Sherry Fowler has a post that examines the limitations that are imposed on graduates of the ‘lesser law schools.’ She’s not alone in asking this question. Alex Wellen’s recently published book chronicles his effort to deal with the stigma of having not graduated from a “Tier 1 Law School,” even though he did very well in law school at Temple (“Tier 2”) and had an engineering degree from Rutgers.
The ranking of law schools into “tiers” was the idea of U.S. News & World Report, which first started this process in 1987. Not surprisingly, these rankings are used by some people to make poor assessments about law schools, and about lawyers. I’ve met a lot of amazing lawyers who didn’t go to top-tier law schools, and I’ve met even more who went to elite schools and were incapable of making a persuasive argument in court.
The practice of law is more art than science, and there is no algorithm that can be sweepingly applied to the difficult decisions faced by lawyers and judges. We are, after all, just people, and we feel as much as we think. Proper judgment incorporates both feeling and thinking, while poor judgment usually just uses rote assessments that can be applied to situations like butter to bread.
It will be interesting to see what Sherry’s outlook is years from now, after she’s observed a wider cast of legal characters. Maybe she’ll abandon the practice of law like Alex, or maybe she’ll write her own book of experiences. In a sense she’s already started.
Both her story and Alex’s story are worth reading, and their observations about the practice of law should not be something that only young lawyers are interested in.