Monday, August 09, 2010

Are Law School Grades More Important to a Career than the Rank of the Law School Attended ?

Debra Cassens Weiss in Law News Now at the ABA Journal reports on research which finds that Law School Grades More Important to Career than Elite School, Researchers Say.

That of course is not really that surprising.

Law students accepted by law schools have different characters and different aptitudes and many students are in fact not as suited for law as others, even though they may have had top undergraduate grades, good LSATs and excellent references. Law has it owns rules.

When I taught law at the university level I always told the students at the beginning of the first semester that about 25% of them would not be there at the end -- not because of a lack of intellect, but rather because their talents and abilities would be found to be better served in other fields. If you are a law student now, you might consider a change in your field of study while you can, if you find that this observation applies to you. Do not stay in a field you do not like or where you find that your talents are wasted or where you have limited aptitude.

Grades earned in law school generally reflect whether a student is "getting it" or not, and this of course is really not a product of elite law school teaching per se, but rather a product of a specific legal aptitude -- or not. Obviously, those who "get it" are going to be more successful, regardless of where they went to school.

Footnote: ... but they may have trouble becoming a Supreme Court Justice ... all of whom currently come from the Ivy League.

Thoughts on Law Firm Rankings : A Function of Size and Expertise

Some questioning of law firm rankings is found at The Belly of the Beast in MIRED IN METRICS? HAVE SOME MORE!.

Although the criticism of law firm rankings found there is surely justified in some particulars, it is nevertheless unavoidable that the criteria for a top 10 or top 100 or top 500 ranking of anything is always a function of the values and priorities of whoever is doing such a ranking.

Traditional law firm rankings have a very legitimate function in pointing out where the top legal power -- traditionally seen -- is located at any given time, and that is an important criteria.

For example, if your life, professional career or reputation were on the line and only talented lawyers could save it - where would you go for legal representation? The fact is that you would be very well advised, if you could afford it, to go to the law firms ranked high by traditional methods.

In the days of Watergate when I was an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York City (a law firm known as "Paul, Weiss" in the trade), Paul, Weiss represented Vice-President Spiro Agnew in the Watergate matter. You are talking here about a very conservative politician seeking legal help from a very politically liberal law firm in New York City, a law firm which began as the first mixed Christian and Jewish law firm in the Big Apple. Do the political leanings of the lawyers matter at all to clients in such a case? Apparently not. Clients want the best legal talent and best legal services available.

That applies not only to high-end litigation, but also to the making of billion-dollar mergers and to the design and structuring of other large-scale financial transactions, etc.

The "traditional" ranking of law firms is thus in fact a very good fit for "big league" law.
You go where the EXPERTISE is, and that narrows the field considerably to the traditional top law firms.

This of course says nothing negative about the day-to-day law practiced by lawyers and smaller law firms everywhere, which may be equally competent, just on a different scale.

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