This short paper is based on a study of graduates of the University of Michigan Law School that was initiated in 1966 and continues today. The paper draws upon information about graduates’ grades in law school as recorded in the law school’s records and combines it with data from surveys of the graduates conducted by mail five, fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five and forty-five years after graduation. Among the central findings reported are the following. (1) grades and gradepoint averages of Michigan law students rose hugely during the 1960s and 1970s, which can be explained in part by simple grade inflation but also in part by a dramatic rise in the academic qualifications of the students at the school. (2) The grades students achieved in law school (as indicated in law school records) strongly and positively correlate with the satisfaction they report with their law school experience on later surveys. Indeed, no other factor – not race, not sex, not current income, not anything else in our data – comes even close to law school grades in explaining differences among graduates in their later reported satisfaction with law school. (3) Grades have an effect on the settings in which law graduates find first jobs after law school. And (4) Grades in law school correlate positively with income earned by graduates fifteen, twenty-five and thirty-five years after law school, though it is uncertain whether the reason for the correlation is (a) that those with high grades tend to have greater talents and skills as practitioners or (b) that those with higher grades had access to first jobs unavailable to others and those first jobs set them on a path to higher earnings, wholly apart from their comparative talents as practitioners. Our data suggest that both explanations are in play.
Chambers, David L., "Law School Grades and Their Effects: The University of Michigan Law School Alumni Survey" (2019). Bibliography of Research Using UMLS Alumni Survey Data. 36.