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Choosing a School in the New York Market
Published July 2010
New York City has the largest legal market in the United States. With the city's exciting and vibrant reputation, it is no surprise that many prospective students aspire to work there. Many, many different schools feed into this market. There are the bigger names (virtually every T-14 has a sizable chunk of students that seek jobs in the Big Apple each year), the schools that have a decent reputation in the area (Fordham, for instance), and then the up-and-comers that are still trying to make a name for themselves. While one's personal fit is undoubtedly important in choosing which law school to attend, considering one's employment prospects is even more essential.
However, figuring out which school offers the most “bang for your buck” can be a confusing process. This article seeks to analyze employment data from the many different schools that place most of their graduates into the New York market. We will look at salaries, the size of the firms where graduates usually find employment, and some of the many other factors that play an important role in choosing a law school. As a side note, it is undoubtedly true that the hiring landscape has changed significantly in recent years. Because most of the most recent employment data comes from the Class of 2009, it is difficult to determine just how relevant some of the numbers are. That being said, the hierarchy described below is still accurate, and the general thoughts behind each school (i.e. it's OK to attend Columbia at sticker price, where you should think very hard before attending St. John's at full cost, etc.) are still reasonable.A Brief Description of the Different “Groups” Used
Group 1: Columbia, NYU
The schools in the first group (Columbia, NYU) can be attended at “sticker” price (that is, without financial aid) with little problem. These two schools are currently ranked fourth and sixth, respectively, by U.S. News and World Report. While students at the very bottom of their classes might have trouble finding well-paying jobs, most graduates will be able to find positions at prestigious firms and esteemed public interest positions. The only field that is still difficult to enter from these schools is academia; those who are interested in becoming law professors should attend Yale (and, to a lesser extent, Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Chicago) if at all possible. More statistics about academia placement can be found here and here.
The second “group” consists of only Cornell. Cornell is a very strong school, but has slightly worse job placement than Columbia and NYU. It is currently ranked 13th by U.S. News. Students can attend Cornell at sticker, but they should be prepared to study hard, as finding a well-paying job near the bottom of your class will be extremely difficult.
The third group consists of only Fordham. This school climbed as high as 25th in the 2008 edition of the U.S. News rankings, but has dropped down to 34th in the 2011 edition. Recent statistics show that the school's job placement is well ahead of all other schools' in the area, barring Columbia, NYU, and Cornell. Fordham is the lowest-ranked school in the New York area where attending at sticker is a risky proposition, but not necessarily a terrible idea.
The fourth group is where things get tricky; this level consists of Cardozo and Brooklyn Law School. Admittedly, Cardozo's placement is slightly better than Brooklyn's, but they are both schools that applicants should mostly avoid. Most scholarships come with stiff stipulations that make losing precious financial aid quite easy, and both schools have poor placement into “large firms” (100 or more attorneys). That being said, if one receives a large or full scholarship with no stipulations, then these schools become quite an attractive option for some. While your job opportunities will not be superb, and you will most likely still enter debt due to New York's high cost of living, you will have a chance of finding a job with a large firm. Even if you fail, you will probably still be able to find a job with a smaller firm.
The fifth group consists of St. John's and Hofstra. These schools offer mediocre job prospects to all but the very top graduates, and are a risky idea to attend for nearly everyone. Even if you receive significant financial aid from one of these schools, you are better off retaking the LSAT and/or attending a cheaper state school. Students who wish to become employed at large firms are most likely out of luck at one of these schools; placing in the top 15 or 20% of your class is almost a prerequisite.
The sixth and final group consists of most of the other schools in the New York market. These include New York Law School, Pace, Touro, Syracuse, and Albany. Any applicant should be very wary about attending one of these schools! Their job placement is this economy very poor, and their tuition rates are sky high. One would undoubtedly be better off attending a local state school than trying to land a “big law” job out of one of these law schools. Unless you want to gamble on being one of the top five people in your class, please avoid these schools, as your job opportunities will be virtually nonexistent.
As a side group, we will consider two other schools in the New York area, University at Buffalo Law School (SUNY) and CUNY School of Law. While these schools do not have good job placement, they are state schools, and thus their tuitions are much lower than other schools in the New York area. If you are interested in a public interest position and/or want to go to law school for cheap (relative to Hofstra or Pace, for example), then please investigate these schools further and see whether they look like they might cater to your job interests.
Finally, we will mostly ignore the holy trinity of law schools (Yale, Harvard, and Stanford) in this article. These schools offer great employment prospects to nearly all of their students, and graduates can find jobs in virtually every area of the country, including New York. So, barring full-tuition scholarships at Columbia or NYU, it is most likely a good career move to obtain a degree from one of these law schools if you are accepted.Please click the links given below to jump to a specific section of this article:
Comparing the Admissions Standards
Before we get started with the nitty-gritty of comparing schools' employment data, we should take a quick look at the admissions standards for each school. This will help applicants understand what their likely options are. We will look at LSAT and undergraduate GPA (or UGPA) percentiles as well as the percentage of admitted students for a recent class (the entering class in 2009):
There is nothing too surprising about the trends in the numbers above. As schools drop in rank, their LSAT and UGPA statistics tend to drop as well. The acceptance rates oscillate up and down in a sometimes surprising manner (for instance, Fordham accepts a lower percentage of its applicants than NYU), but this is simply due to the applicant pool and size of each school.Group 1
Unfortunately, Columbia's employment data is slightly outdated and lacks some of the detail that some other schools offer. For instance, the school does not share the distribution of firm size when it comes to graduates working in private practice. Nevertheless, one can be assured that Columbia's placement in the New York market is superb. All of the following data used refers to the Class of 2008, unless otherwise noted.
First, as expected, the school has a fantastic employment rate for students. With 100% of graduates reporting their employment status (according to the school's latest ABA report), the school's “at graduation” employment rate was 98%. That percentage only increased for the school's “nine month out” employment rate of 99%. It was not reported what percentage of graduates reported their salaries, but it is a safe bet that it was a vast majority. The school gave the following information about public and private sector salaries:
As expected, Columbia's bar passage rate is extremely high in the state of New York. The school's most recent ABA report notes that, with 330 first-time takers from the Class of 2008 reporting their bar passage status (out of 355 first-time takers total), 319 (or 96.67%) passed the New York bar. This was significantly higher than the state average of 88.98%. Furthermore, the school gave the following information about where graduates found employment after graduation (as well as where they tended to work for their 1L and 2L summer jobs):
One might notice that the percentages given above for employed graduates do not add up to 100%; instead, they add up to 100.3%. This is no doubt simply due to rounding. The numbers for this column are taken from the school's latest ABA report, as Columbia's website gives percentages that are even more inaccurate (they are rounded to the ones' place, so the percentages add up to be 101%).
Unfortunately, because Columbia does not report the distribution of firm size among graduates working in private practice, it is not entirely clear how many graduates end up in smaller firms that pay less than the “big law” market rate of $160,000. However, that being said, the private sector's “low salary” of $95,000 means that graduates can rest assured that they will be most likely be able to find a well paying job. Finally, the school gave information about the different regions where CLS graduates found/decided to work:
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of students stay in the Northeast. Many students that attend Columbia wish to stay in that region, and the school is a huge feeder for the New York market. However, the school's placement in the West / Rocky Mountain and Southeast regions shows that a CLS degree has national reach. Although most students stay in the Northeast after graduation, if you want to find a job in California or Virginia, you'll probably be able to (assuming that you graduated with a decent GPA).
The school gave the following estimation for the annual cost of attendance:
Columbia is quite expensive to attend. In fact, U.S. News currently ranks the school as the third priciest private law school in the country. However, unlike some lower ranked schools in the area, attending even at sticker is not a terribly risky proposition; although the market is certainly worse now than it was in 2008, Columbia students still enjoy a fantastic rate of employment at high-paying firms. There are horror stories of students getting no-offered at the school's Early Interview Program (or EIP), but take these with a grain of salt. This 4th-ranked school (according to U.S. News) is undoubtedly one of the best law schools in the country.
In addition, over half of the students at Columbia Law receive some sort of aid, according to data collected by the ABA in the fall of 2009. The school reported the following distribution of aid:
Receiving financial aid from Columbia is simply icing on the cake. Students who receive a significant amount of financial aid and are interested in the New York market would be foolish to turn down the offer for anything other than Yale, Harvard, Stanford, or NYU with similar aid. In addition, the school has a fantastic LRAP (Loan Repayment Assistance Program) for students interested in public interest. This program can help graduates pay off a substantial amount of their law school debt; to read more, click here.
Each year, hundreds of different firms come to the school's EIP (or Early Interview Program) looking to hire Columbia students. The NALP Directory of Legal Employers reports in its most recent data that 436 different firms' offices are coming to Columbia's 2010-2011 EIP, 104 of which are based in New York City. This total number is more than any other law school in the state of New York; the only other school that even comes close is NYU with 434.
Next, we will look at the employment data from four of the most prominent firms based in New York City: Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates. By looking at how many partners and associates with degrees from Columbia these firms currently employ, we can get an idea of how the law school performs at the most prestigious level of firm. We will also note how many of the associates were hired in recent years (2007, 2008, and 2009). This will give us some idea of how the hiring landscape is changing; that being said, we will not see the full extent of the economic downturn for a few years. Associates who started working at firms in 2009 mostly got hired during their schools' OCI programs, which occurred as early as 2007. While the market was shifting at this time, hiring practices had not completely transformed as of yet; thus, we will need to wait two or three more years to get a complete picture of the situation. We will also look at similar data for other schools in this article, as to provide a point of comparison for applicants.
With only 85 partners and 121 associates, Wachtell is considered one of the most difficult firms to join in the country. Columbia makes a great showing with 22 partners and 15 associates. The only school in the New York market that has more associates is NYU (with 16), but Columbia has many more partners than NYU (10). In addition, Wachtell has hired 10 of its 15 associates from Columbia since 2007, whereas NYU has only hired 6 of its 16 associates within the same time frame. All of that being said, Columbia and NYU seem quite comparable at this elite firm.
For the other three firms above, Columbia reigns supreme in nearly every category. NYU does have more partners at Skadden (34 versus Columbia's 27), but Columbia has many more associates (75 versus NYU's 37). In addition, 26 of Columbia's associates were hired since 2007, whereas only 16 of NYU's associates were hired during the same time frame. Even from Columbia, getting hired at one of these firms is extremely difficult; however, statistically speaking, the school has the best results of any in the New York market. Taking into account a larger list of firms, the National Law Journal (or NLJ) confirms that Columbia ranks 2nd (behind Northwestern) when considering the percentage of graduates (54.4%) that enter NLJ 250 firms (the 250 largest firms in the country). Overall, Columbia is a great choice for virtually any type of job (except academia, as mentioned previously).
New York University (#6)
Much like Columbia, New York University (or NYU) is a bit lacking in the depth of its employment data. Quite a bit of the information is outdated (coming from the Class of 2007 and the Class of 2008), but applicants can rest assured that NYU places its graduates very well in the New York market. For the Class of 2008, with 100% of graduates reporting, 94.6% (458 out of 484 students) were employed nine months after graduation. Of those remaining, 3.7% (18 students) were seeking graduate degrees; only 0.8% (4 students) were unemployed.
In addition, NYU's bar passage rate is extremely high. For the Class of 2008, with 390 first-time takers reporting their bar passage status (out of 461 first-time takers total), 379 graduates (or 97.18%) passed the New York state bar. With the state average being 88.98%, this is a significant difference of 8.20%. The school's latest ABA report and website gave the following employment statistics for the Class of 2008:
These employment statistics are very similar to Columbia's. Most students found work at law firms for both their 2L summer jobs and their jobs after graduation, with a smattering of clerkships and public interest positions. Furthermore, the school gave information about where the Class of 2008 found their 2L summer jobs:
Unsurprisingly, the majority of students decided to stay in New York for their 2L summer jobs. Most likely, these students took summer associate jobs with the firms that they would permanently work for after graduation. In total, 68.8% of the class decided to work in New York after graduation. However, that doesn't mean that NYU's reach is limited to the state; graduates found work in 28 different states, and 13 graduates (or 2.8% of the class) were employed in foreign countries. The school reported that, for the Class of 2007, the median overall salary was $160,000. While this data is quite old, students are still managing to find high paying jobs regularly. The school writes that 98% of students from the Class of 2008 got their 1st or 2nd choice job (and 2% got their 3rd choice job). Overall, NYU is one of the strongest options that a student can choose if they want to work in the New York market.
The school gave the following estimation for the annual cost of attendance:
NYU's cost of attendance is very similar to Columbia's. Housing in Greenwich Village (and elsewhere in New York City) is very expensive, and the school's tuition is also pricy. However, you are certainly getting your money's worth, as the school's job prospects are tremendous. Attending at sticker will leave you in considerable debt, but you will most likely be able to pay off your loans quite quickly, assuming that you are not at the bottom of your class. In addition, according to the most recent data submitted to the ABA, the school gives financial aid to more than a third of its students:
It is interesting to compare NYU's distribution of financial aid to Columbia's. NYU gave fewer of its students financial aid, but its median grant amount was almost double Columbia's amount of $10,250. Columbia spread its financial aid more thinly and distributed it to more people, whereas NYU seems to give more aid to fewer people; however, one should also note that NYU gave no scholarships that covered tuition and offered an additional stipend, whereas Columbia gave these to 3.9% of those who received financial aid (or 2.1% of the overall student body). Also, like Columbia, NYU has a great LRAP (Loan Repayment Assistance Program) to help graduates working in public interest to pay off their law school debt in a reliable fashion. To find out more about NYU's program, click here.
Undoubtedly, a strong network of NYU alumni are ready to help out NYU students in the Big Apple. We can see the law firms' dedication to NYU by looking at the NALP Directory of Legal Employers to see how many employers are attending the school's 2010-2011 on-campus interview (or OCI) program. With 434 firms' offices reporting in (106 of which are based in New York City, the most of any school in the country), the school is only second to Columbia in the total number of firms' offices that attend its OCI, and Columbia is only very slightly ahead at 436. The National Law Journal (or NLJ) reports that NYU ranks 8th overall when considering the percentage of graduates (50.1%) that enter NLJ 250 firms (the 250 largest firms in the country). To give four examples of prominent firms in New York City:
NYU fares only slightly worse than Columbia when it comes to prestigious firms. It is no surprise that the school does well at Wachtell, as all four founding members graduated with degrees from NYU Law. Furthermore, the school's performance at Sullivan, Cravath, and Skadden is far superior to any other school in this article (excepting Columbia). We will see a significant drop-off in partners and attorneys when we look at Cornell's statistics for these firms. Thus, if you really want to join one of the elite firms in New York City, Columbia or NYU is certainly your best bet.
Cornell University (#13)
Luckily for prospective students, Cornell Law, currently ranked 13th by U.S. News, has made available a plethora of information about its employment statistics. As expected by a school of Cornell's stature, it was reported that 93% of graduates from the Class of 2009 were employed upon graduation (with 100% of graduates reporting). Furthermore, that number increased to 97% by nine months after graduation; only 5 students were seeking employment. The school gave the following breakdown in terms of what types of jobs graduates from the Class of 2009 tended to find:
As expected, the majority of students found work at law firms. However, what was the distribution of law firm size like for these graduates? Luckily, Cornell shares this information with us:
So, the vast majority of those working in private practice found work in large firms of 101 attorneys or more. Because 79.5% of those who found employment found work in private practice, this means that 74.1% of the Class of 2009 found work in large firms. The school's most recent reported median salary is $145,000, a number suitable for one of the most prestigious law schools in the country. While the majority of students found work in New York, a Cornell law degree is more portable than most; the school gives further information on where graduates from the Class of 2009 managed to find employment:
In total, Cornell graduates found work in 17 different states. The school's bar passage rate is also very impressive. For the Class of 2008, with 132 first-time takers reporting their bar passage status (out of 187 first-time takers total), 131 (or 99.24%) passed the New York state bar; Cornell students did significantly better than the state average of 88.98%. Now, let's take a look at the school's estimated cost of attendance:
Cornell is certainly expensive to attend; in fact, its tuition is the highest of any law school in the country. Luckily, Ithaca isn't quite as expensive to live in as New York City, so students save a bit of money in that regard. And, of course, the school offers financial aid to a substantial number of its students; in Cornell's most recent ABA data, it was reported that the school gave grants and/or scholarships to more than a third of the student body:
It is interesting to note that both Columbia and NYU gave a number of full tuition / full tuition with stipend scholarships to students, whereas Cornell did not. Cornell also gave less of its student body financial aid than the two previously mentioned schools, although its median grant amount was higher than Columbia's (and slightly less than NYU's). Finally, Cornell has an excellent LRAP (Loan Assistance Repayment Plan) to help those in public interest positions pay off their debt. One of the interesting features of Cornell's LRAP is that the program's “cost of living adjustment, benefiting those who live in high cost areas like New York City and San Francisco.” To find out more about this program, click here.
As mentioned previously, Cornell enjoys a reasonably high rate of employment at top firms. The National Law Journal (or NLJ) reports that Cornell ranks 14th in respect to the percentage of graduates (41.5%) that enter NLJ 250 firms. In addition, the NALP Directory of Legal Employers notes in its most recent data that 161 different law firms' offices are attending Cornell's 2010-2011 OCI (47 of which are based in New York City). One might notice that more law firms' offices are attending Fordham's OCI (254) than Cornell's. This is no doubt due to Cornell's somewhat isolated location in Ithaca, NY. However, even though more firms attend Fordham's OCI, Cornell's hiring rate is superior. For instance, Fordham is ranked 22nd on the NLJ report given above, with only 29.4% of graduates entering NLJ 250 firms. In addition, Cornell's overall private practice placement of 79.5% is considerably higher than Fordham's 70.5%.
One should note that Cornell's placement at the most prestigious firms is considerably lower than Columbia's and NYU's. For instance, at Wachtell, there is only one associate hired from Cornell Law (in 2004), and no partners. Compare this to Columbia, which has 22 partners and 15 associates working at Wachtell. Likewise, Cornell only has 2 partners and 8 associates working at Sullivan, whereas NYU has 13 partners and 42 associates. Somewhat surprisingly, Cornell seems to be more similar to Fordham than Columbia/NYU when it comes to elite firm placement; in fact, as detailed below, Fordham actually has better placement in some cases! While Cornell is certainly still an excellent law school, and its overall firm placement is significantly stronger than Fordham's, this Ivy League university performs significantly worse than Columbia and NYU in regard to employment prospects.
Fordham University (#34)
Fordham seems to exist in a realm all of its own. It places worse than Columbia, NYU, and Cornell, but is superior to Brooklyn, Cardozo, and all of the other schools in the New York market. Despite its recent drop in the U.S. News rankings to 34 (it was 27 only two years ago), the school should continue to place better than most New York schools. All data used in this section refers to the Class of 2009, unless otherwise stated.
The school reports that, with 98.93% of graduates reporting their employment status, its “at graduation” employment rate was 81.68%. However, that number increased quickly in the coming months, as the school's “nine months after graduation” employment rate was a much better 96.13%. In addition, with 93.02% of graduates reporting salary information, the school's average salary and median salary were $128,017 and $160,000, respectively. Because a high percentage of graduates reported both employment and salary information, all employment statistics that follow should be quite accurate. The school's bar passage rate in the state of New York is also quite impressive. For the Class of 2008, with 456 first-time takers (all of which reported their bar passage status), 94.08% of graduates passed the New York bar; this is quite a bit better than the state average of 88.98%.
The school gives the following breakdown for where graduates from the Class of 2009 found employment:
Let us ignore the 1.07% of graduates that did not report their employment status. While it seems more likely that these graduates are unemployed than employed, the percentage is so small that it will not affect computations in any significant way. Thus, we will take the school's “nine months after graduation” employment percentage of 96.13% as applying to the entire class. This means that 67.73% of the graduating class found jobs at law firms. Furthermore, the school gives the distribution of graduates working in private practice by size of firm. Please note that 95.38% of these graduates reported their salary information; thus, the data given should be even more accurate than the numbers given above (where 93.02% of the total graduating class reported their salaries).
In total, 78.88% of those working in private practice (or 50.85% of the graduating class) reported employment at law firms with 101 or more attorneys. This is considerably higher than Cardozo's rate of employment for the same size of firms (35.70% for the Class of 2009), but also quite a bit lower than Cornell (74.11% for the Class of 2009). Because of today's troubled economy, some larger law firms (101 or more attorneys) are having to defer associates' starting dates for a few months to a year. The school asked in its employment survey for the Class of 2009 to share whether they had been deferred; in total, 88% of those working at large law firms gave the school their start dates:
While quite a few graduates didn't start work until January / February 2010 or later, the school notes that, “Those whose start dates were deferred to the Spring 2010 or later, received stipends from their firms and are currently volunteering and gaining legal experience in a variety of public sector settings.” The school also released information about where students tend to find jobs:
As expected, most students found work in the Mid-Atlantic region (most likely New York). A Fordham law degree is not nearly as portable as a Columbia, NYU, or even Cornell law degree. While some graduates found work in other areas of the country, this will be quite difficult to achieve from Fordham. However, this is not a problem for most graduates, as they attend Fordham to obtain a job in the New York market.
Like most other schools in the New York area, the cost of attendance for both full-time and part-time students is quite high at Fordham:
To help combat this debt, the school does give out some aid to slightly over one-third of its student body. Luckily, there are no real scholarship stipulations at Fordham (other than “satisfactory academic progress,” which just means you have to keep a 2.0 GPA).
As can be seen above, Fordham does not offer its students a great deal of aid: only a third of students receive any grant money at all, and the vast majority of those students receive less than half tuition. The school writes on its website that, “These merit scholarships generally range from $5,000 to $20,000 per year.” In addition, Fordham has a LRAP (Loan Assistance Repayment Program) for graduates entering the public interest field. If one has a “qualifying income below $55,000,” one can receive “up to $8,700 per year for up to five years of forgivable Fordham LRAP loans to be used toward monthly payments of approved educational loans.” In addition, those that are extremely needy and receive Fordham Revolving Loans can participate in the Fordham Revolving Loan Forgiveness Program, where graduates can have their Revolving Loans completely forgiven.
It should be said that, generally, the lower a law school's rank is, the less impressive its LRAP is. For instance, NYU's LRAP is significantly better than Fordham's, with a higher salary cap and much higher annual forgivable loans. This is because schools like NYU and Columbia have much bigger endowments and have more money to fund graduates working in public interest positions. While Fordham's programs are certainly helpful to those working in public interest, they are not a golden ticket out of debt.
Examining the data for both Cornell and Fordham makes for a very interesting comparison. First, the National Law Journal (or NLJ) reports that Fordham falls 22nd on the list of law schools with the highest percentage of graduates in NLJ 250 firms (the 250 largest firms in the country). The school's percentage (29.4%) is considerably worse than Cornell's (41.5%). However, that being said, Fordham has comparable or better numbers for the four prominent firms given above. For instance, Cornell only has 7 partners and 18 associates working at Skadden, whereas Fordham has 19 partners and 33 associates. In addition, the school reported a surprisingly large number of law firms' offices for its 2010-2011 OCI program: 254 are attending (98 of which are based in New York City), according to the NALP Directory of Legal Employers. This number is actually higher than Cornell's OCI showing of 161! However, this can be mostly attributed to Cornell's remote location in Ithaca, NY; Fordham's convenient location in New York City allows firms easy access to the school. All of the above being said, Cornell clearly has a leg up on Fordham when it comes to employment at large firms. The school's NLJ 250 percentage is considerably higher, its employment statistics are better, etc. However, Fordham is certainly number four in the New York market pecking order, and its representation in New York City's elite firms is surprisingly strong.
Unlike most schools that place into the New York market, attending at sticker is not necessarily an awful idea. It is still a decision that should be thought over with great care, as the school's tuition (and cost of living) are very high, but those that place in the top third (or even top half) have a reasonable chance of finding a job that will allow them to pay back their loans at a decent pace. Overall, one could certainly do worse than attending Fordham, so definitely consider enrolling if you want to enter the New York market and don't manage to get accepted to Columbia, NYU, or Cornell.
Yeshiva University (Cardozo) (#52)
The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (of Yeshiva University) is the fifth-highest ranked law school in the state of New York. Although ranked considerably higher than Brooklyn Law School, St. John's University, and Hofstra, its job opportunities are actually quite similar. We have entered the realm of schools where attending at sticker is a dubious choice; while the school is not as poor a bargain as New York Law School or Touro College, attending Cardozo without significant financial aid is a decision that should be thought over with extreme care.
The school reports on its website that, for the Class of 2009, the “at graduation” employment rate was 76.3%, and the “nine months after graduation” employment rate was 91.5%. Overall, 96.89% of graduates reported their employment status, and 80.81% of employed students reported their salary information. The school's bar passage rate in the state of New York is slightly above average. For the Class of 2008, with 336 first-time takers reporting their bar passage status (out of 375 first-time takers total), 309 (or 91.96%) passed the New York bar; this is slightly higher than the state average of 88.98%. The school gives the following breakdown for the different types of jobs that students found:
As noted in the Columbia section of this article, the percentages given in the second column above do not add up to 100% (they add up to 99.32%). Once again, this is due to rounding. The majority of graduates managed to find work at law firms, although a significant number placed into Business or Industry and other categories as well. Interestingly, a higher percentage of graduates employed in law firms (91.05%) reported their salaries than in the overall graduating class (80.81%). This means that the numbers given above for law firms are reasonably accurate. Let's take a look at how the law firms can be broken down by firm size:
At first, these numbers look very appealing; indeed, the school boasts that, “Of the 63.97% of the class who entered private practice, 55.8% are working at firms of 101 attorneys or more.” However, this is only 35.70% of employed graduates. This means that 64.30% of those who found employment did not get these prestigious jobs. In addition, also consider the fact that only 91.50% of graduates were employed nine months after graduation. Thus, only 32.66% of the total graduating class were employed in law firms of 101 attorneys or more. Finally, this employment rate does not take into account the 3.11% of graduates that did not report their employment status. It is more likely than not that most of these graduates did not find work at the prestigious “101 attorneys or more” level, thus dropping the 32.66% further.
These inadequacies become even more obvious once one compares the school to a superior school like Fordham. Note that 34.81% of graduates employed at firms (or 17.32% of employed graduates in general) found jobs at the “2 to 10” firms. Fordham had both a higher employment rate and a higher employment reporting rate, and it only had 8.91% of graduates working in private practice employed at these firms (or 6.04% of the total graduating class). In other words, Cardozo had nearly three times the percentage of graduates working at these firms. Furthermore, Fordham reported that 50.85% of its Class of 2009 found work at law firms of 101+ attorneys. Using the 32.66% given above for Cardozo, this is a significant difference of 18.19%, nearly a fifth of one's class. There's a big difference between placing in the top half of your class and placing in the top third; students at Fordham have a considerably better shot at joining a large law firm.
Let's take a look at the school's estimated cost of attendance:
Please note that the first year of attending Cardozo as a part-time student costs the same as attending as a full-time student. The school explains, “Part-time JD students attend and pay for three consecutive part-time semesters in the first year of law school.” After this initial payment, each part-time semester costs $15,408. This cost of attendance is similar to previously discussed (and higher ranked) schools. If one is attending at sticker, one could go into over $150,000 in debt quite easily. Because Cardozo's job prospects are not superb, incurring this much debt could mean significant financial problems for years after graduation. The school reported the following distribution of financial aid in its ABA report:
However, unlike the schools previously discussed, Cardozo has stipulations on its aid. The school requires that students maintain a GPA in the top 40% of their class if they not want to lose any financial aid. As they drop lower in their class, the amount of aid they receive decreases; those who place below the top 40% but stay in the top 50% keep only 75% of their scholarship money, and if they drop below the top 50% but stay in the top 65%, they keep only 50% of their money. If one drops below the top 65%, one loses all of one's aid. This policy punishes those who will have the worst job prospects. If one places in the bottom 35% of one's class, then one will be stuck paying Cardozo's high sticker price with only loans. These graduates will most likely be mired in debt for many years. The school does reinstate the full scholarship if one manages to climb back into the top 40%, but this will most likely be very difficult. In addition, imagine that 55.7% of one's class receives some amount of financial aid; because only the top 40% of the class gets to maintain their full scholarships, this means that 15.7% of students will lose at least part of their aid. Many schools in the New York market have stipulations like these, so prospective students should be careful and do their research before committing to a scholarship.
It should be mentioned that Cardozo has a LRAP (Loan Assistance Repayment Program) to help graduates working in public interest to repay back their loans. However, this program is less than stellar, and most graduates who utilize it will still be left in significant debt. First, one has to be in at least $60,000 in loan debt in order to be eligible for the program. In addition, one can apply for only five years after graduation, and one must reapply each year for the program. While the school's salary cap of roughly $60,000 is quite generous, it was reported that awards in 2009 ranged from $1,000 to $8,000. Five years of forgivable loans on the lower end of this spectrum will hardly make a dent in a sticker-priced attendance at Cardozo.
The NALP Directory of Legal Employers further verifies that Cardozo does not enjoy the same status as Fordham or any of the previous schools discussed. Only 110 law firms' offices are coming to the school's 2010-2011 OCI (44 based in New York City). This is considerably fewer than Fordham, Cornell, etc., and the school's placement into elite firms is considerably worse than Fordham's as well. We can see that Wachtell currently employs no partners or associates from Cardozo, and Sullivan has no partners and only 2 associates (both hired in 2009) from Cardozo. Relative to Columbia, NYU, and even Fordham, Cardozo does significantly worse in its placement into these firms. The National Law Journal (or NLJ) places the school 30th in its percent of graduates entering NLJ 250 firms (the largest 250 firms in the country). With only 20.1% of graduates finding jobs at these large firms, one needs to place near the top of one's class in order to have a shot at one of these jobs.
Brooklyn Law School (#67)
Tuition at Brooklyn Law School, much like many of the other schools in New York, is expensive:
In order to help pay back the substantial amount of debt that most students will incur, the school should offer graduates a decent chance of finding high paying jobs. For instance, while Columbia's cost of attendance is even higher than Brooklyn's, students are able to find jobs that will pay back their considerable debt quite quickly, assuming that they put a reasonable amount of effort into their job searches and aren't at the absolute bottom of their classes. However, this is not the case for Brooklyn; a sizable chunk of Brooklyn graduates are unable to find jobs that will pay back their loans at any kind of adequate speed. Thankfully, Brooklyn Law School has made available a great deal of recent information about its employment statistics. Job prospects are similar to or slightly worse than Cardozo's, which means that they are not completely terrible but not great either. The school reported a nine-month employment rate of 91.3% for the Class of 2009, although it was not revealed what percentage of graduates reported their employment status. In addition, the school's bar passage rate is only slightly better than average in the state of New York. For the Class of 2008, with 440 first-time takers reporting (out of 461 first-time takers total), 392 (or 89.09%) passed the New York state bar. This is almost identical to the state average of 88.98%. The school gave the following distribution for the different types of jobs that graduates from the Class of 2009 found:
As we continue to travel down the rankings, one might notice that the percentage of employed graduates that find work at law firms decreases. For instance, Cornell placed 79.5% of its Class of 2009 into private practice, Fordham placed 70.46% of the same class into private practice, etc. In addition, a higher percentage of employed graduates that do find work at law firms end up working at very small firms (2 to 10 attorneys). These firms generally pay much less than the larger firms, so graduates who end up at one of these jobs will have a very difficult time paying off any debt. Let's see what percentage of graduates ended up working at these smaller firms by looking at the distribution of firm size for those graduates working in private practice:
At first, 47% for the highest bracket (101+) seems quite promising. However, one must keep in mind that this is 47% of the previously mentioned 54.5% that actually find firm jobs. If you combine these two percentages, this comes out to be only 25.6% of employed students, and taking into account the 8.7% of students that didn't find any job, this number drops to 23.4% of the entire graduating class. Also, please note that the 2nd largest bracket is the “2 to 10 attorneys” category; these firms employed 17.1% of those who found law firm jobs or 15.6% of the total graduating class.
As a point of comparison, look at Fordham's percentages for its Class of 2009 in the same categories. They report that 50.85% of the graduating class reported employment at law firms with 101+ attorneys, and only 6.04% of the graduating class found work at law firms of 2 to 10 attorneys. Fordham is significantly better in both areas, and graduates will have a much easier time with their job search. Retaking the LSAT and gaining a few points could mean the difference between Fordham and Brooklyn Law; in other words, unless you feel like it is impossible for you to improve, seriously consider retaking.
Brooklyn gives out financial aid to more than third-thirds of its student body, according to the school's most recent ABA data:
These numbers look quite appealing at first, but there is a catch. Take a look at Brooklyn's strict scholarship requirements and what percentage of students with scholarships actually get to keep the entirety of their aid:
These requirements are extremely similar to Cardozo's (but slightly more forgiving). Still, one can see that only 47% of students who received scholarships managed to keep the entirety of their scholarships. The majority lost at least some of their aid! Furthermore, more than a quarter of the students ended up getting no aid at all after their first year. One might assume that one will not end up in the bottom 35% of one's class, but the numbers given above are sobering. Although Cardozo does not make public what percentage of first-year scholars keeps full scholarships, the numbers are most likely similar (or even worse) to the ones given above.
In addition, it should be noted that Brooklyn Law School has a LRAP (Loan Assistance Repayment Program). However, this program is not great, and students who attend Brooklyn at sticker will still have the majority of their debt to pay off even if they are enrolled in the program for the maximum five years. The school will provide up to $7,000 per year; even if one receives $35,000 in forgivable loans, one will most likely still be left in considerable debt with a low paying job. Overall, while the school's LRAP is helpful, it is not anything close to a free ride out of debt.
Brooklyn also gives out the salary distribution for the Class of 2009 based on firm size. These salary ranges were collected from 71% of graduates working in private practice:
As one might guess, paying back over $100,000 in debt when you make $60,000 or less annually is quite difficult. Although 71% of graduates in private practice reported their salaries, one wonders how the unknown 29% would affect the numbers given above. That being said, these salaries roughly coincide with salary data given from other law schools, so chances are that they're reasonably accurate. Jobs in the other sectors of the industry aren’t any better:
Brooklyn's current firm placement is slightly worse than Cardozo's. For instance, according to the NALP Directory of Legal Employers, only 97 firms' offices are going to attend the school's 2010-2011 OCI (51 of which are based in the state of New York). Compare this to Cardozo's number of 110 (45 of which are based in the state of New York). While Cardozo has a slightly higher number of firms attending, fewer firms are based in the school's home market, where students are most likely to be hired. However, with that being said, the National Law Journal (or NLJ) reports that Brooklyn is not even ranked in the list of the 50 schools that place the highest percentage of graduates into NLJ 250 firms (the 250 largest firms in the country). This is not good news for Brooklyn Law grads.
Brooklyn's placement into certain elite firms is somewhat surprising. For instance, Sullivan currently employs 12 associates (3 of which were hired since 2007) and 3 partners with JD degrees from Brooklyn Law School. These numbers are significantly higher than Cardozo's and Fordham's, and are even slightly better than Cornell's. In addition, the larger firm Skadden currently employs 2 partners and 13 associates (4 of which were hired since 2007) from Brooklyn. These numbers are yet again better than Cardozo's. The school also ties Cardozo at Cravath, where 2 associates from Brooklyn currently work. While these firms are admittedly a small sample size, it does make for an interesting comparison between the two law schools. Cardozo is ranked 30th in its graduate placement into NLJ 250 firms (with 20.1%), while Brooklyn is not even ranked. However, at the same time, Brooklyn has similar or better placement into some of the most prestigious law firms in New York City. All of that being said, the bottom line is that both of these schools do not have fantastic job placement. While you're certainly better off at Brooklyn (or Cardozo) than the majority of schools in the New York market, in the current economic climate, it will be very difficult to find a high paying job unless you are at the top of your class. One can look here to see a full listing of recent job placements.
St. John's University (#72)
St. John's University has recently had an interesting upswing in its ranking. A year ago, it was ranked 87, but it rose 17 spots to 72 as of the most recent U.S. News rankings. Brooklyn suffered an opposite shift, moving down from 61 to 67. These changes bring Brooklyn and St. John's within 5 spots of each other, whereas the year before they were separated by 26. So, the question is: how do the two schools compare in terms of employment prospects? Despite the closer rankings, should applicants still consider Brooklyn superior to St. John's? The short answer: yes. The long answer: Unfortunately, St. John's most recent employment data is from the Class of 2008 and is thus slightly old. Nevertheless, we can make some interesting comparisons between St. John's and other schools in the New York market. With all 276 members of the Class of 2008 reporting, 241 (or 87.3%) were employed. Of the remaining 35 graduates, 10 (or 3.6% of the class) were pursuing post-graduate degrees, and 25 graduates (or 9.1% of the class) were unemployed. This means that, if we count the graduates seeking post-graduate degrees as employed, the overall employment rate for the class was 90.9%. In addition, the bar passage rate for the Class of 2008 was only slightly above the state average. For the Class of 2008, with 277 first-time takers (all of them reporting their bar passage status), 251 (or 90.61%) passed the New York state bar. This is a tiny bit better than the state average of 88.98%. St. John's gives the following breakdown for where graduates found jobs:
Taking into account the school's 90.9% employment rate, this means that only 50.7% of graduates found work at law firms. One might be surprised that St. John's put a slightly higher percentage of its class into private practice than Brooklyn Law School. However, it is important to keep in mind that Brooklyn's data is more current; the Class of 2009 had a much tougher job market, so comparing the two numbers is not necessarily relevant. However, let's take a look at the distribution of firm size among those graduates that found jobs in private practice:
“Large firms” are generally considered to be those with 101 attorneys or more. In St. John's case, a total of 55 students reported working at firms of this size. Taking into account the total class size of 276 students, this means that only 19.9% of graduates found work at this prestigious level. On the other hand, Brooklyn reported an employment rate of 23.4% at firms of this size for its Class of 2009. In addition, 41 students at St. John's found work at the very small firm size of “2 to 10 attorneys”; this is 14.9% of the class. Brooklyn's employment rate for the same category of firm was only slightly higher at 15.6%, and that was for a class with worse employment prospects. Although the differences in employment between the two schools are slight, they are certainly there. St. John's also reported that the overall median salary for the Class of 2008 was $73,000, with 65.1% of the class reporting. This percentage is too low to be very useful; one wonders how the other 34.9% of the class would affect this number if they had reported their salaries. However, in more detail:
As said, these numbers are slightly suspect due to the low number of graduates that reported their salaries. One might wonder how the school arrived at a median of $147,500 for law firms, when according to various salary charts (take Brooklyn Law's as an example), only firms of 101 attorneys or more regularly pay anything close to that amount. Only 39.3% of graduates working in private practice found work at law firms of this size. Thus, one might suspect that mostly these graduates (who represent considerably less than a majority of the total graduating class) reported their salaries.
Much like Cardozo and Brooklyn, most scholarships at St. John's have retention stipulations. Students must stay in the top half of their class, or they will lose the entirety of their aid. Those who manage to climb back into the top half will have their scholarships reinstated at the end of that academic year upon “request.” So if one gets below median grades during one's first year at law school, one could suddenly be in a great deal of debt very quickly. These types of stipulations are generally a red flag to applicants, and schools that have them should most likely be avoided. You will notice that the better schools discussed earlier (Columbia, NYU, Cornell, Fordham) have no stipulations on their scholarships. The school reported the following distribution of aid:
Overall, the school gives a smaller percentage of its students financial aid than Brooklyn or Cardozo; however, the school does dole out a substantial number of full tuition scholarships. If you receive one of these with no stipulations, then St. John's can become a somewhat serious option for you. While the school's placement is mediocre, graduating without debt will allow you to get a low-paying job and avoid the stress of debt. However, if your goal is to obtain a job with one of the bigger firms in the market, then attending Fordham (and up!) at sticker is most likely a better choice. While you run the risk of not being able to find a job and thus being mired in debt, your chances of getting “big law” out of Fordham are much higher than a school like St. John's.
As a point of comparison, one can look at the NALP Directory of Legal Employers to see how many law firms' offices come to the 2010-2011 on-campus interview (or OCI) program at each school. The titans of the market, Columbia and NYU, get results of 436 and 434, respectively. Cornell gets 161, and Fordham gets 254. Then, we step into the next tier of schools; Cardozo gets 110, and Brooklyn Law School gets 97. We then see another significant drop off for St. John's, with only 30 firms' offices attending (23 of which are based in New York City). This is less than a third of Brooklyn Law School's number, and slightly more than a tenth of Fordham's number. Thus, we can see in a concrete way just how St. John's employment prospects compare to schools like Brooklyn and Cardozo.
As expected, St. John's placement into elite law firms in New York is not good. Interestingly, Skadden currently employs 7 partners who received their JD degrees from St. John's; this number is considerably higher than both Brooklyn's and Cardozo's number of partners (2 and 2, respectively). That being said, only 1 associate was hired since 2007. This means that while Skadden might have hired graduates from St. John's in the past, it has not hired many in recent years. Unsurprisingly, the National Law Journal (or NLJ) does not rank St. John's on the top 50 schools that place the highest percentage of graduates into NLJ 250 firms (the 250 largest firms in the country). If Cardozo and Brooklyn are dangerous to attend without significant aid, then attending St. John's under similar conditions is a terrible idea.
Hofstra Law School (#86)
Much like several other schools that have been discussed, Hofstra's most recent employment data is quite old, coming from the Class of 2008. Keep in mind that prospects now are probably even worse than the ones described below, as the economy has worsened, and those schools that secondary in the market are not going to be able to give graduates access to the few open jobs. One might be optimistic about Hofstra because of its recent upward mobility in the U.S. News rankings, sliding up 14 spots to a rank of 86 this year. However, once the data is submitted and analyzed, I am positive that all this will really show us is that the rankings beyond a certain point are quite insignificant. Whether Hofstra is ranked 86th or 100th, the school will continue to have poor job prospects for nearly all of its graduates. Hofstra's website tells us that, within nine months of graduation, 99.7% of the Class of 2008 had reported their employment status. The school further reports that, “Of those members of the Class of 2008 who reported their employment status to us, more than 95% were either employed or pursuing a degree on a full-time basis.” This vagueness is slightly disconcerting; however, luckily, the school was slightly more precise in its most recent ABA report. With only one student's employment status unknown, the school reported an employment rate of 93.6%. In addition, 2.0% of the graduating class were pursuing additional graduate degrees. So, the vague “more than 95%” given above can be pinpointed to 95.6%. Because only one student did not report his or her employment status, we will use 93.6% as the overall employment rate for the Class of 2008. Furthermore, the school's bar passage rate was slightly lower than the state average. For the Class of 2008, with 310 first-time takers reporting their bar passage status (out of 350 first-time takers total), 268 (or 86.45%) passed the New York state bar; the state average being 88.98%. This is never a good sign for employment prospects, as students cannot practice in the state of New York unless they pass the bar. When it comes to where students found jobs, the school gives the following breakdown:
Already, we can see that Hofstra places a lower percentage of its graduates into law firms than even St. John's. When we break down this percentage further by size of firm, the school's inadequacies become even more obvious:
Only 26% of those employed at law firms (or 11.7% of the overall class) managed to find work at “large law firms” of 101 attorneys or more. Even when compared to Brooklyn Law School (23.4% of the overall class) and St. John's (19.9% of the overall class), this number is poor. Furthermore, the largest bracket by far was the “2 to 10 attorneys” category, where 21.6% of the graduating class found work. The NALP Directory of Legal Employers confirms that only 21 law firms' offices are coming to the school's 2010-2011 on-campus interview (or OCI) program, 11 of which are based in New York City. This is quite a bit lower than even St. John's reported number, so one can clearly see that finding a high-paying job with a Hofstra Law degree is difficult indeed.
It should be noted that while comparing schools like St. John's, Hofstra, etc. regarding elite firm placement is interesting, it is more academic than practical. None of these schools places well into elite firms, so one's decision to attend should not be affected by the purely anecdotal information given above. Thus, for schools ranked even lower (Pace, Albany, etc.), we will no longer consider this factor when discussing employment statistics. Suffice it to say that for all of these schools, one only has a shot at one of these firms if one is at the very top of one's class. The school's high tuition and cost of living, found here, only further complicates things:
With a cost of attendance similar to most other schools in the New York area and poor job prospects, most applicants should stay far away from Hofstra. The school only offers aid to 38.6% of its students, and retaining one's scholarship in most cases is dependent upon maintaining a GPA of 3.25. For most classes, the school requires that the mean class GPA falls between 3.0 and 3.2, and that the following grade distributions are met:
These stipulations are quite difficult to meet, and if students end up losing their scholarships, they will be in a great deal of debt very quickly. The school gives the following distribution of its financial aid:
Unless one is lucky enough to receive a full tuition scholarship from Hofstra, one should cross the school off one's list. There is nearly always a better choice available. For instance, a cheaper state school will give most students similar job prospects without the tremendous amount of debt. Only those at the very top of their class have a shot at high paying jobs from Hofstra, so unless you want to take a high-stakes gamble with your education, you are better off looking elsewhere.
Syracuse University College of Law (#86)
Applicants might be hopeful about Syracuse's job prospects because of the school's recent move to 86th in the rankings. However, one should remain wary for a number of reasons. First, even if Syracuse is now ranked in the Top 100, it still places worse than many other schools in the New York market. Even if one assumes that its job prospects are identical to Hofstra's (and they probably aren't), one should avoid this school. Secondly, the rankings often oscillate wildly, particularly in the lower half. Some schools will jump up or fall down – seemingly arbitrarily – 10 to 15 spots in a single year. These schools did not necessarily get much better or much worse in the course of a year; instead, it is likely that some single factor that might be irrelevant to job prospects changes. The only way that one can be sure that a school has truly changed its reputation and job placement is by waiting to see the trends in its employment data.
Unfortunately, Syracuse's most recent data comes from the Class of 2008; however, we will analyze it regardless. If anything, because of the struggling economy, one would assume that the school actually has worse placement now. In the school's most recent ABA report, with 96.4% of graduates from the Class of 2008 reporting their employment status, 89.4% were employed. The school's bar passage rate was similarly lackluster; out of 224 first-time takers who took the bar exam in 2008 (all of which reported their bar passage status), 190 (or 84.82%) passed. In the state of New York, the school had a passing rate of 84.09%, which was 4.89% worse than the state average. Syracuse further clarifies in the same report where students from the Class of 2008 found jobs:
This means that only 41.7% of the total graduating class found work at law firms. It is impossible to determine just how many graduates found work at “large firms,” as the school did not release that data. However, it is a safe bet that the number is quite low. For instance, the NALP Directory of Legal Employers reports in its most recent data that only 9 law firms' offices are attending Syracuse's 2010-2011 OCI (on-campus interview) program, 2 of which are located in Syracuse, 1 of which is located in New York City, and 8 of which are located elsewhere in the state of New York. To make a comparison, Hofstra is currently reporting 21 firms' offices attending its 2010-2011 OCI. With historically higher firm employment and more than double the number of firms' offices attending its OCI, Hofstra is almost certainly a better choice than Syracuse. That being said, it is probably in your best interest to attend neither!
The school reports on its website that, for the Class of 2009, “salaries ranged from $160,000 for large firm practice to $35,000 for public interest law employment.” It further clarifies:
While these numbers are of some interest, they are not very useful because the school does not share what percentage of employed graduates reported their salaries. For instance, if only 20% reported their salaries (and this is the case for some schools), the numbers from such a small sample size are virtually useless. To make matters worse, the school's cost of attendance is very high:
Like other schools of Syracuse's stature, the sticker price tag of $63,700 is far too high to justify when considering one's job prospects with a Syracuse JD. Let's take a look at the school's distribution of financial aid:
The numbers given above only take into account full-time students; the data given for part-time students in the ABA report is contradictory and confusing. For instance, it is reported that, out of 6 part-time students, 14 received aid. This does not make sense, so this data has been discarded. The school does give aid to more of its students than most schools. However, the vast majority of this aid is in very small grants (as demonstrated by the median grant amount of $6,500). With only 13.8% of scholarship recipients (or 10.3% of the total student body) receiving scholarships of half tuition or more, most students at Syracuse are going to be mired in debt by the time they graduate.
As expected, Syracuse graduates mainly found work in the Middle Atlantic (specifically, in New York). The school reports the following distribution for the Class of 2009:
In addition, 36% of employed graduates found work in the Metro NYC area. The school does not report how many graduates responded to this geographic survey, but we will assume that the sample above is representative. A surprising number of graduates found work outside of the state of New York for a school of Syracuse' caliber; however, it would be informational to learn what their salaries were. While being able to find jobs in another state is a “plus” for Syracuse's job prospects, if those jobs pay very little, then graduates are still going to be under tremendous financial burden. Overall, applicants should look into attending other schools than Syracuse. A cheaper state school is a much wiser choice, especially in the current state of the economy. Only consider attending if you receive a full scholarship or close to one, and even then, you probably have other better options.
Albany Law School (Unranked, Tier 3)
Currently ranked in the third tier of law schools by U.S. News, Albany Law School is yet another school that most applicants should avoid. Its job prospects are mediocre, and its tuition and cost of living are quite high. This is a common theme in the New York market; many schools do not offer the employment opportunities required to make a tuition of over $35,000 justified. For its Class of 2008, the school reported an employment rate of 94% (with 100% of graduates reporting). While Albany did not give any information about salaries, the Internet Legal Research Group (or ILRG) reported that, in 2006, the full-time starting salaries for graduates in the private sector and in the public sector were $55,000 and $48,500, respectively. These salaries are too low to pay back one's loans at any reasonable speed, assuming that one did not receive significant financial aid.
In addition, the school's bar passage rate in New York was considerably lower than the state average. For the Class of 2008, with 205 first-time takers reporting their bar passage status (out of 212 first-time takers total), the average school passage rate was 81.47% (and 80.83% in New York). With the New York state average being 88.98%, this is a significant difference of 8.15%. The school further broke down employment for the Class of 2008 by type of job in its ABA report:
One positive aspect of Albany Law School is its location. Because it is in Albany and not New York City, obtaining a job in the area is potentially less competitive. The school notes that, “...Albany Law is the region's only law school within a 100-mile radius....” However, despite this attribute, the school is still a hard sell because of its high cost of attendance:
Of course, if the school gave out a great deal of financial aid, this would help mitigate the school's high tuition. However, less than one third of students receive any sort of aid at all:
With only 43.4% of those who receive financial aid (or 13.9% of the overall student body) getting half tuition scholarships and above, the vast majority of students at Albany will end up paying sticker or close to it for their educations. While the school has a LRAP (Loan Assistance Repayment Program), it is not superb. The maximum that students can receive is $10,000 per year, and one can only receive funds for 3 years. That means that students can only receive $30,000 in total in forgivable loans. With a maximum salary of around $45,000 (more details can be found in the link above) for the program, students who attend Albany at sticker will still have a large amount of debt to pay off.
While the school reported that 48.3% of employed students entered private practice for its Class of 2008, this number is most likely considerably lower now due to the economic downturn. The NALP Directory of Legal Employers reports in its most recent data that 15 different firms' offices are coming to Albany's 2010-2011 OCI program, 2 of which are based in the city of Albany (and 11 of which are based in the state of New York). The two firms in Albany did not hire many entry-level attorneys in 2009 (0 for Greenberg Traurig, LLP and 2 for Whiteman Osterman & Hann), thus confirming that the school's previously reported 48.3% is probably a gross overestimate in today's economy. While Albany's location might give it access to some jobs that other Tier 3 and Tier 4 graduates are unlikely to get, the school is nevertheless a poor bargain. Attending at sticker is a bad idea, so retake the LSAT or attend a much cheaper state school if you have the option.
Pace University School of Law (Unranked, Tier 3)
Unfortunately, Pace does not give a great amount of detail about its most recent employment statistics. The school's website reports that “90.9% of graduates reported professional employment within nine months of graduation,” but it is not stated what percentage of graduates reported their employment status in the first place. The best we can do is assume that the reporting percentage for the Class of 2009 is similar to the Class of 2008's; using the school's most recent ABA report, the reporting percentage for the latter is 91.5%. So, we will assume that 91.5% of graduates reported their employment status for the Class of 2009 as well.
In addition, although it is likely that the 9.1% that did not report their employment status were unemployed, we will assume that the 90.9% employment rate given above represents the entire class. In terms of salary, the school reported an overall average salary of $68,616. Finally, the school's bar passage rate was significantly lower than the state average of 88.98%. For the Class of 2008, with 186 first-time takers reporting their bar passage status (out of 212 first-time takers total), 155 (or 83.33%) passed the New York state bar. This is a significant difference of 5.65%. The school listed the following breakdown for what types of jobs the Class of 2009 managed to find:
Unfortunately, the school neither breaks its private practice percentage down by firm size nor gives salary information for each type of job. However, with only 36.1% of the graduating class entering private practice, and with a reported average salary of $68,616 (and with no information about what percentage of students reported their salaries, this number could be somewhat inflated), employment prospects look bleak for Pace grads. Students' tuition and cost of living are also quite high:
Please note that if one chooses to live in Dannat Hall, the on-campus residence hall, the estimated cost of living will be slightly cheaper. However, spending anywhere close to $60,000 for a Pace law degree is a sore deal; those who do not place at the very top of their classes will have little to no chance of securing a well-paying job. In addition, the school does not give out a great deal of financial aid:
Although the school gives out aid to almost two-thirds of its student body, the vast majority of students receive less than half tuition. With only 12.3% of scholarship recipients (or 8.0% of the overall student body) receiving half tuition to full tuition scholarships, most students will have to pay for their Pace education with loans. The school does have a LRAP (Loan Assistance Repayment Program), but the program can only provide a minimal amount of help. To participate in the program, graduates must make at most $55,000. One can receive up to $5,000 per year for three years; this only equals a maximum of $15,000 in forgivable loans, an amount that barely makes a dent in sticker debt at Pace.
Add to this that the NALP Directory of Legal Employers reports in its most recent data that only five law firms' offices are coming to the school's OCI for the 2010-2011 academic year, and one can see that the future for most Pace graduates is bleak. Overall, attending another school in the area is highly encouraged; this fourth-tier school will only place its very top graduates in jobs where they can pay back their loans at a reasonable rate.
New York Law School (Unranked, Tier 3)
Out of all of the schools that are discussed in this article, New York Law School (or NYLS) is one of the worst. Not only are job prospects glaringly bad, but the school's tuition of $44,850 for full-time students (and $34,500 for part-time students) is so high that students who attend at sticker are most likely doomed to many years of trying to pay off tremendous debt. The school's employment statistics for its Class of 2009 showcase just how poor one's chances of obtaining a “large firm” job truly are as a New York Law School grad. With a total of 94% of graduates reporting their employment status, the overall employment rate was 89.7%. Although it is likely that the 6% that did not report their employment status were unemployed, we will take the data at face value and just assume that the overall employment rate given is accurate.
The school's bar passage rate was slightly higher than the state average of 88.98%. For the Class of 2008, with 424 first-time takers reporting (out of 436 first-time takers total), 387 (or 91.27%) passed the New York state bar. The school further breaks down the employment status for the 89.7 percent given above in the following chart:
Please note the dismal percentage for graduates that managed to find work at firms; this is only 40.9% of the overall graduating class. As said previously, comparing the percentage of students that go into private practice is generally a good way of seeing how strong the school's employment prospects are. For example, Columbia reported a percentage of 81.7%, Cardozo reported a percentage of 64.0%, etc. Of course, another way of analyzing the strength of a school is looking at how many students it places into “large firms”:
So, of the 45.6% of employed graduates that found work at firms, only 30% were employed at “large firms” of 101 or more attorneys. This is a total of 13.7% of employed graduates (or 12.3% of the overall graduating class). In addition, 23.3% of employed graduates (or 20.9% of the overall graduating class) found work in the smallest bracket of firm (2 to 10 attorneys). It is never a good sign when the “2 to 10 attorneys” bracket is significantly larger than the “101 or more attorneys” bracket. In addition, the salary information given above is completely and utterly unreliable, as it is gathered from only “approximately 20%” of the class. It is almost certain that the “average salary” for all of the brackets would be significantly lower if all graduates had reported their salaries. Finally, the NALP Directory of Legal Employers reported that 23 law firms' offices are attending the school's 2010-2011 OCI, 12 of which are based in New York City. While this is slightly more than some other schools (Hofstra, Buffalo), it is likely that these employers will hire very few graduates from NYLS, judging from the school's extremely low firm placement.
New York Law School's annual cost of attendance is estimated to be the following:
One can quickly see that if one gets stuck in the “2 to 10 attorney” bracket or, worse, is unemployed, paying back this amount of debt will be stressful beyond belief. In addition, the school is not even terribly generous with its financial aid:
Finally, the school has strict GPA requirements on its scholarships. Students report having to keep a 3.35 GPA if they don't want any of their aid rescinded. The amount of scholarship money that one loses depends on how far below 3.35 one goes, but all aid is revoked if one ends up with a GPA below 3.10. As a point of comparison, the median GPA at NYLS is somewhere around a 2.8; that means that a student has to maintain a class rank somewhere near the very top of his or her class if he/she wants to keep the scholarship offer that he/she entered with. Placing at median means that you will be paying sticker for an NYLS education, a prospect that should be scary for anyone.
So, with all of these factors taken into account, it should be obvious that attending NYLS is a bad idea. Only 33.0% of students receive any aid at all (that means that more than two-thirds of the student body is attending at sticker!), and even if you do enter with a scholarship, the school's stringent GPA requirements will make keeping that aid extremely difficult. Only students at the very top of their classes will have any chance of paying back their loans at a reasonable speed. Attending a cheaper school in the area (like the University at Buffalo) or even moving out of New York and finding work in another state is nearly always a better decision than going to NYLS.
Touro College – Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center (Unranked, Tier 4)
Touro College (Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center) is the worst school in the state of New York in terms of employment prospects. The school's ABA report states that, with 94.0% of the Class of 2008 reporting, the employment rate was 71.8% nine months after graduation. Even if we discount the 6.0% of graduates that did not report their employment status, this employment rate is incredibly low. In fact, it is considerably lower than peers Pace University School of Law and New York Law School. Likewise, the school's bar passage rate is the lowest in the state of New York. For the Class of 2008, with 212 first-time takers (all of which reported their bar passage status), 164 (or 77.37%) passed the bar (with 77.96% passing the New York state bar). With the state average for New York being 88.64%, this is a significant difference of 11.02%. The school further breaks down its employment percentages by type of job:
The school's extremely high first-year attrition rate of 19.4% only further confirms that students are not finding their Touro education worth the high price tag. The school gives the following information about tuition:
The school does offer aid to help combat this high cost of attendance, but the amount for most students is quite meager:
One can see that Touro gives aid to a great deal of its students (approximately two-thirds of the student body), but the amount of aid it gives each student is minimal. The school's median grant amounts of $4,000 for full-time students and $2,420 for part-time students are the lowest of any private law school in this article. In addition, the school does have a LRAP (Loan Assistance Repayment Program), but it only gives out a small amount of money to graduates working in public interest. The school writes that, “Grants to recipients may be no more than $1,000 to $2,000 per year but have been as high as $3,000 to $4,000 per year.” The school does not specify how many years one can participate in the program, but it does state, “Any Touro graduate may apply regardless of his/her year of graduation. Prior award recipients are eligible to apply in subsequent years.” However, with the annual salary cap of $55,000, students will have a tough time paying off debt at Touro with only $1,000 to $4,000 per year in forgivable loans.
Although the school does not give information about how many recent graduates managed to find work at “large law firms,” it is likely that it is very few indeed. The NALP Directory of Legal Employers reports that only one law firm office is coming to Touro's 2010-2011 OCI (on-campus interview) program. For most schools, the OCI program is the primary means of obtaining large firm work, so it is questionable that many students managed to find work at this prestigious level by other means. In addition, the firm that came, Cullen and Dykman LLP, has a starting salary of $90,000 and only hired 2 entry-level graduates in total for 2009. While NALP does not specify where these graduates came from, the firm visited Fordham, Brooklyn, St. John's, Rutgers, and Hofstra in addition to Touro. Thus, it seems unlikely that either of the two graduates hired came from Touro. Touro's expensive tuition and abysmal job prospects make it a school that all applicants should avoid. Even if one is lucky enough to be one of the few that receives a full ride, attending another school will undoubtedly be better for one's career prospects. If the only school you are accepted to is Touro, then please retake the LSAT or reapply to a cheaper in-state school. At sticker, it is one of the worst deals in the New York market.
University at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York (SUNY) (Unranked, Tier 3)
The University at Buffalo Law School belongs in a side tier (along with CUNY School of Law) because of its much cheaper tuition than the other schools discussed in this article. While its job prospects are mediocre, it is certainly a better choice than many of the other Tier 3 and Tier 4 schools in the New York market. Unfortunately, the most recent employment statistics are quite outdated for Buffalo (they come from the Class of 2008), but the school is undoubtedly still a bargain compared to NYLS, Pace, etc. To begin, let's take a look at the school's estimated cost of attendance:
Buffalo is more of a bargain for in-state students than out-of-state students, but even for the latter it's much cheaper than most schools in New York. As a point of comparison:
As can be seen from the above, Buffalo is much cheaper than school's of comparable stature. If one saves $30,000 per year, this will add up to $90,000 by graduation. Because Buffalo's job prospects are similar to (or better than) the schools listed above, it seems unwise to attend them unless one receives enough financial aid as to mitigate the cost.
As expected, graduates largely end up working in New York; only 16% of the Class of 2008 found/chose jobs outside of the state. Those graduates found work in Washington, DC (16%), the military (10%), Oregon (10%), Pennsylvania (6%), Massachusetts (6%), Maryland (6%), California (6%), international locations (3%), and a smattering of other states. Within New York, the most popular location was Buffalo (58%), followed by New York City (23%), Rochester (9%), and Syracuse (5%). In addition, Buffalo Law School does not have an impressive bar passage rate. In the school's most recent ABA data, it was reported that the average school bar passage rate in 2008 was 81.22% for New York (with 95.09% of graduates reporting their bar passage status); this is noticeably worse than the state average of 88.98%.
Using the same ABA report, we can see that, with 93.6% of the Class of 2008 reporting their employment status, 90.8% had found jobs nine months after graduation. While it is likely that the 6.7% that did not report their employment status were unemployed, we will take the employment rate of 90.8% as representative of the entire class. This percentage is not great, but it's about the same as most other unranked law schools in the New York market. Furthermore, the school gave the following breakdown for what types of jobs graduates managed to find:
This means that 59.52% of the total graduating class found jobs at law firms. This number is considerably higher than the Class of 2008 from some other unranked law schools like Albany (45.02%), New York Law School (43.0%), etc. For those in the Class of 2008 who found law firm jobs, the school gave the following distribution by firm size:
Only 27% of those who found law firm work (or 15.0% of the overall class) managed to find work at “large firms” of 101 attorneys or more. In addition, this number is undoubtedly worse now than in 2008 because of the recent economic downturn. However, let's compare Buffalo's “large firm” employment percentage to two other schools in the New York market:
The above information confirms that Buffalo is a better choice than many of its peers. Hofstra's tuition is much higher than Buffalo's, yet Buffalo placed more graduates into “large firms.” Even St. John's, a school ranked 72nd by U.S. News, only placed 4.9% more graduates. In all of these cases, the school's job prospects are not great; however, the difference lies in Buffalo's much cheaper tuition. Getting a low paying job is a lot easier to swallow if you have a much smaller amount of debt. As expected, the school has a low number of firms attending its 2010-2011 OCI, according to the NALP Directory of Legal Employers; only 18 firms' offices (3 based in New York City and 2 based in Buffalo) are coming to Buffalo.
The school reported the following salary information for graduates working in other types of jobs:
It is not entirely clear why the median salary of those employed in “Business and Industry” is $0 (internships?). However, these numbers are about what you would expect for a school of Buffalo's stature. To end this section, let's take a look at the distribution of financial aid for students at Buffalo:
Not only does Buffalo have a cheaper tuition than most other schools in the New York area, the school also gives out full tuition scholarships to 21.3% of scholarship recipients (or 16.1% of all full-time students). While the school's median grant is small at $550, its generosity in regards to its full-tuition scholarships is a big positive. If students are interested in the New York market, consider attending Buffalo versus NYLS, Pace, etc. In fact, the school should be heavily considered even versus ranked schools like Hofstra and St. John's; the job prospects aren't extremely different, and students will most likely end up with a lot less debt if they attend Buffalo.
City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law (Unranked, Tier 4)
City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law is another affordable law school in the state of New York. The school is proudly a “public interest law school,” so those interested in “big law” salaries should look elsewhere. However, if you're interested in finding a job that benefits the community around you in a tangible way, then SUNY might just be the school for you.
This cost of attendance is much lower than even Buffalo, the other affordable law school in New York. In addition, the school distributes some financial aid to its students:
Although the school does not give out aid to many of its students, its tuition is so low that it doesn't matter much. In addition, 44.7% of those that receive aid (or 13.2% of full-time students) receive full tuition scholarships. Overall, CUNY places most of its graduates in less debt than any other law school in the country.
CUNY gives out detailed employment statistics for the Class of 2008. While these are quite outdated, they are nevertheless useful in seeing where CUNY tends to place its graduates. Nine months after graduation, with 90.2% of graduates reporting, 84.9% of the Class of 2008 was employed. The school further clarified:
CUNY is the only ABA-accredited law school in the state of New York where more graduates find public interest work than work at law firms. Coinciding with this, the NALP Directory of Legal Employers reports that no law firms are attending the school for on-campus interviews during the 2010-2011 academic year. Because the school's focus is on public interest, its median salaries are not terribly high. For the Class of 2008, the median private sector salary was $53,524 and the median public sector salary was $58,090. However, with only 29% of graduates reporting, these numbers are not guaranteed to be very accurate.
As expected, most graduates find work in the Middle Atlantic States (mostly New York, no doubt). Here's a further breakdown for the Class of 2008:
To see statistics from graduating classes further in the past (the Class of 2007 and the Class of 2006), click here. Overall, while CUNY might not have the best employment statistics in the world, the school is surely a better deal than NYLS, Pace, Syracuse, etc. While you might not land a “big law” gig with a CUNY degree, you can help the community around you in a tangible fashion and earn a salary high enough to pay off your minimal debt at a reasonable speed.
So, after all of the analysis given above, what conclusions can we draw? First of all, as emphasized repeatedly throughout the article, only a select few schools in New York are worth attending without significant financial aid. Columbia, NYU, Cornell, and to some degree, Fordham, all provide their graduates with opportunities to pursue large firm jobs. Beyond these four schools, however, the situation gets rather dicey. The current economic climate in the United States is less than ideal, so even the largest legal market in the country is suffering greatly. There are simply not enough high-paying jobs available to justify attending New York Law School, Touro College, etc. The cost of attendance for these schools is so high that graduates can end up mired in tremendous debt for years or even decades after graduation. It is often difficult for those who have just graduated college to understand just how much money they're borrowing: $150,000 to $200,000 is nothing at which to sneeze. In most cases, attending a cheaper state school is the better option.
In addition, as can be seen in the “Comparing the Admissions Standards” section above, the LSAT standards between schools usually only differ by a few points. While one cannot do anything about one's undergraduate GPA after graduating, one can certainly study more for the LSAT in the hopes of boosting one's score. For instance, a few extra points could mean an acceptance at Brooklyn over Hofstra, Fordham over Cardozo, etc. If you're looking for some guidance about how to best study for the LSAT, click here to read some articles written by some of the top scorers on TLS.
Finally, you should use the data and resources given in this article to undergo your own analysis. Examine the different firms that are attending your potential schools' OCI programs; are they expecting to hire many new graduates? Go to other top firms' websites and see how many new associates were hired from your potential schools. Do any and all research that will give you the information needed to make the best possible decision when it comes time to choosing a school.
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