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D+ average in 1L: Feel Broken

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27 minutes ago, PerniciousLaw said:

You mentioned average grades. Is a B average with a couple C+s considered average?

I’m not interested in Bay Street. I’m interested in criminal law. 

Let’s just say I maintain these exact grades. Will they close the door to criminal law work?

One midterm I got the C+ on was worth 60%. However, if I do better on the final in April, it will be worth 60% and the midterm from fall will be worth 40%. And like I mentioned above the other midterm I got the C+ on is for a fail safe course.

 

Few things would close the door to practising criminal law. 

Some defence counsel are very grade focused, others could care less. Excelling in a moot, a clinic, or specialised courses in advocacy can go a long way, as well. 

 

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6 minutes ago, QuincyWagstaff said:

 

Few things would close the door to practising criminal law. 

Some defence counsel are very grade focused, others could care less. Excelling in a moot, a clinic, or specialised courses in advocacy can go a long way, as well. 

 

Hey! As a criminal practitioner, I have seen plenty of people who would be, or are, disasters in criminal law. Grades may not be the be-all and end-all but there are other skills and interests we look for. If those are lacking, we either won't hire you or you might get hired but won't last very long.

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PL, you’re fine. I will write more later but in case you need to hear it now it’s going to be ok. :)

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3 hours ago, PerniciousLaw said:

Just want to bump this thread. 

I got my fall term marks back and I have a B average. I also have a couple C+s. The C+ is my lowest grade.

I have no idea what to think. I went from undergrad where I got straight As to this. I really do not know what's good and what's not good in law school. 

Am I screwed? What doors are closed for me? 

Did your school not tell you what good would look like? Almost all of our profs in the first couple of weeks emphasized "Most of you will get Bs. If you get Bs, those are fine, those are good grades. On average, you're all B. Embrace that, be happy if you see B, it means you're average in a group of smart people". By that reasoning, an A has gone from something most people in the room expect to something quite special. "B" means you knew the stuff,  "A" means you applied it well to the facts, and explained how you were doing that elegantly.

 

Unfortunately, as an equally neurotic 1L with 1 semester of midterm results under my belt, parroting other people's advice is much more reliable than giving any of my own. So instead, question! :) Or, at least things to dwell on - your grade spread probably makes a difference. If you got ,A,A,A,C+,C+, you're focusing on different things than if  you got A+, B, B, C+, C+. Or B, B, B, C+, C+. Some of those would indicate systemic exam issues, some specific course problems. Maybe you had a study group that only worked for some courses. As regards doors - unless your grades are now locked in, which they don't seem to be, nothing is closed. For the heavily weighted C+, you need to hit the door harder in April, that's all at this point.

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Lesson: Be like me. My undergraduate transcript looks like a Jackson Pollock. "A- here, C there, B- there, Oh hey a B+!". By the time I made it to law school I was more than accustomed to the litany of possible grades. 

Seriously though, you have a whole semester, focus on the controllable. 

Edited by whoknows

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3 hours ago, maximumbob said:

Now, come on, you're a university graduate.  If you have a B average, and most law schools grade to a B curve, what does that tell us about your average?  Exactly.  

Now, I don't practice criminal law, but do you really need to be told that the criminal bar is not drawn exclusively from above average students?  (Not to suggest that it's drawn exclusively from below average students either) As the actual criminal practitioners here will tell you, in that space grades are less important that bona fide interest in and enthusiasm for criminal law.

I'm being a bit mean, I know, and this is the time of year when the 1Ls lose their shit because they've never got less than a A before, but you need to chillax, most lawyers (well, maybe just under 50%, probably) were B students in law school, B students do fine.  

 

You're not being mean. I came to this board because I like honesty. So thank you for that. 

You are right though. I had straight As in undergrad so the grades I am getting now are a bit of a shock. It will take some getting used to. I guess I just needed reassurance that I should not think I am absolutely screwed with a B average. I just wanted reassurance that I can still work in criminal law. And I think it seems like I can. So again thank you. 

2 hours ago, Hegdis said:

PL, you’re fine. I will write more later but in case you need to hear it now it’s going to be ok. :)

Thank you Hegdis. That means a lot. If you're still up to it, I would like to hear anything else you have to say. It's always satisfying to read your posts and advice. I will never turn down being spoken to by you :) 

I was worried that my grades, even though not final grades, might close some criminal law doors. I am interested in defence or Crown work. 

And to everyone else who chimed in, thank you very much. Reading the posts was reassuring. I won't lie, I told myself I should just drop out now to save myself the time and money (I know, that is probably very dramatic). But I won't anymore. So really, thank you. 

Edited by PerniciousLaw
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3 hours ago, lookingaround said:

Did your school not tell you what good would look like? Almost all of our profs in the first couple of weeks emphasized "Most of you will get Bs. If you get Bs, those are fine, those are good grades. On average, you're all B. Embrace that, be happy if you see B, it means you're average in a group of smart people". By that reasoning, an A has gone from something most people in the room expect to something quite special. "B" means you knew the stuff,  "A" means you applied it well to the facts, and explained how you were doing that elegantly.

Unfortunately, as an equally neurotic 1L with 1 semester of midterm results under my belt, parroting other people's advice is much more reliable than giving any of my own. So instead, question! :) Or, at least things to dwell on - your grade spread probably makes a difference. If you got ,A,A,A,C+,C+, you're focusing on different things than if  you got A+, B, B, C+, C+. Or B, B, B, C+, C+. Some of those would indicate systemic exam issues, some specific course problems. Maybe you had a study group that only worked for some courses. As regards doors - unless your grades are now locked in, which they don't seem to be, nothing is closed. For the heavily weighted C+, you need to hit the door harder in April, that's all at this point.

Yeah. But whoever ran home to say that? “Honey, I’m so proud - I‘ve found the level of competition where I max out at average!” 

There’s no narrative that makes that easy. But! You can take that as a pretty good sign to start learning more about the practice of law, to start pursuing clinics that might apply to the areas you’re interested in, to network, etc. It’s like when the first coach told me I just wasn’t going to be fast enough to hit AAA, just a clumsily average AA skater - alright then, I guess it’s time to learn how to pass and shoot this puck thingy. 

Edited by theycancallyouhoju

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52 minutes ago, theycancallyouhoju said:

Yeah. But whoever ran home to say that? “Honey, I’m so proud - I‘ve found the level of competition where I max out at average!” 

I think that's why every one of them seemed under orders to not let us leave until we could repeat 'Bs are good, I yearn for Bs, Bs make me happy, a B will B a reason for celeBration.....' ;)

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3 minutes ago, lookingaround said:

I think that's why every one of them seemed under orders to not let us leave until we could repeat 'Bs are good, I yearn for Bs, Bs make me happy, a B will B a reason for celeBration.....' ;)

That is so reassuring haha. Profs at my school also said if your average is B or higher then you are doing well. But I just didn’t know how true that is. Profs say the same thing in undergrad, even though a B in undergrad isn’t that good. But it seems like it’s actually true for law school.

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1 minute ago, lookingaround said:

I think that's why every one of them seemed under orders to not let us leave until we could repeat 'Bs are good, I yearn for Bs, Bs make me happy, a B will B a reason for celeBration.....' ;)

Oh man. I can't tell you how much that stuff annoyed me. It turns out that despite being a video game-playing, pseudo-intellectual leftist, I actually prefer the 80s-style Eye of the Tiger/Top Gun mentality with something I want to get good at. I wanted law profs to tell me to be the best. I wanted a south park montage. I wanted that shit to be hard, daily, and I wanted it to expect me to grow and get better, daily. When I showed up on day one and they were preaching, "you're all already special, whatever happens to you here can't change that"...well, it was a let down.

I do not thrive in "you're already special" territory. After 20 years of an education system that had already told me that, I was really hoping law was going to be the other thing. Nyet. 

 

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4 minutes ago, PerniciousLaw said:

That is so reassuring haha. Profs at my school also said if your average is B or higher then you are doing well. 

 

5 minutes ago, theycancallyouhoju said:

. When I showed up on day one and they were preaching, "you're all already special, whatever happens to you here can't change that"...well, it was a let down.

 

I don’t remember my profs saying that to me.

But, come to think of it, I do remember them saying that to the rest of the class. :D

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4 hours ago, PerniciousLaw said:

Thank you Hegdis. That means a lot. If you're still up to it, I would like to hear anything else you have to say. It's always satisfying to read your posts and advice. I will never turn down being spoken to by you :) 

I was worried that my grades, even though not final grades, might close some criminal law doors. I am interested in defence or Crown work. 

And to everyone else who chimed in, thank you very much. Reading the posts was reassuring. I won't lie, I told myself I should just drop out now to save myself the time and money (I know, that is probably very dramatic). But I won't anymore. So really, thank you. 

Okay, so if it's criminal work you want, you already know that grades aren't the lone consideration.

Speaking from the perspective of a potential employer / person who has now begun to mentor students fairly regularly offline, here's what you need to offer:

Part 1

1. Clinics: Put yourself in a position where you learn the basics. Get in an interview room. Get in to court. This really isn't that hard. You know where you're going to learn the most? Watching remand court on Monday morning. Meeting with a nervous client charged with mischief who has court next week. Reviewing your first set of particulars and having no earthly idea what it is you're looking for (hint: view particulars as an exam question - what are the issues, what are the options, what is your advice based on the law). Stand up and speak to your matter in court and remember to say your name first and don't spontaneously combust in front of everyone, and then walk out and think "Hunh, that wasn't so bad!". If you can do all those things before your first day of articles you have more to offer an employer than a lot of current articled students.

2. Mooting is... good. Not critical. Moots are better for appellate counsel than they are for trial counsel and there are a hundred trial lawyers for every real appellate lawyer. Mooting is basically spending waaaaaaay the eff more time on a single issue than you will ever dedicate to a single issue ever again. It's good for research, good for public speaking - and those are major selling points - but mooting is nothing at all like court. Most judges don't interrogate counsel to "test" their knowledge. Maybe it would be better if more did. But my experience is judges expect submissions to be made pretty much as soon as the evidence has finished, and once the general theme of the argument is apparent they wait for counsel to stop talking, internally roll their eyes at any casebook thicker than an inch, and reserve their decision. You don't get a lot of breathing space between witness prep/examination and submissions on the law. You have to be quick on your feet or you have to be very prepared on anticipated issues ahead of time (you won't catch them all).

3. Service. Have you ever conversed with a poor person for any length of time? Do you have experience dealing with people who have difficulty communicating their needs either through mental illness or language issues or bone deep distrust of authority figures? Can you be an actor in a service industry where catering to some extent to these clients is required? If you need to be the big shot with the pretty suit and the eight hundred dollar shoes who gets deferred to by all non-law entities, you're going to hate criminal law. Every year we get those kids who think they're slumming and can't wait to get Called so they can leave us all in the dust. Their contempt is almost palpable. They take a certain glee in client stories and utterly lack compassion. Make sure you don't give off that vibe: respecting the job means respecting the clientele and respecting your colleagues. I take previous jobs in the service industry as pretty decent indicators that a person knows and accepts what this work really involves.

 

Part 2 to follow...

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Part 2

4. Manage Your Expectations: Do you really understand that this is not and never will be a 9-5 job? Articled students need to be there when required. If you employer needs some one answering the phone on a Friday night until midnight or even all night, or meeting a client on the weekend or working sixteen hours days three days straight because there is a factum due Thursday for the client that hired you Sunday, you're in. And you're in without bitching about it. You take a deep breath, cancel your plans, show up and work, get to sleep at midnight and get up at 6am and pick up where you left off. And at the end of this you have breached the divide and you're part of a team in a way that can be pretty fantastic. The only entry fee is hard work and dedication and showing up. There are no shortcuts. Knowing this ahead of time means you project an enthusiasm for the work. Everyone wants to work with some one who will get down in the muddy trenches with them when called on.

5. Research: Can you condense cases, can you contrast cases, can you find a decision that deals with constructive possession of drugs in the glove box to a rental car in under half an hour? Can you do this on CanLii (ie a free service lacking the polish of Quicklaw)? If I ask you to find me four Court of Appeal cases that give me a stepping stone to arguing a suspended sentence is appropriate twice in a row for this client,  in spite of the step-up principle, can you do that? Sometimes the highest value a student is their recent knowledge of the law and their research skills. Hone yours.

6. Personality: Are you keen? Do you like the law? Is criminal your first choice? Will this be your community? Then get out there, and meet your people. Meet your fellow students. Meet your local CBA groups. Go to the courthouse when you get a chance, chat with the regulars. Be friendly, be interested, take your time. Don't go in as a job applicant. Go in as a colleague. Don't hand out business cards. Ask questions. Don't be pushy. Be present. Be clean and groomed and dress appropriately: jeans and a jacket will do for now. Let people get to know you. Get to know them. People like to help who they know.

 

These are all things you can do with a C in Torts.

You're going to be fine.

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28 minutes ago, Hegdis said:

Go to the courthouse when you get a chance, chat with the regulars. Be friendly, be interested, take your time. Don't go in as a job applicant. Go in as a colleague. Don't hand out business cards. Ask questions. Don't be pushy. Be present. Be clean and groomed and dress appropriately: jeans and a jacket will do for now. Let people get to know you. Get to know them. People like to help who they know.

 

Wouldn't dream of treading on Hegdis' (Or Diplock, or MP, or Providence's) shoes, but just want to emphasize this no end. Some of the people in my 1L class have started going semi-regularly, we sit at the back and watch, various different things. Started off lawyers asking if we needed representation, now we recognize some of them, the Crowns in the corridor say 'oh, you're from the law school aren't you, try this room for an interesting one'. Watching the trials has moved it well beyond initial interest in criminal to really wanting to do what they were doing.

 

Think we probably took the right decision to refuse last week when a defence (who was getting nowhere with his client) asked if we wanted to make our first appearances since there was nothing he could do anyway but formally introduce himself and the uncooperative client - but actually had that offer made, already! The people here aren't kidding when they say showing interest is what counts.

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1 hour ago, Hegdis said:

Part 2

4. Manage Your Expectations: Do you really understand that this is not and never will be a 9-5 job? Articled students need to be there when required. If you employer needs some one answering the phone on a Friday night until midnight or even all night, or meeting a client on the weekend or working sixteen hours days three days straight because there is a factum due Thursday for the client that hired you Sunday, you're in. And you're in without bitching about it. You take a deep breath, cancel your plans, show up and work, get to sleep at midnight and get up at 6am and pick up where you left off. And at the end of this you have breached the divide and you're part of a team in a way that can be pretty fantastic. The only entry fee is hard work and dedication and showing up. There are no shortcuts. Knowing this ahead of time means you project an enthusiasm for the work. Everyone wants to work with some one who will get down in the muddy trenches with them when called on.

5. Research: Can you condense cases, can you contrast cases, can you find a decision that deals with constructive possession of drugs in the glove box to a rental car in under half an hour? Can you do this on CanLii (ie a free service lacking the polish of Quicklaw)? If I ask you to find me four Court of Appeal cases that give me a stepping stone to arguing a suspended sentence is appropriate twice in a row for this client,  in spite of the step-up principle, can you do that? Sometimes the highest value a student is their recent knowledge of the law and their research skills. Hone yours.

6. Personality: Are you keen? Do you like the law? Is criminal your first choice? Will this be your community? Then get out there, and meet your people. Meet your fellow students. Meet your local CBA groups. Go to the courthouse when you get a chance, chat with the regulars. Be friendly, be interested, take your time. Don't go in as a job applicant. Go in as a colleague. Don't hand out business cards. Ask questions. Don't be pushy. Be present. Be clean and groomed and dress appropriately: jeans and a jacket will do for now. Let people get to know you. Get to know them. People like to help who they know.

 

These are all things you can do with a C in Torts.

You're going to be fine.

These posts were amazing. Really. They were absolutely fantastic. Thank you SO much. 

Just wanted to quickly post and say I am going to respond to all of this tomorrow :) Just didn't want you thinking I was leaving you high and dry! 

Again, thank you so, so much. 

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I just wanted to add to the ongoing discussion, that there is a huge difference between working at a firm like Greenspan or Henein Hutchison versus a sole practitioner. The most competitive jobs aren't on Bay St, they're at the government constitutional branch and the top criminal firms.

The top criminal defence firms and the Crown attract people who have strong grades - B+/A range grades. Henein's firm are all Supreme Court of Canada clerks and gold medalists there.

http://hhllp.ca/

http://www.addario.ca/

http://www.greenspanpartners.com/

https://www.polleyfaith.com/#polley_faith

http://derstinepenman.com/team_profile/karen-heath/

http://www.btzlaw.ca/lawyers.php

https://criminaltriallawyers.ca/?q=firm-directory

http://www.lcp-law.com/lawyers/

MAG Crown Law positions are extremely competitive and the hire back is like 20%. 

Edited by Deadpool

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6 minutes ago, Deadpool said:

I just wanted to add to the ongoing discussion, that there is a huge difference between working at a firm like Greenspan or Henein Hutchison versus a sole practitioner. The most competitive jobs aren't on Bay St, they're at the government constitutional branch and the top criminal firms.

The top criminal defence firms and the Crown attract people who have strong grades - B+/A range grades. Henein's firm are all Supreme Court of Canada clerks and gold medalists there.

http://hhllp.ca/

http://www.addario.ca/

http://www.greenspanpartners.com/

https://www.polleyfaith.com/#polley_faith

MAG Crown Law positions are extremely competitive and the hire back is like 20%. 

Yup! This is why I get mad when people say grades don't matter in crim... it depends where. Just because someone does crim doesn't mean they didn't get good grades. 

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#1 quality for me in a criminal articling student, besides everything Hegdis mentioned, is judgment - knowing when to make the call yourself and when you should involve a senior, being able to assess a situation and know when a client is truly in crisis and when they are BSing, knowing when you can push a judge and how to read them, and so on. You need to be a great study of people - their relationships, their emotions, their motivations, their conflicts.  

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As a bonus round, top 4 things an articled student needs to know how to do when working for a criminal defence lawyer, by type of appearance:

1. All:

- is the client (supposed to be) here and if not, is counsel designation filed so you can appear on their behalf? Who is counsel of record on this file? You need to be clear. It is entirely possible to have to say this by way of intro: "Your Honour, it's Dis, first initial H, articled Student for Mr. Moore Gann, appearing as agent for counsel of record Ms. Provi Dance, and on behalf of the accused Mr. Dip Lock, pursuant to filed counsel designation notice."

(And then the court will screw it all up and say "Could you spell your name again, counsel?" And then you'll be like "It's D-I-S, your Honour, I'm an articled student for...") 

2. Adjournments: 

- why and for how long, and do you have explicit instructions to waive delay per Jordan? Do you even know what that means? If you don't, learn it before you walk into court or you're in for a lot of judicial grilling. And make sure you ask your principle lawyer because holy God you never ever ever wing it when you are waiving client rights. That stuff is important. Smart defence check in with Crown to see if they are going to oppose the adjournment ahead of time.

3. Trial Adjournments:

- when was the first Information sworn (the -1 is the first in time, and then numbers and letters get added as the Crown alters / adds charges: you want the -1 because it starts the Jordan clock which you now know all about, right?), when was the matter arraigned, what is the current trial date, whose fault is it, if it's yours' are you waiving delay, if you aren't what did you as the defence do to keep this on the rails as much as possible, and when is the earliest trial date you can set according to the courthouse schedulers that you talked to this morning? You never go in to this application without having talked to Crown and knowing exactly what their position is ahead of time because this might be a soft sell or a hard sell and you don't want to find out it's the latter last minute. 

4. Fixing Dates / Arraignment:

- arraignment is making an election and entering a plea. Crown has an election and defence has an election and you'd better know what both of them are for your file. If Crown is proceeding indictably you have to know whether you want a provincial court judge or a superior court judge or a jury. Don't wing it. You need to know if you can waive the reading of the charges and enter pleas on behalf of your client or if it's actually a good idea for this client to hear the whole thing read out and then answer himself on the record (ie the CYA against an application to withdraw the plea later). You need to know if you have all disclosure, and preferably if you'll be bringing a Charter application that would affect the time estimate, and the time estimate itself. You need to have the lawyer's calendar or at the very least be able to call the office while you set the dates to ensure your lawyer is available - oddly, some students forget this.

 

Anyway, this is really just an illustrative list and is in no way advice for any particular file. But for students checking in, this is the kind of knowledge you want lined up that maybe no one is going to teach you. A clinic will teach you a lot of it. These are basic appearances most students need to do in their first week of articles and certainly in their first month. And none of that has a damn thing to do with your C in Torts. (A C in Criminal, however, would be a problem. If you can't understand criminal law and apply its principles to real life situations, you aren't good for much more than the above.)

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