Saturday, August 14, 2004

I'm up early on Saturday morning, getting some work done at home that didn't get done yesterday because of the exit interviews. And under a self-imposed deadline of 9 AM -- taking Anonymous Son to the Zoo this morning.

Someone asked in the comments: "I was wondering what people in your area think of schools like the University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, and University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. Minnesota is ranked around 19, and the other 2 are ranked around 30. What're my chances of getting an interview, let alone a callback for jobs?"

People in my area think those schools are very far away. Especially after the handful of summers yesterday who said they're going back to the other side of the country, I can't help but be skeptical in thinking that someone who has chosen to go to law school in Wisconsin really wants to practice law out here and isn't just looking for a fun summer. But, look, if you're first in your class, Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review, got a 178 on the LSAT, your mother or father is a partner at the firm... then even if you go to law school in Siberia, who knows.

Got a 178 on the LSAT? Why in God's name would your firm care about that?
I don't often blow off steam, but here goes. Why do law partners have that attitude about lower first tier schools? I'm at my state's law school because financially that was the best way for me to get an education. To go to school out west would mean going to a 2nd, or 3rd tier school in order to get a free ride. No offense to those students, but I didn't want to do that. So now I'm geographically pegged. And the thing that gets me is that I spent a summer working with a B student from a top 3 school who obviously lacked motivation and common sense. I've worked very hard to get to the top of my class and I'll work even harder this year to stay there and it pisses me off that some kid is coasting and partying her way through school and will have her pick of firms because she's at a top 3. Wise up partners. If you want someone who is motivated and doesn't mind working long hours start looking past the Harvard/Yale pedigree.
We just waved good-bye to our own class of summer kids. The more summer associates I work with (and, as part of our summer program, I work with all of them quite closely), the more I incline toward the conclusion that law school rankings don't mean anything once you get below, say, Georgetown. The best kids from all the schools below that are all pretty much the same -- smart, hard-working, good prospects. It's risky to dig below the best kids from those schools. There are plenty of hard workers, but too often you get work handed in that is poorly reasoned and marginally literate. At the top schools, you have the opposite problem. You can be pretty confident that anybody in the top half of the class is smart; you just need to weed out the slackers.

The problem I face with a lot of kids who did very well at the lower 163 schools is that the bar wasn't set high enough for them. Even though their work was better than that of everbody else in their class, their work still wasn't good enough to be very useful to us. They get to our firm and need to raise their game again.
I'm so sick of these kids from crap schools coming on here and saying they deserve jobs because they work harder than those of us from top 3 schools. That's crap. Why the hell didn't you work harder in undergrad and get good grades? Couldn't you work your way to a better LSAT score?

At least with a student from Yale, you have a non-negligible chance of them being a superstar on the partner track. With a student from a crap school who's not one of the top 10 people in their class, the chance that they'll work out is so low it isn't worth the investment.
Imagine you're in charge of hiring at a law firm. Are you really going to offer a summer internship to the mentally retarded kid who worked really, really hard and is maybe ranked in the top 10 of his mentally retarded class? Or are you going to try to get the guy from the school that weeds out the mentally retarded by requiring that they get an LSAT score above 168 and a GPA over a 3.6? Call me silly, but I'm going hedge my bets and go with the guy whom I can reasonably assume is not mentally retarded. He may be near the bottom of his class, but his competition is almost certainly tougher. Conversely, being number one among the mentally retarded isn't saying much. Granted, I'm exaggerating, but if you're going to pay somebody $10,000 a month, you would like to have some confidence in your choice. Why take the risk of getting somebody who can't do quality work even if he tried really, really hard?

Some people may think that you can take the risk during the summer, because hey, it's just a summer. You might end up with some great lawyers from unpopular schools. But if you don't end up with great lawyers and instead get the mentally retarded, you're stuck with the question of whether to offer them a job when they graduate. You don't want to, but if word gets out that you only hire 70% of the summer associates, then even top students won't want to work for you for fear of not getting an offer.

The reason students from the top schools are preferred is obviously because the average student at those schools has a better record of performance than the average student at a 2nd tier school. It's not elitism; it's taking the higher probability that your hire can perform quality work.
I think for several of the whiners who constantly complain as to legal ability and how your class ranking and law school are not indicators as to how well you fare in the profession need to remember one thing: this is a client centered business. Clients pay a lot of money to see results, and if a firm didn't offer some reassurance that their attorneys are the best and brightest, those clients are going to go to the shop across the street. This is why the majority of the "white-shoe" firms go after the top tier law students. They have top tier clients who demand respect. After all, somebody who is ignorant as to how the profession works (basically 99.9% of all clients) would rather pick an attorney who graduated from a top tier school rather than any other graduate. There are factors to consider, such as law review and how high you ranked, but most of our clients don't know what these things mean. Does it suck? Yes. Is it fair? No. What can YOU do about it if you can't land a job because you lost out during OCI to the bottom of the pack at Harvard/Columbia? Go out, kick a$$, and hope that your reputation will proceed you.
From way down at the bottom of Tier 1: The rankings/scores/grades/client comments make sense. It would be far more productive for those of you/us down here to carefully consider these observations and determine how to best use the information to overcome the perception (perhaps by using that good work ethic to get to the head of the class) than to continue to complain that the firms don't hire us.

This post actually began with a geographical question. The law schools face the same problem in deciding whether or not to admit students from 'far away.' They have to protect their 'yield' (the students who accept vs. those who decide to attend school closer to home). If a school or firm has found that most students from out of state eventually choose to remain in their geographic region, then they are less likely to make an offer to even the best candidates from that state. That's not unfair - that's smart. It's up to the candidate to show that they have a connection or are 100% serious about making the move. Yes, it's an uphill battle, but that's just the way it is. I just completed an east coast interview, and the question, "why here?" was the first question. If I didn't establish sufficient reason for my interest, why should they extend their offer to me rather than to someone who has already proven their intent by making the move for law school?
On the geography issue: Yes, it makes a big difference (to my firm, anyway) whether you have a connection to the region where the firm is located. People from other parts of the country just don't stick around.

On the elitism issue: It's not elitism to conclude that students from the top 10 are by & large more capable than those from lower-ranked schools of handling the complex corporate and commercial issues that big firms get paid to figure out. People don't get into the top schools based on connections; they get in b/c they got good grades and scored high on the LSAT.

It's not fair that some people are smarter than others. It's not fair that hard work and clean livin' aren't by themselves enough to get you to the top. Go into a strip club sometime -- the strippers with the prettiest faces and the hottest bodies are the ones with the cash falling out of their garter belts, even though they usually are crappy dancers and have personalities like damp rags. The average-looking strippers actually work to entertain the customers, but they still don't make as much as the hotties do without breaking a sweat. You're damn right it's not fair.
God, what a lot of anonymous posters, including myself. GULC class of '80
"Go out, kick a$$, and hope that your reputation will proceed you."

The word used in this phrase should be precede, not proceed. It amazes me that someone who can't even distinguish between these two simple words can get into any law school at all.
Thanks to everyone who participated in this thread. After reading it I have decided to drop out of law school. I attend a second tier school, Univ of San Diego, and have decided that there is absolutely no point to continuing my studies and maintaining my class rank (top 2%), because I will always be pigeon-holed and will never be able to get into the elite firms NY firms. I can't wait for my future as a junior associate at the Tijuana Public Defenders office.
okay dickheads. I go to the University of Idaho's law school. Not exactly a tier 1 school, but I'm not here because I didn't work hard in undergrad, or because I am stupid or because I got a low LSAT. I had a 3.57 undergrad in Philosophy, a 168 on the LSAT and had offers at other "higher rated" schools.

Some people don't have a desire to piss away their life at a busy soulless NY firm. I'm happy to work in Idaho, I have a family and I other things to do than to measure my self worth against snobish assholes. Not only that but I won;t exit lawschool with an outlandish student loan debt over my head.

such onesided people to make the assumption that everyones choice of lawschool is based on their LSAT score.
If you didn't go to one of the top law schools, you are most likely NOT going to get an interview at one of the country's top firms. Don't like it? Start taking care of that during undergrad.

As much as people whine about this you'd think it meant so much more than it does. Have any of you complainers SEEN the parade of miserable stories posted by people who work at places like this. You may not have the starting salary that these firms offer, but if you really ARE as good as you think you are, you can end up making a hell of a lot of money, maybe more money than the graduates of better schools.

Getting to AL's post: yes, 99% of the time your best bet is to go to law school in the city or state you want to practice law in. NY, Chicago, or LA lawyers will indeed wonder why you sent them a resume from Montana. The exception of course are the blue-chip schools like Harvard and Yale; almost any firm would talk to one of their students. But even they would probably face questions about geography (if you're from Boston and go to Yale, do you really want to work in San Diego or just want to spend the summer there?)

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