8.4 – It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint


It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

First-year academic performance isn't dispositive of your legal career.

The last thing I want to leave you with as we're talking about the process of reacting to your grades after taking your exams is this, which is that law school really is more of a marathon than a sprint, in the sense that, let's say you've just gotten your grades back from your first semester of law school. There's five more semesters to go. Ultimately, over that longer period of time, your grades from that first semester are not going to be that dispositive of your overall GPA, let alone of your career or your career opportunities.

I have known many students, both as a professor, and then when I myself was a student, and had many friends who didn't do as well as they wanted their first semester or maybe even their first year. Then over time, it started to click for them. They got the hang of law school exams. They figured out the skill of test-taking. Once they figured it out, they really got it.

I knew plenty of people that were middling performers for their first year, then the second two years were at the very top of the class, and then end up graduating very near the top of the class. That's pretty common. I think you'll hear a lot of stories about people like that. I think some people just take a little bit longer to figure out the way that law school exams work.

What exactly is the logic of a law school exam? Now, what I have tried to do in this class is to teach you, here's what a law school exam is supposed to look like, here's the way to write an effective one, so we can maybe short-circuit that process a little bit so you don't have to go through that longer learning period before you really figure it out.

If that happens, though, I really think you should try and put it in perspective, remind yourself that it's okay because it does happen to a number of people. What matters is that you keep working at it and that you don't just lose interest and stop paying attention after the first semester or after the first year. It might be the case that in your second and third years, you're able to take more classes that really line up with your specific interests, or you can choose classes where your learning is going to be evaluated in a way that works better for you compared to some of your 1L classes.

There's a lot of possibilities, but I feel like if you stay engaged, it's quite likely you're going to be much happier with your academic performance by the end of law school than you are at the very beginning, at least if you don't feel like your performance at the beginning of law school really matched your effort and your understanding of the material.

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