Thursday, October 14, 2010

Where Partners Come From: Finding the Brass Ring

The ABA has become increasingly interested in outcome measures. US News uses relative bar pass rates and questionable at-grad and 9-month employment rates. Bill Henderson has looked at per capita NLJ first-year-associate hiring rates.

This post reports preliminary results of a study examining what many law students view as the ultimate outcome measure: partnership in a big firm. Specifically, it attempts to gauge how successful graduates of each US law school have been at obtaining big-firm partnership status over the past 25 years. The study is limited to current partners (October 2010) in US offices of the NLJ 250.

My research assistants have almost completed the task of collecting the relevant information for all 250 firms from Martindale-Hubbell on-line. I have personally quality-checked the spreadsheets for the five largest law firms in the United States, which collectively employ 13,942 US lawyers – 11% of all US lawyers employed by the NLJ 250. This post reports the results for those five firms. The five firms studied (with their two largest US offices, measured by number of partners) are:

Baker & McKenzie (Chicago, New York)
DLA Piper (Chicago, New York)
Jones Day (New York, Washington)
White & Case (New York, Washington)
Skadden Arps (New York, Washington)

Here follow the complete results, by rank and number of partners in those five firms nation-wide who obtained their JD degree within the past 25 years (I apologize for the awkward formatting):

1 Harvard 69
2 Georgetown 61
3 NYU 55
4 Columbia 52
5 Michigan 47
6 Northwestern 44
7 Chicago 42
8 Virginia 41
9 Texas 35
10 Fordham 34
11 UC Berkeley 29
12 UC Hastings 27
13 Duke 25
13 Ohio State 25
13 Pennsylvania 25
16 Notre Dame 23
17 Cornell 21
18 Boston U 20
18 George Wash 20
20 UCLA 19
21 Maryland 18
22 San Diego 16
23 American 15
23 Loyola Chicago 15
23 Loyola LA 15
23 Yale 15
27 Case Western 14
27 SMU 14
27 Stanford 14
30 St. John's 13
31 Chicago-Kent 11
31 San Francisco 11
31 Tulane 11
34 Emory 10
34 Houston 10
34 Illinois 10
34 USC 10
38 Boston College 9
38 Brooklyn 9
38 Georgia 9
38 Minnesota 9
38 Pittsburgh 9
38 Wisconsin 9
44 Cardozo 8
44 Cleveland State 8
44 DePaul 8
44 Indiana 8
44 Miami 8
44 Vanderbilt 8
44 Washington U 8
44 William & Mary 8
52 Catholic 7
52 John Marshall 7
54 UC Davis 6
55 Baylor 5
55 Duquesne 5
55 Pepperdine 5
55 Rutgers 5
59 Albany 4
59 George Mason 4
59 Hofstra 4
59 McGeorge 4
59 New York LS 4
59 SUNY Buffalo 4
59 Syracuse 4
59 Temple 4
59 Texas Tech 4
59 Tulsa 4
59 Washington 4
59 Washington & Lee 4
71 Akron 3
71 Baltimore 3
71 Brigham Young 3
71 Cal. Western 3
71 Drake 3
71 Florida 3
71 Franklin Pierce 3
71 Golden Gate 3
71 Mercer 3
71 Northeastern 3
71 Oregon 3
71 Santa Clara 3
71 South Texas 3
71 Villanova 3
71 Widener 3
86 Alabama 2
86 Arizona 2
86 Capital 2
86 Cincinnati 2
86 Colorado 2
86 Connecticut 2
86 Creighton 2
86 Dayton 2
86 Florida State 2
86 Iowa 2
86 Kansas 2
86 Louisville 2
86 Marquette 2
86 North Carolina 2
86 Ohio Northern 2
86 Pace 2
86 Seton Hall 2
86 Southwestern 2
86 Toledo 2
86 Washburn 2
86 Wayne State 2
107 Arizona State 1
107 Arkansas 1
107 Campbell 1
107 Denver 1
107 Detroit-Mercy 1
107 Howard 1
107 Louisiana State 1
107 Memphis 1
107 Missouri 1
107 New England 1
107 Oklahoma 1
107 Oklahoma City 1
107 Penn State 1
107 Southern Ill. 1
107 St. Louis 1
107 St. Thomas 1
107 Stetson 1
107 Suffolk 1
107 Tennessee 1
107 Thomas M. Cooley 1
107 Valparaiso 1
107 Vermont 1
107 Wake Forest 1
107 Western NE 1
107 Western State 1

Focusing on the top 50 law schools (by top-5-firm partners), 21 law schools outperform their 2010 US News ranking by 10 or more (e.g., San Francisco is ranked 67 places higher on this scale than in the 2010 US News rankings):

San Francisco 67
Loyola Chicago 64
St. John's 57
Loyola Los Angeles 48
Chicago-Kent 46
DePaul 43
San Diego 39
Pittsburgh 33
Case Western 28
UC Hastings 27
Miami 27
Houston 25
Brooklyn 23
Ohio State 22
Maryland 22
American 22
SMU 22
Fordham 20
Tulane 14
Georgetown 12
George Washington 10

Note: Cleveland State is ranked 44th on this measure, although third tier in US News, and therefore clearly belongs on the list of overperforming schools. Indiana is not evaluated for under- or overperformance, because Indiana graduates do not typically list the campus, and the two campuses are ranked differently by US News.

Further work

My next step is going to be to extend the analysis to the full NLJ 250. The fact that the five firms analyzed employ 11% of all lawyers employed nationwide by the NLJ 250 suggests that the results reported here are likely to be somewhat representative, but this needs to be confirmed. In particular, I expect that Harvard is a more likely recruiting target for firms further down the NLJ 250 list than its competitors. (In Los Angeles, for example, Harvard graduates are heavily represented among big-firm partners; Chicago graduates are not.)

I have also collected city-by-city data. Again, I expect it will show that few schools are actually national law schools – in the sense of producing significant numbers of big-firm partners in multiple cities. Here again, I expect Harvard to perform well.

Finally, I intend to compare the percentage that each school's graduates comprise of all entry-level hires with the percentage that that school's graduates comprise of the NLJ 250 partner population. In effect, I intend to compute a success/washout ratio for each school. My intuition is that firms hire very heavily at some schools because of the schools' prestige, notwithstanding the fact that few graduates of those schools ultimately become partners, and that the converse is true as well. This information may be useful to both students and hiring partners.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting, and utterly useless as a predictor of graduates' current and future prospects of becoming a big firm partner.

To become a big law firm partner, one must first gain employment at a big firm. It is markedly easier to do so from the prestigious schools, and markedly more difficult to do so from the less prestigious schools, like Loyola L.A., particularly in the current and foreseeable legal hiring environment.

Anyone who looks at this ranking, and thinks paying full tuition at a school like Loyola is worth it because they have a chance at big law is hopelessly naive.

10/15/2010 4:18 PM  
Blogger Ted Seto said...

You misunderstand my purpose. My primary intended audience is big-firm hiring partners: "To hire successfully, look at schools where big firms have been successful in the long run before."

As to whether graduates from schools at Loyola's level "have a chance at big law": Yes, they do. I did a prior study of partners at the 10 largest law firms in Los Angeles, again limited to those who had graduated within the past 25 years. Loyola tied with UCLA at the top of the list -- ahead of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or USC. When I limited the study to those who had graduated within the past 10 years, Loyola commanded the top spot by itself.

I understand and have often shared your assumptions. Sometimes it's useful to test whether our assumptions are true. It would appear that yours are not.

10/15/2010 4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This information may be useful to both students and hiring partners."

I understand your focus on hiring partners: Loyola grads in the past mangaged, somehow, to make partner.

How, exactly, is this information, as you state "useful to students?"
I would challenge the assumption that Loyola's past performance is in any way relevant to, or indicative of, potential future performance.

More specifically, I am very concerned about potential students (with hopes of gaining big law employment) looking at this and thinking Loyola's 40k tuition is a good roll of the dice.

It is not.

Hell, Loyola won't release its employment at graduation numbers to U.S. News, or potential students who email the career services office asking for that informantion.

"Loyola 2L" couldn't get a job back when times were good. Times have worsend.

10/15/2010 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

This is an interesting statistical project. I have to say I highly doubt your prediction that results from five firms will be representative of the results for the full NLJ 250 ("The fact that the five firms analyzed employ 11% of all lawyers employed nationwide by the NLJ 250 suggests that the results reported here are likely to be somewhat representative...").

First of all, the five firms that employ the largest number of lawyers do not mirror the geographic diversity of the NLJ 250 -- just off the top of my head, I suspect that Philadelphia, San Francisco and Boston are significantly underrepresented in these numbers. (And for these very large firms it is often the case, even when they have a small office in a particular city, that that office does not command the same prestige and draw partners from the same pool as firms that have large offices in the city.) Just as you found some interesting skews in your results when you focused on a single city (Loyola accounts for a large proportion of partners in LA firms, but not a large proportion nationally), there is an inherent geographic bias when you focus on a small subset of firms.

Moreover, I think most legal professionals would tell you that firms like Baker & McKenzie, DLA Piper and Jones Day are not particularly representative of large law firms as a group in the way they recruit and retain lawyers. Certainly their demographics are very different from the "prestige" firms such as Wachtell, Cravath and S&C (although having Skadden and White & Case on the list balances that somewhat).

I will be interested to see the results of your more fulsome survey -- and I will venture a prediction that Georgetown and the Big Ten and Cleveland schools (thanks, Jones Day!) will drop down on your list, while Stanford will surely shoot way up when the big California firms are included.

-- Matt

10/15/2010 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't want to pick on Loyola, it's a wonderful school, I went there, and the quality of the professors is great.

But the job prospects are not. First, the financial aid system is a pyramid scheme that takes full tuition dollars from the bottom 50 percentile of matriculants to subsidize the education of the 75% percentile (who, coincidentally are the richest applicants whose parents probably paid for an LSAT course, and who are best able to pay full tuition). This boosts the LSAT/GPA median, and was made worse when U.S. News closed the part-time loophole. Social justice anyone?

Second, Loyola has graduated tons of lawyers for many many years, behind only Hastings, I think. So maybe this explains its good performance, i.e., if you throw enough crap on the wall, some will stick?

These partners are not stepping up and hiring us currently.

Third, I have concrete, non-annecdotal evidence that if you aren't in the top (coif, St. Thomas Moore), you are not getting big law from Loyola. End of story.

Prof. Seto, I love Loyola, but we aren't getting big law.

10/15/2010 7:00 PM  
Anonymous Winston Lee said...

when do you expect to have the analysis for the full NLJ 250 complete?

10/17/2010 6:30 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey Harrison said...

Thanks, Ted. Very interesting.

10/19/2010 12:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post is interesting, but I would suggest Jones Day is an awkward choice because, while it is no longer the largest office, the firm started in Cleveland and still maintains a substantial presence there. This suggests that results for Ohio (and especially Cleveland) based schools may be inflated compared to the universe of large law firms.

10/25/2010 12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like the facts don't bear out here:

Loyola has alot of partners in big law. Yet, despite that, it cannot place a respectable percentage of its class in those same firms.

So, Mr. Seto, what value does your study have to prospective students???

I agree that firms may find value in the fact that Loyola folks stick around, and manage to make partner, and therefore they should hire more of them.

But what value does this study have for prospective students who want to gain a job at a large law frim??? Indeed, the evidence is damning for those considering paying anything to attend loyola with the hope of getting a big law job: they've got a 1 in 20 chance LOL.

Do Loyola alumni hate their school??? just down the street, UCLA and USC place nearly 40%.

Thoughts? Would love to hear from you, Mr. Seto.

2/28/2011 11:36 PM  

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