Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

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Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2020 1:15 pm

I go to Tulane, which in many ways is like a typical lower T50 school: most students’ job prospects are okay but not great, with the average student probably only competitive for jobs at mid-size firms in the region (i.e. Louisiana and the Gulf coast) and a significant chunk of the class striking out at OCI.

Yet a bunch of people in the top ~15% each year get jobs at major firms (Kirkland, Skadden, Cleary, etc), mostly in NYC and Houston. It’s honestly more people than I would expect—based on what I’ve seen on here, it would seem like only the top ~5% from a school like Tulane would be competitive for these jobs, but that’s not the case.

It’s like the school does have some level of prestige, but it only kicks in when you have a certain GPA and doesn’t trickle down to median students. Where does that extra boost come from, and how can I take advantage of it? Is it because Tulane used to be ranked somewhat higher and has some alumni at these firms? Or because it’s ranked higher for undergrad and the university as a whole has some brand recognition because it has a nationwide student body? Or is this all in my head and these outcomes are actually standard for this type of school?

Bottom line: if I'm top ~30%, would it be a waste of time to apply to big firms that have hired Tulane students in the past (but only top students)? Would these firms not look at me because my grades aren't quite as high as their usual hires from my school, or might they give me a chance because they've hired people from my school before?

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2020 1:25 pm

1.) It's pretty much never a waste to apply. What do you have to lose?
2.) The way you'll get in the door (as happens at my firm for a handful of top candidates at non-target schools) is building a relationship with someone else from your non-target school who will put you forward. You probably won't get a look without that connection, but that connection should be enough (assuming you are top third) to get you to a screener/callback at a few NYC firms, where it's far more personality based. (Some people will be prestige assholes and ding you no matter what, many will be more open minded than you imagine.)
3.) I promise you that nobody on the hiring committee has a feeling for Tulane's historical ranking or its strength as a university. We know if you're T14/T20 and if you aren't -- that's it. It's purely a case of people getting a strong recommendation from someone on the inside that gets them taken seriously. My guess for why only the top 15% seem to get it is maybe that they're the only ones who try / Tulane alums at NYC biglaw will only sponsor people who they think are good enough to not embarrass them if they bring them forward (which may mean LR or some academic honor).

Source: T14 midlevel at NYC V20 who's involved in recruiting.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2020 2:27 pm

Anon because post history and revealing where I went to LS. But to answer the subject line prompt, I think BYU is the king of the above. if you are top 10% you can basically get a job anywhere. If you are below top 20%, you might be lucky to get a job as a clerk that doubles as a bailiff at your local county court.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2020 2:48 pm

There is a phenomenon that I've noticed in practice. If you're at the top 10% of a TT/TTT type school that only sends the top 10% into biglaw (or so) that you're competitive for the entire V100. BUT, if your'e not in that top 10%, you're not very competitive for any sort of biglaw. It seems like firms really trust that if you're in order of the coif range that you are quite/smart hard working, regardless of perhaps poor credentials that landed you at that school, but if you're below that threshold they just don't trust the quality of the student.

Anon because I just posted in another thread on the same topic with more sensitive information, and revealing here would make it obvious I was the other poster.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2020 3:07 pm

I'm not sure this is really a school punching above its weight, so much as that it's what happens at schools outside the T14-20. I went to a T50 as well, and that's pretty much what it was like - top 15% ended up at major firms, outside that ranking varied a lot and probably looks a lot like the outcomes at Tulane. (Most people from my school who went to major firms didn't go to NYC, but I don't know anyone who wanted to end up there, the school is in an insular but sought after market and almost no one wanted to leave.) If you go to Law School Transparency, I think you'll see that a lot of T50 schools have about 15% in big firms.

What you're calling prestige is mostly having good grades (and one of the reasons why people debate whether transferring makes sense if you're at the tip top of your school, depending on how far down the ranking it is). People here talk about the rankings like they're scientific, and they're really not; there's no straight line decline whereby at a T14, 80% get big law, and that number drops by x% for each step down the ranking. Certainly there are probably firms who've never hired from Tulane (or my T50) and never will, and there are other firms that will never hire from lower-ranked schools even if the person has great grades, but lots of places will if you have the grades and can make a good pitch.

As for you, I don't think there's some magical Tulane prestige to tap into. Definitely apply to firms that have taken Tulane grads before, because you never know. It's never a waste of time to apply; don't reject yourself, let employers reject you. (There are some exceptions to this, like it would be a waste of time for me to apply to clerk on SCOTUS, but they're really on the margins.) At the same time, if they've primarily hired top 15% and you're not top 15%, then have a backup plan and look for other jobs.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by 12YrsAnAssociate » Tue Sep 15, 2020 6:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 3:07 pm
I'm not sure this is really a school punching above its weight, so much as that it's what happens at schools outside the T14-20. I went to a T50 as well, and that's pretty much what it was like - top 15% ended up at major firms, outside that ranking varied a lot and probably looks a lot like the outcomes at Tulane. (Most people from my school who went to major firms didn't go to NYC, but I don't know anyone who wanted to end up there, the school is in an insular but sought after market and almost no one wanted to leave.) If you go to Law School Transparency, I think you'll see that a lot of T50 schools have about 15% in big firms.
There's definitely second tier schools that send more grads to biglaw than others. Most are in big cities (e.g., Fordham, Brooklyn, American, Catholic, Hastings). BYU, though outside of a big city, has a strung alumni network and a lot of loyalty for Mormons. You won't see many Wyoming, Kansas, Montana, UNLV, Arizona, Denver, Utah, Nebraska, etc. law grads in biglaw, even though those schools are ranked in the same general range as the ones listed above. Part of that is self selection. But another part is that there's no established pipeline. Biglaw firms look for associates at the same places year after year, and someone from Wyoming would need to have something really extraordinary on their resumes to get noticed by a biglaw recruiting department, whereas someone that's top 10% at Catholic has a pretty good shot in a normal year.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:11 pm

Anon from above - sure, that's fair. I think a big part of the pipeline is geography; there just isn't much biglaw in Kansas, Montana, Arizona, etc. Also I was reading T50 fairly broadly and looked at some of the T40 and T30 schools, so overestimated a little.

If you look at LST, Tulane sends more grads to TX and NYC than it does to biglaw (if you limit biglaw to 500+ firms), so there's some kind of pipeline not limited strictly to biglaw hiring.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:52 pm

I was a Tulane student who landed a V5 lit job in NYC with those grades, but I wasn’t at the top of the class. I did a lot better than anyone expected.

What I did was find either an alum from Tulane or my undergrad and asked for an informational interview during the fall semester. I did this for every firm in the V100 with a NYC office that hired more than 10 SAs (check NALP for that). Smaller classes fill up easily with T14 grads. I will admit that my prestigious undergrad may have played a part because there were more alumni to call, but who knows. Still, Tulane generally has at least one alum at every firm at the top except Wachtell. Some in the V20 have multiple.

As for Houston, I’m sure proximity has everything to do with Tulane’s success. Your grades can be less competitive for this market than for NYC, but not by a lot. It’s more of a transactional market anyway so that makes sense since lit departments (many in NYC) are pickier.

By the time 1L ended, I mass-mailed all of these firms/mentioned the people I talked to in the cover letter and landed a lot of pre-OCI/direct-to-callback interviews in late June. Most will fly you in like anyone else and pay for everything. If you don’t hear from some you really like, just email them again and say you’ll be in NYC on a certain date. They’ll probably make room for you to interview since they won’t need to cover expenses. I got 3 more interviews that way.

Don’t wait until the Tulane NY Interview Program to apply, even if some of your target firms are going to it. I struck out at OCI, but got multiple pre-OCI offers in NYC. However, while you’re at this program in NYC try to stay there the full week so you hit up those cheaper firms that didn’t want to pay. Tulane also has a big NYC summer party during the Interview Program with alumni every year, so obviously go to that.

I think my luck came from interviewing well, interviewing early before the SA class got filled up at the firm and perhaps school name-related diversity helped. It’s also better to interview before all the other Tulane students who might be more competitive also meet the same firms and get thrown into the mix.

Frankly, it might be easier for you to get in the door with the pandemic since many places are doing CBs virtually. Start those informational interviews ASAP.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:29 pm

I think Fordham and BC are probably the two schools that punch the most above their weight. They both rank in the mid-30s sometimes, but send 40-50%+ of their students to firms with 100+ attorneys or federal clerkships. And it isn’t necessarily grade based. A close friend of mine who graduated from one of the above is at a V50 firm and was definitely bottom half during OCI. BYU does well, but it’s also ranked in the same range as Fordham/BC, so I don’t think it actually overproduces as much as some people here say.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by cavalier1138 » Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:26 am

I think the key misconception here is that the school is punching above its weight. In all the examples people have given, the school itself isn't doing anything to help the person who performs above expectations. That person has stellar grades and usually worked the alumni network to get in the door for an interview. Presumably, they would have done just as well at any other school in the same tier.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by trebekismyhero » Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:38 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:26 am
I think the key misconception here is that the school is punching above its weight. In all the examples people have given, the school itself isn't doing anything to help the person who performs above expectations. That person has stellar grades and usually worked the alumni network to get in the door for an interview. Presumably, they would have done just as well at any other school in the same tier.
Yeah, this is mostly about geography/alumni networks. Illinois has much better big law numbers than Iowa. It is not because Illinois is doing much more than Iowa as a school, it is because Illinois has more alumni in Chicago and St. Louis where there are a lot more big law firms than Iowa. Tulane isn't geography as much, but still has a lot of alumni in NYC to help top students. As others have mentioned, most law firms go to the same schools to recruit over and over again. If your school isn't on that list, it is really hard to get big law even at the top of the class.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Sep 16, 2020 6:40 pm

trebekismyhero wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:38 pm

Yeah, this is mostly about geography/alumni networks. Illinois has much better big law numbers than Iowa. It is not because Illinois is doing much more than Iowa as a school, it is because Illinois has more alumni in Chicago and St. Louis where there are a lot more big law firms than Iowa. Tulane isn't geography as much, but still has a lot of alumni in NYC to help top students. As others have mentioned, most law firms go to the same schools to recruit over and over again. If your school isn't on that list, it is really hard to get big law even at the top of the class.
I think this is true, but if it's not geography, then why does a school like Tulane have relatively many alums in NYC? It seems unusual for a school with an average ranking in the deep south to attract students from the Northeast and elsewhere (according to Tulane's website, 14% of students were from the Northeast and 11% were from the west coast) and send graduates to markets like NYC. What's the factor that separates Tulane from similarly ranked schools like Baylor or SMU, which I assume don't send many graduates to NYC?

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Sep 16, 2020 7:55 pm

I think a school that really punches above its weight is Howard, but I think that's fairly self-explanatory as it's probably the easiest school for firms to go to in regards to increasing Black attorneys in biglaw. Well, really the legal profession in general.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by cavalier1138 » Wed Sep 16, 2020 8:41 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 6:40 pm
trebekismyhero wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:38 pm

Yeah, this is mostly about geography/alumni networks. Illinois has much better big law numbers than Iowa. It is not because Illinois is doing much more than Iowa as a school, it is because Illinois has more alumni in Chicago and St. Louis where there are a lot more big law firms than Iowa. Tulane isn't geography as much, but still has a lot of alumni in NYC to help top students. As others have mentioned, most law firms go to the same schools to recruit over and over again. If your school isn't on that list, it is really hard to get big law even at the top of the class.
I think this is true, but if it's not geography, then why does a school like Tulane have relatively many alums in NYC? It seems unusual for a school with an average ranking in the deep south to attract students from the Northeast and elsewhere (according to Tulane's website, 14% of students were from the Northeast and 11% were from the west coast) and send graduates to markets like NYC. What's the factor that separates Tulane from similarly ranked schools like Baylor or SMU, which I assume don't send many graduates to NYC?
Tulane doesn't feed a local biglaw market, so it makes sense that it would send its top students to biglaw in NYC. Baylor, on the other hand, sends over 90% of its grads to Texas, so presumably everyone who can get biglaw from that class is going to a Texas firm.

But this helps illustrate that the USNWR rankings only have meaning in broad strokes. Tulane has far stronger big firm placement than Baylor or SMU, and that has more to do with its position relative to other Louisiana schools. If a firm wants to recruit students from Louisiana, they're going to go to Tulane. If they want to recruit out of Texas, they'll go to UT before they go to Baylor.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:11 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 8:41 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 6:40 pm
trebekismyhero wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:38 pm

Yeah, this is mostly about geography/alumni networks. Illinois has much better big law numbers than Iowa. It is not because Illinois is doing much more than Iowa as a school, it is because Illinois has more alumni in Chicago and St. Louis where there are a lot more big law firms than Iowa. Tulane isn't geography as much, but still has a lot of alumni in NYC to help top students. As others have mentioned, most law firms go to the same schools to recruit over and over again. If your school isn't on that list, it is really hard to get big law even at the top of the class.
I think this is true, but if it's not geography, then why does a school like Tulane have relatively many alums in NYC? It seems unusual for a school with an average ranking in the deep south to attract students from the Northeast and elsewhere (according to Tulane's website, 14% of students were from the Northeast and 11% were from the west coast) and send graduates to markets like NYC. What's the factor that separates Tulane from similarly ranked schools like Baylor or SMU, which I assume don't send many graduates to NYC?
Tulane doesn't feed a local biglaw market, so it makes sense that it would send its top students to biglaw in NYC. Baylor, on the other hand, sends over 90% of its grads to Texas, so presumably everyone who can get biglaw from that class is going to a Texas firm.

But this helps illustrate that the USNWR rankings only have meaning in broad strokes. Tulane has far stronger big firm placement than Baylor or SMU, and that has more to do with its position relative to other Louisiana schools. If a firm wants to recruit students from Louisiana, they're going to go to Tulane. If they want to recruit out of Texas, they'll go to UT before they go to Baylor.
Not only does Tulane not have a local big law market, but the entire state market is entrenched in a unique civil law system that is unattractive to many students and obscenely tie-sensitive/almost cultish even if you try to stay. I think this also pushes out more people who might have otherwise thought about staying.

However, I have noticed that a significant amount of Tulane alums in NYC are older. I think Tulane had more of a brand/much higher USNWR ranking in the 80s and 90s that has dwindled considerably. That’s why I think schools like Tulane and other T50s that move around consistently in the T30-T50 range for decades are a bit different from less established schools that have similar rankings with fewer alumni. I think W&L and Wake are pretty similar in that regard.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Sep 18, 2020 12:32 am

I am surprised by how many SMU and Houston alumni I encounter among Texas biglaw firms. Neither school is in the USNWR top 50, but I think it fits the bill of a top 10% = biglaw and outside the top 20% = no chance kind of thing. Texans are insular and alumni ties mean a great deal.

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Re: Schools that punch above their weight for biglaw, but only for top students

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Sep 18, 2020 1:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 1:15 pm
I go to Tulane, which in many ways is like a typical lower T50 school: most students’ job prospects are okay but not great, with the average student probably only competitive for jobs at mid-size firms in the region (i.e. Louisiana and the Gulf coast) and a significant chunk of the class striking out at OCI.

Yet a bunch of people in the top ~15% each year get jobs at major firms (Kirkland, Skadden, Cleary, etc), mostly in NYC and Houston. It’s honestly more people than I would expect—based on what I’ve seen on here, it would seem like only the top ~5% from a school like Tulane would be competitive for these jobs, but that’s not the case.

It’s like the school does have some level of prestige, but it only kicks in when you have a certain GPA and doesn’t trickle down to median students. Where does that extra boost come from, and how can I take advantage of it? Is it because Tulane used to be ranked somewhat higher and has some alumni at these firms? Or because it’s ranked higher for undergrad and the university as a whole has some brand recognition because it has a nationwide student body? Or is this all in my head and these outcomes are actually standard for this type of school?

Bottom line: if I'm top ~30%, would it be a waste of time to apply to big firms that have hired Tulane students in the past (but only top students)? Would these firms not look at me because my grades aren't quite as high as their usual hires from my school, or might they give me a chance because they've hired people from my school before?
Tulane's placement is specifically because of their MGGC participation or whatever theie NY program is called. My school participated with them as well.

Without that program, people will likely cut your resume unless pulled by an alum.

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