University study finds that law schools proximity to firms affects employment prospects

by Danielle Korby

University of Minnesota researchers found that law schools’ proximity to major law firms can affect their students’ employment after graduation.
By pursuing a law degree at a school near major law firms, students are entering a community that better retains legal partners, or lawyers who stick with major law firms for 8-10 years, according to the researchers’ findings. Law schools near those types of firms generally have more of those partners.
The experts say the study could help students choose a place to pursue a law degree, though students and researchers agree there are many factors associated with picking the right school.
Co-author and law professor Edward S. Adams said students who hope to work for a major law firm should take into account the number of law firms near their schools.
Adams said the study’s findings could help students who are in the process of choosing a law school and weighing their potential success post-graduation. 
The researchers studied 33,000 law partners from 115 U.S. law firms that had the most lawyers and made the most money. Researchers also identified the schools those partners attended. The findings are set to be published in May.
The study’s co-author and law student Samuel Engel said two of the major law firms identified in the study are in Minnesota.
Maggie Gloyeske, director of lawyer and consultant recruiting at Faegre Baker Daniels — one of the two firms — said she recruits heavily from local schools.
“Lawyers who come to work for us, who have a connection to our community, tend to stay longer and think of this as a career move versus just a job,” Gloyeske said.
But beside schools’ proximity to potential employment, students and researchers agree that there are many factors associated with choosing a law school.
University law student Ben Irwin said many students consider a well-respected list of the country’s best law schools that’s compiled by the U.S. News and World Report when they start thinking about which school to attend.
“A lot of people consider prestige when they’re making decisions about law school,” Irwin said.
Engel said the USNWR’s list is partially based on surveys from law professors, lawyers and judges. 
But because those professionals are often removed from their law school days, they’re prone to giving the schools the same rankings each year — regardless of any changes the schools may have made.
“It’s hard for [USNWR] to get these trends because they’re asking people who haven’t been in law school for a generation to rank law schools,” Engel said.  
The USNWR list doesn’t take into account the number of law school alumni who are partnered with major law firms located near the law professionals’ former schools.
For the University study, researchers based their rankings on school sizes and number of graduates who went on to partner with law firms nearby, while the USNWR’s list considers a school’s reputation, immediate employment placement and LSAT scores.
Considering the differences, the University findings and USNWR list greatly differ.