How Important are Specialty Programs at Law Schools?

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
User avatar
rocon7383
Posts: 431
Joined: Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:02 pm

How Important are Specialty Programs at Law Schools?

Postby rocon7383 » Fri May 06, 2011 4:46 pm

I just asked this question in another thread, got interesting feedback, and thought I'd open it up to a few more people who may have some insight as well.

Basically, I have a question regarding students who specialize in certain fields of study at school and how this may help/not help their chances at big law in said field. So if a non-T14 student from a low tier 1 school specialized in, interned/externed and worked in a clinic all geared toward IP, at a top 5 IP program, would they have a substantial leg up at an IP firm? Is it irrelevant? (I'm using this specific field as an example but I suppose my question applies for all specialties).

As you may have guessed, I'm an 0L. I am trying to understand how much reputations matter for certain programs. Thanks

2LLLL
Posts: 249
Joined: Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:38 pm

Re: How Important are Specialty Programs at Law Schools?

Postby 2LLLL » Fri May 06, 2011 5:02 pm

My feeling is that for IP it wouldn't matter as much as other specialized areas. For other areas--say, health, environmental, etc...--these types of activities and programs would be a great way to show your interest and dedication to the field. For IP, on the other hand, your undergrad degree in a technical field should communicate your interest.

User avatar
rocon7383
Posts: 431
Joined: Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:02 pm

Re: How Important are Specialty Programs at Law Schools?

Postby rocon7383 » Fri May 06, 2011 5:06 pm

2LLLL wrote:My feeling is that for IP it wouldn't matter as much as other specialized areas. For other areas--say, health, environmental, etc...--these types of activities and programs would be a great way to show your interest and dedication to the field. For IP, on the other hand, your undergrad degree in a technical field should communicate your interest.



I've heard that said a lot about IP, is a background involving non-technical work preclude people from getting into IP? Is it a necessity?

User avatar
Aberzombie1892
Posts: 1907
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2009 10:56 am

Re: How Important are Specialty Programs at Law Schools?

Postby Aberzombie1892 » Fri May 06, 2011 5:07 pm

From what I have seen, specialty programs help more outside of big law. They don't really do much for big law - i.e. one law school student can take one course in a particular area of law and be hired by a big law firm to do work in that area while another student may get a certificate/journal/published/etc. in an area of law and not be hired in that area.

In terms of big law prospects, the following are important (in descending order):
1. Personal connections
2. The law school you attend
3. Grades at said law school
4. Whether you are pursuing a nich market (Patent mostly; there are some other areas)
5. Whether you are URM in light of (2), (3), and (4)
6. Everything else.

User avatar
Big Shrimpin
Posts: 2468
Joined: Fri Oct 24, 2008 12:35 pm

Re: How Important are Specialty Programs at Law Schools?

Postby Big Shrimpin » Fri May 06, 2011 5:15 pm

Not a damn bit, for the most part.

The rough rule of thumb is that, as you go up in the rankings, more employers come to OCI. If you're looking for biglaw, which I'm assuming you are (e.g. IP work is mostly done by either boutiques or general practice firms...both of which, for the sake of argument, have very similar hiring practices), then you'll want to maximize your exposure to biglaw employers a OCI. Thus, you have two variables (largely) at your control: school rank and grades. If you're an 0L, you can maximize the former (scholarships/regional preferences/etc...come into play here, but I'll digress, here). If you're a 1L, you can (read, MUST) maximize the latter. WE helps during OCI too, but your class selection/law school clinics/whatever will not matter a damn bit for OCI. As you can see, predicting job-search success is a complicated formula, prone to miscalculation and a good deal of subjectivity.

I'm assuming that, for your example, you're talking about either BU or GW. At GW OCI, you have something like 35ish bids. At OCI last fall, there were over 35 IP-only bidding options. That was GREAT exposure. Caveat: there are quite a few IP'ers at GW, but I did the math and, on average, 10-20%--or 50-100 students--of the GW is IP. So divide that number by eligible class-year for 2L OCI, and you've got a field of roughly 30-50 2Ls/3L-eve students in the running for those 40ish IP-only bid options. For more insight about GW OCI, PM me for details.

If you go to an NYU, CLS, SLS, etc...you'll likely find a similar result, and great exposure. I can't speak for Houston or FP (two of the other "top 10" IP programs), but I highly doubt either school had options similar to GW--and definitely nowhere near as good as a T6...like, orders of magnitude different. This logic applies, most likely, to every other "specialty" category. Catch my drift?

Credited advice: don't choose a school based upon its "USNEWS specialty ranking." That's largely propaganda and marketing smoke-and-mirrors. You've done a good job by asking these questions, and now you know that it's a stupid move. Spread the word, dood.

User avatar
Big Shrimpin
Posts: 2468
Joined: Fri Oct 24, 2008 12:35 pm

Re: How Important are Specialty Programs at Law Schools?

Postby Big Shrimpin » Fri May 06, 2011 5:35 pm

Aberzombie1892 wrote:From what I have seen, specialty programs help more outside of big law. They don't really do much for big law - i.e. one law school student can take one course in a particular area of law and be hired by a big law firm to do work in that area while another student may get a certificate/journal/published/etc. in an area of law and not be hired in that area.

In terms of big law prospects, the following are important (in descending order):
1. Personal connections
2 1. The law school you attend
3 2. Grades at said law school
3. Personal Connections
4. Whether you are pursuing a nich market (Patent mostly; there are some other areas)
5. Whether you are URM in light of (2), (3), and (4)
6. Everything else.



FTFY. Having gone through the entire OCI process, doing lots of research, and speaking about these issues with a handful of hiring partners, I respectfully disagree.

Landing a biglaw jerb is, primarily, about OCI exposure to employers, as I intimated above. There is just about nothing a personal connection can do for you if you got to a shtty school with shtty grades. In biglaw, you're being hired not by your connection (in most cases), but by a hiring committee. For that connection/person to go to bat for you/put their reputation on the line, I'd bet that said connection wouldn't wager their reputation on a shtty student at a shtty school, no matter how "tight" you might be. Firms try to maintain a certain reputation by hiring students in a particular manner, in part because both clients often pay lots of money for the firm's services and the legal industry is obsessed with ranking and prestige.

Now, if you go to a shtty school with great grades, then personal connections can halp. Similarly, personal connections halp if you're at a great school with shtty grades. In these instances, the connection will likely have an easier time "selling" the candidate to the committee. Summers/junior associates cost the firm A LOT of money, and hiring committees, despite the old adage that lawyers are awful businesspeople, sense a bad hiring-investment when they see one.

2LLLL
Posts: 249
Joined: Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:38 pm

Re: How Important are Specialty Programs at Law Schools?

Postby 2LLLL » Fri May 06, 2011 10:30 pm

FTFY. Having gone through the entire OCI process, doing lots of research, and speaking about these issues with a handful of hiring partners, I respectfully disagree.

Landing a biglaw jerb is, primarily, about OCI exposure to employers, as I intimated above. There is just about nothing a personal connection can do for you if you got to a shtty school with shtty grades. In biglaw, you're being hired not by your connection (in most cases), but by a hiring committee. For that connection/person to go to bat for you/put their reputation on the line, I'd bet that said connection wouldn't wager their reputation on a shtty student at a shtty school, no matter how "tight" you might be. Firms try to maintain a certain reputation by hiring students in a particular manner, in part because both clients often pay lots of money for the firm's services and the legal industry is obsessed with ranking and prestige.

Now, if you go to a shtty school with great grades, then personal connections can halp. Similarly, personal connections halp if you're at a great school with shtty grades. In these instances, the connection will likely have an easier time "selling" the candidate to the committee. Summers/junior associates cost the firm A LOT of money, and hiring committees, despite the old adage that lawyers are awful businesspeople, sense a bad hiring-investment when they see one.




I agree with you about personal connections- they can certainly help, but only if you have the "stats" to be in the range of students that the firm will plausibly hire. I would say, however, that URM status is probably more important than personal connections, and in some markets ties are as well.

I didn't see at first that OP was talking about the impact of these programs on BigLaw- in that case probably little to nothing.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.