It's true that it's easier to get a high-paying job coming out of an Ivy League law school. It's still possible to get a high-paying job from an average law school, but it's harder.
It's true that graduates of Ivy League schools usually have jobs at graduation. Not just within the first 6 months of graduation, but even before graduation. If you want to work for a law firm, usually the law firm where you work as a "summer associate" (paid intern) during the summer between your second and third year of law school will usually give you an offer to return to their firm to work after graduation. And the current starting salary at large law firms is $160,000. This is true not just for Ivy graduates but also for graduates of other top law schools, like Stanford, U Chicago, Berkeley, Northwestern, etc.
Some caveats, though:
1. NO law firm pays first-year associates $200,000 in salary. Maybe after bonus you'd be close to $180,000, but the starting base salary is $160,000.
2. The firms that pay $160,000 are the top 100-200 law firms in the U.S. So you don't have to work at the top law firm to make $160,000; just one of the top 100-200.
3. The firms paying $160,000 are generally large firms, doing work like corporate contracts, insurance defense, drug litigation, class action defense, commercial litigation, etc. So your clients will be big clients, and you will be doing work that some people consider "slimy" (e.g. defending insurance companies). However, that's where the money is.
4. If you want to work for individual clients, or public interest, you can also work at a small law firm, or for a federal or state government agency, or for a non-profit. However, jobs at small law firms vary a lot in salary ($40,000-$120,000 starting), and government jobs also pay less than big law firms ($60,000-$100,000 starting).
5. Wherever you go to law school, you will come out with about $100,000-$150,000 in debt (unless your parents are paying for the entire thing, or you're rich, etc.). So it's important to get a high-paying job, at least at first. EXCEPT if you go to one of the top few law schools (Yale, Harvard, Columbia, etc.) they usually have a loan repayment program where if you go to work for a nonprofit, or the government, and make a low salary, the school will repay your loans for you, over a period 10 years. This is to enable you to work for non-profit or government if you want to, so you have a choice. But obviously, only the richest schools can afford to do this.
6. Law firm prestige isn't a big deal, because it's only prestigious to other lawyers. Not to normal people. For example, the 4 most prestigious law firms are currently:
(1) Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
(2) Cravath, Swaine, & Moore
(3) Sullivan & Cromwell
(4) Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Florm.
Now, I bet you've never heard of any of them before, right? Because law firms aren't prestigious in the same way that investment banks or consulting companies are. No one except lawyers knows which law firms are prestigious.
* * *
Now, if after all this you still want to work for a big firm and make $160,000 (actually will probably be raised to $180,000 or so by the time you graduate, since it's raised once every few years--but currently $180,000), the easiest way to do it is to go to an Ivy League law school or other top law school, because it's easier to get hired.
To be clear, all of the top big law firms also hire from regional and local law schools, and once you get hired, the firm pays you the same. So if a big New York law firm hires 3 students, one from Columbia, one from Pace University, and one from Saint John's, all three of them will be paid $160,000 to start. The difference, however, is that it's easier for the Columbia student to GET hired to begin with.
Most students at Columbia (and other top law schools) can get the top jobs if they want to. Employers come to campus to do interviews, and students can interview with whichever employer they want (the employers don't get to pre-screen for grades at these schools).
Whereas at Saint John's, for example, you have to be in the top 5?f your class to even get an interview at a big law firm (the employers will pre-screen for grades at these schools).
The big law firms prefer to hire graduates of top law schools, but they will still consider applications from graduates of other schools who have very good grades.
And that's why, on average, graduates of top law schools make more. Because it's easier to get a high-paying job from a top law school, and most people do. But if you can get into a top firm from a local or regional law school, you'll still make $160,000. It's just harder to get the high-paying job, and a smaller ?f students from local or regional law schools manage to do it.
One of the best things about being a lawyer, unlike being a banker or consultant, is that there are still a lot of jobs available when the economy is bad--but this is
Answered By: Lux et Veritas et Veritas - 10/20/2008