Culture Over Cash: Yale Law Students’ Top Priority Revealed in New Survey

Students stroll through the Yale University campus in New Haven, Connecticut, on November 12, 2015. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton.

June 10 (Reuters) – When choosing their future law firms, Yale Law School students prioritize culture, compensation, and advancement opportunities, according to a recent study.

Conducted by the campus group Yale Law Women+, the study found that law firm culture is the leading factor for Yale law students. An overwhelming 88% of respondents rated culture as โ€œextremelyโ€ or โ€œveryโ€ important in their decision-making process.

Despite many large firms offering the same starting salary of $225,000 for associates, distinctive factors like culture and flexibility have become critical in attracting top talent early in the recruitment cycle.

The annual Yale Law Women+ 2024 Top Firms Report, released on Monday, evaluates major law firms across various areas such as culture and diversity. This year’s report is based on surveys from firms, Yale Law Women alumni, and, for the first time, current Yale law students. In total, 125 students and alumni from Yale Law School, ranked No. 1 among law schools by U.S. News & World Report, participated in the survey.

Students identified specific cultural aspects they seek in firms, including collegiality, open discussions about diversity, and acceptance of natural hairstyles.

While 56% of surveyed students deemed compensation as extremely or very important, 51% highlighted advancement opportunities with similar importance. When deciding between firm offers, advancement opportunities were extremely or very important to 56% of students.

In the report, Jenner & Block was recognized as the top firm for advancement in 2024, praised for its feedback system and promotion of diverse talent. Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton led in the agency and flexibility category, known for supporting lawyers in balancing career and personal life. Ropes & Gray topped the compensation category due to its equitable and competitive lockstep pay model.

Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel emerged as the leader in the culture category, attributed to its low attrition rate and fertility-related benefits. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe was noted for its diversity, particularly the diversity of its partner ranks and equitable tracking of associates’ race and gender.

The report highlighted the top three firms in each category without naming firms with lower results.

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