Grades

Uga, did you eat the grades?

Well, it’s the middle of June, and it seems that some law students are still waiting for their grades. As we know from past discussion of the issue, this is a fairly common practice. The only problem with it is that it keeps law students fiending for their last grade like a crack addict searching frantically for his last rock.

The worst part of this situation is the fact that the grade delay may be keeping these law students from becoming gainfully employed. The legal job market may allegedly be on the rise, but when law students can’t do more than offer two-fifths of their updated transcripts to prospective employers, you can take a wild guess as to where their résumés will be headed.

So, while the professors are taking their sweet time grading their exams and possibly costing you a job, your classmates are banding together to try to figure out how to resolve the problem. First, they go to the Student Bar Assocation. Then, when they don’t like the answer they get from the SBA (“there’s a grading deadline, I’m sure we’ll get our grades soon”), they go straight to the source, the administration. Finally, when the administration’s response isn’t good enough (“it’ll be okay, you’ll get your grades when you get your grades”), they come to Above the Law. And we’re happy to help.

Hey, University of Georgia School of Law, we’re looking at you. Where are your grades?

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It’s been a rough year in South Bend. A promising new head football coach led the Fighting Irish to a disappointing 7-5 regular season. The #5-ranked basketball team forgot to show up during March Madness (but at least the women’s team exceeded expectations). It was a year that many Irish fans would like to rewrite.

And now a few 1Ls at Notre Dame Law School would like to do some rewriting of their own. A tipster informs us that controversy has been brewing for a while regarding NDLS’s first year legal writing program. It appears that some students believe that they work too darn hard to only receive one measly credit for their second semester legal research and writing course.

So, what do angry law students do when they feel that they are not being properly credited for their writing efforts? They write more — a petition, to be exact. Find out what these future lawyers are demanding, after the jump.

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We’ve seen it in California; we’ve seen it in New York. Now it looks like Puff the Magic Grade-Inflating Dragon is heading for Washington, D.C.

Yes sir, a school in the D.C. market has decided that the reason its students can’t get jobs has nothing to do with the quality of education or services the school provides, and everything to do with how the school itself calculates student GPAs. And so we have another institution of legal education that is poised to randomly make its curve a third of a grade easier. And the school will also introduce the dreaded A+ — which is worth 4.33 points and should be written on construction paper in glitter, to emphasize how absurdly weak it is for a person over the age of 14 to receive an A+ on anything.

CORRECTION: As pointed out in the comments, the new grade is an A+*; the A+ already exists. I’m sorry, but my little brain could not comprehend such a thing as an A+*; I thought it was a typo.

And the school’s students — who should be embarrassed by this blatant inflation of their grades, in the same way that governments cringe when they are forced to devalue their currencies — are so hopeful that this little gimmick will work that all they can do is ask if the inflation will be applied retroactively to their previous grades.

So really, the only question left is whether this trend will catch on with other D.C.-area schools, rendering the efforts of the first inflator functionally moot….

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You know, given the fact that most law school professors act like they are doing you a favor by grading your exams, it’s a wonder this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often. Of course, since it doesn’t happen more often, this is a noteworthy occurrence.

A criminal law professor out in California figured out there were grading errors from her fall semester course. She figured this out last week. But the errors were so significant that it changed the class rank of some students.

Yeah, so if you got dinged from a summer associate position because your first semester grades were too low, or if perhaps you didn’t even apply for some positions because you didn’t meet a percentile cut-off, whoops, your professor might have screwed up.

Which law school needs to examine its motives?

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We all know that in this legal economy, 1L grades are critically important. There aren’t enough good jobs to go around, and coming out of your first semester with a strong transcript can really help. This is why some law students flip out over changes (real or perceived) to grading policies or curves.

But getting a bad grade is not the end of the world. Performing well on law school exams is a skill, one that doesn’t come naturally to everybody. And in light of the length of a person’s entire legal career, it’s kind of amazing that people stress out so much over 1L transcripts.

At Columbia Law School, the administration wants first-year students to keep a sense of perspective about their grades. In a very nice gesture, Dean of Students Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin sent the 1Ls a nice message that highlighted some of the poor grades achieved by some Columbia’s own faculty.

The message was clearly “Everything is going to be fine.” But not all Columbia students took it that way…

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* Hey Elie, check this out: “Money Tips for Young Lawyers.” The top tip: “Get on top of student loans.” [Alpha Consumer / U.S. News & World Report]

* What matters more, experience or grades? [Lawyerist]

* Who should use a legal recruiter — and who shouldn’t? Recruiter Dan Binstock explains. [The Careerist]

* Sports law professor Gabriel Feldman considers some of the legal issues related to a possible NFL lockout. [Huffington Post]

Rep. Christopher Lee (R-NY)

* Ashby Jones asks: Is it time for stricter regulation of law schools and the information they disclose (or don’t disclose)? In other words, “Should Congress gin up the Law Student Truth in Education Act of 2011?” [WSJ Law Blog]

* If you’re interested in the intersection of law and neuroscience, here’s a new blog to check out (by the fabulous Professor Nita Farahany, of Vanderbilt Law). [Law and Biosciences Daily Digest]

* Professor Charles Ogletree is offering a cool new course at HLS: “Race and Justice — The Wire.” [WBUR]

* A married Republican congressman, Christopher Lee, has a new nickname: “The Craigslist Congressman.” His comment on the controversy: “I have to work this out with my wife.” [Gawker]

We are well into February, and there are still law students who haven’t received all of their grades from first semester.

Why? I have no earthly idea. We’ve talked about this problem before: we get that professors really hate spending the time it takes to grade a bunch of exams. It’s boring. It’s arbitrary. It’s annoying to know that no matter how “fairly” you grade, you’ll have at least a few students who can’t handle the truth, waiting in your office to ambush you.

But it’s also your job. It’s your duty, owed to the students who are ruining themselves financially to help pay your salary, to provide them with grades in timely fashion. This is especially true in law school. And it’s especially true in a crappy economy. Law school grades matter, and it’s just cruel to keep students in the dark about them.

Now, if I show you a hundred professors who handed in grades late, you’ll hear a hundred different excuses about why grades were delayed: “I was preparing for a conference,” “My Commodore 64 broke down,” “I was having personal problems” — whatever. We get it; sometimes life intervenes and prevents professors from doing their jobs.

But at NYU Law School, some students are alleging that professorial favoritism is allowing some professors to turn in their grades much later than others…

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We have a message for law school deans and administrators everywhere. To paraphrase Chris Crocker, “Leave… the grades… alone!”

Stories about changes to law school grading schemes aren’t much fun for us to write. But every time you deans tinker ever so slightly with your law school’s curve, we here at Above the Law get flooded by angry emails from law student readers, demanding that we call attention to whatever completely inscrutable change (or non-change) you have made (or not made) to your grading policy. In order to save us from having to write these stories, please cease and desist immediately from further amendment of your grading schemes.

Notwithstanding the views of the guy who posted his grades on Facebook, law school grades aren’t very interesting (except to their recipients). We’d much rather immerse ourselves in the law firm bonus horse race, for example. Compared to law school grading stories, the associate bonus watch is as riveting as the Oscars competition (or the Super Bowl, if you’re into that sort of thing).

Honestly, and with all due respect to our law student readers, we don’t particularly care about law school grades — and neither will you, in just a few short years. Right now you might be obsessed with your grades. And yes, they matter more than before, thanks to the tough legal job market. But you will forget your law school GPA sooner than you think. In the words of Professor Orin Kerr, “[o]nce you’re out of school for a bit, people care whether you are a good attorney, not your law school GPA.”

In this post, we’re going to cover controversies over grading at three law schools: the University of Chicago Law School, Cornell Law School, and the University of Buffalo Law School.

And then, God willing, we hope to avoid writing another story about law school grades until May or June (when the spring semester ends and students start talking about transfer applications)….

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What kind of world are we living in where people post their 1L grades on Facebook? I guess that after years of status updates about your latest biological function, you can fool yourself into thinking that people actually care about your Civ Pro grade. The world is full of navel-gazers.

Companion question: What kind of world are we living in where people get “offended” because somebody posted his 1L grades on Facebook? I know law schools are hyper-competitive places, but at the end of the day, the only thing you can control is your own academic performance. Getting mad because somebody is boasting about his grades is a colossal waste of energy — energy better spent studying for the current semester (or at least trying to steal his girlfriend). Don’t get mad, get even.

I’m not really on either side of the current ridiculousness going down at Boston University School of Law over one guy’s Facebook page. You see, I live in a world where it’s perfectly acceptable to kind of hate everybody….

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I don’t know how I missed this last week, but a study reported in the WSJ Law Blog claims that law school prestige is overrated. Significantly overrated. The ABA Journal — which picked up the story this morning — summarizes the work of a professor from UCLA and a professor from Brooklyn Law:

[UCLA law professor Richard Sander and Brooklyn Law School visiting professor Jane Yakowitz] studied data from more than 40 public law schools across the country, and found that applicants tend to go to the most elite law school that will have them. But is that a good idea?

Not according to data collected in the American Bar Foundation’s After the JD study of lawyers who entered the bar in 2000, they write. It indicates that the salary boost for achieving high grades more than makes up for the salary depreciation associated with attending a lower‐ranked school. The study also found that lawyers who left law school with the lowest grades felt the least secure about their jobs.

I’m sorry, did anybody’s worldview just get blown up?

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