Grades

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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It’s nearly August. But at Harvard Law School, administrators are still trying to sort out what happened with Professor Bruce Hay’s spring Evidence course.

Not that grades matter all that much at HLS. The most important part of an HLS student’s transcript is the part at the top that says “Harvard Law School.” Heck, the school recently reformed its grading procedures, making the actual grades even less important.

But appearances must be maintained. It’s important that students feel their “super, gold-star, yay pass” grades are well-earned and fairly distributed.

Apparently students felt that Professor Hay did not adequately communicate how they would be graded. And now the administration has to step in…

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Loyola Law School (Los Angeles) hoped to quietly jump on the grade-inflation bandwagon in order to help make its students more competitive in the legal marketplace. The school bumped letter grades up a notch, so that a C- became a C, a B became a B+, and an A+ became an A+you’reasuperamazinggunnerrockstar.

But the quiet jump has resulted in a lot of noise. After we wrote about the school’s retroactive grade inflation, the Los Angeles Times and later the New York Times picked up on it.

And last night, Loyola had its big moment on the Colbert Report:

The upside is that Loyola-L.A. just broke through to a whole new audience of potential applicants. The downside is that we can hear the deflation of the hopes of all the Loyola law school grads who planned to wow employers with their amazing GPAs.

We reached out to Loyola about being mocked by one of America’s most influential people. A response from Dean Victor Gold, after the jump.

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New Jersey is taking over the world of reality television programming. Though it would surely be sheer torture to be locked in a room with a bunch of Jersey folk, their ridiculous antics and outsized attitudes make for great entertainment when confined to the small screen.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey is by far the most popular of the Housewives series. It’s now in its second season, and it appears that many of our Above the Law readers are fans. We received a landfill’s worth of emails about the legal hook in last night’s episode. One of the Real Sons of the Housewives of New Jerseys — Albie Manzo, son of Caroline Manzo — was in law school. As he said in an interview on the Bravo website, in response to a question about his love life: “School makes the likelihood of any relationship working slim. I always tell my friends, sometimes I feel like I’m dating law school.”

Alas, Albie just got dumped by Lady Justice — he failed out of law school after only one semester, as viewers learned last night. Here’s a clip of Albie breaking the news to his mom. The reality TV hottie claims to have a learning disability that causes him to take three times as long as normal people to absorb information, resulting in a shameful GPA in his fall semester.

While the LD sounds like it could help Albie rack up some serious billable hours, the school wasn’t supportive. A tipster reports:

Albie said the administration told him that if he couldn’t cut it with his learning disability, lawyering probably isn’t for him.

Which law school had such harsh words for the learning-impaired Jersey boy?

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Tough curve ahead.

By this point, you know the drill with grade reform:

A) Law school experiences embarrassing employment outcomes.
B) Administration refuses to admit legal education is ridiculously overpriced given the soft job market.
C) Students demand immediate administrative action to help students find work.
D) Administration has precisely zero ideas on how to help students get jobs.
E) Administration blames its own “tough grading curve” that allegedly “disadvantages” its students.
F) Administration enacts “grade reform.”
G) Students feel momentarily appeased.
H) Employers ask for class ranking and go back to putting 90% of the transcripts they receive from the school in question into the shredder.

Next year, Tulane Law School will make grading easier. Getting a good job with a Tulane Law degree will remain just as difficult as ever…

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