a little perspective

As the end of the semester approaches, I’ve heard questions from a ton of first year students about school, finals, grades, and so on. The subjects of these questions as well as the intent or meaning behind them makes me feel obliged to post a little unsolicited advice. Of course, I hate unsolicited advice . . . but I simply cannot resist in this situation. This advice does not only apply to students at my school — this is for all of the first year students out there.

Law school is not an extension of undergrad. You’re supposed to be learning a new way of looking at things, a new way of thinking. 1L year is supposed to be one of the hardest things you’ve done. It is not supposed to teach you how to try a case or interview a client. It is not supposed to teach you how to practice law. 1L year is sort of like boot camp. It will try to defeat you, to strip you down to the core of your very existence and change the way you view things. You are supposed to feel challenged, ignorant, clueless, unsure, frustrated, hesitant.

You should not concern yourself with things like what percentage of points you earned in a certain class. The percentage is irrelevant. You may have earned 94% of the points, but that doesn’t mean you get an A thanks to a lovely little thing called a curve. Most law students come into law school having rarely gotten anything below a B, and used to enjoying being at the top of their class in undergrad. In fact, they are used to being the ones that set the curve. But half of your class will be in the bottom 50% of the class rankings. It’s a fact. You cannot all be at the top of your class.

Please, please, please understand that law school grades are not the be-all, end-all that you imagine them to be. What you make of your education and law school experience matters so much more in the long run. So maybe you earned lower grades. Did you take classes that were challenging and relevant to your area of interest? Were you involved in leadership of organizations? Did you commit hours upon hours to doing public service? Did you work as a clerk in the summers? Did you participate in academic extracurriculars like journals, moot court, or mock trial? Did you work during the school year, or participate in internships or clerkships or clinics? Did you assist a professor with research on their latest passion?

Just take a deep breath and do your best to understand this. It’s all new, and you are trying to put all of this information into perspective through the only frame of reference you have — your past experience. Move beyond that, and you’ll be just fine.

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