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Students From Lower-Tier Schools Are Happier at BigLaw

Great credentials may or may not make better lawyers, but apparently they don't make more satisfied lawyers. That's the conclusion of a study entitled "After the JD" by the American Bar Foundation, which found that those graduates of nonelite law schools who work at Am Law 100 and 200 firms are happier than their colleagues from top-tier schools, and they tend to stick around longer too. The September issue of The American Lawyer (and this excerpt at The Am Law Daily) analyzes the study results.

The conclusions reflect common sense: Grads of lower-tier schools often work harder to nab positions at BigLaw and, as a result, they're more grateful for the opportunities. In addition, these grads may have fewer options than their top-tier colleagues so they probably don't suffer from the "grass is greener" syndrome.

During boom times just a few years ago, large firms dipped deeper into the law school ranks to meet their demand for associates. Now, with hiring on the decline, firms will likely return to their more selective hiring practices, even though it isn't necessarily in their best interests. As American Lawyer Editor-in-Chief Aric Press writes here:

[Hiring students from lower tier schools] is a nice sentiment, but I don't think it's about to happen. If anything, I fear that we will look back at the exuberant spree of the last few years as the high-water mark of nonelite law school hiring. There simply weren't enough bodies to go around, so the Big Law machine was willing to expand its recruiting pool. The fact that some of those hired performed well, or were happier with their lots, or possessed the drive and emotional intelligence that clients crave will not be enough to change old habits. When it comes to preserving the prestige patina, sometimes the rules of cognitive dissonance are suspended.

By now we all know that firms have sliced their hiring and tamed their recruiting practices. Reducing the number of campuses they visit has been part of those changes. That falloff, I am sad to say -- judging by what the firms tell me explicitly, as well as their faux-patrician sniffing when I raise this subject -- will be at the schools that are judged, as the Russians like to say, nekulturniy

Still, as the economy changes, perhaps top-tier students' attitudes will change as well. At a time when finding a job isn't as easy as it may once have been, perhaps they too will be grateful for those big firm positions.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on September 4, 2009 at 12:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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