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With a few exceptions, the nation’s largest law firms continued to rely on renowned private schools in the eastern half of the country to fill their first-year associate ranks in 2006. Columbia Law School was the top pick among the country’s 250 biggest law firms for hiring first-year associates last year. Some 69.6 percent of the law school’s graduates who earned juris doctor degrees in 2006 went to work for law firms included in The National Law Journal’s 2006 annual survey of the nation’s 250 largest law firms. Of the 450 graduates at Columbia Law School, 313 took jobs as first-year associates at NLJ 250 firms. Not surprisingly, the nation’s largest law firms, whose sizes ranged from 3,535 attorneys down to 172 attorneys, typically turned to elite law schools east of the Mississippi River for first-year hires in 2006. The lone showing from the West Coast among the top 10 schools most often tapped by big law firms was Stanford Law School. Columbia Law School Dean David Schizer attributed his school’s strong performance in part to the large number of applications to its juris doctor program that it receives each year. “It allows us to be incredibly selective,” he said. Rounding out the top five schools that sent the greatest percentage of juris doctor graduates to NLJ 250 firms were University of Pennsylvania Law School, at 68.2 percent; University of Chicago Law School, at 65.1 percent; Harvard Law School, at 59.2 percent; and Duke Law School, at 56.8 percent. Yale Law School, routinely ranked No. 1 in U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of graduate and professional schools, ranked No. 15 among the law schools recruited most often by NLJ 250 law firms. Among its 203 juris doctor graduates, 46.8 percent � or 95 graduates � went to NLJ 250 firms. Contributing to Yale’s relatively lower percentage are the large numbers of graduates who apply for judicial clerkships after earning a juris doctor degree, said Janet Conroy, director of public affairs at Yale Law School. The same held true for Stanford Law School, ranked second in this year’s U.S. News & World Report but No. 8 among the schools from which the NLJ 250 firms recruited. The University of Minnesota Law School, ranked No. 19 in 2006 by USN&WR, sent a relatively low percentage of students � 18.1 percent � to NLJ 250 firms. Of its 270 graduates, 49 went to those shops. Susan Gainen, director of career and professional development at the University of Minnesota Law School, attributed that percentage to about one-quarter of the school’s graduates taking judicial clerkships after graduation. She also said that many graduates stay in the Twin Cities area: “We have some excellent firms, but not many in the NLJ 250.”
Contributing to Yale’s relatively lower percentage are the large numbers of graduates who apply for judicial clerkships after earning a juris doctor degree.

Duke edged out New York University School of Law, the sixth most popular supplier of first-year associates. Some 56.6 percent of the 465 New York law school graduates in 2006 headed to NLJ 250 firms. Other schools among the top 10 were Cornell Law School, at 56.0 percent; Stanford at 54.9 percent; University of Michigan Law School, at 54.3 percent; and University of Virginia School of Law, at 54.1 percent. (Of the NLJ 250 firms, 18 did not respond to the survey’s question about law schools.) In 2005, when the NLJ looked at first-year associate hiring at just the top 50 law firms, Columbia was the No. 1 school. Other law schools among the top five in 2005 most often recruited were, in descending order, Northwestern University, University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, University of Chicago and Stanford. A look at law firm hiring patterns in 2006 shows that the largest among the NLJ 250, Baker & McKenzie, recruited the largest number of its first-year associates from Georgetown University Law Center, which sent 53.0 percent of its graduates to NLJ 250 firms. Baker & McKenzie has 3,535 attorneys. Georgetown was ranked 12th among the most popular schools from which law firms recruited. The second-largest law firm, DLA Piper, with 3,333 lawyers, hired from 38 different law schools, including some second- and fourth-tier schools. The greatest number of DLA Piper hires from any school was five graduates. The University of Michigan Law School and the University of Illinois College of Law each provided five first-year associates. DLA Piper national hiring partner Benjamin Boyd said that some of the firm’s most motivated and loyal associates have come from the upper ranks of less popular schools. “They come in and want to knock the cover off the ball and prove something,” said Boyd. He added that about 80 percent of the firm’s first-year associates graduate from schools ranked in the top 50 by USN&WR. The school relied upon the most by Jones Day, the third-largest law firm, was the University of Texas School of Law, which provided the 2,167-attorney enterprise with nine first-year associates. Jones Day also recruited six attorneys each from the University of Michigan, Georgetown and Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Latham & Watkins, the nation’s fourth-largest law firm with 1,951 lawyers, hired the highest number of its 245 first-year associates in its U.S. offices from Harvard, which supplied 24 recruits. The law firm also hired 22 from Northwestern, 18 from Columbia and 17 from New York University. The fifth-largest firm, New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, with 1,915 attorneys, recruited most heavily from Columbia, which provided 14 of its first-year associates. Twelve graduates from Georgetown joined the firm, as did 11 from Harvard and 11 from University of Pennsylvania. Law firms among the 250 largest also recruited from about 50 foreign law schools in 2006. Canada was the most popular source, where some 18 first-year associates came from University of Toronto Faculty of Law and 10 from McGill University Faculty of Law. Leigh Jones is a reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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