Friday, August 06, 2010

The Blindness of Law School Hiring Committees

Although the details are not evident from this short article, the idea seems to be that the grades a law student makes in school are more important than the school attended in determining career success. I mention this because I have seen first hand hiring committee's turn their noses up at a top ten grad from, say, Minnesota, in favor of a bottom of the top third or even lower -- much lower- Harvard grad. There is no way to put it other than it is an empirically unsound way to make the hiring decision. Why do they do that. Not to bore you for the 10th time, but for the most part the committees are composed of elitists and the hiring is self-referential -- they are hiring themselves or what they wannabe. So each year another batch of elite grads roles into a profession that has grown terribly stale and humorless. Plus, they are not that well educated. In fact, when I consider the interests of, let's say, an Exeter, Princeton, Harvard grad (the most elitist combo I can think of right now) I wonder what is going in in the classroom.

Could we test this. Not really. A few years ago I compared publications by elitist school grads with those of non elite schools. The problem was that once you get out of the second tier of Law Schools you are hard pressed to find any non elite grads to make the study meaningful.

Really, I think Harvard and Yale could start producing the Yugo car and half the law professors in the US would salivate to have one (especially if it came with a Harvard vanity plate). Why do I believe that? Because they already produce Yugo grads and the profs salivate.


Me said...

I'm playing devil's advocate here: If people who evaluate law schools (e.g. prospective students, those who compile rankings, etc.) give (undue?) weight to the number of faculty members the school has from top schools, it would make sense to to try to hire from there heavily.

Anonymous said...

So I am curious. What do you think that these people make of students at non-elite schools? Even the ones at the school where they teach? Is there some type of inherent bias that looks down on even their own students, or is it something else?

Anonymous said...

It all comes down to human nature.

People will always find a way to distinguish themselves based on status, rather than accomplishment.

I'm a student at UF, and the class bias that your blogs deals with at the faculty level occurs at the student level as well.

The average UF law student doesnt give a rats ass about what concerns the average uneducated person.

We're more concerned with maintaining the status quo, but also paying lipservice to things like 1. the poor 2. the environment to inflate our our status.

I could go on, but why bother. Anyone that really cares about what happens to your average joe is basically irrelevant in the world ruled by the people mentioned above.

Jeffrey Harrison said...

Thanks, I will respond in the order of the comments.
1. No ranking system asks where the professors went to school
2. If you want to know what they think of non elite grads try to find Florida grads who are law professers. There is an inherent and obvious bias. On the other hand, many professors like the students very much and notice outstanding ones but, would not dream of hiring them even though some could run circles around their profs. Some profs just kiss butt, express concern, are always there for you in order to get higher evals. Way it is. The students are a means to their ends.
3. It seems you are suggesting UF students are elitist. I don't see it that way but I do not know them the way other students do.

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