Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

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lavarman84

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by lavarman84 » Mon Mar 25, 2019 2:50 am

Guys, we're talking about lawyering ability. Obviously, experience in transactional is not relevant. I kid, I kid. :wink:

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by RedGiant » Mon Mar 25, 2019 3:32 am

Eh, I've worked at Cravath & Latham & WSGR & Mintz, some as staff, some as a paralegal. While of course there is some magical nebulous cutoff for raw smarts, at least on the corporate side, you can be an extremely effective lawyer by using common sense, attention to detail and project management in conjunction with mediocre smarts. You need not be the absolute most brilliant to GSD and look like a superstar. I've seen plenty of very, very smart grades-wise attorneys fall flat when they don't read between the lines of what clients need or understand the nuance of getting a deal done because they lack EQ or planning smarts. Law school is highly uncorrelated with most corporate work.

A separate but related tangent is that you can't really be trained to be an excellent corporate lawyer outside of many great firms, because you won't get the deal exposure and complexity of deal types at a smaller firm. But that's a separate debate. So you need the grades to get in the door to get the exposure.

It's absolutely wrong to say that if you went to a "lower ranked" law school (but did well) you can't cut it on the corporate side of biglaw. I've seen absolute superstars from lower-ranked schools make partner and kill it. It's just not true that you have to go to T6 or T14 or whatever other arbitrary cutoff.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by shock259 » Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:46 am

In my experience, it's a mix. If you are plucking lawyers out of a hat from various law schools, I think you are likely to get "better" lawyers from top tier schools than from lower ranked ones. It's not so much because they learn the law better at those school - more that someone who went to a top school usually has the discipline, intellectual curiosity, organization, and social skills necessary to succeed in the environment. But there are obviously many people that have those skills that choose, for whatever reason, to attend non-top schools. There's just going to be fewer of them at a non-stop school.

I think that's about the extent to which you can generalize. Trying to draw comparisons between schools ranks at different schools is a bridge too far, in my opinion. For instance, is a top 50% Harvard student equivalent to a top 5% at a T2 school? Who knows. There's just too many factors and variables.

Also, the poster above is credited in that you don't need to be cognitively brilliant to succeed as a lawyer. It's a profession that requires competence in a lot of different areas, but you don't need to be exceptional. I think a good generic skill set can get you going and keep you going for a while (attention to detail, organization, people skills).

I'll end this by saying that some of the "best" lawyers I have ever worked for in biglaw and with have been from T2 and T3 schools. I'm glad I got the chance to get to know them because they softened my perception of this whole thing. It's easy to get stuck in the top law school bubble.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by objctnyrhnr » Mon Mar 25, 2019 12:07 pm

ghostoftraynor wrote:I think everyone saying undergrad GPA, LSAT, and law school GPA don't mean anything would still hire Wacthell over DLA every time if cost wasn't a factor.
Not sure where you’re getting DLA as a biglaw example to differentiate (I’m inferring for the purpose of picking a market firm with lower-tiered grads?). In my market, DLA is full of HYSCCN and t20 (or so) grads from top of class, and many are former fedclerks and/or ausas. This hiring is consistent with the biglaw profile of most firms in my market. In my market, though, there are some firms that off the top of my head I think include sidley Austin and Morgan Lewis and Wilmer that regularly reach into the ttt and tttts to pull one of the top couple grads.

Maybe DLA elsewhere has lower standards though?

Anybody at a firm with mainly the first category of grads (call it t20 and above with fedclerks etc) in addition to a couple ttt valedictorians, who can comment on whether there’s a major difference in ability?

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by FND » Mon Mar 25, 2019 1:19 pm

RedGiant wrote:Eh, I've worked at Cravath & Latham & WSGR & Mintz, some as staff, some as a paralegal. While of course there is some magical nebulous cutoff for raw smarts, at least on the corporate side, you can be an extremely effective lawyer by using common sense, attention to detail and project management in conjunction with mediocre smarts. You need not be the absolute most brilliant to GSD and look like a superstar. I've seen plenty of very, very smart grades-wise attorneys fall flat when they don't read between the lines of what clients need or understand the nuance of getting a deal done because they lack EQ or planning smarts. Law school is highly uncorrelated with most corporate work.

A separate but related tangent is that you can't really be trained to be an excellent corporate lawyer outside of many great firms, because you won't get the deal exposure and complexity of deal types at a smaller firm. But that's a separate debate. So you need the grades to get in the door to get the exposure.
Two very true statements

The skills to get into a good law school are not the same skills that make a good lawyer - but there is a correlation (I forgot the numbers and can't find it, but I think LSAC said there was a roughly 50% correlation between LSAT and bar passage rate)
if you compare random students from better schools with random students from lesser schools, odds are the ones from the better schools will be better lawyers, but there are plenty of exceptions

However, exposure and competition make a hunge difference in the long run. For example, to become a top transactional attorney, you need exposure to the kind of complex deals you only get working for a major law firm. And if you're surrounded by people with good work habits, you develop good work habits of your own.

As an example, I was lucky to get exposure to a lot of very advanced concepts when I lived and worked in a major market. now live in a smaller region, and even the regional powerhouse firms haven't heard of some of the things I can bring to the table.
I've had clients buy and/or sell businesses on a one-page document. When I tell them their current structure could cost 59% in federal taxes, and by utilizing a 1045 exchange we can defer all taxes, I become their hero. Likewise, talking to a potential client who owned a few television stations, I can talk intelligently about corporate barter, and I'm probably the only attorney in a hundred mile radius who can do so.

I also got training from some of the best, so I learned to work more efficiently and to communicate more effectively than all the local yokels. I've built systems and templates for myself that allows me to churn out work at a faster rate and better quality than anyone else around. Clients often balk at my hourly rate (definitely higher than the average), but when I offer a flat fee that's noticeably lower than they're used to paying, they jump on board.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by LBJ's Hair » Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:04 pm

objctnyrhnr wrote:
ghostoftraynor wrote:I think everyone saying undergrad GPA, LSAT, and law school GPA don't mean anything would still hire Wacthell over DLA every time if cost wasn't a factor.
Not sure where you’re getting DLA as a biglaw example to differentiate (I’m inferring for the purpose of picking a market firm with lower-tiered grads?). In my market, DLA is full of HYSCCN and t20 (or so) grads from top of class, and many are former fedclerks and/or ausas. This hiring is consistent with the biglaw profile of most firms in my market. In my market, though, there are some firms that off the top of my head I think include sidley Austin and Morgan Lewis and Wilmer that regularly reach into the ttt and tttts to pull one of the top couple grads.

Maybe DLA elsewhere has lower standards though?

Anybody at a firm with mainly the first category of grads (call it t20 and above with fedclerks etc) in addition to a couple ttt valedictorians, who can comment on whether there’s a major difference in ability?
Secondhand but - my s/o has been at a vanilla V10-V20 as well as an ultraselective firm (Keker/W&C/MTO/BSF/WLRK-type), found the work from junior associates to be much, much better at the latter. S/he's not sure if it's "smarts," work ethic, the firm's own standards, etc, but in his/her view, there is absolutely a difference between even a median T6 student and someone from near top of the class. I.e., "talent isn't fungible." unclear how this translates to say, a generic T6 student vs T20-30 or w/e.

disclaimer - sample of one, etc.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by TheoO » Tue Mar 26, 2019 1:10 am

One of my law professors once said something re: law school exams that may, on some level, apply to this thread. To paraphrase: You can tell which exams are definite As and which are definite Bs, but the exams in between you might as well throw down a set of set stairs.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by QContinuum » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:54 am

TheoO wrote:One of my law professors once said something re: law school exams that may, on some level, apply to this thread. To paraphrase: You can tell which exams are definite As and which are definite Bs, but the exams in between you might as well throw down a set of set stairs.
To be fair, the "exams in between" are, by definition, either A- or B+ exams. It's not really surprising to hear an open acknowledgement that the line between A- and B+ is very difficult and somewhat random to draw.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by DoveBodyWash » Tue Mar 26, 2019 12:42 pm

Only replying to title, haven't read any prior posts. Have worked at both V5 and V10. Only thing i've consistently noticed is that the juniors hailing from TTT's (i.e., ranked literally #1-3 in graduating class, usually blue collar background and/or first to go to law school etc...) have a certain grit that their softer pass-fail-kumbaya-for-three-years-bank-of-mom-and-dad HYS counterparts seem to lack.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by objctnyrhnr » Tue Mar 26, 2019 1:28 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:
ghostoftraynor wrote:I think everyone saying undergrad GPA, LSAT, and law school GPA don't mean anything would still hire Wacthell over DLA every time if cost wasn't a factor.
Not sure where you’re getting DLA as a biglaw example to differentiate (I’m inferring for the purpose of picking a market firm with lower-tiered grads?). In my market, DLA is full of HYSCCN and t20 (or so) grads from top of class, and many are former fedclerks and/or ausas. This hiring is consistent with the biglaw profile of most firms in my market. In my market, though, there are some firms that off the top of my head I think include sidley Austin and Morgan Lewis and Wilmer that regularly reach into the ttt and tttts to pull one of the top couple grads.

Maybe DLA elsewhere has lower standards though?

Anybody at a firm with mainly the first category of grads (call it t20 and above with fedclerks etc) in addition to a couple ttt valedictorians, who can comment on whether there’s a major difference in ability?
Secondhand but - my s/o has been at a vanilla V10-V20 as well as an ultraselective firm (Keker/W&C/MTO/BSF/WLRK-type), found the work from junior associates to be much, much better at the latter. S/he's not sure if it's "smarts," work ethic, the firm's own standards, etc, but in his/her view, there is absolutely a difference between even a median T6 student and someone from near top of the class. I.e., "talent isn't fungible." unclear how this translates to say, a generic T6 student vs T20-30 or w/e.

disclaimer - sample of one, etc.
I suppose the real question is whether there is some sort of enormous cliff between anything including a median t6 and a top 25% from a t20 AND say top 5% of a tt or ttt or tttt.

Is there something special about the first category that the latter category generally lacks? I’d acknowledge that the difference between median t6 and median t20 might be a little more difficult to discern.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Mar 26, 2019 2:54 pm

In complex litigation, at least (my area of expertise), writing and analytic reasoning ability are the two most important skills for being a good lawyer. I'd say that a strong secondary consideration is a theoretical mastery of the underlying doctrine. A lawyer who understands on a deeper theoretical level why cases came out the way they did, and is not simply applying favorable language from 'good' cases while factually distinguishing 'bad cases,' will generally make the strongest arguments.

I do think that top performers at top law schools are generally materially better writers, analytical thinkers, and have the best grasp of the theoretical foundations of the law (and have the ability to develop such an understanding about new areas of the law). Do extraordinary lawyers regularly graduate from lower-ranked schools? Of course! Are all top students at top schools great writers and thinkers (/and can apply these skills in a litigation setting)? Of course not! But in my experience, law school quality and law school performance are excellent signals of lawyering ability.

I want to add that once you exit the upper echelons of complex litigation, things like hard work and attention to detail quickly eclipse writing/analytic ability/theoretical understanding--and law school quality (which is an excellent signal for writing/analytical ability/theoretical understanding) becomes less important relative to law school performance (which is an excellent signal for hard work and attention to detail).

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by FND » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:04 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I want to add that once you exit the upper echelons of complex litigation, things like hard work and attention to detail quickly eclipse writing/analytic ability/theoretical understanding--and law school quality (which is an excellent signal for writing/analytical ability/theoretical understanding) becomes less important relative to law school performance (which is an excellent signal for hard work and attention to detail).
in my opinion, the same can be said for transactional work - in the upper echelons (and even then, this doesn't really apply to juniors), you need to understand everything about the underlying transactions (which can be incredibly complex*), how they work, what the goals are, any weird legal quirks they take advantage of, etc., but outside of the upper echelons, it really does become about hard work and attention to detail.
[+] Spoiler
and sometimes the "upper echelon" investment bankers who work with those transactions every day don't even understand it. When working on a matter and trying to figure out some of the math, the IB associate told me "we just plug the numbers into a box and it spits out the results"

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by icansortofmath » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:40 pm

Yeah, that banker is not in "upper echelon."

Some firms do have templates but every team always had someone actually building the models and knows the drivers of valuation.

Every team knows who that person is too. If that person also has the soft skills to make sure the MD knows it (weirdly enough... a lot of VPs don't), he/she will become a super star if he's got even just average work ethic.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Mar 27, 2019 12:22 pm

objctnyrhnr wrote:
ghostoftraynor wrote:I think everyone saying undergrad GPA, LSAT, and law school GPA don't mean anything would still hire Wacthell over DLA every time if cost wasn't a factor.
Not sure where you’re getting DLA as a biglaw example to differentiate (I’m inferring for the purpose of picking a market firm with lower-tiered grads?). In my market, DLA is full of HYSCCN and t20 (or so) grads from top of class, and many are former fedclerks and/or ausas. This hiring is consistent with the biglaw profile of most firms in my market. In my market, though, there are some firms that off the top of my head I think include sidley Austin and Morgan Lewis and Wilmer that regularly reach into the ttt and tttts to pull one of the top couple grads.

Maybe DLA elsewhere has lower standards though?

Anybody at a firm with mainly the first category of grads (call it t20 and above with fedclerks etc) in addition to a couple ttt valedictorians, who can comment on whether there’s a major difference in ability?
I am a 1st year, so I can only speak to my experience. Having spent the last 3 months going through end of fact discovery and SJ briefing vs a V30 firm that “hires HYSCCN and t20/clerks,” I can say that the quality of work (from the particular team on this case, which consists of maybe 7 or 8 people), is sub-par. This may not be true for the firm at large, and maybe it’s coincidence that I’m working across from people who aren’t “cream of the crop.” But I think generalizing that a firm is going to produce excellent work purely because of the pedigree of its hires is wrong.

By contrast, while I didn’t directly work against them, I’ve read some of [other lit boutique]s briefings closely and can confirm that all the work I’ve seen from them is top notch. If I ever go in-house, hiring [other lit boutique] over this V30 firm would be an easy decision.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Mar 27, 2019 12:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by FND » Wed Mar 27, 2019 12:44 pm

icansortofmath wrote:Yeah, that banker is not in "upper echelon."

Some firms do have templates but every team always had someone actually building the models and knows the drivers of valuation.

Every team knows who that person is too. If that person also has the soft skills to make sure the MD knows it (weirdly enough... a lot of VPs don't), he/she will become a super star if he's got even just average work ethic.
I was referring to the firm, not the individual. There's often one or two people on the team who build the model and understand it, some relationship-managers whose main job was to talk to various other parties and keep the process rolling, and some backroom monkeys to do grunt work.

My experience with ibankers (and I worked with a whole bunch of them) is that a lot of them aren't all that special, but are hard workers. They worked hard to get into the right school, the right internship, the right job, and will happily slave away 80-100 hours a week. If they manage to keep their heads down and get lucky, they'll eventually be given more responsibility (analyst -> associate -> avp), after which they either become revenue generators (MD) or get fired at the next contraction. The truly talented ones don't stay, they leave for better opportunities (for an associate or VP, basically whenever their MD found a great opportunity and took them along).

The one exception, (in my experience) is Goldman, where just about everyone I dealt with was truly talented.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Mar 27, 2019 1:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote: I am a 1st year, so I can only speak to my experience. Having spent the last 3 months going through end of fact discovery and SJ briefing vs a V30 firm that “hires HYSCCN and t20/clerks,” I can say that the quality of work (from the particular team on this case, which consists of maybe 7 or 8 people), is sub-par. This may not be true for the firm at large, and maybe it’s coincidence that I’m working across from people who aren’t “cream of the crop.” But I think generalizing that a firm is going to produce excellent work purely because of the pedigree of its hires is wrong.

By contrast, while I didn’t directly work against them, I’ve read some of [other lit boutique]s briefings closely and can confirm that all the work I’ve seen from them is top notch. If I ever go in-house, hiring [other lit boutique] over this V30 firm would be an easy decision.
Out of curiosity, what makes you think the work is sub-par? I ask because my interpretation of good and bad work product (disclaimer: I'm the transactional anon from before, so understand your perspective will be different due to that fact alone) has changed quite a bit from my first year.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Mar 27, 2019 1:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote: I am a 1st year, so I can only speak to my experience. Having spent the last 3 months going through end of fact discovery and SJ briefing vs a V30 firm that “hires HYSCCN and t20/clerks,” I can say that the quality of work (from the particular team on this case, which consists of maybe 7 or 8 people), is sub-par. This may not be true for the firm at large, and maybe it’s coincidence that I’m working across from people who aren’t “cream of the crop.” But I think generalizing that a firm is going to produce excellent work purely because of the pedigree of its hires is wrong.

By contrast, while I didn’t directly work against them, I’ve read some of [other lit boutique]s briefings closely and can confirm that all the work I’ve seen from them is top notch. If I ever go in-house, hiring [other lit boutique] over this V30 firm would be an easy decision.
Out of curiosity, what makes you think the work is sub-par? I ask because my interpretation of good and bad work product (disclaimer: I'm the transactional anon from before, so understand your perspective will be different due to that fact alone) has changed quite a bit from my first year.
A variety of factors. To start with the objective: incorrect citations (not typos, but citations to things that do not support the proposition), improper filings that fail to comply with court rules/orders (that cannot be blamed on local counsel because they have none), and failing to accurately redact confidential information comes to mind, requiring us and/or third parties to hound them to rectify the problem. Of course, they fail to redact their own client’s confidential information from time to time as well, but that’s not our problem. Their declarations have very imprecise language (obvious copy paste errors) that make our sealing work difficult as well.

On the subjective front, mainly it’s poor brief drafting, which is highlighted during our reply briefing. It is very difficult to write a reply to a poorly organized brief. In addition, distinguishing cases by merely pointing to factual differences without analysis as to why those factual differences matter—consistently, if not exclusively. No comment on the overall quality of their arguments, aside from my observation that they typically at least raise the obvious ones.

Edit- I forgot to add discovery woes. They typically push back on things that they have no reason or justification to push back on, forcing us to file motions to compel, which they then lose. Some could say this is strategic, to tax our resources and delay discovery, but I’d consider playing those games to be “sub par lawyering,” although this opinion might change.

I’d be curious to hear what is good/bad in the transactional world and how your view has changed.
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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by icansortofmath » Wed Mar 27, 2019 2:21 pm

FND wrote: I was referring to the firm, not the individual. There's often one or two people on the team who build the model and understand it, some relationship-managers whose main job was to talk to various other parties and keep the process rolling, and some backroom monkeys to do grunt work.

My experience with ibankers (and I worked with a whole bunch of them) is that a lot of them aren't all that special, but are hard workers. They worked hard to get into the right school, the right internship, the right job, and will happily slave away 80-100 hours a week. If they manage to keep their heads down and get lucky, they'll eventually be given more responsibility (analyst -> associate -> avp), after which they either become revenue generators (MD) or get fired at the next contraction. The truly talented ones don't stay, they leave for better opportunities (for an associate or VP, basically whenever their MD found a great opportunity and took them along).
I agree with all of this.
FND wrote:The one exception, (in my experience) is Goldman, where just about everyone I dealt with was truly talented.
Even Goldman needs people who could do 80-100 hours on formatting Excel/PowerPoint and proofing the pitch books. The depth chart may be deeper (a good modeler is more likely to be relegated to this grunt work at Goldman because it is more likely he/she will be on the same team as a great modeler.)

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Mar 27, 2019 5:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:A variety of factors. To start with the objective: incorrect citations (not typos, but citations to things that do not support the proposition), improper filings that fail to comply with court rules/orders (that cannot be blamed on local counsel because they have none), and failing to accurately redact confidential information comes to mind, requiring us and/or third parties to hound them to rectify the problem. Of course, they fail to redact their own client’s confidential information from time to time as well, but that’s not our problem. Their declarations have very imprecise language (obvious copy paste errors) that make our sealing work difficult as well.

On the subjective front, mainly it’s poor brief drafting, which is highlighted during our reply briefing. It is very difficult to write a reply to a poorly organized brief. In addition, distinguishing cases by merely pointing to factual differences without analysis as to why those factual differences matter—consistently, if not exclusively. No comment on the overall quality of their arguments, aside from my observation that they typically at least raise the obvious ones.

Edit- I forgot to add discovery woes. They typically push back on things that they have no reason or justification to push back on, forcing us to file motions to compel, which they then lose. Some could say this is strategic, to tax our resources and delay discovery, but I’d consider playing those games to be “sub par lawyering,” although this opinion might change.

I’d be curious to hear what is good/bad in the transactional world and how your view has changed.
That seems pretty bad. My guesses are that the opposing folks (i) are swamped, (ii) are not stellar, (iii) don't care about that matter (e.g., not very profitable for some reason), (iv) are having client troubles, (v) are dealing with poor management at the top, or (vi) have some combination of the foregoing going on.

Re: good/bad in the transactional world, I agree with a lot of what FND said earlier ITT: namely, a deep and fluent understanding of how all pieces of a deal work together with respect to negotiation, drafting, etc. and of the process, and the judgment and a comprehensive enough toolkit to resolve problems quickly and effectively and get the deal done, are critical. I'd add that extreme attention to detail (e.g., typos), while important, is not nearly as important as substance to the extent those two concepts don't overlap, but I realize that other firms/lawyers don't take that view to the extent my firm does, which is fair. (It can also sabotage other, more important things like meeting deadlines/getting to close.)

All of this is relative and context-driven, though, and I think it's important to keep in mind that you never really know what's going on with the other side. What seems like bad lawyering may be the result of an unreasonable or unsophisticated client.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Mar 27, 2019 6:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:That seems pretty bad. My guesses are that the opposing folks (i) are swamped, (ii) are not stellar, (iii) don't care about that matter (e.g., not very profitable for some reason), (iv) are having client troubles, (v) are dealing with poor management at the top, or (vi) have some combination of the foregoing going on.

Re: good/bad in the transactional world, I agree with a lot of what FND said earlier ITT: namely, a deep and fluent understanding of how all pieces of a deal work together with respect to negotiation, drafting, etc. and of the process, and the judgment and a comprehensive enough toolkit to resolve problems quickly and effectively and get the deal done, are critical. I'd add that extreme attention to detail (e.g., typos), while important, is not nearly as important as substance to the extent those two concepts don't overlap, but I realize that other firms/lawyers don't take that view to the extent my firm does, which is fair. (It can also sabotage other, more important things like meeting deadlines/getting to close.)

All of this is relative and context-driven, though, and I think it's important to keep in mind that you never really know what's going on with the other side. What seems like bad lawyering may be the result of an unreasonable or unsophisticated client.
I agree that nit-picking about extreme details such as typos is unreasonable and pointless. I suppose on the litigation side, from what I can tell (I think the partners I work for are "good lawyers"), involves the same thing: deep and flexible understanding of how all the pieces of a case work together. More specifically, they have next-level foresight and are able to anticipate how the case is going to progress. An argument that may have been excellent in the MTD stage wasn't advanced because it would have hamstrung us in discovery, etc. They usually have a familiarity with the judge too, and factor in the judge's disposition to the parties when considering whether to do something, such as the number of SJ motions to file. Because I am at a litigation boutique that focuses on trials, the partners are always considering how certain arguments and positions will be received by a jury as well. They balance 3 audiences: jury, judge, appellate court. There's just so much to think about.

This is beyond the typical "able to digest cases and apply them to the facts" which is legal briefing 101, and is not something that law school grades correlate very strongly with, but imo is what makes top notch litigators.

My charitable theory is that the opposing party is swamped, but their client in this case is pretty high profile so I doubt it's a case they're phoning in. Excluding (ii), it's probably a combination of (i) and (v). I'm not sure why a swamped team would quibble over discovery as they have and file the number of SJ motions they did, but that may again be (v).

objctnyrhnr

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by objctnyrhnr » Wed Mar 27, 2019 6:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:A variety of factors. To start with the objective: incorrect citations (not typos, but citations to things that do not support the proposition), improper filings that fail to comply with court rules/orders (that cannot be blamed on local counsel because they have none), and failing to accurately redact confidential information comes to mind, requiring us and/or third parties to hound them to rectify the problem. Of course, they fail to redact their own client’s confidential information from time to time as well, but that’s not our problem. Their declarations have very imprecise language (obvious copy paste errors) that make our sealing work difficult as well.

On the subjective front, mainly it’s poor brief drafting, which is highlighted during our reply briefing. It is very difficult to write a reply to a poorly organized brief. In addition, distinguishing cases by merely pointing to factual differences without analysis as to why those factual differences matter—consistently, if not exclusively. No comment on the overall quality of their arguments, aside from my observation that they typically at least raise the obvious ones.

Edit- I forgot to add discovery woes. They typically push back on things that they have no reason or justification to push back on, forcing us to file motions to compel, which they then lose. Some could say this is strategic, to tax our resources and delay discovery, but I’d consider playing those games to be “sub par lawyering,” although this opinion might change.

I’d be curious to hear what is good/bad in the transactional world and how your view has changed.
That seems pretty bad. My guesses are that the opposing folks (i) are swamped, (ii) are not stellar, (iii) don't care about that matter (e.g., not very profitable for some reason), (iv) are having client troubles, (v) are dealing with poor management at the top, or (vi) have some combination of the foregoing going on.

Re: good/bad in the transactional world, I agree with a lot of what FND said earlier ITT: namely, a deep and fluent understanding of how all pieces of a deal work together with respect to negotiation, drafting, etc. and of the process, and the judgment and a comprehensive enough toolkit to resolve problems quickly and effectively and get the deal done, are critical. I'd add that extreme attention to detail (e.g., typos), while important, is not nearly as important as substance to the extent those two concepts don't overlap, but I realize that other firms/lawyers don't take that view to the extent my firm does, which is fair. (It can also sabotage other, more important things like meeting deadlines/getting to close.)

All of this is relative and context-driven, though, and I think it's important to keep in mind that you never really know what's going on with the other side. What seems like bad lawyering may be the result of an unreasonable or unsophisticated client.
It feels like a lot of people here are talking about their anecdotal experience with say a hys CoA clerk with like a solid performer at Cornell. All of these people are going to do comparably well in a law firm environment (in my opinion), and to the extent that people have anecdotes in which they don’t, it’s probably more due to small sample size as opposed to a larger trend.

My comment that prompted this whole thread involved a
comparison between say median and above at the entire t20 and a valedictorian type (or maybe like top 5%) at a ttt. Some big firms in my market generally stop pulling below say top 33 or 40 or so % of a wash u/UCLA/Bc type school, but then will pull from the top handful of students at the local ttt or even the local tttt and it was my position that this is a mistake. They’d be better off going down to at least median at like USC than touching anybody from a tttt because even the slightly below median USC students will be much smarter than the best-performing tttt students (even if the latter category happens to be good at law school exams relative to the other students at the tttt), and for that reason, are more likely than not to be much better lawyers.

This opinion stems from my own experience. While this experience is, of course, anecdotal, the relative performances of these two categories of grads seems to be fairly consistent in my personal experience.

Thoughts on that opinion of mine?

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Mar 27, 2019 6:35 pm

objctnyrhnr wrote:My comment that prompted this whole thread involved a
comparison between say median and above at the entire t20 and a valedictorian type (or maybe like top 5%) at a ttt. Some big firms in my market generally stop pulling below say top 33 or 40 or so % of a wash u/UCLA/Bc type school, but then will pull from the top handful of students at the local ttt or even the local tttt and it was my position that this is a mistake. They’d be better off going down to at least median at like USC than touching anybody from a tttt because even the slightly below median USC students will be much smarter than the best-performing tttt students (even if the latter category happens to be good at law school exams relative to the other students at the tttt), and for that reason, are more likely than not to be much better lawyers.

This opinion stems from my own experience. While this experience is, of course, anecdotal, the relative performances of these two categories of grads seems to be fairly consistent in my personal experience.

Thoughts on that opinion of mine?
1st year lit boutique associate here. I've never worked with or across TTT/TTTT grads, so I have no experience there. I've worked with top-of-the-class T1 associates and they've been excellent; certainly better than my classmates who were median. I'd confidently recommend taking a top 10% T1 student over a median T20 any day.

ETA - I remember working with top-of-the-class TT grads, and they have been great too. So I'd take a top 10% TT grad over a median T20 grad, but maybe not every TT; only some of them. I think it's more difficult to be top 10% at a TT than median at a T20, not that I have any experience with that.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Mar 27, 2019 9:26 pm

objctnyrhnr wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:A variety of factors. To start with the objective: incorrect citations (not typos, but citations to things that do not support the proposition), improper filings that fail to comply with court rules/orders (that cannot be blamed on local counsel because they have none), and failing to accurately redact confidential information comes to mind, requiring us and/or third parties to hound them to rectify the problem. Of course, they fail to redact their own client’s confidential information from time to time as well, but that’s not our problem. Their declarations have very imprecise language (obvious copy paste errors) that make our sealing work difficult as well.

On the subjective front, mainly it’s poor brief drafting, which is highlighted during our reply briefing. It is very difficult to write a reply to a poorly organized brief. In addition, distinguishing cases by merely pointing to factual differences without analysis as to why those factual differences matter—consistently, if not exclusively. No comment on the overall quality of their arguments, aside from my observation that they typically at least raise the obvious ones.

Edit- I forgot to add discovery woes. They typically push back on things that they have no reason or justification to push back on, forcing us to file motions to compel, which they then lose. Some could say this is strategic, to tax our resources and delay discovery, but I’d consider playing those games to be “sub par lawyering,” although this opinion might change.

I’d be curious to hear what is good/bad in the transactional world and how your view has changed.
That seems pretty bad. My guesses are that the opposing folks (i) are swamped, (ii) are not stellar, (iii) don't care about that matter (e.g., not very profitable for some reason), (iv) are having client troubles, (v) are dealing with poor management at the top, or (vi) have some combination of the foregoing going on.

Re: good/bad in the transactional world, I agree with a lot of what FND said earlier ITT: namely, a deep and fluent understanding of how all pieces of a deal work together with respect to negotiation, drafting, etc. and of the process, and the judgment and a comprehensive enough toolkit to resolve problems quickly and effectively and get the deal done, are critical. I'd add that extreme attention to detail (e.g., typos), while important, is not nearly as important as substance to the extent those two concepts don't overlap, but I realize that other firms/lawyers don't take that view to the extent my firm does, which is fair. (It can also sabotage other, more important things like meeting deadlines/getting to close.)

All of this is relative and context-driven, though, and I think it's important to keep in mind that you never really know what's going on with the other side. What seems like bad lawyering may be the result of an unreasonable or unsophisticated client.
It feels like a lot of people here are talking about their anecdotal experience with say a hys CoA clerk with like a solid performer at Cornell. All of these people are going to do comparably well in a law firm environment (in my opinion), and to the extent that people have anecdotes in which they don’t, it’s probably more due to small sample size as opposed to a larger trend.

My comment that prompted this whole thread involved a
comparison between say median and above at the entire t20 and a valedictorian type (or maybe like top 5%) at a ttt. Some big firms in my market generally stop pulling below say top 33 or 40 or so % of a wash u/UCLA/Bc type school, but then will pull from the top handful of students at the local ttt or even the local tttt and it was my position that this is a mistake. They’d be better off going down to at least median at like USC than touching anybody from a tttt because even the slightly below median USC students will be much smarter than the best-performing tttt students (even if the latter category happens to be good at law school exams relative to the other students at the tttt), and for that reason, are more likely than not to be much better lawyers.

This opinion stems from my own experience. While this experience is, of course, anecdotal, the relative performances of these two categories of grads seems to be fairly consistent in my personal experience.

Thoughts on that opinion of mine?
I'm not that surprised. T14 grad here. I took classes with SCOTUS clerks who would nit pick over the tiniest bluebook detail. Classes I studied my a$$ off for, I'd find myself below median nonetheless because my classmates were such hard workers (one went off to a SCOTUS clerkship himself and many got COA clerkships). Being in that kind of environment really trains you a certain way.

One summer I sat in on a T2 summer course on antitrust. I kid you not, the instructor they got was some local solo attorney. The class was a complete joke. I was shocked people get credit for that kind of thing.

In short, I can see why you have that impression of TTT/TTTT law school grads, even the top students from those schools.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by lavarman84 » Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:My comment that prompted this whole thread involved a
comparison between say median and above at the entire t20 and a valedictorian type (or maybe like top 5%) at a ttt. Some big firms in my market generally stop pulling below say top 33 or 40 or so % of a wash u/UCLA/Bc type school, but then will pull from the top handful of students at the local ttt or even the local tttt and it was my position that this is a mistake. They’d be better off going down to at least median at like USC than touching anybody from a tttt because even the slightly below median USC students will be much smarter than the best-performing tttt students (even if the latter category happens to be good at law school exams relative to the other students at the tttt), and for that reason, are more likely than not to be much better lawyers.

This opinion stems from my own experience. While this experience is, of course, anecdotal, the relative performances of these two categories of grads seems to be fairly consistent in my personal experience.

Thoughts on that opinion of mine?
1st year lit boutique associate here. I've never worked with or across TTT/TTTT grads, so I have no experience there. I've worked with top-of-the-class T1 associates and they've been excellent; certainly better than my classmates who were median. I'd confidently recommend taking a top 10% T1 student over a median T20 any day.

ETA - I remember working with top-of-the-class TT grads, and they have been great too. So I'd take a top 10% TT grad over a median T20 grad, but maybe not every TT; only some of them. I think it's more difficult to be top 10% at a TT than median at a T20, not that I have any experience with that.
Agreed. The other noteworthy thing is that we've had top of the class transfers come from TTTs and TTTTs to t13 or t20 schools and finish well above median. Of course, I'm sure a poster will argue that the students at those law schools weren't trying hard as 2Ls and 3Ls. But I've also given my anecdotal experience from clerking. It matches yours.

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Re: Do law school grades correlate to lawyering ability?

Post by nixy » Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:One summer I sat in on a T2 summer course on antitrust. I kid you not, the instructor they got was some local solo attorney. The class was a complete joke. I was shocked people get credit for that kind of thing.
At least in my experience, adjunct teaching was completely hit or miss - either amazingly great or terrible. And I'm also told antitrust is one of the hardest fields to get profs for. So I'm not saying it wasn't a terrible course, but if that was your only experience, there's no way to know if it was representative.

Seriously? What are you waiting for?

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