Paul L. Caron

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Law School Rankings by 2011 Grads in BigLaw Jobs

Following up on my posts reporting that only 8% of the Class of 2011 landed BigLaw jobs while 40% of prospective law students hope to land BigLaw jobs:  the Wall Street Journal Law Blog ranks the 25 law schools with the largest percentage of 2011 graduates in BigLaw jobs.  Here are the Top 10, along with their U.S. News rank (with updated data from Law School Transparency):

  1. Columbia (U.S. News #4) -- 61.4%
  2. Penn (#7) -- 58.0% 
  3. Northwestern (#12) -- 53.3%
  4. Stanford (#2) -- 49.5%
  5. Harvard (#3) -- 48.7%
  6. Duke (#11) -- 44.9%
  7. Chicago (#5) -- 44.8%
  8. NYU (#6) -- 43.1%
  9. UC-Berkeley (#7) -- 41.6%
  10. Cornell (#14) -- 38.8%

Yale, #1 in U.S. News, is #15 in BigLaw jobs (33.2%).

15 law schools did not report a single 2011 grad with a BigLaw job:  Appalachian, Charlotte, CUNY, John Marshall-Atlanta, Liberty, North Carolina Central, Phoenix, Regent, Arkansas-Little Rock, Hawaii, New Mexico, South Dakota, District of Columbia, Wyoming, and Western New England.

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This list would be more accurate if adjusted to compensate for law schools with evening programs. I suspect that the percentages of both Georgetown and Fordham would rise substantially if adjusted for evening division J.D.s awarded. I doubt that many evening division grads at either institution seek or receive job offers in BigLaw. Although I don't know the numbers for Fordham, 125 of GU's grads were evening division grads and likely didn't even participate in BigLaw interviewing. Thus, assuming that none of the evening division grads was hired by BigLaw (I might be off by one or two), GU's number of grads would come down to 512 and their percentage in BigLaw would rise to 37%. I expect the same would happen for Fordham.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Jun 25, 2012 7:28:39 AM

The problem is that many law schools haven't adjusted their faculty hiring to maximize job opportunities for their students.

There are a few key areas where the Big Law legal market is booming:

Commercial Law
Financial Regulation
Energy Regulation
Health Care Regulation
Telecom Regulation
Securities Regulation

The schools that have full time faculty in these areas have a big advantage over the schools that rely on adjuncts, or don't even offer classes in these areas.

Especially if the faculty either:
1. Have Big Law experience and contacts at their old firms.
2. Actively publish research that policy makers and law firm partners actually read--i.e., research with high SSRN download counts and practical applicability--as opposed to research that only law review editors read.

Some law schools get it--Chicago just hired two bankruptcy professors, one with substantial firm experience, the other from Columbia, thereby seriously damaging a rival.

Some law school's don't.

U.C. Berkeley cut faculty salaries 11% across the board and lost their Bankruptcy Prof. to Harvard and their Patents prof to Stanford. Their corporate faculty are fleeing in droves to schools that will actually pay a living wage.

NYU is obsessed with hiring people who either have PhDs in economics or are "diverse" instead of people with practical experience in law firms, banks, or consulting firms. And by diverse, I don't just mean the traditional categories--NYU goes out of its way to pick up libertarians and conservatives, as if a professor being a fan of Ayn Rand is going to help the students learn about law or business. Some of their corporate faculty openly boast about how they have no idea what actually goes on in practice and can only teach Free Market theory.

If you look at the NLJ stats (far more reliable than the ABA stats):

A clear pattern emerges.

(1) Schools in the Northeast do better
(2) Schools with strong Business law faculty with actual law firm or corporate experience do better
(3) Schools with high SSRN download ranks (i.e., lots of strong business law faculty) do better

If I were a the Dean of a law school trying to help my students, I'd be poaching business law faculty from lower ranked schools like a madmen.

And you can see from the NLJ and SSRN lists, there are some lower ranked schools in Urban areas that do much better than their U.S. News ranking suggests.

Posted by: Money Law | Jun 23, 2012 10:30:59 AM

This is an odd, if not perverse way of defining success in obtaining legal employment. Recent law grads who obtain employment in BigLaw are not employed as lawyers--quite simply, the work performed by first, second, third, fourth, and fifth-year associates in large law firms does not require a law degree or bar membership. Yes, it pays well, but sorting through hundreds of thousands of pages of documents is work for secretaries, paralegals, and computers. Associates in large law firms do not counsel clients, take or defend depositions, plan estates, try cases, or write opinion letters. They cull and sort documents, perform legal research, carry bags for partners, and locate exhibits. Why is employment of associates in large law firms considered legal employment?

Posted by: Publius Novus | Jun 22, 2012 7:48:01 AM

That's why these metrics are ridiculous. Too many Yale graduates are clerking for federal judges.

Posted by: anon | Jun 20, 2012 9:21:25 PM