By Sarah Devlin • July 25, 2008•Choosing a Career and Landing a Job
According to Professor William Henderson, Indiana University School of Law, and a study from Bell Laboratories, top performing associate attorneys can "evaluate problems from the viewpoint of customers and manager," take initiative, rely on more experienced coworkers, and build consensus. The study then goes on to further that these skills do not necessarily correspond to law school class rank. In fact, "researchers found no relationship between [attorney] performance and various social, psychological, and cognitive abilities. http://www.abajournal.com/weekly/cravath_model_that_created_have_and_have_not_law_grads_could_implode
The ability for lower-ranking law students to become high-performing attorneys may be news to big law firms, but for those of us in the lower eighty percent, it's what we rely on every time we check our grades. This is also what clients unwilling or unable to pay the six-figure salaries awarded to associates at big firms rely upon in all of their legal endeavors. I have spent this summer clerking in a seven-attorney law firm in a county which bridges the gap between rural and suburban, hardly a Sidley or a Shook, Hardy, and Bacon (neither of which would have granted a student like myself - somwhere around the top third mark - an interview). In this firm and in similar firms in the area I have observed some of the most talented attorneys practice their craft. I have seen them succeed in cases against those big firms that may have passed on these small-town attorneys' resumes years ago and that passed on mine last fall. Class rank is not the only marker of a lawyer's ability. It is about time firms realized it.