Apparently there’s no such thing as “rankings fatigue” in this world, because hot on the heels of the release of the 2014 U.S. News law school rankings, we’ve got another set of rankings. These rankings, brought to us by Forbes, focus on one of the most-discussed areas when it comes to the value of legal education as of late: starting salaries.
Let’s face it: no matter the reason you went to law school, money is constantly on your mind. Whether you’re currently rolling around in a bed full of cash like Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal or you’re rubbing your last two pennies together wondering how you’re going to make your next loan payment, your cash flow (or lack thereof) is very important, and starting salaries may reflect the money you’ll be able to make later on in life.
Let’s dig in to this list of the nation’s richest recent law school grads, as ranked by median starting salary….
Last year, Forbes focused on mid-career median salaries, but this year, they chose to focus on the all important dollar for recent graduates, in part due to the focus that’s been put on “the potential for large amounts of plaguing debt.” This year’s Forbes rankings are based on numbers provided by Payscale:
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.
So in a time where truly accurate employment and salary statistics are still hard to come by, but less so than in previous years because the law school transparency movement took hold, which law school came out on top?
LAW SCHOOL RANKINGS – MEDIAN STARTING PRIVATE SECTOR PAY
1. Columbia Law School: $165,000
2. Stanford Law School: $147,000
3. University of Chicago Law School: $132,000
4. Harvard Law School: $130,000
5. University of Virginia School of Law: $109,000
6. Duke University School of Law: $104,000
7. New York University School of Law: $104,000
8. Georgetown University Law School: $103,000
9. Yale Law School: $102,000
10. University of Michigan Law School: $101,000
But why Columbia? The school has been steadfast in its No. 4 slot in the U.S. News law school rankings for years and years on end. Forbes provides us with reasons — including the school’s bundles of billionaires:
Columbia Law School, which also landed at the top of last year’s list, has produced hundreds of notable grads, including presidents, Supreme Court justices, governors, and billionaires.
“I think the main reason for Columbia being on top is reputation,” [Katie Bardaro, Payscale’s lead economist] says. “According to our data, the graduates are working in notable firms throughout the country and not just in New York. This proves that branding of the law degree seems to have a strong correlation with earnings.”
As you can see, it pays — literally — to go to a top law school. Even if you aren’t working in Biglaw, while you aren’t guaranteed a lucrative career, it’s likely that you’ll at least be earning close to top dollar depending on the market you’re in.
These are just the top ten law schools for getting rich quick; further down the list, there are some surprises. You can access the full list of the 25 law schools whose grads earn the most here.