How to Effectively Compete with Ivy League Law Students

By AJ Ausa Alvarez

hammer-719061_640A few months ago, Atty. Adam Leitman Bailey told the Huffington Post why their firm won’t hire law graduates from Ivy League Schools. The post mentioned that students from these schools have no “incentive to squeeze as much learning as possible” and “real world simulation of dealing with the pressures of a case”.

“One of the [most] important elements of our success is our ability to hire the best candidates based purely on merit, not aristocracy,” Bailey stated.

Now this may give a boost to students of second-tier schools, but it is always best to live the part of it. Here are the basic things you should consider to broaden your knowledge, build a firmer foundation in your field, and make you an indispensable asset at the end of the day.


During your period of study, it is essential to establish relationships and nurture connections with professors and any other people who could affect your career in the future. Keep in mind that not all the law firms recruit solely from Ivy League schools and establishing these connections could put you higher on the list when recruitment time comes around.


Use the grades that you achieved at law school to your advantage. Ivy League schools do not find it necessary to grade their students, meaning that even though it is presumed that they have a better level of education, they may not have be ranked as highly as students from other law schools. In fact, some law firms prefer to recruit candidates who have been graded as they come from a more competitive environment which could benefit the prospective lawyer and law firm in the long run.


Apply for an internship at the various top law firms way before graduation. This will put you on the list early on, perhaps even before the Ivy Leaguers get a foot in the door. Be prepared to work long, hard hours for little to no pay and complete even the most menial tasks assigned to you to the best of your ability.

An internship can last anywhere from 6 months to two years and you should use this time to continue growing your network and to study for your upcoming bar exam. Remember that an internship at a top law firm will open up other positions to you and you shouldn’t feel restricted to applying for a position at the specific firm that you interned at.


Most law firms have different departments that are dedicated to practicing specific areas of the law. Deciding what field you want to specialize in early on, can provide you with better options for an internship or a position at the firm later on. Research areas of the law which are rarely specialized in, to give you a leg up.

Most law students only choose a specialized field when they are interns or after they have started in a junior position at a law firm. At times, this can result in a specialized field being chosen for them as positions become available in the firm. You may want to start specializing in one or more fields while studying and throughout your internship. The more knowledge you have in the various areas of the law, the more likely you will be considered for the more desirable positions.

Application and Interview

Apply to as many law firms as possible. Include a motivation for why you have chosen each law firm and provide reasons why you are the most suitable candidate for the position. It is essential to look the part so invest in a professional wear if you are called in for an interview. Follow up on your application regularly without making a nuisance of yourself.

The Bar Exam

It is not necessary to pass the bar exam before applying for an internship or position. It is however very important to pass it the first time around with as high a grade as possible. Students who need to sit more than once for the exam may limit their prospects. It is better to spend a bit of extra time studying for the bar exam get a help from an expert if necessary, than take the chance of failing or passing with a low grade.

School Record

Any misconduct or actionable behaviors that are reflected on your school record can negatively affect your prospect of being offered a position at a top law firm. Make sure that your behavior is exemplary throughout your period of education to show the level of professionalism, morals and ethics that you will bring to a firm.

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