A Law School Grade Inflation Update: Perils for Law School Graduates Come into Focus

Sometimes you don’t want to be right.  In late June, I ran a post on law school grade inflation.  I made two points.  First, recent changes by law schools in their grading systems likely would not have the desired effect of expanding their graduates’ employment opportunities (why grade inflation didn’t matter).  Second, the retooling actually risked hurting graduates of those schools over the next several years (why it did matter).  Essentially, law schools were asking their current and near-future students to take all of the risk of educationally irrelevant gamesmanship.

We now have evidence that law firm hiring is being negatively influenced by such law schools’ conduct.  In an interview in the AmLaw Daily yesterday, Leigh Ryan, the hiring partner at Paul Hastings (ranked #10 in this summer’s annual AmLaw rankings of large firms) said, “Harvard’s new grading system is making it very challenging to get a sense of how people are performing.”

I try to be very careful about the advice and the views I give, so in June I reserved that I might be overstating the risk of a degree from a grade-changing school being devalued.  It now appears I wasn’t.  My recommendation then: if you’re applying to law school, you should discount the value to you of a degree from those institutions for about 5 years, i.e., until the changes have filtered through key players’ views of individual law school, including the law school rankings and, most important, employers.  In other words, you should do exactly what I believed employers would do.  To reiterate a point from the earlier post, I don’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t go to such a school, only that you should discount the value of its degree sharply when comparing it with your other realistic choices, and adjust your application and financial aid strategy accordingly.  I’ll let Ms. Ryan’s more diplomatic words reaffirm those recommendations; when a Harvard degree is being devalued, you can be pretty sure that degrees from other schools engaging in grade-change shenanigans are being discounted even further.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on July 14, 2010.

2 Responses to “A Law School Grade Inflation Update: Perils for Law School Graduates Come into Focus”

  1. […] (including any recent changes to how those law schools operate or are perceived, such as changes to grading systems) and financial aid packages they are likely to offer, and calibrate the value of any financial aid […]

  2. […] students should somewhat discount the value of its J.D. and that the law school was effectively asking its students to take the interim risk of the new […]

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