When i graduate from Law School (which will be in some time...I am only in H.S. at the moment) can I still join a prestigous firm...even if I do not get accepted to an Ivy League school?
First of all, welcome Kyle
, you've come to the right place.
Now, we need to be clear on this point: the notion of an "Ivy League law school" is largely meaningless. First of all, only five of the eight Ivies have law schools (Brown, Princeton, and Dartmouth don't). These five, it is true, are all highly regarded: Harvard and Yale traditionally top everyone's lists of best law schools, and Columbia, Penn, and Cornell are typically ranked in the top 20 (check the US News rankings here
). But other law schools have reputations which are as good or better than any Ivy League law school, so there's not a whole lot of additional cachet in having attended an Ivy League law school.
So, what you really should be asking is: "can I still join a prestigious firm even if I do not get accepted to a top-20 law school?" The answer is "yes." Obviously, it will probably be easier to get your foot in the door for the crucial job interviews if you are attending a prestigious law school, but even grads from second-tier law schools have been known to get into the nation's top firms.
I checked out one of the biggest law firms in New York City, Dewey Ballantine
(largely because it has a good website). As a random sample, I took the first twenty associates in the New York office and listed the law schools from which they received their JD degrees. In total, they attended fourteen different law schools (five attended Columbia, and two each attended Fordham and NYU). Below are the schools and the US News ranking for each of them.
Columbia - 4
American Univ. - 56(t)
Fordham - 34(t)
Temple - 59(t)
NYU - 5
Univ. of Chicago - 6
Syracuse - unranked (3d tier)
Catholic Univ. - 82(t)
William & Mary - 29
SUNY Buffalo - 82(t)
Duke - 10(t)
Northwestern - 10(t)
Univ. of Wisconsin - 31
Rutgers - 72(t)
What does this entirely unscientific study tell us? Well, first of all, it supports the notion that geography plays a part in employment: if you want to work in New York, for instance, it's probably a good idea to go to law school in the New York area, or at least the east coast (the farthest west that any of these twenty associates went to law school was Madison, Wisconsin). More importantly, it shows that, while going to a top-20 law school certainly helps to get into a prestigious law firm (10 out of 20 of these associates attended top-10 law schools), it's not a requirement.
I am confident that these results are fairly typical for big firms across the country. A Chicago firm, for instance, probably wouldn't have many Fordham grads, just as a New York firm wouldn't have many DePaul grads. But no firm hires only grads from the top-20 law schools -- there will always be jobs available for good students from well-regarded schools.
Bottom line, Kyle
: don't get too caught up in the notion that you must
go to a top-20 law school in order to get a good paying job. Dewey Ballantine, like many other top-of-the-line law firms in New York, is paying a starting salary of $125,000 with bonuses. If someone can go to Syracuse Univ. law school and make that much, it's not absolutely necessary to go to Harvard or Yale.