the lawyer writer

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Consider This

The following are well-known facts.

When considering applicants, law schools look at precisely two things: your undergraduate grades and your LSAT score. That is it. Don't fool yourself about recommendations or the essay. They just don't care. They also don't care that, oh, you did a thousand times better in your graduate school than your undergraduate college because they simply don't care that you have a graduate degree. Your LSAT score, on the other hand, better be well about 99.9% to get into a top law school.

However, when considering applicants, business schools really don't care much about your GMAT scores or undergraduate grades. The thresholds are pretty low and many, many qualified applicants pass easily. However, Harvard has a total of seven 400 word essays about your goals, leadership skills, personal life, extracurricular activities, work experience and accomplishments. No listing. You'd better tell some interesting stories. In other words, it is extremely hard to get into a top business school straight out of undergrad. They want people with work, extracurricular, and charity organization experience.

Now, what does this mean?

Clearly, the students going to business school are more adult, simply because they're older, have more work and life experience, and need to be able to prove their managerial and leadership abilities outside a school setting. In fact, they must all have some business experience as well as specific goals for their future. These people have the ability to think in complex situations, deal with people, be adults, live in the real world.

The law students, however, are uniformly unformed. Most come straight out of college. They have varied undergraduate experience which may encompass no business, government or law experience--despite the fact that the majority will work in the private sector or the government. They are required to be good at taking tests, specifically the SAT, which the LSAT strongly resembles. They are also required to have been organized and focused enough to have done academically well from the age of 18, even if that means skipping interesting courses or jobs during a time traditionally held for self-exploration. Think--tunnel vision, good at interpreting data, able to take orders and respect larger systems, no experience dealing with people. Surprisingly, however, despite the law schools' emphasis on analysis, (or, because law school does not require business, government or pre-law courses) many of these students are creative or artistic as well. This is what is known as a weakness.

Why is it this way? MBA is for leaders and entrepreneurs. Law is for traditionalists and analysts. An MBA is expansive, ambitious, big picture. Law is restrictive and drowns in minutiae. An MBA seeks to connect with others. The legal profession is essentially isolationist.

And why is this bad? Because law firms are still companies, and lawyers are managing other lawyers. Very, very badly. The ridiculous morale and dissension in law firms is because a) some creative types have been sold a book of goods on a profession that doesn't exist and find their creativity is suddenly a handicap b) lawyers have no training and no required experience managing people in a non-adversarial way, so they end up hazing, manipulating and cannibalizing each other c) the absurd amount of money thrown at 25 year "lawyers" doing intern work is to essentially buy labor rather than create cohesive community d) the lack of business and government requirements to get into law school, and the lack of law school offerings in these courses, means that a lot of untrained associates end up staring blankly at your financial documents.

Just think about it.


Blogger 'Thought & Humor' said...

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7:21 PM  
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7:21 PM  
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7:23 PM  
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7:24 PM  
Anonymous argus_nj said...

I can not comment Harvard's specific policies and I certainly can not comment on law schools, however, I disagree with what you believe about the MBA application process in general.

1. You get a percentile score for GMAT. What you say about GMAT being easy does not make sense, it does not matter.

2. The thing business schools care most about is recruitment statistics. The schools get rated on percentage of students getting a job, average salary and so forth. Therefore schools try very hard to maintain a mix of different profiles to cater to its niche area. Yes, a good to have profile is students with top GMAT scores.

3. There are some jobs which require significant quantitative aptitude (finance, consulting etc.). Schools try to get a portion of candidates with high quant scores to cater to this market.

2:10 PM  
Blogger legis said...

These observations are right on the money. I am one of those creative, artistic types that wandered into law school. That is what comes of making such a significant professional decision at age 21 with absolutely no life experience whatsoever, and basing your decision on "you will be a professional and make money - and you don't need science courses to do it".

I now tell recent college students or grads who are interested in going to law school to hold off for at least a year. That is because they need work experience and maturity before they jump into what is basically a professional school. The mistake some of us make is forgetting that law school isn't college "the sequel" where they can put life off for three years, it is a highly focused place for adults making a career move into a very demanding professional field, and that it must be entered with the utmost maturity, self possession, and focus.

Good post.

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