Blame the Internet! – Not

by on March 11, 2007

There was a blogosphere dust-up last week when the Washington Post reported on a law student who had been savaged in Internet chat rooms and subsequently not been hired by any of the many law firms she interviewed with. It’s a perfect story for the Post because Washington has so many lawyers and because the culture here lags in tech-savvy.

Reliable TechDirt debunked the story somewhat by pointing out that employers would be foolish to rely on such things in their hiring decisions.

Now, Volokh conspirator Ilya Somin points out that, given her credentials, the law student was probably left without major-law-firm work on the merits.

Like this person, when I interviewed for law firm summer associate jobs as a second year student at Yale, I had “graduated Phi Beta Kappa [from my undergrad institution], ha[d] published in top legal journals and completed internships at leading institutions in [my] field.” And, very similar to her, after interviewing at a dozen big DC firms, I ended up with two call backs and zero offers. Why did this happen? Frantic later investigation showed that the main culprits were precisely some of the credentials listed above. Because of them (particularly the publications), firms feared that I would go into academia and either never take a permanent job with the firm, or leave after just a year or two. A highly paid associate who quickly jumps ship for academia is far less profitable for a firm than one that stays for several years and can eventually bill hours as a senior associate.

Once again, “blame the Internet” fails to hold up. Law firms and other employers are unlikely in general to use salacious information that is anonymously posted, or long outdated, in their hiring decisions. Correlation is not causation.

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