From Ivy League To Big Law
If you want to end up working at a big law firm, the easiest path to that career is to attend a top-ranked law school.
Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at US News, recently discussed why big law firms care about which law school you attend.
The Typical Path From An Elite Law School
Big law firms typically recruit a majority of their first-year associates from top law schools.
At schools, like Columbia Law, over 50% of its graduates are hired by big law firms.
Below are Law.com’s top 10 law schools for getting a big law job.
- Columbia Law: 68%
- U. Chicago Law: 60%
- NYU Law: 57%
- UVA Law: 56%
- Penn Law: 52%
- Northwestern Law: 52%
- Duke Law: 51%
- Harvard Law: 50%
- Cornell Law: 48%
- Berkeley Law: 46%
For big law firms, it’s all about filtering out applicants, building credentials, and ensuring that associates are prepared for the industry.
“Big Law has the pick of the crop for recruiting, and they need to place certain restrictions on the process so that they are not buried in resumes and applicants,” Michael Leddin, executive director of the firm Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney, tells US News. “I started with a large law firm before its significant expansion, and after it joined the ranks of Big Law, they too started recruiting from premier schools. Of course, the irony is that the top lawyers at the firm that made the decision to focus on these schools did not attend those schools themselves.”
Personal connections are everything and in big law that mantra holds true. Leddin tells US News that large firms also tend to hire from top schools as a way to distinguish themselves from other firms.
Thomas J. Simeone, a managing partner at the personal injury law firm Simeone & Miller in the District of Columbia, says having an elite law school credential generally indicates to big law firms that an applicant will be successful in the environment.
“While top students may go to other schools – and therefore be missed by large firms who focus primarily on graduates from top-tier schools – generally speaking, graduates from top-tier schools have a lot of indicators of success at a large firm,” Simeone tells US News. “They obviously did well enough as an undergrad to be accepted into a highly competitive school. They also must have done well on the LSAT, which indicates not just intelligence, but a willingness to prepare and to perform under pressure. Finally, the experience of going to a top law school shows that they were exposed to highly rated professors and competed and associated with other highly accomplished students.”
The Unconventional Path To Big Law
Although attending an elite school can make it much easier to land a big law job, it’s still possible if you didn’t attend a top-ranking law school.
Tina Willis, an Orlando-based personal injury attorney, graduated second in her class from the Florida State University College of Law. Willis says her grades helped her to secure offers from big law firms despite not having the Ivy League credential.
Willis recommends law students, who can’t attend an elite law school, focus on getting the highest grades possible.
“They should put grade-earning above working, or any other pursuit during law school,” she tells US News. “After grades, participating in their law review would also be helpful, and is generally a given for most top-tier law firm new hires.”
Sources: US News, Law.com