The U.S. News and World Report’s Best Law Schools rankings have been released, and Yale Law School is again ranked #1. 

Despite our ranking, according to USNWR, only 83.3% of Yale Law School graduates from the Class of 2016 were employed 10 months after graduation. Are our graduates truly finding less success in the job market than graduates from other top law schools?  No.  Yale’s employment figure is lower than our peers for one reason – USNWR’s calculation of placement success continues to discount the employment of our graduates who secure one of the many public interest fellowships that we fund.  On the positive side, we are pleased to see that for this year’s rankings USNWR “slightly reduced” the discount for law school funded fellowships.  That said, there is no reason why selective, full-time, long-term, law school funded fellowships offering competitive salaries should be discounted at all. 

Our law school funded fellows are forgoing high-paying jobs to devote a year to serving the legal needs of underserved members of our society. Without our support, resource-starved non-profit organizations would be unable to hire these passionate law graduates.  And yet, because of the ranking’s narrow barometer of success – which gives full weight only to employment positions that are full-time; last one year or longer; require bar admission or are JD advantaged; and are not funded by the graduate’s law school – every one of the 19 graduates in the Class of 2016 who were awarded a YLS fellowship is treated as if he/she weren’t doing a real job. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Here’s an example to illustrate the flaw in the USNWR methodology. Two of our remarkable Class of 2016 graduates co-founded a cutting-edge immigration organization, the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project.  One received fellowship funding through Yale Law School, and the other received a national Equal Justice Works Fellowship. These two classmates worked on the same project, serving the same needy clients during the same twelve months. Yet under the USNWR methodology, one classmate’s position is discounted because she received school funding.

Yale Law School has long been at the forefront in supporting public interest fellowship funding, offering vastly more fellowships than our peers. These fellowships enable our graduates to jumpstart their careers and serve their communities. After their fellowships, our graduates are hired permanently by their fellowship organizations or go on to clerkships, law firms, and other jobs armed with crucial practice experience and a deep appreciation for the importance of service.  Our students, faculty, and alumni take enormous pride in our support for public interest work and serving those in need, which we believe embodies the finest values of our profession.

I encourage prospective students to look carefully at each law school’s employment statistics and ask in-depth questions about their graduates’ employment choices and law school-funded opportunities. If you like what you learn about Yale Law School, I encourage you to contact us, visit us, and apply to be a part of our community. 

Kelly Voight
Assistant Dean, Career Development Office
Yale Law School