Susan Smith Blakely

Does Your Law School Predict Partnership?

A recent article would have us believe that your law school alma mater highly influences, if not dictates, your chances of making partner in a large law firm today.  Although the article includes some interesting data, on the main theme it misses the boat.  The performance boat, that is.

Where is the performance element in this article?  The author, who apparently is a Harvard Law grad, perpetuates the perception that graduates of the top law schools are "entitled" because of their elite credentials. That, in itself, is regrettable.  Entitlement, as we know from our experiences as struggling women attorneys, does not get much attention today.  The emphasis today is on what is valued by employers.

In reality, it is my experience that law firms care less about credentials like law school attended than they do about performance, as in client development and books of business.  This is especially true in the current economic environment, which has moved us from concentration on the hallowed halls of academia to the competitive business environment of the real world and a changing law profession.

Let’s get real.  Articles like this are not only discouraging to readers who do not have the elite law school backgrounds but they also are irrelevant to the realities of career success.  If our respected law blogs continue with articles like this, we can expect to hear next that LSAT scores are used as an evaluating factor for partnership, which any experienced law practitioner knows is absurd.

At least the word "competence" is used in the article --- at the very end when most readers have abandoned interest.  Surely, we can do better than this.

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Her new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, will focus on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and will be released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.

Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division.  She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" for her work on behalf of women in the law.

Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 

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