Malcolm Gladwell gave the opening talk at the New Yorker Conference held earlier this month. His talk was primarily about the “mismatch problem” in hiring. It’s very interesting. It can be watched (no charge!) on the New Yorker’s website.
He talks about the the “combines” before the pro-sports drafts and how they are awful predictors of success; teacher hiring and how the added requirements for teachers in No Child Left Behind actually make it more difficult for schools to hire better teachers; and lawyer-hiring, which he supports by citing a study reportedly conducted by the University of Michigan Law School that compared the post-graduation performance of students admitted under affirmative action to the performance of those admitted under the non-affirmative-action standards.
The whole talk is really interesting, but it is about 30 minutes long. If you want to skip ahead to the part on lawyer-hiring and the performance of students admitted under affirmative action (those areas most relevant to what this blog is typically concerned with), you can jump to it about 3/4 of the way through. [But if you have any interest in pro sports, particularly hockey, football, or basketball, I think the first part of the talk really shouldn’t be missed.]
About the University of Michigan Law School study: He says that it shows that there is, generally, no difference between the post-grad success of those admitted under affirmative action (the “lower standard”) and those admitted under the “higher standard.” [Aside: He also characterizes UMLS’s former affirmative action program as creating a “two-tiered” admission system, where affirmative action admits faced a “dramatically lower standard.” From what I recall about the Law School’s position in Grutter, that is not how they would want their process characterized.]
I was once told, by someone who would know, that (at least at Michigan) LSAT scores are great predictors of law school GPAs. If both that statement and Gladwell’s summary of the study are accurate, that would seem to suggest that law school performance doesn’t predict post-grad performance. Which I think would be true in some cases, but not generally, particularly considering the opportunity advantage of the top performers.