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George Washington University Law School

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Law School Proximity Matters For Partner Prospects, Study Finds


Want the best chances of becoming a Big Law partner? Where you attend law school could play a big role in your chances. But the emphasis of “where” might have less to do with prestige of the law school’s name and more to do with geography. This week, The New York Times reported on a new study that tracked where partners at the country’s largest 115 law firms went to school. All told, 33,000 lawyers were included.

At the top of the list are two likely suspects—Harvard and Yale. However, there were some outliers. Suffolk University Law School in Boston had 167 graduates who are partners at top law schools—good for fifth most on the list. Never heard of Suffolk University Law School? That’s because it’s not ranked.

Partners currently practicing in New York-based law firms were from, in descending order: Columbia, Harvard, Fordham, Georgetown, Brooklyn, Yale and University of Pennsylvania.

Partners from Washington D.C.-based law firms were from, in descending order: Georgetown, Harvard, George Washington, University of Virginia and Catholic University.

In Chicago, the most partners graduated from Northwestern, University of Chicago and University of Illinois.

Professor Edward Adams of the University of Minnesota School of Law co-authored the study and said it “highlights the power of geographical proximity.” He adds that “it (the study) generally validates that the law school attended matters for ‘big law’ partnership prospects.” Meaning, landing a Big Law job, in some cases, might have just as much to do with location of school as prestige.

An example of this is Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law, which is ranked 108th by the U.S. News but was No. 32 on the list of graduates in partner positions. Five other mid-tier schools placed significantly higher in this study when compared to traditional top-tier schools. They were Villanova, Hofstra, State University of New York at Buffalo, DePaul and Loyola (Chicago).

This study reveals a significant point for some law school students and future students. Attending a top-tier school is not the only path to being a Big Law partner. Going to a school in a geographically strategic location might be just as important.

Source: The New York Times