On Lawyers and Prestige
September 21, 2003
In her snazzy new Typepad blog, Scheherazade asks Why Are Lawyers Such Snobs?
our profession worships credentials. We assume people from big, fancy law firms are smarter, and we assume people from fancy expensive law schools are better. You're a big liar if you pretend it's not true. Maybe it goes away or subsides after a career of practicing law, but we young lawyers (and certainly those applying to and attending law school) feel it acutely, and I bet the middle-aged lawyers who might have forgotten this need only check their ingrained assumptions to see that it's still there.
I think the snobbery ingrained in the legal profession is a result of the adversary system. Because each side wants to win, they want to have the best lawyers there are, since good lawyers are more likely to win cases than bad lawyers. While a good lawyer may not take a losing case and turn it into a winner, effective lawyering can tip the balance in a close case. Since clients want to have the best lawyers, those who can afford it will pay more for the best lawyers available.
In order to get these fees, the top firms want to prove to their clients that they have the best possible lawyers on staff. Without having a won-loss record, the easiest way to evaluate new lawyers is based on their grades in law school. The top students at the schools with the most selective admissions process are the most likely to succeed in practice. That correlation is not necessarily accurate, but it obviously has an acceptable degree of accuracy, since most large firms hire on that basis.
While there may be some basis for lawyers' obsessions with status, does that justify the entire profession's preoccupation with status?Posted by Andrew Raff at September 21, 2003 10:29 PM