After I received a summer job offer only four days after I applied at my office of choice, I was left wondering about the importance of grades.
I didn't think it appropriate to stumble into Career Services and ask them that question. So, I outsourced the inquiry to Jeremy Blachman. For those of you are not in law school and don't have a daily rotation of two dozen blogs on your favorite links toolbar, I imagine that the name strikes no hint of recognition. It didn't with me a year ago, at least. But, Blachman is probably the most prodigious blogger about law school on the internet.
He graduated from Harvard Law two years ago and has maintained two regularly updated blogs for years - one documenting his experience at HLS and the other anonymously written by a partner at a fake law firm. The latter, of which, became so popular that it drew attention from the New York Times. Blachman became so disgusted with law firm life that he has chosen to parlay his success as a well-known blogger into book deals.
With that out of the way, here's the exchange. I think he makes entirely perfect sense.
Hi Jeremy, I'm a long time reader of your blog. But, I'm a first time law student. I'm finishing up 1L fall semester at SLS and I'm hoping you can hope clear up some persisting confusion surrounding this whole experience. It's a simple question, really. Why do people stress over grades at respected law schools? If it has to do with the pooling of America's Top Type A personalities, I can understand that. But, if one is not interested in big time clerking (as I imagine most aren't) why do kids flip out when it seems like if you manage not to drool during interviews, that the education tag on the resume will carry the most comatose among us to employment? Best, 1L Rambler
1L Rambler: In three years at law school I couldn't really figure it out. I don't know. Most people where I was and where you are will do just fine without all the stress. It's not like people are flunking out. No one's flunking out. You've got it right -- the difference is Supreme Court clerkship or, uh, less-prestigious clerkship? Or even -- gasp -- no clerkship at all, and having to settle for a $150K/year job at a law firm. Because you can be at the bottom of the class and still get those, in any city you want, practicing any type of law you like. Putting aside my own feelings about law firms, that's obviously the destination for the vast majority of the class, and, yeah, I don't know why people stress about it.I think maybe there's some plausible explanations.
1. Some of our classmates are paralyzed with fears of inadequacy. More than just being a type-A personality, I think there are people who really are scared they don't belong, and really do think they have to work really, really hard so that their cover isn't blown and they're not exposed for the frauds they fear they might be. It boggles my mind to imagine how anyone can get to this point in their educational life and not have had enough positive reinforcement to be pretty darn sure they're not lacking in the academic abilities department, but, still, I think there are people for whom this is really true. I'm thinking of one of my friends at law school, who went to a not-terribly-prestigious undergrad, and was convinced he barely got into HLS, on the strength of recommendations, or essays, or whatever -- and really did think he had something to prove. He didn't stress out like so many people do, but he did get a lot more worried than I did going into exams, and really felt at risk of not succeeding. It's irrational, but I think it's how some people feel.
2. Similarly, I think there's the flip side -- people who are convinced they're absolutely the smartest person in the universe, and they want to prove it, and so they feel the need to try as hard as they can to be #1 in the class, regardless of what ambitions they have for the future, just to be able to know they're better than everyone else. I think it's probably how some people feel, at least at HLS it was.
3. People who think law school is supposed to be stressful, and so it's a self-fulfilling prophecy and they make it so.I don't know if any of those are real reasons or I'm just trying to make it make sense. But, yeah, you're right, there's no good reason for it. No one's on welfare because they finished in the middle of their class at a top-5 law school and no one will hire them.
Shouldn't you be studying? ;) --jeremy
Now, I don't think there are really all that many people who fall into category 1 or 2 on his list. But, a lot of people suffer from the slings of his third division. Stress is what you make of it. Students of the world, unite. Wake up. You're living in the matrix.