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Non-legal careers and the Northwestern advantage


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.




NU Law Boston Alumni Reception


Boston-area law alums:  Join us on Tuesday evening, 5:30 pm –, at The Liberty Hotel, 215 Charles St.


Jobs and student debt — NU Law moves steadily forward

To:      Northwestern Law Community

From:   Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez

Date:   May 30, 2014

Re:      News from the Road

A  little over a year ago, I described in a memo entitled “The Road Ahead,” some of the concrete steps we were taking at Northwestern Law to deal with the challenging job market for our graduates, the flattening of law school applications, and the high costs of legal education. I said therein: “[W]e aren’t going to ignore the ways in which the legal economy affects our alumni, current students, and prospective students.” And I was optimistic in saying that “we will craft strategies, big and small, to meet the challenges facing legal education so that we will continue to thrive in the years to come.”

In the period since I shared that memo, we have taken important steps to meet these challenges, and I wanted to provide you with an update about where we are.

With regard to employment, we have made some meaningful progress – this despite the continued difficulties in the law market nationwide. In the information reported to the American Bar Association earlier this spring, we noted an uptick in our employment rates; and, to put the point more in context, we have been more successful in this regard than have many of our peers. Indeed, we, along with Georgetown Law, saw an appreciable increase in graduate employment over the previous period and we are now within the top 10 among law schools on this key statistic.

And let me be clear that these are good jobs. Our graduates are employed at large law firms throughout the major metropolitan areas, consistently at rates near the very top of American law schools.[1] At the same time, many of our graduates pursue opportunities at smaller firms, often closer to home. Moreover, a critical mass of our students – many of whom came to Northwestern with experience in the business sector and with an interest in using their legal training and law degree to pursue careers in business – have gone into prime positions in corporate America, positions for which a JD is a significant advantage, even if not required. Last, but certainly not least, we have a good number of graduates who landed positions in the public sector (including judicial clerkships) and in public interest. Thanks to the generosity of the Jay A. Pritzker Foundation and alumni who have matched a significant gift through their donations, I am very proud to note the incredible success of our Pritzker fellows, ten students who will work in important public interest positions throughout the U.S. In all, our employment picture is diverse and impressive. We will continue to measure our success as a first-rate law school by the opportunities our graduates pursue after graduation. Read more »


American Law Institute annual meeting

Nice general description here by Prof. Bard.

ALI is truly an extraordinary organization.  Made up a distinguished group of lawyers, academicians, and judges, it works in a collaborative fashion to develop principles and restatements on myriad areas of law.  I am pleased to serve on its Council and so have a good vantage point to see the sausage being made!



On the Occasion of the Northwestern University School of Law Graduation Convocation

[This post is an excerpt from the speech I gave at our Convocation Ceremony on May 16]


This is a day of celebration and of joy. You are graduating law school today and, with your friends and family, your colleagues and your teachers, you rightly revel in this day which makes a major milestone in your academic career and in your journey as a lawyer, as a member of a truly great profession. However, it is a day tinged, if only a little, with a big of anxiety – and for some of you perhaps, with an uncertainty – of what exactly you have entered into by becoming lawyers. This anxiety is too often the result of at an atmosphere created by the media, fueled by the blogosphere, and recycled in any number of comments and commentary, all aimed at making this point: lawyers are entering a profession in decline and law schools are of declining value – too expensive, too irrelevant to the needs and wants of the legal profession, faculty and administrator heads in the sand, too irrelevant in our rapidly changing world.

It is a relentless attack, to be sure, on we do as legal educators; and it is an attack as well on you as law graduates, on your choices, and on our achievements. None of what I have said is news to you, of course. You read in the papers, you read it on the blogs, you hear it from your friends who are not lawyers, and even from some of your classmates.

What I want to say to you on behalf of those of us on this stage, all of whom are proud of what we do as legal educators and are proud of what you have done and will do to make a contribution in your careers is this: our world is indeed rapidly changing and is undergoing struggles the likes of which we haven’t seen in a generation, maybe more. These struggles come in many forms, to be sure.

Maintaining civil society in the face of civil war, of deeply embedded corruption, of economic peril, is a relentless project, one that can seem often overwhelming. Closer to home, we encounter a flawed civil and criminal justice system and difficulties experienced each day by individuals who seek redress through our legal system. Pathologies of partisanship in Washington and in Illinois in other governmental venues push to the sidelines opportunities for meaningful social and economic reform. With respect to the legal profession in particular, the changing structure of legal services presents real challenges to our graduates on the other hand, while the dynamics of the law-business-technology interface provides emerging opportunities, new opportunities for those law graduates and law schools who can best navigate this post-modern legal economy.

Of one thing we can be reasonably certain: In this changing and challenging world, we need skilled lawyers, we need you, graduates of this first-rate, student-centered, innovative, law school. We need well-trained, mature, collaborative, ethical professionals, future leaders with myriad talents and abilities, and with a commitment to professionalism and to justice – equal justice under lawyer. We need you. To secure justice for those in need, we need zealous advocates. Kristine Bunch, Nicole Harris, Daniel Taylor, and Christopher Coleman, individuals who served a combined 63 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, they needed zealous advocates. For the community of DePue, Illinois who were suffering ill health as a result of polluters’ actions, they needed the help of our Environmental law clinic.

For the underfunded and overworked educational community in Ethiopia and Myanmar, they needed the contributions of the lawyers and law students at Northwestern to develop law clinics to serve their desperate clients in an emerging legal system. For their governments of China and Tanzania, they needed the law students under the supervision of a skilled faculty member to develop a modern, rational evidentiary system.

When our fledging government in the 18th century looked to draft a Constitution which would provide a structure of governance and a scheme to form a more perfect union and to secure the blessings of liberty, they looked to lawyers. And, rest assured, when the state of Illinois and of our other states look to develop strategies to pull of us out of the deep fiscal and governance difficulties we face, they will look to lawyers.

I dare say our great president, Morty Schapiro, and his colleagues in the central administration, stage, has the occasional need to call upon a lawyer or two on behalf of this grand University which he leads. And I will bet that he is grateful when there is a Northwestern lawyer on the other end of his call.

In short, where there are big issues at stake, we look to our lawyers. And where there small issues at stake, wrongdoing in government, suffering of individuals who require justice, problem solving in the corporate boardroom, new, exciting start up businesses to be formed, liberties to be protected and rights to be enforced, we find that lawyers are there, and they are at the ready – to deploy their skills, to render their advice, to analyze and advocate, to be the engineers of justice, the protectors of the rule of law.

So, when the news cycle moves on to the next salacious story, other aspects of higher education take their turn under the spotlight, when your friends and family stop asking you, “hey, how come you went to law school when everyone says that law schools are simply train robbers in suits?” “Don’t you read the blogs for goodness sakes?” just remember this: Lawyers were here at the beginning of this republic, this law school was here in the 1850’s, when Northwestern University was a fledging institution and, indeed, where Chicago was indeed the northwest, and when the dust settles on the latest attack on our profession and the latest academic or athletics or cultural fad, the fundamental value of our enterprise will not be gainsaid.   The signal contribution the study of law and the practice of law make to the understanding and safeguarding of the critical institutions of our civil society, and, last but not least, your accomplishments and legacy as Northwestern Law graduates will endure. This endurance is the direct consequence of a fundamental fact: We are the professionals who bring the ideal of liberty, of equal rights, of peaceful dispute resolution, and of criminal and civil justice to life. We bring society’s grand objectives of the rule of law from a wishful ideal to the actual. And we in the nation’s great law schools, at this law school, educate these lawyers to lead, to lead in a time in which leadership is required. That is something to be very proud of indeed. And as exemplars of this profession, and as ambassadors of justice, we are very proud of you and you should be proud of yourselves as well.


Back to the future: two cheers for deep doctrinal study

Read over the long weekend a great biography on Judge Henry Friendly.  (David Dorsen, “Judge Henry Friendly,” Harvard Press).  Although not well known to the general public, Judge Friendly was an extraordinary well-regarded appellate judge on the 2nd circuit from the 1960’s through the mid-80’s.  His work in myriad fields of law helped synthesize and frame legal doctrine for the benefit of lawyers, judges (in the circuit and elsewhere), and legal scholars.

His skill was the ability to draw upon a wealth of deep and broad doctrine and, with good judgment and a pragmatic bent, to clarify and move the law, albeit incrementally.

With the interdisciplinary focus on legal study rightly at the forefront of our enterprise, it is worth recalling the value of careful doctrinal work.  While it is tempting to see Judge Friendly and his contemporaries as developing their skills as practicing lawyers and, later, as judges faced with real cases, it is important to see that their abilities were forged initially by their work in law schools.  Careful study of foundational subjects (torts, contracts, property, criminal law, procedure, and constitutional law) in the first year, and additional core subjects in the second year have enabled scores of young lawyers to forge successful practices with a deep knowledge base from the beginning of their careers.

We shouldn’t mythologize the nature and impact of doctrinal legal instruction, but neither should we take for granted that the great law schools are great in no small part for their skill in teaching future lawyers how to understand, manage, and explicate legal doctrine.  Emulating Judge Friendly’s peerless skills in this regard is a worthy aspiration!


Prof. John McGinnis on Justice Scalia law schools speech



U. Arizona Law slashes tuition

by a significant amount.

we are clearly in a new world of vigorous tuition-related competition, through lowering of rates and steep tuition discounting (the latter strategy more common in so-called “top” law schools).



Celebrating Rob Warden’s Extraordinary Work

Many of you know Rob Warden. As Executive Director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, which he co-founded in the late 1990s, he has been immensely important in nationwide efforts to free the wrongfully convicted. His is a storied career, and one we will celebrate at a special symposium this afternoon: “Champion of Justice: A Symposium to Celebrate Rob Warden’s Quest to Free the Innocent.”

Under his leadership, the Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC) has been instrumental in bringing about more than 40 individual exonerations. The CWC played a major role in Governor Ryan’s 2003 declaration of a moratorium on executions in Illinois, and his decision to commute all Illinois death sentences, which he announced in our own Lincoln Hall in January 2003. The Center is also co-creator of the National Registry of Exonerations, a database which provides detailed information on the more than 2,000 exonerations in the United States since 1989. 2011-2012 was an historic year. In just a few short months, the CWC played an important role in eleven exonerations—the largest number of exonerations in any three-month period since the innocence movement began. No doubt this work heavily influenced Governor Quinn’s (JD ’80) 2011 decision to abolish the death penalty in Illinois.

The event is co-hosted by the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, and features a remarkable lineup—notably, Barry Scheck will give the keynote.

I hope you can join us this afternoon for what is certain to be a noteworthy event.