Thursday, November 19, 2009

Law students are like squirrels during finals

One of my primary motivations in going to law school is the meritocracy of the legal industry. In my former career, it drove me absolutely nuts that I could work like a donkey for 12 months, and receive a 3 percent raise, while the guy four desks over could come in late every day, take a two-hour lunch and collect 2.5 percent at the end of the year. But as we bear down on our first set of final exams in law school, I'm starting to learn about the reality of my new meritocracy. Most of the biggest law firms in Louisville, for example, will only take a look at the top 20 percent of students in a given class. And due to the ragged economy, very few of them are taking a look at 1Ls, no matter how good their grades are. Then you factor in the background of most students here, including me, who cruised through college at the top of their classes. That's not going to happen ten days from now when the first wave of finals hits the beach.

The median 1L grade-point average at U of L, I am told, is somewhere around 3.0. Louisville is not known for its grade inflation. Either way, it's been amazing to watch the students in our 1L class change from normal human beings into frightened animals, scurrying about the library like crazed squirrels hunting for the last few acorns before the first snow storm of winter. Many of us are in the library eight or nine hours a day. A guy told me yesterday that he had a dream about vested remainders in life estates. The good thing about Louisville, at least so far, is that our professors are incredibly accessible for questions and review sessions. Our civil procedure professor invites students to go out to lunch with him, and our property professor is in her office with the door open almost eight hours a day. The instructors in all four of my core classes have practice exams posted online, many of them with answer keys. The expectations are ridiculously high, and several professors have been candid about their reputations for tough grading. They also are quick to remind us that grades won't matter 30 years from now, and that there are plenty of great lawyers out there who got Cs in law school. That may be the case, but from where I'm sitting it doesn't make me feel any more comfortable. Back to the books.

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