Proximity Matches Prestige When it Comes to Making Partner

The prestige of your law school is not all that counts when it comes to making partner at a big law firm. In a recent study of 33,000 lawyers at the largest 115 law firms in the country, it was shown that a large number of partners came from “less prestigious” law schools. Unsurprisingly, the top schools had a high correlation between their prestige and partner alumni. However, some of the 100 other schools in the study showed that a lower prestige didn’t always equate to fewer partners. Looking at cities with large legal markets, law firm partners tended to come not only from top schools but also schools in close proximity to the area, highlighting “the power of geographical proximity.”

Six mid-tier law schools in proximity to New York and Washington had higher numbers of partners than their more prestigious peers. For example, Catholic University’s Columbus School of law is ranked no. 108, yet is listed no. 32 for alumni partners at the largest law firms.

On the flip side, proximity can also be a detriment to schools that are located farther away from large legal markets. The study found that “other law schools that are situated in mid-size legal markets lacked proximity to major law firm offices, which could be an impediment to becoming a ‘big law’ partner.”

In a recent post by Alli Gerkman, Director of Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers, she also highlighted the importance that law school location plays in employment. Emphasizing that employers in some states are “more supportive of graduates from schools in the state,” Gerkman notes that going to law school near the legal market in which you desire to work allows for three years of networking to help kick-start your career.

Hunter Metcalf is a second-year law student at the University of Colorado Law School and contributes to IAALS Online. Please direct inquiries about this post to iaals@du.edu.