Perspective on Law School Grades…

Law School Grades are like a marathon

Law School is a Marathon Not a Sprint

Of the potential law students who take the LSAT each year, only about 34% make it into law school (about 2% make a T14 school).  Given the hurdles that you overcame to get into law school, and the fact that you have always done well in school, your first semester grades probably disappointed you.  It’s understandable, you are used to being one of the smartest kids in the class—you have always been.  And we all like to think that this reality will continue, notwithstanding the talent that surrounds us in law school. 

Perhaps you identified the delusional gunners.  You know, the ones that had so much brilliance to add to class during the first semester, who now sit silently after their first semester performance.  You knew you would do better than those guys and you probably did.  I mean, you worked hard, you did what you were supposed to do,  and yet, you find yourself (for the first time in your life) outside the top 10% of the class.    

One of the greatest gifts of law school is the humbling realization that we must learn to derive our self esteem from something other than our accomplishments.  Not every student gets this gift during law school, but many do.  The law school exam is a snapshot of your performance on a given day on a given exam.  Your grade is not derived from how well you grasp the subject matter.  It comes from how well you grasp the subject matter in relation to those in your class; which you can influence, but never control.  Doing well depends on thinking within a narrow analytical realm.  Some people are too intellectually creative to ever do this, while others are too rigid.  Both of these students master the course material but are never rewarded on the exam.  Both of these students have the potential to be, and probably will be, great lawyers.  And, even if you never do well, it is helpful to remember what they call the person who graduates in the bottom 5% of their law class and barely passes the bar exam—A lawyer! 

All of that isn’t to say, however, that law school grades are not important.  Your grades will influence the type of work you will do at the beginning of your legal career and will follow you in certain fields.  If your grades are not where you want them, you need to evaluate your exam-taking skills and make efforts to improve them.  This website has some great tools for doing that.  But, if it doesn’t work out, you should remember that half of your law school class will graduate in the bottom 50%.

Consistently low grades ARE a predictor of how much difficulty you will have with the bar exam, and with finding a job.  If you are not happy with your grades, now is the time to do something.  If you want to learn the subtle distinctions that will take you to the top of the class, begin with the Exam Strategies we provide and be sure to download the Free 1L Law Student Guide to see how I went from top 25% of my 1L section to top 5% of my law school class.