1L is finally over, everyone has their grades and the sorting hat is not coming to fruition in the form of on campus interviews. OCI may feel like the big split for law students because there are a few students who come out very happy, and a lot more that come out feeling disappointed or even angry.
Regardless of what camp you are in after OCI you likely have some reasons to believe that 2L grades don’t really matter. Students with Summer Associate jobs feel that their grades no longer matter because firms don’t consider their 2L grades. Is this true?
Students without Big Law jobs think that practical skills such as interning, clinics and networking are what’s important to obtain employment, with grades being an afterthought. How accurate is this?
Do Grades Matter for Students With Summer Associate Jobs?
As I am writing this article on 03/28/2020 the United States is currently in the midst of an unprecedented outbreak, the likes of which have not been seen in generations. Those students who had their summer jobs wrapped up are suddenly feeling very nervous about their summer prospects.
It sucks and its scary, but unfortunately we can’t control the economy, and the Coronavirus can serve as a good lesson for future 2Ls with Summer Associate positions. The future is not guaranteed, and the best way to succeed in an unpredictable environment is to be prepared for uncertainty.
Its true that the vast majority of summer associate receive offers at the completion of their internship. The rate in 2018 was a staggering 97% and out of those offers 88% of associates accepted. But it’s also true that there are associates who do DO NOT receive offers. I knew a student in my class that did not receive an offer at the end of his summer associateship. From what I heard he was a terrible associate- showed up late every day, left early, and was lazy. Even though he was a poor associate, he does serve as a reminder that not all summer associate receive offers.
Offer rates also drastically decrease in severe recessions. The summer associate offer rate plunged during the Great Recession from 89.9% in 2008 to 69.3% in 2009. Although its unlikely that we will face another recession as severe as the 08 crash anytime soon, its impossible to know for sure.
Another factor to consider is that your summer associate firm may not be a good fit for you. Some students just hate the firm that they summer with and don’t want to accept a job offer.
For all of these reasons its important that if you have a summer associate position you don’t neglect your 2L grades and watch your ranking precipitously slip. Maintaining good grades or even raising them will make you more competitive in finding another employer.
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What About for the Vast Majority of Students Without Big Firm Jobs?
Some students might tell you that what really matters for 2Ls is practical experience and grades are a secondary consideration, if at all. While it is true that practical experience is extremely important in many employers eyes, grades can further distinguish you from the pack.
Some 2Ls work themselves to death in the hopes that they will be able to buck the statistics and get a Big Law job at 3L OCI. The truth is that the chances of this happening are extremely remote, even if you got straight As your 2L year. The vast majority of Big Law hiring is completed during the 1L summer, and your chances after that are slim to none.
The fact that your 2L grades probably wont get you a Big Law job should not be a reason to fret! 2L grades certainly are not the “end all, be all” to getting a 2L summer job and beyond that, full time employment, but they are an important factor in hiring decisions.
This is why many law students think of 2L as “HELL year”. There are so many students trying to distinguish themselves through a combination of extracurricular activities, journal, grades, and internships. It’s a ton of work to do all of these things, but nobody ever said that 2L year was easy!
My advice is to be a well-rounded 2L, don’t focus to many hours on extracurriculars or your grades will necessarily suffer. Its difficult to find that balance, but if you can it will be well worth it!
I don’t care how good your grades were 1L, if you want to clerk in a competitive court you will need to maintain the best grades possible your 2L year. The better your grades 1L and 2L year the better your chances of obtaining federal clerkship positions. Courts consider 2L grades just as stringently as they do 1L, so make sure you maintain that GPA!
Some people have that personality where they simply cant take the foot off the gas. There is no way they are letting their grades slide, regardless if they already have a job or not. Some students simply want to maintain high honors, cum laude, order of the coif, etc. For those that are simply in it for the personal satisfaction, that’s great!
The Good News About 2L Grades
The good news is that if you are intent on maintaining or raising your law school GPA it’s a lot easier to do so your 2L year. Why is it easier? Because the majority of students with summer associate jobs or other employment tend to take their foot off of the gas pedal, a lot. Many of those gunners from your 1L class coast during 2L year.
This creates an easier grading curve and a significant opportunity for students willing to put the work in to raise their grades. I have quite a few friends that did not do so hot their 1L year but pulled it together 2L year and ended up in the top 35% of the class.
I hope this article helped with your understanding of how 2L grades can be really important. At the end of the day you are spending a lot of money and time in law school, so why not put in a little extra effort to maximize your 2L GPA?