Do Small Schools Actually Give an Employment Benefit?

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lessthanjake
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Do Small Schools Actually Give an Employment Benefit?

Postby lessthanjake » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:02 am

I find the logic that a smaller school has a placement advantage a little bit hard to believe. Lets take the example of Stanford Law School. I understand that firms MIGHT want at least one SLS person and if you're the only one who applies from SLS, then your chances might go up. However, I wonder how realistic that scenario is. Even with a small class, you won't be the ONLY one going for any significant NYC/DC biglaw job. You might have to compete with fewer people from your own school, but firms also tend to hire many more Harvard kids than Stanford kids. Shouldn't that balance out? It seems to me that Harvard/Stanford are seen as peer schools. Thus, the estimated class rank cutoffs for firms will be essentially the same. If they are the same, then I don't see how Harvard kids are at a disadvantage. Why would a firm decide to hire an SLS kid instead of an otherwise equal Harvard kid with better grades? The only reason I can think of is if they are trying to land just one Stanford kid and they haven't got one applying who is equal to the Harvard kid with better grades, but I feel like that is a much rarer scenario than people realize. At the same time, I can also see a firm hiring a kid from one school over another due to alumni ties, and the HLS alumni network is significantly larger, so they should benefit from this more. I feel like these two effects should essentially cancel out.

I have a theory, though, as to why SLS might have a lower strike out rate. Stanford is an incredibly selective school, but is known as a black box in admissions. What this means is that much of their admissions decision is made based on consideration of things outside the numbers: amazing work experience, demonstration of a good personality through essays and recs, interesting backgrounds, advanced degrees (in fact, 13% of HLS students have an advanced degree compared to 34% for SLS) etc. I think its reasonable to believe that these same soft factors could be what is helping SLS students get a job despite bad grades. In that sense, then, SLS' admissions strategy might really work for its students. Because it is considered a peer school to Harvard, the students are considered just as smart, despite having lower LSAT/GPA (significantly so in terms of LSAT). At the same time, they are accepting people who, on average, probably have more interesting and compelling soft factors that employers will like. In a sense, Stanford kids get to use what got them into Stanford again during the job search, whereas Harvard kids can't put their LSAT scores on their resumes, so what frequently got them in doesn't help them again. As a result, kids at Stanford might do better than those with equal grades at Harvard, but the comparison isn't really valid because the SLS and HLS students are not otherwise similar.

If this were true, though, there are interesting implications. It would mean that no individual student should go to SLS over HLS for better employment prospects. SLS' slightly better employment stats, in this case, are due to being a peer school that has students with stronger softs, but for an individual student, his or her softs are already fixed; he won't have better softs just by virtue of going to SLS. Therefore, his employment prospects will not be improved.

To some degree, the same could be argued for Yale. I think a good deal of their somewhat superior employment numbers over Harvard comes down to the fact that their students come in with better soft factors. Unlike Stanford, though, I would not argue that this is everything. I think many view Yale as a step above Harvard, and thus assume the students are smarter. So while it may be justifiable to go to Yale over HLS for better employment prospects due to the assumption of higher intelligence, I think the difference for an individual student (whose softs are, of course, fixed) is less than it may seem.

Since small schools tend to focus more on soft factors (since they can't accept all the applicants with their requisite numbers, so they differentiate based on softs), I think this is what gives small schools a statistical advantage in employment. I would argue, though, that it is not an advantage that people should consider when choosing between schools.

(Please note that this is not a troll on SLS, by any means. It's a great school and I believe it is a peer with Harvard, I just don't think it is logical to think its small size makes it easier to get a job from there than HLS)

AS33
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Re: Do Small Schools Actually Give an Employment Benefit?

Postby AS33 » Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:07 am

I am interested to see some other opinions on this as I am trying to decide between Columbia and Chicago.

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puppylaw
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Re: Do Small Schools Actually Give an Employment Benefit?

Postby puppylaw » Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:32 am

This makes sense. Also think about east coast/ west coast.

End of the day: I'd be happy to go to either school.

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Wholigan
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Re: Do Small Schools Actually Give an Employment Benefit?

Postby Wholigan » Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:41 am

tl; dr

But to answer your main question, my opinion is that for national schools, the small class size will make a difference in a down economy for firm hiring, but not otherwise. For example, with the ITE that affected c/o 2009-2011, some firms who want to maintain a relationship with top law schools will try to still take 1-2 SAs from the schools they usually hire from. Obviously, 30 firms taking 1-2 associates each will make a much bigger dent in a class size of 200 than it will in a class of 450. I think this is why schools like Chicago, Cornell and Penn have performed well during the downturn. Any general benefits besides this resulting from a small class size are probably already factored into the rankings.

For regional schools which have a specific target market (like many state schools) I think smaller class size always is better because you are feeding into a single market that is going to have a finite number of entry level openings.

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Vincent
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Re: Do Small Schools Actually Give an Employment Benefit?

Postby Vincent » Thu Nov 14, 2013 2:41 pm

I don't have much to contribute to this thread, but I will pass along two things I've heard, along with their sources:

From a V100 firm partner who makes personnel decisions on summer associates and hiring: "I start from the top, and I work my way down. If you're coming out of Harvard, you'll get looked at before if you're coming out of Berkeley. But I also don't want an associate class full of Harvard. I'll take only a couple from Stanford, Harvard, one or two from Michigan, a couple from Berkeley...etc." (paraphrased)

(Okay, that doesn't mean it's the 98th-ranked firm, but I hate forced terms like V48 or V92)

From Stanford ASW 2L and 3L students: "Faye crafts her class very well. We all know what everyone else want to do, but it's pretty non-competitive here because we're so small that everyone can be slightly different. So <person A> might want tech IP law. Same with <person B>, but <A> wants to go back to the East Coast, while <B> wants to stay in California, so they don't actually end up directly competing with each other." (Said with absolute certainty, but take with a grain of salt)

californiauser
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Re: Do Small Schools Actually Give an Employment Benefit?

Postby californiauser » Thu Nov 14, 2013 2:55 pm

Vincent wrote:I don't have much to contribute to this thread, but I will pass along two things I've heard, along with their sources:

From a V100 firm partner who makes personnel decisions on summer associates and hiring: "I start from the top, and I work my way down. If you're coming out of Harvard, you'll get looked at before if you're coming out of Berkeley. But I also don't want an associate class full of Harvard. I'll take only a couple from Stanford, Harvard, one or two from Michigan, a couple from Berkeley...etc." (paraphrased)

(Okay, that doesn't mean it's the 98th-ranked firm, but I hate forced terms like V48 or V92)

From Stanford ASW 2L and 3L students: "Faye crafts her class very well. We all know what everyone else want to do, but it's pretty non-competitive here because we're so small that everyone can be slightly different. So <person A> might want tech IP law. Same with <person B>, but <A> wants to go back to the East Coast, while <B> wants to stay in California, so they don't actually end up directly competing with each other." (Said with absolute certainty, but take with a grain of salt)


Did said partner view school tiers as rigidly as TLS posters do? Did he view HYS as a tier, CCN as a tier, etc. or would he consider YS a tier, HCC a tier, etc.?

Ti Malice
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Re: Do Small Schools Actually Give an Employment Benefit?

Postby Ti Malice » Thu Nov 14, 2013 5:57 pm

tl;dr

Most SLS grads stay on the West Coast. Between BigLaw, BigFed, and high-end PI there will be many very coveted jobs that don't see more than one (or any) SLS grads vying for positions.

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Vincent
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Re: Do Small Schools Actually Give an Employment Benefit?

Postby Vincent » Thu Nov 14, 2013 6:52 pm

californiauser wrote:
Vincent wrote:I don't have much to contribute to this thread, but I will pass along two things I've heard, along with their sources:

From a V100 firm partner who makes personnel decisions on summer associates and hiring: "I start from the top, and I work my way down. If you're coming out of Harvard, you'll get looked at before if you're coming out of Berkeley. But I also don't want an associate class full of Harvard. I'll take only a couple from Stanford, Harvard, one or two from Michigan, a couple from Berkeley...etc." (paraphrased)

(Okay, that doesn't mean it's the 98th-ranked firm, but I hate forced terms like V48 or V92)

From Stanford ASW 2L and 3L students: "Faye crafts her class very well. We all know what everyone else want to do, but it's pretty non-competitive here because we're so small that everyone can be slightly different. So <person A> might want tech IP law. Same with <person B>, but <A> wants to go back to the East Coast, while <B> wants to stay in California, so they don't actually end up directly competing with each other." (Said with absolute certainty, but take with a grain of salt)


Did said partner view school tiers as rigidly as TLS posters do? Did he view HYS as a tier, CCN as a tier, etc. or would he consider YS a tier, HCC a tier, etc.?


I didn't ask, but the way he phrased it implied that YLS students were magical unicorns, only a couple SLS students would apply, and way too many HLS students would apply (said with annoyance). This was a conversation this past January, so my memory is kind of hazy, but I remember being very surprised that his firm (or at least he) seemed to consistently take one Michigan student a year. Also, his firm hadn't had an NYU(?) associate in a long time.




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