Jump to content

Importance of 1st year law school grades


Recommended Posts

I know that this topic has been covered a little before, but I was wondering if anyone had any insight into my particular issue.

I originally planned to go to grad school to pursue a PhD in English not long after I declared English as my second major in my sophomore year of undergrad. I chickened out of it after reading the horror stories regarding the lack of TT positions. I worked my first year out of college and then decided to try law school, for reasons that I can't even remember. I'm in my first semester now and I don't like it very much. There's an insane amount of competition that makes my stomach turn as I'm not a competitive type A personality. I know people are going to say that academia is not immune to office politics, student work exploitation and, yes, competition. But law school is the perfect example of the "rat race." I just don't feel like I have any colleagues since we are all competing for a higher score on an exam and that is all that determines our grades. There does not seem to be any English major type of people in law school either. I also find the law somewhat boring, and legal research and writing is designed for you to be extremely concise and apply almost no creativity (not easy for an English major). The second year is supposed to be better but staying would mean taking on additional debt for a career that I'm not to thrilled about.

I just don't see myself being unhappy with teaching and I have a deep enough obsession with my research interests to justify living in poverty for years. I admit that I know very little about the law but I think that traversing these forums enough and speaking to professors about grad school gives me enough justification to leave law school. It is a rash decision given the TT situation in the humanities but I have done my homework. Besides, the legal job market is not too kind either, and I go to a lower ranked law school.

Anyway, sorry about the rant but my question is how do admissions committees view law school grades, particularly if they are lower than one's UG grades? I'm assuming that they take into account the harsh curve. If I do leave law school with less than stellar grades I plan on writing something similar to this rant into my SoP, but I am worried that if my law school grades are bad then that would speak for me as an applicant more than my UG grades...or am I worrying about this too much?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am really hoping adcomms understand that the curve in law school is incredibly different than the grades in MA programs. I am an attorney who is applying to PhD programs, so I have the whole 3 years of law school grades... which are "worse" than my undergrad grades. I am hoping they understand that at most law schools, a 3.4 is top 10% of the class... but I really don't know. In your case, if you only have one semester of grades, I wouldn't be worried about the grades so much as explaining why you are switching programs. Obviously, it's more than just "I didn't like law school," but be sure to articulate why *this* course of study appeals to you and show that you are serious about finishing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 months later...

Well I stayed, did worse and will likely be academically dismissed. How do English PhD adcoms look at things like this? I should mention that I was not on academic probation, I did mediocre in my first term and bad in my second term. I'm confident that I can explain how I want to study literature instead. This is no spur of the moment thing, I originally wanted to go to grad school but the job market scared me off. I'm just scared that grades in another discipline will end up speaking for me more than my aptitude in what I am really devoted to. 


I did email the director of a PhD program in English last term, but I told her I was a graduate student and not a law student.


"In answer to your questions, our admissions committee--which consists entirely of graduate faculty from the English Department--is likely to pay more attention to your grades in English literature, regardless of whether those grades are at the undergraduate or graduate level.  Different faculty members sometimes have slightly different priorities in terms of how they evaluate graduate applications, but I can assure you that we will give your entire application package a very thorough, careful reading.  In general, most members of our committee probably put the greatest emphasis upon the writing sample, the statement of purpose, and the letters of recommendation."


Sounds reassuring, but I just hope that the door is not shut.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I really don't think English committees will care that you were academically dismissed from law school.  You could add an additional supplement where you briefly explained what you did here.  Or you can just say one or two sentences about it in your SoP - you went into law school without a real passion for it, and you didn't do well because it wasn't of interest to you.  Doing law school made you realize how much you really missed English literature, and so you wanted to leave and start an English lit program because of your passion there.  That's it.


If you have an excellent sample and come highly recommended from your undergraduate English department, your law school grades won't matter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.