Philadelphia law schools overperform in law firm placement

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Penn Law ranks 11th in law firm partnerships

Who needs those "comprehensive" US News rankings? A new study published this week shows where law schools rank in exactly one category: law firm placement.

The study was published by Loyola Law Professor Theodore P. Seto, a former hiring partner at Philadelphia's Drinker Biddle & Reath. In the study, which claims to be the first to measure such a statistic, Penn Law ranked 11th overall, with 329 partners placed in the 100 largest US firms over the past 25 years. In the US News rankings, which include everything from student-faculty ratios to LSAT scores, Penn ranks 7th.

Here's how the Philadelphia-area law schools scored in this survey:

11) Penn Law: 329 partners (7th in US News)

26) Temple Law: 160 partners (61st in US News)

35) Villanova Law: 137 partners (84th in US News)

70) Widener Law: 71 partners (unranked in US News)

Rutgers wasn't ranked because it was ambiguous whether its alumni attended Rutgers-Newark or Rutgers-Camden, two separate programs. Drexel Law didn't make the rankings – it's only had a few years to place graduates, while other schools in the study have had a quarter-century.

The overall winner was Harvard, of course, with 946 partners. Georgetown, NYU, Virginia and Columbia rounded out the top-five.

Philadelphia schools, in all, did much better than their US News ranks would suggest, even when controlled for student body size. Why? Perhaps it's because they feed into such a large legal market. Seto offered some speculation of his own:

"It may be that, for whatever reason, students interested in becoming big-firm partners tend to be attracted to a particular school. Or perhaps the school’s admission practices favor such students. It may be that, because of the culture of the school, graduates who accept associate positions do so seriously, with the intention of really trying to make partner, not just to “get some experience” before moving on. It may even be that some schools actually provide superior preparation for big-firm practice – that some schools teach law and/or practice skills more effectively than others. Whatever the reason, 25 years of data is probably enough to capture real differences, even if we cannot explain them."

The published rankings do not weigh the size of student bodies, giving an advantage to larger schools. Seto wrote that doing this as a "per capita" report would be too theoretical. "If employers cared solely about per capita outcomes, they would all interview at Yale. They don’t. For employers attempting to allocate scarce recruiting resources, aggregate numbers matter," he wrote.

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