There's something about law school
So all the grades are finally in. The last grade came in on Wednesday, six weeks and a day after the last exam. Four things come to mind (I know, I know, these are mostly things I've blogged about before, but bear with me; no more talk about grades until exam time, I promise):
1. The arbitrariness and randomness of law school grading
This is not a major revelation I’ve recently had, but this semester, more than any, underscores this point for me. After each of my three exams, I felt worse about my performance than I had following any other law school exams. And yet, I had my best semester in terms of grades. Only in law school can you leave an exam not only having no clue how you did, but thinking you might’ve actually failed (well, that’s not true – I knew I never failed but I’ve definitely left exams thinking I got a C or C+) and then end up with a good grade.
Here’s another example that emphasizes how grades have no correlation to actual knowledge or skill. Let’s talk about two students, named X and Y. X had the same Business Associations prof I did. Y had a different prof. X got an A. Y got a B. X did a lot of reading but by the mid-point of last semester was only reading High Courts – she basically read in their entirety maybe 5 cases over the final half of the semester. X never participated in class because Prof. BA didn’t care whether you participated and in fact created very little opportunity for students to get involved. Don’t get the wrong impression – X is not lazy by any means. X just decided that in doing all the work necessary for law school, it was not productive to wade through 12-15 pages of mind-numbing minutiae for every case. Y did all the reading and participated a lot, which Y thought was important because Y’s prof said participation will be counted in the final grade. Y's participation added a lot to the class discussion because Y had intelligent things to say; Y wasn't just raising her hand to open her mouth.
So what’s the problem? X, who got an A, basically knows nothing about business, corporations, finance, economics and money, etc. X is more into history, sociology, creative writing, etc. Y, who got a B, worked for 6-7 years before law school in a field where one need to know about business, finance, economics, corporations, etc. (I know by using these terms I’m not exactly summarizing all that BA is about, but you get the idea – some people are going to do corporate transactions because they’re good at that stuff; other people’s eyes glaze over when you start talking about business, finance, economics, etc. ... I'm not saying one person is smarter than the other, just that people have different aptitudes for different things.) Basically X could never have even been hired where Y worked. And I guarantee if you take X and Y at the same law firm and give them the same assignment, if the task is business-related, Y would do a better job.
But X got a better grade. When X and Y apply for jobs, someone will look at Y’s transcript and see the BA grade and think something like “He doesn’t really get it” but they’ll think X does “get it.” But that’s incorrect. Y gets it and X doesn’t. Yet X got a better grade.
2. I know grades are not a reflection of how successful a lawyer you’ll be. We all know this. But so far, I’ve gotten better grades than I expected and it has not paid off. What do I mean by paying off? I don’t have a job and although I am working frantically to get one, I see no prospects on the horizon. And, and, and…I assume I’ll have one eventually, but the important thing to me is not to land the highest paying job. The important thing to me is to land a job that I find to be interesting. A job that I can be somewhat passionate about doing. A job that at a minimum, I don't dread facing every day when I wake up.
As I’ve learned more about the law, I’ve come across areas of practice that seem like I could spend my career focusing on. Unfortunately, I literally have no idea how to get a job in those areas. And please, spare me the generic “hang in theres” – Yes, I know I have to work hard at getting a job. I am doing so and I will continue doing so. I am not giving up. It’s just hard to get excited when I have no leverage and when I envision accepting pretty much whatever job I can get, even if it’s not something I can see doing permanently because, well, I can’t be very choosy at this point. And that last sentence basically encapsulates why I went to law school – because I was not doing anything I had a passion for and wanted to have greater control over my career.
And do me another favor – save the comments about how no one cares about grades once you hit the real world. I know this. I spent nine years there between college and law school. Only once did anyone even ask for my transcript and that was just to prove I had a college diploma because company policy required written proof; at all other employers they just accepted that I graduated from college because I told them I did. I know that once you get that foot in the door, whether it’s in Big Firm, Little Firm, Government Agency or In House, you get by on talent (ok, who you know is also important – very important, but clearly grades become less important as you advance in your career). I know this. But for now, I need that first job and although I’m out there talking to lawyers, meeting people and networking, a lot of my contacts with prospective employers consist of my resume and transcript, so grades are relevant.
3. Prof. Froomkin bumped up everyone’s grade 0.125 points because of the hurricane disruptions. Did other profs do this? Surely they could at least tell us. I think it’s important to know whether you earned the grade or you earned a grade but then were boosted up a little because of the hurricanes.
4. I have so much hatred for Prof. LRW. If not for the grades he gave me, my GPA would be, well, um, never mind, but let’s just say it would be higher … and more importantly, the person judging me (or screening my) solely by my transcript (and resume, cover letter, and maybe writing sample) would not see this HUGE red flag next to legal research and writing and wonder why overall I have decent grades but I’m not a competent writer (or researcher) so why the hell should they hire me … even though I got a good grade in Legal Research Techniques...