Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
;

Author Topic: Seriously considering the $ at a T3 vs. admission at a T1 (JAG)  (Read 7335 times)

MorningYellofHorror

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 79
    • View Profile
Re: Seriously considering the $ at a T3 vs. admission at a T1 (JAG)
« Reply #50 on: July 05, 2008, 10:33:36 PM »
Er, because the Bush administration contravened decades of establish hiring practices at the DoJ?  There's been a bit of this in the news recently, yeah?  And hell, even the ideologues, for the most part, came from the top six law schools in the United States.  Every now and then there's somebody from Regents who first worked for the RNC or Chevron or the ACLJ, but they're still the exception and they're not entry-level. 

This is a commonly held misconception.  It is much harder to come out of Harvard or Yale or Columbia or Stanford or Chicago or NYU or Michigan with a job at Justice (through the Honors Program, which, apart from SCOTUS clerkships, is probably the most difficult get) than it is to come out of the same schools (and any down to around Texas and UCLA) with a job at a big firm.  Tip top of the class at a lower ranked school is by no means a guarantee. 

That doesn't mean you can't lateral over.  I'm sure there are plenty of assistant US Attorneys who weren't in the top twenty of their Harvard class, but that's not what we're talking about.  We're definitely not talking about US Attorneys or more senior officials at Justice, who are exclusively political appointees.  A Madagascar Law School grad could be Attorney General.  It has nothing to do with the department's hiring of careerists

As for the SEC, I don't think they make direct entry-level hires either.  And the Advanced Commitment Program is not as concrete as Honors and is probably about as competitive.   

kenpostudent

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 296
    • MSN Messenger - kenpostudent@hotmail.com
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Seriously considering the $ at a T3 vs. admission at a T1 (JAG)
« Reply #51 on: July 05, 2008, 10:53:04 PM »
Er, because the Bush administration contravened decades of establish hiring practices at the DoJ?  There's been a bit of this in the news recently, yeah?  And hell, even the ideologues, for the most part, came from the top six law schools in the United States.  Every now and then there's somebody from Regents who first worked for the RNC or Chevron or the ACLJ, but they're still the exception and they're not entry-level. 

This is a commonly held misconception.  It is much harder to come out of Harvard or Yale or Columbia or Stanford or Chicago or NYU or Michigan with a job at Justice (through the Honors Program, which, apart from SCOTUS clerkships, is probably the most difficult get) than it is to come out of the same schools (and any down to around Texas and UCLA) with a job at a big firm.  Tip top of the class at a lower ranked school is by no means a guarantee. 

That doesn't mean you can't lateral over.  I'm sure there are plenty of assistant US Attorneys who weren't in the top twenty of their Harvard class, but that's not what we're talking about.

As for the SEC, I don't think they make direct entry-level hires either.  And the Advanced Commitment Program is not as concrete as Honors and is probably about as competitive.   
 

The DOJ is very competitive, especially the Honor's Program. I'm not going to argue that point. Fresh out of school, it's tough to get into, regardless of which school you attend. Prestige may give you an advantage there. The SEC does hire fresh grads. It prefers to hire experienced attorneys, though. The fresh grads that it does hire mostly come from their summer honors program. If you do a paid or unpaid internship with them, your chances of getting hired fresh out of law school are improved drastically.

When making a lateral move to the DOJ, I'm not sure what factor Prestige will play. I suppose that depends on the individual office that is hiring. Five years out of law school, I'm not convinced that anyone cares where you went to school. Your law school will certainly no longer be a dispositive factor at that point. At best, it can only get your foot in the door. No one will hire you simply because of your school. Whether or not it gets your foot in the door is another matter. I suppose no one can truly resolve that dilemma. Harvard grads who get the jobs will be used as examples that prestige matters. That may not be the case, however. It could just be that they were the best applicants.

My mentors say that the school you attend is irrelevant once you have experience (assuming it is ABA accredited). I don't know if they are right, yet they are all successful in their own right and did not attend prestigious schools. They ended up ok. Others tell me a different story. My experience in the job market (although not the legal job market) backs what my mentors tell me, as does my research. I think prestige matters for certain types of jobs. For others, it's irrelevant.

Let's not forget that Andy Fastow and Jeffrey Skilling were products of prestigious schools. Coming from the Ivy League doesn't make you a better professional. The perception at Enron was that intellectual capital mattered; so, grads from top schools were hired. Those grads led to the demise of a great company and one of the best accounting firms in the country. Prestige isn't all it's cracked up to be, sometimes.

That's not to say that there is not a powerful perception of the superiority of top school grads in the legal community. There most certainly is a bias towards prestige. I'm not sure it is warranted, though.  Mark Geragos, Johnnie Cochran, Gloria Allred, Tom Mesereau, and Robert Shapiro are some of the most sought after trial lawyers in the country. They are loyola grads. Gerry Spence, arguably the best trial lawyer of our time, is a U of Wyoming grad. 

baileypicks24

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 220
  • You have food, a roof, and security. Shut up.
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Seriously considering the $ at a T3 vs. admission at a T1 (JAG)
« Reply #52 on: July 05, 2008, 11:04:21 PM »
Er, because the Bush administration contravened decades of establish hiring practices at the DoJ?  There's been a bit of this in the news recently, yeah?  And hell, even the ideologues, for the most part, came from the top six law schools in the United States.  Every now and then there's somebody from Regents who first worked for the RNC or Chevron or the ACLJ, but they're still the exception and they're not entry-level. 

In case anybody was interested in a good read:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/25/washington/24cnd-justice.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

So anybody know how it worked out for the OP one year later??

MorningYellofHorror

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 79
    • View Profile
Re: Seriously considering the $ at a T3 vs. admission at a T1 (JAG)
« Reply #53 on: July 05, 2008, 11:27:06 PM »
I certainly agree that prestige is not a perfect predictor (or even a predictor) of one's capacity to practice law.  It is, however, a very strong predictor of one's opportunity to practice law.  All the folks you mention, for example, are trial lawyers, who can be judged on returns in the same way an investment banker is judged on returns.  Prosecutors are the same way, but they're on a much tighter curve at the federal level. 

And I disagree that law school doesn't follow one around from job to job.  Take a look at the pedigrees of legal academics, partners at major law firms and federal jurists.  Yes, there's a selection bias (the best often go to the best schools), but that very same selection bias makes it even harder for graduates of less prestigious law schools (the best, who do the hiring, assume the best come from the best). 

On the current Supreme Court, we have one Northwestern, two Yales, five Harvards and one Columbia/Harvard.  The two Justices immediately past graduated one and two from Stanford.     

MorningYellofHorror

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 79
    • View Profile
Re: Seriously considering the $ at a T3 vs. admission at a T1 (JAG)
« Reply #54 on: July 05, 2008, 11:29:07 PM »
And yes.  He said he did poorly and dropped out. 

Someone suggested, if he was originally interested in the military itself rather than JAG, OCS.  I second that.  They'll help pay off his debt and get a Masters, which is the real first step toward his goal of teaching at the collegiate level.

kenpostudent

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 296
    • MSN Messenger - kenpostudent@hotmail.com
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Seriously considering the $ at a T3 vs. admission at a T1 (JAG)
« Reply #55 on: July 06, 2008, 01:19:23 AM »
I certainly agree that prestige is not a perfect predictor (or even a predictor) of one's capacity to practice law.  It is, however, a very strong predictor of one's opportunity to practice law.  All the folks you mention, for example, are trial lawyers, who can be judged on returns in the same way an investment banker is judged on returns.  Prosecutors are the same way, but they're on a much tighter curve at the federal level. 

And I disagree that law school doesn't follow one around from job to job.  Take a look at the pedigrees of legal academics, partners at major law firms and federal jurists.  Yes, there's a selection bias (the best often go to the best schools), but that very same selection bias makes it even harder for graduates of less prestigious law schools (the best, who do the hiring, assume the best come from the best). 

On the current Supreme Court, we have one Northwestern, two Yales, five Harvards and one Columbia/Harvard.  The two Justices immediately past graduated one and two from Stanford.     

I seriously doubt that Supreme Court Justices and academics end up where they are because of the school they attended. The best and the brightest go to those schools. It's no surprise that many end up in the most coveted jobs. Plenty of Harvard and Yale grads did not end up on the Supreme Court. I don't think their school's reputation even came up in the confirmation hearings.

I think your law school's rep can help you get interview all through your career, I just don't believe that it is a deciding factor after your first job. If a recruiter for a firm or the government has two candidates, one from a T3 school with a solid litigation record and an outstanding resume and the other from Harvard who is less impressive overall, do you think he would choose the Harvard grad? I'm not certain they would if we are talking about two candidates with three to five years of legal experience. I think relevant experience would trump law school prestige. I may be wrong, but only an idiot would hire the Harvard grad with a less impressive work history over the T3 grad with an impeccable resume or strong litigation record.

That being said, I think the top school grads often have impressive records because they get good opportunities out of school. It's not always the case, though. I don't think the prestige is the cause, it's simply an effect of being the cream of the crop.

MorningYellofHorror

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 79
    • View Profile
Re: Seriously considering the $ at a T3 vs. admission at a T1 (JAG)
« Reply #56 on: July 06, 2008, 04:30:58 AM »
I think it depends upon the specialty.  Plaintiff's lawyers, for example, can build up mightily impressive resumes without the connections or prestige often necessary at other firms.

We have two alternatives here:

1.  There is a bias toward graduates of top law programs (say the top fourteen plus Texas, Vanderbilt and UCLA).  The more prestigious the field, the narrower the bias (say the current top nine, that is the top eleven schools ranked one through nine).  For a big headstart in corporate law, the top six.  For a big headstart in legal academia and elite public interest, Harvard, Yale and Stanford.  Statistics seem to suggest this.  If you take Supreme Court Justices, which was just one extreme example, 27% have come from four schools-Michigan, Columbia, Yale and Harvard-and make up close to half of all Justices who graduated from law school.  And it's a larger share of Justices in the modern era.

2.  Very few outstanding law students attend lower ranked schools (and by lower, I mean outside the top six plus Boalt, Michigan and UVa, which produce the vast majority of legal academics, federal jurists, senior prosecutors in major jurisdictions and partners at major law firms).  This may well be true, but, if true, it's irrelevant to the question.  The larger the share of outstanding attorneys who come from the best schools, the less likely it is that attorneys from lower ranked schools, even outstanding attorneys, will be given the same sort of opportunities during and after law school.  Perhaps this head start makes more of a difference than the degree itself, but the net effect is the same. 

This is not to say that one cannot do very well coming from other schools, by any means, but I don't think one can say that the prestige of a degree begins to wear off after four or five yes.  Yes, a graduate from Columbia or Stanford who's performed very poorly is not going to have the same traction he did upon graduation, but there are plenty of graduates from Columbia and Stanford who excelled in law school, had terrific internships, clerked for federal judges, were on prestigious law reviews and were expected to do terribly wonderful things by terribly wonderful people.  It's tough, not impossible, but tough for equally able lawyers who didn't have those things to compete, particularly in the middling period of one's career.   

 

kenpostudent

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 296
    • MSN Messenger - kenpostudent@hotmail.com
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Seriously considering the $ at a T3 vs. admission at a T1 (JAG)
« Reply #57 on: July 06, 2008, 05:26:01 AM »
I guess the career track is critical. Practice areas that require heavy litigation are probably less subject to prestige bias. After all, you have to sink or swim in the courtroom. I think this is true in accounting, as well. No one cares where their accountant went to school partially because of the inherent difficulty of the profession and partially because regulations change too quickly. Also, there is just too much work for too few bodies.

In academia, your analysis is dead-on. I have found that academics of all stripes, not just law, value prestige far too much. It doesn't surprise me that law is just more of the same. In academia, there is really no put-up-or-shut-up component. You are judged by your pedigree and how eloquently you can write and speak. Academia values research, adding to the body of scholarly work.  It's not called the Ivory Tower because it's a difficult profession. However, in fields where true man-to-man competition take place, pedigree is of far less importance.  This is not to say that academia is not somewhat difficult. It's just that you can be full of BS for a long time before someone proves you wrong in academia. In court, there is not so much lag time between incompetence and ultimate failure.

I think big law firms are more about attracting and keeping clients than about winning cases. Much of big firm work does not require litigation so much as consulting and contract review. In these instances, prestige is of high importance because the firm can tout graduates from the best schools. Let's face it, classism plays a part in it. The truly upper class have a different persona and style about them. They tend to stick together.  I think the common denominator is that many big law and big government jobs are more image conscious.

To give you a perfect example, I practice martial arts. Lineage is martial arts is important to ensure you are training in a pure art and learning or teaching valid technique. Lineage matters most to higher ranked black belts. However, in a fight, lineage means nothing. In the UFC, we have all seen what happened when high ranked black belts stepped in the ring. Many were stomped by martial artists without the lineage or pedigree. Now, lineage is of less importance outside of traditional martial arts circles. Martial arts has a whole has moved toward practicality instead of prestige.

The reason that I say that one's law school is of little importance after about five years or so is because clients simply don't care where their lawyer went to school. Employers may, but I think experience matters more at that point. Not that everyone will be able to compete with the top grads. For entry into big law, I'm not sure litigation experience would trump prestige and the high profile clerkships that come with it. Litigation is not the coin of the realm in big law. Big law is all about billable hours and client retention. 

In government, I think it depends on the agency. The DOJ recruiters that I have spoken to say they value experience more than the reputation of one's law school. This may be part of a canned speech. What they do in practice may be quite different. The DOJ seems to have high, turn over, though and always seems to be hurting for experienced attorneys. I can't imagine that only T14 grads are getting those jobs. I wonder if there is a website that gives bios of federal prosecutors. That would settle this.

MorningYellofHorror

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 79
    • View Profile
Re: Seriously considering the $ at a T3 vs. admission at a T1 (JAG)
« Reply #58 on: July 06, 2008, 06:34:15 AM »
I'm not sure we disagree.  In trial work, it's certainly possible to overcome one's degree (and, conversely, to squander it).  In securities, it's not as easy.  Graduates from top schools have a lot more opportunities.  Incompetence can be a leveler, but I'm not sure that competence can.

And what the hell are we doing up so late?

CoxlessPair

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 770
    • View Profile
Re: Seriously considering the $ at a T3 vs. admission at a T1 (JAG)
« Reply #59 on: July 06, 2008, 01:33:00 PM »
And yes.  He said he did poorly and dropped out. 

Someone suggested, if he was originally interested in the military itself rather than JAG, OCS.  I second that.  They'll help pay off his debt and get a Masters, which is the real first step toward his goal of teaching at the collegiate level.

Is no one else pissed that the spent the time posting on this thread when OP was an 0L and now he dropped out? Lots of thoughtful advice pissed away.
Air Force JAG Corps