Law School Grades

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan provides some advice for optimizing your law school grades.

It’s a fresh semester, a new year, and you’ve resolved to get better law school grades. Great! How are you going to do that? If you’re like most people, you resolve to “work harder.”

For a few days, or maybe even a couple of weeks, you spend extra time in the library, making sure you’re well-prepared for class and don’t fall behind on the reading. Inevitably, however, things get in the way and you start slipping. Maybe your favorite TV show is on, or a big ball game, and your study time gradually drifts back to about what it was before.

There’s nothing really wrong with this approach, except for the fact that it’s unlikely to improve your outcome. What will improve your results is a new approach — iteration.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

‘That professor will rue the day he gave me a D!’

When most law students receive crappy grades, they drown their own self-pity in alcohol, shrug it off, and tell themselves they’ll do better next time. Some law students, though, as ludicrous as it may be, feel that their only recourse after receiving a bad grade is to sue. This is without fail the very worst option a law student could take, but it’s entertaining if only because these whiny lawsuits are filed pro se.

Take, for example, a lawsuit that was recently filed by a former student at an unaccredited law school. The plaintiff is pissed that he got a terrible grade in one of his classes, and he wants a federal court to mete out his revenge against the professor who ruined his life.

Did we mention that he wants $100,000 in damages for “years of not being in a legal career”?

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Over the course of the past few years, law school personnel have found it especially difficult to keep their students’ personal information private. In April 2012, someone at Baylor Law School sent out an email containing a trove of admissions data — from names, to grades, to LSAT scores — to every student admitted to the Class of 2015. In March 2014, Loyola Law School in Los Angeles sent out an email with a heap of financial information for the entire graduating class — up to and including Social Security numbers and loan amounts — to some members of the Class of 2014.

Today, we’ve got another email screw-up for you, and this is one of the juiciest and most prestigious accidental data dumps we’ve seen yet. Someone at a T14 law school “inadvertently” sent out every piece of vital information possible about its clerkship applicants — from GPA, to class rank, to work experience, to recommenders, right down to where their girlfriends live — to everyone on its clerkship listserv.

If you’d like to see how you stack up against elite law students, now you can. We’ve got all the data…

Please note the UPDATES at the end of this post.

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Ed. note: This is the latest post by Anonymous Recruitment Director, who offers an insider’s perspective on the world of law firm hiring.

I have received hundreds of emails over the past few months from job seekers, and today I would like to answer some of these questions.

The Recruitment Team

1. Do you take a sadistic pleasure in rejecting candidates?

I have received emails calling me “smug,” “arrogant,” “fat,” and “in all likelihood unattractive.” I am fat and, on most days, unattractive, so well done on that front. However, I am not smug or arrogant. BigLaw is a particular work environment, and it is an environment that I have observed firsthand for 20 years. I am trying to provide readers with some inside information. Please recall that it is just a singular viewpoint on a huge industry.

Neither I nor my colleagues enjoy denying smart people who have worked hard a chance to work in the setting of their choice. There is nothing gratifying about rejecting a candidate.

2. Does the scan of the applicant’s transcript come before or after you review the résumé?

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Ed. note: Please welcome Above the Law’s guest conversationalist, Zach Abramowitz, of blogcasting platform ReplyAll. You can see some of his other conversations and musings here.

Spring exams are right around the corner, and for most law students, that probably means trying to figure out what went wrong first semester and how to do better this time around. Unless you’re one of the fortunate few who got all As your first semester, hopefully this conversation will give you a better road map for the upcoming exams, or at the very least, make you feel a little better about yourself.

The conversation, which is being created using a new blogging tool called ReplyAll, will develop live on Above the Law over the course of the next few days, so continue to check back as Professors Barry Friedman, John Goldberg, and I continue our discussion…

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Ed. note: Please welcome Above the Law’s new poet-in-residence, Qui Tam.

Qui Tam. Short for a Latin phrase that means, more or less, self-righteously suing alongside the King, and keeping a little on the side for yourself. More commonly known today as a whistleblower action, where a private individual with knowledge of fraud gets sheltered by the feds and a nice cut of the penalties imposed for said fraud. So basically the same idea in Latin and common parlance.

For purposes of this column — which will be a collection of observational “poems,” chronicling experiences the writer may or may not have had during a pretty vanilla T1 law school and corporate legal career — what I am going for is the “whistleblower” allusion (quite self-flattering, not to mention self-righteous). Oh, and the pretentious use of Latin is designed to create a sense of sophistication where one probably doesn’t exist (sorry Bryan Garner, but it is true).

I now present to you my first poem:

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Mathew Martoma

This afternoon, here in Manhattan, a jury found former SAC Capital portfolio manager Mathew Martoma guilty of insider trading. The verdict wasn’t a shock, given the strong evidence against Martoma and the fact that another former SAC trader, Michael Steinberg, got convicted in December on weaker evidence.

The trial involved a number of boldface names of the legal profession. The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (S.D.N.Y.), one of our 2013 Lawyer of the Year nominees, was represented by assistant U.S. attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown, one of the office’s most prominent prosecutors (and a star of the college debate circuit, for those of you who used to do debate). Martoma was defended by a team from Goodwin Procter that included Richard Strassberg, an S.D.N.Y. alumnus, and Roberto Braceras, another former federal prosecutor — and the son-in-law of Judge José Cabranes. The prosecution’s lead witness, Dr. Sidney Gilman, was represented by Bracewell & Giuliani’s Marc L. Mukasey — son of former S.D.N.Y. judge and U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

And some of our readers might know Mathew Martoma. He was a student at Harvard Law School back in the 90s, before he got expelled for fabricating his transcript while applying for clerkships.

Here are some notable numbers relating to the Mathew Martoma mess:

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It’s Harvard Law School’s world, and the rest of us are just living in it.

1999: ARLO DEVLIN-BROWN writes that you never know where you’ll run into a classmate. He is prosecuting MATHEW MARTOMA (née Ajai Mathew Thomas) on insider trading charges in Lower Manhattan. Devlin-Brown has asked U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe (unfortunately Penn ’79, Columbia ’82) for permission to talk about Matt’s expulsion from Harvard for doctoring his transcript, so get ready for fireworks! The trial is expected to last several weeks, so for anyone who missed WILLIAM PULLMAN and Lisa Frank’s (Yale ’03, NYU Law ’08, NYU Stern ’08) Christmas Eve nuptials, it would be a great opportunity for a mini-reunion!

That is Bess Levin’s imagined entry for the next edition of Harvard Law School alumni news, offered over at our sister site Dealbreaker. It’s based on a New York Times piece marveling at the many HLS folks involved in this major insider trading trial (which also include Martoma’s lawyer, Richard Strassberg of Goodwin Procter, and Lorin Reisner, chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office).

A takeaway from the Martoma matter: HLS students are the best! At forgery and fraud, that is.

Years before he allegedly cheated on Wall Street, Mathew Martoma, then known as “Ajai Mathew Thomas,” cheated at Harvard Law School by fabricating his transcript when applying for clerkships. It was a sophisticated effort that fooled multiple jurists. Which D.C. Circuit judges came thisclose to hiring him as a law clerk?

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This grading system is a total train wreck.

If law students want one thing in their grading system, it’s clarity. This is especially true for first-year law students; 1L grades are too important for future job prospects to have a confusing and muddled set of rules.

Well, maybe not Yale law students. Famously, Yale doesn’t have traditional letter grading. A few top schools have followed Yale’s lead in recent years, but Yale is the OG of meaningless grading systems. (Berkeley students to start bitching in 3, 2, 1….) The meaningless of Yale’s Honors/Pass grading system doesn’t matter because all Yale students get jobs. No grades + Good jobs = “I don’t understand why humans cry.”

Yale students have such good job prospects that they can get jobs as law professors at other Ivy League law schools right after they graduate from Yale. But bringing happy-clappy Yale concepts of grading to “normal” law schools is not without its problems….

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Despite my consistent exhortations that people should do as well as possible on the LSAT, I don’t think the LSAT is a particularly useful test. The LSAT, like all other standardized tests, is really an examination of past performance and learned ability to take the test. It doesn’t measure “raw” intelligence, however you want to define that term. It measures your ability to take the LSAT.

I had thought that your ability to do well on the LSAT would be predict your ability to do well on the bar exam. Again, not because of any intelligence measuring, but just because people who are good at standardized tests tend to continue to be good at standardized tests.

But perhaps I’ve been wrong. A new study suggests that LSAT performance isn’t the best indicator of future bar passage. Instead, passing the bar has a more direct correlation with your law school grades…

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