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04 June 2007

Comments

J

I am not surprised by the study. I think it demonstrates motivation and perhaps a minor facet of intelligence, e.g. the ability to understand what pleases your superiors by understanding what they want, not necessarily what is critical or incisive. I am attorney, who doesn't even practice, and some of my friends from law school, who were on law review and moot court are otherwise no more advanced than anyone else. Hell, some are raving alcoholics.

The GPA and the IQ are absurd at best. They represent everything that is wrong with postmodernist society, they try to quantify everything. By modern standards, Edison and Einstein would probably be considered morons b/c they didn't do well in school (whatever that means). I think GPA only means one takes orders well, which makes them a perfect fit in the dull, shallow, soul-crushing realm of corporate America. It demonstrates that your humanity has been destroyed and that you have accepted your fate as a cog in the proverbial machine and that you are comfortable with the complacency of the bourgeois establishment. I think it is inversely proportional to your sense of individuality. Maybe they should invent an IGPA (individuality grade point average) or a CQ (creativity quotient) or better yet, dispense of all of them.

I also think GPA and IQ are often correlated to class b/c if one has to help put bread on the table while in high school or college, they have less time to study which often leads to lower grades. Which leads me to the conclusion that if you are affluent and not truly mentally challenged and you can't get into an "elite" institution, you are either a complete asshole or a true genius because you might have some scintilla of individuality left in you.

Mark

Richard: You seem to be on a mission with this theory, but I find it disappointing that in your study you dismiss the significance of six times as many blacks as whites complaining about being subjected to demeaning comments and other forms of harassment. This strikes me as irresponsible and unprofessional. How is it that you can rule this out as not the principal reason for black attrition from law firms?

Also, I noted that your conterarguments to the racism explanation were very thin:

Regarding your observation that Hispanics are discriminated against more in society at large, but aren't complaining in the law firms is a non sequitur. A lot of Hispanics in America are illegal, so that's why they are being discrimninated against. Blacks do not have this problem. The Hispanics at law firms presumably filled out W-2s and are not illegals. The way whites treat them in the law firm environment has nothing to do with the studies of the discrimination they face in America at large.

Your question about why firms hire minorities if they're just going to discriminate against them when they get there, assumes taht the firms have a consistent policy on minorities, when they don't. The people that do the interviewing are not the same people that the minorities end up complaining about once the work gets started.

Finally, I don't understand why your data does not take into account the possibility of grade trends. You note that the firms' ultimate goal is to find people that can do the work. Might they have determined that one thing they can look for is whether students are developing skills in law school that might show up by improving? You wouldn't see that in a study of cumulative GPA. There is a striking intersection between race and class struggles in America, and it's likely that disadvantaged black students might be slow starters. There are probably ten times as many white children of lawyers in law school than black children of lawyers, who have already learned to think like lawyers. Also children of business people, doctors, etc., wealthy people who might have encouraged their children to take the summer off before law school and study in advance. Finally, did you take into account the programs where students have the option of working, which takes time away from studies, and yet had to? I can't prove that more blacks than whites are in that situation per capita, but you could have at least looked into it and dropped it in a footnote. You're advancing quite the politicaly incorrect theory here, I'd think you'd want to be watertight about it.

Firms don't just hand out offers, it's a question of good business, so I would think that they are looking for some kind of evidence that the person can do the work. Grade trends are one way they might find a bright African American employee.

Finally, I don't understand why you use data from the Bar Passage Study that incorporates whether the student passed the bar or not. That's a temporal flaw. The firm isn't handing out large and aggressive racial preferences based on something about the student that they don't know, such as whether they passed the bar or not. They wouldn't have even taken the bar yet. Please revise the study to take this into account. I don't know whether the 1% to 7-8% ratio of top black students to black associates hired at law firms would become less inflammatory if you did.

The current blog uses your North Carolina article as the touchstone, so I won't comment on it at this time. Regards,

Mark

Richard: You seem to be on a mission with this theory, but I find it disappointing that in your study you dismiss the significance of six times as many blacks as whites complaining about being subjected to demeaning comments and other forms of harassment. This strikes me as irresponsible and unprofessional. How is it that you can rule this out as not the principal reason for black attrition from law firms?

Also, I noted that your conterarguments to the racism explanation were very thin:

Regarding your observation that Hispanics are discriminated against more in society at large, but aren't complaining in the law firms in a non sequitur. A lot of Hispanics in America are illegal, so that's why they are being discrimninated against. Blacks do not have this problem. The Hispanics at law firms presumably filled out W-2s and are not illegals. The way whites treat them in the law firm environment has nothing to do with the studies of the discrimination they face in America at large.

Your question about why firms minorities if they're just going to discriminate against them when they get there, assumes taht the firms have a consistent policy on minorities, when they don't. The people that do the interviewing are not the same people that the minorities end up complaining about once the work gets started.

Finally, I don't understand why your data does not take into account the possibility of grade trends. You note that the firms' ultimate goal is to find people that can do the work. Might they have determined that one thing they can look for is whether students are developing skills in law school that might show up by improving? You wouldn't see that in a study of cumulative GPA. There is a striking intersection between race and class struggles in America, and it's likely that disadvantaged black students might be slow starters. There are probably ten times as many white children of lawyers in law school than black children of lawyers, who have already learned to think like lawyers. Also children of businss people, doctors, etc., wealthy people who might have encouraged their children to take the summer off before law school and study in advance. Finally, did you take into account the programs where students have the option of working, which takes time away from studies, and yet had to? I can't prove that more blacks than whites are in that situation per capita, but you could have at least looked into it and dropped it in a footnote. You're advancing quite the politicaly incorrect theory here, I'd think you'd want to be watertight about it.

Firms don't just hand out offers, it's a question of good business, so I would think that they are looking for some kind of evidence that the person can do the work. Grade trends are one way they might find a bright African American employee.

Finally, I don't understand why you use data from the Bar Passage Study that incorporates whether the student passed the bar or ot. THat's a temporal flaw. The firm isn't handing out large and aggressive racial preferences based on something about the student that they don't know, such as whether they passed the bar or not. They wouldn't have even taken the bar yet. Please revise the study to take this into account. I don't know whether the 1% to 7-8% ratio of top black students to black associates hired at law firms would become less inflammatory if you did.

The current blog uses your North Carolina article as the touchstone, so I won't comment on it at this time. Regards,

sum the column

joe and - wouldn't you sum the final column and find 75% of grads in paternship positions?

Atticus Falcon

Lawyers are supposed to be able to compartmentalize. My impression was that the initial discussion about minorities at law firms was meant only to serve as background to the "why" of the posting re. GPAs of WHITE careers at law firms. It would be nice if postings would stay focused on the latter, as the latter was what the posting was really about, yes? Perhaps the original paper from last year could be the subject of a separate thread, yes? Interesting as the discussion re. minorities is, I for one would rather see this GPA thread stay on-topic with regard to its stated subject.

Joe

I did not read your study, but based on your blog entry, I find quite a bit of generalizations on your analysis of your findings. Also it appears that all other factors or variables were not taken into considerations. It appears that with a set of data, the researcher jumped off to make quick conclusions that will draw attention to the publication.

Before concluding that members of minority groups do not do well in large law firms based on GPA, did the researcher consider other factors such as the culture of the organizations, acceptance and perception of members of the minority groups, issues of discrimination, or racism? In a culture where racism is still prevalent, what impact does it have on minorities in a work place? Outside large law firms there have been series of law suites on discrimination and racism, could that be a factor in large law firms? Similarly, the glass ceiling exists not only for women but also for members of the minority groups, could that be a factor in large law firms?

When the decisions were made for partners in large law firms, were Blacks and Hispanics represented in the decision-making body? Who makes the decisions?

If GPA’s are predictors of success in large law firms, did it affect whites with low GPA’s? How about members of other ethnic groups?

It seems like a big leap from the data to conclude that "GPA matters a lot to one's success and longevity in the world of big firms" That leads to the assumption that members of the identified minority groups will not succeed in large farms.

Why base their performance or success on GPA if in the large firms members of the minority groups were given “fewer work assignments, were given less responsibility on those assignments, and were far less satisfied with the training and mentoring they received, compared with white male associates.” Does this not seem like setting up for failure? It does not seem like a level playing field and does not seem to have anything to do with GPA. Why compare black and white performance if they did not get the same treatment?

If “Correspondingly, blacks at small firms generally are far more satisfied on issues like mentoring and work responsibility than their counterparts at big firms, and by most indicators, there's not a significant black-white gap in small-firm experiences,” does that mean that minority GPA’s work better in small firms, but not in large firms? Is GPA the factor or are there other predictors?

What about minority candidates with higher GPS’s? How did they fare in large firms? How did whites with low GPA’s fare in large firms?

Richard Sander

I appreciate the many comments, and will post a reply after running some more numbers.

Patrick

I have to agree with anon. What matters is the partnership rate of those in a particular decile who were hired by big firms in the first place, not the entire pool. That's the only way to hold all else equal for determining the effect of GPA on partnership chances (after all, if you're never hired by a big firm, you can't easily make partner at one). To use the entire pool effectively makes the firms' refusal to hire low-GPA students as a rule into a self-fulfilling prophecy. A useful column to have would be the number of lawyers in a decile who are employed by a big firm at any point in the first 15 years. Failing that, those who are hired out of law school seems a decent proxy.

It seems to me that what you ought to do is to compare the ratio of the number in the 15 year out column to the number of first year hires, for each decile, for each ethnicity. If those numbers are reasonably close for each group, then it seems to me that you have shown that it is likely that GPA disparities account for racial differences in partnership make-up. If not, you've got some more 'splainin' to do.

More data please

So white associates have between a 25%-60% chance of making partner, depending on their GPA. What are the corresponding percentages for minority associates? 1-2%?

anon

Dear author,

Comparing the bottom 5 GPAs with the top 5. 147/590 in the bottom 5 GPA groups made partner - a 25% partnership rate. The top 5 GPA groups have a 608/1140 or 53% partnership rate.
Compare any other two GPA groups and you get similar results. For example the top 3 GPA groups have a 60% partnership rate, and the bottom 3 have a 26% partnership rate.

Thus your grade analysis, despite its intentionally distorted presentation, falls far short of explaining the paucity of minority partners at top firms.

patrick

So after careful review, I was wrong. It looks like it's all in terms of per 1000 grads, which makes the title on the last column a little strange.

Chicago

Isn't it a bit too strong to say that "GPA matters a lot to one's success and longevity in the world of big firms"? Isn't it more likely that the same attributes that allow students to achieve a high GPA are also important in being successful at a large law firm?

Chicago

Isn't it a bit too strong to say that "GPA matters a lot to one's success and longevity in the world of big firms"? Isn't it more likely that the same attributes that allow students to achieve a high GPA are also important in being successful at a large law firm?

mike

"At my law school (Cornell), the number of men and women on law review (grade based) seemed roughly equivalent, and I'd imagine it's the same at most other law schools. So how do you explain the "glass ceiling" phenomenon at firms, where far more men than women attain partnership when their grades are presumably equivalent?"

Women get pregnant.

Carolyn Elefant

At my law school (Cornell), the number of men and women on law review (grade based) seemed roughly equivalent, and I'd imagine it's the same at most other law schools. So how do you explain the "glass ceiling" phenomenon at firms, where far more men than women attain partnership when their grades are presumably equivalent?

Captain Obvious

"they tended to get fewer work assignments, were given less responsibility on those assignments"

What does this have to do with law school GPA?

patrick

Daniel-

I got that mixed up at first too. For the top decile we know that 221 went to a big firm, but we don't know how many students are at MLS in the sample period (or at least I don't). If there were, say, 10000, then the top decile would be 1000 and so about 20% would be going to big firms. But if there were, say, 4000, then the top decile would be 400 and over half of them are going to big firms.

P

Daniel

I don't get this. Your table seems to suggest that about 20% of the Michgian's top half works at a big law firm.

That seems way off. Probably more than 70% is a more accurate number.

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