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Author Topic: Law Firm 'Aggressive Racial Preferences'  (Read 11276 times)

redemption

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Re: Law Firm 'Aggressive Racial Preferences'
« Reply #50 on: December 01, 2006, 10:59:23 AM »
1. There is a much much smaller gap in performance when the exam is take-home [fact].

2. These take-home exams are more complex than 3-hr proctored exams [fact].

3. These take-home exams more closely approximate real lawyering [fact].

mae8

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Re: Law Firm 'Aggressive Racial Preferences'
« Reply #51 on: December 01, 2006, 12:57:32 PM »
You're in law school, right?  Most of our professors here are humble enough to tell us that law school exams test a certain narrow range of skills, not ability to understand the law or function as a lawyer.  Indeed, they constantly say stupid things like "Grades are not very important" (Yalies!).  I'm sure this is, in part, a self-interested and cynical statement intended to shut down requests for grade changes and such, but I think there's plenty of truth to it.

On the other hand, sure, I can imagine that issue-spotting is a key skill for attorneys (though not for associates in their first several years of practice at biglaw firms, alas, since document review and such really don't require this kind of insight).  But unless you have one professor for more than one semester, in a typical exam-based class, you are not able to adjust to learn how to "jump through hoops and judge what an [s/he] wants" on the exam.  In the firm, one has much more time to learn, through both trial and error and (more important) a network of knowledgeable peers and superiors how to please those senior associates and partners.  Being able to listen to social cues, accept criticism, and adjust one's behavior accordingly are all very different qualities than those that lead to superior performance on an issue-spotter.  And if you've ever read model student answers to law school exams, you know that the writing quality falls far short of that one might seek in a legal memo.

I'm not saying grades don't tell you something.  I'm saying that they may not tell you all of the things you need to know about someone before deciding to ask her to join your firm.  Again, I haven't seen any good research on this, and I'm always open to evidence that I am wrong.  I think looking at the data for other associates with poor grades and for black associates with good grades might help us sort this out.

Also, I'd be interested in your thoughts on whether top students at lower-ranked law schools might be better recruiting candidates for firms, since you seem to believe that the emphasis on GPA/class rank makes sense.

our profs say the much the same things. nevermind that they would never have gotten their jobs if they were not top 10% but whatever. one of the profs here likes to tell a story about her worst exam where she gave a great analysis of a tertiary issue but completely missed the largest and clearly most critical issue. it was only one class so obviously she was able to make up for it in other classes but i would think if someone repeatedly fails to recognize the critical legal issue in a fact pattern they are missing some essential skills. maybe in a couple weeks we'll discover i dont have those skills, who knows.

about the "hoops" i think your response is well reasoned but at the same time everything i've heard is that it is important to learn exactly what a prof looks for in an exam, political beliefs, views on the legitimacy of specific theories, etc. these would seem to be important "skills." obviously the writing quality of a three hour exam is never going to approach that of a good memo but i would still think you'd see pretty significant differences between what a great writer puts together in that time and an average one.

i dont think we're in total disagreement by any means. i dont think grades are everything but i just know personally the classes where i expect the most trouble are ones where im less confident and less well versed in the materials. because of that im less likely to spot all the intricacies of the issues and write effectively about them. i dont think this is an illusory deficit.

just going off of the behavior of firms it would seem a top student at a ttt can compete with students from top schools. if a top ttt student can overcome the huge hiring biases of firms filled with t14 attorneys that seems evidence in itself that grades are predictive of some important measures. the top student at nyls is competing for many of the same jobs t6 students are, assuming of course they didnt transfer to cls which they could have done because schools also put this kind of importance on grades. schools accept transfers based almost entirely on grades, either this is irrational behavior on their part because grades dont measure memo writing skills or whatnot or they know from their experience that these people are more likely to do well at any school and become successful alums. obviously there is an inherent unfairness in the system that much like the lsat, magnifies exceedingly small differences like top 5% v. top 15% but if the discussion is about large gaps i think we're talking about substantive differences.

although he hasnt studied it extensively sanford posits that since smaller firms are less likely to have big grade gaps between white and black associates, minorities actually report similar satisfaction, partner contact etc. more study on this would be helful because we could better distill the effects of racism within firms from grade-ism.
Emory '09

queencruella

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Re: Law Firm 'Aggressive Racial Preferences'
« Reply #52 on: December 01, 2006, 02:59:34 PM »
Again, hiring practices are primarily economically motivated. Firms seek to hire minorities because clients are now demanding that they work with diverse legal teams instead of teams consisting entirely of white men. Top firms hire at top schools because they can get butts in the seats and waste as little time and money doing it. LEt's fact it, employee turnover is high for new associates, so companies choose to spend little hiring new associates and then take in other promising candidates as lateral transfers. Small firms tend to hire in a different fashion and hire new associates with the hopes that they will eventually become partners. They don't have the money to replace their whole staff every 3 years.

I really think that there is less of a difference among students at any one school than people assume. People who perform well in legal writing may not be at the top of the class or even near the top of the class in classes that are more test-based because other issues come into play like nervousness, time management, and editing skills. A great legal writer may be one who goes back and looks at his work a few hours or even a few days later, while that is not possible during other exams. I do think that if you are generally a poor legal writer, you will have trouble on exams that require a specific format, but lots of profs don't even care how you do it.  I think all law school transfer stats tell us is that people who perform well at one law school will be presumed to perform well in any law school- not that they're necessarily going to do better once they get out into the field.

mae8

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Re: Law Firm 'Aggressive Racial Preferences'
« Reply #53 on: December 01, 2006, 03:29:54 PM »
Again, hiring practices are primarily economically motivated. Firms seek to hire minorities because clients are now demanding that they work with diverse legal teams instead of teams consisting entirely of white men. Top firms hire at top schools because they can get butts in the seats and waste as little time and money doing it. LEt's fact it, employee turnover is high for new associates, so companies choose to spend little hiring new associates and then take in other promising candidates as lateral transfers. Small firms tend to hire in a different fashion and hire new associates with the hopes that they will eventually become partners. They don't have the money to replace their whole staff every 3 years.

I really think that there is less of a difference among students at any one school than people assume. People who perform well in legal writing may not be at the top of the class or even near the top of the class in classes that are more test-based because other issues come into play like nervousness, time management, and editing skills. A great legal writer may be one who goes back and looks at his work a few hours or even a few days later, while that is not possible during other exams. I do think that if you are generally a poor legal writer, you will have trouble on exams that require a specific format, but lots of profs don't even care how you do it.  I think all law school transfer stats tell us is that people who perform well at one law school will be presumed to perform well in any law school- not that they're necessarily going to do better once they get out into the field.
if anyone has evidence that minorities are disproportionately successful in legal writing please share. otherwise you're disputing objective evidence with baseless theories.
Emory '09

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Re: Law Firm 'Aggressive Racial Preferences'
« Reply #54 on: December 01, 2006, 03:37:40 PM »
Again, hiring practices are primarily economically motivated. Firms seek to hire minorities because clients are now demanding that they work with diverse legal teams instead of teams consisting entirely of white men. Top firms hire at top schools because they can get butts in the seats and waste as little time and money doing it. LEt's fact it, employee turnover is high for new associates, so companies choose to spend little hiring new associates and then take in other promising candidates as lateral transfers. Small firms tend to hire in a different fashion and hire new associates with the hopes that they will eventually become partners. They don't have the money to replace their whole staff every 3 years.

I really think that there is less of a difference among students at any one school than people assume. People who perform well in legal writing may not be at the top of the class or even near the top of the class in classes that are more test-based because other issues come into play like nervousness, time management, and editing skills. A great legal writer may be one who goes back and looks at his work a few hours or even a few days later, while that is not possible during other exams. I do think that if you are generally a poor legal writer, you will have trouble on exams that require a specific format, but lots of profs don't even care how you do it.  I think all law school transfer stats tell us is that people who perform well at one law school will be presumed to perform well in any law school- not that they're necessarily going to do better once they get out into the field.
if anyone has evidence that minorities are disproportionately successful in legal writing please share. otherwise you're disputing objective evidence with baseless theories.

I'm not saying anyone's disproportionately successful- all I am saying is that there is a possibility that someone who is in a lower percentile may do well in legal writing but not on exams. I know people who have done quite well in legal writing but their grades generally aren't at the same level. It just seems like you are the one who is making baseless claims.

Miss P

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Re: Law Firm 'Aggressive Racial Preferences'
« Reply #55 on: December 01, 2006, 03:42:41 PM »
if anyone has evidence that minorities are disproportionately successful in legal writing please share. otherwise you're disputing objective evidence with baseless theories.

Black students do not have to be disproportionately successful (relative to their share of the student population) in legal writing for what queencruella is saying to make sense.  Black students don't even have to be proportionally represented among top legal-writing students.  The point is simply that legal writing grades may be very different from grades in exam-based classes, and they may say more about one's ability to perform the tasks of a young associate at a big law firm.  I think redemption has posted some stuff about how racial disparities in grades go down significantly when people are not under time pressure and have opportunities for revision.  Perhaps she can help you out with the sociological research.  

More fundamentally, I don't see that anyone (including Sander himself) has shown that black associates leave because they are not qualified to do the work.  Is this really the issue?  

Finally, I find it curious that you are so willing to refer to qc's speculation as a "baseless theory" when all you have offered is your own insight that law school exams test (and therefore law school grades reflect) the most important skills for young associates.
That's cool how you referenced a case.

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Miss P

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Re: Law Firm 'Aggressive Racial Preferences'
« Reply #56 on: December 01, 2006, 03:43:13 PM »
Oh, sorry, qc, I didn't see your post first.
That's cool how you referenced a case.

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mae8

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Re: Law Firm 'Aggressive Racial Preferences'
« Reply #57 on: December 01, 2006, 04:13:10 PM »
if anyone has evidence that minorities are disproportionately successful in legal writing please share. otherwise you're disputing objective evidence with baseless theories.

Black students do not have to be disproportionately successful (relative to their share of the student population) in legal writing for what queencruella is saying to make sense.  Black students don't even have to be proportionally represented among top legal-writing students.  The point is simply that legal writing grades may be very different from grades in exam-based classes, and they may say more about one's ability to perform the tasks of a young associate at a big law firm.  I think redemption has posted some stuff about how racial disparities in grades go down significantly when people are not under time pressure and have opportunities for revision.  Perhaps she can help you out with the sociological research.  

More fundamentally, I don't see that anyone (including Sander himself) has shown that black associates leave because they are not qualified to do the work.  Is this really the issue?  

Finally, I find it curious that you are so willing to refer to qc's speculation as a "baseless theory" when all you have offered is your own insight that law school exams test (and therefore law school grades reflect) the most important skills for young associates.

this is actually what i said but ok. "i dont think we're in total disagreement by any means. i dont think grades are everything"
"one of the profs here likes to tell a story about her worst exam where she gave a great analysis of a tertiary issue but completely missed the largest and clearly most critical issue. it was only one class so obviously she was able to make up for it in other classes but i would think if someone repeatedly fails to recognize the critical legal issue in a fact pattern they are missing some essential skills."
"ask your profs what they think is the difference between a great exam and a bad one. maybe they'll say it's random or maybe they'll say it demonstrates substantive differences ranging from ability to write effectively, work under pressure, or perform legal analysis. maybe it just tests the ability to jump through hoops and judge what an irrational prof wants, not unlike being able to judge what an irrational partner wants.
personally i do think grades are much more important in predicting success of a young associate than community service or leadership positions in student orgs. "

point out where i said "law school exams test (and therefore law school grades reflect) the most important skills for young associates."

you're correct sander isnt necessarily saying anything about blacks not being able to do the work. he's talking about the quality of work they receive, mentoring opps, etc and how this may lead them to leave the firm- all based on the perception that they may be less likely to succeed. maybe partners are racist or maybe they're elitist with regards to incoming credentials. more likely they're both but what i got from the article was we shouldnt discount the possibility that partners and senior associates in a prestigewhoring profession will be inherently biased againt people not on lr, from lower schools, in the bottom half of the class etc.

i look forward to seeing the evidence that red apparently has.
Emory '09

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Re: Law Firm 'Aggressive Racial Preferences'
« Reply #58 on: December 01, 2006, 05:04:42 PM »
Let's not get off on the wrong foot.  I didn't mean to be obnoxious (at least not until I read "baseless theories"), and I apologize for overstating your (and perhaps Sander's -- though I have read the article, and I'm not sure) position about grades.

I think we got caught up in a red herring about qualifications, when the real issue is partners' perceptions of qualifications (which may be influenced by grades or by other things) and whatever other factors may lead to young black associates' leaving firms at a rate disproportionate to other groups.

you're correct sander isnt necessarily saying anything about blacks not being able to do the work. he's talking about the quality of work they receive, mentoring opps, etc and how this may lead them to leave the firm- all based on the perception that they may be less likely to succeed. maybe partners are racist or maybe they're elitist with regards to incoming credentials. more likely they're both but what i got from the article was we shouldnt discount the possibility that partners and senior associates in a prestigewhoring profession will be inherently biased againt people not on lr, from lower schools, in the bottom half of the class etc.

I don't think that this is all Sander is saying, but I do agree roughly that these perceptions (be they perfectly well-founded, racist, elitist, or anything else) may cause all sorts of disparate treatment within the firm that leads to black associates' dissatisfaction. 

Assuming, arguendo, that Sander is correct that treatment within the firm has something (a lot) to do with grades, it's a problem -- a racist problem -- if partners expect less of black associates because black associates on the aggregate have lower grades than white associates.  This is why I have consistently suggested looking at the experiences of non-black associates who were hired with poor grades and the experiences of black associates who were hired with grades in the firms' normal ranges.  These data could help us understand whether it is individual associates' grades or rather the perception of their grades based on their race that causes the disparate treatment. 

I tend to believe that recent anti-affirmative action work (like Sander's mismatch theory) exacerbates whatever irrational biases partners may have, whether those biases be against attorneys who enter with low grades or black attorneys.  It both elevates law school grading to a perfect science of merit and denigrates (pun intended, I guess) black law students at top schools.

Last, it's possible that rewarding grades at the expense of other achievements may be a way of replicating whatever racial biases exist in law school grades.  I do not know enough about this to comment much further, but, for instance, the smaller race gap in take-home exam performance may suggest that law schools should emphasize use take-home exams, and they do not.
That's cool how you referenced a case.

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Re: Law Firm 'Aggressive Racial Preferences'
« Reply #59 on: December 01, 2006, 05:11:13 PM »
Woohoo!  BAFF for procrastination at work tonight!
Pish, J only wants to waste YOUR time.  Get wise.