Why Super Elite Yale Law School Isn't The Best For Career Prospects

Yale Law School is consistently ranked the top law school in America by U.S. News & World Report, but it turns out other schools may offer better job prospects.

We recently released our own ranking of law schools that best serve graduates’ careers, and Harvard came out on top. Princeton Review also released a law school ranking recently, which found Columbia Law offers the best job prospects.

While employers would by no means turn up their noses at a Yale Law degree, it’s interesting that America’s most prestigious law school isn’t necessarily the best one for your legal career.

Legal industry strategist Peter Zeughauser notes that Yale’s size may have something to do with its failure to rank number one for job prospects. Yale Law has about 650 students compared to about 1,900 for Harvard Law, meaning it has a smaller alumni network.

There may also be fewer Yale alumni at big American firms because many graduates of the school go off and do non-law firm work. Just 36% of Yale’s 2012 graduates went on to work at law firms compared to 71% of Harvard’s 2012 graduates.

“Alumni influence hiring decisions a lot,” Zeughauser told BI in an email message. “Harvard has the largest class, so it has a huge alumni network, and it is also very prestigious.”

Columbia may have made Princeton’s list because it has two huge things going for it: it’s an Ivy League school in the heart of America’s biggest legal market. “Columbia likely did well because it is NY alumni dense,” Zeughauser said, “and NY is such a big and important legal market.”

Regardless of the rankings, any graduate of Yale, Columbia, or Harvard should feel “very fortunate” compared to grads of other law schools, legal recruiter Jack Zaremski told us in an email message.

“I don’t think there is any significant difference between Harvard, Yale, and Columbia when it comes to placing their respective law students,” Zaremski said. “Comparing these three powerhouses on this issue is like taking Porche, Mercedes, and BMW and asking which company produces a decent car.”

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