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.
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.