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Grades Matter More than Elite Law School

By August 4, 2010

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Prospective law students have long been advised to go to the best law school they can get into.  However, a new study by  UCLA law professor Richard Sander and Brooklyn law professor Jane Yakowitz  contradicts this traditional wisdom, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports. Law school grades are the most important predictor of a lawyer's career success--in fact they are "decisively more important" than the eliteness of the school attended.

Sander and Yakowitz studied data from more than 40 public law schools across the country, and found that applicants tend to go to the most elite law school that will have them. "Since the dominant conventional wisdom says that law school prestige is all‐important, and since students who 'trade‐up' in school prestige generally take a hit to their school performance, we think prospective students are getting the wrong message," the report states. "Law school performance, in contrast, is an extraordinarily powerful predictor of career outcomes, and one that has clearly become more important over recent decades." 

Two other studies of lawyers practicing in Chicago in the mid-1970s and mid-1990s found that law school eliteness was associated with higher incomes in the 1970s, but that had changed in the 1990s, when class rank more accurately predicted earning power, the ABA Journal reports.

The bottom line is, if you are a law student or are considering law school, your best strategy is to focus on achieving top grades.

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