Saturday, January 09, 2010

GRADEWATCH 2k10, Part II: Now What?

We got an interesting email the other day:
So... I got my first grade back. Hooray!

An A-

Great right? I think I should be happy. I feel happy. But really, I don't know. Does the single A- doom me never to make law review? (The way people talk about "them" it seems like they all got A+s on everything) Will I be unemployed forever? Or does it mean I should start filling out my SCOTUS clerkship application now? I'm guessing somewhere in between, but I honestly don't know. Besides the fact there is a B+ curve, I don't anything about law school grades or GPAs. What is a good law school GPA? What is average? (3.3?) What do law review people have? What would make an employer tell you it is insult that you even showed him/her your resume? I feel dumb and gunnerish for asking the blog this, but obviously I can't just go around asking people to compare grades or about their GPAs. The only people I want to know mine are family. And I haven't seen this info posted anywhere. So... help? What is a "good" law school GPA?

Thanks!
[Anonymous 1L]
We'll offer our answer first: Well, Mr. 1L, you should be proud of yourself, in theory. (But don't get cocky, kid. There's much more refreshing SIS in your future). Anyway, 3.3 (B+) is the median. According to career services a 3.48 is the top 25%tile (this from the transcripts that CS gives out). So an A- (3.7) is very good. The Law review cutoff (the top 25 students) my year for grading on was somewhere around 3.71. So getting a (single) A- certainly doesn't keep you out of the hunt . . . We all should be so lucky.

Anyway, you're right that grades are a private matter and that the norm is that they should only be discussed, if at all, with one's family and closest friends (and with the thousands of people to whom you will be applying to jobs). But, if you want to vent - anonymously - about a bad grade or exault about a good one on the ole interwebs, we don't see the harm.

Just remember all of you, on average, got a B+.

70 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey 12(f),

What about the fact that the SIS system now posts a real GPA? UVA Law cannot now claim they dont provide GPAs, b/c they do. That makes things a bit messy if you are still apply to jobs. You can't say you don't know cause it's right there, just log in . . .

Rule 12 (f) said...

I noticed that - but that GPA could be "unofficial" maybe - and I always thought it wasn't that UVA didn't provide GPAs, but rather that it didn't rank.

You still don't have to tell any employer your GPA, and most will leave it off their OGI resume, unless it is really high.

Anonymous said...

Career services said that they aren't providing GPAs for Spring OGI, but noted that firms can do math.

Also, maybe you should mention something about how completely random LS grading can be, so that johnny A- doesn't feel like a superhero / jane B doesn't start contemplating suicide prematurely?

Anonymous said...

I have the opposite issue from the 1L in the OP. My grades stink. What are the cut-offs for bottom 10%, bottom 20%, bottom 1/3? Serious Q.

Anonymous said...

12:18 - these are VERY rough approximations, but they should still be close:

Top 10%: 3.65
Top 25%: 3.48
Top 33%: 3.42
Median: 3.3
Bottom 33%: 3.18
Bottom 25%: 3.12
Bottom 10%: 2.95

Anonymous said...

If between Bottom 10 and 25%, should I drop out? Will I be unable to find ANY job?

Anonymous said...

to 8:24,

No, you will find a job. Just don't aim for a big firm in a big city. Look at very secondary markets and consider small/mid-size firms.

Rule 12 (f) said...

Completely antecdotaly (sp?), there is no GPA guarantees you will, or will not, get a firm job. We know people with high grades who struck out at OGI, and people with lower ones who snagged multiple offers.

Good grades help a lot, of course.

Anonymous said...

8:24 here again. What if I don't have any ties to those very secondary markets? Spam anyways?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be really nitpicky, but an A- is a 3.6 repeating, so ~ 3.67, right? And B+ is a 3.3 repeating, so ~3.33?

Just wondering based on something said in this post and in one of the comments. Maybe UVA's GPAs are slightly different than my undergrad's...

Anonymous said...

not nitpicky just wrong. an a- is a 3.7 at uva

Anonymous said...

As one 3L sees it, there is no way to predict much after getting only one grade back, but obviously an A- is a good start. Even one semester can be misleading. After your first two semesters, you will have a good idea of where you stand (and obviously a very good idea of your first year GPA). The law review GPA cut-off is usually in the low 3.7s (i.e., 3.71 to 3.75). You can be there with a B+ or probably even a few, but it just depends on how good your other grades are.

As to the notion that law school grading can be completely random: Undoubtedly it can be, and will be in some situations. But, that does not mean that it is always random. Some students will manage to do well consistently; others who are smart and work hard will be disappointed. So what's the moral of the story? Work hard, and do your best. If you got a grade you're not happy with or even a semester's worth of grades you're not happy with, keep working hard; nothing is set in stone. If you got a good grade or had a terrific semester, keep working hard; nothing is set in stone.

Anonymous said...

I'm a 3L a hair above the median who is jobless and prospect-less after searching for a job and clerking two summers for firms in a flyover state to which I have extremely strong ties.

Here's the truth stripped of the varnish popular during my 1L year: Few employers are really impressed with a 3.3 at UVA by itself. Firms in big markets will prefer your academically superior classmates. Firms in markets such as the one in which I whiffed will likely prefer the top 5 percent from local schools.

Try your damndest for the top 1/3.

Anonymous said...

At what point should someone consider dropping out? I have no other real options. I guess I could teach high school...

Anonymous said...

what's the deal with seminars? do they have to adhere to the 3.3 class avg, or can they deviate? if they can't deviate, does that pretty much mean that everyone gets a 3.3 (or maybe real screw-ups get Bs and a couple get offsetting A-s)?

how much can classes deviate from 3.3 and get away with it?

Anonymous said...

I'm just a 1L, so I could definitely be wrong, but a professor told me that, for seminars, the registrar or whoever will provide the professor with the average GPA of the students in the seminar. The professor is allowed to use that as the median but still can't deviate very much from it. Obviously that makes things fair to seminar students if the students' average GPA is higher or lower than 3.3.

Anonymous said...

What % of this year's graduating class has NO job? It seems that shitlaw is not even guaranteed, as they think that you're too good for them.

Anonymous said...

To the 1L thinking of dropping out:

I'm a 2L and had a 3.0 after first semester. Was equally upset as you seem to be. But pulled it up 2nd semester to a 3.2 cumulative. Did fairly well at OGI and landed two offers at large firms in mid-sized markets, both with six-figure salaries prorated for the summer. So don't drop out, don't panic, you'll be OK. Personality and resume/work experience still count for a lot and can make up for below-average grades. Yes, you won't be working at Skadden or Weil in NY, but there are still lots of good options out there. Keep your head up.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 1L -
thanks for being a douche and bragging about your grades under the pretense of asking a question.

-anxious 1L still waiting for any grades to appear

Anonymous said...

1:05am -

thanks for the info. that's sort of bitter-sweet info. In one of my seminars, if the comments made in class are any indication, the avg gpa must have been a 2.8! :)

i assume that the prof can take the greater of 3.3 or avg gpa of the students.

so the trick is to take seminars w/ lots of LR types and such!

Anonymous said...

To the 1L thinking of dropping out: Too soon, i agree ... But I'd give it more serious thought @ the end of 1L yr if your grades are still bad (and perhaps more importantly, if find yourself less drawn to the law than you thought you'd be).

Bad 1L grades aren't the end of the world, but they will foreclose a lot of near-and-medium term opportunities. Moreover, it may prove difficult to bring grades up in ur 2L/3L years (even if you've hit your stride late and gotten the hang of law school). In my experience student work in most seminar and upper level classes was scrupulously evaluated. But this was not always the case; so if you don't choose classes/prof's carefully you may not be able to boost your GPA. And you can't drop out then - you're pretty much "pot-committed" (to use a poker term) if u send a tuition check for 2L year. But 10:47's advice is sound: keep your head up, do some after-action reports on what went wrong, and do well this Spring.

Anonymous said...

"so the trick is to take seminars w/ lots of LR types and such!"

uhhh, no, not sure that's such a good idea, especially if:

1) what 1:05 says is true and profs are given access to everyone's grades beforehand; and

2) the "LR types" in those classes are competitive for COA/SC clerkships (in which case a prof, esp. if he/she has relationships w/ those kids, might be inclined to spread the distribution wider to make room @ the higher margin for the A or A+ that so-and-so might genuinely need if he's ever to gonna play racquetball with Nino).

Not saying that seminars shouldn't be pt of your clawing back up strategy (if you're a good writer they definitely should be), but you should give considerable thought to which seminars give you the best/fairest opportunity to get those A's that you're gonna need to bring up your cumulative GPA.

justincredible said...

i know a tall, ridiculously good-looking 3L (me) with a 3.0 GPA and a firm job.

so it can be done.

Anonymous said...

Well, the hapless 1L is in one of a handful of 1L classes that actually have grades up. I'd narrow it down to Sinclair and Setear since those went up first. OUT HIM, 1Ls!!!!! Find this jerk who walks among you!!!

Anonymous said...

Haha it's not Sinclair because that section has 2 grades already.

Anonymous said...

... unless he wrote that email before the second grade came out, of course

Anonymous said...

i can't believe even small sections take so long to grade... before i pay another 20 grand i'd at least like to have some idea of where i stand going in

SwampPoodle said...

Justincredible-

What are your digits?

-Undergrad Babe

justincredible said...

Funny Swamp Poodle...


but clearly the undergrad babes already have my digits.

Anonymous said...

I guess I didn't drink the Kool Aid, but grades aren't *that* important. The fact that you're stressing about a 3.7 makes you, by definition, a real gunner. However, I am happy that you chose to discuss this via blog rather than questioning your friends (who, undoubtedly, may have done worse). I would encourage you (coming from a mediocre-grades 2L) to relax a bit. I have gotten nice job offers for summer (lots of Law Review peeps have not) - and I have to think it's because of that little thing that law students seem to forget...personality. Nobody likes gunners. Remember that.

Anonymous said...

1:36 -- well said. Firms use grades as a very rough proxy b/c that's all they have to go by, usually. But if you have something else to offer -- eg, personality, work experience, interesting background -- firms can be VERY forgiving of mediocre GPAs. And you can demonstrate your cognitive skills and work ethic other ways -- undergrad record, journal, etc.

They know that the law isn't rocket science. So they're much more willing to hire someone with the above qualities over the creepy gunner who can type a mean Torts exam but who nobody in their right mind would want to spend 5 minutes with on a case team.

Anonymous said...

1L here. I've got a 3.85 GPA after two grades.

Chances?

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding? You clearly just want people to ooh and ahhh and say how smart you must be...

Anonymous said...

7:17 - nobody loves you

Anonymous said...

7:17 -- congrats!! You must be a wonderful typist. Let me know how OCI goes with your clearly awesome personality. After all, the law is really, really complicated -- esp at the new associate level, where you primarily do doc review -- so being able to spot that subtle Contracts issue is critical, and firms will be really impressed.

Anonymous said...

7:17, chances at what?

Getting a 2L summer associate offer? High.
Getting a 1L summer associate offer? Pretty low unless URM.
Getting laid? Nil.

Anonymous said...

This seminar grade thing is something I wish 12(f) (or Law Weekly, or somebody!) would look into. The persistent rumor is that classes with fewer than 20/14/12/10? students MAY be curved to the students' incoming mean GPA rather than the standard 3.3. This appears to be the case from looking at the grade distribution books (1Ls: see copies in the library reserve room or the SRO). But nowhere in the Academic Policies Manual is this procedure spelled out.

Seems to me that when the school has a uniform rule for "all" classes, but then makes exceptions, these exceptional cases should be publicly known, rather than passed down from class to class as rumors. Help?

Anonymous said...

This seminar grade thing is something I wish 12(f) (or Law Weekly, or somebody!) would look into

You thought 12(f) and the Law Weekly were different. That was your first mistake.

Anonymous said...

Don't believe the hype. Grades matter a ridiculous amount.

By "hype" I mean the various utterly transparent attempts to rationalize unexpectedly poor performance and reconcile it with reasons not to hate self. This includes memes like "no one likes gunners", "gunners don't get laid", "firms hate gunners", "lawyers in the real world don't care about grades", "exams are just a typing contest."

This profession is preoccupied with prestige and finding reasons to remain convinced of one's intellectual superiority. This is why nearly everyone has a massive chip on his shoulder. Can't you tell from this comment thread?

Anonymous said...

7:08 -- I'm a 1L. I believe you that grades are absolutely important. I also believe, though, that 7:17 made a dick move.

Anonymous said...

Everything you can do to make yourself look good matters. Grades, extracurriculars, journals, jobs, height, personality, looks, clothes, absolutely anything good will help.

The "anti-gunner" mentality amounts to an "anti-jerk" mentality. Nobody dislikes people just because their grades are good (though some do, and are silly to), they dislike jerks with good grades.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the whole "personality helps" principle applies for mediocre grades, but not bad ones... at least in this economy. Once you have a couple of bad grades, no firm is going to hire you, which is unfortunate because there are so many reasons why you could have gotten those grades. I hate to say this but from what I've seen it seems to be true...

Anonymous said...

2:40:

What do you mean by "bad grades"?

Anonymous said...

A couple of B-'s, specifically. At least from what I've seen.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, from what little I know if you can offset your B's with A-'s you'll be fine, though that's for class of 2010 not 2011. Not sure about B-'s though.

Anonymous said...

2:40 - not true. are you saying that people with 3.5+ with a B- or two won't be hired by top firms??? or are just referring to 1Ls with only 2 semesters of grades to go by?

a family friend and uva alum just lateraled to latham with 3 B-s his 3L year, so having a few "bad" grades doesn't make you an untouchable!

Anonymous said...

2:40/4:23 -- so if I have all As and 2 B-s, i won't make out during OGI?? i'd still have a 3.5!

i'm pretty sure firms look at cumulative GPAs, not specific grades, at least for the initial interview. and during the interview, you can explain the B-s.

Anonymous said...

5:04 - 2:40 here. I'm sorry, I was referring to being hired out of law school, either as a 2L or a 3L. I don't know much about how the lateral process works. I would hope that by the time you're looking to lateral, your post-school work experience and references, far more relevant to your actual job skills, would make up for a couple of bad grades you once got... I'm glad that seems to be the case. Congrats to your friend!

Anonymous said...

Some exam/grade posts by REAL LIVE LAW PROFS (TM) who, one hopes, have turned in their grades before blogging!

http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2010/01/emotional-distress-and-1l-grades.html

http://volokh.com/2010/01/16/thought-on-first-year-law-school-grades/

TL;DR version: Grades are important. But not that important. And imperfect. But also as good as it gets. Maybe. Good luck.

Worth a read, though, 1Ls.

Anonymous said...

Lots of evals up today (1/19) - any grades yet?

Anonymous said...

One of my classes's evals went up this morning and I still haven't gotten a grade, and I don't believe any of my friends in other sections got grades today either.

Anonymous said...

Rumor that one set of grades popped up at midnight last week, and that somebody had an eval go up last week with no grades. Chaos!

Anonymous said...

Lots of grades just went up...

I have all 4 of my grades now!

-1L

Anonymous said...

Even Harrison? I refuse to believe his torts grades are up 11 days before the grade deadline.

Anonymous said...

Even Harrison

Anonymous said...

SIS is down. Too much 1L traffic?

Anonymous said...

I'm being redirected to another log-in screen after I log in to SIS.

Anonymous said...

Even DOOLEY has grades posted

Anonymous said...

Has anyone been able to log-in since midnight?

Anonymous said...

SIS down. 1Ls killed it?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

If you got an A- from a professor, could you ask to be his research assistant, though you've only had lunch with him once?

...

What if the professor is HARRISON?

Anonymous said...

2Ls and 3Ls, how soon are grading distributions released after grades come out, and where should you look? If the answer is ask your prof., you might want to know I'm asking about Harrison specifically. (I'm sure you all know he doesn't talk to students). I never found a grading distribution for his Fall 05 Torts class in the library reserve. Is there anywhere else to look for Fall 05 or Fall 09 distributions that I don't know about?
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

10:01 AM,
Would you seriously want to spend time with HARRISON that you did not have to?
The man doesn't say hello to students outside of class. It's hard to believe he could deal w/ having a student RA.
Also, did you ever find a grading distribution for this guy's torts class?

Anonymous said...

How will knowing the distribution for a class help you at all for anything?

Anonymous said...

In '05, Harrison gave (roughly) ~10% A grades, ~20% A-, ~30% B+, ~25% B, and ~10% B-.

Anonymous said...

[to his torts class]

Anonymous said...

4:27, tough to say. They still haven't put in Spring 09.

Anonymous said...

Grade distributions are also available on the table in the Student Records Office (Slaughter Hall, across from the courtyard w/ the TJ statue). For whatever reason, the SRO copy is often more recent than the lib reserve copy.

Anonymous said...

For the historical record: I believe all 1L grades are now in.