How bad was it in 2009? The National Law Journal‘s annual Go-To Law School List paints a pretty sorry picture of first-year associate employment at the nation’s 250 largest law firms last year. The No. 1 law school sent just 55.9% of its 2009 graduates to NLJ 250 law firms. In 2008, the highest percentage of graduates heading to NLJ 250 firms was 70.5%. Importantly, the 2009 percentages include deferred associates, so an even smaller group actually went to work last year. Remember, the list consists of the very top performing schools, where job prospects in years past have proven recession-proof. Not so in 2009.

We’ve ranked the top 50 law schools by the percentage of 2009 juris doctor graduates who snagged jobs at NLJ 250 firms by Sept. 30, 2009. Numbers are based on information gathered from our annual NLJ 250 survey — statistics we get from the nation’s largest law firms. We’ve also identified firm favorites — the schools from which the top law firms on the NLJ 250 recruited most of its first-years in 2009. (One caveat: About 30% of graduates at Yale, Stanford and Harvard, combined, head to judicial clerkships right after graduation, according to U.S. News & World Report.) — Leigh Jones

Holding schools accountable
When 3,500 legal educators convened in New Orleans for the Association of American Law School’s annual meeting in January, one topic dominated the conversation: the American Bar Association’s attempts to add “student learning outcomes” to its accreditation standards.

 

Making legal education more practical
To address the economic challenges of today’s post-law school environment, several law schools offer students real-world job experiences.

Law students taking advantage of social media, but follow-up is faltering
Law schools that foster skill-building in the practical application of law will nurture stronger candidates and, ultimately, rainmaking alumni.

BY THE NUMBERS

The Go-To Schools
Law schools with the highest percentages of graduates hired by NLJ 250 firms.

Firm Favorites in 2009
Top NLJ 250 law firms and the law schools from which they hired the most first-year associates.

Hiring Clerks
Law firms that hired the most judicial clerks in 2009.

Partner Promotions
A look at where new partners in 2009 went to school.