The ABA Journal just published an article focusing on an associate's law school rank and GPA in determining on-the-job success. Their conclusion: "[l]aw school rank and GPA were only moderately predictive of success."
Good news, right? Unfortunately, the study only examined associates at a large, unnamed law firm, which means that the study's conclusions may not apply outside of the BIGLAW universe. The study is also limited by the fact that it "examined the attributes of lawyers who were already 'the cream of the crop'" and the GPA differentials ranged from "top grades" to "simply good grades."
Just using a student's GPA is problematic because differences between each law school's grading curve and different levels of rigor within each institution's curriculum. I would have liked to see the study use class rank (or percentile) rather than GPA because class rank is more accurate when comparing graduates from two different law schools. With these limitations in mind, it seems the study only concluded that there was not a large difference between students that did well academically, but attended schools ranging all the way down to... 30th.
You mean that there isn't a difference between associates birthed from the same mold? Shocking.
Still, I'm glad to see that an attempt was made to evaluate on-the-job success while taking law school rank and law school performance into account.
The study pinpointed 12 factors that indicated on-the-job success better than GPA and law school rank. The authors only revealed one of the factors—participation in group hobbies and collegiate-level athletics—because of the "proprietary nature of the study."
Since we're short on exact details, it did stand out to me when one of the study's authors commented that the "ability to adapt and get along with people contribute[d] to success more than technical expertise." Makes sense, right? One's ability to work well with others is an important indicator of success because associates are people that must work with others, not transcripts filed away in a drawer. Until we have a study that uses a larger range of schools and a better way to compare students from different schools, it looks like the mysterious 12 factor test is probably a solid indicator of future performance.
The inability to correlate GPA/rank to on-the-job performance is similar to the problem of using LSAT scores as an indication of law school success. I wonder if an enterprising individual would be able to patch together a comprehensive study evaluating on-the-job success of practicing lawyers while using class rank, law school rank, and LSAT score as the basis for the study. That would be the coup de grâce.