If you’re going to do something, go all out. Go big or go home, as the adrenaline junkies like to say. If you’re going to law school, why not go all out for BigLaw? It’s a valid argument. Sure, the working hours are seemingly endless. Work might be your hobby and social life. But you’ll also make bank. So where should you go to school to make this happen?
Bloomberg BNA shed a little light on the question this week. They examined the legal education of 299 lawyers that will be taking over partner positions between last October through January 2016. They only looked at elected partners at AmLaw 100 or 200 firms—so just the most lucrative and largest.
The school that showed up the most shouldn’t surprise you—Harvard Law claims 21 of the 299 (or 7%). New York University was the second-most likely, claiming 15 of the 299 recent partners, or 5%. But there were some surprises, of course. One example is the University of Michigan. With 10 recent partners, Big Blue had the third-most out of all law schools. Georgetown University’s Law Center and Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law rounded out the top five, each with nine recent partners. To be expected, the majority of the schools towards the top of the list are either East Coast or located in large cities.
Still, attending a lower-ranked school doesn’t necessarily mean you have no shot at Big Law partner positions. More than 4%, or about 14 lawyers came from schools ranked outside of the U.S. News top 100 law schools. Some partners graduated from the likes of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, Suffolk University, and the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University.
Of course, there are some significant limitations to this study. The largest being the fact it’s a very narrow sample size in the Big Law world. In fact, the study only looked at 14 Big Law firms total. Another limitation is the study only looked at raw numbers. This put schools with smaller class sizes like Yale and the University of Chicago at a disadvantage. Take this similar study from April, for example. This study calculated percentages of graduates from each school who ended up in BigLaw partner positions. The University of Chicago actually had the highest percentage of graduates (17%) who are BigLaw partners. But the school also had the least amount of graduates. Yale had 10% of its graduates end up as BigLaw partners, which was similar to Harvard, Stanford, NYU and Columbia. Except they have much larger class sizes.
On the other hand, looking at broader trends, both studies reveal the path to BigLaw partnership is more likely to go through a school like Harvard or Chicago instead of a school outside of the top 25 or so.