May 04, 2010
Why Do Wharton Kids Head To Wall Street?
Posted by David Zaring

Wharton undergraduates proceed to populate many law schools, but one reason they don't all end up there is because there is a culture of entrepreneurship and internships here that guide them elsewhere.  I've found it to be pretty different from law school, and not at all in a bad way.  (Of course, the MBAs here all know where they are headed, and they help to shape the culture.) 

Business schools have a skills ethos, while law schools have an (often obscure) liberal arts ethos - and yet both have strong commitments to scholarship that is neither liberal artsy nor skills based.  It might seem like it would be a pedagogical puzzle, but the students who receive law school and business school instruction, whether liberal artsy, skills based, or social science research oriented, do fine, but the thing is, they increasingly do finance.  Should we worry about this? 

Ezra Klein and James Kwak have very good posts (both titled "Who Do Harvard Kids Head To Wall Street?") on why Harvard undergraduates and Yale Law students end up doing corporate work.  Both think, roughly, that it isn't the money, it's risk aversion, and you should go read them both.  Then you should mill around here; we've just had a good symposium on what law schools should do in the future for their students. 

I think that, in thinking about the future of any sort of education, it's critical to consider the student perspective, and Kwak (an entrepreneur before he became a Yale Law student) and Klein (because he's interviewing a recent Harvard graduate) provide it.  I also think, mildly, that there's no need to be stunned that so many of our most talented end up in corporate careers; it is interesting, however, that Harvard undergraduates and Yale Law students might find themselves shocked to be working on or for Wall Street, while Wharton students wouldn't find it surprising at all.

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