Law School Discussion

Stay or leave?

Stay or leave?
« on: June 04, 2015, 03:46:58 PM »
Hey all,

So I'm back with an interesting question (not really interesting, but I'm just feeling a little sarcastic today). Should I continue on with law school and if so, what kind of career path should I be aiming at? I just got my 1L Spring term grades back. They're not fabulous by any means, but I'm not sure if they're considered a disaster. Here are my grades for the entire year:

Fall Term GPA = 3.0
~ Civ Pro = B-
~ Contracts = B+
~ Crim Law = B
~ Legal Research and Writing = B

Spring Term GPA = 2..97
~ Torts = B
~ Con Law = B
~ Property = B
~ Federal Income Tax = B-
~ Moot Court = Credit (school gives only credit or no credit for this class and it was mandated)

I had thought I did quite well in Property and Federal Income Tax but clearly not.

So I need some thoughts on whether you think its still worth pursuing this route. My cumulative is like a 2.969 so I'm gonna lose a 10K scholarship. But I still will have 20K of scholarships left. I go to a law school that's slightly above the 50 rank on US News.

I am doing a lot of interesting things like being on the school's ADR Team, (for those who read my summer job post, I will am with the DOJ for the summer), and I'm doing clinics next term too (if I should continue)

Thanks in advance and please only constructive and thought out responses. Silly answers or answers without reasoning are not appreciated because they're just not useful.

Cheers to all! Happy to provide more information to help you all help me.

Re: Stay or leave?
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2015, 04:04:44 PM »
Those grads are fine and it probably puts you in the middle or even top half of the class. I imagine like most of your 1L classmates you though for sure you would be in the top 10% of the class, but like 90% of your classmates you are not in the top 10%.

It does not mean your legal career is doomed and plenty of people do very well with bad grades. I was in the top 10% of my graduating class and I am doing fine, but plenty of my classmates that graduated with B's and C's and even did not pass the bar the first time are making more money than I am.

So to sum it up it is not a disaster and honestly getting through your first year is a big accomplishment. If you hated law school and everything about it then don't keep pursue it, but I would tell you that if you had a 4.0 or 2.0, but it sounds like you are on the ADR team and overall enjoy law school.

As for career path like most 1L's around the country every single year you probably have no idea what the hell you are going to do or what you want to do. That is very common and expected. I would try to get an internship somewhere almost every Public Defender's Office anywhere is looking for interns and you could do that to get some experience or apply anywhere, you can find an unpaid internship somewhere I guarantee that and maybe even a paid internship for your 1L.

Your 2L you might also struggle to find a gig, but maybe you will get a great associate position who knows.

After 3L you will face the bar exam, which is "f'ing insane" and it doesn't matter whether you have a 4.0 or 2.0 awesome summer associate positions etc, you are either going to pass or not pass the first time, but even if you don't it is not the end of the world. Once you pass your a lawyer and you have a license to practice law for life. Your first legal job you will probably be underpaid and overworked, but that is pretty much the same in every position, but there is very high ceiling for someone with a license to practice law and your GPA, school, etc means nothing after a year or two. I am stressed about a big injunction hearing I have tomorrow and being very productive on here, but me telling the Judge or opposing counsel I got an A in Remedies or that I graduated with honors from law school will do much.

I also do not care where opposing counsel went to school or what their grades were and neither do our clients.  Opposing counsel does not care where I went to school or what my grades were either.

So to sum it up stay if you think you want to be lawyer and be happy that you got through the first year of law school is a big accomplishment. 


Re: Stay or leave?
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2015, 04:06:36 PM »
Oh haha so you don't think my grades are a train wreck? I graduated undergrad top 3% and I've never seen a 2.9 ever in my life. And yea I trust our community here much more than TLS. TLS is all about trashing people. Like they make Stanford law sound like a bad idea if its not a full ride which is just absurd in my mind.

And yea I'm not near AP by any means, but what do you think of the long term implications? A lot of people will say that certain grades doom you and you won't find a job, etc. The only proud thing I have to say about my grades is that none of them are C's.

I guess I'm just worried about OCI and finding a good 2L summer job and future job and how much chance I have at a good career with these grades. I lack perspective on what is considered good, average, and bad grades in law school.

Re: Stay or leave?
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2015, 04:17:59 PM »
Thanks Citylaw for your thoughtful response. I really lack perspective on what grades are considered good, bad, or just average. So do you have to get a C to be considered in trouble? And you're right. I had thought I would be in top quarter of the class, but I don't think I am with these grades. My biggest concern was whether my career is doomed because of these grades and you addressed that which I really appreciate.

Do you think I should pursue smaller and medium firms at this point then and not bother applying to big firms? Should I participate in OCI considering those are all big firms usually and tend to only want high GPAs as initial filter?

I actually enjoy the material in law school and the teams like ADR, but its the fact that I can't keep my worries about jobs under control and my fear of bad grades and their implications that cause me to wonder if I should drop out. The fact that I didn't get any type of A in this past year worried me and made me wonder whether or not I belong. I was okay with not having an A in the first semester, but I had hoped for an A- in at least one class in the second semester.

Can you elaborate more on the struggle I might have as a 2L for a position and any suggestions you might have on how I should approach it?

Haha I hear the 3Ls facing the bar exam complaining all the time and I'm not looking forward to the bar exam. But like you said, I am considering the very high ceiling for having a license to practice law as a pro for sticking out law school even if grades look like a flatline B as I have here. I see your point on how grades won't transfer into the real work post-grad. I wish I could be of help to you with your injunction, but I will wish you the best and hope it goes your way (whether you're seeking it or trying to prevent it).

Thanks again for the thoughts and reassurances! Quick question about a career direction, what does it mean when a lawyer is an negotiator or mediator? Does it mean they only do that and aren't involved in any other type of practice?
I'm exploring negotiations and mediation and I like it so far, but I'm not sure what that entails career wise and how I could merge that with business law interests.

Thanks again everyone!

Re: Stay or leave?
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2015, 08:03:30 AM »
How good (or not) your grades are really depends on your school's curve. That's the only way to know if you are competitive. If your school ranks, that's one way to find out. All of your questions are school and curve-specific. A 2.9 at Columbia is probably dead last, but the name will help you get something, even if it's not biglaw. A 2.9 somewhere else in a highly respected regional school where that's average to above average grades might give you a shot at midlaw. There are other, worse scenarios, but I won't go into those because hopefully they don't apply.

Re: Stay or leave?
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2015, 09:19:29 AM »
As Groundhog said, the curve at your particular school can vary greatly and determines your class rank. Your GPA could place you anywhere from the bottom 25% to the top 25%. However, you are probably ranked somewhere in the middle along with the majority of your classmates. 

If your GPA is the only reason you are considering dropping out, then I would say NO, don't do it! If you hate law school (sounds like you don't) or are resolutely against anything other than a Biglaw/federal job, that's a different story. But dropping out over a 2.9? No way. You have many good opportunities still open.

That said, here's some reality:

With an average GPA from a non-elite school you are almost certainly not going to be in the running for Biglaw, a federal position such as US Attorney, or a judicial clerkship. Those jobs are crazy competitive, and that's just how it is. I have no idea where you are located, but you may also have difficulty moving to another major city outside of your immediate geographical location. In other words, if you are ranked middle of the pack at University of Oklahoma that's probably not a big deal when you're looking at local govt and midsized firms in Tulsa. It is a big deal if you want to move to LA or NYC.

So, what you're realistically looking at in terms of post grad employment are small firms, local govt agencies like DA/PD (although these can be very competitive), and maybe midsized firms. If you can be happy drafting wills, reviewing contracts between small businesses, and defending DUIs, then great. If that is anathema to you and you will only be happy with the prestige of a big firm, well . . .

The vast majority of people are a bit shocked when first year grades come out. You work ten times harder than you did in undergrad, and you get Cs and maybe Bs. It's brutal, but that's law school. Don't feel bad about it, just recalibrate your goals and expectations.

My experience with mediation and arbitration has been that lawyers acting in that capacity are usually pretty experienced. I've never heard of someone getting into either field straight out of law school, but I could be wrong. Arbitrators are often retired judges, mediators are usually seasoned lawyers.

If you can participate, why not? You may get lucky, and at the very least you might make some contacts.

I really lack perspective on what grades are considered good, bad, or just average. So do you have to get a C to be considered in trouble?

Again, it really varies from school to school. LOTS of law students get Cs, which isn't necessarily bad. Remember, Cs are supposed to be average! The absurd grade inflation at undergrad programs has given everyone the impression that you're supposed to get a B for showing up. Not in law school. It's all about class rank, though.

Keep in mind that your grades will really only matter when it comes to getting your first job. After that, employers want to know what you've been doing with your degree, not what grade you got in Civ Pro. Do what you need to do to get a job that allows you to build up some experience, and use that to build a career block by block. Your first job doesn't have to be your dream job, it's a stepping stone and an opportunity.

Re: Stay or leave?
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2015, 09:34:39 AM »
To synthesize what others said:

Have a clear understanding of why you are in law school. If the only reason you are in law school is to get into a big law firm (or another high-GPA required job), then dropping out now might make sense. In almost any other scenario, dropping out now likely makes less sense.

But if the thought of dropping out is a real one - regardless of your reasons - I would make an appointment with your Dean of Student Affairs asap. Bring a very concise, clear list of concerns along with a clear understanding of why you are in law school at all.

Finally, note that a law degree is far more than a piece of paper. If you treat law school correctly, a law degree can help you reach your fullest potential as a social individual as well as a professional and an intellectual. This is why JDs are highly regarded even outside of the legal profession. Of course, this shouldn't be the only reason you are in law school - there are far less expensive and less emotionally draining paths you can take for that. But this is something to think about at least.

Good luck!

Re: Stay or leave?
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2015, 12:23:16 PM »
I don't know what school you attend, but what are your expectations from law school?  I think everyone that writes on the subject of law school attended Harvard, Yale etc and that is similar to Shaquille O'Neal or Lebron James writing a book on getting into the NBA. Sure Shaq and Lebron have some insight, but they are gigantic super athletes and in the top 1% of people trying to play basketball. 

Not everyone wants to work in BigLaw, Federal Clerkship, etc plenty of people are happy working criminal defense, DUI's, foreclosure defense, but the people that went to Harvard or Yale would not dream of that.  Just as Shaq or Lebron would not dream of playing in the NBA D League, but there are thousands of basketball players out there that would love to be playing in the NBA D-League. 

As for OCI at most schools it is a joke. Very few if anyone outside of the top schools get hired through OCI. Often OCI is just a formality that schools offer to make it look like they have a bunch of firms, agencies interviewing. However, Just because a firm or agency does an OCI does not mean they are hiring anybody during it.

The majority of lawyers don't get hired through OCI or work in Biglaw, or obtain Federal Clerkships. The same as how most D1 basketball players, which are the elite of the elite high school players do not make the NBA. Many D1 players go onto play in Europe, coach in College and make a living through basketball.

So I am just going to assume your going to a mid-ranked school and you will probably graduate in the middle of your class. People will not be knocking down the door to hire you, but that is common for about 90% of graduates in every profession. However, if you pass the bar you will get  a job practicing law if you want. Your first job might be as a Public Defender, working for a small PI firm, who knows, but you will get a job. Your first job in any profession is rarely if ever glamorous, but if you enjoy law school then you will probably enjoy being a lawyer and with experience you will build a reputation and if your good it will get figured out.

If you like law school continue your education, you are not going to graduate as the Valedictorian and there was a 99% chance that was not going to happen the day you enrolled. Everyone at every ABA law school is smart, hard-working and motivated and it is a competitive profession, but so is everything else. 

I would not drop out just, because you didn't get straight A's in law school. I am speculating that you went from undergrad straight to law school and didn't have the reality check that you are not a special little butterfly when you had your first real job, but whether you drop out or pursue another educational path, you will not be the special little butterfly or at least there is a 99% chance you won't be.

So stay in school and do the best you can, unless you hated law school and don't want to be a lawyer. Then cut your loses and leave, but a 2.9 GPA is not the end of the world.

Good luck in your future endeavors.

Re: Stay or leave?
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2015, 02:26:11 PM »
Hey Groundhog, MaintainFL, Miami88, and Citylaw,

Thanks for your posts! I'm gonna reply in one post so I don't create multiple posts.

Groundhog - I think my school's curve is a 3.0. And we're supposed to get class ranks later this summer. So in terms of class rank, if I'm not in top half of class, does that signal a big problem to employers in your opinion? I know its a problem for big law, but employment outside of big law? I'm at a well respected regional school in California I think? 

MaintainFL - My GPA is really the only reason I may consider dropping plus the fact that I would lose a 10k scholarship. I admittedly would still have a 20K scholarship going into the next year even with the 10k loss. Naturally I would have liked BigLaw for at least a couple of years, but I've always envisioned myself long term as more of in-house, medium firm, or smaller firm and in that preference order, but I'm new to the field so I'm very open minded about employment opportunities. I just want a career where I will help people and make a difference and do something meaningful. As far as employment location goes, I'm staying where the school is as its in California and not in a middle of nowhere place so there's no real reason for me to leave this area.

And thanks, I appreciate the perspective. I am feeling bad about my grades and its gnawing away at me mentally. I'm trying to re calibrate my goals and expectations as you said and part of my struggle is I'm not sure how to go about finding jobs at smaller or mid-sized firms since they don't seem to come to OCI or post on the school job board or at least not very often. Do you have suggestions on how to approach them and find them for both 2L summer position and post grad employment?

You're correct, C's have become the symbol of doom these days and even Bs at undergraduate programs and its almost expected that everyone has an A in order to be viewed as good. Which leaves the question of what on Earth is excellent at undergraduate programs these days... And what kind of class rank would you say is bad even for small or medium firms?

Miami88 - Thanks! I think part of all this is that I'm associating my law school grades with my intelligence and self-worth. I've always been a good student and graduated my undergrad top 3% so I guess I'm just having a hard time swallowing these law school grades. But the point you make about JDs being highly regarded is a nice bonus point to help me think things over. Thanks!

Citylaw - My expectations from law school is that I pass the Bar Exam and have a good career in which I can do meaningful work and help people while also making a good living to provide for myself and my aging parents. (I'm early twenties so I don't have a family of my own to worry about)

Haha I like your NBA comparisons and its a great point. I actually wouldn't want a Federal Clerkship (not being sour grapes), but I would have liked Big Law but I know that's likely beyond my reach. And yes you are correct, I'm a t a mid-ranked school and will likely graduate middle of my class at this point unless I miraculously turn it around. You are correct, I went straight from undergrad to law school. I've been working full time these past 5 years so I know I'm not a special little butterfly (haha) but I wasn't quite prepared to not do well enough to have an A on my transcript in the entire first year. But I absolutely see your point.

Thanks again City! I appreciate the perspective and need to realize that not being at the top doesn't mean its the end of the world and that I should keep plugging.

You guys are awesome! Why isn't this website more or at least equally popular than TLS?

Re: Stay or leave?
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2015, 04:41:13 PM »
Glad this was helpful.

If your goal is to pass the bar exam and represent clients then you are on the path to that.

The first few years in the legal world you are overworked and underpaid, but but as a Judge said in court today law school lasts 3 years and it takes about 5 years for a lawyer to really know what they are doing, but once you reach that stage the profession can be very lucrative, but it is not a get rich quick field and I don't know of to many that are.

I think you are on the right path to achieve your goals a 2.9 is far from a disaster we would all like to get a 4.0 and everyone on the Cleveland Cavs would love to be as good and Lebron and score 40 points a game, but there can only be one Lebron on a team, but that doesn't mean there isn't work for a guy like Timothy Mosgov who can rebound and play defense it is the dirty work, but it is important. The majority of lawyers don't work for white shoe law firms and argue Freedom of Speech cases in front of the Supreme Court. That would be awesome, but even if you were the Valedictorian at Harvard there is a chance that would not happen.

So basically the point of this rant is that if you like law school stick with it and it will likely work out. There are of course no guarantees and there are going to be a lot of frustrating moments and bumps along the road, but nothing worth doing is easy.

Good luck to you.