington)
- White & Case (New York, Washington)
- Skadden Arps (New York, Washington)
Ted ranks the 131 law schools with at least one graduate as a partner in these five law firms. Here are the Top 51:
No. of Partners
William & Mary
Ted also lists the law schools that most outperform their 2010 U.S. News ranking (San Francisco is ranked 67 places higher than in the 2010 U.S. News ranking, Loyola Chicago +64, St. John's +57, Loyola-L.A. +48 Chicago-Kent +46), as well as the law schools that most underperform their 2010 U.S. News ranking (Vanderbilt is ranked 27 places lower than in the 2010 U.S. News rankings, Washington U. -25, Stanford -24, Yale -22, Minnesota -18).
Ted also ranks the law schools by relative class size (although he notes that "[f]rom an employer's perspective, the adjustment for class size is inappropriate. Employers generally look for the largest, deepest pool of potential associates they can find. Class size is relevant.").
Ted describes his future planned work in this area:
My next step is going to be to extend the analysis to the full NLJ 250. The fact that the five firms analyzed employ 11% of all lawyers employed nationwide by the NLJ 250 suggests that the results reported here are likely to be somewhat representative, but this needs to be confirmed. In particular, I expect that Harvard is a more likely recruiting target for firms further down the NLJ 250 list than its competitors. (In Los Angeles, for example, Harvard graduates are heavily represented among big-firm partners; Chicago graduates are not.)
I have also collected city-by-city data. Again, I expect it will show that few schools are actually national law schools – in the sense of producing significant numbers of big-firm partners in multiple cities. Here again, I expect Harvard to perform well.
Finally, I intend to compare the percentage that each school's graduates comprise of all entry-level hires with the percentage that that school's graduates comprise of the NLJ 250 partner population. In effect, I intend to compute a success/washout ratio for each school. My intuition is that firms hire very heavily at some schools because of the schools' prestige, notwithstanding the fact that few graduates of those schools ultimately become partners, and that the converse is true as well. This information may be useful to both students and hiring partners.
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This is like looking up at the stars. All you see is an image of the past. How long ago were these partners in school?
Still, it probably has more merit than USNWR
Posted by: Nolo Contendre | Oct 15, 2010 3:13:55 PM
Very interesting, and utterly useless as a predictor of graduates' current and future prospects of becoming a big firm partner.
To become a big law firm partner, one must first gain employment at a big firm. It is markedly easier to do so from the prestigious schools, and markedly more difficult to do so from the less prestigious schools, like Loyola L.A., particularly in the current and foreseeable legal hiring environment.
Anyone who looks at this ranking, and thinks paying full tuition at a school like Loyola is worth it because they have a chance at big law is hopelessly naive.
Posted by: anon | Oct 15, 2010 4:16:34 PM
Urgh. Do we really need yet another ranking of law schools? This has be at least the tenth ranking you have posted on your website in the past few months. I wish the people who put together this useless info would instead focus their energies actually working in or for the schools or directly with students. That would be a productive use of their time -- so it probably won't ever happen.
Posted by: John | Oct 15, 2010 5:24:20 PM
This is so funny:
Ted Seto puts forth a ranking that puts his school in a positive light.
Brian Leiter, of course, weighs in, with a methodology suggestion that puts Chicago in a better light than the original methodology.
FYI...Us real practicing lawyers out here read these blogs for the shear amusement that is the legal "academy." These blogs are my guilty pleasure, the Jersey Shores of law, if you will.
Posted by: anon | Oct 15, 2010 5:50:02 PM
This ranking could also say that it's not where you go to school but who you know.
Posted by: Woody | Oct 15, 2010 6:33:17 PM
A sample size of five firm is essentially useless. Moreover, until you get further down the NLJ 250 list to firms based in markets like Atlanta, Minneapolis, St. Louis, etc., then of course the rankings will be heavily skewed toward even the lower-tier schools in NYC, Chicago, DC and California.
Posted by: Wade | Oct 15, 2010 11:25:10 PM
As a Michigan man, I am satisfied with Michigan's ranking here (could have been better of course) However, Yale's ranking strikes me as probably unfair. Yale has a very small class. To be meaningful, the numbers have to be converted into percent of graduates over the measurement period.
Posted by: JeffreyK | Oct 16, 2010 1:08:28 PM
I founded and ran (in my spare time, I was a line consulting partner) PwC's MBA recruiting program. We hired 250 MBA's a year from the top 20 schools. I am also a Financial Economist and an expert statistician And I can safely say that your methodology is disastrously flawed. If we had measured the partner provenance of our consulting partners in our two largest offices - NY and DC we would have found a huge representation from schools in those regions. If we had measured the provenance of the top rated partners in the Firm the results would have been wildly different.
Your methodology is a joke. Perhaps because you lawyers just ain't very good with those number thingies. Come to think of it, Lawyer innumeracy is probably why our economy is such a black hole.
Posted by: Bill Reeves | Oct 16, 2010 10:29:26 PM
These comments raise what seem to be very valid criticisms of the whole concept. It is worth noting that plenty of major law firm partners are completely comfortable not even considering applications from students at the law schools they attended. Frequently they're justified, considering the changes that have taken place in the level of competitiveness at the respective schools, the relative position of that firm in hiring compared to 20, 30 or 40 years ago, as well as profound shifts in the overall legal hiring market.
I was surprised to see my school, Northwestern, ranked quite so high, though it is worth noting, in response to JeffreyK, that for a long time it was comparable in size to Yale Law (200 each; now it has 272 according to U.S. News, however). But besides the fairly strong tradition of Yale grads going into public service, and not hanging out for the big-firm corporate blessing, the breakout of the five firms considered here explains it: Two of them have massive Chicago presences.
I would be surprised if the all of the other three even have Northwestern graduates as partners -- certainly not in significant numbers.
Similarly, Stanford is under-represented because there is no West Coast-based firm among these five...
Posted by: Ron Coleman | Oct 16, 2010 11:53:21 PM
This is a silly list. What are the class sizes of each school? Harvard and Georgetown are by far the largest of the top tier schools. They pump out more graduates so they're better represented on this list.
Posted by: JTHC75 | Oct 17, 2010 6:03:46 AM
Of course, you are looking at the successful lawyers who like big firm life. I am a GW grad, hated the BigLaw from whence I came, and have my own niche practice that employs around 25-ish others, and my financial and client standing has improved dramatically since I left. Given my past BigLaw experence, I'd also never hire anyone from Harvard or Yale. Smart, maybe, but usually worthless when it came to litigation crunch time. And irritating as hell, because, you know, I was never sufficiently appreciative of their smartness. But that must be because I went to GW.
Posted by: Dee G | Oct 17, 2010 6:43:02 AM
This list would be a lot more meaningful if it had been compiled from the top five or ten law firms in terms of repuation, firms like Cravath, Wachtell, Davis Polk, etc., rather than size.
Posted by: Dave | Oct 17, 2010 6:44:39 AM
The real measure of a law school's prestige is, of course, how many alumni sit on the Supreme Court. HLS wins that one by a mile, too. :p
I agree with the folks who question this methodology. I'm not sure what it tells us about the law schools, other than that HLS and GLC graduate a lot of people and maybe indicating a little bit about how successful some of the less prestigious schools have been at embedding networks in these big firms.
Posted by: Prosecutorial Indiscretion | Oct 17, 2010 10:49:51 AM
Yeah. I agree with Nolo. This is useless as a predictor of graduates' current and future prospects of becoming a big firm partner. I mean it's interesting to check out the law school ranking of any school somebody is considering. But I would think there are so many other factors to consider before deciding what law schools to apply to. Wouldn't you?
Posted by: Amy Stern | Oct 22, 2010 5:32:36 PM