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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Law School Rankings by Salary of Recent Graduates

Forbes:  The Law Schools Whose Grads Earn The Biggest Paychecks:

Forbes turned to to find the law schools whose graduates make the most in the early stages of their career. ... Payscale combed through the profiles of its 35 million unique users who supply compensation information on its website to find which law school grads make the most. They looked at starting salaries of graduates from 98 popular law schools and found roughly 31,000 of them in their database who had reported salary information, including 9,100 working in the private sector with less than five years of experience. ...

The salaries below from Payscale are current median salaries (as of the first quarter of 2013) for recent law school graduates who in almost all cases finished law school within the last five years. The median work experience for this group is two years, and their median age is 29.

Forbes Rank

US News Rank

Law School

Recent Grads' Salary



















































































San Francisco








Santa Clara




San Diego






(Hat Tip:  Above the Law.)

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It is interesting that U San Francisco makes this list while also being one of the schools that has been sued for employment statistics -- and one of only three that are proceeding to discovery. Sometimes the 9 month number does not tell the whole story, and the plaintiffs attorneys may have picked the wrong targets.

It is also interesting that Fordham, which is on this list, is exceeded by Touro in the 9 month number.

It is also interesting that Santa Clara does well here, after Paul Campos has attacked the school so vehemently.

Posted by: Kipper | Mar 17, 2013 9:23:16 PM

No one should go to law school, but the median salary is $80,000 plus? There's a bit of a contradiction here.

Posted by: michael livingston | Mar 18, 2013 4:55:19 AM

Michael: this is the top 25; the median nationwide is not represented here. But the measure ought to include the likely debt load at each college; that would bring the more expensive schools down.

Posted by: mcg | Mar 18, 2013 8:47:48 AM

the obvious problem is that graduates of Harvard, Yale disproportionately clerk and/or voluntarily go into lower paying jobs such as the government and academia. So to be insightful among the top 5-10 schools, this would need to exclude people who made such voluntary choices.

Posted by: anon | Mar 18, 2013 9:00:02 AM

$165,000 in NYC ain't that much. It costs $2,000-$3,000 / month just to park your car in the city.

Posted by: LivedInNYC | Mar 18, 2013 9:42:39 AM

Kipper, I don't know if these stats are good or not. Who can tell? Whenever you see that word "median" in law school stats you have to wonder what's being measured and what's being left out of the stats.

There is a slice of Santa Clara students who do well in the IP firms. They place 8.5% of their students into NLJ 250 firms. Some of them are night students with engineering degrees who work in Silicon Valley and attend night school. Some of them are full time students but either have the technical degree or take all the IP courses.

Posted by: anon | Mar 18, 2013 10:04:44 AM

I don't see much contradiction.

First, I haven't heard anybody say someone who could get into Stanford or Columbia shouldn't go. But for every one of their graduates, there are thousands of new lawyers who graduated from directional state university with a mountain of debt and no job prospects. They're the ones being told not to go to law school.

Second, $165K in NYC or $147K in the Bay Area is nice, but hardly livin' large, especially with student loan payments dragging you down. A Stanford grad living in Salt Lake City or Dallas isn't making anything approaching that, at least not that early in their career, and these are probably people who could make as much or more in other fields.

For the average student, law school is still a bad idea.

Posted by: J1 | Mar 18, 2013 10:12:40 AM

Michael Livingston:

Don't let these figures deceive you.

First, these figures are based on graduates who actually get jobs out of law school. Since the data is based on self-reporting, we don't get a sense of what percentage of graduates are getting hired in the private sector versus the public sector, and what percentage are not working at all.

Second, if you listed every law school whose graduates are eligible to sit for a bar exam, the median salary would look very different.

Third, you have to consider the average debt load against the typical cost of living. A Columbia grad making a high, six-figure starting salary is likely to reside in NYC, and to have a student debt load of well over $200k (not counting undergrad debt).

Posted by: Travis_McGee | Mar 18, 2013 10:26:32 AM

All numbers on law profession incomes are very very suspect. These are self-reported incomes. Worthless, not auditable.

Bernie Madoff reported very good numbers, too. They didn't match reality very well, but no one was able to check them against reality until it was far far too late. That's what's going on here. The significant number of law school grads who are impoverished, semi-enslaved, and beset by thoughts of suicide as an out...never show up in these neat grids of imaginary incomes. B.S., B.S., B.S.

Posted by: Lowellguy | Mar 18, 2013 10:28:55 AM

At best, incomplete data (gosh, I wish I had more!). First, the thing is self-reported. Second, it is not audited numbers or even form 1040 numbers. Third, it would be interesting to see the numbers of grads in those upper-income schools versus those those grads coming out of tier-3 and tier-4 schools.

And even at $80k per year, the amount of student loan debt that many incur -- I just talked too a noob grad with $150k in loans -- isn't gonna be easily supported. Since deferred payments are essentially added to principle, many students find that the initial amount has increased by 25-50% before they start paying. I'm not seeing a payoff here after the debt payments, versus what bright, hard-working college grads could expect 5 years or so out of college.

Posted by: geek49203 | Mar 18, 2013 10:32:55 AM


A couple of thoughts....

1. This is self-reported data. There could well be bias introduced (as in, those without jobs in legal don't put data into

2. These are medians of the reported data. Five grads at $250K and five grads at $47K cancel each other out, sort of, although each of the first five makes more than ALL of the second five combined.

3. These are the top 25. The falloff from #1 to #25 is over 50%. There are 200 law schools in the US. Where do you think the median of #100 is? #150?

4. 2 grads for each job based on BLS projections and law school output.

Posted by: JK | Mar 18, 2013 10:57:11 AM

I assume these numbers are based on reporting graduates? Which means it does not include most under- or unemployed attorneys. It also doesn't balance for clerks and trust-fund kids who go nonprofit.

Posted by: Tim maguie | Mar 18, 2013 1:18:15 PM

Nice Bernie Madoff reference. If you don't want to practice law for a relatively meager living, don't go to law school and you'll avoid the bitterness expressed by so many on these blogs. It's not exactly complex analysis.

My labor law professor once said, "if you want to be rich, drop out now, cut your losses, and focus all of your efforts into opening a well placed fast food franchise. Don't be a lawyer." And this was BEFORE the downturn.

Posted by: TMM | Mar 18, 2013 3:13:49 PM

From U.S. News on University of San Francisco School of Law - Percent in the private sector who reported salary information = 31%. Therefore, these median salary numbers could be way off; I bet the other 69% have significantly lower salaries.

Posted by: JM | Mar 18, 2013 5:01:40 PM

"$165,000 in NYC ain't that much."

Why would the grads necessarily be living near their alma mater?

Posted by: Ben | Mar 18, 2013 5:25:32 PM

I see a few top 25 schools not on the list. I suspect pretty bad methodology on this data set, never mind the obvious self reporting biases, which could be corrected for.

If someone wanted to get serious about this type of data, one could probably go ask the alumni groups, who tend to keep much better records on donation potential and income generation than the law schools usually keep.

Finally, it seems that the issue really isn't salary folks, it's the cost required to obtain it for most folks. I.e., its not the revenues but the lack of profits on those revenue that is disturbing.

Maybe it's time to return law studies to undergrad, with advanced degrees for a much limited number of specialists. Like most of the world?

Posted by: Nani de mo | Mar 18, 2013 8:55:40 PM

"165,000 isn't much." I have a son who is trying to get into radio and is trying to piece together an income on $12,000 a year from a radio station and other part-time work. Perhaps my Dean will be angry at me for saying so, but I have an awful lot of trouble having sympathy for people starting out in the world with six figure salaries, or the hypocritical professors--most of whom themselves earn in six figures--who encourage them in such complaining."

Posted by: michael livingston | Mar 19, 2013 5:22:06 AM

Come now, Michael. When it costs $150,000 to $250,000 (plus interest) to attend Radio DJ College, then we can talk.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Mar 19, 2013 11:39:37 AM