Public sector v. private sector

Earlier this month, your Above the Law editors had a little debate about whether attractive people make better lawyers. Apparently a couple of economists asked a similar question a decade ago. Jeff Biddle and Daniel Hamermesh published a paper in the Journal of Labor Economics in 1998 titled Beauty, Productivity, and Discrimination: Lawyers’ Looks and Lucre.

Gavel bang to University of Florida law professor Daniel Sokol, for pointing us in the direction of the article. It’s a fascinating read. We learned that:

* lawyers in the private sector are more attractive than those in the public sector;
* ugly looks-challenged people clerk;
* litigators are the most attractive attorneys, and that regulatory lawyers are the least attractive.
* being really, really, super good-looking makes men more likely to become partners, but makes women less likely to become partners; and
* attractive lawyers bill at higher rates and make more money.

The economists looked at law school graduates from the 1970s and 1980s. They created a control group by focusing on the graduates from just one law school, referred to as “Law School X” in the paper: “a highly selective institution that has typically matriculated and graduated between 300 and 400 students each year.”

We spoke to Professor Hamermesh this week about his research into how being hot helps lawyers’ careers. It’s not hiring partners who are solely to blame for this, though. The selective pressure comes from lawyers’ clients. Hamermesh shared his insights, and also revealed to us which law school provided his lovely guinea pigs…

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