Tipping the Scales

Law Schools Where Grads Actually Get Jobs

by Jeff Schmitt on

job wanted“It’s the economy, stupid.”

That sign hung in Bill Clinton’s campaign headquarters during the 1992 election. Attributed to political strategist James Carville, this slogan sent an unforgettable message to staffers: Stay on message and focus on what’s important to voters.

With enrollment down 11% – and barely 56% of graduates landing full-time work – law school deans may want to hang a sign of their own: “It’s about the jobs, stupid.”

REPUTATION MATTERS

When it comes to choosing a law school, students aren’t impressed by the quality of faculty scholarship or which alums sit on the federal bench. They want to know their chances of landing a job, preferably one that pays six figures. And that means externships, specialty programs, strong alumni networks, mentoring, employer outreach, and branding…just to name a few factors that increase your odds of landing a job as a lawyer.

Of course, you’ll find administrators who disagree with this premise. In a recent interview with Tipping the Scales, John Corkery, dean of the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, noted that the point of law school wasn’t to land a job:  “What we promise is that you get a really good legal education that can serve you well for the rest of your life.” As a result, it shouldn’t be any surprise that John Marshall is currently unranked, with graduates sporting a 9-month placement rate of 58%.

So what are the best law schools for getting a job? This week, U.S. News and World Report released its 2015 law school rankings. Among the data drawing the most scrutiny these days is the category “Employed 9 Months after Graduation.” Here, U.S. News shares the percentage of students who land full-time work, not contract work. Based on the statistics, one maxim is again proven true: Rankings matter.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Take the Top 20 schools, for example. They have nearly everything going for them. They have rich histories and name recognition that draw the top faculty and student talent. Most are based in large metropolitan areas, where students can intern and find jobs. They have deep networks in the legal community nationwide. And their large endowments probably don’t hurt either. In many cases, graduates can write their own tickets. How much so? Here’s how the Top 20 schools fare with student employment within 9 months of graduation.

UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA LAW SCHOOL TOPS THE LIST FOR GETTING GRADS JOBS

Despite ranking #8 – and even dropping a spot in the 2015 rankings – the University of Virginia has the highest percentage of newly employed graduates, with 97.3% reporting employment within nine months of receiving their diploma. Trailing closely behind are Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, each at 97%. Yale Law, the perennial #1 in the rankings, only comes in at 91.4%, behind the likes of the University of Chicago, New York University, Stanford, and Harvard. Looking for a school that punches above its rank? Check out #20 George Washington, whose 91% placement rate outperforms Duke University, University of Michigan, California-Berkeley, and cross-town rival Georgetown.

The largest growth in employment was turned in by Georgetown, whose placement rose from 71.1% in the 2014 rankings to 84.3%. UCLA’s percentage also rose 12.4%, while the University of Minnesota grew by 8.9%. Only two schools in the top 20 saw a decline: Vanderbilt (-1.8%) and Duke University (-0.3%).

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