Saturday, February 27, 2010

Question About The National Law Journal's Annual Rankings

Maybe I've been really naive but I'm a bit confused by The National Law Journal's annual rankings based on the percentage of grads who landed first year BigLaw jobs:

Here are the Top 10 in the NLJ ranking followed by the percentage of grads who landed first-year positions at the nation’s largest firms.

1. Northwestern University School of Law - 55.9 percent
2. Columbia Law School - 54.4 percent
3. Stanford Law School - 54.1 percent
4. University of Chicago Law School – 53.1 percent
5. University of Virginia School of Law – 52.8 percent
6. University of Michigan Law School – 51 percent
7. University of Pennsylvania Law School - 50.8 percent
8. New York University School of Law – 50.1
9. UC Berkeley School of Law – 50 percent
10. Duke Law School - 49.8 percent

Harvard and Yale failed to crack the top 10 but I'm guessing that's because a lot of their grads take clerkships and government jobs. My question is: Really? Only 55.9% for the "top law school"? When I applied to law school, the T14 schools made it seem like at least 75% or more of their graduates ended up in BigLaw while the rest went onto really prestigious government and public interest jobs or clerkships. I think I even read at a T14 website while applying that 99% of graduates went onto biglaw jobs or clerkships. Even though the schools above can boast more than the vast majority of law schools out there, I think that even the top schools have been guilty of false advertising and stretching their numbers. From these numbers it looks to me that students at the top 10 schools listed above are still vulnerable to unemployment if they aren't in the top 50% of their class. Am I missing something here? What do you think?

UPDATE: The Jobless Juris Doctor alerts us to a Harvard Law School newspaper article about many Harvard 3Ls not getting job offers. It looks like the T14 is indeed no longer safe after all.


  1. A few thoughts:

    - I'm not sure I agree that from the numbers above, "still vulnerable to unemployment if they aren't in the top 50% of their class." Like you said, many people go into govt jobs/public interest/clerkships. I don't know about what percentages those would be. I'd figure if 50% are going into biglaw, there should be at least 10 or 15% going into the various "do-gooder" positions, probably more.

    Add to that the tiers of "mid-law" and also in house corporate jobs, and I think the kids in the top 10 are doing okay.

    - There might be a mismatch about what comprises "BigLaw." The NLJ survey seems to count BigLaw as the biggest 250 law firms. But really, where should the line be drawn? At a particular number of attorneys? Whatever the case, I think it's clear the the number 250 is quite arbitrary. Numbers 251 to 300 may very well be large sized law firms that pay well. In fact, it may even be that the top 500 are pretty big, which would increase the percentages dramatically. I have no clue. I'd look up the names, but I am very lazy on this particular Saturday morning.

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    And go Villanova Wildcats against Syracuse!! (God I hope they win)

  2. I'd say around 10-15% plan to go into public interest but in this economy the number of people who actually get these jobs could be lower. A friend who always planned to be a public interest lawyer says it's difficult to get these jobs because they are hiring deferred biglaw associates so who knows what the actual numbers are. I'd be interested in seeing the number of T14 grads from the last two years who are unemployed due to layoffs, the economy, etc.

  3. Also, people don't go to the T14 to work in "mid-law". Maybe after a few years in Biglaw they transfer to smaller firms but who wants to start off in the legal field making $60k in NYC? I don't think too many T14 grads fall into that category.

  4. "nation’s largest firms" do they mean vault top 100? What do they mean by "jobs?" Can we safely assume "attorney?" IF they want to massage the numbers it is easy. I still remember from Acctg.; Auditing means statistically checking the data. Nothing is taken at face value.

  5. Check this comment from the tread over at ATL:

    "Actually, I think this is really very interesting, espescially if you do a little math.

    The notes on the NLJ article indicate that the top 250 firms hired 4555 from law schools last year. The number of hires from the top 50 schools? 4213.

    The notes also indicate that there were 43,588 students in all law schools last year. The top 50 schools? 14,038.

    That means the bottom 150 or so law schools only sent 342 people to the NLJ 250. 342/29,550 is like 1.5 percent.

    This is shocking, scary scary stuff -- not because I think biglaw is the only good job out there, but its one of the few with the income to pay off loans. Why ATL or the NLJ or the ABA hasn't dug deeper into these numbers is a crime."

    I could not find the notes that this commentator cites in the articles, but if these numbers are correct (and they appear to be from other numbers I have seen), then this might be the most complete list of actual info we've got ANYWHERE.

    And what I mean by that, is that these numbers are essentially the good jobs that most prospective law students hope to snag. If you do not get a job from one of these firms, the chances of you making 100K or more is simply out of the question (yes, there may be a few non-NLJ 250 firms that pay top salaries, but we are talking about MAYBE 5-10 spots TOTAL each year for those firms). Also, the number of firms that pay the middle range of 60-100 is also somewhere in the ballpark of 5-10 students a year.

    I have a lot more to say about this, but for now I have to go eat.

  6. I have a friend who teaches at Columbia law - he said only around 50% of grads got jobs this year - things are tough all over.

  7. These numbers are really very recession based, usually the top 10 are perfectly fine.

    It'd actually be more interesting to see 2008 numbers. NY hasn't even admitted everyone yet, and that's a major reason for not employing graduates. But from 2008 most should be admitted.

  8. If those numbers are correct, even attending a top law school is a crap shoot. Thank you for publishing this, and thank you to the commenter above who cited the ATL comment. We need to start more blogs - young people are attached to the Internent. This is the BEST forum for spreading the word.

  9. Quite sidenote:

    Note that the NLJ's rankings of the top 50 do not correlate with the USNews rankings of "First tier." For example, for schools in the Philly area: Villanova is ranked 40(tie) and Temple is ranked 42 (tied) for the schools that send grads into BigLaw, but are ranked as 2nd tier in USNews.

    So to kids set on applying to law school, be aware that the market you go to school in probably matters. Schools in or near big cities might have a better chance at sending you into BigLaw even if technically ranked lower on USNews. (but the USNews rank is probably also important, as not every school near Philly is strong. I'm looking at Drexel here. Sorry!)



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