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shortyfabolous

Explaining bad transcript in articling interview

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So I passed my bar...yay! 

Now i'm in the equally daunting process of finding an articling position (in Montreal)...well daunting for me as I have no legal experience and honestly embarrassingly awful grades. Been applying since the summer, and finally got a call for an interview this week at as small firm (i think around 10 lawyers). Finally, someone wants to at least interview me....right?

 

Anyways I just had a few questions so I can have some sort of plan for when i'm interviewed:

 

1. Do firms look at the complete application package we send them before they call us? I mean I sent my CV, cover letter, Bar transcript and University (University of Montreal) transcript. The only reason i'm asking is because as I've mentioned above my university grades sucked. I have a gpa of 2.4 and have like 6 Ds i think and failed 3 classes which I redid. The only reason I have a 2.4 is because I did a well in my first semester. I'm just worried they just looked at my C.V (I have work experience since the age of 16, in retail and banking but nothing exceptional) and decided they saw something and wanted to interview me based solely on that, without looking at my grades. I'm hoping I wont have to sit through an awkward situation of them initially liking me to a certain extent in person and then looking at my grades for the first time while they interview me and them going WTF at me......

 

which ties into question 2:

 

2. How do I explain bad grades? Like its not just the odd bad grades my whole transcript is obviously less than stellar. I dont have some great excuse for this. Honestly, I hated my school (only good thing was the great teachers), didn't really realize law would be this dry in some cases, and just wasnt motivated. I didn't love law enough to put in the effort, because hey i'm a lazy loser. Basically I didn't really try. I mean most classes that I got to pick were really interesting, I just didnt put in the time to study and wasnt mature enough to suck it up and forgo my social life for studying (which is EFFING stupid, i know). I'm really hard working and learn fast and it's really not like i'm stupid or don't know anything about law, i just didn't study enough. I am positive my transcript is not a reflection of my professional capacities. Should I just say that? I mean no amount of explaining will make bad grades go away? Any mention of existential life questions about me not really liking law or not knowing what i want to do with life is going to sound good right? At this point i'm invested and need an articling position and a job. Should I just be honest and say, I wasn't mature enough to maintain proper priorities during school and focused on other things (friends, working 20 hours a week, life), but that my transcript isn't a representation of what I can offer to this firm?

 

3. What do firms ask mostly during interviews, and how should I answer? Do they asked the dreaded why law question? How would any of you answer that? 

 

Thanks to anyone who takes the time to answer!

 

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I think that the fact you're being so honest and opening up bodes well.  Obviously don't bring up grades if they don't. and obviously no amount of explaining will change your transcript.  However, owning up to the fact that you weren't ready and have matured since law school seems like the best thing to do given the situation.  Just explain that you're ready to work hard now, and you'd love the opportunity to show them what you're really capable of doing.

 

I think it's unlikely that a firm wouldn't have looked at your grades prior to offering the interview.  That said, if they're surprised the morning of, you still have a chance to wow them with your personality.  Use all those skills you developed in bars (when you should have been studying, haha) and charm their pants off.  Stress that you're really interested in the small firm, want to work on a team, and are ready to pull your weight.

 

Good luck!

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Be honest. That's all you have going for you. That said, your honesty should contain some kind of answer about what's changed and how legal practice is going to be different. There are differences in practice and in learning, obviously. Hopefully you can focus somehow on those differences to emphasize why you'll work like a dog in practice even though you blew off school. If your answer tends in the direction of "I'm basically lazy and can't be bothered doing stuff that bores me" you are in deep shit, because not all the work you do in law will be interesting. Very little of it may be interesting, at times.

 

Talk as much as you can about how different real work is from law school. Every lawyer will relate to that. It's true. And if you -do- have a history of applying yourself well to real world jobs, for the love of God emphasize that. Make it clear that you know you have one hell of a lot to prove, that you'll work like hell to prove it, and that you'll be appropriately grateful to any firm that gives you a chance. Because you damn well should be.

 

Your grades are, objectively, worse than any transcript I've ever seen or heard of that resulted in graduation. I'm not saying that to be a dick. It's true. You need to know that and behave accordingly. Say that you only want a chance to do what you should have done in the first place, and that you'll do anything for that chance. And I mean literally anything, within the bounds of law and morality. And maybe not so much the later. If you really want to get called, that may be what it takes.

 

Truthfully, the thing that stands out most about your situation is desperation. Sometimes, an employer may want that. Let them know you'll do what it takes.

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Thanks for the advice guys, I appreciate it.

 

 

Your grades are, objectively, worse than any transcript I've ever seen or heard of that resulted in graduation. I'm not saying that to be a dick. It's true. You need to know that and behave accordingly. Say that you only want a chance to do what you should have done in the first place, and that you'll do anything for that chance. And I mean literally anything, within the bounds of law and morality. And maybe not so much the later. If you really want to get called, that may be what it takes.

 

And yeah I know...I wish my school let us redo classes (like if you got under C-, I have a friend in another law school who could). After my first D second semester and some other below average grades (Cs) I kinda shut down mentally....by the time I realized how effed I was...well half of law school went by. I have mostly Bs and Cs and 3 As (yay for those......) apart from the horrible Ds. So maybe that shows that i'm not a complete moron? I don't know. But I appreciate your blunt honesty Diplock, how I managed to scrape by to even do my bar..I'm grateful for that at least.

 

And am definitely not lazy when it comes to actual work, hopefully I will be able to convey that, and show that I have learned from my past.

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They've already seen your grades if they offered you an interview. Unless asked, don't bother bringing it up.

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If it was just one or two bad grades, I'd suggest pro-actively bringing it up and explaining what happened. Since it seems to be a pattern of consistently low grades though, I'd second the advice to just ignore it (but have an explanation ready just in case they do ask something).

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I would focus on the difference between school and practice, and stress, how based on your work experience, motivation, etc. you will excel at practice, much more than school. Be honest. And I agree, don't bring up grades unless asked. Don't sell yourself short, they decided to interview you, so you've got as good a shot as anyone else they're interviewing.

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Past performance dictates future behaviour. This is what you are up against. I have to tell you that unless I misread something you wrote, I'd sure be concerned by the fact that you got all the good grades in your first semester. The fact that law school didn't interest you so you didn't put in the effort is pretty telling. It's one thing if you tank first year but your grades steadily improve, then you can say I didn't get the effort etc that was required but learned and look how I improved.

 

I'm not getting the "I really want to be in law" vibe frankly. Maybe it's time to consider a different career? I have to be honest, the first couple years of law are often doing joe jobs. If you can't be arsed to study in school, how the hell are you going to get the work done that needs to be done but isn't interesting or fascinating enough for you?

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(...)If you can't be arsed to study in school, how the hell are you going to get the work done that needs to be done but isn't interesting or fascinating enough for you?

 

In my case, money helps. I don't care if the work bores me to tears so long as I'm taking home a paycheque each week.

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Past performance dictates future behaviour.

Do poor grades necessarily predict that you will be a bad lawyer?

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Do poor grades necessarily predict that you will be a bad lawyer?

Yes and no. Look there are no absolutes. Some of the guys in my class who were barely C students have done the best in practice. But they're the exception not the rule. If I'm hiring and looking at grades, if there is a prolonged period of poor grades the hurdle for that person just got a lot higher and there had better be a compelling explanation to overcome it. It may not be "fair" but grades are one of the more objective measuring sticks. Not theoretical live in a vacuum perfect world objective but real imperfect human world objective.

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Do poor grades necessarily predict that you will be a bad lawyer?

 

This is a great example of asking the wrong question. Do poor grades necessarily predict you will be a bad lawyer? No. But when you ask it as an absolute question, the answer will very rarely be yes in any case. I could also say that being an abusive spouse doesn't necessarily mean that someone will be a bad parent either. But let's just agree there's a very strong correlation between the two.

 

Employers aren't in any position to know for sure what kind of lawyer someone is going to make. They are guessing, just like the rest of us. But poor grades, especially in a sustained and prolonged pattern, are a hell of a good indicator. Or a bad indicator, as case may be. And that's how everyone in the world makes decisions - not based on what we absolutely know, but on the best information we have.

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A few good excuses:

 

1) "In that class the professor awarded "push points" for participation. I didn't participate because the answers were obvious. Others participated, which bumped me down on the curve from a B to a B-. This semester you can bet I won't let that happen again."

 

2) "In that class I actually did pretty well. I got a great score on the final exam and I really understood the material. Unfortunately I had mismanaged my time by dedicating too much effort toward my writing assignment/research project/law journal/etc. because I was really invested in that at the time. As a result, I completely bombed the midterm, which messed up my grade. This won't happen again."

 

I had a B- my first year and I used both of these during OCI. Fortunately, they were true so I wasn't lying. But they seemed to work and opened the door to further conversation.

 

Also... good grades open doors (i.e. good summer gigs), which open more doors, and so on. So good grades will put you in a better position to be a good lawyer, but they aren't necessary for it. Quality work experience during and after law school can make up for mediocre grades.

Edited by pineapple21

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A few good excuses:

 

1) "In that class the professor awarded "push points" for participation. I didn't participate because the answers were obvious. Others participated, which bumped me down on the curve from a B to a B-. This semester you can bet I won't let that happen again."

 

2) "In that class I actually did pretty well. I got a great score on the final exam and I really understood the material. Unfortunately I had mismanaged my time by dedicating too much effort toward my writing assignment/research project/law journal/etc. because I was really invested in that at the time. As a result, I completely bombed the midterm, which messed up my grade. This won't happen again."

 

 

The OP has 6 D's. If they tried to explain them all away, I'd never hire them. It would be akin to them saying that their grades were acceptable, and a D-level performance threshold just wouldn't be acceptable moving forward.

 

I really think that the best thing to do is own the near failure and distinguish school performance from work performance.

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