Today’s video focuses on grades in law school. Give it a view, and then scroll down for further thoughts:

Law students spend a lot of time agonizing over exams and grades. Being in school, this seems somewhat normal. However, law school throws an additional twist into the mix. In law school, each student is ranked in comparison to their classmates. Many large law firms use class rank as one factor in their hiring process. This usually consists of the law firm not considering students who fall below a certain rank in their class. In all, the whole thing becomes an unhealthy obsession for many students.

Many law school courses still follow the traditional testing model wherein the student’s entire grade is determined by one exam at the end of the semester. But, it doesn’t end there. Most schools grade on a curve with professors given guidelines on how many students can fall into a grade category and what the average grade for a certain percentage of students must be. To make things even more fun, the curve for different years or different sized classes can be different. For some schools, the tougher 1L (what first year students are called) curve is meant to weed students out before they get to the point of taking (and failing) the bar exam. This sad state of affairs is because law schools are also graded and one of the factors is bar exam passage rates.

I am going to be honest here–I didn’t end up at the top of my class at the end of our first year. It was discouraging and disappointing because I had worked hard. Unfortunately, my effort was not reflected in my grades. However, I learned from that experience and formed a different strategy wherein I look for classes that have more opportunities to demonstrate my understanding of the material. After a semester spent working for a legal aid organization, I also learned that I retain information better when I have a chance to apply it-whether for a client or in a paper. Understanding these things about myself and my learning style has made a world of difference, and I am happy to say that the strategy seems to be working as I claw my way back up the GPA hill.

Why be so open about this struggle? For one thing, anyone who sees my transcripts or asks my class rank will be able to view it in black and white. I also believe that showing the struggle and how I have learned from it shows resilience and determination. But, I am really writing this for all of the other students who may experience something similar. I hope that my story will encourage them to keep going. After all, at the end of our time in law school, everyone will receive the same degree. Perhaps, those of us who had to work harder should be the candidates in which firms should be most interested.

See more on the Video Per Day Experiment in my introductory post.