A Grade Above
Why have a top 10% at all? More accurately, why should the school sanction a gradation (see title for not so subtle humor) of its students? Let firms calculate all they want. Bottom line is the school's policies DICTATE that you're all equal as graduates of ______ School of Law (to a certain degree).
Is there enough of a gradation for firms to make meaningful decisions about whom to hire? Yes. Is there enough gradation for clerkships/teaching positions? Yes. Is there an arbitrary line between the P crowd and the H crowd? No not really. The line blurs...instead what we have is a continuum. I mentioned the 40/60 distinction earlier...but that's per class. There are countless (actually quite countable) combinations of P, H, and HH. But given the 40/60 line it's almost inevitable that everyone will have some P's and some H's (including HH). This is true with all grading systems, but again the difference is that there is no ranking and there is no number that spits out to put you in a category. Firms, judges, hiring committees can look and weigh each grade however they want, but us Boalties look at each other and in a naive sense, see ourselves.
This was before I got my grades and immediately went to the tattoo parlor to permanently record the appropriate number of H's. Now going through the third semester of this process, I think I can safely say that while we all hope for those pairs, the grades we get really don't alter our relations with our classmates. And if it does, you should go back to Hastings. More seriously, 1Ls, please don't go out and kill youself if the grades don't turn out as you had hoped...the odds are stacked against you.
UPDATE: Moved up to permit discussion of grades per commentor request.