7ofNine wrote:Hi Dean Perez,
I was wondering if it makes a difference in your review of an application if a student seems very likely to have a law job upon graduation. For example they have a parent that is an attorney and/or they work in a law office and have glowing LOR's from attorney's ready to hire them as soon as they pass the bar? Considering schools are getting hammered on their employment statistics does this sort of thing factor into the application review at all?
I think this is a GREAT and timely question. It's one that's been on my mind lately and that I plan to ask my colleagues the next time we're hanging out before/after a recruiting event. I'm just as curious as you are to find out how much employability might come into play in the admissions decision for individual committee members at other schools.
Obviously, I'm not going to get into the details of our deliberations "in the room", but I can give you my personal opinion on it. I haven't thought about it too deeply, but my initial reaction was that a student's supposed future potential of finding a job should not be considered in the admissions process. I consider myself a very egalitarian, root for the underdog kind of guy. When it comes to us trying to guess a person's odds of employment, the things I think of that would inform that are almost always the product of wealth and privilege. You listed a few - parents who are attorneys, growing up in a wealthy neighborhood with a lot of attorneys/judges, being frat buddies with a guy who's parent is attorney judge - all of which easily leads to jobs in said law firms during college. At state schools, you also have the politicians' kids and at any school you have kids/friends of big donors or board members, too.
So to give a little bump to those students, in my mind, is to perpetuate that privilege. It is true that those applicants can't help who they were born to or in what zip code they were raised, but why then should they receive a benefit for something they had no control over, that does not really equate to "merit", over someone else that did not have those advantages? If I had to choose between the two, I'd prefer to give the opportunity to the person for whom it would really be an opportunity that could change their life, not the person for whom law school is just one of a bunch of options.
I'll point out here that I'm aware that there are people who, for whatever reason, did not come from privilege but nevertheless have developed the connections that lead to these kinds of benefits. They were in the poor part of a rich school district so their friends' parents were well off (can't tell you how many LORs I get that start with "I've known Johnny his entire life. He and my son played football together at fill-in-the-blank powerhouse high school.") or they busted their hump to earn a job in their university president's office. That's not who I'm talking about. Relatively speaking, there aren't many of these compared to the my first examples.
Keep in mind, too, that this is only an issue when the file isn't good enough on its own to earn admission. It's not like the rich kid with 160+/3.75+ is getting dinged, but the blue-collar guy with a 145/3.0 is getting in. The range where something like future employability would even be a factor (if it is one at all) would be at the bottom of the class, under the 25th percentile. The "last teams in" March Madness or "Mr. Irrelevant" in the NFL draft, if you like sports metaphors. Here at Tech, for example, it would be students with combos like 150-152/3.00, just sort of academically "meh". Or maybe splitters like 155 (our median)/2.8 or 3.4 (close to our median)/147.
At this point, to use another sports metaphor, we could go to the Olympic "degree of difficulty" scale. If we're trying to find a diamond in the rough, someone with untapped potential, who do we take? On one hand, someone who went to very good public/elite private schools K-12, got into a good college and got mediocre grades in an easy major, was able to take LSAT prep courses and didn't have to work, etc. On the other, someone from a rural school district with no AP courses (like mine growing up) or an inner-city school with a 65% dropout rate, who worked full-time all through schools to pay for community college then the local open-enrollment public university, and tried to self-study between shifts.
I purposely created those two extreme examples to illustrate the point. Things are never that distinct of course, and the same information can be evaluated differently by different adcoms. For example in the above scenario, someone might vote for the first person because despite their chronic under-achieving, their K-16 education was a higher quality so they might be better prepared for law school, and therefore have a better chance of success than the second person.
There are other situations, though. Anecdotally, I've heard people say that older students who have been in the workforce fare better in their job searches than K-JD students so that might be another way an adcom might consider employabitlity. Military folks fall in this category, too. I had an alum tell me this exact thing once. He said the students that were most successful in his firm's interview process were those that had some life-experience and had interviewed for jobs before.
I know I just threw a lot on the page in this post that could be considered touchy or controversial so I am happy to clarify or delve deeper into something if someone asks. Knowing TLS's tendency to reduce everything down and squeeze all the nuance out of things, I just ask that folks not make the TL;DNR version of this "Tech/Dean Perez hates rich people".