One of the many things future law students have to fret over is what rank their law school is in the infamous U.S. News and World Report College Rankings. The rank of your law school often determines whether you can land judicial clerkships or big firm jobs after graduating.
If you’re one of the thousands of law students who didn’t get into a top school and are worried your legal career has no chance of seeing time at a big firm, I’m here to tell you shouldn’t worry.
A law school myth
You don’t need a degree from a big name school to land a job with a big name firm. Sure, having the sheep skin from Harvard or Yale will give your more opportunities to get your foot in the door, but with a little creativity and some hard work, you can land a big firm job with a degree from any law school.
Instead of applying to big national firms, focus on applying to the bigger firms in your geographic area. Hiring partners will cast a favorable eye on you because you have some ties to the area by attending law school there.You might not start out at $150,000, but you’ll definitely be making good money.
If you really want to practice at a big firm in LA or New York, but can’t get into a top ranked school, go to law school in those geographic areas. While the big firms do take grads from nationally prestigious schools, they also hire associates from lower ranked schools in the area. Show your commitment to staying in the area by getting your drivers licence from there. Change your area code to a more local one. Become a resident of the state.
Of course, you’ll have to be the top of your class if you want to land an interview with the local big firms. So, focus on doing the best you can.
It’s about who you know
It’s all about networking. Make as many contacts as you can with people at big firms. Your contacts can help you get in through the backdoor at larger firms. Attend social meetings for lawyers, do moot court and talk to the guest judges, just start contacting.
Another thing you can do to land a big firm job on a low ranked degree is specialize in less common areas of law. When a high demand arises for a particular kind of associate, but there aren’t many associates to fill the spot, big name firms will start looking to lower ranked schools.
Talk to attorneys in your area to find out which area of law has a high demand that isn’t being filled. Market yourself as an attorney specializing in that area and you’ll find yourself at a big firm.
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