The Importance of First-Year Law School Grades
The method of grading for the first year of law school can be very intimidating. Most courses are yearlong, which means you will be tested in May or June for things you learned in September. You will have to develop methods of memorization and efficient study techniques. Moreover, in the first couple of months of school, you probably won't be able to discern between vital and trivial information and your early notes will probably reflect this inexperience. It's also common to distribute grades based solely on a final exam, with no midterms or quizzes, which places an inordinate amount of pressure and emphasis on your final exams. Come springtime, you will be juggling five or six finals at once, each of which will determine your grade in that class. Some professors might also factor in class attendance and participation or possibly a midterm exam or paper, but most will rely on the final exam alone. You will have to organize a vast store of information in bite-size pieces, using outlines, index cards, flash cards, even video and audio tapes.
Perhaps unfairly, first-year grades can be even more important than your grades in later years. Judgments about your skills can be made quickly, mostly because employers have little else to go on. Think of this: in February, March and April of your first year, you'll already be interviewing for your summer job or internship. The only thing that your prospective employers will have to review is your pre-law school record and your first semester grades. And you'll be applying for your post-second year summer job -- the one that can really make a difference in your career -- as early as September of your second year. The only measure these prospective employers will have is your first-year grades.
In addition to being just plain hard, therefore, your first year is also the most influential and pressure-loaded of your legal career. You can, of course, bring up your grade point average over the next two years and still land a lucrative and rewarding job. But in terms of early work experience, how well you manage your first year can make a big difference.