Choosing a Law School? Location Matters
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right law school. When considering where to apply, we look at things like prestige, specialty areas, and affordability to help us guide our decisions. But according to a study done at the University of Minnesota, another thing that we should be considering is a law school’s proximity to major law firms.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that a law school’s proximity to major law firms can affect its students’ future employment prospects. They found that students who are earning their law degrees in areas with many major legal firms are entering communities with better retention for young lawyers. This longevity is something uniquely found in these areas, as many of the firms are looking to hire students from the nearby law schools.
The study explored 33,000 law partners from the biggest and top-earning 115 law firms across the country. They then determined what law school each of those partners attended, and ranked the law schools. The official report with all of the numerical findings and rankings is set to be published this May. So, if working for a big firm after graduation is your goal, it may be a good idea to check out that report and aim for a law school in one of those locations.
Maggie Gloyeske, the director of lawyer and consultant recruiting at Faegre Baker Daniels, has stressed that her firm likes to hire from local law schools in Minnesota. She said: “lawyers who come to work for us, who have a connection to our community, tend to stay longer and think of this as a career move versus just a job.”
While this finding isn’t anything new or shocking, it is often something that is overlooked by students when they are considering where to apply. Many students rely heavily on the rankings put out each year by the U.S. News and World Report or other outlets. While these rankings are certainly a useful tool when first starting the law school search, as they give a broad overview of the law schools on the list, they omit several important factors like the number of graduates that go on to work in local law firms.
This may be because those rankings put significant weight on surveys completed by lawyers, law professors, and judges. According to Samuel Engel, one of the co-authors of the study, these professionals are likely to give law schools the same ranking each year, regardless of any changes that the schools may make. Engel stated that “it’s hard for [USNWR] to get these trends because they’re asking people who haven’t been in law school for a generation to rank law schools.”
While the USNWR rankings focused on a school’s reputation, immediate employment placement, and LSAT scores, the study done by the University of Minnesota based its evaluations on the school sizes and the number of graduates who went on to work at major law firms in their area. As a result, that list looked quite different.
This is not the first time that someone has taken a different approach to ranking law schools. This past summer, we at Law Street Media put out a set of law school rankings by speciality area. These rankings took into account things such as class offerings, alumni relations, and extracurricular programs. Additionally, like the University of Minnersota’s rankings, our rankings included law school proximity to major law firms. The goal of these rankings was to offer a qualitative and more comprehnsive approach to something that is often quantitative.
While each of these sets of rankings has something unique to offer, none of them are exhaustive. When considering what law schools to apply to, my advice would be to do as much research as possible while using the rankings as a starting point. While law school rankings are a useful tool, law schools have so much more to offer than just a place on a list.