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Legal Recruitment: How to Explain Bad Grades

As a practicing attorney who volunteers regularly at a couple of local law schools, I spend a great deal of time advising students. A question I get frequently during recruiting season is, “How can I explain to interviewers why my grades are not very good?” While it’s true that you can’t change your ratings, the way you explain less-than-stellar ratings can be the difference between a callback interview and, well, nothing at all.

First, it should be noted that ratings are, as most people assume, the factor that most interviewers assign the most weight. However, the ratings often serve as a cut-off point rather than a ranking system. That is, a company may, as a policy, consider only students in the top 25% of their class, but a student ranked in the 87th percentile of their class is not necessarily in a much better position to receive an offer than a student. ranked in the 87th percentile for its class. 77th.

However, if you think your qualifications place you outside the target range of most employers, a compelling explanation can give your interviewer a reason to fully consider you, and perhaps a callback interview.

As a matter of threshold, I think bad grades should be approached in an interview. Some students (and even some career service advisers) believe that it is best not to draw attention to poor grades and instead focus on leaving a positive impression during an interview. However, whether a student decides to address or ignore grades, the interviewer it is I will consider them. Not talking about a C + is not going to make it an A-. In my experience, a student who is able to speak frankly and thoughtfully about his poor grades leaves a better impression than one who simply ignores the problem. An honest and well thought out explanation suggests a student who is self-aware, confident, analytical, and interested in self-improvement. All the important traits in a new lawyer. A student who does not address their poor grades, on the other hand, can simply be assumed to be a poor student.

For 1L: If you have a 1L interview in the spring for your first summer job as a law student, then you only have one semester of grades to be evaluated. If those ratings are not as good as you would have liked, your explanation should:

  1. Discuss what you learned by taking the tests.
  2. Please provide some concise details about why your exam did not earn as many points as others
  3. Emphasize what you did Right
  4. Explain how you plan to improve your performance in the current semester (spring)

For instance: “My grades are not what I expected. However, when I went back and compared my tests with the model test, I noticed some areas where I was dropping points on the table. I was able to identify all the important problems, but my analysis was too deep, which did not leave me as much time to discuss the less secondary problems in the problem locator. For example, one of our criminal law observers involved a kidnapping, false imprisonment, and murder that took place in a barn. In my response, I minutely analyzed each of the elements of the main crimes. The professor’s model response, however, included only a cursory analysis of the items, but then also addressed other minor crimes that I did not do, such as how the killer committed a robbery when he took a wheelbarrow that was not his to move the body. outside the barn. For this semester, I have already started working on the previous exams of my current teachers to get an idea of ​​the balance of breadth and depth that my teachers prefer, and I am going to tailor my essay responses to the preferences of each teacher. “

An explanation that includes a plan for how to improve grades in the future can influence the interviewer to give you the benefit of the doubt. However, 2Ls and 3Ls who have two or more semesters of poor grades will have a harder time convincing interviewers that their poor performance on exams was a fluke.

For 2L and 3L: Poor grades for two or more semesters suggest to interviewers that the candidate is simply not a good student. However, there are still things the 2L and 3L can do to mitigate the impact of poor ratings.

First, all other components in your file must be Perfect. Be particularly sure that the writing sample shines. An excellent writing sample shows the interviewer that you have strong analytical skills and that your writing is clear, concise, and organized.

Similarly, work through your resume until you are sure that you will get an interviewer to pay attention to you. If you don’t have a good eye for design, ask a friend to help you with the design and layout of your resume. Seek help from the Professional Services office and any mentors you may have. Get as much feedback as possible. And most importantly, make sure your previous job and experience descriptions are clear, concise, accurate, and well written. People often don’t realize that a resume is actually a writing sample. A poorly written resume (wordy descriptions, tense changes, typos) is often the only reason an interviewer should reject a candidate. If a student is not willing to put in the effort to come up with a perfect resume, the interviewers will reason, so what is the probability that they are willing to put in the effort that the job requires?

Finally, once you are sure that your candidate package is perfect, prepare and rehearse an explanation for your disappointing transcript. Be honest. Pay attention to academic achievement. Remind the interviewer of your stellar writing sample or other work product. Focus on the positive reviews you received in internships or internships. In other words, explain that your qualifications do not reflect your true abilities as a lawyer.

Remember, your goal is to get a job. Show the employer that you are the best candidate for the position.

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