Oh, late 80s is different. Firms are much more likely to look at lower ranked schools than they were in the 1980s. I think the thing you are missing in the logic is that firms like numbers because it saves them time. If they go to 100 different schools with no grade cutoffs whatsoever, they are going to get tens of thousands of resumes that they will have to comb through and evaluate. Do you know how long that would take? Also, partners like the idea that it is the lawyers, and the lawyers alone, that make recruiting decisions, so they would have to take associate and partner time away from billing clients to sort resumes. Will not happen. Instead, they establish grade cutoffs in all but the top schools in order to get a rough proxy of quality. good work experience is all well and good, but you have to read through a resume to find it. On the other hand, grades are quite easy to use as a filtering mechanism to save time.