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Navigating OCI's with 1L grades impacted by family emergency

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Looking for some advice on how to successfully navigate the OCI process with sub par grades (B/B- average) as a result of a family emergency that occurred just prior to exams. I did not defer any of my exams. My career councillor recommended adding an appendix page to my applications to explain that the situation dramatically impacted my final grades. Has anyone gone through something similar? I would love to hear from you. 

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Posted (edited)

There’s nothing you can do about it at this stage. If you improve your grades 2L and you’re applying to articles then you may have an opportunity to explain why you did so much better 2L than 1L and your 1L grades should be discounted. But you have to do better first - nobody is going to simply assume you would have done better but for your emergency. I’m not sure whether that’s something I’d put in my cover letter for articling apps either - I’m agnostic about this - but that’s down the road anyway. 

The good news is I know people who improved their 2L grades and had great results. 

Edited by NYCLawyer
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I don't think an appendix page would do you much good - sure, you say that this situation impacted your final grades, but from the perspective of an employer, how do they know that's the case? 

An alternate approach, which I've seen in the past and thought had a positive effect, is using reference letters to manage the issue. For the classes where you had lower marks - did you have good relationships with the professor? Participate in class, go to office hours, do well on assignments during the term? Perhaps one or more of them could write a reference letter saying they're familiar with you and your work, you participated in class and demonstrated a solid understanding of the material, but due to extenuating circumstances your final mark does not reflect your true ability or knowledge/understanding. Prospective employers may be familiar with your professors, and/or may place greater weight on a professor's expressed views of you and willingness to write a letter like that than on a bad grade earned on one bad day.

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Focusing on OP's question about OCIs specifically, a letter of reference isn't useful. It's not requested by the firms for a reason and I don't think any big firm is going to pay attention to a letter of reference, if they read it at all, certainly not from a professor.

I also probably wouldn't put in an appendix to an application explaining your grades. They are what they are and emergencies happen all the time in practice and otherwise. You may have to take your lumps and see how many interviews you get and then focus on winning your interviewers over at that stage. To the extent your grades come up in a verbal discussion, you can take the opportunity to spin your exam results accordingly. Doing it in writing is not ideal and like NYCLawyer said, sympathy for emergencies only goes so far - you still got the grades you got and there's no basis on which anyone can reasonably say you would have done better.

My comments on a letter of reference would possibly vary for a smaller firm - they might be more likely to read them and consider them when making a hiring decision than a big firm would. Likewise can't comment on applications to a broader subset of firms in terms of including an appendix.

But for OCIs? You try your best with any firms that are willing to give you a shot and then work on improving your 2L grades.

 

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Posted (edited)

As a general piece of advice to lurkers and 1Ls: never start a job application process by making excuses. It’s a bad look. It is not how you sell something. Doesn’t matter how relevant the excuse is. 

Edited by theycancallyouhoju
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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, Rashabon said:

Focusing on OP's question about OCIs specifically, a letter of reference isn't useful. It's not requested by the firms for a reason and I don't think any big firm is going to pay attention to a letter of reference, if they read it at all, certainly not from a professor.

I also probably wouldn't put in an appendix to an application explaining your grades. They are what they are and emergencies happen all the time in practice and otherwise. You may have to take your lumps and see how many interviews you get and then focus on winning your interviewers over at that stage. To the extent your grades come up in a verbal discussion, you can take the opportunity to spin your exam results accordingly. Doing it in writing is not ideal and like NYCLawyer said, sympathy for emergencies only goes so far - you still got the grades you got and there's no basis on which anyone can reasonably say you would have done better.

My comments on a letter of reference would possibly vary for a smaller firm - they might be more likely to read them and consider them when making a hiring decision than a big firm would. Likewise can't comment on applications to a broader subset of firms in terms of including an appendix.

But for OCIs? You try your best with any firms that are willing to give you a shot and then work on improving your 2L grades.

 

Actually, a few of medium-sized OCI firms in this coming recruit have requested reference letters. I think a total of 15 have been posted to viPortal. Some firms even requested two. A few bigger firms stated they are optional... I don't want to name drop which ones since potential applicants can go see for themselves.

However, I would probably avoid referencing it in the letter(s). You'd be drawing more attention to the negative...

Edited by wtamow

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On 5/22/2019 at 10:46 AM, barelylegal said:

I don't think an appendix page would do you much good - sure, you say that this situation impacted your final grades, but from the perspective of an employer, how do they know that's the case? 

An alternate approach, which I've seen in the past and thought had a positive effect, is using reference letters to manage the issue. For the classes where you had lower marks - did you have good relationships with the professor? Participate in class, go to office hours, do well on assignments during the term? Perhaps one or more of them could write a reference letter saying they're familiar with you and your work, you participated in class and demonstrated a solid understanding of the material, but due to extenuating circumstances your final mark does not reflect your true ability or knowledge/understanding. Prospective employers may be familiar with your professors, and/or may place greater weight on a professor's expressed views of you and willingness to write a letter like that than on a bad grade earned on one bad day.

Would this still be the case even if a person had medical documentation or some other objective proof that they were willing to show to an employer?

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13 hours ago, Pythia said:

Would this still be the case even if a person had medical documentation or some other objective proof that they were willing to show to an employer?

While I can't speak with certainly, frankly, I'm not sure firms would go to the trouble of reviewing medical documentation as part of an application package.

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I don't want to get into the specific details of the situation under discussion, but I want to make a general point about how students so often misread the employment market, and this is a great example of how that happens.

Applying for a job is not the same as applying for admission to a program at school. It's not the same as applying for an award. It's not the same as applying for accommodation for the LSAT, or from some office at your school. In all of those other cases and examples, the people considering you for admission, awards, accommodation, etc. are all concerned about being fair and objective. In all of those cases, the process matters, and everyone agrees it matters. This is not to say that bias and subjectivity are entirely eliminated. It happens, sometimes, and it's unavoidable. But the process is at least designed to avoid it and everyone agrees that's the way it should be.

An employer doesn't care about any of that. They just need to get the job done. At a large employer you may have at least some cushioning from the immediate realities of the workplace if a decision is being made in a formal HR process. But even there, they're aware of the realities. At a smaller employer, it's completely in your face at all times.

Speaking as an employer, if I'm looking at a candidate who has a sympathetic situation at home, I'm not thinking "what a shame they couldn't show their full potential in school" I'm thinking "how often is this going to fuck me in the future if I hire this person?" Now you can all yell and scream that I'm a terrible person for thinking this. But I have very few people to rely on. And everything my employee isn't getting done is one more problem for me, personally, to solve. And I don't imagine there's a single employer out there who is saintly enough to just ignore that factor and to hire the more "deserving" candidate, even though there's a fair chance the more deserving candidate is going to make their own personal and professional lives suck over an extended period of time.

If you can't understand what I just wrote, or you think it's somehow wrong, it's because you're still thinking like a kid. You imagine the world owes you things, and it doesn't. I'm going to hire someone who will help me do my job and make me money. I'm not a social agency. I may feel personal sympathy for certain factors in your life. And I'm not saying I'm going to turf an existing employee the second they have health or family problems. But you think I'm going to willingly create that situation for myself if I don't have to? You're insane.

I don't have a perfect answer for how to navigate the marketplace if you are dealing with factors like that. But if you at least maintain the appropriate attitude towards what's really going on, you'll do a better job of sounding reasonable, mature, and realistic about it. You never, ever, ever want to sound like "here's why I haven't been able to perform, so please take this into account when evaluating my poor performance." You want to sound like "here's everything I am doing and will continue to do to ensure that my personal issues aren't stopping me from getting the job done, and done well." It isn't a perfect answer. There is no perfect answer. But at least you won't sound like a kid who thinks that the coach has to play every player on the team just to be fair - even the ones who suck. The real world just isn't like that.

 

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