ggocat wrote:I'm a 3L at a lower ranked school, so I'll chime in on the "ignorance" argument. Students at my school were perfectly knowledgeable about law firm hiring practices. If they didnt know before school started, or if they didn't make friends with some 2Ls during the first two months, then career services explained the general ins and outs of legal hiring in early November of the 1L year (pursuant to NALP guidelines).
Ignorance is not the reason you don't see tier 3/4 students complaining about striking out at OCI. The "expectations" reasoning seems much more plausible (as suggested by another poster and the WSJ blog post). All the firms provide grade cutoffs, so most students are very knowledgeable about what grades they have to get to even have a shot at an interview, let alone an offer.
Just because students are knowledgeable about hiring practices once they're in
school doesn't mean that they knew what it was like before
they started. It's plausible that people at lower ranked schools are more likely to be less informed about the realities of the job market before they start law school, but I don't think it's attributable to lower intelligence. Schools do a remarkable job at displaying their job prospects in ways that will make most law schools look like a good deal, even at full tuition. Law schools are supposed to advocate on their own behalf to recruit top talent, and most of them have decided that it's best to release only the information required by ABA guidelines and to display it in a manner that will lead most applicants to say to themselves, "If I go here I bet I can get high enough grades to get a good job that will justify the debt I'm taking on." Once people matriculate and are informed of the realities, they may continue assuming they can hit whatever gpa cutoff because of their prior successes in life. Once many of them fail to hit that increasingly high (to non-existent at some schools) gpa cutoff for large private firms, it's logical to go ahead and say that many of them must be disheartened about it. Since these disheartened students will end up becoming disheartened lawyers, I think you can make a good argument that continuously misleading law school applicants is having an overall negative impact on the legal profession.
We're currently exploring the reasons why this has worked for so long... one hypothesis is that the general public assumes law schools are credible institutions that would not mislead prospective students about what the legal market is like. So, for example, if a reputable law school in the T50 reports a $105K median salary for all graduates who both reported information and are in private practice, I think it's reasonable to assume most people who take them up on that offer
(not the ones who decidced to go elsewhere) may not have correctly determined that perhaps only 15-20% of the class entered into private practice AND reported salary information to the school, and that the median is only relevant for the top quintile of the class. Increased media coverage and website traffic is hopefully making more people skeptical about how law schools portray their information, but most people do not have access to enough employment information to make accurate risk assessments of taking out loans and going off to law school. I don't want to attribute malicious intent to law schools that cloak their employment information in such a manner -- if anything it seems to be a market norm at this point, and schools could potentially hurt their recruiting efforts if competitor schools continued to engage in normal practice -- but that is where things stand right now.
Incoming Vanderbilt and Duke students should know what the job prospects are like, but for all other schools people are operating on limited information. Both schools publish full employment lists of where each graduate ends up, and they also now publish lists on where each 2L works during the summer. Our goal is to get all the law schools (both T14 and nonT14) to start releasing current lists so we can see how they're all faring during the market retraction. In the meantime, g'luck to those in the midst of all this mess.
[shameless transparency trolling/broken recordspinning for those who remember who I am].