A Quora reader recently asked about the chances for students at "Top 30" ("T30") schools to obtain Big Law jobs. As is the case with most questions in the legal field, the answer is that "it depends." In sum, there likely will be opportunities for students at a T30 school to obtain Big Law positions; however, there may be fewer opportunities than those provided to students at "Top 14" ("T14") schools.
Big Law recruiters certainly look at the prestige of a candidate’s law school and his or her 1L grades. A T30 school will likely be deemed “less prestigious” than a T14 school, so T30 students may already be starting at a disadvantage. Fewer Big Law firms may visit the T30 school for on-campus recruiting, and those same firms may offer fewer interview slots than they would at a T14 school. Because of this, T30 students will want to obtain stellar 1L grades so that they can separate themselves from their peers and take advantage of the limited number of interview opportunities.
If T30 students’ 1L grades aren’t as high as they hoped, they’re going to need to be more scrappy. Networking will be crucial. Big Law firms may offer informational sessions and happy hours to prospective candidates, so it’ll be useful to attend those events. Recognize that the road may be more difficult, but it won’t be impossible if these students hustle, frame their application in the most positive light, and do their research on the firms that they are pursuing.
At my Big Law firm in New York City, there were a good number of associates that did not attend T14 schools. Having said this, many of them attended schools in New York City and the surrounding area. This does fit into the general thesis that it’s easier to obtain a full-time position (whether Big Law or not) in the general vicinity of a student’s law school. So if T30 students are set on obtaining a Big Law position, it’ll be advantageous to first pursue those opportunities in their local market.