Do Careers in Law Equate with Law School Rank?

careers in lawLong term careers in law may be more dependent on law school rank than you’d think.

Over the past six years, law firms around the country have laid off thousands of lawyers, many of whom have struggled to find new jobs and high-paying careers in law after the fact. Now, studies are showing that the “prestige factor” is not only crucial for landing that first job, but it’s also vital for finding another after the previous one falls through.

Chris Rider, assistant professor at Georgetown, recently co-authored a piece featured in Organization Science entitled “Organizational Failure and Intraprofessional Status Loss.” In the study, he and Giacomo Negro of Emory University analyzed more than 200 partners from a single law firm that went out of business in 2003, tracking where the partners went after their law firm failed.

They found that 20% of those partners either found a position in a similar-status firm or found a position in a higher-status one. 80% did not.

In looking at why some were able to move ahead and others were not, the study found that as educational prestige decreased, the likelihood of the partners’ finding a better position (i.e in the Vault Top 25) also decreased, wholly independent of the partners’ demonstrated productivity.

Simply put, the vast majority of the 20% who found better jobs were alumni of U.S. News’s  top 10 law schools.

As the study stated, “[D]ue to bargaining power and status organizing processes, the hiring decisions of high status law firms favored graduates of prestigious law schools.”

Of course, it is important to note though that every law firm is different when it comes to hiring.

According to legal recruiter, K.C. Victor of Victor Legal Solutions, there are a wide array of perspectives when it comes to hiring: “There are some schools that are just death to ever getting into big law, firms [that] will never interview even if you graduated No. 1., [and] firms where if you graduated at the bottom half of the class, as long as it wasn’t the bottom 10 percent — unless you were in the bottom 10 percent of Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford — you will get a good job.”

Moral of the story. Choose your law school with care. It may be your ticket to landing your second job…

Erika Kubik

Erika Kubik

Former Communications Specialist at Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

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Erika Kubik

Erika Kubik

Former Communications Specialist at Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

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