Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

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Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 24, 2014 11:42 pm

How much does being bad at law school mean for how I can expect to be at lawyering? Bad grades make it hard to get a job in the first place, but do they mean much once you've jumped that hurdle? I'm at a T10, if it matters, with pretty consistent B's on a B+ curve. I'll be working at a ~30 attorney biglaw satellite office in a smaller market after school. They do business and state government work. I'm pretty worried about this and I'm afraid that, at the very least, it'll become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Thanks.

hiima3L
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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby hiima3L » Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:21 am

I think it's widely agreed that grades aren't a great predictor of performance as an attorney. There are so many variables to the practice that classes/grades can't ever adequately measure one's future ability.

I will say, however, that everyone I know who did well in school has done well for himself/herself. And a lot of people who do poorly have trouble passing the bar and/or aren't the greatest attorneys.

But you're at a top school so you're probably already smarter than the vast majority of law students.

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ExBiglawAssociate
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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:24 am

Yeah, I think this gets less true as the quality of your law school increases. For HYS, I would say it's not true at all, except for maybe the absolute poorest students.

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 25, 2014 10:23 am

It depends what you mean by "bad lawyer". If you mean, bad at doing subtle legal analysis, then, sure, there is a correlation. But there is SO much more to the job than that. In transactional work (which is my field), plentyof folks with mediocre grades are killer at business development; plenty are killer at project management and are very successful in managing teams for large M&A deals. Some folks can produce impeccably clean work with every detail in order, and that's very valuable for white-bread securities practice, which generally doesn't involve a ton of sophisticated legal analysis.

It's really helpful to have an awareness of what your skills are and then to leverage from that; I wouldn't suggest going to a firm (or a practice area) that highly values its "intellectual culture" if that's not your strong suit. You probably wouldn't be happy staffed on a bespoke structured finance / derivatives transaction, you probably wouldn't do well at high level tax.

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 25, 2014 8:10 pm

i'm having similar concerns and have almost identical stats to OP. I'm also interested in transactional work, and am wondering what sort of sub-transactional areas are a better for someone who may not have done as well in law school, aka are less "intellectual," as someone put it.

Also, what does this mean:
Anonymous User wrote: You probably wouldn't be happy staffed on a bespoke structured finance / derivatives transaction, you probably wouldn't do well at high level tax.


are you saying that structured finance/derivatives/tax are particularly complex/intellectual areas? I'm not sure i'm understanding why someone who didn't do as well in law school should avoid those areas. Or maybe someone without top grades wouldn't even get into those areas?

NYSprague
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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby NYSprague » Fri Jul 25, 2014 8:21 pm

If you got bad grades because you are disorganized, not detail oriented, overwhelmed, messy personal life, or any personal reason, you need to fix that because that won't change.

If you got bad grades because you messed up some issues on exams, you should be ok.

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby BaiAilian2013 » Sat Jul 26, 2014 12:02 am

Anonymous User wrote:It depends what you mean by "bad lawyer". If you mean, bad at doing subtle legal analysis, then, sure, there is a correlation. But there is SO much more to the job than that. In transactional work (which is my field), plentyof folks with mediocre grades are killer at business development; plenty are killer at project management and are very successful in managing teams for large M&A deals. Some folks can produce impeccably clean work with every detail in order, and that's very valuable for white-bread securities practice, which generally doesn't involve a ton of sophisticated legal analysis.

It's really helpful to have an awareness of what your skills are and then to leverage from that; I wouldn't suggest going to a firm (or a practice area) that highly values its "intellectual culture" if that's not your strong suit. You probably wouldn't be happy staffed on a bespoke structured finance / derivatives transaction, you probably wouldn't do well at high level tax.

This assumes that you're getting bad grades because of your actual cognitive skills, though, whereas in reality there are a lot of other potential reasons for bad grades. Lots of smart people are kind of lazy when there aren't real-life consequences for it (particularly true at a top school), or when they just don't find something interesting. You'll find plenty of tax lawyers with shitty grades in torts, for instance. It really depends on the reason for the grades.

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby Pokemon » Sat Jul 26, 2014 2:06 am

In your place, I would not worry about this. The firm that gave you the job is not worried about you being an idiot, so why should you?

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby Cavalier » Sat Jul 26, 2014 4:23 pm

Grades are correlated with some aspects of lawyering (mainly legal research and analysis), just like the LSAT is correlated with success in law school. But plenty of people who do poorly on the LSAT dominate law school, and the same goes for people with relatively poor grades who join law firms. Moreover, for the majority of tasks you'll do as an associate, grades are probably irrelevant to how well you'll perform. In litigation there will likely be more document review, factual summarizing, project management, preparing deposition outlines, etc., than there will be in-depth research and analysis, and in transactional I imagine grades are even less relevant (though I don't do transactional so I wouldn't know).

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby 09042014 » Sat Jul 26, 2014 4:42 pm

Cavalier wrote:Grades are correlated with some aspects of lawyering (mainly legal research and analysis), just like the LSAT is correlated with success in law school. But plenty of people who do poorly on the LSAT dominate law school, and the same goes for people with relatively poor grades who join law firms. Moreover, for the majority of tasks you'll do as an associate, grades are probably irrelevant to how well you'll perform. In litigation there will likely be more document review, factual summarizing, project management, preparing deposition outlines, etc., than there will be in-depth research and analysis, and in transactional I imagine grades are even less relevant (though I don't do transactional so I wouldn't know).


I doubt even research and analysis correlated very strongly since its just entirely different in the legal setting. Law exams don't teach research at all. In fact, you get virtually unlimited time to learn a small amount of law with plenty of time to distill the law down and plenty of sources to teach it to you. In practice, it's hardly ever that black and white. You have to create the rules yourself.

And then analysis isn't done in 3 hours and you can't just argue BOTH SIDES and say "who the fuck knows brah!" And the fact patterns aren't artificially created to match your casebook.

I think the only real skill taht would be similar is the issue spotting ability.

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby AMCD » Sat Jul 26, 2014 4:48 pm

Really close friend = $1,500 trial attorney. Told me, "when I went to a class, never got more than a "C" "'

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 26, 2014 11:00 pm

I had bad grades at a T10. Like, 3 C/C equivalents 1L year bad. I struggled with legal writing, and generally "getting" what the exams were asking for. Law school was rough. I wasn't sure how I would do practicing law, but I'm a second year associate now at a large firm (V...something. I don't pay attention to the rankings, but rest assured it's not like a V10 or anything like that with those grades! :)) and things are going just great (people seem generally pleased with my work, etc.).

Once you start working, you have to learn what the attorneys are asking for, and get feedback so you can improve (you will not always get everything right on the first try). Being willing to work hard (and work smart) and do what you're told is more important than your ability to memorize case summaries and know when to use which ones, or saying what the professor wants you to say when you get cold called. If you got bad grades because you were lazy, then you have to change that, of course. You were (I assume!) smart and capable as an undergrad - sometimes law school just doesn't "click." Nothing has changed - you're just as smart as you were before. I lacked a lot of confidence when I started working, just because things hadn't gone well in law school, but guess what? The partners I work for didn't memorize my transcript. They don't know or care how I did on my property or conlaw exam my first semester of 1L year. Everything resets, so you might as well allow yourself to start over...provided that you fix any glaring problems, as others mentioned (laziness, personal life issues, etc).

Sorry for the pep talk - I've been in the same situation and wondered the same thing, so I just thought I'd pass on some advice.

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby smallfirmassociate » Mon Jul 28, 2014 12:08 pm

Depends on why you got bad grades.

Hard-working people with some intelligence who can concentrate on one subject for hours on end make good law students. Smart, savvy people who can analyze and make the client happy make good lawyers. Those aren't always the same people.

Hard work is usually sufficient to do well in law school, but not in practice. On the flip side of the coin, you can go from being a smart slacker in law school to being a very good attorney, assuming you're not entirely too lazy.

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby GunnerBingo » Mon Jul 28, 2014 2:44 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:Depends on why you got bad grades.

Hard-working people with some intelligence who can concentrate on one subject for hours on end make good law students. Smart, savvy people who can analyze and make the client happy make good lawyers. Those aren't always the same people.

Hard work is usually sufficient to do well in law school, but not in practice. On the flip side of the coin, you can go from being a smart slacker in law school to being a very good attorney, assuming you're not entirely too lazy.


I would say hard work is neither necessary nor sufficient to do well in law school.

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby smallfirmassociate » Mon Jul 28, 2014 4:12 pm

GunnerBingo wrote:
smallfirmassociate wrote:Depends on why you got bad grades.

Hard-working people with some intelligence who can concentrate on one subject for hours on end make good law students. Smart, savvy people who can analyze and make the client happy make good lawyers. Those aren't always the same people.

Hard work is usually sufficient to do well in law school, but not in practice. On the flip side of the coin, you can go from being a smart slacker in law school to being a very good attorney, assuming you're not entirely too lazy.


I would say hard work is neither necessary nor sufficient to do well in law school.


Maybe there are some outliers near the bottom of the class' GPA and LSAT spread, but my law school experience was that if you wanted to somewhat diligently outline your classes, memorize the cases and go through the basic IRAC on test questions, you could be top third with little more than rote memorization and mediocre analytical skills. And I didn't go to a T2 or T3 school.

You could also be top-third by having good analytical skills coupled with lazy study habits.

Assuming we're talking normal lazy and not pathological lazy, then the latter is better for practicing law. You can't magically turn on intelligence that isn't there, but you have a chance of taking a slacker and making him a good lawyer.

Now if your idea of a good lawyer is just churning out simple memos or operating a DUI factory, then it doesn't matter. A golden retriever could damned near do that.

tl;dr: OP, if the reason for bad grades is a general apathy toward law school that won't carry over to practice, then a person with bad grades could be a stellar lawyer, assuming a high intellect.

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby GunnerBingo » Mon Jul 28, 2014 5:28 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:
GunnerBingo wrote:
smallfirmassociate wrote:Depends on why you got bad grades.

Hard-working people with some intelligence who can concentrate on one subject for hours on end make good law students. Smart, savvy people who can analyze and make the client happy make good lawyers. Those aren't always the same people.

Hard work is usually sufficient to do well in law school, but not in practice. On the flip side of the coin, you can go from being a smart slacker in law school to being a very good attorney, assuming you're not entirely too lazy.


I would say hard work is neither necessary nor sufficient to do well in law school.


Maybe there are some outliers near the bottom of the class' GPA and LSAT spread, but my law school experience was that if you wanted to somewhat diligently outline your classes, memorize the cases and go through the basic IRAC on test questions, you could be top third with little more than rote memorization and mediocre analytical skills. And I didn't go to a T2 or T3 school.

You could also be top-third by having good analytical skills coupled with lazy study habits.

Assuming we're talking normal lazy and not pathological lazy, then the latter is better for practicing law. You can't magically turn on intelligence that isn't there, but you have a chance of taking a slacker and making him a good lawyer.

Now if your idea of a good lawyer is just churning out simple memos or operating a DUI factory, then it doesn't matter. A golden retriever could damned near do that.

tl;dr: OP, if the reason for bad grades is a general apathy toward law school that won't carry over to practice, then a person with bad grades could be a stellar lawyer, assuming a high intellect.


Obviously there is a certain baseline amount of work you need to put in. But in my experience (granted I'm just at a T1, not a T14), pure handwork did not get people who lacked the necessary test-taking skills into the top third. Yes, they beat out all the people with worse test-taking skills, those who put in less work with the same test-taking ability, and those who simply did not put in the requisite amount of work to do well (e.g. didn't memorize or know the BLL for the exam). However, those students could only beat out that set of individuals. Hard work is not going to beat-out people who have superior test-taking ability.

Related to OP's point: notice I did not use the words "analytical skills" or "lawyering abilities." If you do poorly on exams, it may have some reflection on your ability to pass the bar, but I don't think it reflects your skills as a lawyer. Law school grades better reflect your ability to do well on a very specific form of writing under timed conditions vis-a-vis your peers. This is not required of you as a lawyer (at least to my knowledge).

Surely if you do well on exams, you probably will be o.k. as an attorney. But if you did poorly, that does not mean you won't be a good lawyer. Staying in the law school context, I know someone who booked her legal writing course and had a below median GPA. I don't think there is really a correlation between bad grades and bad lawyers skills, necessarily. HOWEVER, bag grades may be an indication of bar passage rate (depending on the school), so I'd watch out for that more than anything.

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby smallfirmassociate » Tue Jul 29, 2014 7:49 pm

GunnerBingo wrote:But in my experience (granted I'm just at a T1, not a T14), pure handwork did not get people who lacked the necessary test-taking skills into the top third. Yes, they beat out all the people with worse test-taking skills, those who put in less work with the same test-taking ability, and those who simply did not put in the requisite amount of work to do well (e.g. didn't memorize or know the BLL for the exam).


Wait, you're supposed to memorize and know all of the black letter law for all of your law school exams? That's news to me. But I guess that's my point -- if you are smart, you can do well with minimal effort, and you'll probably be a better lawyer than someone of lesser intelligence who worked harder.

Of course, "better lawyer" is in the eye of the managing partner, as I hinted earlier. Many firms love diligent lap dogs who churn out decent yet unspectacular work and don't tolerate more talented lawyers who bill slightly fewer hours.

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby Hale87 » Sun Oct 15, 2017 3:15 pm

GunnerBingo wrote:
Surely if you do well on exams, you probably will be o.k. as an attorney.
[/quote][/quote][/quote]

Sorry for reviving an old thread. Anyone have stories about people who did well in law school, then didn't do well practicing law? Seems very possible since law school and practice require such different skills.

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby Lincoln » Sun Oct 15, 2017 3:32 pm

Hale87 wrote:
GunnerBingo wrote:
Surely if you do well on exams, you probably will be o.k. as an attorney.


Sorry for reviving an old thread. Anyone have stories about people who did well in law school, then didn't do well practicing law? Seems very possible since law school and practice require such different skills.


A lot of the time it feels like this applies to half of all the junior associates or summer interns I've ever worked with.

From my perch somewhere in the middle of the associate ladder, being a good associate is 80% about being organized, diligent, thoughtful and responsive. I've seen one associate at my firm who graduated with honors from HYS and did a COA clerkship and whose chances of making partner had deteriorated to zero by year 3 simply by being too clever by half and doing what he (it's always a he) thought was best instead of what was asked. Some people can ace an exam but can't write for shit. Others can write but can't figure out how best to organize information without making me read a 10-page memo. And big law (at least in lit) is often about sifting through and organizing vast amounts of information in a way that shows patterns or the significance of tiny sliver of it.

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby Nebby » Sun Oct 15, 2017 3:57 pm

Lincoln wrote:
Hale87 wrote:
GunnerBingo wrote:
Surely if you do well on exams, you probably will be o.k. as an attorney.


Sorry for reviving an old thread. Anyone have stories about people who did well in law school, then didn't do well practicing law? Seems very possible since law school and practice require such different skills.


A lot of the time it feels like this applies to half of all the junior associates or summer interns I've ever worked with.

From my perch somewhere in the middle of the associate ladder, being a good associate is 80% about being organized, diligent, thoughtful and responsive. I've seen one associate at my firm who graduated with honors from HYS and did a COA clerkship and whose chances of making partner had deteriorated to zero by year 3 simply by being too clever by half and doing what he (it's always a he) thought was best instead of what was asked. Some people can ace an exam but can't write for shit. Others can write but can't figure out how best to organize information without making me read a 10-page memo. And big law (at least in lit) is often about sifting through and organizing vast amounts of information in a way that shows patterns or the significance of tiny sliver of it.

Lol clerks

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Oct 15, 2017 4:43 pm

lol the chip on nebby's shoulder about clerks

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby Nebby » Sun Oct 15, 2017 4:50 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:lol the chip on nebby's shoulder about clerks

I did that one for you

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Re: Bad Grades in Law School = Bad Lawyer?

Postby lolwat » Mon Oct 16, 2017 12:06 pm

Surely if you do well on exams, you probably will be o.k. as an attorney. But if you did poorly, that does not mean you won't be a good lawyer.


Whomever said this probably summed up what probably is the only good TL:DR answer to the original question.

Sorry for reviving an old thread. Anyone have stories about people who did well in law school, then didn't do well practicing law? Seems very possible since law school and practice require such different skills.


I'd say this usually is either a separate failure on part of the person who did well in law school, or them getting into the wrong practice or just not cut out for the hours. Some people are just going have a tougher time being a litigator or trial lawyer, others might think they like IP but get into patent law and realize that dealing with claim construction and shit like that isn't what they thought they'd be doing, and still even others might just burn out trying to bill 2500 hours and eventually say fuck it to this profession.




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