Law School Proximity Matters for Partner Prospects, Study Finds - NYTimes.com
by Elizabeth Olson
Elite law schools are not always a glide path to becoming a partner at a big law firm. A new study of partners’ academic pedigrees shows that a large number of graduates who reach the top rung at a law firm do not necessarily come from the top-ranked law schools.
The study of 33,000 lawyers at the largest 115 law firms in the country found that the dozen highest ranked law schools, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Northwestern, had a high correlation between their status and the number of alumni who made partner.
But some of the other 100 schools examined showed greater differences between their ranking and their alumni partner numbers, said Edward S. Adams, a University of Minnesota law professor who co-authored the study.
For example, Suffolk University Law School in Boston is not ranked nationally but it has 167 graduates who are partners in top law firms, Professor Adams said. Over all, it trails Harvard, Yale and two other New England law schools in partner numbers, but its strong performance, he said, shows that geographical proximity to a major legal market may be a good predictor of “big law” career success.
Alumni who are law firm partners in New York were from, in descending order, law schools at Columbia, Harvard, Fordham, Georgetown, Brooklyn, Yale and University of Pennsylvania. In Washington, the greatest number of partners found in the study came from Georgetown, Harvard, George Washington, University of Virginia and Catholic University. Similarly, in Chicago, the partners graduated from Northwestern, University of Chicago and University of Illinois.
The study “highlights the power of geographical proximity,” Professor Adams said, and “it generally validates that the law school attended matters for ‘big law’ partnership prospects.”
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