Otunga wrote:Would you say the number of grads getting biglaw will stay more or less the same?
This is a complicated question. I think that we'll have better job placement, both in raw numbers and in percentage. But the improvements may or may not be driven by BigLaw. I do think our BigLaw placement as a percentage will improve, but it's not going to be the primary engine of our job placement.
I'll give a break down of the factors:
1. Self-selection. Not everyone wants BigLaw. Keep in mind that a huge reason why grads (not just our grads) flock to BigLaw in the first place is to pay off their debts. WUSTL grads in general (especially my class) are less indebted than some of our peers. So there's less urgency. I can't speak for the 2Ls and 3Ls, but I know a good number of my classmates were never interested in BigLaw to begin with. Many of them are pursuing PI work or hope to join smaller firms. On my flight to Boston I was sitting next to a 3L who actually turned down an offer she received after her 2L SA because she didn't want corporate work and is now interviewing for PI positions.
2. Geography. Not only is WUSTL distant from the major BigLaw markets, but our students generally hail from the midwest. So they want to stay here. There aren't many true BigLaw firms in the Midwest, almost all of the true BigLaw firms are concentrated in the coastal markets with the exception of Chicago. Many of the firms that we consider BigLaw in the midwest aren't even included in NLJ 250 because they're much smaller.
3. Smaller class size. BigLaw hiring is based on your relative position to your peers. But it's not sufficient. Grades will get you the screeners, but after that it's about personality. I have classmates who are top 5% and got no callbacks from 1L OCI and conversely I have classmates who are top 33% and got several callbacks. I got callbacks that higher ranked students didn't, and lower ranked students got callbacks that I didn't. So there are variables other than grades. But as our class sizes shrink, the number of kids who are top X% will also shrink. Top 10% of 300 is 30 students whereas top 10% of my class is only 18. So when firms visit our campus for OCI, or when we go to them for Off-Campus Interviewing, they will go deeper into the class when awarding screener interviews. I know it's counter-intuitive because why wouldn't they just interview the 18 kids in the top 10%? Well ultimately firms want to interview enough candidates to make it worth their while. Remember that they also have an interest in recruiting the best talent. So lets say a firm's grade cutoff is top 20%. For a 300 person class, there'd be enough students in the top 10% (30 students) to fill all their slots. But for a smaller class, they'll go deeper into the class--until they hit top 20%.
And again, after our students get the screener, it's on them to interview well etc...
4. Debt. This is part of self-selection but I felt that it warranted it's own category. Debt drives students to BigLaw, but it also plays a role in determining the KIND of BigLaw that we choose. I'll use myself as an example. I won't have much debt coming out of law school. So I have a choice of choosing between the true BigLaw firms and smaller MidLaw firms that pay the same or similar salary. The MidLaw firms will offer better hours, better partnership prospects, but they'll pay less over the course of my career. If I had a ton of debt, I'd be forced to go to the BigLaw shop. But since I have a choice, I could opt for the MidLaw shop that may not be included in the NLJ 250 because it's just a smaller operation.
Ultimately, the NLJ 250 data is useful. But it's not the complete picture. There are other variables in play that you should consider in light of your debt and career goals.