Josh Wright over at Truth on the Market links to a study that I have heard about (and been skeptical of), but had not yet seen in print: “Do Economists Make Better Lawyers? Undergraduate Degree Field and Lawyer Earnings.” The comments float some rival hypotheses. In the hope of seeing a novel research design, I am adding this paper to my summer reading pile.
One reason why I am interested in this topic is that labor markets for new lawyers appear to follow a pretty simple pattern: higher paying jobs go to students with higher grades from higher ranked schools. (For evidence that geography also plays a key role, see Henderson & Morriss (2006)). I know of only limited anecdotal evidence that employers are willing to forgo school rank or grades for specialized substantive training (e.g., I have heard persuasive accounts from two law profs that employers will dig a little deeper into the class during OCI for students who completed a business law certificate program; another example is the $15K bonuses being paid at some firms for JD/MBA grads).
Imagine how the law school universe would be turned on its head if it could be shown empirically that individual law schools, through a well-designed curriculum, added sufficient enhancements in human capital that prestigious employers would trade down a few notches in USNWR (which correlates at .90 with median LSAT scores) to hire those graduates. If anyone has additional anecdotal evidence on this issue, please post a comment.