I Have B Grades at a T2 School


QSo, freaking out about this may be a bit premature, but I got my 1L grades and wasn’t thrilled. Now I’m worried about my chances for 2L summer employment. I already have a pretty great job lined up for this summer, thanks to a fairy godmother:  interning for a federal district court judge.

My grades were three B+’s and one B. I’m hoping to bring those up, but isn’t everybody trying to do the same thing? I go to a tier 2 midwestern school that actually has a great reputation in its city. I’m just not sure I want to stay out here (ideally I’d end up in NY or DC).

Do you think it’s realistic that I’d get a position with a big/medium-sized firm in either of those two cities my 2L summer if my grades don’t improve (but don’t get worse)?

ANo. You will not get a job at a “top” big-city firm with average grades from an average school. Unless you’re a former pro athlete, pop star or U.S. Senator, you will fall through the cracks and become just another faceless applicant barely worthy of a rejection letter.

The good news: You’re hopefully taking this semester to kick some ass and become something other than average. So, study like a freak and see what happens. Also, do everything in your power to differentiate yourself from all the other gunners out there. That means get on a journal, publish an article, start a goddamn bankruptcy newsletter.

If your stats don’t scream out “top-firm candidate,” you need to build an impressive resume that tells prospective employers that you’re ambitious, aggressive and, most importantly, willing to work your ass off.

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.

16 Comments

  1. Ace in the Hole

    March 25, 2009 at 12:48 am

    Expect to be unemployed during your 2L summer.  Grades like that from anything less than a top school will not land you in BigLaw in this economy.  You may get a gig at a small firm paying half of BigLaw pay, but you’d better cast that net far and wide to make sure and do something else to distinguish yourself – preferably something field specific.

  2. Bill Dugan

    March 25, 2009 at 3:33 am

    You should try and parlay your job with a Federal District Judge into something.  Those dorks are appointed for life and they know people.  Unless you made a mess of that job, try and lever that into an internship at the US Attorney’s office. You can get some REAL litigation experience there; not like at BigLaw, where you are lucky to carry the briefcase into court for the Senior Partner. If you are not a courtroom type person, but more of a corporate type –good for doing research rather than standing on your feet, see if you can get a job in the government.  There are plenty of losers in the government, and they have guaranteed pensions, so they’ll be retiring, opening up the market for new, younger losers.  Go for it.  Remember, not everyone can work for a BigLaw firm, or wants to.

  3. Fred

    March 25, 2009 at 5:40 am

    I was in your boat last year: mediocre grades, mediocre school w/ great rep in Chicago. I didn’t get an offer at BigLaw (or even MidLaw) for this summer; however, I made the most of my lemons, worked my ass off at the local prosecutor’s office over the summer and impressed my bosses. I then used those connections and have since leveraged myself into one opportunity after another, while also seeing my grades (and rank) ameliorate significantly. I am going to a US Atty’s office this summer, in hopes of putting down the roots and gaining the lit. experience necessary to return to the US Atty’s office in the future.  Once I get into the US Atty’s office full-time, I’ll work for about 4 years, and look to lateral into Jenner/Kirkland/Winston/elsewhere.
    You’ll be fine: work hard, hope for some breaks and don’t get too caught up in the fact that you may not get paid this summer…Take the long view.

  4. BL1Y

    March 25, 2009 at 6:08 am

    Someone’s banging models, and it sure ain’t the Ivy League Law Review kids.  Let it be you.

  5. Anon

    March 25, 2009 at 6:15 am

    Listen to Fred.

  6. drlove

    March 25, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Go plaintiffs law.The upside is way greater than Big Law.  You get the added benefit of helping the underdog like children and the elderly.  You can make a bunch of money and feel good about your efforts.

  7. Snowman

    March 25, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Any advice for top grades at a tier 4?  I have a 3.87 and a shitty gig for this summer but hope to find something decent and paid in phoenix next summer…

  8. BL1Y

    March 25, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Snowman: Yeah, find anyone who ever said you should go to lawschool and punch them in the face.

  9. BL1Y

    March 26, 2009 at 2:51 am

    Oh, and if you look like the blond girl in the picture, and would like to have a temporary escape from your misery, I’ll pay you $125 for an hour of your time.

  10. manda

    March 26, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Good luck wih DC!  HAH!  Most dc firms don’t even recruit at Maryland, which is like 50 miles away.  So, if you go to random tier 2 school in indiana or illinois, it won’t happen.  You may as well stop trying.

  11. manda

    March 26, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    @ Bill Dugan–your advice sounds good, but I knew a guy who went to NC State law school, and CLERKED for a federal judge in DC, and was temping after that.  No one in DC wanted him, he had to go solo back in NC

  12. Fellow Intern

    March 26, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Fred: USAO doesn’t take entry level unless you do the Department of Justice Honors Program.  Work hard this summer, but don’t expect an offer for when you graduate.  All the AUSAs in my office had to get kicked around in the state prosecutor’s office/small firm before landing this gig.  It’s a really fun place to work though, I wouldn’t trade it.  Have a good time.

  13. Fred

    March 27, 2009 at 7:31 am

    @ Fellow:

    I totally agree with you and I have been planning accordingly. Like I told the writer of the question: Take the Long viem.  My hopes for this summer (and, hopefully, this upcoming fall when I come back home and get to work with the local USAO) are (1) Get courtroom experience; (2) Build a network; and (3) Lay the resume ground work for a return to the USA’s office and/or a strong clerkship app. after I practice. As a side note: I’ve heard that some fed. judges (at least from the two I’ve talked to) look kindly on applicants who demonstrate that they are more interested in serving the public good (i.e. gov’t work). I figure such a background has to give me at least an outside shot at a clerkship and subsequent USA position given my lack of T14 pedigree.

  14. Miss Thang

    March 27, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Are you sure you want a big firm job? Be careful what you wish for.
    P.S. Grades only count for landing your first job out of school. After that, no one cares.

  15. nabob

    April 11, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Don’t sweat it. I had mediocre grades from a mediocre law school. I got a mediocre job and have had a mediocre career. But even at a mediocre job, you can still make a comfortable living. Not lavish. Comfortable.

  16. Nemesis

    July 29, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Second Miss Thang.
    I actually completely disagree with the comment above. Don’t do anything. You won’t manage to set yourself that much apart anyway, and you’ll just kill yourself in the process. Enjoy law school, keep your B’s, get a mediocre job to start, and prove yourself as a lawyer. Almost everyone starts out at a ‘mediocre’ position, but it doesn’t stay that way if you shine as a lawyer. Save the work ethic for where it matters: the firm and the courtroom.

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