Law School Myth Busters: 1L Grades Will Determine Your Employment

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For the last couple weeks, we’ve been doing a series on law school myths. So far, we’ve covered two oft-repeated notions about law school — that the students are competitive and cutthroat and that the first year is incredibly difficult. While the first of those ideas is, indeed, mostly a myth, the second is sadly more fact than fiction.

This week, we’re going to continue the series by covering yet another commonly held belief about law school: that your first year grades are largely determinative of your hiring prospects. For the most part, this one is more fact than fiction.

For some context, law school hiring and recruitment commences shortly before the start of the second year at most schools, in a process generally referred to as “OCI” or “on-campus interviews.” Firms from around the country send representatives to various schools, students bid for interviews with those firms, and then everyone is gathered in the same place for a whirlwind of thirty minute “screener” interviews, which determine whether or not the firm asks you to come in for a half-day of interviews at their office to determine whether or not to extend an offer for you to work at the firm for the summer following your second year.

Given the timing, all that the firms have to substantively evaluate your legal ability is your performance on first-year classes. While there is some additional hiring later on, it is substantially more common for students to get employed by the same firm that gave them an offer during OCI. As a result, your results on first-year classes are, by far, the most important grades you’ll receive in law school.

A lot could be said about why the extreme emphasis on first-year classes is potentially misplaced, but that is a topic for another day. Going back to our subject for last week, it is no surprise that the first year of law school is so demanding, especially given the intense pressure to perform well given the way law firms tend to hire students.

There we have it — the idea that first year performance largely determines your hiring prospects is no myth. I wish I could give you a rosier outlook on your 1L year, but unfortunately that’s the way it works in the current system.

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