Columbia, for the 5th straight year, is ranked 1st on Go-To Law Schools, having sent nearly 68% of last year's grads into positions with the 100 biggest law firms.
NYU Law moved up 2 spots to #3 this year, sending more than 57% of recent grads into top jobs.
More than 48% of Cornell grads went to Big Law jobs, earning it 9th place.
With slightly more than 25% of its grads landing jobs at large firms, Fordham Law kept its #20 position on the Go-To Law Schools list.
A difference of degree: St. John's Law also sent more than 10% of its grads into Big Law jobs, just enough to land in 40th place.
Cardozo Law is ranked 41st, with more than 10% of its grads earning sought-after first-year positions.
Brooklyn Law School made it back on the Go-To Law Schools list this year at 46th, sending almost 9% of its 2017 graduates to jobs in the country's 100 largest law firms.
Students who want to land a job in one of the biggest law firms in the country will likely increase their chances by choosing one of New York’s seven Go-To Law Schools, statistics show.
The state had three schools in the top 10: Columbia Law School ranked first, New York University School of Law third and Cornell Law School ninth. The schools also had an impressive showing in the highly coveted U.S. News & World Report rankings, which were just released. Columbia ranked fifth, NYU sixth and Cornell 13th. Cornell is the only New York school outside of New York City to make the Go-To list.
One of the reasons for Cornell’s strong showing on the Go-To list is its powerful network of alumni at New York City law firms, Dean Eduardo Peñalver said. It also helps that the law school holds its August job fair in New York City.
“We think of ourselves as part of that New York City market although our students end up all over the country,” Peñalver said.
More than 48 percent of Cornell grads went to Big Law firms, making it ninth on the Go-To list. “It’s just one metric but it’s a good one. It’s not the only one. If your goal is large law firms, then this is an important metric,” he said.
Of course, Peñalver said, the Cornell students have all the qualifications to become Big Law associates but there’s more to it than that.
“The alumni network is a big part of any school’s success,” he said. ”Our graduates definitely look out for our students. You see it in the patterns of where students end up. That’s very self-sustaining.”
Indeed, the data did show that many law schools had special relationships with certain firms. So for Columbia, it was Davis Polk & Wardwell with 24 hires from the class of 2017 and 18 of the NYU grads and eight of the Cornell grads went to Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Six Fordham Law School grads were chosen by Latham & Watkins.
“Fordham traditionally does well on this ranking and it reflects Fordham Law School’s traditional strength in Big Law,” said Dean Matthew Diller. “Those jobs are prestigious and highly competitive. Big law is not the right fit for everyone.”
Fordham ranked 20th on the list with 25 percent of its grads at Big Law jobs.
Why do New York law schools perform so well on the Go-To list? After all, Yale Law School, ranked first by U.S. News & World Report, was 18th on the Go-To ‘ist, well below Columbia, NYU and Cornell and just two spots above Fordham.
Well, one reason is because a lower percentage of students at Yale go to Big Law firms out of school. A significant percentage—34 percent of the class of 2016—took federal clerkships. But every school has students who take clerkships, prefer midsize firms or want public service careers.
“The way I think about this is the Go-To Law Schools ranking or Big Law employment rate measures how well you’re serving the students at the top of your class,” said St. John’s University School of Law Dean Mike Simons. “The overall employment rate reflects how well a law school is serving its entire class.”
More than 10 percent of the graduates of St. John’s class of 2017 made it to Big Law firms, which placed the school 40th on the list. But more important to Simons, 84 percent of the 2016 class has full-time, long-term legal jobs that require bar admission and a Juris Doctor. St. John’s is still compiling 2017 numbers but Simons said they appear to be similar to 2016.
The Go-To list ranks schools based on the percentage of the 2017 class employed by the top 100 firms on the NLJ 500. By that measure, 68 percent of Columbia Law School graduates are working as associates at the country’s biggest law firms.
“I’m proud that Columbia Law School graduates continue to be sought after by the nation’s most prestigious law firms,” Dean Gillian Lester said. “The firms’ hiring teams know that our students will arrive with superb legal and leadership skills, ready to take on the most challenging assignments.”
NYU School of Law moved up two spots on the list to No. 3, sending more than 57 percent of recent grads into top jobs.
“More than 600 employers—the majority of them large law firms—recruit on-campus at NYU Law each year, and our students who seek employment with major firms obtain it,” said Michael Orey, public affairs director. “Each year, a significant percentage of our graduates also take positions with public interest organizations, in government, and in business, and we consider those jobs every bit an indicator of success as positions in private practice.”
The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law ranked 41st on the Go-To list with 10 percent of grads at big firms. But Dean Melanie Leslie said the more important number to her was the 80 percent of 2017 graduates with gold-standards jobs, full-time positions that require bar passage and a J.D.
“I’m really proud of that J.D. required number,” she said. “I think that shows that the job market in New York is really strong.”
Brooklyn Law School Dean Nick Allard, like many of the other deans, suggested taking other factors into account beyond the Go-To list. Brooklyn Law School ranked 46th on the list with 9 percent of grads at the top firms.
“When considering schools, applicants are well advised to get as much information as possible,” Allard said. “Like pairing an otherwise bland plate of fava beans with a fine Chianti, the NLJ top 50 jobs survey becomes more interesting if combined with say the NYLJ poll of readers who rated Brooklyn Law School as the second-best overall law school in the state behind NYU, as well as the NLJ survey of associates making partner in New York where we are consistently highly rated.”
But beyond the individual schools, what is the secret to New York’s success? “Location. Location. Location,” said the St. John’s law school dean, repeating the real estate agent’s mantra.
Or, another way to think about it, Simons said, is to paraphrase Willie Sutton who when asked why he robbed banks told an interviewer, “That’s where the money is.” The Sutton quote may be more lore than reality but Simons’ version does make sense. Question: “Why do you go to law school in New York?” Answer: “Because that’s where the jobs are.”