Rating the Rankings

The American Lawyer has published it’s Annual Summer Associates Survey . Although I’m a firm believer that these rankings are of dubious value, I must admit that I always read them. (I also read tabloids in the checkout line at the supermarket.)

It is hard not to at pay attention when rankings are published, even if you dislike/distrust them. Even naysayers want to know how they rate. It is human nature. We are all relativists. But what can we really do with rankings. Do they provide any practical value?

If you look at the numbers in this year’s lineup, the first thing to notice is that the firm ratings are almost all greater than 4 (on a scale of 1 to 5.) The lowest rated firm, Nossaman Guthner in Los Angeles, had an average rating of 3.957 and the highest average rating (Nutter, McClennen & Fish of Boston) was 4.989. Maybe Nutter is really on to something (it scored almost a perfect 5.) But I defy someone to explain to me the difference between a firm that has an average score of 4.5 out of 5 and a firm that scores 4.9 out of 5. This range describes well over half of the firms on the list.

I suppose you can use the lists over time to see which way the satisfaction rankings are moving. If a firm jumps from almost last to almost first, I suppose that says something. If over time, a firm stays at or near the top (or the bottom) of the list, that may say something too. But overall, what this survey tells us is what we already knew (i.e. that being a summer associate at a large firm is not a bad gig, regardless of where you work.)

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