Sunday, January 6, 2013

"The Secret of My Success: How Status, Prestige and School Performance Shape Legal Careers"

This article is by Professors Richard Sander (UCLA) and Jane Bambauer (Arizona) and can be found at 9 J. Empirical Legal Stud. 893 (2012) and SSRN here.

From the abstract:

If we study the 40,000 law graduates who join the legal profession each year, how well can we predict their future careers? How much of their future is predicted by their social class? The law school they attend? Their law school grades? This article undertakes the first in-depth examination of these questions. Drawing on several large and recently released data sets, we examine the role of class, school prestige, and law school grades on the career earnings of lawyers and the success of big firm associates in becoming partners. We find that social class strongly conditions who goes to law school, but no longer predicts much about postgraduate outcomes. Law school prestige is important, but it is generally trumped by law school performance (as measured by law school grades). Law school grades reflect both personal characteristics not well captured by prelaw credentials, and one's relative position in a law school class as measured by prelaw credentials. Our findings suggest that there is little empirical basis for the overwhelming importance students assign to “eliteness” in choosing a law school.


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The problem with this article is that it measures success as a lawyer using two criteria which are both related; earnings and large firm partnership. Many lawyers I know, including the undersigned, have worked at big firms and would not work in one again no matter how much they paid us. In fact, I routinely counsel students about the dark side of large law firm life; the hours; the poor experience, the partnership or out policy, over-billing, the abuse of associates, etc.

Posted by: Mitchell Rubinstein | Jan 7, 2013 6:55:49 PM

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