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Author Topic: Poor 1L Grades  (Read 7327 times)

Thoughts11

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Poor 1L Grades
« on: January 28, 2011, 09:41:19 PM »
Hey Crew:

Everything seemed fine coming into law school. 3.4 GPA, 90th percentile LSAT, accepted into a Mid-Tier 1, Midwest law school. I did well before law: coming in with a year of legal experience at a large corporation and decent experience in public finance. I love the real world practice of law.

Now grades came back, and I find that I did awful. Apart from a B in my 1 credit research course, I got C+s and a C. Still waiting on one grade but I am already 0.45 below the historical, average GPA mark at my school. My scholarship will likely be on hold because thus far I did not hit the required mark, I am likely in the bottom 25%.

I'm confused. Certainly I've identified weaknesses: I need to improve by 1) Doing a lot more practice exams 2) typing faster than 40 words/minute on the exam. I likely focused too much on the cases.
I was really a lot more excited about this semester until i got the grades this week. My classes and professors are significantly better than the last. Until the grades came in, I no longer felt as down as I did last semester, because the Midwest is far from my family on the east coast.

However, I find the need to be practical and feel absolutely crushed by my past semester's performance. Thus far, I am about 25 thousand in debt (It will be 50 thousand at the end of 1L year). I enjoy the community at the law school and every lawyer I met in the legal community here has said I have a fantastic resume.

What should I do?
1) Should I leave law school behind, go home to the east coast close to family, and try to get a job again?
2) Should I stay, redouble my efforts, rekindle my excitement, and see how far I will go this semester?
3) Should I walk the uncertain path of transferring out to a lower ranked school but one closer to home, with prospects that 1L grades will go away?

It seems like such a waste. I seemingly did well to get into a good school. However, even if I pursue law and at a greater cost than it already is, will I even be able to use my law degree with such lackluster grades?

I am short on time: I need to pick a path.
Please help. All advice is appreciated.

Yours,

T

halflegalese

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Re: Poor 1L Grades
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2011, 09:58:27 PM »
Look, most people go into their 1L year thinking that they are going to be top of their class.  That makes sense to them because, just like in undergrad, they are the smartest person around and cannot do worse than an A-.  That identity is wrong and gone.  You are in a different group now.  Your 1L cohort all believe the same self-deception.  Believe it or not, other people ARE willing to work hard too.  If that is a shock to you, then be prepared to accept that it isn't going to go away.  BUT, the upside to such a realization is that you can decide to fight harder to be where you would like to be.  If a few Cs are going to unravel your world, then maybe it's time to reassess either yourself or why you went to law school.  Don't leave over it, seriously!  It does get easier after 1L. Every one of your classmates is experiencing self doubt as well.  Maybe you can actually bond with people over those feelings. 

Thane Messinger

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Re: Poor 1L Grades
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2011, 12:45:37 AM »
Everything seemed fine coming into law school. 3.4 GPA, 90th percentile LSAT, accepted into a Mid-Tier 1, Midwest law school. I did well before law: coming in with a year of legal experience at a large corporation and decent experience in public finance. I love the real world practice of law.

*  *  *

I am short on time: I need to pick a path.
Please help. All advice is appreciated.


T –

To start, please know that what you've experienced is not unique.  Your circumstances are serious, of course, and the disappointment and seeming lack of correlation to effort only adds to the stress.  Yet most law students are perplexed about the grades relative to their sense of how well they know the material.

Part of the reason is that a law exam is not about "law."  [!]  Rather, it is about thinking a problem through in much the way a lawyer would.  I suspect (but of course your profs can confirm) that you are reciting law but not working that into a synthesized legal analysis.  It is a skill, and one that is quite different from undergraduate school or, of course, a non-law job.  This is also, by the way, much of what goes into the bar exam.

The good news.  Your self-awareness at this point is a huge step.  Confronting exams with the realization you have is a large part of improving.  Once you get past this, you should be able to select combinations of seminars and project-based courses that will minimize further risk.  Also, your initial statements seem to answer the question of whether you should continue.  But this is a serious question.  Reflect on it deeply before deciding either way.  (As part of this and as a thought experiment, for twenty-four hours “determine” that you will withdraw.  How do you feel?  Okay, switch and determine that you will stay in.  How about now?)

So, on to doing better: 

I encourage you to take LEEWS.  It should be quite helpful.  There are other exam-writing programs, so I wouldn't discount others.  Among them, LEEWS is an excellent start.  Importantly, however, it’s not about “reading” or “listening,” but about DOING.

Now is your chance to excel.  All of this will be a bad memory.  For full-year courses, absolutely no one will care about your fall grades after the spring ones are in.  And once you have those “A” grades, the earlier ones are explainable.

For that purpose and also your own self-interest and self-esteem, a serious focus on how you've been studying and how you've been preparing for exams is important.  So, ask yourself how you been spending class time?  (Notes, highlighting...?)  Non-class time?  (Outlines, flash cards...)  Exam prep?  The more specific the better.

A test:  work on your outline before each class, and try to minimize the notes you take.  When you take notes, take them either directly into the outline, or try to limit them to just 1/2-page.  Then, incorporate them directly into your outline.  The outline is not a “thing”; it is the embodiment of your knowledge.

Everything is directed toward one goal:  understanding how to address each and every legal issue.

And . . . have fun!  Seriously.  Think of how interesting each legal issue you address is.  What happens if you change fact x, or fact y, or circumstance z?

If you've not yet done so you might make appointments with each (all) of your profs to go over your exams. Make it clear that you're *not* there to protest; you want to know which connections you failed to make, with regard to each and every legal point.

Exams are graded in this way: In some combination profs create a bizarre fact pattern (usually) and spell out a variety of legal issues. Clearly, these are the issues they want to test, and they're a majority of the issues in the course. Each issue will have a number of parts, and each part will get some number of points--usually a fairly modest number.

Point 1: From this, what is needed is not literature. This is where many of the smartest, best students from undergraduate and (especially) graduate school go wrong. The writing for the best papers is choppy; almost staccato.

Point 2: Points are gained from a targeted, rapid, comprehensive approach. Conflicting adjectives, true, but this does mirror legal thinking.

Point 3: If you happen to think of a legal issue the prof did not, you'll get brownie points.

Point 4: The brownie points are nice, but they make up for exactly one or two of the other, minor points missed. Thus, the meat of law exams is in racking up points, NOT in brilliance. (Or at least not brilliance as most think of it. You want to be brilliant in a methodical, rapid, concise way.)

As to teams, what you're looking for are two things: Someone who's precise and methodical and follows through, and someone who knows what they're doing, and thus won't waste time (their own or yours). As to the latter, the best indication is a student who's from a family with a lawyer or two in it.

Hang in there. It will work out.

Thane.

Thoughts11

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Re: Poor 1L Grades
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2011, 06:49:17 PM »
After further thought, I am not convinced that I am disappointed in the field of law, nor that I lack the prowess or ambition to succeed in it. I am increasingly taking steps to correct my errors.

However, I am more and more convinced that perhaps I do not fit well with my specific law school, in my location. Is transferring even an option?
It would be to another school in an area closer to my home and girlfriend of many years. I came here with the intent to stay and set up a career in the Midwest, but I don't think it was a fully thought out intent. I simply didn't live here long enough before law to understand how I truly feel about the location. Low grades give me an incentive to move out.

My responses to other posts:
- LEEWS is a good suggestion, however I am not near a city for the class. I will consider buying it off amazon.
- Class time I spend participating and giving answers my colleagues consider to be of above average quality. I will keep my mouth shut this semester.
- Outlines I focused too much on cases, and not enough on black letter law. I did use other student's outlines, they helped. Teams: I work a lot better by myself, but found one person last semester to be particularly helpful.
Thane, thank you for the words of encouragement and for the comprehensive analysis. I appreciate it greatly.

To halflegalese:  I did not expect top marks when coming into law, nor did I believe even marginally the job statistics: school is a business, every incentive to exaggerate. Not giving up on myself or on my ambitions.
Thank you for the input.

Thane Messinger

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Re: Poor 1L Grades
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2011, 01:17:34 AM »
However, I am more and more convinced that perhaps I do not fit well with my specific law school, in my location. Is transferring even an option?
It would be to another school in an area closer to my home and girlfriend of many years. I came here with the intent to stay and set up a career in the Midwest, but I don't think it was a fully thought out intent. I simply didn't live here long enough before law to understand how I truly feel about the location. Low grades give me an incentive to move out.


As to transferring, there's a book that might give you a sense of the possibilities.  It's Art of the Law School Transfer.  As a general comment, top grades are needed for all but lateral or downward transfers, which of course rases its own issues.

Best of luck,

Thane.

Duncanjp

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Re: Poor 1L Grades
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2011, 10:31:38 PM »
I totally blew my crim law midterm, which was my first "real law school exam," and the shock of it took the wind out of my sails for awhile. But in reviewing my test, I realized that I had made some serious errors that were founded more on my naivete regarding how to take exams than with my knowledge of the law. I know the rules as well as anybody else. But I wrote my essays like I was Herman Melville, which made me run out of time before I had finished the third question. For some odd reason, I was under the impression that I would make more points by showing a thorough, in-depth knowledge of the major, obvious crimes than I would by showing a succinct, sufficient understanding and applying it effectively to every possible issue that the fact patterns contained. In the process, I neglected to address some of the issues that should have been discussed. But I learned my lesson, and I did not make that mistake during the midterms for contracts and torts. A number of my classmates expressed the same sort of dismay when they saw their first grades. While I was still stewing over my crim law exam, one of my company attorneys told me that law school is a game and a big part of the game is to put you in your place. That was obliquely encouraging. Very few people make the attempt to get into law school in the first place if they didn't do well in undergrad, so the competition is full of people who are used to getting straight As. I think it's just a matter of learning to stop thinking like we do and start thinking like attorneys. Keep slogging through. Quitters never get anywhere.

Hamilton

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Re: Poor 1L Grades
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2011, 08:46:04 AM »
Sounds like you need to learn how to study for and take the exams.  Can easily recover from a bad first term.  Big help for me was studying off the professors past exams, you get a sense for how they test, what they deem important, and what they look for in answers.

Duncanjp

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Re: Poor 1L Grades
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2011, 11:27:53 PM »
Happy to report that I crushed my crim final. Kicked butt. I just made some rookie mistakes the first time around that I didn't make on the final.

john4040

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Re: Poor 1L Grades
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2011, 11:34:46 PM »
Happy to report that I crushed my crim final. Kicked butt. I just made some rookie mistakes the first time around that I didn't make on the final.

Your school has midterms and finals.....?  Is this normal?

IrrX

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Re: Poor 1L Grades
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2011, 11:07:08 AM »
Happy to report that I crushed my crim final. Kicked butt. I just made some rookie mistakes the first time around that I didn't make on the final.

Your school has midterms and finals.....?  Is this normal?

I'm thinking the "first time around" he's referring to was his first semester in law school, and that he's bounced back in the second semester.
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