Is it true experience doesn't matter much in the legal world

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
Thatonestudent
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Sep 10, 2011 8:02 pm

Is it true experience doesn't matter much in the legal world

Postby Thatonestudent » Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:32 pm

From what I've heard someone with 10 years experience in a small law firm or a profitable private practice and a JD from a low end first tier school (ranked between 75 and 100) or even second or third tier still has a worse chance at getting a job at a big law firm versus someone who has a JD from a top 50 school but is fresh out of law school and doesn't even have 1 day of experience?

So is this true or is it a misinterpretation/oversimplification?

User avatar
Davidbentley
Posts: 418
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 5:49 am

Re: Is it true experience doesn't matter much in the legal world

Postby Davidbentley » Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:41 pm

Er, yes. In the same sense that this year's NY Yankees first round draft pick third baseman has a better chance at playing in the Show than the 10 year veteran minor league third baseman. But, 10 years post JD, regardless of the school or intervening practice, almost never leads to BigLawl.

lobolawyer
Posts: 150
Joined: Tue Oct 25, 2011 4:26 pm

Re: Is it true experience doesn't matter much in the legal world

Postby lobolawyer » Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:47 pm

I would also wager that small law lawyers with 10 years of experience who are successful enough to be on big law firm's radars are satisfied with their current career paths and don't want to work in big law or otherwise change their current trajectory.

User avatar
bk1
Posts: 18418
Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2010 7:06 pm

Re: Is it true experience doesn't matter much in the legal world

Postby bk1 » Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:53 pm

Big firms generally hire from two different sources:

1. From other big firms.
2. From current law students.

The other important fact is that the vast majority of hires for big firms come from the top 14 or so schools.

User avatar
patentlaworbust
Posts: 28
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:38 pm

Re: Is it true experience doesn't matter much in the legal world

Postby patentlaworbust » Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:56 pm

It depends, almost entirely, on the KIND of WE that a candidate is bringing to the table and what the relevant area of law is. This can be broken down into 1) Legal Experience, and 2) Nonlegal Experience

1. Legal Experience (meaning doing LEGAL work, not paralegal, not legal secretary, etc...)

As far as Summer Associates (SA) are concerned, legal WE is appreciated by some firms, but it is far from completely mandatory. Law school indoctrinates you with legal theory, which doesn't do much for stimulating your practical understanding of the law. Having legal WE will put you in a favorable position relative to your peers with all other factors being equal (e.g., grades, school prestige, etc...). However, firms will care much more about your law school's prestige and your grades.

As for entry-level hiring, having legal WE as an SA or a FT clerk (for example) is more important. Biglaw firms will sometimes prefer you to have little to no FT legal WE so that they can teach you their way of doing things. Having a lot of legal experience could actually hurt more than help, because after a point, you become "tainted" by the profession and the "wrong way" of doing things. Prestige of your law school and your grades still matter significantly at this point.

If we are talking about Lateral hiring, legal WE is required. Lateral hiring needs are entirely practice-area based, meaning that the firm is usually looking for very relevant experience (e.g., 5 years of complex litigation experience). The name of your law school, and sometimes even your grades, matter much less at this point in the game.


2. Nonlegal Experience

This entirely depends on the legal industry. Examples include: Patent/IP law, Tax Law, and sometimes Corporate Law. If your nonlegal WE is relevant to the practice area you're going into, then it can be very helpful.

Re: Patent/IP law, experience as an engineer/scientist is very important to some employers. Although it is not the only factor ripe for consideration, significant industry experience (and relevant, advanced degrees) can put a candidate from a lower-ranked law school on equal footing with a candidate with less (or no) WE but from a higher ranked school.



HTH

CanadianWolf
Posts: 10439
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: Is it true experience doesn't matter much in the legal world

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:59 pm

Also, there may be too many conflicts of interest with one who has practiced 10 years or more in the same jurisdiction.




Return to “Ask a Law Student / Graduate”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests