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Virginia law schools hit job-satisfaction hot list

Three Virginia law schools made a new ranking of how well law schools prepare their students to do the heavy lifting in the biggest law firms. As classes just got underway in Virginia’s eight law schools, it’s worth taking a look at this elite segment of the lawyer labor market.

The basic query is how well do mid-level associates think their law schools prepared them for legal work? In this year’s survey by The American Lawyer, three Virginia schools made the cut among the top-ranked firms, based on a five-point scale.

The College of William and Mary Marshall Wythe School of Law placed sixth, the highest rank for a Virginia school, but that rank may be undercut somewhat by the fact that only 23 survey respondents were W&M law grads. Law schools had to have at least 20 respondents in order to qualify for a ranking.

University of Virginia School of Law ranked ninth, making the strongest showing with a whopping 133 respondents, the highest number of respondents for any of the top 10 schools.

George Mason University School of Law rounded out the commonwealth’s showing, placing 31st, with 22 respondents.

The survey posed about a dozen “core questions” to measure associate satisfaction, but broke out the law-school preparation responses as offering the strongest correlation with overall job satisfaction.

But we’ll pit the 4,767 mid-level associates who responded to the AmLaw survey against the 6,200 lawyers who recently responded to a survey to determine the best predictor of lawyer “happiness.”

According to an April 9 report at smithsonian.com, the happiest lawyers were “those who had the lowest incomes and the lowest grades in law school,” most of whom worked as public service lawyers.

The more pro bono hours lawyers worked, the happier they were, and the more billable hours they worked, the less satisfied they were, according to the study published last February.

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