I have mixed feelings about this piece in the Huffington Post titled “Why We Do Not Hire Law School Graduates from the Ivy League Schools.” On the one hand, I am thrilled that the author, Adam Leitman Bailey, argues that students at the top of their class at lower ranked schools possess a unique kind of “grit” that should be valued by law firms. I believe this with all my heart– it’s the reason I started this blog and why I speak at law schools and provide advice one on one to law students (for free). I hate that BigLaw firms have set up a hiring system (ie: On Campus Hiring) that essentially rejects candidates from lower ranked schools.
On the other hand, I agree with Kathryn Rubino from Above The Law, who writes that the piece is “a mere exercise in puffery.” Indeed, instead of having anything useful to say to/about students at lower ranked schools, the post is riddled with false support and laughable logic for why Mr. Bailey thinks a ban on the Ivy League is good for his firm. As Ms. Rubino points out, the post only edges towards truth when Mr. Bailey admits that “the top students from these law schools have no interest in applying for a job at our firm.” Ms. Rubino, herself a graduate of an Ivy League law school, has caught some flack in the comments (not surprising, because ATL comments are always hotbeds of vitriol), with some folks complaining that she is biased because of her pedigree.
So, let me chime in from the perspective of someone who graduated from an “unranked” law school and is a senior associate in BigLaw (see my firm bio here): Ms. Rubino’s take on the piece is spot on. This part especially:
Listen, I get it — a ban on Ivy League lawyers is a sexy title that Bailey probably hopes will spark a conversation about why grads from outside the T-14 are undervalued. That’s a fine and fair point. However, this offense against top-tier law schools isn’t the way to get there.
Firms need to appreciate the value of law students who have achieved at lower ranked schools. Happily, judging by the buzz generated by Mr. Bailey’s post (see thoughtful coverage by the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and the American Lawyer) the conversation on this topic is just beginning.
Bottom line, instead of refusing to hire any particular group of law students, I think it’s useful for law firms to be more flexible and open-minded about who they want to hire. Let’s get past the snobbery and think instead about what will work best in our day-to-day practice of law. At the end of the day, we want accomplished, bright and hungry candidates who are team players. These qualities should be more important than the law school where a candidate came from.
Please check back soon as I will be posting daily tips for law students looking to snag opportunities in BigLaw. And, as always, please get in touch with any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you.