Being public school educated, and doing most of my three degrees online, has meant that I don’t hold high grades very highly. And I don’t care where people actually go to university. It doesn’t hold much meaning for me – because I think that the kind of professional you are is made on the job, not in the classroom.
The Australian system is not the same as the American system, and our law degrees are undergraduate, not post-graduate. So in America, to get into law school, everyone needs to sit and pass an LSTAT test. This is a standardised test, with 5 parts, and it’s timed – everyone only gets 35 minutes for each part (no time carries over if you finish early on another part).
From the LSTAT, law schools then make offers to law students. Only the top scores get offers into the law schools with the big names – Harvard, Yale, etc.
In Australia, we do our VCE exams and get our score out of 100. Then we apply to courses at universities, and get offers based on our score. We don’t have to apply to Melbourne University to study law if we don’t want to. Even if our score is high enough …
The point is two-fold. First, that the ranking system rewards people who can solve problems fast, not necessarily the best problem-solvers.
The second point was clearly articulated in Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast towards the end of the second episode – by a recruiter for law firms. The university that someone attends does not predict the kind of lawyer they will be!
On reflection, it’s not the quality of the lawyer that you become that advances you in the legal industry, most of the time. It appears to me that a lot of it has to do with the networks that someone builds – first in private school, then during university at law school, and then through parental connections.
For those of us, like me, I haven’t had any of those privileges. So the meritocracy doesn’t exist – it’s still just a ‘boys club’ or club of the privileged.