Elite Grads More Likely to Get Laid Off?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24th, 2010 by bl1y

A new study tracking trends in lawyer layoffs has found that among junior associates, graduates of top 10 law schools are more likely to be laid off than their lower ranked counterparts at the same firm.  The article from The Blog of Legal Times doesn’t give a good look at the data, and it’s wording isn’t too precise, so it might be that the study didn’t control within firms, or just within big law.  In that case, it makes sense that more top grads are getting laid off, because layoffs happen more at big firms which mostly hire top grads.  But, let’s assume the more interesting story is true, that law firms are choosing to shed the elite grads and hold on to the lower ranked associates.

During a panel moderated by Aric Press, editor in chief of The American Lawyer, Peter Zeughauser (owner of the Zeughauser Group) suggested that top 10 students with their ever so famous “sense of entitlement” might not be putting forth the same level of effort as lower ranked students and are just there to pay off their loans before moving on to their true passion.

They may have no intention of pursuing a Big Law career and aren’t that productive while at the firm, which would make them more likely to be laid off.

But, law school isn’t terribly cheaper at lower ranked institutions, so there’s not really much reason to think that students outside the top 10 don’t have the same incentive to make big bucks and then move on.  Over at AboveTheLaw.com, Elie Mystal presents a more plausible explanation for why a seemingly less qualified associate would keep his job:

If you were the only lawyer hired from [insert lower ranked school of your choice here], there’s a good chance that people at the firm had a strong and positive feeling about your potential. If instead you are one of many junior associates from [insert favorite T-14 diploma mill], then it might be easier for the firm to let you go when they have a few more just like you

Also, if you’re from a lower ranked school, there’s a better chance that you got your position through networking, rather than just on the merits.  A partner who gets you into the firm in the first place is also going to go to bat for you when it’s time to decide who gets cut.  A qualified student from an elite school might be the better employee, but if he doesn’t have anyone in his corner, it’s easier for him to get the axe.

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