Published: Nov 04, 2014
Hey 1Ls, totally no pressure or anything, but it's November. Have you started outlining yet? You bought those commercial outlines already, right? You do realize exams start in about a month…are you mentally, physically and emotionally prepared?
There’s a reason that the mention of exams, particularly 1L Fall exams, quicken the pace of law students’ already overly caffeinated rapidly pulsing hearts. Grades matter. A lot.
Associates from Vault's 2014 Law Firm Associate Survey, a survey of nearly 17,000 associates from over 150 large and mid-sized law firms across the United States, agreed that while the hiring committees at their firms certainly considered factors such as law school attended, personality, prior work experience and diversity, “law school grades are the initial hurdle” to be cleared before getting an interview. An associate at Alston & Bird put it bluntly, “Grades. Let's not kid ourselves. You have to have them to get in the door.” The lower ranked the law school, the higher the grades need to be according to a Cravath associate, “Almost everyone is from a top law school with very good grades, or an okay law school with exceptional grades.”
Why so serious? Many 1Ls went straight from college to law school and may not have professional experience. As such, employers will only have their grades to consider when deciding whom to interview. Additionally, 1Ls may not have had time to build relationships within the legal community that are often essential to getting interviews, so to stand out among the thousands of faceless resumes, 1Ls need to earn high grades. Even if law students don’t intend to go BigLaw their 1L summer (most large law firms no longer higher 1Ls anyway), many smaller firms, judicial extern programs and government agencies have grade cutoffs as well.
Achieving high grades from the beginning is crucial as it becomes very difficult to raise a lower GPA. In addition to the hard work it takes to earn higher grades, as the semesters roll along, there are more grades included in the average, so each new high grade has less of an impact on the overall GPA.
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