Law School Representation Rates: Oral Arguments, 2008-9 through 2013-14

As the NCAA basketball tournament reaches its climax, we match its allure by studying the court performance (or presence, at any rate) of universities in a different setting.  Exploiting data churned up by earlier posts, we will compare the number of oral arguments presented by graduates of law schools that qualified for the competition.  Our gaze encompasses the past six terms (2008-9 through 2013-14), during which 795 oral arguments were delivered before the Supreme Court.  In only seven instances was I unable to determine the participants’ law schools, leaving us with 788 entries in the tournament.  In a very small number of cases two lawyers split an oral argument, and when this occurred, each lawyer’s law school was counted in the total of 788.  Also, if one lawyer delivered multiple oral arguments over the years in question, his/her law school was credited separately for each of these arguments.

Number of Oral Arguments Presented at the Wisconsin Supreme Court by Graduates of the Following Law Schools, 2008-9 through 2013-14 (includes schools whose graduates delivered at least eight oral arguments—1% of the total of 788)

University of Wisconsin 367/788 (47%)
Marquette University 182/788 (23%)
Harvard University 16/788 (2%)
New York University 12/788 (2%)
University of Chicago 11/788 (1%)
Drake University 11/788 (1%)
University of Missouri 11/788 (1%)
Indiana University 10/788 (1%)
University of Pennsylvania 10/788 (1%)
University of Minnesota 9/788 (1%)
Northwestern University 9/788 (1%)
University of Virginia 9/788 (1%)
John Marshall Law School 8/788 (1%)
Yale University 8/788 (1%)

The previous post (“Law Firm Success Rates”) focused on just the twelve private firms that presented at least five oral arguments during this period.  Listed below are the law schools whose graduates delivered the oral arguments for these firms.  Here we are counting all oral arguments, including those in a handful of cases that were omitted from the previous post (3-3 per curiam decisions, for instance, and decisions that did not clearly favor one party or the other).

The twelve firms are: Axley Brynelson; Cannon & Dunphy; Crivello Carlson; Foley & Lardner; Godfrey & Kahn; Habush Habush & Rottier; Kasdorf, Lewis & Swietlik; Michael Best & Friedrich; Quarles & Brady; Stafford Rosenbaum; von Briesen & Roper; and Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek.

Number of Oral Arguments Presented on Behalf of the Twelve Firms by Graduates of the Following Law Schools

Wisconsin 58/121 (48%)
Marquette 27/121 (22%)
Harvard 6/121 (5%)
Chicago 4/121 (3%)
NYU 4/121 (3%)
Indiana 3/121 (2%)
Iowa 3/121 (2%)
Northwestern 3/121 (2%)
Ohio State 3/121 (2%)
Yale 3/121 (2%)
Columbia 1/121 (1%)
Georgetown 1/121 (1%)
John Marshall 1/121 (1%)
Minnesota 1/121 (1%)
Northern Illinois 1/121 (1%)
Virginia 1/121 (1%)
Wayne State 1/121 (1%)

It is interesting to note that while Wisconsin’s and Marquette’s shares of the oral arguments for these twelve firms are nearly identical to their shares for the total number of 788 oral arguments, their oral arguments were distributed unevenly across the twelve firms, as detailed in the following table.

Number of Oral Arguments Presented on Behalf of Each of the Twelve Firms by Graduates of the Following Law Schools

Axley Brynelson: Wisconsin 10/12; Marquette 2/12.
Cannon & Dunphy: Marquette 5/7; Wisconsin 2/7.
Crivello Carlson: Wisconsin 3/5; John Marshall 1/5; Marquette 1/5.
Foley & Lardner: Wisconsin 5/13; Chicago 4/13; Yale 3/13; Indiana 1/13.
Godfrey & Kahn: Wisconsin 8/15; Northwestern 3/15; NYU 2/15; Columbia 1/15; Georgetown 1/15.
Habush Habush & Rottier: Marquette 5/8; Wisconsin 3/8.
Kasdorf, Lewis & Swietlik: Marquette 5/6; Wisconsin 1/6.
Michael Best & Friedrich: Wisconsin 8/14; NYU 2/14; Harvard 1/14; Northern Illinois 1/14; Iowa 1/14; Virginia 1/14.
Quarles & Brady: Wisconsin 5/14; Harvard 3/14; Marquette 2/14; Ohio State 2/14; Iowa 1/14; Minnesota 1/14.
Stafford Rosenbaum: Wisconsin 4/6; Harvard 2/6.
von Briesen & Roper: Wisconsin 5/11; Marquette 4/11; Iowa 1/11; Wayne State 1/11.
Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek: Wisconsin 4/10; Marquette 3/10; Indiana 2/10; Ohio State 1/10.

Although these twelve firms appeared frequently before the Supreme Court, the total of their appearances paled before the number of lawyers bound for the same destination from the offices of the Attorney General and the Public Defender.  Focusing on the data from these two agencies, one is struck by the fact that lawyers from the University of Wisconsin presented oral arguments in numbers far surpassing their colleagues from other schools—and considerably higher than Wisconsin’s share (47%) of the 788 oral arguments delivered by attorneys in all categories.  Wisconsin’s dominance was particularly striking in the case of the Public Defender, where the law school’s graduates accounted for a remarkable 71% of oral arguments—eclipsing the portions contributed by lawyers from the law schools of the University of Virginia (11%), Marquette (5%), and New York University (5%).

Number of Oral Arguments Presented on Behalf of the Attorney General’s Office by Graduates of the Following Law Schools (schools whose graduates delivered at least two oral arguments—1% of the total of 175)

University of Wisconsin 96/175 (55%)
Marquette University 29/175 (17%)
University of Missouri 11/175 (6%)
University of Pennsylvania 10/175 (6%)
University of Chicago 5/175 (3%)
Indiana University 4/175 (2%)
Capital University 3/175 (2%)
University of Iowa 3/175 (2%)
University of Michigan 3/175 (2%)
DePaul University 2/175 (1%)
Harvard University 2/175 (1%)
Northern Illinois University 2/175 (1%)

Number of Oral Arguments Presented on Behalf of the Public Defender’s Office by Graduates of the Following Law Schools

University of Wisconsin 45/63 (71%)
University of Virginia 7/63 (11%)
Marquette University 3/63 (5%)
New York University 3/63 (5%)
University of the Pacific 2/63 (3%)
Georgetown University 1/63 (2%)
Golden Gate University 1/63 (2%)
University of Minnesota 1/63 (2%)

 

Law Firm Success Rates

Inspired by the NCAA basketball tournament, this post stages a competition among law firms whose members have argued cases before the Supreme Court over the past six terms (2008-09 through 2013-14).  The selection committee ruled that eligibility for the competition required a firm’s participation in at least five oral arguments—excluding a handful of cases that resulted either in 3-3 per curiam outcomes or decisions that did not clearly favor one side or the other.[1] 

To be sure, partisans of individual firms might insist that the results be viewed with various considerations in mind.  Thus an argument could be made that pro bono cases—often involving criminal issues with a comparatively low change of a successful outcome—should not be allowed to affect a firm’s record.  For instance, two of the cases in Quarles & Brady’s collection of 12 are of this sort, and if they had been omitted, the firm’s success rate would have jumped from 50% to 60%.  Others might contend that personal-injury firms—paid only if they win—are more likely to limit their appearances in the Supreme Court to cases in which they anticipate a favorable result.  This seems plausible and might suggest that personal-injury firms ought to be grouped apart from the rest.  However, such a conclusion would also suggest that the success rate of personal-injury firms should exceed that of the remainder of the field, which proved not to be the case.  As a result, all firms are competing in a single division.

The first table details each firm’s results individually.  Here, for example, one finds that Michael Best & Friedrich prevailed in 31% (4 out of 13) of the cases in which it presented oral arguments, while Foley & Lardner secured a favorable result in 56% (5 out of 9).

Law Firms Participating in Five or More Oral Arguments from 2008-9 through 2013-14

Law Firm % of Successful Outcomes[2]
Axley Brynelson 7/12=58%
Cannon and Dunphy 4/7=57%
Crivello Carlson 4/5=80%
Foley & Lardner 5/9=56%    
Godfrey & Kahn 11/14=79%    
Habush Habush & Rottier 4/7=57%        
Kasdorf, Lewis & Swietlik 3/5=60%
Michael Best & Friedrich 4/13=31%
Quarles & Brady 6/12=50%
Stafford Rosenbaum 4/6=67%
von Briesen & Roper 3/10=30%
Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek 3/10=30%

The second table focuses on the outcomes of the subset of cases in which the 12 firms delivered oral arguments against each other.

Law Firm Wins and Losses (opponents in parentheses)
Axley Brynelson one loss (Godfrey)
Cannon and Dunphy one loss (Foley)
Crivello Carlson No oral arguments against other firms in the field
Foley & Lardner one loss (Habush) and one win (Cannon & Dunphy)
Godfrey & Kahn one loss (Habush) and one win (Cannon & Dunphy)
Habush Habush & Rottier two losses (Kasdorf and Whyte) and one win (Foley)
Kasdorf, Lewis & Swietlik one win (Habush)
Michael Best & Friedrich one loss (Stafford Rosenbaum)
Quarles & Brady one loss (Stafford Rosenbaum)
Stafford Rosenbaum two wins (Michael Best and Quarles)
von Briesen & Roper one loss (Godfrey) and one win (Whyte)
Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek one loss (von Briesen) and one win (Habush)

[1] When a firm prevailed on certain issues but not others, the case is counted here if it seems clear that the firm won or lost on the issues of greatest importance—a subjective call required in only a small number of cases.

[2] In addition to four 3-3 per curiam decisions, the following cases are excluded from consideration.  Bostco LLC v. Milwaukee Metro. Sewerage District; Northern Air Services v. Link; and Notz v. Everett Smith Group, Ltd.—all Foley & Lardner cases in which the outcome was not overwhelmingly favorable or unfavorable for Foley’s clients—and Marlowe v. IDS Property Casualty Insurance Co., in which the decision was unfavorable for the individual insurance company, IDS (a victory for Habush), but also satisfactory for the insurance industry in general, represented by Godfrey in an amicus brief.

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