One of the most striking results we found was that schools in strong legal job markets did better in terms than schools in weak legal job markets in raising their median LSAT scores. We used Am Law 200 firm growth (number of lawyers) as our measure of the legal job market because (1) we had data on it; (2) large firms are widely if not universally viewed as desirable by prospective law students.
The 3 metropolitan areas that grew the most in terms of Am Law 200 jobs between 1993 and 2004 were New York City (+9,920), Washington, D.C. (+4,916) and San Francisco (+2,937). Our regressions suggest that being in New York was worth about 1.65 median LSAT points to a school.
Interestingly, variables measuring general economic and population growth didn’t produce significant results.
We then counted up the number of Am Law 200 firms interviewing on various law school campuses in the NALP forms for 2004-2005 and did some looking at which schools did better at attracting these firms. Not surprisingly, law schools located in areas with lots of Am Law 200 firms had more Am Law 200 firms interviewing on campus, as did top 16 schools, tier 1 schools generally, and bigger schools.
In short, big firms will travel to interview students at the top schools, but interview at lower ranked schools only near their offices. This is not shocking, of course, but it is something law schools need to recognize if they intend to raise their rank / LSAT numbers. Investing in increasing the chances for students to interview at large firms – indeed, at all sorts of legal employers – is likely to be a good strategy. Coordinating off-campus programs in large law markets like NYC or investing in CSO activity in those markets are the kinds of things law schools outside the high growth MSAs need to consider.
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