What should you do if you want to get a Biglaw job? Have sex with a partner? I wish it was that inexpensive.
Most people will come to the conclusion that going to law school is a more reliable long-term career strategy than latching onto a partner stuck in a loveless marriage. But which law school should you go to? According to the National Law Journal, students looking to land in Biglaw faced a lot of challenges in 2009, but some schools were better than others at placing graduates in top jobs:
The National Law Journal’s annual Go-To Law School List paints a pretty sorry picture of first-year associate employment at the nation’s 250 largest law firms last year. The No. 1 law school sent just 55.9% of its 2009 graduates to NLJ 250 law firms. In 2008, the highest percentage of graduates heading to NLJ 250 firms was 70.5%. Importantly, the 2009 percentages include deferred associates, so an even smaller group actually went to work last year. Remember, the list consists of the very top performing schools, where job prospects in years past have proven recession-proof. Not so in 2009.
On the bright side … well … hey, a lot of the people who did land Biglaw jobs will burn out after a few miserable years. So maybe getting shut out of the few jobs that can support an enormous law school debt load is actually a blessing, merely disguised as rejection and poverty.
So which schools did the best at placing people in Biglaw?
Here are the top ten schools if you want a Biglaw job.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reprinted an incorrect list from the National Law Journal. The error has been corrected and the list below reflects the final rankings.
You can check out the full list over at the National Law Journal.
Northwestern Law Dean David Van Zandt has a well-documented affinity for rankings. I imagine he’s proud that Northwestern has come out on top of this list — a list that is arguably more important than a nebulous measure of prestige. Northwestern got its students Biglaw jobs (or deferred jobs for whatever those are worth), and that’s the kind of outcome you’d hope prospective law students are focused on.
Of course, not everybody goes to law school specifically to get a job in Biglaw. And not everybody who can get a Biglaw job jumps into that fire right away, especially if they can snag a clerkship instead. If this whole paragraph sounds like I’m being an apologist for Harvard’s ranking, well, just know that Yale was ranked way lower than HLS.
The National Law Journal has another really fun chart that looks at the schools that were “favorites” of particular firms. Here are some highlights:
Skadden: NYU and Michigan — 10 1st years each.
Kirkland & Ellis: Georgetown — 16 1st years.
Gibson Dunn: Columbia — 22 1st years.
Goodwin Procter: BU — 13 1st years.
Check out the full list here.
This is the kind of information prospective law students need to be armed with before they decide where to spend 3 years and six figures. There are a lot of non-Biglaw things you can do with a law degree, of course. But if making as much money as possible is one of your post-J.D. goals, it helps to have at least a little information about which schools are best for helping you achieve the apocryphal “models and bottles” lifestyle.
The NLJ only looked at the top 50 law schools. That’s too bad; it would be great to see what these numbers look like at third- and fourth-tier law schools. Students who want to get a job at a top 250 firm should know their odds.