RA Quandary

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smokyroom26
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RA Quandary

Postby smokyroom26 » Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:16 pm

So I'm in an awkward spot. Toward the end of spring semester, I sat down with one of my professors to express interest in a fall-semester RA position with him. I chose this particular professor because I found his class very interesting; in fact, it was one of my favorite classes of my entire 1L year. We chatted a little bit about it and he said that he was looking for a summer RA at the time, but that I was "on his list" for the fall. I should also mention that I want to be an RA for a professor so I can build a relationship that will lead to a rec letter when clerkship app time rolls around.

Problem is, grades are all in and I got my only B of the year in his class. I don't know what to do. Should I pursue an RA position with a different prof (who would be able to include "she got an A in my class" in a future rec)? Should I talk to him again and see what he thinks? Should I just not do anything and presume he won't want me since I got a lukewarm grade in his class?

Thanks.

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Corwin
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Re: RA Quandary

Postby Corwin » Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:27 pm

Disclaimer: Not a law school student, so this is from the perspective of getting recs for grad school applications in engineering.

If a professor is willing to give you a strong recommendation because you did research with him for 6 months, you should take it. The most boring recommendations out there are ones that say "this guy got an A in my class". They can already see that from your transcript and these types of recommendations usually have zero impact on an application. Far better to have a recommendation that says "this guy got a B in my class, but he has excellent abilities as a researcher, his passion for the law is clear, and he is a very hard worker". Especially since this was your favorite class. Researchers' performance is subjects they like is usually far superior to those who are performing research because they think it will look good. Finally, by the end of the semester he probably had a good idea of what grade you would get in the class. Why would he say you were "on his list" if he didn't want you as an RA?

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smokyroom26
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Re: RA Quandary

Postby smokyroom26 » Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:38 pm

Well, as to this -

Corwin wrote:Finally, by the end of the semester he probably had a good idea of what grade you would get in the class.


- since the final is our only grade, he really had no way of knowing what grade I would get in the class. But, apart from that, I take your point. Maybe I'm putting too much stock in the grade rather than in my level of interest, and I could see an argument that having a rec from the prof who gave me my lowest grade in 1L would be, at the very least, unusual/unique.

Other thoughts?

Omerta
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Re: RA Quandary

Postby Omerta » Wed Jun 22, 2011 1:03 am

smokyroom26 wrote:So I'm in an awkward spot. Toward the end of spring semester, I sat down with one of my professors to express interest in a fall-semester RA position with him. I chose this particular professor because I found his class very interesting; in fact, it was one of my favorite classes of my entire 1L year. We chatted a little bit about it and he said that he was looking for a summer RA at the time, but that I was "on his list" for the fall. I should also mention that I want to be an RA for a professor so I can build a relationship that will lead to a rec letter when clerkship app time rolls around.

Problem is, grades are all in and I got my only B of the year in his class. I don't know what to do. Should I pursue an RA position with a different prof (who would be able to include "she got an A in my class" in a future rec)? Should I talk to him again and see what he thinks? Should I just not do anything and presume he won't want me since I got a lukewarm grade in his class?

Thanks.


Would the professor act as a good recommendation for you? He said you were "on his list," so presumably he thinks you're a good student. There's nothing wrong if the professor could honestly say that he believes you're an A student who had a bad day. If I were a judge, I wouldn't give a shit how you did on a three hour exam; I'd care way more about what impression you made on the professor.

If it's a field you're very interested in, an area that you could see yourself writing your comment about something the professor works on, then totally go for it.

RickyMack
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Re: RA Quandary

Postby RickyMack » Wed Jun 22, 2011 2:44 am

I fail to see why your grade would have an impact on the recommendation. The bigger issue is your work ethic and your writing ability outside of the exam setting. Be outstanding during your RAship so your prof will vouch for you and you can possibly get a writing sample from that too, then get an externship or some clinics so you can get some actual work product if you haven't gotten something from your prof. to put as your writing sample. After watching oral arguments for the state court of appeals I had the chance to view a panel of the judges discussing what they wanted from clerks (as well as the clerks themselves). The judges said they want a writing sample that shows what they're going to get if you work for them (meaning something that hasn't had months so you could polish it up). Also, figure out what type of law you want to practice after you're finished with your clerkship. If you plan to do trial level work after, going to clerk for an appellate judge isn't really going to be too helpful.

So try to keep your writing up, while grades are important everyone applying is going to have great grades. What could seal the deal for you having great grades AND outstanding writing.

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dailygrind
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Re: RA Quandary

Postby dailygrind » Wed Jun 22, 2011 10:38 am

I'd be a bit leery. To the extent that grades reflect your level of skill in a class (obviously not a perfect indicator), I'd be worried that you wouldn't be a great fit as a research assistant because you wouldn't be as proficient at the topic as other research assistants he's had. This would lead to a comparatively worse recommendation. Of course, if you feel like you owned that class but had a rough day on the exam, then go on and get at it.

random5483
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Re: RA Quandary

Postby random5483 » Wed Jun 22, 2011 11:18 am

dailygrind wrote:I'd be a bit leery. To the extent that grades reflect your level of skill in a class (obviously not a perfect indicator), I'd be worried that you wouldn't be a great fit as a research assistant because you wouldn't be as proficient at the topic as other research assistants he's had. This would lead to a comparatively worse recommendation. Of course, if you feel like you owned that class but had a rough day on the exam, then go on and get at it.



I have never been an RA, so I can't speak from experience; but, I would assume that research, writing, and bluebooking skills are probably very critical for an RA. Some of those skills (research and bluebooking especially) are absent in an exam. Because of that, I don't think a B grade in a class should scare you away from RAing for the prof.

However, I have heard that a sub median grade can make it hard for a professor to explain how you are actually better than your grade. Thus, some people recommend you avoid LoRs from professors you got sub-median grades from. With that said, I have no real experience with this, so i differ to the other posters on this thread.

grash
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Re: RA Quandary

Postby grash » Wed Jun 22, 2011 11:46 am

random5483 wrote:
dailygrind wrote:I'd be a bit leery. To the extent that grades reflect your level of skill in a class (obviously not a perfect indicator), I'd be worried that you wouldn't be a great fit as a research assistant because you wouldn't be as proficient at the topic as other research assistants he's had. This would lead to a comparatively worse recommendation. Of course, if you feel like you owned that class but had a rough day on the exam, then go on and get at it.



I have never been an RA, so I can't speak from experience; but, I would assume that research, writing, and bluebooking skills are probably very critical for an RA. Some of those skills (research and bluebooking especially) are absent in an exam. Because of that, I don't think a B grade in a class should scare you away from RAing for the prof.

However, I have heard that a sub median grade can make it hard for a professor to explain how you are actually better than your grade. Thus, some people recommend you avoid LoRs from professors you got sub-median grades from. With that said, I have no real experience with this, so i differ to the other posters on this thread.


I'm RAing right now, and from talking with a few of the other RAs you are probably right that RAs can have tasks that comprise primarily research/writing/bluebooking type stuff. However, my prof has me working on more open ended, theoretical research that has me really playing around with the doctrine of the subject, and if I hadn't done well in his class I'm not sure I'd have the confidence to go up to him and be like "Hey, your idea had some merit, but it doesn't fit because of X, Y, and Z." So it's not necessarily going to be a bad fit (indeed, the professor may be nice and steer away from pushing OP's tasks in the direction my tasks have been going if he suspects that OP is not proficient in those areas), but the potential remains for a mismatch.

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vamedic03
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Re: RA Quandary

Postby vamedic03 » Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:12 pm

If the only reason you want to RA for this prof is for a clerkship recommendation, then it would be a bad idea. Assuming that a B is below median, it would place the professor in a bad position. The ideal recommendation letter sings your praises. But, if you have a below median grade with the professor then he will probably have to address it and it will draw attention to that grade. It sounds like you did well with your other classes, so work on building relationships with your other professors.

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pleasetryagain
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Re: RA Quandary

Postby pleasetryagain » Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:26 pm

Corwin wrote:Disclaimer: Not a law school student, so this is from the perspective of getting recs for grad school applications in engineering.

If a professor is willing to give you a strong recommendation because you did research with him for 6 months, you should take it. The most boring recommendations out there are ones that say "this guy got an A in my class". They can already see that from your transcript and these types of recommendations usually have zero impact on an application. Far better to have a recommendation that says "this guy got a B in my class, but he has excellent abilities as a researcher, his passion for the law is clear, and he is a very hard worker". Especially since this was your favorite class. Researchers' performance is subjects they like is usually far superior to those who are performing research because they think it will look good. Finally, by the end of the semester he probably had a good idea of what grade you would get in the class. Why would he say you were "on his list" if he didn't want you as an RA?


thanks

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smokyroom26
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Re: RA Quandary

Postby smokyroom26 » Wed Jun 22, 2011 11:08 pm

Thanks, everyone, appreciate your responses. dailygrind, I share your wariness about the situation. I do feel like I just had an off day, and my interest in the material persists, but... I think I'm going to sit down with him to discuss the exam and try to feel it out. rrrr why did my ONLY lukewarm grade have to be in THIS class? :x

In the meantime, I'll reach out to one of my other profs as well.




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