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stark9696

D+ average in 1L: Feel Broken

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Just got my grades back. 3 D+, C+, C and B-. There are a lot of very knowledgable people on this site so i thought i would post. I feel so broken. How screwed am I? I am meeting with some students that did well this year and going over there notes and study methods to see where I went wrong. Will also be meeting with my profs shortly. But also, even if I can pull my grades up in 2L and 3L, how much will these grades haunt me? Being a lawyer has always been my dream and I am so afraid I just ended it. :( 

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If I were you, I would do the math. Do three scenarios. If best case in 2L, then where is my gpa for articling. Do the same for a worst and middle scenario. If your gpa isn't going to recover at least somewhat, then it may be time to explore strategic alternatives. That said, if you're rich, then you could probably still stay in just for the option value. Who knows, right? 

Seems like you have a big problem with exams though. 

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Posted (edited)

you are NOT screwed!!!

you need to meet with your instructors individually and ask them for help.  that you obviously have weaknesses and you need their advice/guidance on how to improve those weaknesses.  it's no biggie! it's school.  you're there to learn - SO LEARN!  

 

if that's your goal - to improve your performance - it will improve.  don't sweat it.  enjoy the learning process.  

Edited by chinook23
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Based on the extremely limited information you've given, if you're doing poorly across the board, I'd think your problem relates to how you're writing exams rather than substantive understanding. That's good news, because it's something that can definitely be learned - law school exams require a certain kind of structure and application method that you just may not have grasped and need more practice with. Going over your exams with your professors is probably the best way to improve that.

With those grades, you're likely going to have a lot of trouble finding a job for your 2L summer. However, if you can bring your grades up substantially and explain that you had a rough start with exams but learned from your mistakes and improved with hard work, I'd think that you'll be okay.

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Provided you improve your grades in 2L, you can just chalk 1L up as a learning experience. If exam writing is an issue for you (as it is for a good many students), I would try to enroll in more paper courses.

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What MP and the others said. 

The profession is filled with mediocre students who ended up with long, successful, legal careers, which only goes to show that the relationship between law school success and professional success is not one to one.  Your grades may limit your options a bit initially - you're not going to be summering with a biglaw firm or clerking with the SCC - and may require extra effort to sell yourself, but they're hardly the end of the world.  Talk to your professors, figure out what you did wrong and work to correct it, you still have lots of opportunities.  Law requires a way of thinking that is often different from what people are used to, you just may be a bit slower than your peers in adjusting to that.  Doesn't mean you won't. If you get your shit together in 2L, people will discount your first year grades accordingly. 

Also, and it probably doesn't feel like this now, but some day in the future (no doubt on the first day your kid brings home an A- on his report card, that being as close to a failing grade as you can get in the public school system) you will joke about how accomplished you were in law school - it's damned hard to get a D average in law school.  You alone, among all your peers, achieved that (admittedly, unwelcome) distinction.   So cheer up. 

 

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I didn't know there was such a thing as a D+. 

I agree with everyone else's advice/comments/suggestions. I have a close friend who is an amazing criminal defence lawyer, increasingly being acknowledged as a rising star of the next generation of defence lawyers. A decade or so ago, this friend got a C- in criminal law in law school and still remembers being devastated and thinking they could never become a criminal lawyer.  So definitely do not give up.

I'd also say that as well as learning from your mistakes, look at your relative strengths.  You got a C+ and a B-.  What was different about those, particularly the B-, as opposed to the Ds? I would spend lots of time with your profs going over all of your papers and figuring out what you missed and how they wanted the questions answered.

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Your grades are bad and they will close some doors for you.  You are not going to get a job through the OCI's and it will be an uphill battle to get a job with any employer who cares about grades.  With that said, grades are not everything.  I agree that you should talk to your professors and try to figure out how to do better next year.  However, you should also focus heavily on networking.  You should start going to a lot of CPD events, going out for coffee with lawyers, volunteering for the CBA, do some internships, ect.  

One of the best things you could do is try to figure out 1-2 areas of law that you like and try to become an expert in them.  Something like family law would be good because there is generally a high demand for family lawyers and not a lot of people want to go into it because it can be awful.  

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19 hours ago, providence said:

I didn't know there was such a thing as a D+. 

I agree with everyone else's advice/comments/suggestions. I have a close friend who is an amazing criminal defence lawyer, increasingly being acknowledged as a rising star of the next generation of defence lawyers. A decade or so ago, this friend got a C- in criminal law in law school and still remembers being devastated and thinking they could never become a criminal lawyer.  So definitely do not give up.

I'd also say that as well as learning from your mistakes, look at your relative strengths.  You got a C+ and a B-.  What was different about those, particularly the B-, as opposed to the Ds? I would spend lots of time with your profs going over all of your papers and figuring out what you missed and how they wanted the questions answered.

I can recall some friends making the best of things saying that at least with a D+ they had a plus, in a way it seems better than a C-...

While I agree with all the posters re meeting with profs and discussing your exams and why you got the marks you did, I'd just like to emphasize meet with all your professors including the B-, to find out what you did better. I assume (but figure out yourself from meeting with profs) that your marks were probably due more to problems with the exams and analysis, not so much the knowledge. Or maybe as simple as exam stress, I knew all sorts of people who had to be pushed by their friends to get help dealing with that, they hadn't had a problem in their previous university studies, but got more stressed with law and then didn't want to get help.

Also, my recollection and experience was that it takes some time to figure out what profs are looking for, most value being concise and consider long answers suggestive of lack of analytical skill, but some consider shorter answers signs of lack of knowledge, etc. What I'm getting at is that different professors you meet with might give you different reasons, maybe even conflicting reasons, for why you did poorly, because they're looking for different things. And in future classes, you need to figure out what type of answers your prof wants before the exam (in 1L I got my worst mark in the subject I knew best, I think in part because I knew the material so well and it was my first exam I wrote answers that were much too long [!] and I was quite unhappy; but in 2L or 3L I took another course with the same professor and got a course prize, in part because I made more of an effort to write the style of answer the professor wanted).

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I would add that it's critical you start getting some hands on experience. Work in legal aid clinic or business law clinic, or something, so you can build up your skill set with practical skills to help make you more attractive to employers.

 

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On 5/16/2017 at 11:53 AM, stark9696 said:

Just got my grades back. 3 D+, C+, C and B-. There are a lot of very knowledgable people on this site so i thought i would post. I feel so broken. How screwed am I? I am meeting with some students that did well this year and going over there notes and study methods to see where I went wrong. Will also be meeting with my profs shortly. But also, even if I can pull my grades up in 2L and 3L, how much will these grades haunt me? Being a lawyer has always been my dream and I am so afraid I just ended it.  

First, the good news is you don't actually have a D+ average.... You have a C average. The percentages for letters varies some based on school / etc, but for illustrative purposes, 58%, 58%, 58%, 64%, 68%, 72%.  63% average => C- or C.

Second, there is a lot of constructive advice in this thread, including following up with professors, speaking to peers, and getting hands on experience.

Third, while it is true some doors will be closed, not every door will be. 

Fourth, lots of successful lawyers had mediocre marks in law school. 

Fifth, you still have time to improve significantly.


Take a few days to decompress, and then begin working towards your future. You haven't ended your dream of being a lawyer -- at worst, you've made the road to certain jobs much more difficult, and at best, you've still passed all your courses and are on schedule to graduate on time.

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In addition to the reasonable advice you've received here (be aware of how your grades will limit you - and no you aren't totally fucked) let me add the following, which I really should have as a cut-and-paste block.

You say "being a lawyer" has always been your dream. That's fine. But at the end of 1L, no matter how bad (or good) your grades may be, it's long overdue time for you to particularize this ambition a bit more. What kind of law do you want to practice? Where are your interests located?

Every student would benefit from thinking more about this, but the ones with weaker grades are especially in need of this exercise. You probably won't get getting a job based on your grades at this point. If your major ambition was to work in the biggest tower you can find and work long crazy hours for a big name firm while trying to figure out how to get hired back to article / make associate / make partner one day ... that's probably out the window for you, as it eventually is for most law students. I'm not saying it's impossible. Just very unlikely. It would take a huge turnaround in your grades almost immediately to put this back on the table. So let's talk about the rest.

Outside of the BigLaw echo chamber, smaller practices and soles are far more concerned about your interest in their area(s) of practice, as expressed by course selection, volunteer activities, clinical work, etc. If you want to stand out as a candidate despite weaker grades, you need to start building a record of pursuing your interest in specific areas of law. Because that's what will make a difference in the end.

No one wants to just "be" a lawyer. I hope, after a few moments of reflection, you can realize that expressing it in those terms is kind of stupid. Figure out what sort of legal practice you envision. And figure it out really fucking soon. Like, now. If your vision of "being a lawyer" involves standing around in a really expensive suit waiting to be told what to do because someone is going to bill you out for a lot of money while you do it ... that has to be corrected now. Or, if you've got more going on than that, zero in on it fast and figure out what you're really dreaming about. And get on that.

A little extra motivation for you. Among those of us who weren't always rocking the GPA in law school (and I count myself among them) simply learning the material so you can write an exam is boring as shit, and of course that's part of the problem. Doing something practical at least some of the time may help a lot with your motivation and comprehension.

Good luck.

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YES. I was going to come back and say something similar. Do you know what kind of lawyer you want to be? Was that course your B- or a D? Work on improving the grades, but also work on making connections/doing extra reading/volunteering/doing clinics etc. in that area of law. Select electives that suggest this area of interest, preferably with professors you like/connect with. If you think you're better at papers than exams, write kick-ass papers in your area of interest and submit them. See if there are conferences or presentations you can attend in that area of law. Don't only focus on grades because while they obviously matter, so do other things.

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On 2017-05-16 at 0:47 PM, barelylegal said:

Based on the extremely limited information you've given, if you're doing poorly across the board, I'd think your problem relates to how you're writing exams rather than substantive understanding. That's good news, because it's something that can definitely be learned - law school exams require a certain kind of structure and application method that you just may not have grasped and need more practice with. Going over your exams with your professors is probably the best way to improve that.

With those grades, you're likely going to have a lot of trouble finding a job for your 2L summer. However, if you can bring your grades up substantially and explain that you had a rough start with exams but learned from your mistakes and improved with hard work, I'd think that you'll be okay.

Isn't it just as likely that the OP's problem relates to substantive understanding, given the poor grades across the board? 

OP, you are absolutely not screwed. You're definitely behind the 8 ball, but anything can happen. I'm not sure where you're going to school, but if you're in Vancouver (UBC or Uvic), or just looking to article in BC, I know of a couple of places that don't look at GPA. Shoot me a message if you're interested. 

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15 hours ago, beentheredonethat4 said:

Isn't it just as likely that the OP's problem relates to substantive understanding, given the poor grades across the board? 

OP, you are absolutely not screwed. You're definitely behind the 8 ball, but anything can happen. I'm not sure where you're going to school, but if you're in Vancouver (UBC or Uvic), or just looking to article in BC, I know of a couple of places that don't look at GPA. Shoot me a message if you're interested. 

I guess other people may have different perceptions, but I found that the different 1L subjects were quite different substantively - contracts was very different from torts, for example, let alone constitutional - which is why, when tutoring, I'd come across people who were killing it in criminal but couldn't for the life of them wrap their heads around contracts. I'd think that doing poorly in all of them, without discrimination, probably relates more to form or application than substance.

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If you don't fundamentally understand how to read a case or legislation or how to apply law to the facts you could also struggle in all courses. I had a friend who struggled academically and those were her problems as far as I could tell. Or it could be not knowing how to write a law exam.

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Posted (edited)

I have heard all of the advice above but still ended up with bad grades too. For a course that I got a better grade than my other grades, I did not expect to receive a good grade at all. So it's also to do with luck. I found it helped to be relaxed. Maybe its because I was too stressed about the stressful environment that the stress actually hindered my ability in general.

Edited by CarbolicSmoke

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Posted (edited)

There are sometimes, for some courses, I thought I got it. But in fact I didn't, I might say... 

1.How about finding summary of cases from upperclassman for all courses if possible? It may filter out unimportant information and help one stay more focus on more essential  ,relevant points.  These notes may save some times and get to the point more efficiently. 

2.Get a audio recorder so that  you can rewind and re-listen for a number of specific challenging courses. This way, you probably are less likely to miss things easily.

Edited by akulamasusu

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Wow, the feedback in this thread is nuts. It seems everyone knows "some amazing lawyer" with crap grades, and from those anecdotes flows the good news that the OP isn't screwed. That is nuts and a tad disingenuous. I don't for a minute believe that the long-standing members of the forum posting in this thread would even interview the OP. Diplock was the only one who "kept it real."

Look, I get that people want to provide positive feedback, but let's get real here:

  1. Not only will some doors be closed to you: almost every firm door will be closed. I don't agree with MP's post above that after graduation your grades don't matter. Many firms request grades for applicants well into their 4th year of call. Sure, maybe some sole practitioner in rural Alberta isn't going to ask for your transcript, but for the next few years, you will likely not get hired at a respectable firm.
  2. Securing your article will be difficult for the same reasons as above. Even if you want to hang your own shingle you will face a major hurdle.
  3. If your "dream" was to work for a reputable firm in an urban centre, that dream is over.

You need to step back and consider other options, as right now you facing the possibility of spending the next three years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars on a piece of paper that won't buy you what you want. This isn't a Disney movie: sheer force of will and good luck can only do so much.

I'm sorry you are in this situation--I really am--and I hope things turn around for you.

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