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Best Law Schools for Big Law Jobs - 2024 List

June 5, 2024
6 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 5/31/24

Are you interested in pursuing a career in Big Law and want to know how to get there? You’ve come to the right place! This guide will explore the best law schools for Big Law jobs

Securing a job in Big Law can be challenging. It’s competitive, and expectations are high. In general, lawyers in Big Law are expected to be the best of the best. Working at the country’s largest and most successful firms requires a great deal of knowledge and experience.

One way to bolster your chances is to attend a top law school that’s renowned for producing lawyers who often break into Big Law firms. Fortunately, there are numerous options to choose from, including several T14 law schools, that boast a long list of highly successful alumni in Big law. 

Continue reading to gain some insight into Big Law, and explore how they can equip you with the tools you need to achieve your career goals. Let’s get started!

What Is Big Law?

The term Big Law is used to refer to the largest and most prosperous law firms in the US and the lawyers that work there are often called Big Law lawyers. These firms are typically based in bustling cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, or Los Angeles.

Instead of concentrating on particular expertise, like personal injury or environmental law, Big Law firms typically offer comprehensive legal services in corporate law practice areas. Clients of Big Law are often prominent corporations, investment firms, wealth management firms, and affluent individuals. 

However, many boutique legal firms are also considered to be part of Big Law. This is usually attributed to their prestige, equity partners, or the revenue they’re able to generate. Keep in mind that this is the exception and not the rule. Big Law firms generally employ more than 100 lawyers. 

Big Law lawyers tend to make very high salaries. The approximate starting salary for a Big Law lawyer currently stands at $245,000, including a $20,000 bonus. Lawyers in their eighth year of practicing at a Big Law firm are projected to make $550,000, which includes their very generous bonus of $115,000. 

Despite the high salary it provides, being a Big Law lawyer comes with its challenges. It requires long hours and a demanding workload. Partners expect Big Law lawyers to fulfill a minimum billable hour requirement of at least two thousand hours or more annually. 

Junior and senior lawyers in Big Law are pressured to be available around the clock and answer calls on a firm-provided cell phone. This means they need to be reachable on holidays, during family gatherings, and essentially whenever their Big Law firm needs them. 

Big Law firms need to know that the lawyers they hire are up to the task. So they look to the best law schools in the nation for talent. Students in these schools are accustomed to being held to high expectations. They’ve been trained by high-caliber professors and worked their way through an intellectually rigorous curriculum.

Best Law Schools for Big Law Jobs

If you're interested in pursuing a profession in Big Law, the US has a variety of top-notch law schools that can support you on your path. However, finding the right one isn’t always straightforward. 

Christina, Admissions Consultant, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law & Kellogg School of Management, offers these expert insights:

"When you're thinking about applying to law school, it's a very expensive process. There's a lot of essays, a lot to kind of juggle at one time. You're already putting together an application, taking exams... you want to reflect on what your career goals are, where do you see yourself in the legal field. Do you want to go to big law, work for a big corporation, or work for the government?"
"A lot of law schools have some really great programs that make them really special places, especially if you're interested in a very specific type of law. They might not have the best ranking or the best reputation overall, but they have a really good reputation in one type of law, or they have faculty expertise in one type of law, or their externship opportunities where they're located is spectacular."
"When it comes to real ties to the legal community that you want to join or real ties to the type of job you want to have, that's something that the alumni can really show you."

The following best law schools for Big Law jobs have a proven track record of equipping students for successful careers. 

University of Virginia Law School

Big Law Graduates: 67.96%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #4

The University of Virginia Law School, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, is the second-oldest continually running law school and the fourth-oldest active law school in the United States. Its world-renowned faculty, range of experiential opportunities, and first-rate curriculum prepare students for a successful career. 

Columbia University Law School

Big Law Graduates: 75.88%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #8

Columbia University Law School, located in New York, New York, is one of the best law schools to attend if you have your sights set on Big Law. Students are taught by some of the best professors in the nation, who prioritize team-building and real-world experience. 

Cornell Law School

Big Law Graduates: 68.97%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #14

Cornell University is a private Ivy League university in Ithaca, New York that houses Cornell Law School. Students have the opportunity to learn from one of the most prestigious and long-standing programs in international and comparative legal education.

Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

Big Law Graduates: 70.14%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #9

Northwestern University (Pritzker) Law School is a private research university, located in Chicago. Its downtown location connects students with a range of partnerships, mentorship programs, and initiatives across the city. Pritzker is also regarded as the most interdisciplinary law school in the nation, with a wide range of innovative courses. 

Penn State Law

Big Law Graduates: 69.35%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #68

Located in the scenic University Park, Pennsylvania, Penn State Law is part of a top-tier public research university. Penn State Law is all about providing students with a chance to flex their skills in experiential learning opportunities and grow within an innovative environment.  

The University of Chicago Law School

Big Law Graduates: 59.62%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #3

The University of Chicago Law School is dedicated to providing students with a versatile approach to law. Students are encouraged to collaborate and gain real-world lawyering experience. As a result, they emerge from law school employer-ready. 

University of Southern California (Gould Law School)

Big Law Graduates: 61.75%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #20

The University of Southern California is located in Los Angeles, California, and has the distinction of being the oldest law school in the Southwestern United States. Gould Law School prepares students for a successful career by prioritizing collaboration, interdisciplinary education, and hands-on experience. 

Duke University School of Law

Big Law Graduates: 64.29%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #4

Durham, North Carolina is home to Duke University School of Law. As one of the top law schools in the world, Duke Law is renowned for its top-notch faculty, emphasis on professional skill development, and cross-disciplinary approach to learning.

New York University Law School

Big Law Graduates: 57.47%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #9

Nestled in New York City, NYU Law School is a world-renowned institution. It allows students the flexibility to design their curricula and provides a broad range of legal programs and specialties. It’s one of the top law schools, thanks to its extensive level of flexibility and a long list of distinguished alumni.

UC Berkeley Law

Big Law Graduates: 50%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #12

UC Berkeley Law is known for its world-renowned approach to research and innovation. Students have the opportunity to learn and grow in an interactive environment, with a stellar faculty and first-rate curriculum. 

Vanderbilt Law School

Big Law Graduates: 60.5%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #19

Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt Law School takes a progressive approach to legal education. Students learn to work closely with the faculty and embrace a range of experiential learning opportunities. Vanderbilt Law is all about helping students gain employer-ready skills as quickly as possible. 

Harvard Law

Big Law Graduates: 58.42%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #4 

Harvard Law offers students the opportunity to learn, grow and collaborate within a forward-thinking environment. Harvard Law is interactive, and all about providing access to experiential learning and first-rate multidisciplinary legal education. 

Stanford Law School

Big Law Graduates: 68.68%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #1 

Stanford Law is part of one of the top research institutions in the world. Its world-class faculty is committed to giving students a multidisciplinary approach to law. Students are urged to work together and gain practical legal experience. They leave Stanford equipped with the skills necessary for a successful career in Big Law. 

University of Michigan Law School

Big Law Graduates: 57.98%
Best Law Schools Ranking: #10 

Ann Arbor, Michigan is home to the University of Michigan Law School. Backed by a broad curriculum and expert faculty, the University of Michigan Law School offers students a solid legal education. The University of Michigan Law School is dedicated to the fusion of theory and practice and allows students the opportunity to learn in interactive, hands-on settings.

To learn more about the best law schools for big law jobs, check out this table: 

Biglaw Rank % Biglaw Name # Biglaw Bound # Total Grads
1 59.6% University of Chicago 174 203
2 75.8%  Columbia University 349 428
3 67.9%  University of Virginia 253 315
4 64.2%  Duke University 167 214
5 68.9%  Cornell University 148 195
6 69.3%  University of Pennsylvania 193 258
7 70.1%  Northwestern University 188 256
8 68.6%  Stanford University 125 182
9 58.4%  Harvard University 390 570
10 57.9%  University of Michigan— Ann Arbor 216 332
11 50%  University of California— Berkeley 215 331
12 62.7% Yale University 128 204
13 57.4%  New York University 293 476
14 59.1% Georgetown University 409 691
15 60.5%
Vanderbilt University 101 180
16 61.75%  University of Southern California (Gould) 105 189
17 51.9% University of California— Los Angeles 162 312
18 50.0% University of Texas—Austin 161 322
19 49.7% Washington University at St. Louis 118 237
20 46.8% Fordham University 186 397
21 44.0% University of Notre Dame 88 200
22 41.8% Boston University 95 227
23 39.4% Boston College 97 246
24 34.4% George Washington University 147 427
25 31.5% University of Iowa 42 133
26 31.21% Emory University 88 282
27 31.16% University of North Carolina— Chapel Hill 62 199
28 30.5% Washington and Lee University 47 154
29 29.3% University of California — Irvine 42 143
30 28.5% Howard University 36 126
30 28.5% William and Mary 52 182
31 28.1% University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign 42 149
32 27.5% University of Alabama 35 127
33 26.3% Southern Methodist University (Dedman) 55 209
34 25.8% University of Houston 60 232
35 25.6% University of Minnesota— Twin Cities 51 199
36 25.2% University of Georgia 46 182
37 25.0% Wake Forest University 38 152
38 24.1% Indiana University— Bloomington (Maurer) 37 153
39 24.0% Ohio State University (Moritz) 50 208
40 21.8% University of California— Davis 33 151
41 21.7% Tulane University 46 212
42 21.14% University of California (Hastings) 63 298
43 20.2% Brigham Young University (Clark) 20 99
44 19.2% St. John’s University 48 250
45 19.01% University of Pittsburgh 27 142
46 18.8% University of Washington 30 159
47 18.81% University of Florida (Levin) 57 303
48 18.5% Yeshiva University (Cardozo) 65 351
49 18.3% Villanova University 31 169
50 18.2% Brooklyn Law School 60 328
177 1.02% University of Idaho 1 98
178 0.99% Southern Illinois University Carbondale 1 101
179 0.93% Elon University School of Law 1 108
179 0.93% Willamette University (Collins) 1 108
181 0.84% Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School 1 119
182 0.80% Oklahoma City University 1 125
183 0.75% Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico 1 134
184 0.68% CUNY 1 147
185 0.56% University of Puerto Rico 1 177

Having trouble deciding which law school to apply to? With over 190 ABA-approved institutions in the US, the choice can be overwhelming. That's where our Where Should I Go to Law School? Quiz comes in. In just a minute, it'll help you pinpoint the best options for you based on real admissions data.

FAQs: Best Law Schools for Getting a Big Law Job

If you still have questions, check out our frequently asked questions below. 

1. What Law Schools Are Best for Big Law?

The University of Virginia is the best law school for Big Law. It’s consistently recognized as a top law school, and 80.32% of its graduates are hired in Big Law. 

2. What Is a Good GPA for Big Law?

It depends on what firms you’re hoping to work with. Many firms require lawyers to have a GPA of 3.5 from a top school, while many others consider a 3.0 from the same institution to be acceptable.

3. Is It Hard to Get a Job in a Big Law Firm?

It’s difficult to get a job in a Big Law firm, but certainly not impossible. Solid grades, nuanced experience, and attending a prominent law school will help you along the way.

Final Thoughts

For both young and seasoned attorneys alike, receiving a job offer from the best law schools for Big Law firms is the pinnacle of success. The attraction of riches, fame, and reputation is undoubtedly the biggest draw to Big Law, which is why legal recruiters are trying so hard to attract the top law students to certain firms.

Securing a position in highly competitive Big Law firms is no easy feat. But with hard work, determination, and the right school on your resume - you may very well succeed. The US is filled with incredible law schools that have a proven track record of generating Big Law lawyers. 

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