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Rc95

Really bad 1L grades. Next step?

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I got my 1L grades back recently. I ended up with a C, C, C+, C+, B, B, A-, A-. I had a pretty tough year (I had some mental health struggles) and even though I worked as hard as I could I’m not surprised by the grades. 

I’m not concerned about OCIs because I know I’m not competitive. I’m more worried about my future in law in general. I’m wondering how my bad grades will impact me and if they’re an indication that law school isn’t for me. 

I guess I’m looking for advice from other people who did poorly in 1L. Did you continue to struggle academically in upper years? And how did your below average grades impact you in job searching, articling, etc?

I am hoping that getting to choose my own courses for next year will allow me to pick stuff I’m stronger and more interested in. For people in 2L and 3L, did you find you did better in courses more tailored to your interests? 

I’m feeling pretty discouraged and am unsure if I should stay in law school. I don’t want to give up but also don’t want to spend time trying to do something I can’t succeed at. 

I want to get as many perspectives and honest opinions as I can. I know nobody can tell me what I should do, but I’m thinking it could be helpful to hear from someone who’s been through a similar situation.

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Your grades are not an indication that you should not practice law. But I would encourage you to articulate, right now if you can, exactly where and what kind of law you wish to practice. Because I (and others) will be able to give you more intelligent feedback after you've done that. And if you can't describe what you want your career to look like, over and above just "practicing law" then we might have a real problem. But maybe you can, so let's try that first.

I always get concerned when people immediately talk about 1L OCIs because the sort of employer that participates in 1L OCIs at all is only a part of the total marketplace. If you genuinely want to practice law in a large, business-oriented firm then we can talk about that. In that conversation, your grades are going to be a problem, so maybe students who've been through that and who practice in that kind of environment can talk about it. That wouldn't be me. But there are also quite a number of employers out there for whom it's far more important to have clear background and interest in their area of practice than it is to come with the best possible grades. Which is why it dismays me when someone posts something like this, tosses in an off-hand reference to OCIs, and then asks what they should do next.

Let me put it another way. Next to grades, the absolute most important thing in the employment market is to be able to explain what you want to do, and why, and to show some evidence that your interest in that area of practice is genuine. So what's your situation, there?

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2 hours ago, Rc95 said:

I got my 1L grades back recently. I ended up with a C, C, C+, C+, B, B, A-, A-. I had a pretty tough year (I had some mental health struggles) and even though I worked as hard as I could I’m not surprised by the grades. 

Q: What do you call someone who graduates last in their class in law school?

A: A lawyer.

Look, OCIs may not be an option, but that's still just a minority of overall articling positions.  And once you're in practice, no one will ever ask you about your grades.  If first year law school has so totally turned you off of the idea of being a lawyer then yes, maybe consider dropping out.  But don't spend a moment thinking about it if all you're worried about is your marks.

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45 minutes ago, Diplock said:

Let me put it another way. Next to grades, the absolute most important thing in the employment market is to be able to explain what you want to do, and why, and to show some evidence that your interest in that area of practice is genuine. So what's your situation, there?

Absolutely this. 

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You will do fine. If you get asked at all just say you had trouble settling in. I wouldn't tell an employer that you had some mental health issues because its none of their business and would invariably work its way into office cooler chat.

I can tell you as somebody who worked like a madman in 1L and got Bs and As... grades definitely do not guarantee you a job through the OCIs or even the 2L articling recruit. The various law faculties really do a disservice to students by focusing so hard on the OCIs and articling recruit. I eventually found a job and I'm doing fine now.

Edited by AnonLaw
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3 hours ago, Diplock said:

Your grades are not an indication that you should not practice law. But I would encourage you to articulate, right now if you can, exactly where and what kind of law you wish to practice. Because I (and others) will be able to give you more intelligent feedback after you've done that. And if you can't describe what you want your career to look like, over and above just "practicing law" then we might have a real problem. But maybe you can, so let's try that first.

I always get concerned when people immediately talk about 1L OCIs because the sort of employer that participates in 1L OCIs at all is only a part of the total marketplace. If you genuinely want to practice law in a large, business-oriented firm then we can talk about that. In that conversation, your grades are going to be a problem, so maybe students who've been through that and who practice in that kind of environment can talk about it. That wouldn't be me. But there are also quite a number of employers out there for whom it's far more important to have clear background and interest in their area of practice than it is to come with the best possible grades. Which is why it dismays me when someone posts something like this, tosses in an off-hand reference to OCIs, and then asks what they should do next.

Let me put it another way. Next to grades, the absolute most important thing in the employment market is to be able to explain what you want to do, and why, and to show some evidence that your interest in that area of practice is genuine. So what's your situation, there?

I agree with you for parts of the market place that aren't OCI firms, but does this really apply to all of the remaining market place?

How do you show interest, towards an insurance defence firm for example? I'm legitimately stumped how someone would do that, beyond a vague reference to wanting to be a litigator.

I'll defer to your judgement on this since you're obviously light years ahead of me in experience, but I'm curious what you and other employers/lawyers think.

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14 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

How do you show interest, towards an insurance defence firm for example? I'm legitimately stumped how someone would do that, beyond a vague reference to wanting to be a litigator.

I'll defer to your judgement on this since you're obviously light years ahead of me in experience, but I'm curious what you and other employers/lawyers think.

You take insurance law in upper years if possible. If you're interested in business generally, take business law and corporate law courses as well as things like insurance and tax. If you're interested in litigation generally, take trial advocacy, evidence and so on. There are also specialized clinics at some schools that deal ejth businesses and startups etc. You don't have to do it all, but those are ways to demonstrate a genuine interest. 

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15 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

I agree with you for parts of the market place that aren't OCI firms, but does this really apply to all of the remaining market place?

How do you show interest, towards an insurance defence firm for example? I'm legitimately stumped how someone would do that, beyond a vague reference to wanting to be a litigator.

I'll defer to your judgement on this since you're obviously light years ahead of me in experience, but I'm curious what you and other employers/lawyers think.

It's the same as anything else. Take any insurance courses available, as well as more general litigation stuff that's related (for example, I recall, when in law school, that there was a trial advocacy course focused on motions advocacy that was known for being particularly good for insurance-minded students). Get a reference from the insurance professor who's known in the field, maybe an RA position. Insurance defence places are probably closer to large corporate firms in that they don't care quite as much about targeted interest in advance, but they want students to hit the ground running - they will care about litigation interest/experience and they will recognize professors in the insurance field.

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I’m afraid you I don’t have any immediately useful thoughts other than getting a couple of A grades in 1L is not easy and you shouldn’t doubt your academic abilities too much. Obviously there are some kinks to be worked out — whether mental health or you’ve figured out certain kinds of evaluation but not others — but you have what it takes. There are probably some obstacles to be overcome to get where you want to be but you are not wasting your time. 

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You have 2 more years to improve your grades. Employers also consider more than just grades, otherwise there would be no need to send a resume and cover letter and attend interviews. OCIs may not be promising, but if you take a long-term perspective, you can still have a very successful career in law.

I don't think 4 Cs and 4 average to above average grades means you can't do well in law school.

 

Edited by Trew

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A lot of people end up doing better in their upper years. You obtained more than 1 A so you obviously have the capacity to grasp legal concepts and write an above-the-curve exam. Some people only graduate with 0-2 As in all three years  

As others have said, you’ll be okay. You might not land an OCI but that’s only one of many ways to obtain gainful summer employment/articles and become a lawyer 

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I also had well below-average grades in 1L, and improved significantly in 2L-3L.  I think everyone is different, but something that worked for me personally was to use upper years' notes/CANs and then making my own quicksheets/tables based on those. I also started pre-writing for exams which saved me a lot of time during the exams that I could dedicate to issue-spotting and actually answering the questions.

I think in 1L I didn't balance my time well either. I was too focused on "getting grades" so I put everything else on the back-burner for a full year, but for me that just did not work. So in 2L-3L, I did a lot more - joined some intramurals, focused on balancing between academics and extra-curriculars, and found myself doing a lot better. PM me if you want more tips :)

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3 hours ago, Born2Law said:

 

I think in 1L I didn't balance my time well either. I was too focused on "getting grades" so I put everything else on the back-burner for a full year, but for me that just did not work. So in 2L-3L, I did a lot more - joined some intramurals, focused on balancing between academics and extra-curriculars, and found myself doing a lot better. PM me if you want more tips :)

It’s counterintuitive, but I found that the less I cared, the better I did. I actually did worst in the classes I thought I was interested in. I did best in classes that required any sort of writing and classes that it was easy to discern what would be examinable (eg for admin, I knew I would need to know Baker and Dunsmuir cold since there was very likely going to be a question on procedural fairness and a question on standard of review. Similarly, it was obvious from the business associations syllabus that there would be a question on director/officer duties. I also made sure re such questions to always take the leading SCC case and know that cold. I would skim the historical development of the doctrine but definitely wasn’t taking notes on any case that wasn’t good law.)

I think stressing over trying to do every last reading and attending every single class is more detrimental than not doing every last reading or attending every single class. Find the balance that works for you and work smart. Realistically, law school mainly tests your ability to write law school exams, so focus on what’s examinable. Figure out what area of law you want to practice in and find a way to demonstrate your interest in that area. Your grades aren’t that bad and you have two more years to improve. 

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17 minutes ago, MinesAndMinerals said:

 

I think stressing over trying to do every last reading and attending every single class is more detrimental than not doing every last reading or attending every single class. 

Agreed. One of my best grades came in a class where I did less than half the readings and skipped multiple classes. I might be dean's fellow for that class lol.

Edited by harveyspecter993

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On 5/29/2019 at 1:12 PM, Rc95 said:

I got my 1L grades back recently. I ended up with a C, C, C+, C+, B, B, A-, A-. I had a pretty tough year (I had some mental health struggles) and even though I worked as hard as I could I’m not surprised by the grades. 

I’m not concerned about OCIs because I know I’m not competitive. I’m more worried about my future in law in general. I’m wondering how my bad grades will impact me and if they’re an indication that law school isn’t for me. 

I guess I’m looking for advice from other people who did poorly in 1L. Did you continue to struggle academically in upper years? And how did your below average grades impact you in job searching, articling, etc?

I am hoping that getting to choose my own courses for next year will allow me to pick stuff I’m stronger and more interested in. For people in 2L and 3L, did you find you did better in courses more tailored to your interests? 

I’m feeling pretty discouraged and am unsure if I should stay in law school. I don’t want to give up but also don’t want to spend time trying to do something I can’t succeed at. 

I want to get as many perspectives and honest opinions as I can. I know nobody can tell me what I should do, but I’m thinking it could be helpful to hear from someone who’s been through a similar situation.

Hey, don’t feel discouraged. The other users have given good advice here. And like some have said, you did write two A exams. 

Try reflecting on the year. Did you notice any differences between the classes you got an A / C in? How did you study for the classes you got an A in vs. the classes you got a C in? How did you build summaries for the two? Also, did you visit professors for feedback on exams? Different courses/professors have different methods of evaluating, so I think trying to figure out the professor matters a lot. 

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I would say:

  1. Brush up on your exam-writing skills. Exam-writing is a skill. Develop it.  Getting to Maybe is often recommended. I like Law School Exams: A Guide to Better Grades instead.
  2. Have a real and well-considered answer to the following question: "which area of law do I want to practice in". Choose your upper-year courses and EC's with this answer in mind. 
  3. Network. If firms aren't lining up outside your door for OCIs then you need to be knocking on theirs. If they let you in, good. If not, still good so long as they remember your face. They'll be more inclined to let you in when you come back around the next time with better 2L/3L grades and ECs. 
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