Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

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LawSchoolLA23

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Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by LawSchoolLA23 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 3:35 am

I know Harvard is many peoples dream school, but I never really understood why. It's a given Harvard is one of the oldest and most prestigious schools in the country, but when it comes to law school it also has one of the largest student bodies and is more akin to a "law student factory." Also your chances of landing a big law job are no better than if you had gone to any other top law school.

It's frustrating sometimes to talk to prospective students who want to go to Harvard but can't articulate any other reason besides prestige. I frequently tell them to look at their goals and see which law school will help them get there. Harvard would be amazing if your goal is to potentially be a Supreme Court clerk, law professor, a clerk for a prestigious circuit judge. Even then, the chances of landing these opportunities are extremely slim. If your like most of us and just want a nice Big Law job, a clerkship, be an AUSA / DOJ atty, work in-house, any of the top ten schools can get you there.

I am curious to hear from students about why they want to go to Harvard and/or why they ultimately chose to go there (especially if they were paying full sticker).

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by Veil of Ignorance » Thu Aug 22, 2019 4:04 am

I think calling Harvard Law a "factory" is a stretch. It's about the same size as a liberal arts college, which are usually considered "small" and "intimate". It's also smaller than Harvard College (which is 3x as large), a school nobody calls a factory.

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Thu Aug 22, 2019 5:27 am

Veil of Ignorance wrote:I think calling Harvard Law a "factory" is a stretch. It's about the same size as a liberal arts college, which are usually considered "small" and "intimate". It's also smaller than Harvard College (which is 3x as large), a school nobody calls a factory.
Colleges aren't really analogous at all, for like 8 or 9 different reasons.

HLS is about as big as its 3 closest peers combined, which is why, despite a platinum brand and limitless money, it couldn't keep up with Yale in terms of prestige, got caught a few decades ago by Stanford, and now has Chicago knocking on the door. I think OP is being a bit polemic with the word "factory" but it's a fair criticism - Harvard and Georgetown are massive law schools and they both suffer in things like job placement stats and the US News algorithm as a direct result

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by cavalier1138 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:29 am

I agree in general, and I mostly blame the popularity of Legally Blonde. But I do take issue with one claim:
LawSchoolLA23 wrote:Also your chances of landing a big law job are no better than if you had gone to any other top law school.
Harvard just flat-out beats most of the lower T13 at biglaw/fedclerk placement. And the quality of firm (and subsequent exit opportunities) should also be taken into consideration. Yes, biglaw is biglaw. But if you want your career path to be clerkship-biglaw-fedgov, then the firm you go to can have a disproportionate influence on which agencies you can reasonably apply to. Same with in-house, where your firm's client list can be a major factor in where you end up. And median Harvard students still have a shot at better firms than their counterparts at (for example) Northwestern.

Again, totally agree in general, and the decision is often Harvard at sticker vs. another T13 with a substantial scholarship. But in a total void, if you had to choose between Harvard and a lower T13 at the same cost, you should always choose Harvard.

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by nixy » Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:00 am

Veil of Ignorance wrote:I think calling Harvard Law a "factory" is a stretch. It's about the same size as a liberal arts college, which are usually considered "small" and "intimate". It's also smaller than Harvard College (which is 3x as large), a school nobody calls a factory.
I’ll call Harvard College a factory.

(But really what Airbender said that colleges aren’t analogous.)

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by LawSchoolLA23 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 10:30 am

cavalier1138 wrote: Again, totally agree in general, and the decision is often Harvard at sticker vs. another T13 with a substantial scholarship. But in a total void, if you had to choose between Harvard and a lower T13 at the same cost, you should always choose Harvard.
I completely agree that if the choice is two schools at sticker, Harvard should win out. But if you are below median at Harvard and/or bottom 25% your chances at big law are not much better than if you went to a NYU or Chicago.

Also I think the prestige that Harvard Law holds at firms is a little overstated. Sure if you are on Harvard Law review you will be a coveted recruit and will have countless opportunities. However, if you are near the bottom the name won’t carry you too far. Especially with our generation, I think we are less likely to simply fawn over a student because they simply went to Harvard.

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by Samark45 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 11:14 am

LawSchoolLA23 wrote:But if you are below median at Harvard and/or bottom 25% your chances at big law are not much better than if you went to a NYU or Chicago.

Also I think the prestige that Harvard Law holds at firms is a little overstated.
This is false, especially given the way grades work at HLS. Places like NYU have a standard A-F grading system; places like Chicago also have quirky features, but it just doesn't have the brand reach as HLS. Below median at HLS still gives you a comparatively better chance at big law than the equivalent at NYU/Chicago. I know (and know of) people on both sides of this divide and the pattern is consistent.

You (and some other regulars on this forum) might be tempted to overcompensate against the Harvard "brand" and insist that it's overstated, but for most people in the real world, both in and out of Biglaw, in and out of the big cities on the two coasts, it's just not. All things equal (which is the safe bet to make as a 0L who has no idea how their grades will turn out before they start law school), Harvard's name carries both a safety net and an extension that places like NYU and Chicago don't have. And if you're at all interested in some day down the road pursuing something other than Big law -- int'l law, gov work, academia -- it makes a huge difference. You don't have to drink the Kool-Aid for HLS, but you also shouldn't insist on this weird flattening of all top law schools.

OP's also just totally wrong that H is any more of a "factory" than schools like NYU, Michigan, CLS, etc. (Yes, Y/S are different.)

The biggest flaw in OP's logic -- which is now common, in the rush to deny considerations of prestige -- is that you don't necessarily have well-defined goals when you're entering law school. You might find a totally unexpected area you want to go into, or realize that the area you thought you were interested in isn't what you thought it would be like. What you want, in picking schools, is to go to a place that gives you optionality. The notion that you already know as a 0L what your career goals will be, and so you should pick a school based on that, is just naive and short-sighted. Why limit yourself unnecessarily?

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Thu Aug 22, 2019 11:26 am

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Veil of Ignorance wrote:I think calling Harvard Law a "factory" is a stretch. It's about the same size as a liberal arts college, which are usually considered "small" and "intimate". It's also smaller than Harvard College (which is 3x as large), a school nobody calls a factory.
Colleges aren't really analogous at all, for like 8 or 9 different reasons.

HLS is about as big as its 3 closest peers combined, which is why, despite a platinum brand and limitless money, it couldn't keep up with Yale in terms of prestige, got caught a few decades ago by Stanford, and now has Chicago knocking on the door. I think OP is being a bit polemic with the word "factory" but it's a fair criticism - Harvard and Georgetown are massive law schools and they both suffer in things like job placement stats and the US News algorithm as a direct result
I should follow up and say that its huge class is really the only serious criticism one can make of HLS at the moment, now that they've moved over to H/P grading. The top third of the class (cum laude, basically) get YLS outcomes, the middle third get CCNP outcomes, and the bottom third still usually get CCNP outcomes - as cav said, that's a pretty great trajectory, and it's a lot more attainable than squeaking onto the roster at Yale or Stanford (and the lay prestige, which is worth a little more than 0, shits on Chicago's).

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by nixy » Thu Aug 22, 2019 12:13 pm

Samark45 wrote:
LawSchoolLA23 wrote:But if you are below median at Harvard and/or bottom 25% your chances at big law are not much better than if you went to a NYU or Chicago.

Also I think the prestige that Harvard Law holds at firms is a little overstated.
This is false, especially given the way grades work at HLS. Places like NYU have a standard A-F grading system; places like Chicago also have quirky features, but it just doesn't have the brand reach as HLS. Below median at HLS still gives you a comparatively better chance at big law than the equivalent at NYU/Chicago. I know (and know of) people on both sides of this divide and the pattern is consistent.

You (and some other regulars on this forum) might be tempted to overcompensate against the Harvard "brand" and insist that it's overstated, but for most people in the real world, both in and out of Biglaw, in and out of the big cities on the two coasts, it's just not. All things equal (which is the safe bet to make as a 0L who has no idea how their grades will turn out before they start law school), Harvard's name carries both a safety net and an extension that places like NYU and Chicago don't have. And if you're at all interested in some day down the road pursuing something other than Big law -- int'l law, gov work, academia -- it makes a huge difference. You don't have to drink the Kool-Aid for HLS, but you also shouldn't insist on this weird flattening of all top law schools.

OP's also just totally wrong that H is any more of a "factory" than schools like NYU, Michigan, CLS, etc. (Yes, Y/S are different.)

The biggest flaw in OP's logic -- which is now common, in the rush to deny considerations of prestige -- is that you don't necessarily have well-defined goals when you're entering law school. You might find a totally unexpected area you want to go into, or realize that the area you thought you were interested in isn't what you thought it would be like. What you want, in picking schools, is to go to a place that gives you optionality. The notion that you already know as a 0L what your career goals will be, and so you should pick a school based on that, is just naive and short-sighted. Why limit yourself unnecessarily?
How huge is this difference really if you’re talking about down the road where people will have also accumulated various experiences? Would someone who is a stellar performer as an attorney who applies for such things down the road but happens to have gone to NYU rather than Harvard really have such a different outcome? How can you isolate the school name from someone’s accomplishments when you’re looking at post-grad careers?

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by Samark45 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 12:20 pm

nixy wrote:
How huge is this difference really if you’re talking about down the road where people will have also accumulated various experiences? Would someone who is a stellar performer as an attorney who applies for such things down the road but happens to have gone to NYU rather than Harvard really have such a different outcome? How can you isolate the school name from someone’s accomplishments when you’re looking at post-grad careers?
By looking at the resumes and CVs of the people who work in these positions now. What you'll find is that HYS grads fill these positions inordinately more than N/C/M/Penn (just to name a few top schools). The point is that the former group has a wider/deeper network, brand, and reach than the latter group, comparatively speaking. The claim isn't that they're better lawyers.

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by nixy » Thu Aug 22, 2019 12:22 pm

Samark45 wrote:
nixy wrote:
How huge is this difference really if you’re talking about down the road where people will have also accumulated various experiences? Would someone who is a stellar performer as an attorney who applies for such things down the road but happens to have gone to NYU rather than Harvard really have such a different outcome? How can you isolate the school name from someone’s accomplishments when you’re looking at post-grad careers?
By looking at the resumes and CVs of the people who work in these positions now. What you'll find is that HYS grads fill these positions inordinately more than N/C/M/Penn (just to name a few top schools). The point is that the former group has a wider/deeper network, brand, and reach than the latter group, comparatively speaking. The claim isn't that they're better lawyers.
How systematic a survey is there of such positions/resumes? What about the role of self-selection?

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by Samark45 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 12:36 pm

nixy wrote:
Samark45 wrote:
nixy wrote:
How huge is this difference really if you’re talking about down the road where people will have also accumulated various experiences? Would someone who is a stellar performer as an attorney who applies for such things down the road but happens to have gone to NYU rather than Harvard really have such a different outcome? How can you isolate the school name from someone’s accomplishments when you’re looking at post-grad careers?
By looking at the resumes and CVs of the people who work in these positions now. What you'll find is that HYS grads fill these positions inordinately more than N/C/M/Penn (just to name a few top schools). The point is that the former group has a wider/deeper network, brand, and reach than the latter group, comparatively speaking. The claim isn't that they're better lawyers.
How systematic a survey is there of such positions/resumes? What about the role of self-selection?
It would be fairly easy to do the empirical work if you wanted to. I'm sure you can also compare/contrast statistics kept by the various schools' Career Services offices. Or you can look at the websites of unicorn positions, academic positions, governments, etc. How rigorous all this is will be a function of how rigorous you want to make it -- the general principle, even if it's an empirical one, can be borne out fairly easily.

As to self-selection, you're looking at this from the wrong angle. Sure, it can create noise in after-the-fact statistical studies, but the whole point when it comes to school selection is that where you go to school can give you the kind of support system needed for the confidence to go out and try to get these positions. The goal is to get students not to self-select out of such positions. If these possibilities are live ones both culturally and institutionally -- if it's in the air around you -- you're more likely to take an interest and go for it. Some people will find this "icky" and presumptuous, and that's a matter of taste obviously. But I say more power to you.

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by nixy » Thu Aug 22, 2019 1:07 pm

I’m just not really convinced that Harvard’s larger class sizes and people tending to see what they expect to see aren’t influencing things here, unless someone can actually provide statistics rather than an unsubstantiated conviction as to what those statistics are.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely get that Harvard opens a lot of doors. People are very lucky (and/or good) to go there. I’m just not convinced that there’s a “huge” difference between it and its closest competitors, and think that people parse this kind of ranking WAY more finely than is really worth it. Again, a difference? Sure. A “huge” difference? I don’t buy that, but maybe we have different definitions of “huge.”

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by DoveBodyWash » Thu Aug 22, 2019 2:28 pm

Legally Blonde and Suits.

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by LawSchoolLA23 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 2:46 pm

nixy wrote:Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely get that Harvard opens a lot of doors. People are very lucky (and/or good) to go there. I’m just not convinced that there’s a “huge” difference between it and its closest competitors, and think that people parse this kind of ranking WAY more finely than is really worth it. Again, a difference? Sure. A “huge” difference? I don’t buy that, but maybe we have different definitions of “huge.”
OP here. This is exactly the point I'm trying to make. Harvard is an impressive school and if you have the opportunity to go, I understand why it is hard to turn down. My only point is that I think on this forum we put Harvard on a pedestal / worship it to a degree that is not warranted. Especially in the LA / West Coast market, I don't see attorneys viewing Harvard students differently than those from any other top law school. Your performance at your chosen law school matters much more than the name.

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by nealric » Thu Aug 22, 2019 2:57 pm

I'm not sure this is as big of a problem as OP makes it out to be. Lay prestige may favor Harvard, but that doesn't mean most competitive applicants do. Most people who can get in anywhere will choose Yale or Stanford over Harvard barring a strong geographic restriction.

If you don't get into Yale or Stanford, Harvard tends to have a less idiosyncratic admissions process, so you are likely to get in if you have the numbers. If between Harvard and a lower-ranked school, it will depend on money and geographic preferences.

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by cavalier1138 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 3:53 pm

Samark45 wrote:It would be fairly easy to do the empirical work if you wanted to. I'm sure you can also compare/contrast statistics kept by the various schools' Career Services offices. Or you can look at the websites of unicorn positions, academic positions, governments, etc. How rigorous all this is will be a function of how rigorous you want to make it -- the general principle, even if it's an empirical one, can be borne out fairly easily.
If it's that easy, then why haven't you done it?

You're relying heavily on the proposition that Harvard is unique or special in networking and career-positioning. And while it's certainly good, I feel like you don't have the first clue what career options and networking look like for students at CCN or anywhere outside of Harvard. So you make vague statements about how much better it is, and then you insist that it's on others to "do the research" and back up your made-up numbers.

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by dabigchina » Thu Aug 22, 2019 4:30 pm

oh boy! this pointless discussion again.

hot take: going to law school is a fundamentally emotion-driven decision. That goes double so if you need to pay sticker and need to slave away in biglaw for 3-6 years while saving very little money to pay off that debt.

stuff that doesn't matter, like prestige, matters the most to your average 0L. Otherwise, they'd have gone to a coding bootcamp/gotten a data science masters and gotten a chill job making 100k doing whatever it is that my clients do all day long.

Plus, a not immaterial number of 0Ls are convinced they'll be on the supreme court one day, and half of the justices went to HLS.

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by QContinuum » Fri Aug 23, 2019 1:39 am

Samark45 wrote:
nixy wrote:
How huge is this difference really if you’re talking about down the road where people will have also accumulated various experiences? Would someone who is a stellar performer as an attorney who applies for such things down the road but happens to have gone to NYU rather than Harvard really have such a different outcome? How can you isolate the school name from someone’s accomplishments when you’re looking at post-grad careers?
By looking at the resumes and CVs of the people who work in these positions now. What you'll find is that HYS grads fill these positions inordinately more than N/C/M/Penn (just to name a few top schools). The point is that the former group has a wider/deeper network, brand, and reach than the latter group, comparatively speaking. The claim isn't that they're better lawyers.
Why are we back to lumping H in with Y/S again, and why are we comparing H to a weird, unheard-of "N/C/M/P" grouping instead of its closest peers, CCN?

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by miskellyjohnson » Fri Aug 23, 2019 9:36 am

QContinuum wrote: Why are we back to lumping H in with Y/S again, and why are we comparing H to a weird, unheard-of "N/C/M/P" grouping instead of its closest peers, CCN?
This whole thread is stupid, but here we go.

QContinum, if you did a survey of legal professionals including big law partners, judges, practicing attorneys, and hiring managers, and asked them each to rank law schools, what do you think the order would be? (This isn't a hypothetical, its done every year, but I wonder what you think the results would be).

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by nixy » Fri Aug 23, 2019 9:57 am

Are you claiming Yale wouldn’t be first? Or that there wouldn’t a lot of subjective factors influencing people’s answers? Or that Harvard doesn’t have the largest number of alumni out there?

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by miskellyjohnson » Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:02 am

nixy wrote:Are you claiming Yale wouldn’t be first? Or that there wouldn’t a lot of subjective factors influencing people’s answers? Or that Harvard doesn’t have the largest number of alumni out there?
I'm not claiming anything. They do the survey year after year, and Harvard is consistently ranked #1 and, yes, occasionally #2 (last year was H/S tied at #1, Y at #3, Chicago #4, Columbia #5, NYU #9) . https://www.kivvit.com/Kivvit_USNReport.pdf , see page 7.

My point is QContinuum's idea that H is not a peer of Y/S is not one that is shared within the general legal community, nor within legal academia.

Of course there are a lot of H alumni-- thats precisely one of the huge benefits of H is the networking that opens up due to a large alumni base. But you cant criticize it for being big on one hand (a 'factory'), and then not acknowledge the positives that come with it being big. Yale beats H in USNWR overall rankings because it is small, and USNWR puts a huge emphasis on "money spent per student." So you go to a big school, you sacrifice money dedicated especially to you, and you benefit from a larger networking base. Feel free to chose which is more important to you.

And of course there are subjective factors-- thats what 'reputation' is, is a subjective measure.

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by QContinuum » Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:30 am

miskellyjohnson wrote:
QContinuum wrote: Why are we back to lumping H in with Y/S again, and why are we comparing H to a weird, unheard-of "N/C/M/P" grouping instead of its closest peers, CCN?
This whole thread is stupid, but here we go.

QContinum, if you did a survey of legal professionals including big law partners, judges, practicing attorneys, and hiring managers, and asked them each to rank law schools, what do you think the order would be? (This isn't a hypothetical, its done every year, but I wonder what you think the results would be).
I would want to look at the survey methodology to gauge its reliability. It's well known that, for instance, "famous" surveys like Vault are pretty heavily flawed.

I maintain that I have never ever heard anyone refer to the "N/C/M/P" group of schools.

The Kivvit survey's lead finding is that Hawaii Law is being underranked by 29 places by USNWR. Clearly the surveyors are, at minimum, no better than USNWR at recognizing the fact that outside the T20, schools are generally regional and it's really meaningless to quibble over Hawaii Law's exact positioning within the T2 relative to other schools that serve totally different markets in totally different parts of the country. And speaking of the T20, the Kivvit folks invent this weird, meaningless "T30" category instead.

Finally, the Kivvit survey itself doesn't show what you claim it shows. It shows Yale at #1, Stanford at #2, and Harvard at #3, just as USNWR does.

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by nixy » Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:50 am

If this is based on USNWR, the reputation ranking surveys a relatively limited pool.

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Re: Prospective Students - Why are you fixated on Harvard Law School?

Post by miskellyjohnson » Fri Aug 23, 2019 12:31 pm

QContinuum wrote:
Finally, the Kivvit survey itself doesn't show what you claim it shows. It shows Yale at #1, Stanford at #2, and Harvard at #3, just as USNWR does.
Heh, no it shows industry reputation (called '"B&B reputation") Harvard and Stanford tied at #1, and Y at #3. See page 7. And it shows reputation for legal academia HYS all tied at #1, and the rest coming at #4. This is right on p 6 of the report. I think you are looking at the column that says "OVERALL RANK," which refers to overall USNWR rank, so obviously those are the same as the overall USNWR rankings. This is from a survey done by USNWR, not by Kivvit, that are used as part of the USNWR rankings.

Again, USNWR ranks yale #1 because it spends a lot of money per student. That is the metric that keeps it ahead of H. H could go to 4.0 and 180 medians and still be behind Y because of money per student. Y could go o something like a 160 LSAT median and still be ahead because it spends so much money per student.

And yes, you can criticize USNWR (who does the survey in question) as being unreliable, but then you cant also rely on the same USNWR (which uses the same unreliable data) to prove that Y and S are ahead of H. And yes, it might be a limited pool, but it is certainly not as limited as "Top-law-schools.com commenters."

In any case, the whole points is that this idea that H is not a peer to Y/S is not one shared among any general legal community.

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