JD Advantage Employment

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 ranking featured on Above the Law specifically disparaged non-legal jobs, saying that such non-legal jobs are, as the verse goes, "butchers, bakers, and candle-stick makers." Whatever merits such a description has for other law schools whose graduates pursue non-legal careers, 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.

Class of 2016 and JD Advantage Employment

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 (5% in 2016). Further, because of our strong relationship with the Kellogg School of Management and the synergies that exist for all students, typically another 3%-4% of our overall JD students 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.

For the Class of 2016, 19 members (7% of the class) secured long-term, full-time positions where their law degree, which was not required to perform the job, was a value-add, sometimes referred to by the ABA and others as "JD Advantage" positions. Of these 19 graduates, 14 were employed in the Business sector, 4 in the public sector, and 1 in a faculty position.

While salary is by no means the best measure to determine the quality of employment, as you can see below, these JD Advantage positions paid a competitive, professional-level salary.

Class of 2016: JD Advantage Salaries1
JD Advantage Salaries graph
1 Based upon reported salaries (16 of 19 graduates, 84%).

Three-year JD-MBA Program and JD Advantage Employment

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 more than 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, typically 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. Prior to the Class of 2016, in reaction to the strengthening business marketplace and fluctuations in the legal marketplace, closer to 75% of our recent JD-MBAs have pursued jobs outside of the traditional practice of law.

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 (beginning with the Class of 2014, post-graduate employment is now measured at the 10 month mark).

Here are some examples: During the past three years, our JD-MBA graduates accepted positions at companies such as Adobe Systems, Aegon Asset Management, Alvarez & Marsal, Alyeska Investment Group, Amazon, AMD Ventures, Apple, AppNexus, Ascension Ventures, Bain & Company, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, The Boston Consulting Group, Citadel Asset Management, Citibank, Chartbeat, Dish Network, Driehaus Capital Management, Genetech, Groupon, Hudson Advisors, The John Buck Company, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Macquarie Capital, McKinsey & Company, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, MTV, NASCAR, NuMat Technologies, Oliver Wyman, Partners in Performance, Sandler O’Neil Partners, Strategy&, Tishman Speyer, Trammell Crow, Trip Advisor, and UBS Investment Bank.

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. In fact, a recent Forbes study (pdf) found that Northwestern Law graduates have the second highest median mid-career salary of any law school in the country. 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, and CIOs
  • 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.

Posted: May 18, 2017