It is hard to predict who is going to make a good practicing lawyer, who will be able to develop business and who actually stick around.
Three Geeks and a Law Blog has a post today suggesting that firms might do better hiring the C students — the ones who were more likely to look beyond grades and develop relationships and generally exhibit skills that mean they’ll be able to recruit and keep clients.
The author of the post, Toby Brown, makes several good points about how law schools generally focus on the academic side of technical skills, rather than the vocational side of how to build a practice. And then that the problem expands because most firms only want those that excel on the technical side, with the technical side being the difficult but mostly arbitrary (as far as practicing) law exams.
Basically law firms need both of these types of people. Brown fairly, and amusingly, points out that most people successful in law school were bookish nerds their whole lives, i.e., not cool kids. The combo of great grades and an enjoyable, outgoing personality does happen, but those people are usually the ones that rise to the top.
Like everything else in life, the really smart and good-looking folks rise to the top at firms, while the really smart people provide the background work.
It’s long been difficult enough for C students to get jobs in top firms, and as the market tightens, that is not likely to change. Firm hiring is basically on a sliding scale — the “better” law school you go to, the less great your grades have to be. But once you get to the schools in the 15-20 range, you better be in the top quarter of your class, more or less, or it’s tough going.
So will law firms open up their ranks to the more personable, if lower GPA-having students as the long-term viability of firms becomes more of a focus in recruiting. We doubt it. But it would probably be fun to have more of those guys and girls in the hallways.
(Of course George W. Bush is not a lawyer — he was in fact famously denied admission to The University of Texas School of Law. But he is perhaps the most famous C-student ever.)
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