Columbia Law School
Columbia Law School (Rick Kopstein)

Columbia Law School sent more graduates into associate positions at the largest U.S. law firms than any law school in the country during 2013, as a historically high number of attorneys entered the job market.

Columbia sent 65 percent of its graduates into associate jobs at firms listed on the NLJ 250, The National Law Journal’s survey of the nation’s largest law firms by headcount. The school had been among the top three for the previous three years but surged past former No. 1 University of Pennsylvania Law School to reclaim the top position it held in 2007 and 2008.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom alone hired 16 Columbia graduates last year. “It is gratifying to see that employers recognize that we have remarkably talented students and an expert faculty that provides the best possible training for careers at the highest level of the profession,” dean David Schizer said.The top 10 schools on the list remained unchanged, although their order shifted somewhat. Penn slipped to No. 5, but administrators called the results encouraging.

“We are proud that our graduates’ placement rate at these firms has been consistent in recent years,” associate dean for professional engagement Heather Frattone said. “Penn Law graduates are in demand in the nation’s largest firms, continue to secure prestigious clerkships, and are pursuing a greater number of public service opportunities.”

Each year, NLJ surveys the country’s largest law firms about which schools produced their new class of associates. When law firms did not submit their numbers, we relied on data from ALM Media LLC’s RivalEdge database and independent reporting. The list is not based on data reported by law schools.

Neither does the survey not take into account recent graduates with job offers who first are completing judicial clerkships. That’s one reason Stanford Law School and Yale Law School — perennially ranked at the top by U.S. News & World Report — rank only No. 8 and No. 14, respectively, on the Go-To list.

In all, nearly 46,500 new ­graduates entered the job market in 2013 — almost 2,000 more than the previous year, according to the American Bar Association. Fortunately for the new lawyers, associate hiring among the biggest firms grew in step with the wider pool of candidates.

Among the 50 schools on our Go-To list, 27 percent of recent graduates landed associate jobs at NLJ 250 firms, up from 25 percent in 2012. That was the highest percentage we recorded since 2010.

Among the top 20 law schools on the list, fully 42 percent of recent graduates went on to large firm associate jobs, up from 40 percent last year.

Last year’s modest growth in associate hiring tracked the findings of NALP, the National Association for Law Placement, which reported a small increase in summer-associate recruiting activity during fall 2011 — when the Class of 2013 was being courted by law firms as 2Ls.

We also asked law firms where their new partners came from, and Harvard Law School once again had the largest number of associates-turned-partners in 2013. Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis reported the largest class of new associates at 157.

Contact Karen Sloan at

Rank Law school Percent of graduates
at NLJ 250 firms
1 Columbia Law School 65.45%
2 New York University School of Law 54.93%
3 Harvard Law School 53.55%
4 University of Chicago Law School 53.02%
5 University of Pennsylvania Law School 52.51%
6 Northwestern University School of Law 51.05%
7 Duke Law School 48.55%
8 Stanford Law School 47.09%
9 Cornell Law School 45.08%
10 University of California, Berkeley School of Law 44.85%