Grade explanation for apps?

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Grade explanation for apps?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 05, 2018 11:59 am

I'm in the process applying for clerkships across the country. My general stats are fine but not great: top 1/4-1/3 from MVP (~3.5), alum at a V10, very strong recommendations and profs willing to make calls, executive board of secondary journal, moot court leadership, interesting soft factors, and many publications from pre-law school work experience. My plan is to throw as many applications into the wind as possible and see what happens.

Here's the big issue: my grades for most of the "important" clerkship classes--everything first semester of 1L year, Fed Courts--are ugly. At law school, I tanked every course where evaluation was based on a 2-3 hour issue spotter. Some combination of being a slow typist and slow, step-by-step worker doomed me from the start - for most exams, I'd get 1/4-1/3 of the words on page that my classmates did and run out of time. I'm left with an average 3.0 GPA for those classes, including one B-, compared to a 3.7-3.8 for doctrinal courses on the same curve that had take home or multiple choice exams (and a 3.9 for research- and writing-based classes).

What are folks' thoughts on the wisdom of trying to explain this set of bad grades in my initial application packet? I was thinking of either including an addendum to my grade sheet (for paper apps), providing a brief explanation of the poor performance in my cover letter, and/or getting a recommendation from a professor addressing those difficulties and stating that my B in his class does not reflect my understanding of the material or in-class performance. I know it's a risky strategy and some judges will hate it, but they're all really going to hate my "B"s in Fed Courts and Civ Pro. I also know that they go through these applications fast, and figure that providing a narrative could be helpful. Thoughts? Other ways to show I'm not too bad at law to clerk? Or is this just a lost cause?


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Re: Grade explanation for apps?

Postby nixy » Thu Apr 05, 2018 2:07 pm

I don’t think bringing it up yourself is at all productive - just too much on the defensive. If you can have a prof address it in a LOR that’s a much better way to get the info out there, though it may not make any difference.

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Re: Grade explanation for apps?

Postby Dipper » Thu Apr 05, 2018 3:42 pm

^^. It's fine if a letter-writer wants to say something like "this person's grades do not accurately reflect his/her abilities" but calling attention to it yourself will probably do more harm than good.


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Re: Grade explanation for apps?

Postby lavarman84 » Thu Apr 05, 2018 5:11 pm

I think it's a very bad idea. You're pointing them to a weakness in your application. That's a huge no-no. I expect a solid number if judges/clerks won't scrutinize your transcript closely enough that it'll hurt you. And the ones who do are unlikely to be swayed by an explanation. Don't draw attention to something that won't help you.

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Re: Grade explanation for apps?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 05, 2018 6:15 pm

I had a medical condition my 1L year that devastated my grades and added an addendum (without a ton of detail) explaining the disparity between 1L, 2L, and 3L marks when I was on the mend. Didn't stop me from receiving MJ, DJ, and COA interviews and no judge brought it up and not even the snottiest law clerk thought to either. If it's simply poor performance, I would not draw attention to it though.

Keep in mind that:

1) Clerkship hiring is incredibly idiosyncratic and judges can and do interview candidates with credentials that buck their hiring criteria b/c they see something interesting or something that they identify with.

2) Some judges will absolutely pick apart your transcript line by line, some will look at your cumulative GPA and move on, and some will focus on your writing sample since that can actually be the biggest factor in how well you can cut it in chambers.

3) For a substantial number of judges (excluding feeders and those who will always be grade-focused), your grades will matter moderately less if/when applying as an alum. Clerking on the state level, passing the bar, working at a firm, doing public interest work, etc. all inherently demonstrate an analytical ability to get the job done as much or more so than a random grade in your 1L curriculum.

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