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The Secret of My Success: How Status, Eliteness, and School Performance Shape Legal Careers

38 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2012  

Richard H. Sander

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Jane R. Bambauer

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Date Written: December 2012

Abstract

If we study the 40,000 law graduates who join the legal profession each year, how well can we predict their future careers? How much of their future is predicted by their social class? The law school they attend? Their law school grades? This article undertakes the first in‐depth examination of these questions. Drawing on several large and recently released data sets, we examine the role of class, school prestige, and law school grades on the career earnings of lawyers and the success of big firm associates in becoming partners. We find that social class strongly conditions who goes to law school, but no longer predicts much about postgraduate outcomes. Law school prestige is important, but it is generally trumped by law school performance (as measured by law school grades). Law school grades reflect both personal characteristics not well captured by prelaw credentials, and one's relative position in a law school class as measured by prelaw credentials. Our findings suggest that there is little empirical basis for the overwhelming importance students assign to “eliteness” in choosing a law school.

Suggested Citation

Sander, Richard H. and Bambauer, Jane R., The Secret of My Success: How Status, Eliteness, and School Performance Shape Legal Careers (December 2012). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 9, Issue 4, pp. 893-930, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2172640 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1740-1461.2012.01267.x

Richard H. Sander (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

Jane R. Yakowitz Bambauer

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

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