TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, March 16, 2012

More on Top 14 Law School Grads: Too Good for BigLaw?

Following on Sunday's post, Top 14 Law School Grads: Too Good for BigLaw?:

I just couldn't help myself from digging into the data a little.  ... I found the same NLJ data from 2010, and did a little comparison.


Red "Xs" are the "Top 14" law schools, while black dots are the rest; I labeled a few of the outliers. The data are noisy: the simple (Pearson) correlation between the two years is 0.32.  But the correlation is driven almost entirely by the difference between elite and non-elite schools: the correlation among non-elite schools only is 0.06, while that among elite schools only is a paltry 0.02.  Moreover, the aggregate differences between Top 14 and non-Top 14 schools are large, averaging 17.2% vs. 28% in 2010 and 15.9% vs. 40.5% in 2011.

So, while the data are noisy, the larger pattern still holds: More elite schools have consistently lower "partner yield rates" than do less elite, tier-one schools.  While this doesn't begin to get at the various reasons why this might be happening, it does lend some support to the idea that there's something here worth looking into.

This post by some empirically-minded law profs is getting some buzz. The principal claim is that young lawyers from lower-ranked schools will be more likely to make partner than those from higher-ranked schools. This conclusion (with the notable data caveats described in the post) is followed by various speculative explanations.

Some extremely interesting, powerful comments on the Henderson argument from my able empirical-legal colleagues.

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Why is this surprising? Forgive me if I state the obvious, but lasting more than 5 years in big law (or any serious law practice) is absolutely grueling (you don't see too many law professors with that feather in their cap).

Making partner takes a commitment and personal sacrifice that is borderline inhumane.

It's no wonder that folks from the lower ranked schools have the drive and tenacity to do so at higher rates than those from the elites who, quite frankly, have cushy in house jobs, academia, and trust funds to fall back on...It's a mindset.

Law firms would be well served to ramp up hiring to reflect this reality as it is clearly a better strategic use of their recruiting and training resources.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 16, 2012 4:23:02 PM