Inbred Law Schools

Top law schools are much more likely to employ graduates of top ranked law schools than elite law firms, and the difference exists at both the junior and senior levels. We find no evidence that the graduates of top 5 law schools outperform grads of less prestigious schools in publications or citations. In the absence of a profit motive, academic hiring appears more likely to indulge a preference for pedigree, and by implication, this may explain other scholarly prejudices in the academy. (more)

Relative to law firms, law schools care more about the prestige of a lawyer’s school. Which makes sense if law schools sell credentialed impressiveness more than an increased ability to do real legal work.

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  • Fabio

    It makes sense anyway. Being admitted to a prestigious law school shows that you have the qualities law schools care about, which will of course be closer to what law schools care about than what law firms care about (the gap may or may not be too big, but that’s a separate discussion).

  • lemmy caution

    Being a law professor is a prestigious job. Law schools tend to be even pickier than elite law firms. Elite law firms will hire from the top 10% or so of non-elite law school grads. Law schools can hire from the top 10% or so of elite law school grads so they don’t really bother with non-elite law school grads at all.

    • Sandeep

      Prof. Hanson may be being careless here. I would modify @lemmy\ caution’s argument this way : suppose elite law schools hire y% of law school grads. Is it clear that top y% of elite school grads do not do substantially better than the top y% of non-elite school grads? The paper linked to naively substitutes y by 100 and assumes things scale or so.

  • http://theviewfromhell.blogspot.com Sister Y

    Do medical schools and engineering schools follow the same pattern?

    • DK

      Yes, they do. Search committees routinely pre-screen applications by pedigree.
      It’s a common academic trait. I am sure it’s the same in economics.

  • http://un-thought.blogspot.com/ Floccina

    We find no evidence that the graduates of top 5 law schools outperform grads of less prestigious schools in publications or citations.

    What does this say about all licensing. School selects for people who are good at school; perhaps most the best would be doctors cannot get into medical school because they are not good at school. Though ability at school correlates with ability in other areas I am convinced that the correlation is not strong enough that licensing brings a net benefit.

  • cournot

    Economics and other fields are very different from law. I don’t have the study in front of me but someone showed that Law is the most inbred of academic faculties and the ones that most resemble European schools in degree of inbreeding. Other fields are not only less inbred but as a rule, economists (especially at the top ten) almost never hire someone for their department fresh out of the same graduate school. However, law schools do not have a norm of not hiring their own graduates.

  • Pingback: Who respects fancy degrees?

  • http://hopefullyanonymous.blogspot.com Hopefully Anonymous

    What is real legal work? I admit that anything non-artistic seems a bit suspect to me if the top professionals in the field aren’t highly quant literate.

  • Michael Wengler

    When I was a professor of EE at University of Rochester, I noted that we never checked who attended our classes and I thought that was probably true for most other departments at the university. I concluded from that and other things that what we were selling was credentials, without a lot of effort if you wanted the education for free, you could get it.

    I am told that great courses from Stanford (?) and/or other great schools are available online for free, so my observation then would seem to be born out now.

    • Barry

      “I concluded from that and other things that what we were selling was credentials, without a lot of effort if you wanted the education for free, you could get it. ”

      Well, given tests and lab work, your students do have to demonstrate a large amount of learning and applications. And I’ll be that not showing up in class is strongly correlated with dropping out/flunking.

  • Michael Wengler

    A more pedestrian but more pervasive demonstration of these concepts is the typical structures in pre-university public education. I could not get a job teaching science in a public high school with my PhD in Physics because I lacked an education degree and certification. But I could and did get a job at a reasonably good university where NO ONE was asked to certify or even demonstrate any knowledge, proficiency, or talent in teaching.

    Among public school teachers in New York City (and I am pretty sure most other places), you go to take graduate level classes and you get automatically advanced in rank and pay. The credentialism of the public school systems is insanely high, and look what they are selling!

    At least they eat their own cooking…