Where Do Skadden Fellows Come From?

By “classic legal academy” measurements, the Skadden Fellowship is the most prestigious postgraduate conduit into legal public-interest work.  Skadden Fellows marry academic excellence with remarkable track records of gaining practical public-interest work experience during law school.  I don’t think the “classic legal academy” metric (GPA, law review, elite school, etc.) is the best way to identify and cultivate the next generation of public interest lawyers – it certainly isn’t the only way.  (And thank goodness because I went to the Harvard of North Broad Street.  Temple.  I’m a proud Owl.)  Nonetheless Skadden Fellows are extraordinary achievers with extraordinary commitment and ambition to make change for people who are marginalized and vulnerable.  Skadden Fellows are kick-arse in this way.

A few years ago when I worked with NALP, I loosely kept tabs on the incoming classes of Skadden Fellows.  It’s helpful for law school administrators to see which schools consistently succeed in producing Skadden Fellows – yes/yes, it’s a lot of Harvard/Yale, but many more schools too – and also to learn more about the kinds of projects the Fellows propose and where in the U.S. they work.  The other day I revisited the Skadden Fellowship numbers – props to the Skadden Foundation for making the information available and for running such a clean website – to see what’s been going on.  So here’s 5 fellowship classes worth of numbers and one thought that occurred to me.

This is the “where the Fellows come from” post – i.e. which law schools.  I’ll follow up at some point soon with a “where the Fellows go to” post – i.e. their placements, by location and type of placement organization.  But again, the fellowship website is informative and worth a look…

Where they come from (the basics and the details and a quick analysis)…

The Basics

  • Class of 2012: 28 Fellows from 16 law schools
  • Class of 2013: 29 Fellows from 16 law schools
  • Class of 2014: 28 Fellows from 16 law schools
  • Class of 2015: 28 Fellows from 16 law schools
  • Class of 2016: 27 Fellows from 14 law schools

Hello, consistency.  But the picture fragments a little bit upon a closer look…

The Details

Skadden-Fellow-School-Breakdown-2012-2016 (PDF link).

Skadden Fellows by Law School – 2012-2016
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
Harvard 5 6 6 6 6
Yale 4 4 7 3 2
U. Michigan 4 1
U. Pennsylvania 1 3 1 1 2
Stanford 3 2 2 3
Georgetown 1 1 1 2 1
Columbia 2 1 1 2 2
NYU 1 2 1 4 2
UCLA 1 2 1 1
U. Chicago 1 1 1 1
Michigan State 1 1
U. Washington 1
Boston College 1
UC Irvine 1 1
Washington & Lee 1
Vanderbilt 1 1 1
U. Illinois 1
Berkeley 1 2
CUNY 1
Rutgers- Camden 1
DePaul 1 1
U. Maryland 1
U. Miami 1
Duke 1
U. Virginia 1
Tulane 1
U. Denver 1
John Marshall (IL) 1
Northeastern 1 1
Chicago-Kent 1
Villanova 1
Loyola Los Angeles 1
American 1 1
Suffolk 1
U. Connecticut
Washington U. (St. Louis) 1

The Analysis

My analysis in seven words:  Whither the bottom half of Tier One?  “Tier One” is language connected to the infamous US News & World Report law school rankings.  The Tier One schools are those ranked 1-50.  Tier One’s bottom half – ranked 25-50 – is highly competitive but far from Ivy.  In the Skadden Fellowship Class of 2015 exactly one school ranked between 25-50 (by current USNWR rankings) graduated a Skadden Fellow: UC Irvine.  In the Class of 2016 no schools in the bottom half of Tier One are graduating a Skadden Fellow.

I wonder if a “diamond in the rough” phenomenon exists.  Obviously the super-elite law schools are going to produce Skadden Fellows.  But what ab0ut the Fellows who don’t come from, say, Top-25 schools?

The lower Tier One schools (25-50) are academically rigorous and draw high achievers.  I bet they have bunches of students who could be viable Skadden Fellowship candidates.  Lower-ranked schools, by contrast, may have that one Skadden candidate who immediately stands out from her peers.  An all-star.  A diamond.  So I wonder, with what I grant is some conjecture, but based on numbers and experience and instinct: how many Skadden Fellows could be found at schools living in that 25-50 echelon?

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