Friday, December 01, 2006

PrivilegeLaw or MoneyLaw

If I apply the idea of a MoneyBall baseball player to a MoneyLaw faculty hire I come up with a candidate who did not attend a prestige school, is not smooth in a “good old boy/girl” way, does not come from a background of privilege, radiates no sense of entitlement, did not practice for a big firm, does not whine or boast, and has done research and writing for the love of it as opposed to filling up lines on his or her resume at the instruction of a mentor whose name is instantly recognized in our incestuous world. Obviously, this is my own slant because of my feelings about class bias. Equally productive people may only share some of these characteristics. What is common to all MoneyLaw candidates, however, is that the market undervalues them.

Being undervalued is one thing but what if the undervaluation is not simply the result of market imperfections and self-referential hiring practices? I mean, is it possible that, just to make sure the undervalued MoneyLaw candidate stays that way, the privileged make a point to disparage the product.

I am ahead of myself here because the MoneyLaw candidate has to get interviewed in the first place and this is not easy. Sometimes a small committee that is not overloaded with elitists can be shamed into inviting a MoneyLaw candidate. Other times, quirky things happen that permit them to sneak in. One current professor at another school tells me he interviewed at the hiring convention with a school that did it as a courtesy after mistakenly scheduling him. He ended up getting an offer. In other instances, candidates who are MoneyLaw types are mistakenly invited because a name, an entry on the resume, a reference, or something else leads the committee to believe that the candidate has special characteristics which he or she actually does not possess.

It is when the MoneyLaw candidate gets to campus that the devaluing occurs:
1. Why doesn’t she/he have other offers?
2. Why are his/her articles not in better journals?
3. I have not heard of those references.
4. Wasn’t she/he a legal writing professor?
5. I am not sure I have heard of that firm.
6. Wasn't she/he on the ten most wanted list? (O.K. I made this one up.)

Devaluing someone who is already undervalued for no particular reason related law school productivity is not only cruel, it is yet one more explanation for why PrivilegeBall trumps MoneyBall and stakeholders in law schools are worse off.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Can you give some examples of candidates that are undervalued because of these biases? I don't know why you wouldn't name names, so long as you're not dealing with anyone currently on the market.

12/01/2006 9:23 PM  
Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/01/2006 11:26 PM  
Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

I can only smile at anonymous asking someone to name names. Your question is not a unfair one. Actually, my most recent post was inspired by a current candidate. But the names can be named by simply comparing law school rankings of AALS applicants with the number of interviews in Washington. In a study ( I conducted I found no relationship between the rank of the law school from which a faculty member graduated and scholarly productivity but the dismissal of non elitist candidates indicates that this not a widely held belief. Frankly, even if I had found a different relationship, there are so many advantages for the privileged grad, I would not be sure what to make of it.

One other thing that suprises me is how poorly educated the elite grads seem to be. I have interviewed and served with may people with pure elite creditials (Harvard, Harvard; Princeton, Harvard; Stanford, Harvard, etc.). Obvious some of them are well-versed, interesting and so on. A shocking percentage (at least to me)seem to know very little except their narrow academic interest. Maybe this are all "legacy" admittee or something but I wonder of elite schools are living on reputation.

12/02/2006 12:05 PM  

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