The “Go-To” Law Schools, According to the Biggest Law Firms

Law school applicants getting ready to choose a law school will undoubtedly face a competitive legal hiring market, along with the prospect of servicing enormous debt on graduation. While it’s fair to say that not everyone graduating from law school wants to or will be able to work in a big law firm, there’s no escaping that one measure of a law school is the rankings and statistics that tell us how that school does with placing graduates in the biggest law firms. So, even if you think you might opt to work in the public sector or in another position outside of the big law firm world, it’s worth looking at law school placement numbers at the big law firms when making that decision.

The National Law Journal (NLJ),has compiled its rankings of the Top 50 “Go-To” schools based on the percentage of 2009 J.D. graduates who landed jobs at NLJ 250 firms by Sept. 30, 2009, using survey data submitted by the 250 top law firms as ranked by NLJ.

At the top of the NLJ list is Northwestern University School of Law, which placed 55.5% of its graduates at NLJ 250 firms — a sharp decline from 2008, when the highest percentage of graduates heading to NLJ 250 firms was 70.5%.

The top 25 schools in The National Law Journal’s annual Go-To Law School Listare as follows:
1) Northwestern University School of Law — 55.9%
2) Columbia Law School — 55.4%
3) Stanford Law School — 54.1%
4) University of Chicago Law School — 53.1%
5) University of Virginia School of Law — 52.8%
6) University of Michigan Law School — 51%
7) University of Pennsylvania Law School — 50.8%
8) New York University School of Law — 50.1%
9) University of California, Berkeley School of Law — 50%
10) Duke Law School — 49.8%
11) Harvard Law School — 47.6&
12) Vanderbilt University Law School — 47.1%
13) Georgetown University Law Center — 42.8%
14) Cornell Law School — 41.5%
15) University of Southern California Gould School of Law — 41.3%
16) University of Texas School of Law — 36.6%
17) University of California at Los Angeles School of Law — 35.9%
18) Yale Law School — 35.3%
19) Boston College Law School — 34.6%
19) Boston University School of Law — 34.6%
21) George Washington University Law School — 31.6%
22) Fordham University School of Law — 29.4%
23) University of Notre Dame Law School — 28.8%
24) Washington University School of Law, St. Louis — 27.5%
25. University of Illinois College of Law — 26.7%

The NLJ reports that “the 2009 percentages include deferred associates, so an even smaller group actually went to work last year. Remember, the list consists of the very top performing schools, where job prospects in years past have proven recession-proof. Not so in 2009. We’ve ranked the top 50 law schools by the percentage of 2009 juris doctor graduates who snagged jobs at NLJ 250 firms by Sept. 30, 2009. Numbers are based on information gathered from our annual NLJ 250 survey—statistics we get from the nation’s largest law firms.”

The NLJ also identified firm favorites—the schools from which the top law firms on the NLJ 250 recruited most of its first-years in 2009.

Listen to our full podcast “Choosing the Right Law School,” for more information on this topic.