At What Point Does a Lawyer's Experience Outweigh Their Law School Grades, Law School and Class Rank

A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

Grades play a part in a great many hiring decisions. However, the weight they are given depends on the particular firm involved and whether you are (A) a junior attorney or law student, (B) a mid-level to senior associate or (C) a partner. At each stage of your career the importance of grades will diminish. When you are considering a lateral move, there are certain firms that will never look at you unless your grades meet their standard. The very most prestigious firms such as Latham & Watkins, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Wachtel Lipton Rosen & Katz, Munger Tolles & Olsen and others will in almost all likelihood never interview or hire you unless your academic performance falls within a certain cut-off set by the firm, regardless of what stage you are in your career.

However, it is also worth noting that the most prestigious firms are often willing to look at individuals who are stellar performers who did not go to Top 10 or even Top 25 law schools. The most prestigious firms are looking for excellence; excellence in their minds begins when you receive your first grades in law school even if it is a second or third tier law school. Either you have it or you don't.