I’ve Got Crap Grades But Decent Legal Experience


QI have a C average at a second tier school. While I have good work experience, I’m worried about finding a job out there when I graduate. I’ve interned each year during law school and I’m currently a clerk for the in-house counsel of a large (Fortune 500) corporation. I have decent experience in a specialized field (information privacy law), have received scholarships and additional training in my field, and have a good personality with plenty of optimism. Any chance a law firm will overlook my relatively low grades in favor of experience and solid recommendations from my supervisors?

AThe short and quick answer is yes. Sure. They will overlook it, but only under the right circumstances and for the right reasons.

Your problem is not your grades nor your law school. Hell, it’s not your attitude, which is commendable. It’s the market. When you compete for jobs that are few and far between, employers are not generally willing to take a risk on a “lower-tier” candidate when they can just pick from, honestly, T1 grads who are in the same boat but with better grades and more impressive resumes. It’s the harsh reality, probably the same shitkicker that didn’t get you into a better school.

So, what to do? Differentiate yourself, somehow, some way. The specialized field helps a bit, but to make any difference you need to network within that field (hell, even a related field) with anyone who will sit down and talk with you. And talk to those with whom you intern now, have interned in the past, have ran into when you were an intern anywhere. Explain your predicament, ask them to keep an eye out for things if they can, and don’t drop the optimism. No one likes a whiner or anyone who feels they are entitled to a job just because they have a JD. And keep a sharp eye out for non-legal jobs within your field, as that may end up being your best option. Good luck. It’s tough.

As an aside, I actually receive more questions like yours than any others, with some variations:

Read through those and review the comments as well (ignoring the annoying douchebag trolls), as they often offer additional advice from people in the same boat. I’d be interested in what others say to you as well.

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

3 Comments

  1. Guano Dubango

    September 16, 2011 at 9:52 am

    You must try and get a job in-house. You will not have to vie for clients, as your inhouse job is your client. As an outside counsel to a number of companies, I always have to scramble for them. If you are already there, you will not have to chase rainbows. You may never get rich, but then again, I am not relying on my law firm salary for the future. My Aunt OOONA will provide me with what I need, provided that I bring home a suitable bride capable of bearing me issue.

  2. Otis

    March 14, 2012 at 9:20 am

    What I’ve found when I finished university was that the main thing recruiters where looking for was work experience, my final grade, though very high, really didn’t help me finding a job, in fact it took me almost one year to find a job, and during that time I worked as a volunteer to gain that experience that employers where looking for.

  3. Pingback: Should You Join the JAG Corps?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>