Your school's reputation
"For the group of very select law schools at the top, the employment prospects are terrific," says Steven Harper, a former attorney and author of "The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis." "Life can look awfully good, and it will be awfully good for the vast, vast majority of those people, but that's maybe 10 percent out of 200 law schools."
There's a sharp discrepancy in job prospects between first- and lower-tier schools. When comparing U.S. News and World Report's top 20 law schools with institutions that landed in the 126-to-146 ranking range, students attending upper-echelon institutions were nearly twice as likely to hold full-time, long-term law jobs as their lower-tier counterparts. Students attending lower-tier schools were also about 2.5 times more likely to be underemployed.
The Ivy League isn't the only ticket to a post-graduate job, says Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, an organization that helps students with the decision to attend law school, and provides employment and underemployment data on law institutions nationwide. Schools with a solid local reputation and strong ties to the community can be just as effective at finding work in that area.