Are you ready for MOAR rankings? We certainly hope so, because hot on the heels of the release of the 2015 U.S. News law school rankings, we’ve got yet another set of rankings for you to feast your eyes upon. 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.
Money makes the world go ’round, and that statement rings especially true today. From your ability to pay your loans to your ability to get a mortgage, your starting salary will likely determine your income over the course of your life — you better hope you start making bank as quickly as possible.
How can you get the best shot of making that happen? Not all law degrees are worth a million dollars, but you might come close to making that much if you attend one of these law schools…
Without taking employment rates into account, Forbes focuses on starting salaries for recent graduates. This time, Forbes expanded its reach to jobs outside of the private sector because they can be “quite lucrative” after a few years. As usual, the rankings are based on numbers provided by Payscale:
We turned to salary listing website Payscale, which combed through the profiles of its 40 million unique users who report compensation information about their jobs. Payscale looked at starting salaries of graduates from 97 popular law schools and found 29,800 of them in their database who had reported salary information. We’re reporting the top 25 here. …
A note on Payscale’s statistics: The figures are for the first quarter of 2014 and the starting salaries are for grads who finished law school within the last five years. Their median age is 30. Payscale takes the five-year view because some new grads get short-term, high-paying internships just after they graduate, but they don’t sustain that pay over time. Others take judicial clerkships that pay poorly. The wider-year range offers a greater sample size and makes the numbers more reliable.
Forbes notes that the list boasts many Ivy League law schools, but with the caveat that while the salaries are still quite high, some have slid — sometimes by “more than $10,000” — in one year alone. So which law school came out on top? As you can see, this segment of list is dominated by T14 law schools:
LAW SCHOOL RANKINGS – MEDIAN STARTING PAY
1. Columbia Law School: $146,900
2. Harvard Law School: $125,400
3. Northwestern University School of Law: $110,800
4. University of Chicago Law School: $105,100
5. Stanford Law School: $104,000
6. Yale Law School: $101,800
7. University of Virginia School of Law: $97,400
8. University of Michigan Law School: $95,500
9. Cornell University Law School: $93,500
10. Duke University School of Law: $87,700
Note that last year, each law school in the top 10 produced a six-figure median starting salary. This year, public sector jobs and clerkships were introduced to the rankings, and now the bottom half of the list is just shy of the six-figure mark. You can still get rich if you’re working in the public sector, but not as quickly as you would if you sold your soul to a Biglaw firm.
Let’s take a look at some of the law schools that are further down the list. San Francisco clocked in with a “rank not published” in this year’s U.S. News rankings, but yet it’s still in 18th place on the Forbes list, with its graduates making a median of $79,300 in their early years as attorneys. We’ve also got the Catholic University of America, which dropped 27 spots in this year’s U.S. News rankings, in 23rd place, with graduates making a median of $75,600 at the beginning of their careers.
But 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 to have an incredibly 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 10 schools for making bank. Further down the list, there are more surprises — we’re talking T14 surprises. You can access the full list of the 25 law schools whose grads earn the most here.