GPA determines your career success, study finds
Submitted by Jack on Tue, 09/28/2010 - 11:04am
Law students have long known that grades are important in the job search. But a new study underscores just how important they are for long-term success as well. In fact, law school grades are far more important than the prestige of the school one attends, the study’s author’s state.
“The eliteness of one’s school, by itself, means little in the absence of high performance at school,” the report states. “The quantitative evidence also suggests that the importance of law school eliteness is exaggerated in most discussions about legal markets. Law firms, which once hired exclusively from a narrow set of elite firms, now hire associates from dozens of different law schools.”
The study found that grades are predictive of attorneys making partner at large law firms.
Jane Yakowitz, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School and one of the two authors of the study, said that student’s law school GPA today is far more predictive of success than the school’s ranking — which is different from the past.
Yakowitz wrote the article with Rick Sander, a law professor at University of California Los Angeles and a labor economist. It is based on several employment-tracking studies over the past few years. Sander undertook the study to determine whether admissions preferences help African Americans or hurt them in the long run.
“Law school should be viewed as the beginning of your legal career,” Sander said. “There is this remarkably pervasive conventional wisdom which dismisses law school as too theoretical.”
Sander advises students to take law school seriously and to avoid distractions.
Yakowitz said the study shows that night students are more distracted and don’t perform as well, as a result leading to less success in their legal career.
Sander said the study also shows that grades determine success on the bar exam.
“There is a widespread perception that bar review courses are really important,” he said. “That students can blow off three years of law school and take a bar prep course. And that is totally false. If you look at bar performance, law school grades predict 70 percent of bar performance.”
The study does not focus on why GPA is more predictive. But Sander said he feels that what law students are learning is directly relevant to skills as a lawyer.
“You get intellectual self-confidence from doing well in law school that helps you do better in your career,” he said.
Yakowitz said that it is a virtuous cycle. Once you start doing well, it motivates you through law school and your career.
But others see a different reason for the study’s findings.
William Henderson, a law professor at Indiana University-Bloomington, said the study’s data is solid. But he feels the reason behind it is more related to student’s motivation.
“There are two ways to get high grades,” he said. “You are really smart or you are somewhat smart and highly motivated. The purest form of motivation is found with people at the top of their class at regional law schools.”
He said students at regional schools are very aggressive and work hard, as they know they will not have the school pedigree to get by on.
Sander said the study shows that students who choose to attend a more elite school take a hit to their GPA. The study uses the following hypothetical to explain:
“Imagine an average student (GPA 3.25-3.5) at 47th ranked University of Florida,” the report states. “If she had attended 20th ranked George Washington University, her grades likely would have slipped to the 2.75-3.0 range, and her salary would drop considerably (by 22 percent.) If she had attended 80th ranked Rutgers, she probably could have improved her grades to land in the 3.5-3.75 range, and earned a 13 percent higher salary. Access to a top 10 school simply would not have been an option — even the weakest students at the top 10 law schools have higher entering credentials than the median student at a school in the middle of the rankings, so our comparisons are most meaningful within a range of 20-30 places in the rankings in either direction.”