Biglaw, Job Searches, Law Schools, Rankings

Best Law Schools for Getting a Biglaw Job (2014)

Having a job is so awesome!

For almost a decade, the National Law Journal has published a list of the best law schools to go to if you want to work in Biglaw after graduation. As we noted last year, “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.” With the rise and fall of some of Biglaw’s largest firms, the hiring scene for would-be entry-level associates has ebbed and flowed.

The legal profession, while still in recovery, shows some signs of life in its sluggish attempts to return to its glory days. Each year, we hear news of marginal improvement in the job market, and we squeal with glee over single percentage point upticks. For example, in 2013, the percentage of law school graduates who landed associate jobs was up two points from where it was in 2012 — and this increase represents the highest hiring percentage since 2010. Hooray! Exciting news! Lawgasms for everyone!

Which law schools led the pack in this pseudo-revival of normalcy? Let’s find out….

Again, 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:

Large law firm associate hiring ticked up for a second straight year in 2013—welcome news, considering law schools sent more newly minted juris doctors into the job market than ever before. Among the 50 schools most popular with hiring firms, 27 percent of graduates landed associate jobs—up from 25 percent in 2012. That was the highest hiring percentage recorded since 2010.

Just think, the hiring percentage was at 22 percent in 2011, and now it’s back up to 27 percent. Things are really starting to look up — especially for the number one school on this year’s list of the top 10 law schools with the best Biglaw prospects. Welcome back to the top, Columbia Law (click to enlarge):

Columbia returns to the top slot after holding steady in third place for several years. Penn Law may have been the victor for the past two years, but in 2014’s ranking, it got bounced to fifth place. Ouch. There were some other big moves this year: NYU is now in second place after finishing in the #4 slot last year, knocking U. Chicago down two slots. Harvard climbed all the way up to #3 from sixth place last year. Still lost and not yet found on the top 10 list is UVA Law, which received the boot last year. (But note that UVA and another top school, Yale, send a fair number of graduates directly into clerkships.)

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 (with highs that look similar to last year’s, full list here):

Cleary Gottlieb: Columbia (23)
Ropes & Gray: Harvard (19)
Kirkland & Ellis: Northwestern (17)
Skadden Arps: Columbia (16)
Latham: UVA (11)

Things still aren’t where they used to be, but they’re getting better. More notable than these numbers is the fact that NLJ added tuition figures to this year’s rankings. While the total costs aren’t wildly different, the employment percentages are. Why pay $55,000 to go to a school that sends 45 percent of its graduates to Biglaw when you can pay the same amount to a school that sends 65 percent of its graduates to Biglaw?

Speaking of useful components recently added to the NLJ rankings, if you’re wondering which schools outperformed their U.S. News ranks in terms of Biglaw placement, we’ve got that list on the next page….

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