A Thought About the Move to Pass-Fail Grading at Law Schools:

Harvard and Stanford are joining Yale in moving to a pass-fail system of grading. One cautionary note: When I was a first-year student at Yale, many of my classmates, myself included, applied for Summer jobs at big law firms. Unlike second-summer jobs, first-summer jobs were difficult to acquire.

Firms hired Yale first years in the Winter. Our first semester was pure pass/fail, with no "Honors." With no grades to go on, law firms seemed to use proxies. My classmates who went to the very top undergraduate colleges--Harvard, Yale, Amherst, Princeton--procured firm jobs. Those of us who went to less elite colleges--SUNY Binghamton, Brandeis, Berkeley, Trinity--did not. The elite-undergraduate school advantage dissipated as some students routinely received honors and others rarely if ever did, but differentiated among students will undoubtedly be far more difficult at Harvard with its 500-student classes. As a commenter at Leiter worries, "What will happen is that employers, judges, and fellowship committees will view undergraduate institutions as a proxy for success, which can make law school even more of a finishing school for the elite."