Grade Reform, Law Schools

University of Chicago Reminds Students Not To Be Tools About Grades

My 1L grades were this big.

Continuing our discussion of “elite law school problems,” let’s talk about grades. If your law school is ranked poorly, waiting for your grades has made you stressed all January. But if you go to a top-ranked law school, it really shouldn’t be that stressful, right?

Hell, if you are going to a truly elite law school, you don’t even have grades. Sure, if you are gunning for the Supreme Court clerkship down the road, your transcript is important. But if you’ve made it all the way to one of the best institutions of higher learning, and all you care about it whether you get an A and a pat on the head at the end of the semester, you’re doing it wrong.

Sadly, there are a lot of people at top law schools who are doing it wrong.

At the University of Chicago, Dean of Students Amy Gardner decided to send a reassuring note to students about their grades. Most importantly, she told students not to believe each other if they try to brag about their grades.

It’s a lesson even non-Chicago students might need to hear….

Last year at this time, a Columbia Law School dean sent around a reassuring message about grades. Now it’s Chicago’s turn:

Dear 1Ls:

Today will be the first time many of you have ever received a B or a C, because at some point after 3:30 you will receive the grades your professors gave your exams. The grades you receive are a reflection of what a professor thought of your exam and how much you were able to convey in one 3 hour or 8 hour period. Your grades are not a reflection of your worth as a lawyer, as a student, or anything else.

If you are thrilled with your grades, congratulations. Go home, pat yourself on the back, and remember that law school is like a pie eating contest. Only the prize for getting great grades is the same as the prize for getting lower grades: more pie. Take some time to whoop, call your non-Law School friends, and get back to work.

If you are disappointed with your grades, go home, take some time to be frustrated, and remember that law school is like a pie eating contest. Only the prize for getting lower grades is the same as the prize for great grades: more pie. Take some time to be disappointed, call your non-Law School friends, and get back to work.

This seems to me to be the correct message. It’s not that grades are entirely unimportant, but it is just your first semester of 1L year. If you get poor grades you can recover. And if you get great grades, that doesn’t mean you are the king of the world.

But Dean Gardner has another message for students. She reminds kids not to be total freaking douchebags to each other about their grades:

Regardless of whether you are thrilled or disappointed, think very carefully before you tell your classmates your grades. I truly believe that no good comes of it, and strongly urge you to resist the temptation. As I mentioned at Friday’s Academic Counselor session, things people say about their grades aren’t necessarily true, so if a classmate has the bad judgment to talk about their grades, keep in mind that they may or may not be entirely truthful.

Keep in mind that one quarter of grades you’re not happy with is not the end of the world. As the Academic Counselors pointed out last Friday, the first quarter counts for 6 credits. 1L year is 40 credits. Graduating from the Law School requires 105 credits. Some of the people who graded on to Law Review this year did very poorly their first quarter of 1L year, and the grades combined are only worth as much as your crim, contracts, or property exams alone.

First, there is the Major League problem. I realize that many of you were born in the year that movie came out, but go back and watch Blade, President Palmer, and The Warlock when they were young. A critical lesson of that movie is: “Keep it to yourself until you’re outta the locker room. Don’t celebrate in front of guys who just died.”

Don’t brag about your grades. And don’t listen to the braggarts. In general, you should never believe another person when he talks about:

  • Grades
  • Penis size
  • Number of women who have been impressed by his penis or grades
  • Number of wild animals who have been killed by his penis or grades

But, just like with Columbia, not every student at Chicago was appreciative of the message. From a tipster:

Please read this ____ (fill any with any adjective that is synonymous with ridiculous) email from our Dean of Students at U of C Law regarding 1L grades.

I think the letter was sweet — and sorely needed, in the overly competitive environment of law school. But maybe you disagree. Click through if you want to read the full email from Dean Gardner.

(hidden for your protection)

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