In law school, there is a high importance put on the grades you receive, especially those grades that you earn after your first year of school. However, law school can be difficult and highly rigorous, so it is not unusual for your grades to be less than what you had hoped for. Many students may feel like this sets them up for poor career options and lesser future opportunities, but the reality is that bad grades in law school don't have to hold you back.
In this article, we will be discussing why law school grades are regarded as so important. Then, we will be detailing the ways that you can overcome your bad grades in order to find success through law school and with employment after graduation.
Why Your Law School Grades Are Important
Before starting law school, many students are familiar with how important grades are, especially first year (1L) grades. This is because your first year grades will be a determining factor in any summer internship positions you receive, which often turn into 2L and 3L employment opportunities. However, it is important to note that even if you receive poor grades during law school, you will still be able to obtain certain opportunities and employment — it may just take a little more work and effort than it would if you were on the top of the class.
This article talks more in-depth about the perceived importance of grades throughout your law school career.
Ways to Overcome Bad Law School Grades
If you have received bad grades during your time in law school, you may be wondering what you can do to counteract this unfortunate occurrence. Below, we give you our best tips on overcoming and working towards improving any bad grades.
Don't Compare Your Grades
There is no denying that law school is competitive, and things such as grades can become a hot topic in this environment. There is likely to be a lot of talk about grades between your peers, but the best thing you can do if you have bad grades is to simply not talk about them. It is probable that there will always be someone who outperforms or underperforms, and you don't want to end up in a situation where you feel even more confused or self-conscious about your grades. Sharing your grades can also make a competitive environment even more competitive as students try to one-up each other.
If a classmate is pushing you to share or compare grades in a course, you can simply deflect the question by telling them you don't remember or that you haven't checked your grades yet.
Reflect On Your Study Habits
A lot of times, students will assume that their poor grades are a result of not working hard enough. However, what if you put in a good deal of effort and still end up with a bad grade? The best approach in this situation is to reflect on your study habits and change your approach accordingly.
For instance, if you spent a significant amount of time the semester before going over your outlines and other study resources and not enough time taking practice exams, you may want to switch that up for the next semester. You may also want to look at the way you take and organize your notes, as you may be missing important legal connections or class issues that are tested on exams.
Law school exams can be difficult and if you underperformed on one, you may want to seek feedback on your performance. Many professors are happy to offers feedback sessions on class performance or exams once grades are released. Scheduling a meeting with your professor can help you understand where you went wrong on the exam and learn how to improve your performance in the future.
Use Campus Resources
In the case that your professor doesn't offer feedback sessions or can't help you analyze where you went wrong in their class, it can be a good idea to seek outside help from campus resources. You can meet with academic advisors, law fellows, or campus tutors to go over your exam or any practice exams that you have taken; these individuals can provide you with studying tips that will help you excel in the future.
If you are significantly struggling with your grades or with keeping up with law school work, you can also contact your academic advisor or campus and disability support services to see if any type of accommodation can be made or if there are other options to help overcome the poor grades you have received.
Boost Your Resume
One of the best ways to overcome bad grades is to become involved with extracurricular activities on campus or outside organizations. These activities will help boost your resume and will give you relevant legal experience that you can use to make yourself valuable to employers; many employers do value experience and demonstrable legal knowledge as much as grades, so this is a great way to negate any poor grades or GPA you may have.
It is important to not overcommit yourself to outside activities, clinics, or law journals, in a way that prevents you from studying and performing better in your classes throughout the semester. You should work to find a balance between gaining experience and improving your semester grades for best results.
Package Yourself Positively to Employers
With so many employers focusing on grades and GPA as prerequisites for applying, it can feel a little intimidating to then turn in an application that has less than desirable grades. However, if you are able to market yourself carefully to potential employers, you may be able to gain interviews from those who are interested in your legal experiences and talents other than performing well academically.
As you craft cover letters and personal statements for applications, you can consider mentioning something along the lines of your GPA not accurately representing your skills and talents and then moving on to highlight your previous experiences and ability to perform well in a specific position. Oftentimes, employers will be willing to overlook poor grades in favor of a candidate who can package themselves articulately and show dedication to the job.
More information on writing effective cover letters to law firms can be found here.
Take Time to Network
An essential skill to have both during and after law school, networking can help you find opportunities with employers that you may not receive just based on a glance at your resume and transcript. Building connections and a repertoire with individuals during career fairs, workshops, and other on-campus events will allow potential employers to see you as a person, not simply a name on paper, and learn what you have to offer their firm or organization. This, in turn, makes it more likely that they will offer you an interview without looking at or considering your grades.
If you are unsure about networking and want to improve this vital skill, you can check out this article that details networking techniques for law school students.
Will Bad Law School Grades Stop You From Finding a Job?
Many students may feel that achieving bad law school grades will completely prevent them from finding a job, but that is simply not true. It can be a little more difficult to secure employment when you have lower than average grades, but it is not impossible. You will simply have to work on building up your experience and skills in other areas and present employers with the most confident, competent, and positive version of yourself in cover letters and interviews.
As we mentioned above, many times employers will be willing to overlook bad law school grades in favor of a candidate who is experienced and able to demonstrate their dedication to the firm.
Can You Improve a Poor Law School GPA?
After you receive your semester grades, you may be wondering if it is even possible to improve your GPA throughout the rest of your time in law school. Whether or not you can significantly improve your GPA depends on how many semesters you have left in law school. For most 1L students, it is possible to raise their GPA by several points over the next 2 years.
However, if you are a 3L student getting ready to graduate with less than stellar grades, there may not be a lot of time left to boost your GPA. In these cases, the best thing you can do is participate in lots of extracurricular activities and volunteer to boost your resume.
For more tips and information on improving your GPA throughout law school, you can check out this article.
Your Journey to Law School Success
Receiving bad grades in law school can be disappointing, but it doesn't have to be as life-destroying as you may feel like it is. To overcome your bad grades, you will need to invest time into evaluating where you went wrong with studying and soliciting feedback to improve your future studying techniques. You should also take time to network and become involved with extracurriculars that allow you to boost your resume and become more desirable to future employers. It may take a little bit of extra effort, but your bad law school grades can be overcome and you can find eventual success both during and after law school.