Monday, July 11, 2011

Couple of anecdotes

I was going to post these links separately, but read the articles' comments and figured they tied together.

First, imagine a world where prestige (note spelling) counted for little and Podunk schools no one ever heard of had among the highest pass rates on licensing exams. That would be the accounting profession (note lack of quote marks).

There is a brief article in Going Concern about Austin Community College. This school, which has no ABA analogue, punches above its weight on the CPA exam. The comments describe accounting as a vocation and the exam something that can be passed simply by studying hard enough. Once you pass, no one cares where you went to school. Sounds something like law -- and there were several comments comparing them -- except everyone cares where you went to law school. Very deeply.

That brings me to my next article. Wall Street Journal, which is further ahead of the curve in legal matters than any other widely-read publication, just wrote about schools' belated effort to revamp their programs to make them more relevant. Project management, problem solving, negotiation skills, etc. are "in." The Socratic method is "out." But, as I've repeatedly written, Yale or fail. That's the difference between Austin Community College and Chapman. At the end of the day, each will probably prepare you to pass an exam, except one will launch you into your career and the other will launch you into doc review, if you're lucky. It doesn't matter whether the Socratic method, space law, and international law are "in" or "out." Only where you went to school.

The Journal hits the nail squarely on the head.
But many remain skeptical that new approaches to education will have a meaningful impact on the ability of lawyers to land jobs. "It could enhance the reputation of the law places that will produce new lawyers who have practical skills," says Timothy Lloyd, a partner at Hogan Lovells and chair of its recruiting committee. "As to the particular student when I'm interviewing them? It doesn't make much of a difference."

Other recruiters say schools that have overhauled programs need to do a better job of promoting the changes to employers in order to see an impact. Until then, law school prestige will remain a big factor, says Bruce MacEwen, a law firm consultant and blogger who tracks the legal industry.

"Firms are very obsessed with prestige," he says. "That's just a fact of life."
The Journal neglected to mention the surfeit of experienced lawyers available for a pittance. You're not only not getting into BigLaw, but also not going to impress anyone in shitlaw with your clinic experience. Unless, of course, you're willing to work for free.

Not sure what accounting's future holds, but as for law, the irony is clear: The more prestige obsessed firms become, the less prestigious the profession becomes.