The Top Law Schools for Jobs


Not All Employment Stats Are Created Equal

You’re fit, tailored, and brimming with energy. You can cite black-letter rules as easily as you breathe. Oh, and you set the bar in moot court and your externship. There’s only one thing you need now: A job.
And that’s easier said than done these days. Only 57 percent of grads are landing jobs within 9 months of graduation, according to the ABA. At that rate, you’d almost expect grads to be shouting “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” outside their alma maters, ala Occupy Wall Street.
But it’s more complicated than that. If you graduated from a top 20 school (and didn’t finish dead last in the class rankings), you probably landed a meaningful job. Maybe it wasn’t the job you wanted, but it’s paying the bills (if not making a dent in your student loans).
Last month, U.S. News and World Report released their 2015 law school rankings. And job placement was among the criteria evaluated in these rankings. According to U.S. News’ data, the University of Virginia topped all accredited law schools with a 97.3 percent placement rate within nine months of graduation. The Cavaliers were closely trailed by Columbia (97%), the University of Pennsylvania (97%), the University of Chicago (96.7%), and Stanford (96.1%).
Recently, the ABA released its own figures, which were reviewed by the National Law Journal. Turns out, there are some discrepancies between the parties. For example, Columbia, not the University of Virginia, enjoys the highest placement rate according to the National Law Journal, coming in at an 88.3 percent clip (with Virginia experiencing an 18 point swing at 79.2 percent).
So what caused this? Both the ABA and U.S. News numbers are derived from the data submitted to them by the law schools themselves. Mind you, schools probably can’t track down every grad (and sometimes it can be difficult to discern if a job is long-term or full-time). However, there is one variable that differentiates the ABA numbers from the U.S. News data: The National Law Journal removed school-funded jobs.  That’s a big deal to the University of Virginia, where 16.2 percent of new grads were employed in jobs funded by the university (or Emory University, which led the pack at 22.9 percent). And depending on where you get your placement numbers, George Washington absorbs either 14.8 percent or 21 percent of its grads.
So where are the best law schools for jobs? Here are the National Journal’s calculations for the class of 2013, which is based on full-time, long-term positions within 9 months of graduation:

School NLJ Employment Percentage U.S. News Percentage
Columbia University 88.3% 97.0%
University of Chicago 86.5% 96.7%
New York University 86.2% 95.9%
University of Pennsylvania 85.7% 97.0%
Duke University 85.1% 87.1%
Stanford University 85.1% 96.1%
Harvard University 84.9% 94.1%
Cornell University 81.3% 85.8%
University of Michigan 81.2% 86.6%
University of Virginia 79.2% 97.3%

Sources: National Law Journal and U.S. News and World Report
Naturally, the National Law Journal tabulated other data to rank programs in other areas. For example, here are the top schools for 2013 grads entering “big law” firms (i.e. firms with 100 or more attorneys):

School Big Law Percentage
Columbia University 73.2%
University of Chicago 62.3%
University of Pennsylvania 59.8%
New York University 58.3%
Cornell University 57.5%
Northwestern University 55.6%
Harvard University 54.5%
Duke University 51.5%
University of Virginia 50.0%
University of Michigan 49.4%

Source: National Law Journal
To check out school rankings for federal clerkships, public service jobs, and school-funded positions, go to next page.

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