How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student? Forum

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latinx

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How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by latinx » Sat Jun 04, 2022 1:55 pm

According to the latest ABA data, the placement in Big Law was 70% of Cornell graduates, 30% of Emory graduates, and 6% of St. Louis graduates. Also from ABA data, the 25% mean LSAT for entering students was 169 for Cornell, the 75% and 25% mean LSAT for entering students were 169 and 160, respectively, and the 75% mean LSAT for entering students was 160 for St. Louis. These three schools were chosen due to the matchup of the LSAT means.

Thus, a student that scored 169 would find 75% of students scored better on the LSAT in Cornell and 25% scored better on the LSAT in Emory. Perhaps it is not coincidence that the cutoff for the percentage of students that earned Big Law positions almost exactly matches the cutoff for students scoring better on the LSAT. Almost the exact same relationship holds for Emory and St. Louis (160 LSAT for bottom 25% of Emory, top 25% of St. Louis, and the percentage that earned Big Law positions is also about a factor of four difference).

In other words, while far more graduates from T14 schools get Big Law positions than lower ranked schools, for the same student, the likelihood of getting a Big Law position seems to be similar no matter which school is attended, based on ABA data (the same seems to be true for lower tier 1 versus lower tier 2). In some ways this makes sense, as the same student is likely to finish at a lower ranking in a higher rated school simply due to the competition. Furthermore, Big Law recruiting is nationwide and looks for good graduates regardless of school. That's not to say the schools are the same; T14 schools have better networking, and presumably better faculty. But for the same student, whether you are initially 'ranked' at 25% at Cornell or 75% at Emory could lead to the same outcome (I know that incoming students are not ranked by LSAT score upon entry, but let's use that as a proxy). Also, there will be some highly 'ranked' students that underperform academically in law school and some lower 'ranked' students that overperform, and furthermore, Big Law does not just hire strictly based on the final ranking of law school graduates. However, it again raises the issue of whether it is better to accumulate lots of debt at a T14 versus a significantly lower cost at a school like Emory.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by talons2250 » Sat Jun 04, 2022 3:18 pm

latinx wrote:
Sat Jun 04, 2022 1:55 pm
According to the latest ABA data, the placement in Big Law was 70% of Cornell graduates, 30% of Emory graduates, and 6% of St. Louis graduates. Also from ABA data, the 25% mean LSAT for entering students was 169 for Cornell, the 75% and 25% mean LSAT for entering students were 169 and 160, respectively, and the 75% mean LSAT for entering students was 160 for St. Louis. These three schools were chosen due to the matchup of the LSAT means.

Thus, a student that scored 169 would find 75% of students scored better on the LSAT in Cornell and 25% scored better on the LSAT in Emory. Perhaps it is not coincidence that the cutoff for the percentage of students that earned Big Law positions almost exactly matches the cutoff for students scoring better on the LSAT. Almost the exact same relationship holds for Emory and St. Louis (160 LSAT for bottom 25% of Emory, top 25% of St. Louis, and the percentage that earned Big Law positions is also about a factor of four difference).

In other words, while far more graduates from T14 schools get Big Law positions than lower ranked schools, for the same student, the likelihood of getting a Big Law position seems to be similar no matter which school is attended, based on ABA data (the same seems to be true for lower tier 1 versus lower tier 2). In some ways this makes sense, as the same student is likely to finish at a lower ranking in a higher rated school simply due to the competition. Furthermore, Big Law recruiting is nationwide and looks for good graduates regardless of school. That's not to say the schools are the same; T14 schools have better networking, and presumably better faculty. But for the same student, whether you are initially 'ranked' at 25% at Cornell or 75% at Emory could lead to the same outcome (I know that incoming students are not ranked by LSAT score upon entry, but let's use that as a proxy). Also, there will be some highly 'ranked' students that underperform academically in law school and some lower 'ranked' students that overperform, and furthermore, Big Law does not just hire strictly based on the final ranking of law school graduates. However, it again raises the issue of whether it is better to accumulate lots of debt at a T14 versus a significantly lower cost at a school like Emory.
You're inferring way too much from LSAT scores. The truth is that the higher ranked the school, the deeper biglaw firms dip in the class grades-wise. This means that at many biglaw firms in New York City, median grades at Harvard are fine, but someone from Fordham Law has to be top 5%. There is probably some correlation with LSAT scores or whatever but that's just a coincidence. At any law school that you attend, you should go into 1L year assuming that you will be median, regardless of what your LSAT score is. With this expectation, it makes sense to go to the higher ranked school because there's less pressure to get excellent grades to achieve the same outcome.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by nixy » Sat Jun 04, 2022 3:25 pm

I don’t understand how you picking three schools where the numbers work leads to broader conclusions?

It’s true that a 160 is a higher LSAT compared to the rest of your class at Emory than it is at Cornell, but just because it’s the 75th percentile at Emory and 25% of Emory grads get biglaw, you can’t assume that the 25% who get biglaw at Emory are the top 25% students, nor can you assume that the students with the top 25% of LSAT scores coming in will be the top 25% of the class going into OCI. The numbers are all just way less predictive than that.

Tl;dr - no one is going to tell you that this all means that going to Emory with $$$ is definitely a better choice than going to Cornell at sticker. Cornell is much more likely to get you biglaw but it will *really* suck if you don’t, Emory is much less likely to get you biglaw but won’t suck quite as much if you don’t. It really depends on the individual’s risk tolerance and how important biglaw is to you.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by latinx » Sat Jun 04, 2022 9:17 pm

talons2250 wrote:
Sat Jun 04, 2022 3:18 pm
You're inferring way too much from LSAT scores. The truth is that the higher ranked the school, the deeper biglaw firms dip in the class grades-wise. This means that at many biglaw firms in New York City, median grades at Harvard are fine, but someone from Fordham Law has to be top 5%. There is probably some correlation with LSAT scores or whatever but that's just a coincidence. At any law school that you attend, you should go into 1L year assuming that you will be median, regardless of what your LSAT score is. With this expectation, it makes sense to go to the higher ranked school because there's less pressure to get excellent grades to achieve the same outcome.
I suspect you meant to say that biglaw firms dip in the class ranking-wise (to use your grammar)? A different grading scale is used at tier 1 schools than tier 4 schools, as has been well documented elsewhere. In other words, far fewer C and D grades are handed out at a T14 school than a low tier school. Or to put it another way, a student with a B average is going to be lower ranked at a top tier school. Thus, big law firms are likely to dip much lower in the rankings in a T14 school, not so much lower in grades.

On the one hand you state I am inferring way too much from LSAT scores, but on the other hand you are claiming that "At any law school that you attend, you should go into 1L year assuming that you will be median, regardless of what your LSAT score is". That really defies common sense; it is going to be more difficult to get a high ranking in a T14 school than in a low tier school, simply because the level of the students is far different. A lower tier school is going to have far fewer students that had high LSAT scores and high GPA as undergraduates, and far more students at the other end of the spectrum. If you stick the same student in both schools, and that student works equally hard in both schools, common sense will tell you that student will end up with a higher ranking in a lower tier school.

That brings me back to my main point. If you stick the same student in a T14 or lower tier school, their likelihood of getting a career in Big Law may not be as significant as one would infer from the fraction of graduates that end up in Big Law. And if that is the case, a student deciding upon which law school to attend should perhaps bear debt heavily in mind.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by latinx » Sat Jun 04, 2022 9:27 pm

nixy wrote:
Sat Jun 04, 2022 3:25 pm
I don’t understand how you picking three schools where the numbers work leads to broader conclusions?

It’s true that a 160 is a higher LSAT compared to the rest of your class at Emory than it is at Cornell, but just because it’s the 75th percentile at Emory and 25% of Emory grads get biglaw, you can’t assume that the 25% who get biglaw at Emory are the top 25% students, nor can you assume that the students with the top 25% of LSAT scores coming in will be the top 25% of the class going into OCI. The numbers are all just way less predictive than that.

Tl;dr - no one is going to tell you that this all means that going to Emory with $$$ is definitely a better choice than going to Cornell at sticker. Cornell is much more likely to get you biglaw but it will *really* suck if you don’t, Emory is much less likely to get you biglaw but won’t suck quite as much if you don’t. It really depends on the individual’s risk tolerance and how important biglaw is to you.
I merely meant to offer an example, not to pick on these particular schools. You are certainly correct that a better numerical study would examine all law schools rather than just a few. But I believe that these numbers are actually fairly representative. While the exact number may not be precise, it follows the logic that all of us know, namely that lower ranked schools admit students with lower LSAT scores and lower undergraduate GPA, which have been shown to be correlated to outcomes from law school (that doesn't mean someone with a low LSAT can't excel in law school or that someone with a high LSAT can't do poorly in law school, but there is definitely a correlation). My post is merely intended to start a discussion of the degree to which the same student enhances their prospect of getting big law by attending a T14 law school. The ABA data seem to suggest it may not be as much as a prospective student may believe based simply on the percentage of graduates that get positions in big law.

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talons2250

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by talons2250 » Sat Jun 04, 2022 10:27 pm

latinx wrote:
Sat Jun 04, 2022 9:17 pm
talons2250 wrote:
Sat Jun 04, 2022 3:18 pm
You're inferring way too much from LSAT scores. The truth is that the higher ranked the school, the deeper biglaw firms dip in the class grades-wise. This means that at many biglaw firms in New York City, median grades at Harvard are fine, but someone from Fordham Law has to be top 5%. There is probably some correlation with LSAT scores or whatever but that's just a coincidence. At any law school that you attend, you should go into 1L year assuming that you will be median, regardless of what your LSAT score is. With this expectation, it makes sense to go to the higher ranked school because there's less pressure to get excellent grades to achieve the same outcome.
I suspect you meant to say that biglaw firms dip in the class ranking-wise (to use your grammar)? A different grading scale is used at tier 1 schools than tier 4 schools, as has been well documented elsewhere. In other words, far fewer C and D grades are handed out at a T14 school than a low tier school. Or to put it another way, a student with a B average is going to be lower ranked at a top tier school. Thus, big law firms are likely to dip much lower in the rankings in a T14 school, not so much lower in grades.

On the one hand you state I am inferring way too much from LSAT scores, but on the other hand you are claiming that "At any law school that you attend, you should go into 1L year assuming that you will be median, regardless of what your LSAT score is". That really defies common sense; it is going to be more difficult to get a high ranking in a T14 school than in a low tier school, simply because the level of the students is far different. A lower tier school is going to have far fewer students that had high LSAT scores and high GPA as undergraduates, and far more students at the other end of the spectrum. If you stick the same student in both schools, and that student works equally hard in both schools, common sense will tell you that student will end up with a higher ranking in a lower tier school.

That brings me back to my main point. If you stick the same student in a T14 or lower tier school, their likelihood of getting a career in Big Law may not be as significant as one would infer from the fraction of graduates that end up in Big Law. And if that is the case, a student deciding upon which law school to attend should perhaps bear debt heavily in mind.
I think you're right if you're comparing schools with huge discrepancies in the incoming class. So your logic holds when comparing a T14 school versus a Tier 4 law school. But I've seen some people who got into Harvard think that if they go to Berkeley, they will assuredly be at the top of the class because have a 173 LSAT and 3.95 UGPA. That's an unwise expectation because the discrepancy between Berkeley and Harvard probably isn't big enough to support that.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by nixy » Sat Jun 04, 2022 10:52 pm

I feel like you're placing too much weight on LSAT scores as proxies for employment when instead we can look directly at the actual statistics and see that people at T14 schools have a better shot at biglaw than those at lower ranked schools. Something you're not considering is the degree to which T14 schools have built up networks/pipelines to biglaw firms - for instance, more biglaw firms will even interview at T14 OCIs than will show up to non-t14 schools. T14s have national alumni networks. T14s have a lot more resources to support their students than lesser-ranked schools do. T14 faculty tend to have more connections nationally. Federal judges tend to hire more students out of the T14.

And I still think you're placing too much predictive power on LSAT scores. There's a correlation between LSAT score and 1st year grades, but it's not very strong. You're right that yes, as you go down the rankings the LSAT/GPA percentiles go down as well. But you simply can't presume that if you have an LSAT at the school's 75th percentile, you will end up getting 75th percentile grades. That's ignoring too many other factors.

To a certain extent I agree that success is dependent on the individual as much or more so than the school. Someone who is really smart, personable, organized, focused, great work ethic, and "gets" law school exams/legal thinking quickly will probably do well for themselves wherever they end up (that's not to say that people who strike out suck, just that not everyone's strengths are tailor-made for law school and OCI). But it doesn't mean that Emory is going to open the same doors that Cornell will. And, to be honest, most people aren't really able to objectively evaluate their abilities in comparison to everyone else in their class to be able to have a realistic idea about whether they are going to be one of those golden children.

I don't mean to overstate the difference between the schools you're talking about - Emory is a very good school. Going to Emory with a big scholarship over Cornell at sticker is totally defensible, depending on your goals and personal comfort level with debt. But if you're biglaw or bust, Emory poses a risk. It may be a more palatable one to you than taking out the debt for Cornell, and that's completely fine. I still don't think you can say the numbers show that Emory will give you the same outcome as Cornell. I mean, you may end up in that position! But you can't predict that strongly enough ahead of time to rely on that for making a decision about where to attend.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by latinx » Sun Jun 05, 2022 10:15 am

nixy wrote:
Sat Jun 04, 2022 10:52 pm
... we can look directly at the actual statistics and see that people at T14 schools have a better shot at biglaw than those at lower ranked schools.
Which statistics would these be? I am aware of the ABA data which show the fraction of graduates from a particular school that get hired in big law. But there is some self selection going on here, in that only the 'best' students (as measured by LSAT and undergraduate GPA) attend T14 whereas a broader assortment of students attend lower ranked schools. That will slant the ABA data toward T14 schools as law firms want to hire the most promising applicants. For a prospective student, with a set LSAT and undergraduate GPA, what is needed is separate data that shows the employment outcomes for students with a range of LSAT and undergraduate GPA. That would allow a prospective student to better determine which school to attend.

Totally agree that a T14 school in theory should provide the same student with a significantly higher probability of landing a big law position, for all the reasons you present. Which brings me back to the title of my post; given all these advantages, why don't we see a higher percentage at T14 or lower percentage at lower ranked schools? The ABA data for each school show not only the fraction of graduates that land big law, but also the fraction of 'best' students that attend. There seems to be a correlation between the fraction of a schools graduates that land big law and the fraction of a schools students that had a certain LSAT and undergraduate GPA upon entry, which appears to be stronger than one might suspect given the inherent advantages of the T14 schools that you listed.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by nixy » Sun Jun 05, 2022 11:08 am

latinx wrote:
Sun Jun 05, 2022 10:15 am
nixy wrote:
Sat Jun 04, 2022 10:52 pm
... we can look directly at the actual statistics and see that people at T14 schools have a better shot at biglaw than those at lower ranked schools.
Which statistics would these be? I am aware of the ABA data which show the fraction of graduates from a particular school that get hired in big law. But there is some self selection going on here, in that only the 'best' students (as measured by LSAT and undergraduate GPA) attend T14 whereas a broader assortment of students attend lower ranked schools. That will slant the ABA data toward T14 schools as law firms want to hire the most promising applicants. For a prospective student, with a set LSAT and undergraduate GPA, what is needed is separate data that shows the employment outcomes for students with a range of LSAT and undergraduate GPA. That would allow a prospective student to better determine which school to attend.

Totally agree that a T14 school in theory should provide the same student with a significantly higher probability of landing a big law position, for all the reasons you present. Which brings me back to the title of my post; given all these advantages, why don't we see a higher percentage at T14 or lower percentage at lower ranked schools? The ABA data for each school show not only the fraction of graduates that land big law, but also the fraction of 'best' students that attend. There seems to be a correlation between the fraction of a schools graduates that land big law and the fraction of a schools students that had a certain LSAT and undergraduate GPA upon entry, which appears to be stronger than one might suspect given the inherent advantages of the T14 schools that you listed.
I don't really understand your second paragraph. Are you basically saying, why don't even more students at T14/fewer students at lower ranked schools get biglaw? For the first one, because not all students want biglaw, and there are plenty of elite non-biglaw jobs that those students take. For the second one, lower ranked schools (within a reasonable range) have their own networks/pipelines in their local markets. I went to a law school in a market that included a T1 and T2 school. There are plenty of biglaw partners in that market who went to those schools - they're local, they grew up in the community, they did well at the local schools and went on to work at firms that have hired plenty of the top students from the local schools and where those people have succeeded. Those things all still matter.

The thing is, law firms aren't hiring based on UGPA and LSAT. They generally don't even ask about those things (some will, but not many). They're hiring based on where you go to law school and what your grades are at that law school. You can't isolate LSAT/GPA from the school you attend and attribute employment outcomes to the numbers you want to attribute them to without any of the other factors.

The correlation you're focused on probably exists, but again, you're ignoring the fact that the percentage of students who get biglaw out of a given school does *not* line up neatly with the percentage of students with a certain UPGA/LSAT on entry - it just doesn't. Plenty of people with lower stats entering law school excel once they get there. Plenty of people with higher stats don't "get" law school exams right away. You have no idea which group you'll fall into. So it really is a correlation, and not causation. (I'd also argue it's a weird random trick of the numbers rather than some kind of guiding principle that holds true across all law schools.)

Basically, you're suggesting (or want to believe) that someone with a given LSAT/GPA combo is going to have the same employment outcome whether they go to a T14 school or a lower ranked school. But I don't think there's any way that you can prove that. Someone who goes to a T14 will be able to interview with a firm that doesn't even do OCI at Emory. Or the firm hires at Emory, but only out of the top 10%, and the 75th percentile applicant is, indeed, in the top 25% but not the top 10%. Or the firm only takes 5 people from Emory and goes for those with pre-law school accomplishments like military service or i-banking work or the like. Or the 75th percentile person at Emory gets a migraine the night before one of their exams and tanks their grades - sure, that could happen at a T14, too, but you have a greater margin for error in a school where 85% or 65% get biglaw than where 25% do.

Of course it's possible that someone with a 169/3.7 who goes to Emory will be just as happy with their outcome as someone who goes to Cornell with the same stats. For some people, it might even be the same outcome. That absolutely could happen. But again, the choice then boils down to what kind of risk an applicant is willing to take. If the prospect of debt is more troubling than the prospect of not getting biglaw, Emory is the better option. If the prospect of not getting biglaw is more troubling than the prospect of debt, Cornell is the better option.

(another way to think about this: if money weren't a factor - if both educations were free - which one would you pick and why? I think the answer is clear.)

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by latinx » Sun Jun 05, 2022 12:45 pm

nixy wrote:
Sun Jun 05, 2022 11:08 am
I don't really understand your second paragraph. Are you basically saying, why don't even more students at T14/fewer students at lower ranked schools get biglaw? For the first one, because not all students want biglaw, and there are plenty of elite non-biglaw jobs that those students take. For the second one, lower ranked schools (within a reasonable range) have their own networks/pipelines in their local markets. I went to a law school in a market that included a T1 and T2 school. There are plenty of biglaw partners in that market who went to those schools - they're local, they grew up in the community, they did well at the local schools and went on to work at firms that have hired plenty of the top students from the local schools and where those people have succeeded. Those things all still matter.

The thing is, law firms aren't hiring based on UGPA and LSAT. They generally don't even ask about those things (some will, but not many). They're hiring based on where you go to law school and what your grades are at that law school. You can't isolate LSAT/GPA from the school you attend and attribute employment outcomes to the numbers you want to attribute them to without any of the other factors.

The correlation you're focused on probably exists, but again, you're ignoring the fact that the percentage of students who get biglaw out of a given school does *not* line up neatly with the percentage of students with a certain UPGA/LSAT on entry - it just doesn't. Plenty of people with lower stats entering law school excel once they get there. Plenty of people with higher stats don't "get" law school exams right away. You have no idea which group you'll fall into. So it really is a correlation, and not causation. (I'd also argue it's a weird random trick of the numbers rather than some kind of guiding principle that holds true across all law schools.)

Basically, you're suggesting (or want to believe) that someone with a given LSAT/GPA combo is going to have the same employment outcome whether they go to a T14 school or a lower ranked school. But I don't think there's any way that you can prove that. Someone who goes to a T14 will be able to interview with a firm that doesn't even do OCI at Emory. Or the firm hires at Emory, but only out of the top 10%, and the 75th percentile applicant is, indeed, in the top 25% but not the top 10%. Or the firm only takes 5 people from Emory and goes for those with pre-law school accomplishments like military service or i-banking work or the like. Or the 75th percentile person at Emory gets a migraine the night before one of their exams and tanks their grades - sure, that could happen at a T14, too, but you have a greater margin for error in a school where 85% or 65% get biglaw than where 25% do.

Of course it's possible that someone with a 169/3.7 who goes to Emory will be just as happy with their outcome as someone who goes to Cornell with the same stats. For some people, it might even be the same outcome. That absolutely could happen. But again, the choice then boils down to what kind of risk an applicant is willing to take. If the prospect of debt is more troubling than the prospect of not getting biglaw, Emory is the better option. If the prospect of not getting biglaw is more troubling than the prospect of debt, Cornell is the better option.

(another way to think about this: if money weren't a factor - if both educations were free - which one would you pick and why? I think the answer is clear.)
I don't take issue with anything you've said. If a student considers their life a failure if they don't get big law, then they certainly should go with T14, regardless of the cost. But some OLs may look at the ABA employment data and may infer that they are five times more likely to get big law from T14 than from a lower ranked school, because the ABA data show that five times as many graduates get big law. But that gets back to the title of this post; namely that the student body at a T14 is different than that at a lower rated school. You are absolutely correct that a student with a good undergraduate GPA and good LSAT score could perform poorly in law school, for a variety of reasons. But as a general rule, a student with a good undergraduate GPA and good LSAT score will perform better in law school than a student with a mediocre undergraduate GPA and mediocre LSAT score, which is part of the reason law schools focus so much on those numbers. Considering that there are very few students with mediocre backgrounds in T14 schools, it is probably likely a student with good LSAT/GPA scores will end up ranked higher in a lower rated school (note that their grades may be the same as the grading curves are different). In other words, a student will likely have a better shot at big law by attending a T14, but it is not as large an advantage as one might infer strictly looking at ABA job placement statistics. Hence the title of the post.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Sun Jun 05, 2022 1:55 pm

latinx wrote:
Sun Jun 05, 2022 12:45 pm
I don't take issue with anything you've said. If a student considers their life a failure if they don't get big law, then they certainly should go with T14, regardless of the cost. But some OLs may look at the ABA employment data and may infer that they are five times more likely to get big law from T14 than from a lower ranked school, because the ABA data show that five times as many graduates get big law. But that gets back to the title of this post; namely that the student body at a T14 is different than that at a lower rated school. You are absolutely correct that a student with a good undergraduate GPA and good LSAT score could perform poorly in law school, for a variety of reasons. But as a general rule, a student with a good undergraduate GPA and good LSAT score will perform better in law school than a student with a mediocre undergraduate GPA and mediocre LSAT score, which is part of the reason law schools focus so much on those numbers. Considering that there are very few students with mediocre backgrounds in T14 schools, it is probably likely a student with good LSAT/GPA scores will end up ranked higher in a lower rated school (note that their grades may be the same as the grading curves are different). In other words, a student will likely have a better shot at big law by attending a T14, but it is not as large an advantage as one might infer strictly looking at ABA job placement statistics. Hence the title of the post.
Others have already done a good job explaining how tenuous this argument is (the relationship between LSAT and UGPA isn't anywhere near 100%, nor is the relationship between LSAT/UGPA and LGPA so strong, and nor is the the relationship between LGPA and employment outcomes—you end up with a pretty weak relationship). But I just want to reiterate that the bolded is wrong. Especially when comparing a T13 like Cornell and a non-T20 like Emory, raw job stats probably understate the disparity in access to biglaw. Talk to twenty students at either school about this; or talk to twenty law-firm partners who make hiring decisions. It really is night-and-day.

You can only make a weak guess as to whether you'll be able to excel your classmates. So being able to get biglaw from median is so, so important if your professional or financial goals are dependent on biglaw. The argument really just ends there.

Obviously, the calculus is different for people who don't need or want a firm job, but such people should really just disregard this whole thread since it's been about biglaw since the OP.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Sun Jun 05, 2022 2:13 pm

To put it another way, does anyone have empirical evidence that roughly 75% of Emory students with an LSAT score of 169 (not higher nor lower) end up in biglaw after graduation? Or evidence for such a high degree of employment outperformance by 75th-percentile LSAT scorers (again, not 180/4.0 types on full rides; just moderately above-average and indeed often within the LSAT's uncertainty band of ~3 points relative to median) at any other school?

Doesn't have to be hard data from a career-services office; a statistically-sound survey would suffice.

Because if we're not reasonably sure about that relationship then this whole notion of handicapping outcomes by LSAT is just irresponsible bullshit. I say "bullshit" not to disparage but to precisely denote the lack of relationship between [statement] and [observable reality].

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by nixy » Sun Jun 05, 2022 2:26 pm

latinx wrote:
Sun Jun 05, 2022 12:45 pm
nixy wrote:
Sun Jun 05, 2022 11:08 am
I don't really understand your second paragraph. Are you basically saying, why don't even more students at T14/fewer students at lower ranked schools get biglaw? For the first one, because not all students want biglaw, and there are plenty of elite non-biglaw jobs that those students take. For the second one, lower ranked schools (within a reasonable range) have their own networks/pipelines in their local markets. I went to a law school in a market that included a T1 and T2 school. There are plenty of biglaw partners in that market who went to those schools - they're local, they grew up in the community, they did well at the local schools and went on to work at firms that have hired plenty of the top students from the local schools and where those people have succeeded. Those things all still matter.

The thing is, law firms aren't hiring based on UGPA and LSAT. They generally don't even ask about those things (some will, but not many). They're hiring based on where you go to law school and what your grades are at that law school. You can't isolate LSAT/GPA from the school you attend and attribute employment outcomes to the numbers you want to attribute them to without any of the other factors.

The correlation you're focused on probably exists, but again, you're ignoring the fact that the percentage of students who get biglaw out of a given school does *not* line up neatly with the percentage of students with a certain UPGA/LSAT on entry - it just doesn't. Plenty of people with lower stats entering law school excel once they get there. Plenty of people with higher stats don't "get" law school exams right away. You have no idea which group you'll fall into. So it really is a correlation, and not causation. (I'd also argue it's a weird random trick of the numbers rather than some kind of guiding principle that holds true across all law schools.)

Basically, you're suggesting (or want to believe) that someone with a given LSAT/GPA combo is going to have the same employment outcome whether they go to a T14 school or a lower ranked school. But I don't think there's any way that you can prove that. Someone who goes to a T14 will be able to interview with a firm that doesn't even do OCI at Emory. Or the firm hires at Emory, but only out of the top 10%, and the 75th percentile applicant is, indeed, in the top 25% but not the top 10%. Or the firm only takes 5 people from Emory and goes for those with pre-law school accomplishments like military service or i-banking work or the like. Or the 75th percentile person at Emory gets a migraine the night before one of their exams and tanks their grades - sure, that could happen at a T14, too, but you have a greater margin for error in a school where 85% or 65% get biglaw than where 25% do.

Of course it's possible that someone with a 169/3.7 who goes to Emory will be just as happy with their outcome as someone who goes to Cornell with the same stats. For some people, it might even be the same outcome. That absolutely could happen. But again, the choice then boils down to what kind of risk an applicant is willing to take. If the prospect of debt is more troubling than the prospect of not getting biglaw, Emory is the better option. If the prospect of not getting biglaw is more troubling than the prospect of debt, Cornell is the better option.

(another way to think about this: if money weren't a factor - if both educations were free - which one would you pick and why? I think the answer is clear.)
I don't take issue with anything you've said. If a student considers their life a failure if they don't get big law, then they certainly should go with T14, regardless of the cost. But some OLs may look at the ABA employment data and may infer that they are five times more likely to get big law from T14 than from a lower ranked school, because the ABA data show that five times as many graduates get big law. But that gets back to the title of this post; namely that the student body at a T14 is different than that at a lower rated school. You are absolutely correct that a student with a good undergraduate GPA and good LSAT score could perform poorly in law school, for a variety of reasons. But as a general rule, a student with a good undergraduate GPA and good LSAT score will perform better in law school than a student with a mediocre undergraduate GPA and mediocre LSAT score, which is part of the reason law schools focus so much on those numbers. Considering that there are very few students with mediocre backgrounds in T14 schools, it is probably likely a student with good LSAT/GPA scores will end up ranked higher in a lower rated school (note that their grades may be the same as the grading curves are different). In other words, a student will likely have a better shot at big law by attending a T14, but it is not as large an advantage as one might infer strictly looking at ABA job placement statistics. Hence the title of the post.
For this to be true, you have to assume that better grades/a higher ranking at a lower-ranked school lead to the same opportunities as worse grades/a lower ranking at a T14. I've already explained why this isn't true.

Plus, this is just an elaborate way of restating the old chestnut argument that if you go to a school where your stats are at the top of their admissions standards, you're guaranteed to do well. B/c there's a correlation btw UGPA/LSAT and 1L grades, this may be the case. But it's not at all guaranteed.

Finally, you said "Considering that there are very few students with mediocre backgrounds in T14 schools, it is probably likely a student with good LSAT/GPA scores will end up ranked higher in a lower rated school." The fact that there are few students with mediocre backgrounds in T14 schools doesn't mean that there aren't also students with excellent backgrounds at lower-ranked schools. There are still plenty of really talented students who went to the local college and want to go to the local law school b/c that's what they know and they have no plans to move anywhere else. The practice of giving out scholarships to get top students to attend also means that the students at the top of many lower-ranked schools (especially like Emory) are excellent and could hold their own at a T14. If all of the 75th+ percentile students at Emory could have gone to a T14 but went to Emory instead, you're getting ranked against those students.

I think this is kind of an example of Ockham's razor: if 5x more students get biglaw at the T14 vs. Emory (or whatever school), yes, your chances are better at the T14.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by CanadianWolf » Sun Jun 05, 2022 5:12 pm

I have only read a few of the posts in this thread.

OP's original post in this thread asserts: "Biglaw recruiting is nationwide and looks for good graduates regardless of school." This is incorrect.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by persia1921 » Tue Jun 07, 2022 8:45 pm

I don’t think there is a meaningful correlation. As others have said, you go to a T14 because big law is prestige obsessed and will go deeper into classes (even below medium at a lot of schools).

LSAT is also only on metric—I was below the 25th percentile LSAT for my T14 and ended up in the top 10% of the class at graduation.

Bottom line is you can’t go into law school thinking your LSAT score is going to be indicative of your performance.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by cavalier1138 » Sun Jun 12, 2022 10:05 am

I don't understand the desire to force this interpretation on data that just doesn't support it. It's fine to not go to a T13. No one has ever said otherwise. But it's ludicrous to suggest that someone should choose a lower-ranked school for biglaw and just assume that their higher-than-median LSAT will guarantee them good law school grades.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by latinx » Mon Jun 13, 2022 1:56 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:
Sun Jun 12, 2022 10:05 am
I don't understand the desire to force this interpretation on data that just doesn't support it. It's fine to not go to a T13. No one has ever said otherwise. But it's ludicrous to suggest that someone should choose a lower-ranked school for biglaw and just assume that their higher-than-median LSAT will guarantee them good law school grades.
I agree with all you've said, as well as with many of the other comments above. The title of this post implicitly states that attending a T14 school is an advantage over other schools for those interested in big law. Not so much because the education they receive there is greatly superior but because of networking and resources. The key words in the title are 'for a given student'. Let's call our given student Billy Bob. Billy Bob gets admitted to a T14 and to a T2. Billy Bob would have an advantage at a T14, but how much of an advantage? This is relevant to OLs because they in essence are doing a cost-benefit analysis; the additional cost of attending a higher rank school is straightforward but the benefit is much harder to assign a number. Perhaps Billy Bob will raise his game and study harder at a T14, but otherwise it is perhaps reasonable to assume Billy Bob will graduate with a higher class ranking from a T2 than a T14 (Billy Bob's grades may be more similar at the two schools than his ranking due to a different curve). If this were true, then one can not look at the ABA data and use the employment statistics to infer how much of an advantage Billy Bob would have at a T14. Hence the title of the post

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by nixy » Mon Jun 13, 2022 3:09 pm

I mean you actually can assume that they will have a better shot at biglaw from a T14. That’s what those employment numbers mean. Exactly how much better depends on the T14 and on what else Billy Bob brings to the table (his UGPA isn’t destiny - maybe it’s 10 years old and he’s got his act together since then).

And there isn’t some neat equation for employment outcomes where “higher ranking at lower ranked school” equals “lower ranking at higher ranked school,” for reasons I’ve already discussed (resources/network/reputation).

In the absence of cost, I think everyone would agree that the T14 is a better bet than a T2. As I’ve said a bunch of times, how much that bet is worth to you financially depends on personal circumstances and comfort with debt/risk. There isn’t some comforting mathematical formula where you can say that “my LSAT score of [whatever] with my school ranking makes me like a median-ish or lower T14 student and so I’ll have that outcome.”

Of course many people who go to T2s end up in good outcomes. People who’ve gone to a lower-ranked school on full scholarship have come back to say “I was top of my class and got biglaw” or “I was top of my class and transferred at got biglaw.” But others have come back to say “I was not top of my class and did not transfer/get biglaw.”

You may not be able to quantify the T14 advantage exactly, but that’s no reason to decide it’s not real.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by msk1111 » Mon Jun 13, 2022 4:59 pm

The raw numbers of going into big-law at t-13s understate how easy it is to get a run of the mill big law job from a t-13 because there will be a significant chunk who don’t pursue that. At my t-13 law school, I did not know a single person who pursued that and did not get it. To make your comparison meaningful, you’d have to know what % of students wanted big law and got that job; I’d bet the number is pretty close to 100% across the t-13 and much lower at the other schools. And if your only focus is big law, there are a number of firms you can’t get, or are at least much harder to get, without going to a t-13.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by existentialcrisis » Mon Jun 13, 2022 7:28 pm

msk1111 wrote:
Mon Jun 13, 2022 4:59 pm
The raw numbers of going into big-law at t-13s understate how easy it is to get a run of the mill big law job from a t-13 because there will be a significant chunk who don’t pursue that. At my t-13 law school, I did not know a single person who pursued that and did not get it. To make your comparison meaningful, you’d have to know what % of students wanted big law and got that job; I’d bet the number is pretty close to 100% across the t-13 and much lower at the other schools. And if your only focus is big law, there are a number of firms you can’t get, or are at least much harder to get, without going to a t-13.
I just made basically the same post in another thread recently, but this is a function of the boom economy we've enjoyed for the past few years. This is not even close to the case during a recession.

I DO think it's fair to say that even during a recession, most of the T14 will continue to give median students, and potentially below, who prepare, hustle, mass mail and bid intelligently, a strong chance at big firms.

It's the WUSTL's and the GWs of the world whose employment stats absolutely plummet when the economy heads south.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Tue Jun 14, 2022 10:45 am

latinx wrote:
Mon Jun 13, 2022 1:56 pm
Billy Bob gets admitted to a T14 and to a T2. Billy Bob would have an advantage at a T14, but how much of an advantage?
For biglaw? Massive advantage. So large an advantage that that suggesting Billy attend the T2 is irresponsibly stupid advice; anyone dispensing such advice should be ashamed of themselves.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by nealric » Tue Jun 14, 2022 2:02 pm

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 10:45 am
latinx wrote:
Mon Jun 13, 2022 1:56 pm
Billy Bob gets admitted to a T14 and to a T2. Billy Bob would have an advantage at a T14, but how much of an advantage?
For biglaw? Massive advantage. So large an advantage that that suggesting Billy attend the T2 is irresponsibly stupid advice; anyone dispensing such advice should be ashamed of themselves.
This. First of all, to have a shot at Biglaw from most T2s, Billybob can't just do well. He can't just do better than the vast majority of his peers. To have a high chance of success at biglaw, Billybob is going to need to be one of the top handful (5-10 students) in his class, be on the law review, and otherwise be a supestar of the school after the end of 1L year. And EVEN IF he does all that, he's going to be limited to a small handful of firms that recruit at his school.

Lets assume for the sake of argument that Billybob's relatively high LSAT means he's likely to outperform most of his classmates academically. All it takes is ONE bad day for that not to happen. Law school grades are determined almost entirely on a single exam at the end of a semester. You are not feeling well that day, couldn't sleep the night before, dog died, girlfriend broke up with you? Too bad- you have to take that exam. If the bar is that you need to be one of the top 5-10 people, all it takes is a bad day on one exam. Or maybe you just slightly misread an essay prompt, or maybe you simply don't jive with that specific professor. I personally got pretty good grades 1L year, but had a single bad grade that was a total outlier. I just didn't jive with the class or professor. I was at a T-14, so I got biglaw in the end, but had I gone to a T2, that one grade probably would have blown my chances.

At most T14 schools, average performance is fine. While most people at T14s have pretty good credentials, there are still going to be people who are slackers, don't jive with law school, were admitted because their parents are bigshots of some sort, had a personal crisis, etc. Those folks make up most of the bottom 25% of the class. And the thing is, even the bottom of the class has a shot at biglaw because T14 schools obfuscate rankings. At a T2, you will know your exact class rank. A T14 will list cutoffs for "dean's list" or Latin honors designations (usually top 1/3, top 10%, top 5% ish), but it can be very hard to distinguish between bad grades and average grades. At the very top schools, they dispense with traditional grades altogether. Even where there are traditional grades, it's extremely difficult to get a truly bad grade that stands out on your transcript. Anything below a "B-" is rarely given, and it would be almost impossible to actually fail out unless you aren't even trying. At many T2s, a portion of the class flunks out despite trying very hard (that can become a pretty significant percentage at a T4).

So yes, if the goal s biglaw, then the chances of a specific individual achieving that goal are SIGNFICNALTY higher by attending a T14 over a second tier school. That doesn't mean Billybob should never choose the T2. If Billybob got a full ride to his hometown school and wants to be local prosecutor in his hometown, then the T2 could be a fine choice. It's just not the right choice of Billybob has dreams of working for Wachtell (which, by the way does effectively no recruiting below the T14, and very limited recruiting below HYSCCN).

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by talons2250 » Tue Jun 14, 2022 2:39 pm

nealric wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 2:02 pm
The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 10:45 am
latinx wrote:
Mon Jun 13, 2022 1:56 pm
Billy Bob gets admitted to a T14 and to a T2. Billy Bob would have an advantage at a T14, but how much of an advantage?
For biglaw? Massive advantage. So large an advantage that that suggesting Billy attend the T2 is irresponsibly stupid advice; anyone dispensing such advice should be ashamed of themselves.
This. First of all, to have a shot at Biglaw from most T2s, Billybob can't just do well. He can't just do better than the vast majority of his peers. To have a high chance of success at biglaw, Billybob is going to need to be one of the top handful (5-10 students) in his class, be on the law review, and otherwise be a supestar of the school after the end of 1L year. And EVEN IF he does all that, he's going to be limited to a small handful of firms that recruit at his school.

Lets assume for the sake of argument that Billybob's relatively high LSAT means he's likely to outperform most of his classmates academically. All it takes is ONE bad day for that not to happen. Law school grades are determined almost entirely on a single exam at the end of a semester. You are not feeling well that day, couldn't sleep the night before, dog died, girlfriend broke up with you? Too bad- you have to take that exam. If the bar is that you need to be one of the top 5-10 people, all it takes is a bad day on one exam. Or maybe you just slightly misread an essay prompt, or maybe you simply don't jive with that specific professor. I personally got pretty good grades 1L year, but had a single bad grade that was a total outlier. I just didn't jive with the class or professor. I was at a T-14, so I got biglaw in the end, but had I gone to a T2, that one grade probably would have blown my chances.

At most T14 schools, average performance is fine. While most people at T14s have pretty good credentials, there are still going to be people who are slackers, don't jive with law school, were admitted because their parents are bigshots of some sort, had a personal crisis, etc. Those folks make up most of the bottom 25% of the class. And the thing is, even the bottom of the class has a shot at biglaw because T14 schools obfuscate rankings. At a T2, you will know your exact class rank. A T14 will list cutoffs for "dean's list" or Latin honors designations (usually top 1/3, top 10%, top 5% ish), but it can be very hard to distinguish between bad grades and average grades. At the very top schools, they dispense with traditional grades altogether. Even where there are traditional grades, it's extremely difficult to get a truly bad grade that stands out on your transcript. Anything below a "B-" is rarely given, and it would be almost impossible to actually fail out unless you aren't even trying. At many T2s, a portion of the class flunks out despite trying very hard (that can become a pretty significant percentage at a T4).

So yes, if the goal s biglaw, then the chances of a specific individual achieving that goal are SIGNFICNALTY higher by attending a T14 over a second tier school. That doesn't mean Billybob should never choose the T2. If Billybob got a full ride to his hometown school and wants to be local prosecutor in his hometown, then the T2 could be a fine choice. It's just not the right choice of Billybob has dreams of working for Wachtell (which, by the way does effectively no recruiting below the T14, and very limited recruiting below HYSCCN).
The above is 100% correct in my experience. One additional thing that hasn't been mentioned is that exams can differ wildly in terms of the types of skills that they reward. Some law school exams are full period take homes that are completely open book, where you basically have two full weeks to finish the exam. These exams reward people who can devote large amounts of time, energy, and resources to the exam during the exam period. Other exams are three-hour, closed book sprints that require less thorough engagement with the material and reward rote memorization and speed (both ability to think quickly and also physical ability to type fast). For both types of exam, there's the same curve. It's not at all uncommon for students to be better suited to one of those exam formats than the other.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by latinx » Tue Jun 14, 2022 9:38 pm

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 10:45 am
latinx wrote:
Mon Jun 13, 2022 1:56 pm
Billy Bob gets admitted to a T14 and to a T2. Billy Bob would have an advantage at a T14, but how much of an advantage?
For biglaw? Massive advantage. So large an advantage that that suggesting Billy attend the T2 is irresponsibly stupid advice; anyone dispensing such advice should be ashamed of themselves.
Let's use a definition that big law is represented on the ABA 509 statements as firms with more than 500 lawyers. Using that definition, and using the 2021 data, I added up 2371 graduates of T14 schools got into big law, 1999 graduates of the other Tier 1 schools got into big law, and 950 graduates of Tier 2 schools got into big law. There are also hundreds of Tier 3 and Tier 4 school graduates that got into big law, but I didn't want to add those all up. The point being that MORE LAW SCHOOL GRADUATES FROM SCHOOLS OUTSIDE THE T14 GOT BIG LAW THAN T14 GRADUATES. Again, we are all in agreement that for various reasons, graduates of T14 schools have an advantage in obtaining big law. But the majority of 2021 big law came from outside the T14, despite the lower recruiting, lower networking, lower resources, and other disadvantages. No denying that a smaller fraction of students outside the T14 get big law, and this fraction drops the lower in the ranking you go (meaning you either have to finish higher in the ranking or have connections). But I continue to argue that part of the reason for this is due to the lower quality of the student body (if you use mean LSAT and undergraduate GPA to determine quality). If you take a given student, Billy Bob, the advantage of attending T14 is not as massive as might first appear. Now if Billy Bob feels his life is over if he doesn't get big law, there is no question he should enroll in T14, cost be damned (of course, being in T14 doesn't guarantee big law, and Billy Bob could end up disappointed and broke). There is no doubt there is an advantage but how big of an advantage is it and how much is that advantage worth? Hence the title of this post.

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Re: How much of an advantage is a T14 for Big Law for a given student?

Post by nixy » Tue Jun 14, 2022 10:38 pm

latinx wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 9:38 pm
The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 10:45 am
latinx wrote:
Mon Jun 13, 2022 1:56 pm
Billy Bob gets admitted to a T14 and to a T2. Billy Bob would have an advantage at a T14, but how much of an advantage?
For biglaw? Massive advantage. So large an advantage that that suggesting Billy attend the T2 is irresponsibly stupid advice; anyone dispensing such advice should be ashamed of themselves.
Let's use a definition that big law is represented on the ABA 509 statements as firms with more than 500 lawyers. Using that definition, and using the 2021 data, I added up 2371 graduates of T14 schools got into big law, 1999 graduates of the other Tier 1 schools got into big law, and 950 graduates of Tier 2 schools got into big law. There are also hundreds of Tier 3 and Tier 4 school graduates that got into big law, but I didn't want to add those all up. The point being that MORE LAW SCHOOL GRADUATES FROM SCHOOLS OUTSIDE THE T14 GOT BIG LAW THAN T14 GRADUATES. Again, we are all in agreement that for various reasons, graduates of T14 schools have an advantage in obtaining big law. But the majority of 2021 big law came from outside the T14, despite the lower recruiting, lower networking, lower resources, and other disadvantages. No denying that a smaller fraction of students outside the T14 get big law, and this fraction drops the lower in the ranking you go (meaning you either have to finish higher in the ranking or have connections). But I continue to argue that part of the reason for this is due to the lower quality of the student body (if you use mean LSAT and undergraduate GPA to determine quality). If you take a given student, Billy Bob, the advantage of attending T14 is not as massive as might first appear. Now if Billy Bob feels his life is over if he doesn't get big law, there is no question he should enroll in T14, cost be damned (of course, being in T14 doesn't guarantee big law, and Billy Bob could end up disappointed and broke). There is no doubt there is an advantage but how big of an advantage is it and how much is that advantage worth? Hence the title of this post.
This doesn't make any sense. Why are you yelling about total numbers? A student can only attend one law school (okay, maybe 2 if they transfer). Their employment options aren't magically improved by the fact that firms are hiring from other T1/T2 schools.

Look, there are way more non-T14 grads than T14 grads - you're comparing 14 schools against *86.* The numbers make clear that T14 grads are getting *disproportionally* way more biglaw jobs. The 56% of jobs that the grads of the other 86 schools are getting also aren't going to be distributed equally among all those schools, so talking about T1/2 as a monolith isn't productive.

The advantage *is* big. You acknowledge yourself that if someone is biglaw or bust, they should go to the T14, meaning you recognize that advantage. It is as simple as the percentage of grads from a given school getting a given outcome. If there were some clever other way to measure this, someone would have come up with it by now, because you're really just grappling with a question that comes up here all the time: what schools are worth paying sticker for? are any schools worth paying sticker for? There aren't any clear answers to that because it depends on personal goals and risk tolerance.

I mean, personally I tend to advise people not to take out sticker price to go to the T14, if they have a respectable alternative option with good money. Vanderbilt or Wash U with big scholarships would be excellent options that give decent biglaw opportunities without the same financial risk as a T14 at sticker. But this is again going to vary a ton by personal circumstances and goals. And I definitely don't give this advice on the basis that someone with good enough numbers to get into the T14 is smart enough that they'll have a guaranteed good outcome any other school.

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