Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

I got an e-mail from a reader last night, asking what I thought was an interesting question. He's concerned because even though he's going to a top-notch law school in the fall, he went to a less prestigious undergrad, and he's wondering if his job prospects will be affected at all because his undergrad wasn't a "name" school, and if he's wasting his money on the expensive law school when he won't be able to get the good jobs it positions students for anyway.

I really don't know the answer (career services has never mentioned it as far as I recall, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone talk about it), but it's an interesting question. Here's my intuition:

Where he's going is a selective school. For him to have gotten accepted there, there must be something he did that overcomes any liability that he may have based on where he went to undergrad. Because prestige of undergrad obviously matters in law school admissions quite a bit. Law firms, from what I understand, look at the prestige of your law school, and they look at law school grades (and they do lots of interviews, and there's other factors I'm sure). But if I'm a hiring partner at a law firm, and I see that someone's first year grades are as good or better than his classmate who went to Yale for undergrad, I don't think I'd have any good reason to hold his less-prestigious undergrad against him -- clearly, the law school liked him enough to admit him, and now that he's there, he's doing as well or better than this other guy. Why would I hire the other guy instead -- this guy's doing better, at the same school.

So my intuition is that if someone does decently okay, it shouldn't matter. Maybe, maybe, maybe if you do really poorly -- maybe then a firm would use your undergrad to say to themselves that you didn't belong at the law school to begin with, and they'd be more likely to think that than of your classmate from Yale. Maybe. But if you do really poorly, it's harder to get a job anyway -- whether you went to Yale or to Joe's Crab Shack and 4-Year College & Seafood Breadery (I hope that's not actually where this guy went -- I'd feel bad poking fun at it).

But I have no idea if I'm right on the money, or if I'm giving out a bad answer to a good question.

Although, "bad answers to good questions" could be an awfully compelling idea for a syndicated newspaper column. Or something in The Onion.

Q: "I was adopted and want to find out my birth parents. How do I go about doing that?"

A: "Thanks for the good question. Here's a bad answer. Open the phone book, and, starting with the first entry, call everyone whose name sounds female, and ask them if they ever gave someone up for adoption. Here's another bad answer. Go to a psychic and ask her to conjure the name for you. Here's a third bad answer..."