Law School Discussion

Low GPA Questions

Low GPA Questions
« on: March 28, 2014, 10:52:57 PM »
Hey Everyone!

I'm new to this site. Anyways, I plan on practicing law in California. I realize California has one of the hardest Bar exams. However, my undergraduate GPA is low. I'm a senior at UC Davis right now, and I'm in my last quarter. I'm estimating my LSAC GPA to be around 2.5. I took the LSAT in December 2012 and got a 150. However, I didn't really study for the LSAT so I know I can do much better. Let's just say I've finally realized this past quarter that I can get good grades (my quarter GPA was a 3.6) and that I just need to apply myself.

So here's my plan. I know I've screwed up but I have the brains to get a 4.0 this next quarter and am planning on enrolling in one summer session before I actually get my degree. That's another 24 quarter units. I plan on working for the next 2 years at least to show that I'm more than my low GPA, and also want to get my paralegal certification and CPA certification. I'm planning on re-enrolling in community college to finish the courses required to do this. I am going to take the LSAT again as I am not applying to law school until 2016.

Here's my question -- one of my friends said you don't necessarily need to be a certified paralegal to work at a law firm. She currently works as one; and doesn't have her certification. However, I've been trolling job descriptions and most of them do require you to be a paralegal. Also it seems it'll take me at least a year to finish these certifications and based on the class times for the community college I'm looking at right now; it's not viable for me to have a job at the same time. So this next year after I graduate I'll probably spend at community college and possibly an unpaid part-time internship. Do you think all this will help me? What are other tips you have for me?

Re: Low GPA Questions
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2014, 08:23:51 AM »
Work experience certainly is a soft boost, but a minimal one. I highly doubt that 2 years of minor paralegal work will significantly offset a low GPA. If the main reason you are wanting to take a few years off is just in the hopes that it will help you out in law school apps, I would reconsider. If I were you, I would finish your degree as strongly as possible (upward grade trend is also a soft boost). I would then invest as much time as possible into studying for the LSAT, and write phenominal essays/addendums. Apply as soon as possible, and see what comes of it. If you don't get in to the schools you want right away, continue your work pursuits and apply the following year.

Now, if you want to work as a paralegal for other reasons, then ok. Like, if your personal situation for the next few years requires you to work full time and not go to school. Or if you are not 100% sure of the legal field and want to see if you like it... things like that.

Good luck!

Re: Low GPA Questions
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2014, 04:41:11 PM »
Thank you for your advice! As for the legal career, I'm not sure. I know I'm interested and good at retaining this kind of information. I took a business law class and found it to be really interesting. Other than that, I have only been taking Econ classes, as that is my major.

I know I am for sure going to be taking all the courses in order to be CPA certified, as well as working towards a project management certification. Not sure about the paralegal yet but I'm leaning towards it.

Re: Low GPA Questions
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2014, 09:36:02 AM »

I would highly recommend meeting with a law school advisor at your university. These people will be able to sit down with you, address all of your concerns, and steer you in the right direction.

I would also strongly evaluate the legal profession. Unless you are going to a top top top school (like, say, Columbia or Harvard), the employment prospects and salary expectations are pretty equal to that of a CPA (if not worse). This is not to say the legal profession is bad, but if you have the CPA thing in your pocket and unless you are attending an elite school, the debt you go into for law school reallly has to balance out with your future job AND surpass that of what you would be getting on your current track. Therefore, I would highly recommend looking at the cheapest school possible (or the one that will give you enough scholarships to make it the cheapest) AND in the region you want to live/work in after. I would also look into part time programs, this way you can continue working, gaining experience, and not going into debt.

So in sum..

1) Meet with a law school advisor
2) Strongly compare your current career v. future legal career (realistically)
3) If you aren't going to a top school (and with a 2.5, it is sadly unlikely), research the cheapest schools in the regions you want to work in.
4) Also research part time schools in the region you want to work in.

Good luck!

Re: Low GPA Questions
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2014, 08:58:19 AM »
Funny, I was in the process of responding to this post the other night but we had an earthquake so I had to stop. Gotta love California!

As Miami88 has stated, don't spend a couple of years working as a paralegal just because you want a boost in terms of law school admissions. Only do it if you want to be a paralegal.

Soft factors such as employment can make a difference if they are truly unique, formative experiences. Stuff like Peace Corps, teaching in an impoverished district, working at a non profit public interest organization, etc. Working as a paralegal doesn't fall into that category. In fact, it's common law school applicants to have paralegal experience. It will make very little difference, and won't overcome a low GPA or LSAT.

Despite the lip service law schools pay to "looking at the whole applicant", admission is very much a numbers game. Once you have your final GPA and LSAT score you will have a very good idea of where you'll get in and where you won't.

If you're looking to maximize your chances I would suggest 1) maximizing your remaining GPA, and 2) maximizing your LSAT score by taking the time to really prepare, including a prep class.

If you feel that you want to gain some resume experience, I'd look at fields that law schools might actually pay attention to.

Also, (and please don't take this as snarky criticism)  you may want to consider whether law school is the right choice for you. Law school is much, much more difficult than undergrad, and the exams you will be required to take in order to graduate and get licensed make college and the LSAT look like kindergarten. If you had a tough time with college and the LSAT, you may want to think about this before spending $150,000 on a JD.

Lastly, you should consider what you want to do after law school, and whether or not your goals can be realistically met. I say that because with a 2.5 GPA you won't be going to Harvard or Stanford, and it's statistically unlikely that you'll score 175 on the next LSAT. If you do go to law school it will most likely be at a lower tier school. That's not necessarily a problem, but you may need to modify your expectations.

So, if your goal is to be a partner at a major NYC firm, or to work at the United Nations, you may want to reconsider. However, if your goal is to open your own office and handle divorces, that's different.   

Re: Low GPA Questions
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2014, 05:39:22 PM »
Agreed do not become a paralegal for the purpose of law school admissions. It might be a good idea to become a paralegal to see what the legal world is like or obtain a paralegal certificate to have a crash course for law school.

I actually obtained a paralegal certificate and worked as a paralegal to see if law school was right for me and I think it is a good idea to do those things, but certainly not necessary.

If your mind is set up to attend law school then do everything you can to boost your GPA and retake the LSAT.

With a 2.5 and 150 there might be a few schools you could get into, but if you really think you can improve your LSAT score go for it. However, many people do not apply themselves fully it is very difficult to do I am capable of having six pack abs, jacked arms, being in good enough condition to run marathon. However, I eat the occassional burrito, do not do 1,000 push ups  ad sit ups a day, or jog 10 miles every day. Those are things most people "could" do, but very few take the time to do.

Obtaining better grades or even really buckling for the LSAT are the same. On top of that there are just natural limitations, but if you really study and put in a good faith effort for your standards on the LSAT see what you get. It may end up being a 150, but if you can boost it up great.

Same thing with the 4.0 I hope you get it, but I think everyone wants to get a 4.0, but making it happen is the hard part.

Bottom line is you can attend law school if you boost your GPA a little and have a sufficient LSAT score. 150 is sufficient to get into a few schools, but you are unlikely to obtain any scholarship money. Additionally, if law school is really what you want you can make it happen.

Good luck to you.

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Re: Low GPA Questions
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2014, 07:42:40 AM »
I agree with all of the previous advice and would add one additional consideration. If you have really turned your academic attitude around and believe that you have the initiative to buckle down and get your CPA, you might reconsider attending one of the California accredited law schools instead. First, you will be eligible with your GPA and a 150 LSAT. Second, you can work during the day and attend law school at night to reduce the financial burden and to start getting experience by working in a law firm. Third, these are smaller programs where you will get more attention and academic support. This will be a different experience than the large public school education that you are getting at Davis. Finally, in about the same time that it sounds like you will need to get your CPA (3 years), if you really buckled down as you have indicated you are ready to do, you could be finished with your law degree and begin studying for the bar exam.

So I think that the real question is what you envision for your career. If you are ready to do the work necessary to become a lawyer, why go become a CPA? On the other hand, if being a CPA sounds interesting, you should go do that. Both routes will take a dedicated effort that requires a serious focus and commitment. I think that is the first decision.

Let me know if you are interested in more information about the California accredited law schools. Lincoln Sacramento is close to you in Davis and there are 15 other programs such as ours at Monterey College of Law. Each have somewhat unique characteristics and locations that would likely serve whichever region that you see yourself living and working after graduation.