Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

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wearefoxsports
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Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby wearefoxsports » Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:22 pm

I got my BS in engineering from a state public school (50~100) with a 3.95 GPA, and always hoped to get my PhD in the same engineering field and then do engineering research. I was then admitted to a top PhD program (top 5) and thought I fulfilled my dream. Dang I was wrong.

Long story short, I was not motivated to spend time to do anything in grad school. After only one semester, I was placed on academic probation due to "the amount of unsatisfactory work" I had in my first semester. I managed to pull myself together in the next 2 years or so and got my MS with a 3.1 GPA before I was "politely" asked to get out of the PhD program.

Here is where I stand right now: I am motivated to go to law school and I have good reasons too. I haven't taken LSAT yet but planned to take it in Oct. I am shooting for 170 and hopefully higher. Here are my questions:

1. How much emphasis do law schools put on post-undergrad GPA? If they look at it very closely, then my expectation should be significantly lowered (from 3.95 undergrad GPA to ~3.75 undergrad + grad GPA with a downward trend).

2. How much would my chance be negatively affected by my academic probation? I really do not want to entertain the idea of not disclosing it in my application.

3. Given that my grad school advisor and professors would have almost nothing positive to say about my work, I have to go back to my undergrad professors. But I haven't talked to them for 3~5 years. Do you have any advice on this situation?

Thank you very much for your help in advance!

dissonance1848
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby dissonance1848 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:38 pm

You are in luck. LSAC only uses undergrad GPA for calculation. So, you will have a 3.95 GPA.

However, you must really want to be a lawyer. The legal market is awful, and most people exit biglaw firms after a 3-5 year period (and only some are lateralling or going in-house).

Since the cost is very high, and the renumerative opportunities are precarious, you should only consider a school in an area you have ties to (i.e where you are from), or go for the T-14.

Kill the LSAT, and you should be good to go (meaning 170+).

wearefoxsports
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby wearefoxsports » Sun Mar 11, 2012 1:23 pm

Thank you dissonance1848, you asked a very legitimate question, if I really want to practice law. I think I do. I always have the law school in the back of my mind while growing up, and I am fairly sure I can do well too. I also consider my current situation as I am in a pretty awkward position right now: doing engineering research while only holding a MS. It's analogous to practicing law while only holding a LLM: the job opportunities are very limited (if you can ever find one), and it's not good in the long-run either.

I have a lot of family ties in Nashville, so I guess Vandy is a good option. As you said, I will also try to crack T14, given that I could score 170+ in LSAT. That's a big IF, but we will see.

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Tadatsune
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby Tadatsune » Sun Mar 11, 2012 1:35 pm

You were really certain that you wanted to do a PhD before, also. What happened and why are you certain it won't happen again when you get to law school? The consequences of messing this up will be astronomical.

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AntipodeanPhil
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby AntipodeanPhil » Sun Mar 11, 2012 1:37 pm

I'm not so positive. I know two people who failed out of a top 25 humanities graduate program and went to law school. The first guy got a 176, had a great UG GPA, and ended up at Northwestern with a small scholarship. Obviously, that's not a disaster, but he significantly underperformed his numbers (my suspicion is that Northwestern only accepted him because he had a couple of years of solid work experience after grad school). The other guy, who completely bombed grad school, underperformed his numbers to a greater extent and ended up at a TT with a scholarship. I vaguely recall someone else with similar experiences posting on a thread like this a while back.

Although the evidence is anecdotal, I suspect this is one of the few things that can cause law schools to turn down someone with good numbers, and others have said that here in the past. No law school wants to admit an applicant they suspect is going to struggle or fail - a struggling student is not going to get a good job, and failing out affects a school's graduation rate. I can't think of a stronger indication that one will fail or struggle in law school than failure in another graduate program.

That said, the OP might not be in that bad a position if he can present this in the right way. The schools won't see that the OP was kicked out. Hopefully his/her transcript isn't too bad - a 3.1 doesn't sound like a complete disaster for an engineering grad program. He needs to find some convincing way to explain why he struggled besides motivation (which would look awful), and - ideally - put a few years between that program and law school. Since this isn't a numbers issue, how it appears to them is crucial.

wearefoxsports
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby wearefoxsports » Sun Mar 11, 2012 3:18 pm

Thanks for all the input. I am working right now as an engineer, and will study for the LSAT at nights and weekends. It is absolutely a legitimate question to ask a person (like me) who quit graduate due to unsatisfactory work: what makes you think you can succeed in law school? What is the proof?

I will address those questions in the application and my explanation will be more than "I just suddenly get lazy in grad school". A few years of good work experience will certainly support my applications. I think I will take LSAT regardless, with the expectation to apply to law schools this year. However, I really think I should forget about making my application appealing to law schools for the admission purposes for now, and try to convince myself and actually learn if I really want to do this and if I am capable of doing this. Because if I can't convince myself, I can't really convince anyone else.

Thanks for all the great inputs, looking forward to more!

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banjo
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby banjo » Sun Mar 11, 2012 7:12 pm

AntipodeanPhil wrote:I'm not so positive. I know two people who failed out of a top 25 humanities graduate program and went to law school. The first guy got a 176, had a great UG GPA, and ended up at Northwestern with a small scholarship. Obviously, that's not a disaster, but he significantly underperformed his numbers (my suspicion is that Northwestern only accepted him because he had a couple of years of solid work experience after grad school). The other guy, who completely bombed grad school, underperformed his numbers to a greater extent and ended up at a TT with a scholarship. I vaguely recall someone else with similar experiences posting on a thread like this a while back.


Yikes. Do you know if these people actually failed out (pretty hard to do in grad school) or if they voluntarily left?

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AntipodeanPhil
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby AntipodeanPhil » Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:38 pm

banjo wrote:
AntipodeanPhil wrote:I'm not so positive. I know two people who failed out of a top 25 humanities graduate program and went to law school. The first guy got a 176, had a great UG GPA, and ended up at Northwestern with a small scholarship. Obviously, that's not a disaster, but he significantly underperformed his numbers (my suspicion is that Northwestern only accepted him because he had a couple of years of solid work experience after grad school). The other guy, who completely bombed grad school, underperformed his numbers to a greater extent and ended up at a TT with a scholarship. I vaguely recall someone else with similar experiences posting on a thread like this a while back.

Yikes. Do you know if these people actually failed out (pretty hard to do in grad school) or if they voluntarily left?

Well, neither left with a degree. The first failed an exam and was given the option of taking the exam a second time but decided not to - his grades weren't too bad, I think, and the consensus was that he had a decent chance of passing the second time. The other one got awful grades and was told he would no longer be given financial support. No one pays tuition for a graduate degree in the humanities.

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ConfidenceMan2
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby ConfidenceMan2 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:04 pm

This does not erase the anecdotal evidence cited above, but to be honest, I'm outperforming my numbers this cycle and I dropped out of a graduate program. There was no academic probation involved (I was doing pretty well), so I'd be hesitant to glean too much from my own case, but I don't think that your time in grad school is necessarily going to doom your application. Whether or not (or at least, to what degree) it counts against you, I'd wager, is mostly going to come down to how well your application packages explain your interest in law, how your graduate school experiences contributed to that interest, and the like.

You do not want to sound like law was some kind of fall back after a failure in your current field. Don't lie, be honest about the fact that a lack of interest led to your lackluster performance. But you'll then have to make a compelling case that you're overwhelmingly interested in law for some kind of well-thought-out, substantive reason(s). No bullshitting, because this has to be authentic or, let's face it, you shouldn't be doing this anyway.

Do that, and I'd wager you'll perform just like a guy with an incredible GPA and (here's to hoping) stellar LSAT should. Good luck!

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Tadatsune
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby Tadatsune » Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:30 pm

Does the OP even have to explain his grad performance? 3.1 isn't good, but it isn't horrible, and its UGPA that they really care about anyway.

As for "why you want to go to law school", does that really need mush spin? Given the engineering background, couldn't the OP just say he is looking to do IP?

I'm more concerned that the OP is going to "lose motivation" halfway through the first year of law school, rather than that he's going to have trouble getting in.

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Jaeger
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby Jaeger » Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:58 am

AntipodeanPhil wrote:I'm not so positive. I know two people who failed out of a top 25 humanities graduate program and went to law school. The first guy got a 176, had a great UG GPA, and ended up at Northwestern with a small scholarship. Obviously, that's not a disaster, but he significantly underperformed his numbers (my suspicion is that Northwestern only accepted him because he had a couple of years of solid work experience after grad school).



No, this is why they accepted him.


And OP, with your hard science/engineering background you can probably make the transition into IP law which is one of the few kinds of law able to outperform the general legal market. Then again, you may not want anything to do with that part of your past.

r6_philly
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby r6_philly » Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:58 pm

dissonance1848 wrote:You are in luck. LSAC only uses undergrad GPA for calculation. So, you will have a 3.95 GPA.

However, you must really want to be a lawyer. The legal market is awful, and most people exit biglaw firms after a 3-5 year period (and only some are lateralling or going in-house).

Since the cost is very high, and the renumerative opportunities are precarious, you should only consider a school in an area you have ties to (i.e where you are from), or go for the T-14.

Kill the LSAT, and you should be good to go (meaning 170+).


With a BS/MS in engineering, OP can do IP/Patent law. School range doesn't matter as much (of course it still does) for that career track. If OP can break T14, then the 3.95 UG GPA and the MS may put him in a good position for SA for both summers and almost guarantee a job in IP. As a matter of fact, people in T1 schools with similar credentials get the same IP biglaw jobs. They must have good grades from a T1 though.

r6_philly
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby r6_philly » Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:01 pm

Jaeger wrote: Then again, you may not want anything to do with that part of your past.


You can use the background to help you without actually having to do much, if any engineering. It simply allows you to take the patent bar and gives you familiarity with the technology. You don't have to actually work on the technology if you don't want to.

wearefoxsports
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby wearefoxsports » Tue Mar 13, 2012 11:03 pm

Wow, thank you so so much everyone! I never expected this much of helpful feedback.

Obviously, it will be a natural fit for me to pursue an IP career given my background, and in fact, that's mainly what motivates me. I have been to career seminars given by patent lawyers, had some contact with patent lawyers in both graduate schools and at work right now. However, I am still hesitant to say IP (and nothing else) is absolutely what I want to do before I was even exposed to other practice fields.

I then have a few questions about the patent law career.

1. Do I need to indicated which field I will study/get in for the application? Will I be free to pursue other fields in law school even though I indicated I was interested in patent law in the application?

2. According to things I have read here, the overall ranking is much more important than the individual law program ranking. What is people's (e.g. patent law employers') perception on top patent programs such as GWU, BU or maybe even Houston as compared to traditional top law schools?

3. I stumbled on an Osha Liang presentation online detailing a interesting patent lawyer career: they hire and train engineering graduates to first pass the patent bar, and pay for the "patent engineers" to go to the law school part time, and eventually engineers/law students pass the state bar and become patent lawyers. According to them, one can become a patent lawyer a year or two later than traditional track lawyers but save a lot of money. Is this path even remotely typical?

Again, thank you very much in advance!

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thelawyler
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby thelawyler » Tue Mar 13, 2012 11:11 pm

Nail the LSAT, get a big scholarship at a great school, do IP/Patent law, win.

r6_philly
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby r6_philly » Tue Mar 13, 2012 11:48 pm

wearefoxsports wrote:Wow, thank you so so much everyone! I never expected this much of helpful feedback.

Obviously, it will be a natural fit for me to pursue an IP career given my background, and in fact, that's mainly what motivates me. I have been to career seminars given by patent lawyers, had some contact with patent lawyers in both graduate schools and at work right now. However, I am still hesitant to say IP (and nothing else) is absolutely what I want to do before I was even exposed to other practice fields.


It isn't the only thing you can do, but people are going to presume you want to do IP because of your background. If you decide not to do IP, then your UG/Grad education will give you no help what so ever, and may even put you at a disadvantage because you lack liberal arts training for writing/exam taking. Further, if you want to not do IP, you then need to go to a T14 AND do well to give yourself a good shot to be able to compete with your classmates for biglaw jobs.



I then have a few questions about the patent law career.

1. Do I need to indicated which field I will study/get in for the application? Will I be free to pursue other fields in law school even though I indicated I was interested in patent law in the application?


However, you don't need to say anything about whether or not you are committed to IP right now, because you really have no idea what it's like to be an IP lawyer. So just let them assume away, and benefit from it.

2. According to things I have read here, the overall ranking is much more important than the individual law program ranking. What is people's (e.g. patent law employers') perception on top patent programs such as GWU, BU or maybe even Houston as compared to traditional top law schools?


GW/BU is fine, but I think you have to be aware that 1) you still have to do well in those schools because there are a lot of other patent law folks competing with you 2) if you don't do patent law, your chance of making biglaw is not good by any means. Whereas if you attend a T14 and finish around/below median, 1) you will not have a lot of competition from your institution 2) you might be just as, if not more marketable than folks at GW/BU 3) should you abandon patent law, you can still try for other biglaw practice areas.

I don't have any hard data, only anecdotes to support this: at Penn, a few IP folks I know landed 1L SA positions that are not IP specific (myself included, although I chose an IP firm in the end). Firms seem to value our IP background but allow us to explore. But maybe you won't have the same kind of option from GW/BU because if you get a job you are being hired to meet the IP needs only. Again I don't know this for sure.

3. I stumbled on an Osha Liang presentation online detailing a interesting patent lawyer career: they hire and train engineering graduates to first pass the patent bar, and pay for the "patent engineers" to go to the law school part time, and eventually engineers/law students pass the state bar and become patent lawyers. According to them, one can become a patent lawyer a year or two later than traditional track lawyers but save a lot of money. Is this path even remotely typical?

Again, thank you very much in advance!


This is a way for a lot of people. The only issue being, you are shoehorned into a patent law career. The best part-time program is GULC, you might to foreclosing most other biglaw opportunities by going part-time. Should you not like patent law, you might be at a bad place.

Emu Flu
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Re: Fine Undergrad GPA, below average Graduate School GPA

Postby Emu Flu » Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:27 pm

I don't think a 3.1 is bad at all. Many engineers are slackers when it comes to academics :)

wearefoxsports wrote:
3. I stumbled on an Osha Liang presentation online detailing a interesting patent lawyer career: they hire and train engineering graduates to first pass the patent bar, and pay for the "patent engineers" to go to the law school part time, and eventually engineers/law students pass the state bar and become patent lawyers. According to them, one can become a patent lawyer a year or two later than traditional track lawyers but save a lot of money. Is this path even remotely typical?


This path is common for patent prosecution, but not patent litigation. A few firms have shifted to this as their primary recruitment model. However, you need to be dedicated to patent prosecution. Make sure you know what you're getting into. Lots of people want to shoot themselves in the head when they even think of patent prosecution.




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