The biggest law firms turned to these schools for U.S. recruits

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REUTERS/Mike Segar

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  • New ABA figures show which U.S. law schools sent the most recent graduates to big law firms
  • Large firms concentrate hiring among elite schools, data shows

(Reuters) - Cornell Law School sent a higher percentage of its 2021 graduates to large law firms than any other U.S. law school, according to new data from the American Bar Association.

More than three quarters of its recent juris doctors — 76% — took jobs at law firms with 251 or more lawyers. Cornell was followed by Columbia Law School, which had nearly 73% of 2021 grads go on to large firms, and the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School with nearly 68%.

“We were very pleased to see that despite the turmoil created by the pandemic, we continued to see a very high level of placement success, particularly with the larger private sector firms,” said John DeRosa, special advisor on career initiatives at Cornell Law.

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DeRosa added that associate job offer rates for last year’s summer associates were among the highest he has seen in 20 years despite most summer programs being virtual.

The ABA on Monday released annual figures on law school entry level employment showing law grad hiring in 2021 recovered from a pandemic-induced slump in 2020. Nearly 76% of last year’s new juris doctors found jobs that require bar passage within 10 months of leaving campus — up from 72% among the class of 2020. Nationwide, 18,088 recent grads took law firm jobs, up more than 9% from the previous year.

Reuters analyzed the data to determine which law schools had the highest percentage of 2021 graduates land jobs at firms of 251 or more lawyers. Most of these large firms specialize in representing companies in transactions and litigation, and competition for associate talent has been fierce among them. Many boosted starting associate pay to $215,000 in recent months.

The ABA figures show that elite law schools dominate when it comes to Big Law hiring — a trend critics have said hurts efforts to increase diversity within the profession. (The ABA’s law firm figures exclude graduates who have accepted law firm associate positions but who are first completing clerkships.)

Just two law schools outside the so-called T-14, which are the top 14-ranked schools according to U.S. News & World Report, landed in the top 15 schools for large firm hiring. Vanderbilt Law School, ranked No. 17 by U.S. News, posted the 7th-highest percentage of new grads at big firms, with more than 60% of its recent class taking those jobs. The University of Southern California Gould School of Law, ranked No. 20, had nearly 54% of 2021 grads go to large firms — the 11th-highest percentage.

Read more:

Law school grads found more jobs waiting in 2021 after decline

These law schools crushed the job market in 2021

Is Big Law's addiction to elite schools hobbling diversity efforts?

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com