Sunday, August 9, 2015
Law firm hires exclusively from toilet schools
I have said before that only a dozen or so law schools in the whole US deserve consideration by those who are not independently wealthy (http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.ca/2014/12/guest-post-by-old-guy-which-law-schools.html). I have warned that a degree from a bottom-end law school will effectively exclude its bearer from a decent career in law.
Well, I am wrong. At least one law firm not only hires but even prefers graduates of toilet schools—to the point of refusing to consider their counterparts from Harvard and Yale:
Adam Leitman Bailey proclaims, urbi et orbi, that his small New York law firm specializing in real estate will not hire "from the Ivy League [s]chools". (Apparently he uses the term "Ivy League" loosely.) Instead, it recruits "from the top of the classes of the second, third or fourth tier [sic] law schools". These worthies work half time during the semester (those coming from, say, Thomas Jefferson face a rather long commute) or full time during the summer. After graduation, some of them may return to full-time jobs, eventually even partnerships.
An exciting development! At least one employer covets the top-performing students at every Cooley from Maine to California. First "JD advantage", now "toilet advantage"!
Mr. Bailey "admire[s] the top ranking [sic] law schools". So why won't he hire their graduates? "First, the top students from these law schools have no interest in applying for a job at our firm." Ay, there's the rub. Do I taste the characteristic flavor of sour grapes?
Second, from the premise that "many of these law schools either fail to rank their students or do not even grade them at all", Mr. Bailey concludes that "[t]heir students typically have no incentive to get the best grades in their classes" or "to squeeze as much learning as possible out of the law school [sic] experience". It is true that some of the good (NB: not "the best") law schools, including my own, adopt that policy. But so do some toilets. And it does not follow that the students have no incentive to get high grades or to learn as much as they can. Nor does a high class rank from a Cooley, which may well use multiple-choice exams, attest to great learning.
Third, according to Mr. Bailey, "the statistics show that almost every large law firm offers all of the summer associates full time [sic] jobs. In order for the top law firms to attract the brightest students they must also show that in past years all of the candidates received job offers." Sorry, Rip Van Winkle, but none of that is true in 2015. Even at élite academies, many bright students struggle to find work anywhere. They would not idly reject an offer from a top firm just because it had declined to hire a few people back. And white-shoe law firms in recent years have rejected many a summer associate. Some have postponed their entire cohort, deferred or rescinded offers, and even reduced or eliminated their summer-associate program. Of course, former summer associates are also free to decline a job offer in order to work for Mr. Bailey's firm. So Mr. Bailey's argument does not support his refusal to consider students from the good law schools.
Fourth, those students focus their academic attentions on "political theory and international law and classes on capital punishment", whereas Mr. Bailey's firm needs "trial practice, corporations, tax, civil procedure and any real estate and litigation course offered". Really? Civil procedure is part of the curriculum everywhere. And most of the students at the good schools do take some of those other courses. Besides, the presence of a course on the transcript does not prove significant knowledge of the subject, nor does the absence of a course prove ignorance.
And do students at the toilet schools really opt for the meat and potatoes of Mr. Bailey's practice? Unconvinced, I had a look at Indiana Tech's offerings (http://law.indianatech.edu/academics/curriculum/courses/). Real estate is limited to the single course Landlord Tenant Law. Taxation is represented by a single course, Federal Income Tax EPT, that pertains to the taxation of individuals only. On the other hand, Indiana Tech's students enjoy a sprawling smorgasbord of fluffy offerings, including Sports Law, Sexuality and the Law Seminar, numerous courses ostensibly pertaining to global leadership, and, most ridiculously (Dougie Fresh's fingerprints are all over this), Hip Hop and the American Constitution. Indiana Tech also requires six semesters of Foundations of Legal Analysis, at least the last four semesters of which are bar review. Similar candy-ass offerings typify toilets other than Fort Wayne's pride and joy.
To hire those "who have competed for three years for the top grades and at the same time who have learned topics relevant to our real estate [sic—learn to use the hyphen, for Christ's sake] practice", Mr. Bailey pursues the top graduates of toilet schools. Even on his own terms, however, that approach does not work. Top graduates of toilets have not necessarily had to compete: someone in a class full of underperformers will get first place, and outranking those who could not get into a good law school does not attest to a competitive spirit. Nor have those graduates necessarily learned anything relevant to real-estate practice or, for that matter, to legal practice of whatsoever kind. The best shit, after all, is still shit.
Concluding what is obviously a faux-contrarian bid for publicity rather than an appraisal of law schools and their graduates, Mr. Bailey vaunts his firm's "ability to hire the best candidates based purely on merit, not aristocracy". He is right about the largely aristocratic character of the Harvards and the Yales—something that I, one of the relatively few non-aristocrats to graduate from one of those universities, can corroborate. But selecting "purely on merit", however defined, is inconsistent with blanket exclusions—particularly of those graduates whose law schools, despite their faults, at least manage to people their classes with top performers by the measures of GPA and LSAT score. In any event, I would not look for "the best candidates" by scouring the top ranks of Charleston, Appalachian, and Arizona Summit.