Swap ‘less prestigious’ for the word poorer and that’s the surprising idea behind some new research from the States. I won’t explain it in detail, you can read about it here (and some comments on the story). Suffice to say, I’ve seen the paper and it is very interesting. For me it calls into question the notion of ‘prestige’ in law schools, which is constructed partly by reputation, partly by the qualities (social and intellectual) of its recruits and partly by the recruitment decisions of employers who rely on that construction in making their choice of candidates. The quality of these institutions is assumed as a result (and I say this as a member of a Russell Group law school who came 7th in the RAE, tied with Cambridge). The result is inhibited social mobility and a profession based on less on meritocracy than it should be. Interestingly, the US paper suggests that, up to a point, US law firms have begun to see through this and recruit better performers from less prestigious law schools where they do well at those schools. Interestingly, this selection basedon law school performance, rather than identity of law school, is reflected in performance within the firm. The better a student did at their law school (whether it is is prestigious or not) the better they do in terms of earnings. Law School grades are a better predictor of success than law school prestige. With diversity climbing up the agenda of the Government, the Professions and the Legal Services Board the research provides much food for thought.
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