stratocophic wrote:My thoughts on all of this -
It's a different situation from the examples you listed IMO. Closest non-Vandy law school to Nashville is UTK (like 3 hours away, which doesn't seem like much until you remember that Vandy's been developing a rep in the city with no local competition since its law school opened), and Michigan's basically the only decent law school (quiet, MSU) in its state in the first place.
SLU's right in town, has a rep in STL that equates to that of a decent regional school, and has a head start because pretty much the entire class stays in the area so it turns into a nepotism-type deal. Don't people say that ~75% of practicing attorneys in STL are SLU grads? We aren't going to squeeze SLU out completely, they're too big and entrenched. The NLJ numbers for STL are so tiny that even halving their numbers at the likes of BC/TC/HBS probably only gives us 10-15 more spots - that's less than 5% of the class.
Unfortunately, taking 50% of grads from MO weakens entering stats, drops us in the rankings, and takes the legs out of what appears to be our long term goal - building a rep equal to that of the Vandy/UT/USC tier and getting placement numbers to match. While ordinarily the rankings don't matter, I think they can if you stick around and get your brand out there long enough. WUSTL's in the middle of that process now, from what I can see, and I think the results are beginning to follow that. We got hammered in the NLJ this past year as expected, but we were still ahead of the non-major market T25s (Emory etc.) except for ND by a slim margin, even though we have a pretty large class and then put transfers on top of it. Shame we can't shrink the class size more, it's a disadvantage b/c a lot of firms aren't going to give WUSTL people spots that go to other schools so we can only expand so much. We aren't there yet, but I doubt we'd be competing with ND and other solid T25s in terms of placement %s if we were still #45 or whatever we were 15-20 years ago given WUSTL's geographic disadvantage.
IMO I don't think shrinking the class will do anything. Most biglaw firms hire by a gpa cutoff when it comes to WUSTL. Regardless of how large ( within reason) the class is, generally the same percentage of people will get hired each year. I think we are weak because we don't have a lot of partners at these biglaw firms. most of the people there are associates. Partners are the ones that make the hiring decisions. So if we have huge classes and place people into these biglaw firms, it may pay dividends later on.
What about getting the big4 to come to law school recruit? IE for tax or consulting. As of now, only 1 of the 4 big4 actually come and recruit at the law school.
Oh shrinking the class size is probably more of a down the road kind of thing, we'd likely have to get the rep up first. Your point is the other side of the coin of what I was saying; we only get so many hired in any given firm so shrinking the class would make that number a larger percentage of the class. It's the same kind of thing with fed clerkships too, the ones that do pull from us take a certain number of WUSTL students and no more so we have a lower output percentage-wise than other schools. Probably wouldn't be that effective right now, though I suspect it could yield at least slightly better results immediately because more people down into the top 1/3 would get a look from firms. Not every firm will go down to top 1/3 at WashU, but some might and don't because of the interview limitations, i.e. they never even see them because they *can* draw from people with better grades. Sure Skadden isn't going to take someone at top 1/3, but I don't know that others like Locke Lord or Husch that interview here necessarily wouldn't if they like someone. I know of at least 1 Vault firm who did just that at OCI and went below their usual cutoff this year and I'm sure it happened with others. Just about everyone at the top of the class bids on almost every slot and then it ends up that not many people below top 20-25% get interviews. If firms have to interview someone in the slots that are opened up by contracting the class size, they'll take the next best candidates. It benefits us if those people are ones that might not have gotten a look before but now have a chance to at least state their case to firms. The people who were still going to be shoe-ins with the bigger class size for SA positions still get them, and now there's more of a wildcard added for people who at least have a shot at interviewing with the smaller class size.
That said, I like the idea of trying to go for more partners by throwing a lot of people out there each year. I don't know how much it helps us with biglaw hiring since they take as many as they take from us (at least for now) no matter how many we throw out there, but with a lot of people making their way in other types of employment it gives us a good base for people who don't go into biglaw. Definitely agree with trying to make a push into consulting, it's not like our entire class is bound and determined to be lawyers in the first place. A lot of people just want a decent paycheck, and consulting would fit the bill if we could worm our way in. Probably a lot of competition for spots at the Big4, Deloitte, pretty much anywhere you look, but no reason why we shouldn't be trying to get a hat in the ring.
Edit: TL;DR version is basically what seatown wrote below