« on: April 15, 2008, 05:05:50 PM »
I'm not impartial, but (hopefully) well-reasoned. I contemplated attending lower-ranked T1 schools and certainly wasn't solely prestige-focused. The disparity between my large public undergrad and the resources and opportunities available at my T14 -- as well as the reception I get with the fancy name on the resume, has convinced me I made the right decision. My undergrad/law school combo allows me to feel equally at home in two circles: I can go "down home" back to my roots with certain groups, and hold my own with the elites. (The T14 degree is essential to this because firms are inherently elitist.)
I'm still in school, but worked in "the leading class" before going to law school.
What makes a good lawyer? It depends on the type of law. Thinking of traditional biglaw litigators going for partner, I'd probably suggest the following:
More than anything, I believe what makes a good lawyer is a form of intelligence called cognitive complexity -- essentially, the ability to see an argument from both sides, explore the relationships between pieces of information, multidimensional thinking. It encompasses creative thinking and critical thinking skills.
A few other qualities: the ability to translate that into an argument form, the ability to efficiently explain difficult concepts, judgment and intuition, and people skills: the ability to quickly read people, identify their needs, cultivate relationships and sell. And being viewed as a social asset, competent and respected is more important than being the most popular. So it wouldn't matter what the hell the public thinks, and I don't know or care why some lawyers like lawyer jokes.
I purposefully used the vague term "leading class" because I didn't want to constrain it with "old money" associations. "Old money" groups overlap but don't define leading class. I mainly mean, though, the kinds of people that you would likely encounter working in biglaw -- the people who chair every high society board, millionaire partners, CEOs/business executives, judges, etc.