Columbia Tops NLJ’s Big Law Rankings

Columbia Law

Columbia Law

“The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

You’d think Mark Twain’s quip applied to BigLaw firms. After brutal layoffs and flat growth during the recession, the golden age of six-figure bonuses, free cocktails, and in-house gyms had seemingly passed.

Considering the hoopla surrounding this year’s Go-To rankings from the National Law Journal (NLJ), BigLaw is starting to rebound. And Columbia Law is the biggest beneficiary.


In the 2014 rankings, Columbia Law snagged the #1 spot, sending the highest percentage of their 2013 class – 65.45% in all – to the 250 largest firms. The University of Chicago remained at #2 at 55.34%, followed by NYU (54.93%) and Harvard (53.55%). The University of Pennsylvania tumbled from the top spot in 2013 to #5 in 2014, with 52.51% of their 2013 graduates earning associate positions at BigLaw firms.

The top ranking was especially thrilling for Columbia Law, which had been a top three school from 2011-2013, after holding the No. 1 spot in 2007 and 2008. Columbia’s percentage of graduates hired by BigLaw firms rose by 12% between 2012 and 2013. “It is gratifying to see that employers recognize that we have remarkably talented students and an expert faculty that provides the best possible training for careers at the highest level of the profession,” Dean David Schizer told NLJ.

The top 10 schools remained identical to 2013, though a few schools switched spots, with Harvard rising two places from number six to number four.


When compared to the most recent U.S. News and World Report rankings, top-ranked Yale Law might be considered the big loser, managing only a #13 showing on the NLJ BigLaw rankings. However, the ranking doesn’t account for judicial clerkships, where Yale (along with Stanford and the University of Virginia) is particularly strong according to NLJ and Above the Law. Columbia, NYU, Northwestern, Duke, Cornell and Fordham rank much higher on NLJ’s Go-To ranking than U.S. News, while the universities of Virginia and Michigan rank much lower.

Law schools new to NLJ’s 2014 list include: Ohio State University, the University of Iowa, Tulane University, Brigham Young University, Temple University, and Yeshiva University. Schools that just missed the top 50 cut-off include: The University of Alabama, Arizona State, the University of Colorado, the University of South Carolina, Rutgers (Newark), and the University of Georgia.

The Go-To rankings are based on independent surveys that NLJ conducts with the nation’s 250 largest law firms, as measured in attorney headcount. It ranks the top 50 law schools based on the percentage of graduates who are hired by these 250 firms. For firms that don’t submit numbers, NLJ uses data from ALM’s RivalEdge database and independent reporting. NLJ is careful to note that the list does not include data from law schools.


Along with ranking schools, NLJ’s data also yielded some positive news. According to Beth Frerking, NLJ’s editor-in-chief, “We also found that among the 50 law schools most popular for hiring by the nation’s 250 largest law firms, 27 percent of their graduates landed associate jobs, up from 25 percent in 2012. It’s the highest percentage reported in three years.” NLJ also found that 42% of recent graduates from top 20 schools joined large firms as associates, a 2% increase over the previous year. That growth will be key, as nearly 46,500 law graduates entered the workforce in 2013, 2,000 more than the previous year.

In addition, NLJ reports that Kirkland & Ellis hired the most new associates in 2013, adding 157 graduates in 2013. The survey also showed that Harvard Law produced the most associates-turned-partners last year.

(See following page for the actual rankings and top employers of graduates)