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Lawyer intelligence, judged by law school rank, might alter legal department management

The authors of a chapter in Laura Empson, ed., Managing The Modern Law Firm: New Challenges New Perspectives (Oxford Univ. Press 2007) at 104, wanted to operationalize quality for the law firms they were studying. To operationalize is to devise a metric that represents some soft attribute (See my post of Dec. 9, 2005: operationalize client-satisfaction questions and write them unambiguously.), such as law firm quality.

They measured what percentage of the firm’s partners received their JD from one of the country’s top eight US law schools (Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Univ. of Chicago, Univ. of Michigan and Yale). The higher percentage of elite graduates, the higher the presumed quality (See my post of Nov. 28, 2005: percentages in departments of graduates of elite law schools.).

If we had data from a collection of law departments on the percentage of their lawyers who graduated from one of those eight schools, we might expect to find correlations. For example, might those departments have fewer lawyers per billion? Might their total legal spend per revenue be lower than departments less endowed with elite graduates? Might their structures be flatter? Would they use a different mix of law firms?

In other words, assuming intelligence matches to some degree the presumed quality of the law school someone attended, does a relative abundance of intelligence change the operational characteristics of a law department?

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One response to “Lawyer intelligence, judged by law school rank, might alter legal department management”

  1. Correlating lawyer quality with law school ranking is not a leap I would be prepared to make; correlating lawyer intelligence with a degree from those schools would be an even farther and less advisable leap. Any study that uses law school ranking as even an approximate substitute for lawyer quality is, to my mind, immediately suspect.