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May 1, 2013

Non-legal careers and the Northwestern advantage

by Dan Rodriguez

When evaluating employment outcomes, much of the talk in the media and blogosphere has focused solely on positions that require a law degree and/or bar passage, implying that these are the only positions relevant to prospective law students or desirable for law school graduates.  A recent ranking featured on Above the Law specifically disparaged non-legal jobs, saying that such non-legal jobs are, as the verse goes, “butchers, or bakers, or candle-stick makers.”  Whatever merits such a description has for law schools whose graduates pursue non-legal careers not equivalent in any significant sense to purely jobs, this is not a fair or accurate way to measure Northwestern.  Eliminating non-legal employment from the equation, as the ATL ranking, extensive commentary by the Law School Transparency Project, and observations elsewhere conspicuous in the media and blogosphere, is not appropriate in the case of Northwestern.  Doing so fails to capture the uniqueness of our program and to account for our many graduates who, by choice, seek and obtain prestigious jobs in the business sector.

Take, for example, our renowned JD-MBA program.

Lawyers in the modern economy increasingly are called upon to work across international jurisdictions, to develop responsible practices within complex regulatory frameworks, and to lead multi-disciplinary teams. In 2001, Northwestern Law School, together with the Kellogg School of Management, created the nation’s first 3-year JD-MBA program as one way to meet this emerging need. With approximately 25 graduates each year, it is now the largest and most successful program of its kind.  Its alumni number almost 500 and most now occupy leadership positions at law firms, businesses, and nonprofits.  And many began their careers in business, not law.

When they graduate, half of our JD-MBA students pursue law-related jobs and half pursue jobs in business – most often in high-paying and highly-coveted jobs with prominent consulting firms, accounting firms, investment banks, venture capital firms, and other well-known corporations (sometimes referred to as “JD Advantage” positions).  Those who decide on legal practice are sought by many of the nation’s leading law firms because of their expanded education and perspectives and their previous management experience.  In some cases, our JD-MBA students ultimately decide between options and offers from employers in both sectors. Nearly every year, even during the downturn, 100% of the program’s graduates have secured permanent employment within 9 months of graduation.

The JD-MBA students who embark on business-related careers–where a JD might not be specifically required, but is nonetheless invaluable–comprise about 5% of our total graduates each year (6% in 2012).  Further, because of our strong relationship with the Kellogg School of Management and the synergies that exist for all students, another 3%-4% of our overall JD students typically succeed in obtaining similar jobs immediately upon graduation.  Therefore, any attempts by external sources to compare law schools solely on jobs that require a law degree fail to capture this sizeable and highly successful cohort of students.

Here are some examples:  During the past three years, our JD-MBA graduates accepted positions at companies such as Altman Vilandrie & Company, AON, Bain & Company, Barclays Capital, Boston Consulting Group, Cerberus Capital Management, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Driehaus Capital Management, Glencore International, Goldman Sachs, Harvard Management Company, Intercontinental Hotels, Lazard Middle Market, L.E.K. Consulting, Marakon, McKinsey & Company, Metropolitan Bank, Monitor Group, Morgan Stanley, Pacific Alternative Asset Management Company (PAAMCO), PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Siemens Energy, Solar Capital, SumZero, Tishman Speyer, TomorrowVentures, Vitera Healthcare Solutions, William Blair, and UBS.

It is equally important to consider career trajectory – not just the first job – for history shows that great success lies ahead for most who obtain a Northwestern JD or JD-MBA.  Focusing solely on our JD-MBA alumni, here is a sampling of what some of them are doing now.

–           49 law firm partners

–           55 law firm associates

–           37 Corporate Counsel (Assistant, Associate General Counsel, Corporate Counsel, Tax Counsel)

–           46 Presidents, CEOs, Chairmen, Owners, Founders

–           75 Vice Presidents, Managing Directors, Managing Partners, Principals, CFOs, COOs, CIOs, etc.

–           32 Unit/Department Directors or Executive Directors

–           5 Professors

–           1 Mayor

–           1 Judge

So is non-legal employment relevant at Northwestern Law?  Absolutely.  Our many students and alumni who have secured these kinds of jobs would agree.  That’s the Northwestern advantage and that’s something to compare.



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