chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.

Student Lawyer

Student Essentials

The Law School You Choose Matters

Renwei Chung

The Law School You Choose Matters - #2412371

Jump to:

Once you begin your career, your diploma is just a piece of paper. It is your work product, networking ability, and professionalism that will set you apart throughout your career. Unfortunately, many opportunities in the legal profession may be denied to a student purely based on the law school they attended. 

The Economist published an article discussing how to join the 1 percent in the Holy Trinity of white-collar careers—management consultants, investment banks, and big law firms. There is a lot of truth to this article. It states that the most important quality recruiters are looking for is “fit.” But you may never reach the "fit" filter if you attended the wrong law school.

How Well Does the Law School Place Its Graduates?

The AM Law 100 recruits specifically from certain law schools. The AM Law 50 is even more selective. The AM A-List only recruits students from the cream of the crop, their so-called target schools. If you plan on working in Biglaw, you better learn how recruiting works. Even if you plan on working in the public sector or for a mid-size to smaller law firm, prestige still matters. The law school you go to won't necessarily be dispositive to a successful career, but it can be quite determinative to the quantity and quality of your post-graduate options. When you are looking at a law school, make sure to review its On-Campus Interviewing (OCI) list and see what firms recruit from the school. If the list is slim, you may want to reconsider your school of choice.

Just because you go to a good law school doesn't mean you will be guaranteed a job. However, it increases your chance of quality employment tenfold. When it comes to school selection, you should consider one thing above all else: how well does the law school place its graduates? The rest of the propaganda is the same hype in a different wrapper. If you don't get into a top 14 or 25 law school, you should make sure to attend a law school where you plan to practice. Law degrees are not as portable as one would seem to believe. I know many people who went to a top 100 law school, only to find that their diploma was valuable or competitive in the local region.

Your Law School Is the First Filter Recruiters Use

Law firms want a compelling reason why you are choosing their office location, where you decided to attend law school provides a good narrative. Again, there are exceptions to every rule. But for the most part, the law school is the first filter recruiters use when they look at your resume. If you didn't go to a target school, a recruiter may not even give you a chance. In this hypothetical, my colleagues David Lat and Ellie Mystal debate which law school an applicant should attend based on her scholarship offers and employment goals. For the record, I side with Lat on this one. If you review the OCI list of these three schools, I believe it becomes an easy decision. After reading this, which school would you pick?