Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Reply: The Elegant, Obvious Solution to 1L Self-Loathing

I originally posted this as a comment to Phaedrus' immediately preceding post, but it became too long to be a comment on a post:

Phaedrus, you still have it all wrong. Grades and class rank only have a HIGHLY tenuous correlation to intelligence, writing ability, and logical thinking.

The only way to make the correlation strong enough to be statistically significant, thereby making it a genuinely useful indicator of something practical (other than for employers who just want the "type" that is usually at the top of the class), is to extend the timeline over a period of many, many years (decades?). Even then, good luck controlling for all those spurious causes that arise during the intervening period.

That's all a (general) statistical way of saying "grades and class rank don't say jack shit about the individual, and they don't really even say much about the overall class." You know this.

My solution to the school-related issues these 1Ls are experiencing is simple: just. give. up. You know, as Fight Club and The Postal Service might say. Stop struggling. Accept it, and the benefits will come, including higher grades for a lot of people.

Everyone (me more than most...) is going to rage against "the system" of law school/the profession, but it's better to stop allowing it to get in your head as early as possible. Critique it, spot the flaws, whatever, because they exist in abundance...just don't allow it to drive you insane.

Bottom line: they'll get over it. Move your own ass to another table. Better yet, stop doing your non-law review work at school like a good 3L. ;)


Work Related said...

Though I am generally inclined to agree with your statement about grades not meaning much, you must admit the slightest correlation between hard work (hours invested in studying) and grades. Grades are not purely a crap shoot. I refuse to accept this assertion.

Let's state the value of grades from the employer's perspective, though. Having associates in the XX% allows for the esteem or "elite" factor, giving firms a false sense of quality based on some arbitrary qualification. But, further, hiring an associate in the top XX% states that someone, somewhere, has qualified said associate to perform "better" than (1-XX%) of the rest of a group of law students. Does this not somewhat relocate the responsibility of an associate's performance away from the partner who hired him, and place it instead on the registrar at a law school? This provides for the obligatory out: "Who knew Associate XYZ was a (insert insult)...I mean, they were top XX% in the class."

In some respects, grades play an important factor. You will be reminded this as soon as you are a young associate at any firm, and the responsibility comes to you to determine who gets interviews. Will you then say that "grades are an arbitrary metric" and interview the kid at the bottom of his class simply to prove a point? Or will you, like the vast majority of current attorneys, use class rank as a sorting metric to find your ideal candidate?

Guy Fawkes said...

Work Related,
I completely agree, and I *think* I addressed your points in the post, albeit perhaps implicitly. There's definitely room for disagreement...please do so now that we're not harassing each other about things like raccoon posts.

1. I never said grades are luck-based. However, they ARE (and this is objectively defensible) an exceptionally poor indicator of REAL talent and ability at this stage of one's career.

2. Employers have to use SOMEthing to even begin the search process. I absolutely agree. Above all, I'm a pragmatist at heart. My contention is that both people with my perspective AND employers would be better served if a more accurate system of indicators for talent and skill (probably including grades as a major factor...) could triumph over the current piss-poor methods of making those initial decisions.