I was on Law Review Staff and on the Law Review Board, so I've worked with some amazing law students. I've always been around the top third in my class, and I got on Law Review either because I am a good writer, or I'm just lucky.
I also hang out with a bunch of students who are ranked around the middle of the class.
* * *
First, congratulations. What you've achieved is, as you state, done with some effort.
To draw on the automotive analogy, there's yet another factor. This is efficiency. Some vehicles simply top out at a certain speed. That can be a lack of raw horsepower, or wheels that are out of alignment. And while most vehicles can go fast, not all can go fast well, or safely. The key is in the design of the vehicle, both aerodyamic and internal. For our law student, the key to efficiency is to use study time wisely. That's the engine of legal speed, and there are many ways to reach a certain finish line.
Unfortunately, most law students are stuck in a world of the Model T . . . the world of kindergarten-through-grade 16, of raised hands, brown-nosing, hands cramped from note-taking, and regurgitation.
This is not the fuel for success in law school, or in the law. Judges and senior partners could care less if you can regurgitate abc
legal doctrine. They want to know whether you know what to do
with that. That requires not just horsepower, but handling. In this sense, the world of the law school classroom is deceptive because it looks
like a regular classroom . . . but it's really a training ground for what those senior partners and judges will need. Law exams are the way these skills are tested, and it's not a surprise that law exams are very
different from the roadwork underneath our Model T.
And there's a final factor, relating to your final question: getting a job. (Or, better yet, the
job.) Not all cars are successful, even if they're otherwise roadworthy. Some are ugly. Some are just the wrong car for the wrong market. One way to fine-tune one's legal automobile so that it's pleasing to the pit bosses is to, well, make sure that we know what the pit bosses want. This is achieved for those top-ten-percenters (in this market) with summer clerkships. For everyone else, the challenge is to duplicate this crucial evaluation and training period. Find a part-time position in years 2 and 3. This is essential. It will give a taste for the real world of law, and it will help with the eventual transition. It will build hugely important contacts, and it will help with the immediate bills.
It almost doesn't matter which law office. Small, medium. Corporate, non-profit. The experience is valuable, and the contacts are invaluable. (I've known several colleagues who've gotten their jobs with a phone call from their part-time boss or judge--and a decent interview with their new employer, a friend of the boss or judge.)
As to the last point, take the subjective component seriously. Prepare for a pleasant, engaging interview. Read The Insider's Guide to Getting a Big Firm Job,
which will help with the actual interview as much as in getting one, big firm or otherwise.
I hope this didn't take the automotive analogy too far, and I enjoyed reading your note.
Best of luck to all,