Moving Past Bad Law School Grades

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The good news is that you survived your first year and passed all your classes. The bad news is that your grades are lackluster, you are not in the top 25% of your class, and you are not sure what to do. But unless you hate law school, it is not time to throw in the towel.

What to Say During OCI Interviews

Frankly, if you do not finish in the top 25-30%, you might not get many OCI interviews. If you do get some interviews, it is probably because the firms like something else on your resume — prior work experience, interesting background, etc.

During your interview, talk about that stuff. There is no need to defend a grade unless they ask. If they do, direct them back to your other strengths. Try something like this: “Yes, I was slightly disappointed in my grades. At the same time, I learned from [prior experience/work experience] that having [these skills] really helped me stand out in [prior experience].

Practicing lawyers do not remember their grades. Once you have a job, your law school grades are basically irrelevant. If you can get an interview, show them why you would make an excellent clerk, and they may not even ask about your grades.

Find a Way to Acquire Practical Skills

Lots of people who get good grades do law review/journal and tend to become obsessed with their grades. Many of them are too busy to actually work as a law clerk somewhere. That is your chance to separate yourself from them.

Start networking, and find an opportunity to do some real legal work. Depending on the employer, legal experience can be more important then law review. Another good option is to sign up for a law school clinic and get some hands-on experience during the semester.

Your GPA Can Still Go Up

If you are still concerned about your grades, you still have two years to raise your GPA. After first year, most classes are no longer on a forced curve. If you do some research, you can choose classes that tend to result in good grades. You can do the same with professors and find out which ones like to give out As.

Not doing as well as you hoped first year can be a bummer, but it is not the end of the world.

Featured image: “Bad grades” by Quinn Dombrowski is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0.

Law School

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  • http://lawyerist.com/author/ericcooperstein/ Eric Cooperstein

    I think a necessary corollary to this post is what a student should do if they have finished the first year of law school with rather poor grades – an average in the C range, or the bottom 10% or 20% of their class. Assuming the grades were not caused by some external event that is not likely to recur (serious health problem, death of close friend or relative), those students really need to ask themselves whether it makes sense to continue to shell out tens of thousands of dollars for law school if they can’t succeed academically. At a minimum, law students at the bottom of their classes should have some sort of plan for when they get out. By “plan,” I mean a way of earning an income. Perhaps there is a relative or family friend who intends to hire the lawyer straight out of school. Perhaps there is a family business the student will go into. Maybe the student is so well known in his or her community (because of a prior career or other favorable notoriety), that the student expects to have some success in attracting clients. Maybe the student is so wealthy that he or she does not need to immediately earn an income after law school.

    Also, I don’t think someone has to “hate” law school to decide to stop going. The day-to-day practice of law may not bear very much resemblance to law school, but if you find you don’t enjoy reading cases, picking them apart, or writing about them, then you really have to think about whether you have sufficient passion about the law to overcome the struggle of earning an income sufficient to repay the $100k+ in debt that you’ve incurred.

    In America, we don’t like “quitters.” We think that once someone starts a task, they should suck it up and see it through to the end, no matter how dreary the outcome. It’s not a recipe for happiness though. If you came through the first year poorly, consider taking what you’ve learned and applying it in some other area that is a better fit with your natural talents.

    • SSilton

      Eric, I like and respect you, and I am really late to this post (it just showed up in my Linkedin feed this morning for some reason), but I can’t disagree with you more. I really hope that in the past 2 years since this post was written, that no law students have taken this advise. If so, someone may have been deprived of their life’s work, and society may have been deprived of a potentially great lawyer. There is no correlation between law school grades and being a successful lawyer. Good grades assist in acquiring your first job, nothing else. Moreover, the skills that make a successful lawyer (i.e. empathy, problem solving, multi-tasking) aren’t tested in law school. Part of the seeming disatisfaction of lawyers relates not the profession itself, but to the fact that BigLaw hires lawyers based almost solely on grades. In reality, law is not a purely academic pursuit. Rarely do you have the opportunity to focus on a narrow topic for substantial periods of time. Instead, you work on something until it abruptly ends and are required to refocus on an entirely new and unrelated matter . If law firms hiring committees started looking inward (at the background of their most successful partners) grades would be the 4th or 5th attribute reviewed. Until that time, my advise to young lawyers or law students with “bad grades” is don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do!

      • Amy Jackson

        I agree! I am a 2L now and because of health and other factors saw my GPA suffer like never before…I am paying for law school myself and am not about to throw my hands up and walk away defeated by grades since I know too well that things like the LSAT and law school grades are NOT predictors of future success in law nor do they accurately demonstrate much other than how the student (or LSAT taker) can recall and perform on one exam. I could say more but I’ll just leave it at, I agree – again.

  • Randall Ryder

    Eric – you raise a number of good points that I intend to address in a separate post (many of which I intended to include here, but neglected to do so). Thanks for the thoughtful feedback.

  • bernie

    isn’t there a necessary disclaimer that if your school isn’t in the top 14 or so, you most likely should not and cannot rely upon OCI, regardless of rank?

  • Randall Ryder

    @ bernie – I do not think anyone should solely rely on OCI. That said, I know plenty of lawyers in Minneapolis who attended “local” schools and got jobs through OCI.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/stevemarchese/ Steve Marchese

    This is very helpful advice, Randall. I would emphasize your points on finding practical experience and networking. The fact is most practicing lawyers didn’t graduate in the top 10 or 25% of their graduating classes. (Yes, it seems obvious to do the math.) Good grades do not always equate to excellent lawyering. I know that may come as a shock to some, but getting solid practical experience can make all the difference. I know a good number of law grads who were hired on the basis of their practical work — they made connections, learned from other practitioners, cultivated professional connections. When the time came for an opening, they had strong references based on actual experience. Grades have value as a proxy for predicting future performance. For many legal jobs (e.g., solo practice, public defense, legal service, etc.),however, experience has a much higher predictive value than grades.

  • 3l with bad grades

    dont forget that when considering dropping out you should also realize that you probably wont be making anything on your undergrad degree either. i dropped out after bad 1l grades-only to come back after not getting anything outside law either. and i very much enjoyed the study and research and writing skills taught.

    on the other hand even if you love law but got in bottom 10% and have another avenue to make money you should consider dropping out.

    further-the corollary of your grades may go up is that your grades are just as likely to go down-for however much you improve your skills-so will your classmates.

    the idea of networking sounds great-until you realize that networking is code for “beg people who barely know you to stick their neck out for you in the worst hiring crisis in decades-thereby making their neck on the line if you don’t work out-for no consideration at all. ”

    basically-you shouldnt post about what to do if you get bad grtades in law school. yes-there are things you can do to make yourself look good besidees grades-but everyone is doing them-just like trying to get good grades. so a post saying here is how to recover from bad grades is disingenuous. you might drop out or stay in-but either way your screwed-you may do other things-but your still behind and will likely never catch up.

    yes-bad grades seemingly only matter for the first job-but that first job is usually how you leverage your second. so once you loose the game you’ve basically lost your career.

    the only bright idea i can think of is considering whether you would be interested in grad school in a different profession-one actually in demand.

    • Elisa Fortise

      31 with bad grades

      Your negativity is outstanding, if nothing else. Considering the fact that you’ve made it through 4 years of undergrad and 1 year of law school and still don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re” and “lose” and “loose” is even more outstanding.

      May I suggest an English course and an attitude change? The combination certainly won’t do your job search OR your grades any harm.

      • Rebecca Robinson

        Major “like” here!

        Also, it does not matter if you are going into law or some other field because every job is about networking! Employers have more incintive to hire someone they know or someone with a good reputation before someone they interview that has the exact same qualifications. It’s all about making yourself stand out above the crowd.

  • Randall Ryder

    @ Steve – given your experience in career and professional development, I am very glad to hear you share a similar perspective.

    @ 3l – I think you need to re-read the post.

  • doc

    Randall, did you just give 3L a bad grade?

  • Sean Nichols

    @3l

    Networking is not begging. It’s meeting people, getting to know them, and basically showing them you are a pleasant, competent person who can carry on a normal conversation. It also shows a certain amount of initiative. If you’re looking to get hired, networking allows potential employers, or friends or associates of potential employers, to get to know you before the somewhat rigid interview process. In other words, the people you meet know you are a decent sort.

  • Seth

    I just finished my first year of law school at a Tier 4 school with one of the most rigorous grading curves in the nation (a school which, 2 weeks after we began, provided us a letter for prospective employers asking them not to compare our GPAs to other schools because of the curve – quite a ridiculous proposition if you ask me). My fall semester ended with a 2.31 GPA and I had a very rough second semester on a personal level and unfortunately ended up with 2 “Ds” my second semester which killed my GPA and resulted in my Academic Dismissal. I have not failed any classes – in fact, I earned 2 “B-,” 2 “C+,” 3 “C” and the 2 “Ds. My cumulative GPA is 1.95 and apparently the cutoff for dismissal is 2.0. I appealed the dismissal to the academic standards committee and they denied my readmission. I am by no means a “D” student – or even a slacker – I got a 160 on my LSAT and had a 3.5 UGPA. This all boils down to 2 bad tests in 1 bad week.

    I am trying to figure out how to get back into the school for at least the next semester because I KNOW I can raise my GPA. I think the policy is unjust considering the school is keeping our grades artificially low and I have read the dismissal and readmission policies for better-rated schools in this state and found them to be far more liberal and provide more opportunity to prove yourself. I am very frustrated and I want to keep appealing to the school until I either get the opportunity to attend in the fall semester to prove myself or given the opoprtunity to withdraw so that my record isn’t tainted with a dismissal and I can more easily get into a Master’s program.

    Does anyone have any ideas on how to proceed or if I should just give up altogether? I am frustrated that I have not actually failed any classes – but thats what it looks like considering I’ve been academically dismissed. Further, I have friends that have actually failed a class and somehow are still in school. I don’t know what to do or how to get back or get the opportunity to prove myself. The policy provides for Academic Probation for less than a 2.0 after the fall semester in which you get the spring semester to prove yourself, but the policy changes after that. If you fail to maintain a 2.0 after the spring or any semester thereafter, you get kicked out. I think it’s unfair that just because I didn’t do terribly my first semester (2 B-s and 2 Cs), but happened to do not so well on 2 exams in the spring – I don’t even get the opportunity to prove myself or raise my grades.

    HELP!!! I need ideas!!!

    Thank you :)

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/aaronstreet/ Aaron Street

      Seth,

      I think the question you need to answer is: What is your plan for what you would do with a JD (knowing that even if you got back in, you’ll graduate at or near the bottom of your class)?

  • Mary

    Seth I feel so sorry for you! What a nightmare to go through…I hope that you have found someone to help you. If it were me, I would plan another strategy if I really wanted to be an attorney (I’m in law school myself)- Drop out of that school and find a school that focuses on teaching students rather than frustrating them.

  • Michelle

    Seth,

    Please ignore the negativity. If you desire to practice law, then proceed forward! Continue trying to get back into your school. Consider transferring to a lower ranked school if you are unable to sway the academic team at your current law school.

    Do you have E&Es? What about horn books? Professional outlines? How is your study group? Meet with your professors on a weekly basis. These are small changes that will help you tremendously.

    Don’t let anyone kill your dream. Some of our greatest heroes experienced failure initially.

    God bless!

    Michelle

  • JD2B

    Seth, I’ve been in your situation before where I flunked out of law school due to grades. I decided to work a few years before reapplying back to law school. I managed to get back in (now a 2L) but it wasn’t easy. The good news is that you know how to take the LSAT. You will have to sit out two years before reapplying back to law school (per ABA). However, I would petition the school to see whether you can redo the first year all over again. They may be more receptive to that.

    Good luck to you, Seth!

  • Lisa

    JD2B,

    I’m in the same boat as Seth and you’re story gave me some hope at a time where my future looks so bleak. It’s harder for people who still have the dream and know they can achieve it, but due to external and internal circumstances things didn’t go well.

    I don’t want to be intrusive, but can you tell me how many years you waited before you re-applied? Did you work in a law-related field? Did you pursue any other degrees in the mean time? And what tier schools were most receptive to you?

    Thanks

  • JD2B

    Lisa, I didn’t realize you responded to my post. I don’t know if you’ll ever get to reading this but to answer your questions….I went back to work after my dismissal in a field unrelated to law and remained employed for 15 years. Meanwhile, I earned my Master’s and I managed to progress in my career. I did receive a lot of rejections but the schools that were most receptive were the T3/T4 types. Some schools are forgiving of an academic dismissal and some are not. I think what helped was my ability to grow from the experience since my dismissal and that’s what ultimately helped my cause. But you’ll still have to get a good LSAT regardless.

  • Stacey

    Seth,

    I believe I may attend the same school that you did and am now finding myself in a very similar position. I was able to petition for readmission after being academically dismissed due to low 2nd semester grades following an illness. However, this semester I am scared because if I don’t do well, I will not be able to return and I’m wondering if any other school would accept me and allow me to simply start over. My GPA dropped to a 1.9 (from a 2.9 first semester). It has been a while since your original post and I am wondering if you’ve been able to get in anywhere else

  • Vernellia Randall

    Knowing what do after law school dismissal is difficult. We, The JD Project (a non-profit), helps students in the process through our Returning Law Students Program. We do a comprehensive assessment to determine the factors that attribute to your dismissal. We have a law school study skills component to assist in you improving your study skills. Please check out our website and see if we might be of assistance.

  • JDGrad

    Here’s more accurate information – if you finish your 1L year and are not in the top 10% of your class, you will not get a summer clerkship with a large law firm – period. If you finish your 1L year and you’re not in the top 25% of your class, you should reevaluate whether you want to incur an additional 2 years of debt in order to graduate with no job prospects. That’s the bottom line, folks. The legal talking heads and law schools will not give you accurate information. Ask actual JD students in the last five years, and see how many of them who didn’t attend Harvard Law and who also didn’t graduate in the top 25% of their class have a job practicing law. Just ask…

    • http://consumerlawyer.mn/cgi-sys/suspendedpage.cgi Randall Ryder

      I know plenty of people who did not graduate in the top 25% of their class and they are working as real attorneys. Oh, and they didn’t attend Harvard. Many of them attended a Tier 3 law school.

      I’m not going to defend the statistics that law schools throw out, but I think your view is skewed as well.

    • 4L

      Although finishing in the top third (at least at my law school) appears to be a major factor considered by hiring firms, I think the main challenge to finding a job these days is a direct result of the incredibly bad state of our economy. The fact is there are fewer firms hiring and thus fewer jobs available. And to compound the problem, firms have been laying off associates who now compete with us soon to be graduates for the few jobs available.

      I too have learned of several successful attorneys who did not graduate at the top of their class. After my first semester, I was ranked four from the bottom. I obtained meaningful legal work experience during each summer of law school, including a paid judicial clerkship. And yes I used networking to get those jobs. Now in my final semester, I am close to the middle of my class. I have been selected to interview at every OCI I’ve applied for despite my lackluster rank. And I have been told by an interviewing attorney (after the decision letters were sent out) that I was an extremely strong candidate that could have gotten an associate position had it not been for the fact that the firm ultimately decided not to hire anyone because of the negative economic outlook.

      I will eventually get a job although it may take a while. I think ambition and persistence, demonstrated by a strong track record of productivity can usually compensate for a lack of stellar grades. And while I consider myself of average intelligence, I don’t think grades are always indicative of a person’s intellectual ability in law school. I have met many bright individuals who were not at the top of their class.

    • 2L

      You sound very dumb! I’m at a Tier 4 school and an average of 93% of the graduates get a legal job.

      • Really?

        2L — Is that 93% what your school reports to USNews? And how long after graduation do they count those jobs? I find it shockingly hard to believe that 93% of your school’s graduates have legal jobs within a year of graduation, when the national average is more like 30%.

  • louise

    I am wondering if anyone has ever sued the ABA over it’s “recommendation” that academically dismissed students sit out two years. It seems highly arbitrary and capricious. Why 2 years? Seems if someone did poorly on their exams, sat out a semester or even 1 year and was able to show they used that time to correct deficiencies or problems that led to their poor performance that should be sufficient to show they are capable of legal studies? It boils down to this does anyone think the ABA-standard would withstand a legal challenge?

  • BottomFeederT32L

    I’m at the bottom of my class at my diploma mill law school. I just want to ask: are there any practicing attorneys out there who did not get stellar grades and are happy with their choice to stay?

    I want to stay, because at least I”ll have something to show for the 1.5 years I’ve been in school. I’m not in the top of my class because I have kids, jobs, a partner, ect. and I refuse to neglect them. The top of the class/big law seems to have no work/life balance but fat bank accounts. I’ve been broke my whole life, and I don’t care if I’m broke for the rest of it paying off my loans as long as I’m doing what I chose to do. Money is evil anyway. I don’t buy into this consumerism obsession/elitism/entitlement thing that’s like a disease at my law school. That being said, am I alone here? Are all lawyers REALLY this greedy?

  • Yosimo

    Are there any studies that indicate GPA at law school actually has a correlation to success as a lawyer? We have all heard the one about MJ not making the basketball team, is there evidence for the same in law school? Of course there are folks who do poorly on school work, which nearly everyone agrees has little to do with actually practicing law but go on to find a cause and do great. Of course your odds of getting a corporate job go down with the gpa but that market is drying up anyway. It is more about convincing the high gpa students that they are special, once they buy into their own greatness, as evidenced by their ability to stay awake during class and jump through the academic hoops, they can go out to gather the rewards of their school success.

  • Kevin

    From my experience, there is an “art” to attending law school, just as there is an art to attending any type of school, or for that matter, learning without attending a school.

    In my case, I had been out of college quite some time when I entered law school, and I was only able to manage a c+ average the first year. I them made it a point to seek out advanced students who were doing very well, and inquiring as to their take on how they achieved their success.

    I was then able to graduate with honors.

    Of course, everyone learns just a bit differently from everyone else. I recall doing very poorly in math classes in high school because I did not understand what the teacher was saying, even though other students understood him well. Neverhteless, today I understand Trig and Calculus quite well, and actually learned both on my own through study on the internet.

    The one “art” of going to law school that I applied more than any other, and which I believe gave me the most success, was to learn to not overly complicate the thing. I figured out that during the first year I put way way too much information in my brain that wasn’t needed to be successful. In addition, I also learned that the way in which I learned required changing.

    These are some things that worked for me.

    1. Do everthing you can to figure out what is important to know in the class and only concentrate on that material.
    2. Use your book table of contents as your study guide. Be able to write intelligently on each part of your table of contents. Know that table of contents by heart before your exam.
    3. Make up exam questions for yourself during the semester. Lots of them. Answer them.

    Good luck.

  • lola

    I’m in the evening program at my law school, and am now a 2L. This past semester I just finished the required 1L course. I have 2 C+’s, 2 C’s, and 4 B’s. My gpa is a dismal 2.6. I know I can do better, I just don’t know how. I memorized, I studied, I bought the supplements (E&E’s). First semester was crushing, second semester I got all B’s, this last semester, 2 C’s and a B. I do not know what I am doing wrong! I thought I had gotten over the first year hump, but I’m doing just as badly as I did first semester. After a year and a half, I still do not feel like I know how to write a proper IRAC. Can someone out there offer me any advice?

  • Lisa McCrum

    Thanks for the article. I missed my GPA by .08% and was dismissed after achieving 48 out of 87 needed for graduation. I was a white single mother who was booted out and had been told to “give my daughter to her grandparents for your first year” when I was a 1L. I did no such thing. I would not send her away for anything and found that guidance to be crap. When I was dismissed I was given no option to appeal as the committee was not “entertaining appeals right now. Others I knew were given options; they were of a different race than me. I am tens of thousands in debt I can never repay and my dedication to serve the under-represented, especially foster children has not been able to fully reach its potential as a legal advocate. Instead I have been a foster parent and help to those less fortunate; however, the government will never see that money I borrowed for law school. At this point, I’m not even employed, like so many other Americans. I wished I had gone to a public law school rather than a private one; can’t help but wonder if it would have turned out differently.

  • AcademicProbation1L

    Is it better to withdraw from law school if you are on academic probation rather than take the risk of an academic dismissal?
    Are State approved schools easier in studies/more laid back than ABA schools? i noticed the requirements for admissions to a state approv. are way easier than for ABA schools. People say the job market is hard for state aproved, but i plan to work for myself and am not in it for the money, just pure passion for law.
    I’m in a bad boat right now with an “academic probation” status. I used to score top grades in my undergrad, I have always been a 3.9 g.p.a. I just dont understand where I went wrong in law school. I’ve studied, memorized, met with professors, bought study guides, outlines.. My cumulative at the end of my 1st semester is a 1.57. Its crushing to see this, as I have been giving it my 100%. What’s more crushing is that this is and always will be my dream to earn my JD and practice law. I only have 1 semester left to raise my cumm to above a 2.0 to avoid an academic dismissal. Should I take the risk, or drop out of school before its marked with a dismissal? I dont know how readmissions look at academic dismissals v. acad probation statuses. Also, how can one cope with the debt they’ve incurred? I just feel depressed with no hope for living, I feel like a failure and this really does feel like “the end of the world” watching my dreams shattering right before my eyes. Is my gpa extremely low for a 1L on probation?? :( Has someone went through this before please share your thoughts/outcomes.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/andymergendahl/ Andy Mergendahl

      Talk to advisors at school. Often the problem isn’t the inability to understand the material, but a failure to write good test answers. The school doesn’t want to flunk you out – they should be willing to provide you with help. If you hate the idea of NOT becoming a lawyer, well, you only live once, so maybe sticking it out is the best choice. But withdrawing doesn’t mean you can never come back, either. Note also that people with poor law school grades have much lower bar exam pass rates. It’s strictly a test-taking-skills issue. The prudent thing to do would be to leave, but prudence doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness. Good luck.

      • AcademicProbation1L

        Thank u Andy! I found your reply really useful and something to help me decide. And i think I completely agree with you on the test taking theory. I never thought about it but it seems to make sense now and helps me put things in perspective. Do you have any advice on whether the state approved law schools are easier than the ABA schools in terms of the grading curve and teaching styles?

        • http://www.udalllaw.com Ronald Tocchini

          It’s interesting to me that this discussion thread appears to have gone onward for several years now. If nothing else, this fact would seem to demonstrate how timeless the worry regarding the value of law school grades (or a law school education) can be. I know that I had many of the same concerns almost 20 years ago when I started law school.
          At any rate, this all becomes academic (sorry for the bad pun) if you don’t get your grades up. I agree with Andy Mergendahl that law school exams test your ability to take law school exams, not your passion (or predisposition) for the law. However, our profession often calls on us to perform well under trying and stressful circumstances. That’s what you’re learning: how to be a lawyer. It may not seem like it now, but you will look back on this time (probably one night before you’re scheduled to give a closing argument in your 30th jury trial in a securities fraud case) and realize that it was right here, and right now, that taught you how to win. It’s not fun, and it’s often not fulfilling. Our profession – and yes, you belong to it – calls us to serve others, not to play the hero in a John Grisham story. That’s the secret of being a true hero – others admire you from the outside, but, to you, the work really involves pain and a lot of hard work. A whole lot.
          So think creatively about your grade problems. If this were a case, how would you win? My 1L grades were terrible – and no, I’m not going to say how bad; law school is like prison: you don’t ever say what you did to get in, and you never talk about what happened while you were there (don’t ask me about how I know what prison is like).
          Joking aside, what would you advise yourself to do? Lots of people will tell you to get advice from professors (usually, former judicial clerks and big firm associates who burned out after a few years) or upper division students (who definitionally do not know what it’s like to practice law).
          Asking these people for help never worked for me. Why not go find a judge? Ask her (him) for help, but be clever: ask the judge if she knows of any really good lawyers who can give you advice and review practice exam answers with you? Then, you may get help from a judge, and you’ll also get other people (lawyers) on your team. Oh, and by the way, you just started to network, which despite an earlier disparaging post, is a very important skill.
          We have a secret that we never like to share with each other. Good lawyers love to help other good lawyers. Find a friendly judge and / or lawyer and get help. Go do this. Now.
          Your question about non-ABA accredited schools narrows the jurisdictions where you could possibly be studying by a lot. If you’re in an unaccredited school, there’s not much you can do about it now. If you’re considering a move to a state-approved school, don’t do it. I don’t say this because I think lawyers from state schools suck, I say this because you should always maximize your options. Nationally-ranked schools give you more opportunities in terms of bar admissions.
          I know it sucks to no longer be the smartest person in the classroom. It’s painful and humiliating. Believe it or not, 90% of your classmates feel the same way. From what I can tell, most people who excel in law school succeed because they apply a tremendous amount of brute emotional and mental force to their grades. They literally sacrifice their entire lives to succeed by studying for 16 hours a day in a dark room. What do you think big firm associates do? Why do you think big firms want to hire people like this? Is this what you want from your career? To be a closet rat?
          Humble yourself now. Doing so will help you learn the empathy that a good lawyer needs. Again, this is something that is a critical part of your legal education.
          To the extent you require inspiration, let me assure you that you are not alone. You will get through this, and you will prevail. These are important lessons, and we fo throfuh these trials for a reason.

          If I could do it, so can you. Never, ever give up. Now, go visit that judge.

          And if no one will help you, call me, and we’ll get through this together.

    • lisa

      You may not ever read this, since its been a while since your post, but from what I know, it is much much better to withdraw and then after some time has passed, reapply. Try to sit with the dean or a professor you feel somewhat comfortable with and ask them for some guidance. Yes, your GPA is very low, but in my law school, I have seen people recover and do better with each semester that passes. Stay strong, maintain your determination to succeed, and if you believe in God, pray. Good luck to you, I hope you made it through this semester with fantastic grades.

  • Andy Mergendahl

    I went to law school in Minnesota, which licenses only JDs from ABA-approved law schools. I have no clue how non-ABA-approved schools teach or grade. It’s probably safe to assume they are a bit looser with grades.

  • 4ALAW

    Best way is to do some work experience and build on your own skills. With the new skill set in the armoury be realistic about what you want to and what you can actually achieve.

  • Chris

    So much of whats being said in here hits home for me. I was “steered” into law school by well meaning but ultimately misinformed undergraduate professors. I was a history major who loved the study of history. I wrote well and expressed myself well in class. My advisor told me of the dreadful job market for those with BA/MA degrees in history, and of his own half decade long search for a teaching position after obtaining his Ph.D in 2000. He encouraged me to take the LSAT, and study law, because in his words the JD is the MBA of the 21st century. You can take that degree and work in almost any field. And why wouldn’t I believe him?

    Long story short, I got into a somewhat well regarded (Top 50) law school, and excitedly entered my 1L year as a lamb before wolves. I had no clue, absolutely no idea, what to expect. I didn’t know until well after my first semester ended, when I got no grade higher than a C+, that I was supposed to spend the previous summer being prepped for law school. I didn’t read any of the cynical, toxic books like “Law School Confidential” that my classmates apparently devoured with gusto. It wasn’t until well after my second semester that I realized that this was not education in any normal sense, but slavish task oriented competition.

    I graduated in 2007. I finished with a respectable 2.9 on a 2.7 curve, but due to grade inflation I did not finish in the top 50% of my class. Disheartened, I chose not to take the bar exam. My time in law school was sheer misery, but I attempted to make the most of it. I did volunteer work for legal assistance bureaus in two cities. I spent a summer working in New Orleans on a post-Katrina access to justice project for the indigent. I played on the law school softball team. I made friends, and watched them get swallowed whole by biglaw, never to be seen again, or move into government practice and “sort of” like their jobs. I ended up working for state government in a job I found after a long and stressful bout of post-graduation unemployment. Between May 2007 and January 2009 I worked in sales and as a cashier in a liquor store, with my JD. I felt worthless, and felt shame as I deferred my loans and entered IBR to avoid the loan payment I surely could not make on 12 dollars an hour.

    My story isn’t tragic. In fact, I am taking the bar exam in 10 days (get off here and study, you) and whether or not I find legal work or stay where I am, underpaid and underappreciated, I refuse to concede that law school was a waste of time and money. If I hang out my shingle and go into solo practice because no one will hire me, such is life. Its their loss. I have so much more to offer a potential employer than law school “academic” achievement. Thats the thing you have to take away from law school. If you hated it as much as I did, the cliquishness, the gossip, the shocking arrogance and sheer indifference of your professors, you might be soured on law as career. Law school is NOT law as career, its hypothetical law/pseudo academics as a hiring aid for biglaw. And the best part for the big firms is that YOU pay to do their research for them. It boils down to money folks, and diploma mills and tweedy old east coast schools alike are in the pockets of the firms who FORCE the issue of grades-as-measuring-stick on us. Thumb your nose at corporate practice, take courses from professors whom you genuinely like with no concern for the subject matter, and just get the hell out. My 2 cents.

  • 4ALAW

    As a British lawyer practising in England & Wales yes across the pond, I do know of people that have had not good 1st degrees, but are practising barristers. This info is in fact 7 years old in 2012. Yes there is a serious shortage of roles with an overflow of candidates. I do though stand by my earlier point in that it’s important to build on one’s own strength’s develop from weaknesses. Weaknesses such as bad grades can’t be helped but too much time is spent dwelling, that energy being wasted into negativity. I say, focus and channel that energy into some positive steps.

  • Zac

    I can understand 3L with Bad Grades frustration. It was a low blow to attack her or her writing. I am willing to bet this person has tried networking and got discouraged. It’s tough.

    Grades have such a huge effect on a lawyer’s career. It can reverberate for years. We’re still talking about people that were academically successful for most of their life until maybe college or law school. It could have been academic challenges only for a semester or two, not even their entire academic experience. Suddenly, these students are being denied opportunities at the end of the race because they experienced “failure” or struggled to elevate their understanding at the appropriate time.

    I attended a law school with a C- curve. It’s archaic. I graduated with a 2.5 GPA and had something ridiculous like a 2.1 GPA during my first year. I got a D on one exam because I froze up and forgot an issue in that I spotted. I got a D on another because a neighbor was distracting me with loud typing and while containing my frustration I forgot an issue again in. I believe I got a B in a class where I getting A’s because my father got sick and I couldn’t attend a lunch with the class. Those small mistakes really impacted my class ranking and chances to get considered for law review.

    Those lessons helped me ace a couple of bar exams without any problems. I scored a high percentile on the MBE and was one of the first people to finish my essays on the bar exams. Employers don’t know about that. All they see are my grades, lack of law review, failure to join the moot court, and the lack of prestige of my law school.

    Most law schools did away with this type of academic rigor years ago. Given the paradigm change, most of the lawyers and firms do not give students of this school the same opportunity. A 3.5 GPA at a Top 15 is not the same as a 3.5 GPA at this school. A 3.0 GPA is not the same as graduating from this school. Imagine spending three years fearing academic dismissal. That motivates you to learn and maintain a strong work ethic.

    Graduating with less than a 3.0 GPA and graduating from a non top-tier school really limits your opportunities. It’s real. It’s blatant in many of the job postings. It’s blatant in the attorney biographies on the company webpages. It’s blatant among your peers that are working. There are exceptions of course. Grades are the difference between employment, doing what you went to law school for in the first place, or spending years of being underemployed.

    Sometimes, I kick myself for my past decisions. I should have studied something easier in college rather than challenging myself with the sciences. I knew I wasn’t prepared for the sciences but knew that’s where the jobs would be. I had to take a chance. I could have gotten all As and gotten LSAT prep to get into a better law school. Perhaps, I could be pursuing my dream of consumer protection law and being a grown person that doesn’t still have to rely upon family for financial support. It really stinks. I look at the FTC and most people went to Top 15 law schools. I see kids with zero experience from higher ranked schools getting consumer protection jobs because they were on some obscure law review and interned for a few months.

    I made some mistakes and it doesn’t seem like a day goes by when this profession doesn’t remind me. I was born the wrong race. I was born in the wrong neighborhood. I attended the wrong schools. I didn’t get the right grades. I didn’t get the proper accolades. I just don’t fit in. I get it. The legal profession doesn’t want me and I stubbornly keep trying to reject, rejection.

    I understand that employers are looking for qualified people and grades are an easy signal. But there is a lot of bias in the profession that results in our professional segregation. I don’t have the best grades, so it makes for an easy excuse for exclusion. I have many friends with better qualifications and even LLM degrees that are working in solo practice because few places will give them an opportunity.

    I always hear about people wanting people with character and a good work ethic. But I don’t see how you can have a good work ethic or character if you’re never experienced failure, taken risks, and learned from those experiences. We can work on our own but it’s not financially viable for all of us to be solos in this type of economic depression.

  • PETER J. NICKITAS

    Low grades do not matter to someone committed to a solo practice, so long as she or he graduates and passes the bar.

    My experience from 1987 to 1991 shows poor grades in my first year, with barely passing grades in Torts and Contracts, and no higher grade than an A- in all three years. My Constitutional Law professor stated that a college graduate could pass the bar without going to law school, as long as she had a bar exam preparatory course. I learned more about Constitutional Law in the bar exam course than I ever learned from her. I did well enough on the multistate, multiple guess part of the bar exam in MN to validate that exam for WI, and only have to take their essay exam, which I passed with a 14 point margin.

    A distraction-free home life is a big factor in law school success, in my opinion. I know many classmates who graduated much higher than I who were already married with children. I figured I could not have a family and a law school career. I believe I sold myself short. I should not have come home to fight my dad and go to law school at the same time, regardless of the good deal on rent.

    I recommend making a real effort to make good friends and organize a good study group in law school, to improve grades, build healthy relationships, and create more options than solo practice.

    “The unexamined life is not worth living.” — Socrates, as in “The Socratic Method,” and pronounced “Sew’–kraits”

  • Ben

    Law schools are generally churning out far more lawyers than there are jobs available. Unlike medical schools, which limit their enrollment to match available residencies and internships, law schools are not so restrained. They make huge amounts of money for their parent schools: the overhead is around half that of an undergrad science student, they can cram hundreds of students in front of a single prof, and they can charge four times normal tuition. With all the middle managers and second careerists flooding the market for advanced degree programs, it’s inevitable that law schools would bloat their statistics. Even grades are no indicator of success; if the bottom 20% wise up and drop out, that just means there’s a new bottom 20%. The only way to get yourself a job is to have one lined up well before you graduate, either because you already worked for a firm in a non-legal capacity before you started law school, you have an immediate relative in a firm with hiring authority, or you manage to land an internship early in your law schooling that offers to place you after graduation.

    Law school fuzzy grad jobs stats: A federal offense?
    http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2012/03/16/law-school-fuzzy-grad-jobs-stats-a-federal-offense/

    Twelve More Law Schools Slapped with Class Action Lawsuits Over Employment Data
    http://abovethelaw.com/2012/02/twelve-more-law-schools-slapped-with-class-action-lawsuits-over-employment-data/

  • http://www.4alaw.com/immigration/ Terry.A

    Well that may be the case in the US but seems to be decreasing in the UK. At least I hope it is. I am involved in a couple of law firm ventures and meritocracy is the order of the day. May be that is because I am a 1st generation to have gone to university, get a degree and work hard to get to where I am, without having a job lined up and without family members being in the profession etc. I do find though research I lacking among candidates. I suppose there is not much point in applying with a 2:2 law degree (or any other degree) when the profiles of the last 5 year intakes indicate attainment of degrees at first class marks, unless a candidate has other experience.

  • SSilton

    From my observations, there is no correlation between law school grades and long term success in the practice of law. The only real issue is getting your first job. I sit in hiring meetings weekly where the lawyers making comments on new hires are criticizing a class rank they would have been lucky to have. Good Grades can be a reflection of many things, including a long attention span, which is ironically counterproductive to the day to day practice of law. If good grades were a predictor of success, law firms wouldn’t have as high a turnover rate and constantly be looking at laterals. If law is your passion, don’t let anyone or anything (particularly bad grades) stop you.

  • RTK

    Graduate, pass the bar, get a job and do work worthy of recognition. You might not get a big starting salary, or a job with a big firm but you can get noticed in a year or two. Grades do not much impede an otherwise smart lawyer who has a license. While clerking for a large firm right out of law school as a temp, one of the partners told me that UCC law was a lot easier than UCC class work. He was right. Keeping your eyes open for opportunity, learning how to be an effective attorney, and doing good work that attracts notice will always lead to success. Ten years of solid practice may be a longer haul than three of law school with top grades, but the results can be commensurate.

    Gather what you will from a former professor choking on his laughter to tell me that I now write the opinions that law students like me don’t read. There is hope, and if you love the law for its capacity to make human situations better for your participation, and not as a marketable service that’s fungible, you can do fine.

  • Jason Bourne

    Wow this describes my situation perfectly! Good luck man!

  • lorentjd

    This is terrible advice in a job market where about 50% of law graduates fail to land a job that requires a JD and where law schools routinely charge $40,000 – $50,000 per year for tuition. Exceptions: You’re (1) Independently wealthy and can pay for law school out-of-pocket or (2) Prepared — and I mean REALLY prepared — to struggle mightily financially to repay a six-figure student loan debt. Yes, there are other exceptions, like those who do poorly in law school but who do reasonably well in a law career…but those are rare exceptions (so don’t plan on being special and one of the exceptions to the rule). My advice is that if you’re in the bottom half of your class (particularly at a lower-ranked school), and especially if you’re in the bottom quartile of your class (unless you’re at a top 10 school), after your first year of law school, then you should seriously consider resigning from law school and cutting your loses. Many students have no clue about how excruciatingly difficult it is, financially, to repay, say, $150,000 of student loan debt (while paying for all of the other expenses of living) if you’re only making $30,000 to $50,000 a year after law school (it doesn’t take a math or accounting genius to run the numbers).

    • Randall Ryder

      I think all of your points are valid. However, the gist of my post was that you are not doomed to fail if you are not in the top 25% of your class (especially after your 1L year). I would agree that if you are near the bottom of your class, you need to reevaluate things.

      That said, you can dramatically increase your GPA after your 1L year. In addition, depending on what you want to do, you should not automatically throw in the towel. Being a good lawyer depends on whole lot more than getting good grades. And getting a job is not entirely dependent on your grades (depending on the job).

      • lorentjd

        I agree with that (I didn’t read your comment until after I had sent you a couple of additional tweets, by the way). Given your enthusiasm for your practice (I’ve read several of your online essays), I think it’s fair to say that your clients are fortunate.

  • lorentjd

    If you get a ping when I reply to your post, AP1, I’m curious: What did you end up deciding and how did it work out for you?

  • toomuch628

    this was really inspiring. As a 1L who tanked my first semester it is really helpful to see another pov and more importantly the humanistic value in actually reaching to a “real” person for advice vs. someone who isn’t really able to help (big law player/law review candidate). For someone who doesn’t really know anything about reaching out to a judge directly– can you share any advice? I got a 2.4 and almost everything I’m looking at online says I’m not good enough– with over 4 years experience in the real world (working in advertising/marketing/PR). Networking is probably the best attribute I have– I have no problem reaching out. Cold emailing a judge though is pretty intimidating to me– have any tips?

  • Alphonsus_Jr

    The secret is leews.