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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

More on Law School Rankings by BigLaw Partners

Following up on my post on the recent article by Tax Prof Theodore P. Seto (Loyola-L.A.), Where Do Partners Come From?, 62 J. Legal Educ. 242 (2012):  my Pepperdine colleague Rob Anderson argues in a series of posts on his Witnesseth -- Law, Deals & Data blog that a better ranking of law schools by the number of BigLaw partners they produce would take class size into account through a per capita measure rather than a raw number measure:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2012/12/more-on-.html

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Comments

Yes and no. Prof. Anderson fails to take account of the importance of networking factors. Simply stated, the larger law schools--including for example Harvard, Georgetown, Fordham, and George Washington--have a networking bias that is inherent in Prof. Seto's figures but excluded from Prof. Anderson's size-adjusted rankings. Few people would argue that the presence of multiple Harvard and Georgetown alumni on the partnership and hiring committees is not a plus for grads of those schools.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Dec 26, 2012 6:46:29 AM

Any "networking factor" is likely reflected in the numbers (or more importantly, percentage) of students that big law firms currently hire, which is available here:

http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?interactive=true&id=1202543436520

The numbers show the Seto's article is useless (and down right misleading in many instances such as his own school) when it comes to determining how likely one is to get hired at a big firm currently out of a particular school.

I am still just completely dumbfounded that Seto put this article out, there with his name on it, without adequately addressing the per capita issue, and without adequately caveating its relevance to current prospective law students. It's so evident that you would be crazy to attend Seto's school if your hope is to get a job in biglaw (you'd have about a 1 in 20 chance vs. a 1 in 3 chance at, oh, let's say, Vanderbilt).

Posted by: Anon | Dec 26, 2012 10:29:24 AM

Check out Professor Anderson's response to this question in the comments to his December 18th post:

"James, I think that's a great point and one I actually considered addressing in the post but didn't to keep it short. You are probably right that the number of partners already within a firm is helpful for students' outcomes on a per-capita basis. This could be because of conscious or unconscious preference given to alumni from one's own school. A "critical mass" of partners can be a beachhead for an upstart school to expand its employment prospects, and a dominating presence could reinforce the lock of an "establishment" school.

However, Seto's data looks back so far in time (to 1986) that any such effect should be reflected in the per-capita numbers *now*. In other words, to the extent that the "beachhead" or "establishment" effects help current students, we should see that effect in current per-capita numbers, which is the data that would be most relevant in decision-making.

Where raw numbers might be interesting is the case where a school had made large gains in partner representation in recent years, which might foreshadow per-capita success in the future. That's not what Seto's ranking measures, however."

Posted by: Anonymous | Dec 26, 2012 5:07:46 PM