It’s every law student’s dreaded scenario- just when you think you’re getting a fresh start on your spring semester, your grades from the fall are posted- and, unfortunately, they are not at all what you were hoping for. While bad grades are not directly correlated to being a bad lawyer, studies have shown that your GPA in law school can reflect your odds of passing the Bar examination. However, there is no need to throw in the towel, because you can get them back on track. Here are some things to keep in mind when trying to figure out what went wrong.
Don’t Share Your Grades
While I’m a big believer in sharing things during school, such as supplements and notes, I also firmly believe in not sharing your grades with anyone. In the competitive atmosphere that you’ve likely experienced in law school, nothing will make a gunner happier than trying to figure out where he stands in the class ranking and who he is superior to (grade wise at least). While a classmate might try to figure out your grade by telling them yours, remind yourself that you have no obligation to tell them yours.
I’d also recommend the same method when it comes to your law school friends. Even though in this scenario, you’d likely want to share your grades with your classmates, who you’ve studied with all semester to see how they compare, I promise nothing good will come of it. Without fail, one of you will leave the conversation feeling inferior, which doesn’t help anyone.
Additionally, you shouldn’t lie about your grades. For example, my classmate told a big group of people he got an A in our Legal Research and Writing class first semester and the first day of class our professor let us know he didn’t give out any A’s that term (since it was a year long class). While I’m sure my classmate announcing his grade wasn’t done so maliciously, it only ended up hurting his reputation. If someone is trying to force you into saying what you got in Torts, and you really want to give them an answer you could just respond with, “I haven’t checked yet.”
When you receive a bad grade the first thing you should do is find out how you can take a look at your exam. Once you get a hold of it, study the exam to see if you can pinpoint where you went wrong on your essay or see if the Professor left any marks describing why you received such a low score.
After you’ve done this, reach out to your Professor. I’ve found that Professors are more than willing to help you analyze your essays and discuss what went wrong and most of mine encouraged it. I know it may be overwhelming to go over an exam you much rather forget, but this is the only way you can truly improve.
After you received feedback from your professor you should critique yourself again- did I really study enough for this test? What could I have done better to prepare? Recognizing these mistakes early will keep you from repeating them.
Additionally, if you don’t see what you did wrong and the professor wasn’t able to clarify it, I recommend contacting the academic support program at your school. They are there to help you, especially in situations like this.
Change Your Approach
It’s common to think, “If I just work harder I’ll get better grades.” Unless you feel like you put zero effort into your past semester, this likely is the wrong approach. Instead of focusing on working harder, you should concentrate on working smarter. This could consist of getting a tutor on a subject you’re not feeling great about or focusing more of your time on practice problems instead of detailed outlining. Personally, I found, that my first semester, I was very focused on having the perfect outline and less focused on taking practice tests. Once I changed my approach to less detailed outlining and taking more practice tests, I spent less time studying as a whole and my grades improved.
Keep Things in Perspective
One of the biggest worries students have when they receive bad grades are that they made themselves unemployable. While I can’t tell you that your grades don’t matter – one or even several bad grades is not the end of your legal career. If you make smart changes to your approach, your GPA can still go up.
But let’s say your GPA doesn’t go up- you are still employable. Now, without the grades to back you up, it will all depend on how much you work outside of the classroom. This means creating your own opportunities, whether it’s externing pro bono, getting involved in your local bar association or requesting informational interviews as a way to network. As long as you’re doing something, you can still have every opportunity a straight A student does- the difference will be how hard you work at it.
In conclusion, while your grades don’t completely define your success as a lawyer, they’re still important. While these suggestions are merely a roadmap, please feel free to reach out to the tutors here at Law School Toolbox if you’re still struggling this semester- they’re here to help!
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And check out these helpful posts:
- Dealing With Bad Law School Grades (podcast)
- How to Cope With Bad Law School Grades
- How to Right the Ship if You Are Struggling in Law School
- Seven Things Law Students Need to Stop Doing Immediately
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