David French has a long and thoughtful response to my earlier post over at PhiBetaCons. My only concrete objection is to the suggestion that he’s directly rebutting anything I wrote. I was pretty careful not to actually take sides concretely on this because my own mind is not made up and there’s a lot I just don’t know. I should also note that having worked in Washington for fifteen years and having encountered hundreds of Ivy Leaguers, from earnest interns to K Street lawyers I am completely open to the idea that attending an elite school is not in any way a guarantee that someone is not an idiot. Similarly, some of the smartest and most intellectually curious people I’ve ever met were from little-known or “non-elite” schools.
Update: From a reader:
Jonah and David French
I am on the recruiting committee of an AmLaw 100 law firm (we are pretty big) and graduated in the top 10 percent of a first tier law school (as if that matters).
I will make two points on this topic.
First, regarding USA Paulose, she graduated summa from Minnesota undergrad and Yale Law school. She also worked here. And, in spite of Krugman’s assertion that reciting Bible verses somehow is a form of mental inadequacy, the good word on the street is that she is focusing (limiting?) her hiring efforts for assistant attorneys from Bible-thumping bastions such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. Whether that is a good or a bad thing leads me to my second point. (My opinion is that this tad of elitism on her part is what has more people upset than her skills as an attorney or any proclivity toward John 3:16.)
Where someone went to law school is entirely overblown. The top tier schools are in the top tier because they have always been in the top tier. There is very little movement in rankings among the top 25. Top tier schools are likely to have a deeper bench than lower tier schools, but that should not lead to an assumption that any graduate of Harvard is better than any graduate of Regent. Often, many of our most successful summer clerks and attorneys are those who are excellent students, but, for one reason or another (they like the philosophy of the school, better scholarships, etc.), chose to attend one of our local lower tiered schools. In fact, they often clean the clocks of those from Ivies. We limit our hirings to the top tier schools, however, because our competitors do it. However, good lawyers are good lawyers, regardless of school or divine intervention. I have also observed the performance of many attorneys who are either devout Christians or Jews. Surprisingly, they win big cases and close big deals. I don’t know how they do it, given their assumed predisposition to incompetence.
If the Administration is hiring incompetent staff, it has less to do with their religion or whether they went to Regent or Yale and more to do with the Administration being a black hole which pulls in some idiots. Or maybe it is bad Karma. Dunno. Ask an astrologist.
By the way, Jonah, love your work. Glad they publish you in the Red StarTribune on occasion.
(I’d prefer to be anonymous for this one.)