Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Another "must read" by Bill Henderson

Cross-posted over at Legal Profession Blog (here) and at Empirical Legal Studies Blog (here), on how most law firms misapply the "Cravath system."  It's a follow-up to Bill's first post (here) on how the "Cravath system" created the bimodal distribution in starting salaries.

Why is this post, along with Bill's first post, a must-read?  For all of those law students choosing law schools because of the USNWR rankings (and incurring debt), one thing that they may not focus on is the starting salaries of most of any school's graduates.  USNWR doesn't report the average salary any more.  Most law grads don't make the astronomical starting salaries that the megafirms pay.  Most megafirms don't interview at most law schools, and most megafirms don't go very deep into the classes at most of the law schools at which they do interview.  Therefore, students may be making choices about law schools--and incurring (nondischargeable) debt--based on a misunderstanding of their likely earning power after law school.  See Andy Morriss and Bill Henderson's op-ed piece in the National Law Journal (here).  

As for employers, I've been very frustrated at their use of the USNWR rankings as a measure of quality of potential associates.  It's bad enough that schools are using grade cutoffs, rather than looking at students' full resumes, before deciding whom to interview.   (I've yet to see a client ask an associate to take an exam, but I have seen clients want students who can communicate well, research well, use emotional intelligence, and work in teams.)  But when employers use USNWR rankings to decide from which schools to select recruits, they're ignoring other relevant evidence that might help them choose valuable associates.  Why not take a look at where the firm's more valued current associates hail from?  Why not take a look at the regional law schools and the training that those schools give their graduates?  Why not spend a little more time interviewing the students on the front end, rather than hiring stellar resumes who won't fit in (and then bemoaning the costs of recruiting)?

Bravo to Andy and Bill for their continuing research in this area!


Colin said...

If firms use USNews as a guide to which schools to choose for associates, it's because they're piggybacking on all of the work done by admissions teams at those schools. I think we can safely, though not without tears, say that prospective students will follow the usnews rankings a great deal in their selection of which law school to go to. Given that, the real sorting power belongs to the admissions committees. All that thought that goes into reading essays and letters of recommendation and examining transcripts and [in some cases] doing interviews should, if law school admissions officers are doing their jobs properly, mean that students should already be very well sorted by the time they ever apply for a firm job where hiring partners don't have time to do another 10 round battery of examinations. To complain that law firms rely too heavily on usnews rankings is thus completely backwards.

Nancy Rapoport said...

A very thoughtful comment, Colin. Thanks!

Tim said...

Good Job! :)