Top Law Schools for Making Partner

A fascinating new study by Theodore Seto is required reading for prospective law students choosing between schools and hiring partners at large law firms allocating recruiting resources. 

The most important implication is that hiring is a local thing, so that you have a much better chance of becoming a partner at a large L.A. firm if you go to Loyola Los Angeles rather than Vanderbilt. 

Another important thing: throw your U.S. News magazine away if you care about which law schools graduate the people who become big-law partners. 

Spoiler alert, here is an excerpt from Table 1, showing the Top Feeder Partners in the National Law Journal 100 :

1. Harvard

2. Georgetown

3. NYU

4. U. Va.

5. Columbia

6. GW

7. Michigan

8. Chicago

9. Texas

10. Northwestern

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4 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    There is a significant fallacy in relying on this list today, especially if you’re a law student.

    Law school matters most when you’re hired initially, and then somewhat when you’re hired laterally as an associate. (For partner lateral hires, your book of business or, in some cases, your past resume in industry or government, speaks loudest.) So while the presence of partners who are alums of your school may help at a specific firm, the school’s reputation at the time of hire is what counts. Keep in mind that the tables in this paper homogenize such reputational information from 25 years.

    I can illustrate with my own school’s case. US News rankings weren’t so important (if they even existed) when I was in law school (class of 1983). I recall seeing around that time that my law school (UC/Hastings) was within the national Top 20, though I can’t be certain whose list it was. It probably didn’t change much by 1986, the start date for partner graduating years in this data.

    Sure enough, Hastings is #18 in this article’s Nationwide list, just below Stanford. In its home state it’s #1 in the Bay Area, #6 in L.A., and above Stanford in both markets. (BTW it had a larger class size than Stanford or Boalt, at least back in the day; that could also be a factor — though maybe a helpful one, for networking purposes.)

    But today Hastings is #42 in US News. That might affect a current hiring partner’s consideration of the school more than this list will, especially outside California. As a prospective hire, it never hurts if you can establish some direct friendly contact with an alum of your law school (or college). But if you’re going to look at statistics, you’ll especially want to see a current list of where associates come from.

  2. A.J. Sutter says:

    Slight correction: the tables don’t actually homogenize info from the past 25 years, because the average length of partnership track needs to be excluded. I’m not sure what that is these days, but let’s say 7 years (maybe longer?). That means this info applies to grads from 1986 to around 2004 or so. So it doesn’t contain any information about schools’ relative reputations since that time.

  3. dave hoffman says:

    Another problem is that it has a large city and large class bias. That said, the list is amazingly accurate as a measure of something! (Temple is ranked in the 20s.)

  4. Late Commenter says:

    Couldn’t download the study but one reason Georgetown may be just behind Harvard, which apparently surprised the study’s author according to the abstract, is that Georgetown has one of the largest law school graduating classes in the U.S., as does Harvard. (For example, Yale, which doesn’t seem to be on the top 10 but arguably as renowed as Harvard, has one of the smallest graduating classes.)