I created the Deciding On Law School e-course so that I could help all prospective law students, whether they've just started thinking about law school or have been thinking about it for quite some time. Some of these prospective law students ask whether selecting a particular law school is as important as people make it out to be. Speaking from experience, I can confirm that your law school selection may have a large impact on the first job you can obtain after graduation.
While the educational content may be similar, your law school has a large impact on the first job you obtain after graduation. Prestige is important within the legal field. Students at the U.S. News & World Report “Top 14” law schools (i.e., the most “prestigious” law schools) simply have more interview opportunities brought to them than students at lower ranked or less prestigious schools. As an example, recruiters from the largest corporate law firms tend to heavily recruit from Top 14 schools and other regional schools that are known to be “prestigious” within a particular city or state.
Lower Ranked Schools
Students at lower ranked or less prestigious schools simply have to hustle more and grow their network to find opportunities. This is especially critical because lower ranked schools sometimes charge nearly the same tuition as some of the most elite law schools in the country, yet they struggle to place law graduates in practicing legal jobs. As one example, tuition at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law is slightly lower than tuition at Harvard Law, yet average graduates of Thomas Jefferson receive an initial salary of only 0.6 times their debt, which is vastly lower than Harvard graduates.
This isn’t necessarily to say that prospective law students shouldn’t attend a school not in the Top 14. There have been many successful graduates from non-Top 14 schools who have done extremely well in legal practice, politics, or business. Regardless, it is critical to understand the financial consequences of the decision and the potential challenges in finding a job after graduation. The road may be more difficult, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. It’s just that the prestige of your law school can open doors for you or, by contrast, can place barriers in front of your immediate plans out of law school.