Americans like to believe that people get what they deserve. The whole premise of the American Dream is that, as Bill Clinton once put it, "if you work hard and play by the rules, you ought to have a decent life and a chance for your children to have a better one." (This belief may also help explain why nearly half of Americans think the sentence "From each according to ability; to each according to his needs" appears in either the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights.)
And it's a belief that in an indirect but significant way has a strong effect on law school culture. Law is an extremely hierarchical profession, and law schools both reflect and strongly reinforce that fact. That fact sits somewhat uneasily with other cultural commitments to meritocratic values and -- at least among the left-liberal types who tend to predominate on law school faculties -- some vestige of a supposed commitment to economic egalitarianism. The way these tensions get resolved is by a very strong internalization in the law school world of the idea that the hierarchy is merit-driven and egalitarian, because everybody in America starts out with an equal shot of getting into the Harvard Law School (just look at Obama!). Of course put like that the belief is completely absurd on its face, so it's almost never put like that explicitly. But some version of this belief is lurking behind almost everything law schools claim to stand for.
Why do some people get into HYS, and others into the rest of the T6, and others into the rest of the T14, and others into the rest of the top tier, and on and on and on, throughout the exquisite gradations of our ranking-obsessed profession? Because the people who get into the best schools are the hardest working and the most talented, and will as a consequence make the best lawyers, that's why. Right? Well, sort of . . . But it's a little more complicated than that.
Law school is, in terms of educational credentials, the last stop for many people in a social game that they have been brought up to play ever since, 20 years ago, their yuppie overachiever parents agonized over how to get them into the "right" preschool. That game is very expensive, in terms of what it requires in both economic and cultural capital. Consider that anybody who comes from a family that makes the median income or less (roughly $50,000) and who gets into Harvard College will go there for free, because Harvard College, unlike any law school, dispenses financial aid strictly on the basis of need. Yet only a tiny minority of Harvard undergrads come from such families. (A few years ago Harvard's Dean of Admissions defined "middle income" Harvard families as those making $110,000 to $200,000 a year -- and indeed such students are, in the context of the Harvard undergraduate student body, genuinely middle class.).
Such statistics illustrate the extent to which social class is a massively powerful factor in determining who ends up attending various strata of the American higher educational system -- and nowhere is that effect more marked than in the law school world. To get into a top law school you generally need a very high LSAT score and a very high GPA from a selective college or university. The way to get these things is to be born with a predisposition to excel at certain sorts of intellectual mazes, to work at least reasonably hard at developing that predisposition, and, crucially, to grow up benefiting from a level of socioeconomic status that will aid you in the noble quest for a 170 LSAT and a 3.9 from Williams.
(Your typical double-plus goodthinking liberal-left law professor -- I'm painting with a broad brush here Clarence; please edit for tone -- loves to prattle on at every opportunity about the importance of "diversity," when what "diversity" tends to mean these days in the upper reaches of American higher education is for an African-American child of two doctors who grew up in Georgetown to compare her junior year abroad in Paris with a those of a white kid who grew up in Winnetka and went to New Trier, but who took a different life path by spending his junior year abroad in Rome.)
Anyway. Once one has boiled off all the pretensions of law schools to providing genuine intellectual edification and legitimate professional training to their students, one is left with what law schools really do best, which is to work as highly efficient social sorting mechanisms at the terminal point of the American educational system. This is why 90% of the law school game is as a practical matter played out even before students get to law school -- what counts, for the most part, is where you go to law school, not what you do once you're there. (This also helps explain why the legal elites have traditionally been almost completely indifferent to whether top law schools actually prepared students to practice law. "Everybody" -- meaning everybody who counted -- understood that wasn't really what law school was for).
Now this sorting function does have practical value. It's true that, all other things being equal, somebody with brilliant academic numbers is going to be a better bet to succeed in the practice of law than someone with more modest formal credentials. But, as so often is the case in the law school world, this generalization is given wildly undue weight by those who control the entry points to the legal elites. I have seen, briefly in legal practice, and extensively in legal academia, the truly bizarre emphasis that's given to whether job candidates went to a tiny handful of schools (The reductio ad absurdum of this trend is reflected by the current makeup of the SCOTUS, which features justices from exactly 2.3 of America's 200 ABA law schools, while each of the last three successful nominees graduated from Princeton. Hey but one of them was a Latina. Diversity!).
Legal academia and to a lesser extent the elite bar are obsessed with these status markers for the same reason law professors keep inflicting idiotic issue spotting exams, which bear almost no resemblance to any task a lawyer would ever have to perform, on their students: Because we all excelled at running this particular social maze, so surely that maze must be an excellent proxy for "merit." The obsession with dubious status markers also helps explain the puerile fascination legal academics and high status lawyers have with law school and law firm rankings -- it's as if we want to keep acing the LSAT over and over again. (I knew someone in college who, when she got her LSAT score, actually burst into tears of joy. Her first words, I swear, were "Now I'll be able to summer on the Cape!" I'm pretty sure this was the first time I had ever heard "summer" used as a verb).
The natural evolution of this entire process is reflected in Harvard's recent decision to move to a pass-fail grade system. This makes perfect sense from the perspective of the median HLS student, who wants to emphasize the inter-law school hierarchy as much as possible over any intra-law school competition. But it also makes sense from the perspective of the school's administration, which wants to protect its brand in the face of the heretical thought that a medicore HLS student might not actually be a better lawyer than a top student at a somewhat less exalted school. In other words these people want to stop the social sorting process at the precise point where doing so has the maximum benefit to them.
It will be interesting to see how the relatively recent development of lower-ranked schools aggressively buying highly qualified students (for the sake of the rankings of course) will effect the social sorting game. I don't see why it doesn't make sense for students who get into high-ranked schools but who go to lower-ranked schools for the scholarship money to note this explicitly on their resumes (perhaps some already are). Such students may be able to get something of the best of both worlds -- the status associated with getting into the most exclusive clubs, along with the money for turning down those seductive but dangerous invitations.
This blog has focused for the most part on what law schools do badly. This post has been about what they do supremely well, which is to replicate and reinforce class privilege, under the rubric of rewarding native intellectual ability and the capacity for hard work. And of course the skyrocketing cost of legal education has played a crucial role in intensifying these effects. When I started teaching at a good state law school in the early 1990s, tuition was $5000 per year in 2011 dollars. Now it's more than $30,000. Many of my best students from my early years of teaching -- people from relatively modest social backgrounds -- would never have gone to law school if it had cost what it costs now. What law school costs now ensures that a much higher percentage of students than ever before will either be children of the affluent, or people who have neither the necessary economic nor cultural capital available to them to figure out that borrowing $200,000 in non-dischargeable loans to go to law school is almost always a terrible idea. That too is a form of social sorting -- and we are beginning to see the consequences of it on a grand scale.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
What law schools accomplish: You are your LSAT score
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This Chicagolander loves the New Trier reference!ReplyDelete
To get into a top law school you generally need a very high LSAT score and a very high GPA from a selective college or university.ReplyDelete
I thank heaven for the LSAT because (I believe) it enabled me to get into HYS while having a very high GPA from a non-selective college or university.
And this may have changed, but I know plenty of people who got into T14 (even T5) with bad gpas from non-selective colleges or universities, but who ran the table on the LSAT.ReplyDelete
And selectivity has another wrinkle to in the admissions process; LSAC adjusts the weight of your GPA based on what they believe is the competitiveness of your university. So, my 3.5 from Wisconsin (Pretty Good, but not mind-blowing) for some reason got lowered down a notch on my admissions profile to a 3.4. Suffice it to say, I wasn't at all pleased.
I raised a similar point at the top of the previous thread, which elicited the following bon mot in response:ReplyDelete
"I was reading the comments section and I happened on this brilliant insight. Maybe if the law school pedagogy wasn't designed in such an insidious way, only 50% of law school students would fail to reach the top 25%. What percentage of law students would you propose make it into the top 25%? (Maybe I'm not being fair and there's a non-nonsensical reading of this comment; is the idea that in a fairer system people would take turns at having top grades, so that after three years of law school as much as 75% enjoyed some time in the top 25%? I suppose if grades were assigned randomly that could work. Sounds fair to me.) The truth is that a lot of not very bright people, like the fellow who wrote this comment, apply to law school because as a child they always liked to argue, or because they enjoy a law-related TV show, or because they have a rich lawyer uncle, or saw an actor playing a rich lawyer on TV. Then they take the LSAT, and instead of viewing it as a metric, highly imperfect to be sure, of one's ability to make sense out of the law - which, like the LSAT, is replete with uninteresting and non-profound but rather logically baroque problems - they seem to see it as an arbitrarily placed barrier on their road to riches/prosecuting nonexistent New York mob bosses. So, either they don't do very well, or they artificially pump their score up with obsessive study and LSAT tricks, and they end up in law school, where they don't do so well because they lack the aptitude for it. Then they think they deserve to get jobs anyway, that firms should see past their grades to . . . that they're nice people. Why - so they can be bad lawyers? Not only is this stupid, it's socially irresponsible. Bad lawyering harms lives, costs people their property, lands people in jail. Go to any appellate court in the country, or sift through some filings in habeas cases on Westlaw; you will see lawyers idiotically concede arguments away that could have saved their clients decades in prison, as they press other arguments that lack a scintilla of merit, or blather meaninglessly about meaningless facts. Not because they're bad people, or lazy people, or even entirely stupid people, but because they lack the skills to be good lawyers. I've seen this many times, and I know a lot of my classmates would make similar mistakes. I don't particularly want them to be lawyers. And I don't think that a lot of clinics would magically teach someone with crap for analytic ability how to know when a valid procedural default is staring them in the face and they need to switch tacks and start looking for ineffective assistance of counsel to excuse the procedural default. (Nor do I think that the kind of small-town lawyers who end up taking on habeas cases foresee, in law school, that they will one day take on habeas cases.)"
I would concede every single point in this rejoinder if I had even a shred of confidence that the current system was actually educating and training good lawyers.
I'm the same fellow who previously identified himself as being on the hiring committee of a large regional law firm.ReplyDelete
In my view, big law puts so much emphasis on academic branding for two reasons. First, the market for high-end legal services is strongly brand driven. The general counsel of a multinational corporation needs to be able to defend his/her choice of a law firm, and the easiest way to defend it is by pointing to the firm's reputation and/or the places where most of the firm's lawyers got their degrees. Hiring from T14 schools (and also getting students who were on law review or clerked for appellate courts) is part of running a successful elite firm (for lack of a better term) because it attracts business.
Second, at the elite-firm level, you do need associates who are at the top of the heap in both intelligence (or analytical ability or whatever you want to call it) and who can write well. At the same time, you need to find future associates by combing through tons of resumes, on-campus interviews, and callbacks. Reliance on GPAs and school pedigrees is a self-defense strategy. We have a limited amount of time to find the best available new associates from a huge pile.
All that being said, my firm has had excellent associates and partners come from the top 5% of lower tier one schools. We continue to recruit heavily at many of those schools. However, I'm sure we do that recruiting because (unlike AmLaw100 firms) we rarely see the top 5% from T14 schools.
"By and large, I’m going to be picking from the law schools that basically are the hardest to get into. They admit the best and the brightest, and they may not teach very well, but you can’t make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse. If they come in the best and the brightest, they’re probably going to leave the best and the brightest, OK?"ReplyDelete
I greatly appreciate your candor, although I suspect it's not difficult to find on hiring committees at any firm.
I guess the point I would like to circle back to is this: one's placement in the Top 5-10% of any particular law school (regardless of its tier) is usually the result of innate aptitude for the study of law (as it is currently taught) rather than the function of any discrete pedagogical approach used by law school faculty.
I would say that the single greatest fallacy about law is that it can even be taught. Yes, the number of students who pass the bar is several magnitudes larget than the number who place into the Top 10-25% of their law school class (and, if anything, many students in this upper bracket do not pass the bar on their first try). But all you have to do on the bar exam is pass. If your law school grades (and concurrent class rank) are a function of your ability to issue-spot, then the question that has to be asked (once again) is DO LAW SCHOOL'S EVEN TEACH ISSUE SPOTTING?
Put another way, what purpose does the one exam/one grade approach actually serve other than as a flagging device?
And how many fewer people would go to law school if they knew up fron that any score below a 170 on your LSAT bodes ill for one's ability to understand to perform more than middlingly in their first year. (The obvious answer is not very many, since nothing short of severaly curtailed law school admissions will do much to dissuade people en masse from considering law school).
This same elite signaling happens in the "prestige" public interest jobs, and is nothing new. Almost 30 years ago when I was applying for a job in the Civil Division of the NYC Legal Aid Society, it was well known that you had to have gone to one of the Ivies or NYU to get am interview. (We didn't have the "Tier" nomenclature back then.) If you went to a lower rung school, the only way to get into the Civil Division was to start in the Criminal Division, which hired far too many attorneys to be so selective, and then transfer after you had proven yourself "worthy" of entry.ReplyDelete
"Put another way, what purpose does the one exam/one grade approach actually serve other than as a flagging device?"ReplyDelete
6:36 here. I don't think it serves any other purpose, unless you count fear-inspired studying as a purpose. Actually teaching law and lawyering skills could be done much more efficiently if law schools were to make that a priority.
I guess I don't need to add that elite law-firm practice is only a small part of the legal-services industry. "Average lawyers," if you will, do a fine job with most of the lawyering in our society. But you shouldn't have to pay $200k to get a shot at earning $50k as an average lawyer.
From your own perspective inside the profession, what would you envision this more efficient model looking like?
(6:36 again.) If I could magically make over the system, I think the following things would be improvements:ReplyDelete
- The lowest-ranked swath of law schools would be eliminated (or they would charge maybe one tenth of what they charge now).
- Law school would take two years max, unless someone wants to spend another year specializing. You would have one course in legal reasoning/analysis/argumentation and one course in legal research & writing. All the other courses would be in a straightforward lecture format, teaching substantive law.
@6:53: The best way to learn issue spotting is by learning the black letter law really well. Learning the theory behind criminal law doesn't help you notice that it matters whether the door to the house was already open, or if your intention to steal the TV arose after entering. Knowing the elements of burglary, on the other hand, makes it really easy to spot the issues.ReplyDelete
The issues law school teaches you to spot are larger policy and legislative questions. What might go awry if we changed contract law in this way? How might this procedural rule result in injustice?
So yes, you're absolutely right that there is a huge disconnect between what law schools teach and what they test. Notice the insanely complicated fact patterns don't even mimic the cases you study, which tend to 1 case - 1 issue.
"I'm painting with a broad brush here Clarence"ReplyDelete
I'm assuming this a cultural reference I'm not getting. Anyone know what it is?
I struggled with issue-spotting throughout law school, and one other factor related to this which I suspect a number of you might not have experienced, is how profoundly useless law school faculty tend to be when you ask them for one-on-one clarification of any particular issue.ReplyDelete
I can think of at least one or two profs my first year (and even into my second year) who met nearly every question I had about a particular issue or decision with slightly bemused bewilderment (e.g. "Isn't it obvious?").
And forget about talking to your professor after class, when the confusion is still fresh in your mind, lest you get trampled by a stampede of podium-rushers (what gunners transform into the moment class ends).
So why is the case law system any better a way of learning the black letter law than, say, the John Pieper approach (if you're not familiar with Pieper's NY-specific bar review course, I'd be happy to elaborate).ReplyDelete
Is there really no relation between placing in the top of one's class and spending a lot of time studying? Are we sure that some people just have a gift for law school exams and others do not?ReplyDelete
As a mediocre law student, who did not spend a lot of time studying, I've always told myself that this is why. Indeed, I like to believe that I could have been one of the top students if I had simply "taken things more seriously" and actually spent the 2 hours of study time for every 1 hour of lecture, as they advise. I think there are probably better or worse ways to study too. For example, I almost never sat down and attempted to do practice exams or problems under test like conditions. It wasn't until the bar exam (too late), when I realized how effective this was.
Meanwhile, I'm pretty sure the top students in my class all studied long hours. I'm not aware of any natural genius types who could slack off all semester and still finish at the top of the class. At least, nobody had a reputation for being like that.
Anyway, I always assumed the top students were the ones who spent a lot of time studying and employed effective study techniques. Its surprising to hear people say that this is based more on innate gifts that you either have or don't have.
Great reference to John Pieper. I took his bar review course in 2005 and he is an outstanding teacher and a true renaissance man - former Army JAG attorney during Vietnam, local judge, bar review teacher, engaged father and husband, entrepreneur, respected local attorney, marathoner - I could go on.
I think John Pieper's approach is superior to the case law system. I can't tell you how much I learned in his review course. He sprinkled countless, real world vignettes from his diverse life experiences into his lectures that really brought abstract theories into focus.
The thing is that Mr. Pieper sees teaching as a his vocation - and one he continually strives to improve at. I am convinced he genuinely believes in his students and wants them to succeed - his personal phone call to me on the eve of the July 2005 NY Bar Exam sold me on his methodology. Most elite law professors don't see teaching as their vocation and that makes all the difference.
"Anyway, I always assumed the top students were the ones who spent a lot of time studying and employed effective study techniques. Its surprising to hear people say that this is based more on innate gifts that you either have or don't have."ReplyDelete
6:36 again. I think you need both. If you don't have the aptitude, no amount of studying will make up for it. But if you do have the aptitude, you still need to know the law (or whatever it is the professor wants you to spout).
The thing is, law school teaching, as it's currently done, does almost nothing to help students develop the aptitude. It takes a certain amount of intelligence and a certain mind-set, but it's not magic. That's why (it seems to me) children of lawyers seem to do better in law school than other students -- they have someone who teaches them in advance what you're supposed to be doing on a law school exam.
I spent no less time than nearly every single one of my colleagues in law school studying for exams and, to a person, they all did much better than me. The one's who reached the top of my 1L class (the vast majority of whom transferred to T6 or HYS) noticeably spent less time studying than everyone else. As one friend of mine exclamed (in equal parts awe and resentment) "It's effortless for them."
None of this approach the issue that the one exam/one grade model to law school grading literally has no sensible rationale to it other than as a sorting device. You are either suited to this type of pedagogical approach, or you are not; I can accept that. But if that be the sole organizing principal of legal education, why bother admitting anyone to law school with under a 170 on the LSAT if they will only be set up to fail?
Have indebted students thought of this solution?ReplyDelete
If I had taken Pieper in Summer 2005, I would have spared myself having to retake the bar in February 2006, which I passed thanks to him (while making up a difference of 25 points from one exam to the next). Also excellent is Mary Campbell Gallagher's BarWrite course; she used an almost adversatively Socratic approach grounded almost entirely in Black Letter Law. And as she says throughout her course, the grave error of legal education today is that it is only designed for people to whim this information sticks on first impression. There is neither the interest, effort, nor tools to encourage memorization, and you are left to gleen black letter law from a tower of babel like maze of hornbooks, casenotes, and cases.
And I would argue that this approach would be justifiable, but again: why one exam/one grade?
This post is true. Your LSAT (and GPA; GPA is just as important) determine your school, which determines your first job. However, after a few years of working your school, LSAT, GPA etc. become largely irrelevant and you are judged primarily by what you did at work.ReplyDelete
And this also bears mentioning: probably the best teacher I had as a a first year (Civ Pro) was also the most experienced lawyer of any my first year faculty, published, and one of the most respected litigators in the field of LGBT rights. She also took much more of an interest in her students than even my small section prof.ReplyDelete
I may simply be offering anecdotal evidence to this effect, but it's hard to avoid the sense that law school ,institutionally, is not in any way concerned with teaching at any level.
By the way, this is ANOTHER great post. You sir, are prolific. I am still amazed that Leiter, whose entire work is probably not as interesting as one post on this blog, dared to criticize the frequency at which you think and write.ReplyDelete
This is no longer true. I have been out of law school for six years now, and I'm still held to account for my 1L GPA by prospective emplowyers.
No you're not 8:04. You're either deluded or a law student. I challenge you to give me the name of one hiring partner who values your 1L grades over your references and performance at work.ReplyDelete
Now, here's another question: if you are your LSAT score, then what is your LSAT score telling you if you fall into that ambiguous 160-170 range?ReplyDelete
For me, I scored in the low 160's but, in retrospect, my score was artificually inflated by a 99th percentile score in reading comprehension to shore up a low Logic Games score (I rarely got more than 7 correct) and an only slightly-above-average Logical Reasoning score.
Is Reading comprehension even a relevant metric to measure one's 1L law school performance? Does the skill that gets measured on this part of the LSAT get meaningfully more usage in law school than Logical Reasoning?
More to the point, is the LSAT misleading scores of law school applicants into believing they have a higher composite aptitude for the study of law than they probably do?
It really is absurd how much emphasis our profession puts on where you got into law school, since that really only measures your academic achievements up to the age of 22 (in most cases). Brain research has conclusively proven that a human being's brain does not finish developing until the age of 25, and that impulse regulation and deferred gratification are among the last mental abilities to develop. I've known any number of people who did not excel in college for reasons of maturity, but are fundamentally brighter than most A students. Indeed I think it's not a coincidence that so many of the most successful entrepreneurs in our country were indifferent college students or dropped out altogether. College is not designed to ferret out genius. It is designed to allow a reasonably intelligent grind to get high grades, which is why so many lawyers, including those who went to elite institutions, are intellectually shallow specialists.ReplyDelete
Honestly, for those of you who, like me, work at a big AmLaw100 firm, have you ever tried to have a wide ranging intellectual discussion with your colleagues? I've found that 9 times out of 10 the people I work with are shockingly ignorant and uninterested in anything that falls outside of their working world.
Lawyers cling to academic pedigree more than any other professionals because they sense on some level that they are the also-rans in the larger socio-economic game. No one ever made a Billion dollars as a lawyer. At the same time, lawyers, including legal academics, don't meaningfully participate in most serious academic work. We're stuck in the middle: neither financial winners nor intellectual leaders--a profession for hard-working mediocrities. And because of that we have to tell ourselves that the name on our degree proves our superiority. Rather pathetic really.
"However, after a few years of working your school, LSAT, GPA etc. become largely irrelevant and you are judged primarily by what you did at work."ReplyDelete
I would qualify this somewhat. A T14 degree will continue to give you an advantage throughout your career (much as in academia). It's a mitigating factor if you're a poor performer and a plus if you're a good performer.
8:04 here. I'd love to give you their names, but the recruiters I work with can't even get me that far into the process. I was asked specifically by one firm (whose name I will withhold), through my recuiter, to explain my first year grades. This was as recently as a few months ago.
And, yes, I have indeed been out of law school for six years now. During this time, I have worked as a staff attorney for a government agency, a temp-to-perm at a BIGLAW firm whose name became synonymous with rather extreme workforce reduction (hint: not Latham, not White & Case), and since 2008 (prior to the downturn) have been working in a non-career parth position with another BIGLAW firm. In my interview for my current job, I was also asked to account for my 1L grades. I was much more successful as a 2L and 3L, and did the journal/clinic/student org thing to rather exhaustive effect, but even I will admit that these are rather trifling diversions from the bottom line.
I have made my peace with the fact that no ecnomically viable area of legal employment will open up for me in the short (or possibly long) term. But, I can assure you, I'm not delusional.
I'm sure its situational, but I've heard of legal employers wanting to know about class rank and GPA long after graduation. I subscribe to "The Posse List", which, among other things, sends out job notices by email. Here is one that came recently, cut and pasted (jump to the bottom):ReplyDelete
"A small firm in Washington, DC with top-notch pedigree and a national reputation is seeking an "exceptional" mid-level associate (4-7 years) with litigation experience.
Practice area focus is on insurance recovery work. The client represents large corporate policyholders in complex multiparty litigation, arbitration and negotiations. The subject area of the work may involve product liability, asbestos, property damage, mass tort, and environmental liabilities.
The firm has a wonderful laid-back and highly collegial culture. For example, there is an annual dinner where the partners serve dinner to the associates, a karaoke night, and pay near the top of the market.
The firm currently has about 50 attorneys. The founders split
off from Skadden, Dickstein and Howrey about 10 years ago to "create a different kind of firm."
Please send resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org please include class rank and/or cumulative law school GPA."
Now granted, you don't see this every time. But you do see it now and then and it always shocks me. With 7 years experience under your belt, who cares what your GPA was? Well, these people do.
"I would qualify this somewhat. A T14 degree will continue to give you an advantage throughout your career (much as in academia)"ReplyDelete
Absolutely a top school degree will give you an advantage in academia. That's what I hated most about my tier 2 school - it was filled with a bunch of HYS grads who had never (or barely) practiced, and by taking one look at them you could see why. Complete weirdos and oddballs who used that HYS degree to get a job "teaching" me.
Tier 2/3/4 law schools are another way that HYS etc. entrench the social structure. Suck at practicing law? NO PROBLEM! Take that degree and get a $170,000 job teaching law.
"8:04 here. I'd love to give you their names, but the recruiters I work with can't even get me that far into the process. I was asked specifically by one firm (whose name I will withhold), through my recuiter, to explain my first year grades. This was as recently as a few months ago."ReplyDelete
Bullshit. Name the firm. Unless your six years of work experience were abysmal and you are essentially applying for a first year associate position, no firm would give a crap about your first year grades.
Those of you who think 1L grades matter have never worked as a lawyer. On the job, every day you are given what are essentially "exams" that test your ability. "Go find a case that . . .", "what is the law here . . .", "Write this motion [that will be 'graded' by the judge]", "call this person and get this . . .", "work on this or that to land that client", "review these documents and prepare a timeline . . .", and on and on.ReplyDelete
These very intensive series of exams are far more relevant to your ability as a lawyer, and that's why your performance reviews and references from work are far more important than your 1L grades. Imagine you fail badly at one of these exams, e.g. you don't find that case the partner was looking for even though it was relatively easy to find. When that partner is yelling at you for your mistake, do you think he/she's going to want to hear, "but I got an A in civ pro from Harvard?" No and you would be a fool to mention it.
When I was in law school, I attended a panel discussion hosted by the HBA (ftr, I'm not myself Hispanic) about careers in legal academia. Thge panel featured an enviable and impressive array of Latino and Latina legal academics from a variety of law schools across the NYC Area, including a professor from my own Tier 2 law school.ReplyDelete
I never took a class with her, but she was generally regarded as exceptionally bright(an HYS; though said to be difficult to keep up with in class), and is now tenured at a Tier 1 school in the area. Her advice to anyone considering a legal academic career from outside T14? To (in her exact words) "cleanse your resume" with an LLM.
Forgetting the fact that LLM's are practically useless for anything outside of Tax (though I'm open to evidence to the contrary), I found her word choice truly off-putting, even if it did speak to a ground truth about the mentality that permeates law school faculties and law firm hiring committees everywhere.
She's right 8:29. Academia is incredibly snobbish and prestige oriented.ReplyDelete
Take the best 500 lawyers in your city and you will see tier 2/3/4 grads all over that group. There are incredibly wealthy and successful tier 2/3/4 grad lawyers.
Take 500 legal academics in your city, and they will mostly be from the T6 (with some T14 in there). And these academics couldn't practice for shit. I'd love to see one of them have to go against one of those tier 4 successful lawyers. They would get destroyed in their incompetence.
Yet because of this bizarre and snobbish system, they are allowed to use that top degree to get a job "teaching" students the law.
"Bullshit. Name the firm. Unless your six years of work experience were abysmal and you are essentially applying for a first year associate position, no firm would give a crap about your first year grades."
I seem to have struck a nerve. Insofar as it's not a function of anything I've written, I'd politely ask that you try to be a little less excitable in your responses. I'm not trying to be Emile Zola here.
I'm 99% sure it was Linklaters, but I can't confirm this right now.
I don't disagree with her substantively. But it seems interesting, to say the least, that some Tier 2 faculty evidentally discount the prestige of the very institutions they teach at.
"I don't disagree with her substantively. But it seems interesting, to say the least, that some Tier 2 faculty evidentally discount the prestige of the very institutions they teach at."ReplyDelete
My impression was that my tier 2 profs hated the students. I could see them taking every opportunity to backhandedly insult them.
The 1 exam/1 grade isn't there as a sorting mechanism, it's there because it's easy (never have to give back marked exams, few students ever ask for conferences), and because some professors think the fear of that one test gives their class some gravitas.ReplyDelete
Reality is that if you truly care about your students learning, you'll give several smaller tests throughout the year, which will be handed back with useful notes, so that students can see what they're getting wrong and correct their mistakes.
Professors will blame students for not seeking feedback after the exam, but the system is set up to not allow it. In a 100 person lecture, if each student were to get a 20 minute one-on-one, and the professor dedicated 3 hours a week to office hours for that class, it would take 11 weeks to finish evaluations. Evaluations for first semester classes would finish after exams from the second semester have ended.
This is probably too big of a tell, but my Tier 2's faculty was so in love with the law school's institutional idea of itself that one could be led to believe that our employment prospects would easily defy the gravity of our ranking.ReplyDelete
8:41, You are a damn liar. There is no way a firm would place high value on your 1L grades, when looking at someone with 6 years of experience.ReplyDelete
There are numerous explanations for this:
1. You're lying out of your ass. You're actually a 1L or a 0L with no work experience.
2. They raised a whole slew of issues with your candidacy (including problems in your work history), along with your poor 1L grades - Rather than list all of those reasons (which would be credible reasons not to hire you), you conveniently tell yourself that you were denied purely for your 1L grades so as to seem sympathetic.
3. The recruiter had used your resume to pump up the candidate he/she was really trying to hire, and to let you down this was one of the things he/she nitpicked about you.
I could go on and on.
But you will never, ever, be able to give the name of one person in hiring authority who will state that 1L grades are an important variable when hiring a 7th year associate. That's simply laughable.
This is spot on. As someone who has been through the meat market process, I can attest to the fact that what matters most in getting a faculty position at any law school is how "prestigious" one's credentials are. And what is prestigious in the law school world is HYS, clerkship, and law review experience. Faculty often mention that "scholarship" matters, but not really and only law review scholarship to a small degree.ReplyDelete
The law school system will resist change because the fundamental change that needs to happen is structural and strikes at the heart of what is valued by most law professors: those prestige factors mentioned above. HYS all have so much to lose as well as all of the professors who assume that they're better teachers and scholars because they attended HYS when they were 24, edited the law review, and were connected enough to clerk for some judge. The branding in legal academia runs long and deep.
Well said 9:00.ReplyDelete
The biggest failure is in assuming that the best grades somehow portend who the best (future) lawyers will be. All that the best grades prove is that someone has mastered the art of memorizing copious amounts of archaic prose and is able to regurgitate it on an exam. An individual may pass his driving exam with flying colors, while another may barely pass it; however, the "best" driver can only be determined AFTER they have actually gone through the experience of driving and dealt with the various scenarios that may occur when doing so. Now replace "driving exam" with law exam (or Bar Exam), and "driver" with "lawyer" and "driving" with "practicing" and the same still holds true.ReplyDelete
I have lost count of how many law school grads who have graduated in the top 5-10% and snatch up impressive Big Law jobs are basically useless when it comes to the practice of law. But boy, are they top-notch at the art of document review! At least they have the opportunity to get on that partnership track, unlike their less-academically successful peers, right? Actually, has anyone even told them that becoming a partner is just a pipe dream and they're nothing but cheap labor getting pimped out for ridiculous billable hours (which more and more Big Law are rebelling against)?
I hope you do a post on legal scholarship and the whole law review process. People often point out the lack of peer review. But from my perspective, the worse part is multiple submission. That makes it truly just about gaming the system and emphasizing the whole branding effects.ReplyDelete
I actually had a colleague once tell me that he routinely calls a law review editor's office late on Friday night (when he knows the editor is likely to be alone and tired) to pressure him or her into looking at his article - all the while mentioning to him that he clerked for so and so and was the endowed chair of such and such.
Shesh, how insecure can folks be?
9:03, Law firms know that law school performance does not translate into performance as a lawyer, and that's why only a small percentage of first years make partner. The rest have their practical weakness exposed and are asked to leave. But, other than looking at the top 5-10% of students, how else would you select that first batch of candidates? Due to the oversupply of graduates (see the law school scam) there isn't room for more than 5-10% and so it might as well be the 5-10% with the highest GPA.ReplyDelete
9:03 AM-- that last sentence should read "which more and more Big Law clients are rebelling against."ReplyDelete
lol 9:06. Sad if true.ReplyDelete
Magnificent piece, and very convincing. The question becomes, is it unethical to dupe the losers of a form of "entrance exam" into paying $100,000-$150,000 for false hope?ReplyDelete
Again, I don't really know what your beef is with me. I've been absolutely forthcoming with you. If you have an angle to offer on this situation (other than your sincerely held belief that I suck), I'd be happy to hear it.
I'm not a 1L or a 0L. I graduated from a Tier 2 Law School in May 2005. I finished in the middle of my class, but struggled to find work until I passed the bar in February 2006. No, I didn't pass on the first try. And no, nobody cares whether you did or did not. Once I passed, I went to work for a government agency in NYC that hires staff attorneys on a temporary basis. Before this period had ended, I was offered a temp-to-perm position at a firm which i gelled with instantly. I worked their for ten months, during which time I was given every indication that they were ready to make me permanent. The lay-off of contract employees at this firm foresaged far more drastic cuts to the attorney pool, to the point that the entire first year class was eventually let go. I spent another six months on the job market before landing my current position.
In every single position I have held, I have received positive reviews. In fact, my current position was lined up for me by a referral from the firm that had previously let me go.
Earlier this year, I was approached by a recruiter who very aggressively tried to farm me out to firms that I had no reason to believe would hire me in this job market; I would be absolutely the last person to believe that I was unfairly rejected from an AMLAW 100 firm under present circumstances. That said, she put my resume out there, and then quite feverishly insisted that I help her "address" the issue of my 1L grades, which the firm in question had brought up. She was clearly desparate to make a sell, even though I knew I probably wasn't a product they were much interested in.
I told the recruiter, quite plainly, that I rather resented the basis for this question. Since you're evidentally very concerned with any potential on my part, I will even share with you, word for word, what I told her:
"My major stumbling block here is . . . that I really don't how know how to put a positive spin on my 1L performance. I say this not simply because I had a couple of bad grades which need explaining, but because I remember it as a profoundly disappointing experienced which has limited me professionally for nine years now. I have done my best to overcome it . . . but it keeps popping in the fact that people want to know why I didn't have the grades to even get into OCI after my first year."
Linklaters passed on my resume, which I had no reason to believe they were taking very seriously to begin with.
Since all I said was that "I'm still held to account for my 1L GPA by prospective employers" I don't see any inconsistenty or falsehood on my part.
If you have anything more to say about this, please let me know.
"8:41, You are a damn liar. There is no way a firm would place high value on your 1L grades, when looking at someone with 6 years of experience."ReplyDelete
I find his/her story quite plausible. (This is 6:36 again.) When I see a resume from a lateral candidate who's a mid-level associate, there's really nothing to go on besides law school rank, GPA, quality of former law employers, and maybe a clerkship and a recommendation from someone I know or one of my colleagues knows. There aren't really any performance measures that mid-level associates from large firms can trot out, because they're still just apprentice lawyers.
@9:08 -- take it a step further: those that have their practical weaknesses exposed and are asked to leave eventually wind up as... law professors.ReplyDelete
It's like a game; you can look at any law professor's CV and quickly figure out if he or she couldn't cut it in practice: "practiced at <> for <>" followed by "joined the faculty at <>" right after that.
It's like they say, the A students become law professors, the B students become prosecutors, and the C students become millionaires.
"I actually had a colleague once tell me that he routinely calls a law review editor's office late on Friday night (when he knows the editor is likely to be alone and tired) to pressure him or her into looking at his article - all the while mentioning to him that he clerked for so and so and was the endowed chair of such and such.ReplyDelete
Shesh, how insecure can folks be?"
Very. See: Leiter, Brian.
Yes 9:17, your inability to get a job is solely due to your 1L grades. It had nothing to do with things like you failing the bar, working a series of short term contract/staff jobs (none of which turned into full time positions despite your claims of good performance) . . .ReplyDelete
What you are doing is focusing on the most sympathetic reason for you not being hired, even though based on what you wrote that probably had nothing to do with it. That's fine, but when it crosses into you spreading misinformation I have to protest. 1L grades have absolutely nothing to do with the decision to hire a seventh year associate. Absolutely nothing.
When Linklaters questions your lack of biglaw right out of the gate, they are not criticizing your 1L grades, they are criticizing your lack of experience. When biglaw firms hire a 7th year, they want someone who worked in biglaw for 6 years, and had good reviews. Sure, technically the reason you didn't get biglaw immediately is because of your 1L grades, and in that sense your poor 1L grades harmed your career because they prevented you from getting a good job right out of school. However, at this point you have had numerous other failings that harm your candidacy.
But it's not too late. There is still the opportunity to do well, but that opportunity probably won't present itself as an offer from Linklaters.
Thank you. All I was making was a statement of fact based on my own experience which, for whatever reason, appears to have rankled 8:41 somewhat.
"I see a resume from a lateral candidate who's a mid-level associate, there's really nothing to go on besides law school rank, GPA, quality of former law employers, and maybe a clerkship and a recommendation from someone I know or one of my colleagues knows. There aren't really any performance measures that mid-level associates from large firms can trot out, because they're still just apprentice lawyers."
9:17, there's no need to sockpuppet. And the line about there not being performance reviews during your first six years is absurd.
"Is Reading comprehension even a relevant metric to measure one's 1L law school performance? Does the skill that gets measured on this part of the LSAT get meaningfully more usage in law school than Logical Reasoning?"ReplyDelete
I honestly have no idea. I would suggest looking at LawProf's post from last week, "Who Should Go to Law School Now?" If you don't fit into any of those categories, I would seriously consider other options.
"@9:08 -- take it a step further: those that have their practical weaknesses exposed and are asked to leave eventually wind up as... law professors."ReplyDelete
Exactly. That's why an HYS degree is so valuable. Even if you're a terrible lawyer you can still get a job as a law professor.
"9:17, there's no need to sockpuppet. And the line about there not being performance reviews during your first six years is absurd."ReplyDelete
I'm 9:17, and I'm no one's sockpuppet. I didn't say there aren't performance reviews. But a firm's performance reviews (even in the extremely unlikely event that one firm were willing to share them with another) are mostly meaningless, because they're too general and too dependent upon the personality of the reviewer. That's why a recommendation from someone you (as the potential hirer) know can be so crucial, because someone you know will tactfully warn you away from a candidate who's bad news.
"But a firm's performance reviews (even in the extremely unlikely event that one firm were willing to share them with another) are mostly meaningless, because they're too general and too dependent upon the personality of the reviewer."ReplyDelete
I see. Let me guess, you did not get good performanc reviews?
I appear to have calmed you down just a bit. I'm open to the possibility that inquiries about my 1L grades are simply intended to mask other issues, but I have no way of knowing that any more than yourself (although, you've taken it upon yourself to determine how I was evaluated by former employers, which must mean that several of them lied to my face during performance reviews)ReplyDelete
And for what it's worth, Linklaters was looking for someone at 3-4 year level.
Let it go, man. Just... let it go.
I deal pretty square on these forums and there was no need at all to attack my honesty.
9:36, You are someone who failed the bar, worked a series of shit contract jobs (none of which turned into a full time position even though those employers had plenty of time to evaluate you), for six years, and you want to pass on the misinformation that you didn't get hired by Linklaters because of your 1L grades.ReplyDelete
That's you being a lawyer. That is you taking the facts and presenting them in the way that makes you most sympathetic. That's entirely within your rights, but people are going to protest when you spread misinformation on a blog read by fresh law grads. I don't want them to think that their hard work will not be rewarded because of their 1L grades.
I'm assuming you're the one who made the original post? No, the comment was directed at the guy (gal?) that ""attacked your honesty.
Regardless of whether you were being honest or facetious or maybe even a little naive, I don't get why someone makes a comment anonymously, then someone else attacks that anonymous person (anonymously as well), then gets so bent out of shape that he (she) needs to resort to foul language and general nastiness to get his (her) point across.
Is your life really that sad that you need to jump all over someone on a forum? OK, for argument's sake let's say you somehow "proved" that the original poster is lying; are you happy now? Maybe you can take that smugness and righteousness and spread it on a piece of bread, have it for lunch and call it a day.
Well, to be fair, working a series of contract jobs that don't turn into full time positions is the norm. Anybody who has worked as a contract attorney for biglaw knows that this just doesn't happen in any but the most extraordinary cases. I worked as a contract attorney for a biglaw firm for almost 5 straight years. They loved me, they paid me good money project after project, year after year. I ended up leaving them for a permanent job and they were sad to see me go. But they never gave one thought to actually hiring me. It just doesn't work that way.ReplyDelete
I merely said I was called to account for my 1L grades, not that they were there the sole dispositive element of why I didn't get a job at a firm that I knew wasn't even interested in me.
You're probably a troll anyways. Whoever would say "I don't want [fresh law school grads] to think that their hard work will not be rewarded because of their 1L grades." probably doesn't even have a chronological grasp of how legal education works.
"...but people are going to protest when you spread misinformation on a blog read by fresh law grads. I don't want them to think that their hard work will not be rewarded because of their 1L grades.I don't want them to think that their hard work will not be rewarded because of their 1L grades."ReplyDelete
Clearly you ARE a lawyer, since that's the biggest crock of sh-- that's been posted on these boards yet. That is, how would you put it, you taking the facts and presenting them in the way that makes you most sympathetic.
You're worried about fresh law grads being misled by some misinformation on a blog by an anonymous commenter. Riiiiiiiiiiiight...
"Well, to be fair, working a series of contract jobs that don't turn into full time positions is the norm."ReplyDelete
Absolutely, but someone who does that with great 1L grades isn't going to be treated differently than someone who did that with bad 1L grades. Out of curiosity, did the firm give you references and recommendations that helped you get the full time job? Do you like the full time job?
I'm the one who made the original post which was then subsequently portrayed as false (even though the criticism that has been directed towards be relies on a grossly overbroad misreading of what I had said).
I only post anonymously because blogspot won't recognize any of my handles and my workplace blocks any portal to a webmail client. I wouldn't post anonymously if I had the means to do otherwise.
"You're worried about fresh law grads being misled by some misinformation on a blog by an anonymous commenter. Riiiiiiiiiiiight..."ReplyDelete
I absolutely am worried about fresh grads being misinformed. If you want to say that law school is a scam that wounds your life then that's fine. If you want to say that law school is a thief that robs you that's fine. But if you want to peddle some bullshit about how 1L grades will permanently affect your ability to get a job then I need to get the truth out there. There might be some fresh law grad with bad 1L grades reading this, who doesn't need to be discouraged as he faces his 4L, 5L, 6L, 7L, 8L . . . years.
I have been at the full time job for four years now. It has its benefits and drawbacks which I'm not at liberty to go into a public forum. I've had exposure to much higher profile deal work than what I was doing at my old firm, but I'm looking into an overall career change. It helps that my debt burden is relatively low.ReplyDelete
The reference was to a recruiter that a partner I worked for had a personal history with. This was back in 2007 when the market fundamentals were very, very different.
And for what it's worth, the firm that let me go was in the habit of hiring JD's as paralegals and then elevating them to associate; ah, the heady days of easy credit! It compelled some BIGLAW firms to, well, not act so BIGLAW-ish. To add further color, it was not a NY-based firm and I suspect that hiring decisions were made quite autonomously from the home office.
"Out of curiosity, did the firm give you references and recommendations that helped you get the full time job? Do you like the full time job?"ReplyDelete
Unfortunately no. They said that firm policy prohibited it. I was forced to use a person at the staffing agency, despite barely knowing that person at all, and knowing the firm associates quite well.
I was quite lucky to get the job I have now, it was a case of being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people. And it only took 5 years of document review before it came along.
Um, even in an up economy, how many BIGLAW associates even make it to 8L??? You appear to be concerned with the sensibilities of an almost laughably small cohort.ReplyDelete
"The reference was to a recruiter that a partner I worked for had a personal history with."ReplyDelete
Glad the partner rewarded your hard work. and yeah, the subprime hiring boom had its benefits for the legal profession!
10:03 here, I seem to be replying for somebody else. Sorry! I'm not 10:02, but like him, I did a series of shit contract jobs.ReplyDelete
Do others agree with the commenters citing Bar review as an example of law school should be organized? For my part, I thought the Bar exam (and Bar review) was purely a hazing ritual -- examinees were required to memorize a lot of (often incorrect) principles and examples and then regurgitate them. A high Bar exam score doesn't seem to correlate at all with one's aptitude for practice. (Yes, I passed the Bar on my first try with a solid score. And I have been in practice for a couple of decades.)ReplyDelete
The Socratic method can be done badly (and often is), but there is quite a bit of research showing it can be very effective as a teaching method (not law school-specific research and yes, I take all education research with many grains of salt). Here's a link to one semi-relevant example: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/teaching-math-advanced-discussion/?scp=18&sq=socratic&st=cse
Anyhow, I can't imagine pure lecture (esp not if modeled on Bar review) replacing discussion-based learning. No, I'm not defending law school as it is -- much could and should be changed. But Bar review as a model? It's good at cramming a large and discrete set of information in a short period, but lawyers don't get paid to recite the rule against perpetuities or mostly-no-longer-applicable principles governing commercial paper.
"Um, even in an up economy, how many BIGLAW associates even make it to 8L?"ReplyDelete
The point is that whether they make it has nothing to do with their 1L grades. And I wasn't only referring to biglaw associates.
"There might be some fresh law grad with bad 1L grades reading this, who doesn't need to be discouraged as he faces his 4L, 5L, 6L, 7L, 8L . . . years."ReplyDelete
I'd like to think that most people, even naive yokels like recent law school grads, would know how to differentiate between a GENERAL issue, like law schools ripping them off, and a SPECIFIC issue, like the OP's futile job search.
And how exactly does one graduate from law school and yet continue to be a "4L, 5L, 6L, 7L, 8L"...?
"I need to get the truth out there."ReplyDelete
What a cute little civic-minded one-man crusader you are!
The conversation we were having was pretty squarely about BIGLAW. What did you think we were talking about?ReplyDelete
Honestly, though, only the first "contract" job I worked seemed shitty, and that's only because I was the only non-patronage hire at a government agency full of semi-competent goons. I left this position halfway through voluntarily, and I had no regrets.
The contract position at the BIGLAW was probably the most supportive, collegial, and effective firm environment I have ever worked at. I was treated better on contract at that firm, then I've ever felt to me the case in my currnet, peramnant position. Partners and senior associates took time to expalin things to you, the workload wasn't insane, and the firm cultural was (at times) strikingly laid back.
If I could have staid in that position, I would have.
"I didn't get that Linklaters job because of my 1L grades."
"I didn't get that Linklaters job because of my 1L grades."ReplyDelete
Well according to you, that's what I said.
Getting back to the topic, did anyone else have HYS professors who were not only terrible professors, and who not only never had any sort of career as lawyers, but were also arguably terrible human beings? Meaning, forgetting the law and law school, they were just awful people. People who you would never associate with in any way if you did not have to?ReplyDelete
"When I started teaching at a good state law school in the early 1990s, tuition was $5000 per year in 2011 dollars. Now it's more than $30,000."
Jesus! What the hell happened in the 90s and 00s to do this to law schools? Has anyone plotted the average increase in tuition between 1970 and 1990 and compared it to the average increase between 1990 and 2010?
I enjoyed my time as a contract attorney for BIGLAW as well. But I had it better than most do today. I was something of a permanent temp, rolled over from assignment to assignment, but almost always working, in the same seat, with the same people, answering to the same boss, etc. We worked at the firm itself and had full access to the cafeteria, gym, free coffee etc. It was very nice. And because I started working there in 2007, I was paid (and continued to be paid) the old DC contract attorney wages, which nobody gets paid anymore. And it was a lot. I make a lot less now that I've left.
That place still exists and it still employs 5 or 6 "lifers", temp coders that have been there since the good old days and who will probably never leave voluntarily. They will test the theory as to whether one can actually pull off being a career document reviewer. They will try and if they are succesful, it wont have been a bad time.
Of course, the fear is that someday they'll lose their spot. Anything could happen, there is no security. As a temp contract attorney, you can be fired for looking at somebody funny, such things have happened. If that happens, then they find themselves well into middle age with nothing but doc review on their resume. Its a scary prospect and why I ultimately left. But uh, long story short, I liked my experience too.
To the profs. who eat steak dinners made of my debt, I hope you choke.
I've actually never worked a Doc Review gig; the entire of my experience has been in corporate practice.ReplyDelete
That said, my previous gig (on contract at BIGLAW) was under a wage system for temps which I understand is no longer operational in NYC.
Right, an interesting part of the legal job market history is the "golden age" of document review. I'm not entirely sure when it began, but it lasted basically until the recession and then disappeared never to return.ReplyDelete
In those days, a reviewer working in NYC or DC could expect to make 35 an hour, x1.5 for overtime, working 50 to 70 hours a week on document review projects. They were temporary, but they'd last for months at a time and when they ended, you'd just find another. It was quite common for people to make 100K+ per year doing this. I personally did so 3 years in a row.
It is said that the golden age ended for many reasons, the recession being just one. There are multiple forces that conspired to bring down demand for doc review attorneys from its peak position. Today, in NYC or DC, you'll make 30 an hour and probably won't get overtime.
It created for a strange situation for those of us who were involved in it prior to the total collapse of the legal market. In those days, there probably were shitlaw jobs to take, but why would we want to make 30K working shitlaw when we could be 100K click monkeys? They called it the "golden handcuffs".
Anyway, ancient history now.
Are American lawyers characterised by an inability to invent a pseudonym, so that the great bulk of them are "anonymous"?ReplyDelete
Who'd hire such a drongo?
"Right, an interesting part of the legal job market history is the "golden age" of document review."ReplyDelete
Yeah it helped keep the bubble going in the 2000s.
It was a golden age for temp law jobs period; sort of a "Half-Lawyer Economy"ReplyDelete
Anyone gotten stress related health problems from law school debt + poor employment prospects?ReplyDelete
Can anyone help me? Here is Loyola Law School's career placement statistics. http://intranet.lls.edu/careerservices/stats/employmentstats.pdfReplyDelete
It says that 94% were employed within nine months. Good job Loyola. The trouble is, there is a big asterix saying, "According to definitions established by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) and employed by the American Bar Association, graduates are counted as employed if engaged full-time or part-time in legal or non-legal jobs."
Darn. That "94% employed" number isn't as informative, if basically anyone gets to be counted as employed. We'll have to go to the salary information to see the quality of these jobs. Based on the salary information on page 3, you have a very solid chance of earning $80,000 and the absolute minimum is around $40,000. So those 94% are all working in good or at least acceptable jobs.
The problem is that, according to LST, only 47.7% of graduates reported salary information. So, of that 94% working in "jobs" (which per the NALP definition can include anything), 46.3% didn't report a salary and could be earning $0 at their "jobs" for all we know.
Here is my question. Where on Loyola's statement do they disclose that the salary information represents only one half of their graduates? If it's not in their statement, then how is that not fraud?
Actually I gave Loyola too much credit. According to LST only 41.1% reported non-zero salaries (39.6%+1.5%).ReplyDelete
Possibly. I know that I developped borderline hypertension at the end of my first year, and an irregular heart beat by the end of my second.ReplyDelete
Panic attacks. I am a "tough guy" too. I split my own wood, and kill my own chickens. I hunt. When I looked down the barrel of 150K debt, I broke down and was dragging my lifeless body to the office every day. staring at the ceiling at night, wondering if death was a better alternative to a life that i barely control.ReplyDelete
Doesn't matter how tough you are, that won't get a bank off of your ass. Unless you go an live like Rambo in the woods of Alaska or something.ReplyDelete
Wow. This comment section is blowing up. Always cool to see a blog really take off. A tip of the hat, LawProf.ReplyDelete
Now, my comment: There is a belief, often asserted, that the halls of legal academia are populated with left-leaning liberals.
As an left-learning liberal who graduated this past May, let me assure you all those people who I interacted with over the last three years of my life were unlike any left-leaning liberals I have ever met. They are nothing like me. Nothing. I don't know what planet their from, but it is not planet liberal.
Also, my wife is an attorney, and the professors I met while she was engaged in her own legal studies were also of that differing breed.
Of course, one conclusion could be that I am not the left-leaning liberal I long thought, but something else entirely. But, it feels better to blame them. And blame them I shall.
Here is my question. Where on Loyola's statement do they disclose that the salary information represents only one half of their graduates? If it's not in their statement, then how is that not fraud?ReplyDelete
Could be. Looky here:
They are nothing like me.ReplyDelete
In what way exactly?
In no particular order; views on marriage, views on abortion, church & state issues, free market issues (the law school fee structure is not based upon any kind of free market, imo). It may be due to that fact that both my wife and I attended school in deep red states. Still, nothing like me.
9:44 is as clear a case of trolling as the internet has ever seen. If you aren't a troll prove it by not posting anonymously, otherwise, I'll assume your 1L grades are so crappy that they turned you into a troll. NANANANA BOO BOO.ReplyDelete
Here's some of the mindset of some law profs:ReplyDelete
I particularly like the commentator who signs his/her name "Former Law Review EIC."
Let a life.
Love the blog but it is slowly becoming redundant and obvious. Perhaps these posts about law school education should be a faq for the uninitiated. Please get back to the loan mess soon.ReplyDelete
LawProf, yet another great post that cuts to the core of what I am feeling right now. Thank you for putting your thoughts into words.ReplyDelete
@5:06 I don't get what's wrong with the materials in the link--the comments or the post itself.ReplyDelete
"Jesus! What the hell happened in the 90s and 00s to do this to law schools? Has anyone plotted the average increase in tuition between 1970 and 1990 and compared it to the average increase between 1990 and 2010?"ReplyDelete
What follows are the full time tuition & fees at my former school in 5-year intervals (adjusted to 2011 dollars, and rounded to the nearest dollar.)
Lawprof said 1990 tuition, in today's dollars, was only $5,000.ReplyDelete
"Lawprof said 1990 tuition, in today's dollars, was only $5,000."ReplyDelete
I think LawProf was speaking of a state school; my school is private...and I simply don't believe it was $5,000 adjusted of inflation...that price in nominal dollars seems more likely.
OK, so the rise in tuitions isn't as bad for the private schools (although it's still bad).ReplyDelete
5:06, see the comment:ReplyDelete
Anything that demonstrates a concern for your students, or a queasiness about using fraudulent job placement statistics to trick them into destroying their lives with debt, so that you can earn a six figure salary by working 10 hours a week.
Posted by: anon | August 30, 2011 at 10:52 PM
I don' t think that comment was made by a prof. More likely someone criticizing them.ReplyDelete
"Honestly, for those of you who, like me, work at a big AmLaw100 firm, have you ever tried to have a wide ranging intellectual discussion with your colleagues? I've found that 9 times out of 10 the people I work with are shockingly ignorant and uninterested in anything that falls outside of their working world. "ReplyDelete
Lawyers are the dumbest of all professionals. That's why no one outside of the law respects or listens to them (except when forced to under the law). Earlier this blog had a discussion of "Law and" where, I think, the point was that Law and X professors are terrible X academics. This is absolutely true. The rigor of discussions in X, in a Law and X article, as opposed to a true X article, is hilarious. Of course there are brilliant ex-lawyers, but I don't count them as lawyers because they were smart enough to leave the profession.
"You are someone who failed the bar, worked a series of shit contract jobs (none of which turned into a full time position even though those employers had plenty of time to evaluate you), for six years, and you want to pass on the misinformation that you didn't get hired by Linklaters because of your 1L grades."ReplyDelete
The passion in this whole exchange only makes sense if you imagine that these two are in the process of a very bitter divorce.
Having been on a big law hiring committee, I would say that 1L grades can matter all the way through your career, as ridiculous as that sounds. First, there's the issue of path dependency. Once you don't do OCI, you don't do the big firm summer program, which means you don't do the big firm associate job. Once you are sorting paper for a five person personal injury practice, you have about as much chance as jumping to a starting position in the Yankee's infield as you do to big law. Then there's the consistency issue. When we were hiring, we wouldn't look at laterals that we wouldn't have looked at coming out of school. If they weren't good enough then, they weren't going to be good enough now (well, with the exception that sometimes there were extraordinary staffing needs, and you dipped lower than you would prefer, but you do that during regular OCI sometimes as well). For most people, poor 1L grades means poor overall class rank which mean zip all chance of getting hired by firms like ours.
That said, there are lawyers with mediocre GPAs from mediocre law schools who do extraordinarily well. The conceits of big law, however, don't let them in to the big law tent unless they come as lateral partners bearing gifts of clients.
7:46, why do you keep sock puppetting? You are completely full of shit, and although you've decided to "play" a hiring partner who makes decisions based on 1L grades "throughout a career" (LOL! Yeah a partner with a book of desperately needed and profitable business isn't going to get a job because of his 1L grades.) -- again, you will never, ever find anyone with hiring authority who places value on 1L grades, when hiring a 7th year associate. That is so laughable it's absurd.ReplyDelete
8:23, I'm curious why you're so confident about this. What basis do you have for declaring "you will never, ever find anyone with hiring authority who places value on 1L grades, when hiring a 7th year associate."ReplyDelete
Why wouldn't this vary by firm, and indeed by individual hiring partner? After all I don't believe the original poster you were fighting with claimed that *all* big firms would *always* pay attention to first year grades (if he did claim this that seems as implausible as what you're saying).
"That said, there are lawyers with mediocre GPAs from mediocre law schools who do extraordinarily well. The conceits of big law, however, don't let them in to the big law tent unless they come as lateral partners bearing gifts of clients."ReplyDelete
Or, if they have solid performance and experience in the areas in which your firm practices. In every area of law, there are superstars from low ranked schools, who had bad grades, but who now have a track record of performance that causes firms to want them. (And someone who failed the bar, who never held a full time legal job, and who is applying for a senior associate position is not such a person.)
Glad you're getting it.
LawProf, I am confident about this because I constantly speak to lawyers in the real world. If someone is going to make such a ridiculous statement that regardless of how well you perform on the job, you will always be judged by your 1L grades, then I need to protest that. Why can't they give one name, one single name of a hiring partner who would agree with such a ridiculous statement?ReplyDelete
That's just not how the legal world works. If you come from a good school, and perform terribly, you become a leper that no one will hire regardless of your 1L grades. I know probably a hundred people from top schools who started at a V10 and who now couldn't get a job with a mediocre boutique (many of them are applying to AALS meat market this fall). Similarly, I know dozens of people from bad schools (some from tier 3 schools) who, because they performed well, are constantly being recruited from big firms.
"7:46, why do you keep sock puppetting?"ReplyDelete
6:36 here. This should be evident from the contents of the various posts, but in case it's not, I'm not the person who posted at 7:46. (Which is not to say that I have any reason to doubt that 7:46 has the background s/he says s/he has. I just want to make clear that we're two separate people.)
"If someone is going to make such a ridiculous statement that regardless of how well you perform on the job, you will always be judged by your 1L grades, then I need to protest that."ReplyDelete
I don't think that's what the poster said. The way I read it was that in HIS CASE, 1L grades mattered. As LawProf pointed out, it would be wrong to say that it ALWAYS MATTERED. Of course that would be ridiculous. If you have a proven track record, it won't.
But OTOH, it is equally wrong to say that it NEVER matters. There are firms that ask for it even if you are not fresh out of law school if your record or experience isn't enough to go by.
I am currently a 3L at a mid-to-low Tier 2 state school. I got a perfect 180 on the LSAT and a full ride to school, and even at that price, I think I'm overpaying.ReplyDelete
I seriously wonder if I should start putting on my resume, "Had 10 years work experience and a perfect LSAT, could have gone to any school in the country, but chose to stay in-state for the price and to stay near family and pulled a 3.9 while working full time please please oh god don't just throw my resume in the garbage as soon as you read "Rutgers"."
If you have a 3.9 GPA, very few firms that are actually hiring will throw your resume in the garbage just because it says "Rutgers." A few will, but you probably wouldn't want to work there anyway.ReplyDelete
LawProf: I agree with everything you said here and anyone who has thought about it and is honest will also. That is harder to do with some of your other posts because not everyone shares the experience of being a law professor. But in this case, everyone with a JD has enough of a shared observation, if they choose to make one, to know the truth. I don't disagree with your other posts. It's just that this one can truly separate the apologists and willfully ignorant from the rest.ReplyDelete
I missed where the LSAT and excelling on issue-spotter exams was somehow a function of class privilege.ReplyDelete
And, assuming that it is - you have money, so you go to a good prep school, so you get into a good college, so you get a better education, so you become good at the LSAT/law school exams - isn't that just kind of tough for the people who haven't been educated well enough to do well on the LSAT, or do well in law school? Why wouldn't these educational deficits follow them into practice?ReplyDelete
I could not afford to take a LSAT prep Course and I did not do well on the LSAT but I tell you one thing on more than one occasion I had to represent myself in court Not criminal court and I wiped the floor with the attorney that was advocating aganist me so what doers that say for scores, schools, tiers, etc?ReplyDelete
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