For the past few years, the National Law Journal has been publishing a list of the best law schools to go to if you want to work in Biglaw after graduation. But through the lens of this annual report, we can see some of the changes that have happened in a profession that’s been in transition ever since the Great Recession. From layoffs to law firm collapses, Biglaw has faced many difficulties, and these challenges have been passed on to would-be associates when it comes to hiring.
Take, for example, the hiring scene in 2008, when the law school that earned the highest honors on the NLJ’s report could brag about sending 70.5 percent of its graduates to top law firms. Although we’ve started paving the road to recovery after several sluggish years, the employment picture for law students hasn’t rebounded to those levels.
Slowly but surely, it’s been getting better. In fact, this year, the future for law students seeking Biglaw jobs looks “marginally brighter.” But how much better? Let’s find out….
While the hiring percentages from America’s top law schools are still dramatically different than they were during Biglaw’s heyday, there was a slight uptick in the total percentage of graduates from these schools heading to much coveted associate positions. The National Law Journal has more information:
Things are starting to look up in terms of hiring at the nation’s largest law firms. Most law schools sent slightly larger percentages of their 2012 classes into first-year associate jobs at these firms than they did in 2011. Among the 50 schools most popular with hiring firms, 25 percent of graduates landed associate jobs, up from 22 percent in 2011. Even so, hiring was not as robust as in 2010, when 27 percent of the graduates from the top 50 schools landed at the largest firms.
Well, that’s encouraging. These days, your future’s so bright you have to wear rose-colored glasses, and these are the ten law schools where students’ employment prospects are the rosiest (click to enlarge):
This is Penn Law’s second year as the frontrunner on this list, but the rest of the top ten has changed, and one law school even got knocked out of the competition completely. U. Chicago is now in second place after finishing in the #7 slot last year (knocking Northwestern down to #5), while NYU moved up dramatically from its #9 spot on the 2012 list. And which school dropped out of the top ten? It must be a sad, sad day over at UVA Law — there’s likely not a single popped collar in sight, due to this most dismal occasion.
If you’re interested, you can see the full list, which includes the top 50 law schools, here. The National Law Journal also has a list of “firm favorites,” noting the law schools that specific firms recruited most heavily from. Here are some highlights from that list (which aren’t quite as grand in terms of numbers as in years prior):
Cleary Gottlieb: NYU (25 first-years)
Kirkland & Ellis: Northwestern (17 first-years)
Gibson Dunn: Harvard (16 first-years)
Latham: Boalt Hall (15 first-years)
Skadden: Columbia (13 first-years)
So while we aren’t where we used to be — only 13 percent of permanent jobs after graduation from law school were obtained through Biglaw on-campus interviews in 2011, compared to more than 24 percent in 2008 — we’re on our way there. If nothing else, this list is useful in that it’s a great way for students at top law schools, both current and prospective, to gauge their employment prospects in a recovering market.
Let’s just hope that things continue to get better. Look at it this way: Biglaw may still be in flux, and the stakes and competition may be “higher than ever” for jobs, but it’s better than having no employment prospects at all.
The Go-To Law Schools [National Law Journal]
Firm Favorites in 2013 [National Law Journal]
Ranking the Go-To Law Schools [National Law Journal]
‘The stakes are higher than ever’ [National Law Journal]