November 29, 2006

Dog Bites Man

From the New York Times:

Lawyers Debate Why Blacks Lag at Major Firms

Thanks to vigorous recruiting and pressure from corporate clients, black lawyers are well represented now among new associates at the nation’s most prestigious law firms. But they remain far less likely to stay at the firms or to make partner than their white counterparts.

A recent study says grades help explain the gap. To ensure diversity among new associates, the study found, elite law firms hire minority lawyers with, on average, much lower grades than white ones. That may, the study says, set them up to fail.

The study, which was prepared by Richard H. Sander, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and was published in The North Carolina Law Review in July, has given rise to fierce and growing criticism in law review articles and in the legal press. In an opinion article in The National Law Journal this month, for instance, R. Bruce McClean, the chairman of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a major law firm, took issue with the study’s “sweeping conclusions” but not its “detailed data analysis.”

This is all utterly predictable from even a cursory knowledge of how the IQ bell curve works.

In the tournament to become a partner in a lucrative law firm, there are five hurdles, two of which have been corrupted by affirmative action and three of which are more meritocratic. Admission to law school and hiring by big firms is driven by quotas (just don't use the word "quotas," as the Supreme Court, in its majestic wisdom ruled in the Bakke law school admission case of 1977). In contrast, graduating from law school and making partner are less influenced by racial preferences, and passing the state bar exam remains, so far as I know, wholly objective.

In other words, there are some goodies the white elite is comfortable handing out using quotas, and others they feel are just too important to mess with.

Not surprisingly, affirmative action at the admissions and hiring levels lure in blacks who are less likely to make it over the meritocratic hurdles. Sander has shown that 53% of the black students who enter law school fail to become lawyers, versus 24% of white students. This is a really stupid way for society to misdirect and abuse its scarce resource of intelligent young black people.

The outcome for black lawyers hired by hotshot law firms who are in over the heads competing to become partner might be less dire, however, because affirmative action is also in operation in corporate law departments. So, if you start off working 70 hours a week at a Manhattan law firm, but soon realize that you aren't smart enough to make it to partner, well, that job offer to go work at Coca-Cola's legal department in Atlanta can start looking pretty good.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

No comments: