The National Law Journal (NLJ) released its annual report last month on the law schools that send the most graduates to the 250 largest American law firms (NLJ 250). In this post we’ll answer a few basic questions about this important employment data. To our knowledge, this is the first Class of 2010 employment information publicly provided.
While this topic has received pretty extensive coverage, explaining the basic information available about post-graduation outcomes is necessary to understanding why the ABA must regulate law schools more strictly and extensively.
A significant segment of our readership includes prospective students seeking to understand a vast amount of hard-to-understand information that shortchanges those seeking to understand the various opportunities (and information about those opportunities) at different law schools across the United States. This is what the data clearinghouse does, and what we will keep doing for all employment information about the entry-level market.
What is the NLJ 250?
The NLJ 250 includes the 250 largest law firms headquartered in the United States. This is measured by the firm-reported annual average number of full-time and full-time equivalent attorneys working at the firm, in any office, in 2010. This does not include temporary or contract attorneys.
Where do the data come from?
The NLJ collects survey data from the law firms themselves, not the law schools. A significant percentage of all NLJ 250 firms responded to the survey about first-year hiring. (We have inquired with the NLJ as to the exact percentage and will update this post when the NLJ gets back to us.)
What do these numbers tell us?
Large firm placement percentage is an important, albeit imperfect, proxy for the number of graduates with access to the most competitive and highest paying jobs. The percentage, accordingly, tell us which schools most successfully place students in these highly sought-after jobs. Successful large firm placement is best analyzed by looking at multiple years worth of data.
What do these numbers not tell us?
First, self-selection controls all post-graduation outcomes. Nobody is coerced into a job they are offered (unless you consider debt pressure or other strong personal influences coercive), so these numbers do not provide more than a proxy for opportunities. Opportunities, after all, are prospective students’ real concern when analyzing employment information, and these rankings do not necessarily reflect a school’s ability to place students into NLJ 250 firms.
Many graduates, particularly at the top schools, choose to clerk after graduation instead of working for these law firms. While not all of these graduates would have secured employment at the NLJ 250 firms, many could have. For this reason, one popular technique used to understand a school’s placement ability is adding the percentage of graduates at NLJ 250 firms to the percentage of graduates clerking for Article III judges. This method is not perfect; read our white paper (beginning on page 28) for a more detailed explanation of the strengths and weaknesses of this technique.
Second, NLJ 250 firm jobs are not the only competitive, high-paying firm jobs. Boutique law firms are also very competitive, with some paying New York City market rates and above. Additionally, the NLJ 250 does not include large, prestigious internationally-based law firms with American offices.
Third, not all NLJ 250 firm jobs are equally competitive. Law firms from different regions and of differing caliber have varying preferences for the students from different law schools, including how far into the class they are willing to reach. That is, two schools that place an equal percentage of graduates in NLJ 250 firms may do so for reasons other than similar preferences among equally competitive NLJ 250 firms.
Fourth, the rankings include data only about the law schools that placed at least 10.57% of its entire class in the NLJ 250 firms. All other American law schools placed a lower, unknown percentage at NLJ 250 firms. The remaining schools likely range from 0% to 10.57%, and probably do not fall into a normal distribution.
2010 placement into NLJ 250 firms by law school
|Rank||School||NLJ 250 Grads||Total Grads||% of Class|
|1||University of Chicago Law School||115||195||58.97%|
|2||Cornell Law School||112||192||58.33%|
|3||Columbia Law School||239||433||55.2%%|
|4||University of Pennsylvania Law School||145||272||53.31%|
|5||Harvard Law School*||287||577||49.74%|
|6||University of Virginia School of Law||175||374||46.79%|
|7||University of California, Berkeley School of Law||135||296||45.61%|
|8||Northwestern University School of Law||126||284||44.37%|
|9||New York University School of Law*||209||483||43.27%|
|10||University of Michigan Law School||158||372||42.47%|
|11||Stanford Law School||72||173||41.62%|
|12||Duke Law School||81||213||38.03%|
|13||Georgetown University Law Center||242||644||37.58%|
|14||University of California at Los Angeles School of Law||123||350||35.14%|
|15||Yale Law School*||67||198||33.84%|
|16||Boston College Law School||89||265||33.58%|
|17||Boston University School of Law||81||270||30%|
|18||Vanderbilt University Law School||62||208||29.81%|
|19||University of Southern California Gould School of Law||56||195||28.72%|
|20||University of Texas School of Law||101||379||26.65%|
|21||Fordham University School of Law*||123||479||25.68%|
|22||George Washington University Law School||127||513||24.76%|
|23||University of Notre Dame Law School||41||172||23.84%|
|24||Emory University School of Law||54||255||21.18%|
|25||Washington University in St. Louis School of Law||51||269||18.96%|
|26||University of Illinois College of Law||35||195||17.95%|
|27||Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law||42||259||16.22%|
|28||College of William and Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law||33||214||15.42%|
|29||University of California, Davis School of Law||30||195||15.38%|
|30||Wake Forest University School of Law||25||166||15.06%|
|31||Howard University School of Law||20||133||15.04%|
|32||Georgia State University College of Law||22||162||13.58%|
|33||Seton Hall University School of Law||41||320||12.81%|
|34||Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law||48||381||12.6%|
|35||University of California Hastings College of the Law||52||419||12.41%|
|36||University of Wisconsin Law School||31||252||12.3%|
|37||University of Iowa College of Law||24||197||12.18%|
|38||University of Maryland College of Law**||29||242||11.98%|
|39||University of Minnesota Law School||34||284||11.97%|
|40||Villanova University School of Law**||28||235||11.91%|
|41||University of North Carolina School of Law||28||237||11.81%|
|42||Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law||23||198||11.62%|
|42||University of Houston Law Center||33||284||11.62%|
|44||Tulane University Law School||29||252||11.51%|
|45||University of Georgia School of Law||25||218||11.47%|
|46||Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law||33||293||11.26%|
|47||Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School||16||145||11.03%|
|48||Loyola University Chicago School of Law||29||266||10.9%|
|49||Rutgers School of Law-Newark||28||258||10.85%|
|50||Washington and Lee University School of Law||13||123||10.57%|
* Graduate class size based on average of last three years.
** Graduate class size based on latest data in ABA/LSAC Official Guide to Law Schools.
Source: National Law Journal