On the first day of law school, you walk into class and see your first professor’s name up on the chalkboard. Curious, you type his/her name into Google and see what turns up. Uh oh, you think, he/she went to Yale. This is probably going to be tough.

If that’s your thought process, then perhaps you had better be prepared. According to a forthcoming study in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies published by The Wall Street Journal, the vast majority of your professors will be from top tier universities.

According to the study, 75 percent of all applicants hired by an accredited law school went to a Tier 1 (Top 50) university as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Furthermore, a majority of those hires come from just three schools: Harvard, Yale or Stanford.

In fact, according to the study’s authors, Vanderbilt University Law School professor Tracey E. George and Toronto law professor Albert H. Yoon, place of law school graduation seems to be much more important than other factors in hiring, including diversity.

“Despite the ink spilled on race and gender in legal academic hiring, we find, with limited exceptions, these factors have little effect,” they write. “After controlling for credentials, gender and race do not improve a candidate’s chances of getting a screening interview… women and non-whites are no more likely than similarly situated men and whites to get a job offer or, if they get an offer, for the offer to come from a more elite school.”

In addition, George and Yoon write, it’s almost unheard of for a school to hire a professor who attended a school from a lower tier.

The survey data comes from responses gathered by the Association of American Law Schools. However, there is one caveat, notes the WSJ: this data comes from the 2007-2008 legal academic labor market, and as we know, law schools have changed a lot in the time since.


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