Class of 2011 NLJ 250 Statistics

The National Law Journal (NLJ) released its annual report this weekend 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 outcome measure. This is the first Class of 2011 employment information publicly provided.

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 2011. This does not include temporary or contract attorneys.

Where do the data come from?

First, 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. (The NLJ would not comment on the exact percentage.) The NLJ then contacts the law schools to fill in the gaps — but never relies directly on their word. The final figures reached are minimums, representing only the people the NLJ verified to their liking; at no point does the NLJ extrapolate from a smaller number to a larger number.

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. (View the NLJ 250 from 2010 here.)

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 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 6.49% 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 range from 0% to 6.49%, and probably do not fall into a normal distribution.

If you have more questions, please feel free to email or reply this post. We will update this as needed.

2011 placement into NLJ 250 firms by law school

Rank School NLJ 250 Grads Total Grads % of Class
1 University of Pennsylvania Law School 156 274 56.93%
2 Northwestern University School of Law 149 286 52.1%
3 Columbia Law School 235 455 51.65%
4 Harvard Law School 285 583 48.89%
5 Stanford Law School 87 181* 48.07%
6 University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) 140 305 45.9%
7 University of Chicago Law School 92 203 45.32%
8 Duke Law School 89 219* 40.64%
9 New York University School of Law 187 466 40.13%
10 University of Virginia School of Law 150 377 39.79%
11 Cornell Law School 72 188* 38.3%
12 University of Southern California Gould School of Law 68 207 32.85%
13 University of Michigan Law School 119 378 31.48%
14 Georgetown University Law Center 198 637 31.08%
15 Yale Law School 61 205 29.76%
16 University of California at Los Angeles School of Law 78 344 22.67%
17 Vanderbilt University Law School 43 195 22.05%
18 Boston College Law School 62 285 21.75%
19 University of Texas School of Law 82 382 21.47%
20 Fordham University School of Law 84 429 19.58%
21 Boston University School of Law 48 269* 17.84%
22 George Washington University Law School 92 518 17.76%
23 University of Notre Dame Law School 26 190 13.68%
24 Washington University School of Law (St. Louis) 42 315 13.33%
25 Washington and Lee University School of Law 16 126 12.7%
26 Emory University School of Law 28 225 12.44%
27 Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law 45 380 11.84%
28 University of Washington School of Law 21 182 11.54%
29 University of Minnesota Law School 29 261 11.11%
29 University of Illinois College of Law 21 189 11.11%
31 Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law 28 272 10.29%
32 University of Houston Law Center 27 281 9.61%
33 West Virginia University College of Law 12 126* 9.52%
34 Wake Forest University School of Law 15 158 9.49%
35 University of California, Davis School of Law 17 195 8.72%
36 University of North Carolina School of Law 21 246 8.54%
37 University of California Hastings College of the Law 35 412 8.5%
38 University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law 12 142* 8.45%
39 Seton Hall University School of Law 24 293 8.19%
40 Rutgers School of Law-Newark 19 248 7.66%
41 Howard University School of Law 12 157* 7.64%
42 Villanova University School of Law 19 252 7.54%
43 University of Maryland School of Law 20 281 7.12%
44 University of Wisconsin Law School 18 254 7.09%
45 Samford University Cumberland School of Law 11 157 7.01%
46 Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law 22 319 6.9%
46 University of Alabama School of Law 12 174* 6.9%
48 Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School 10 148 6.76%
49 Brooklyn Law School 30 455 6.59%
50 University of Miami School of Law 25 385 6.49%

*Graduate class size based on latest data from the ABA/LSAC Official Guide to Law Schools.