2.97 GPA at GW LAW

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thingdoo

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Should I drop out?

Post by thingdoo » Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:05 pm

Started 1L with a 3.6 at GW Law. 2L now, and because of many life circumstances, my GPA has dropped to 2.97, which on a 3.2 curve is bottom 10% or worse. I wanted to work for the government maybe BigFed. I'm pretty sure I have no chance now. What should I do?

decimalsanddollars

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Re: 2.97 GPA at GW LAW

Post by decimalsanddollars » Tue Jan 14, 2020 1:05 pm

The classic law school answer of "it depends" certainly applies here. Here's just a few questions that it'd be helpful to know the answer before advising:

Has the GPA drop affected anything else on your resume, e.g. not making it onto a journal or being asked to quit something? Did you line up good second-summer employment that isn't scared away by your GPA drop? How much debt are you in, and how much more are you willing to take on? If you did not have a law degree and could not be a lawyer, what other job could you get right now that you would be willing to do? Is this current semester refundable? Do you have personal or family connections to land a clerkship or state govt job (or any eligibility-preserving activity) that you could do for 2-3 years after graduating? How flexible are you on location, and do you have any ties to areas with less competitive legal markets? How interview-friendly (and cover letter-friendly) is the story of why your GPA dropped? What classes, if any, have you actually enjoyed and excelled in, and what kind of relationship do you have with the professors that taught those classes? To what extent can you realistically rehab your GPA between now and graduation?

A lot of these questions focus on the inputs for cost-benefit analyses of a few drastic moves, e.g. dropping out and trying to transfer somewhere to restart your GPA; dropping out and doing something else; sticking it out, maybe getting an LLM; or pulling favors that may be uncomfortable. Some of them focus on inputs for how to pitch yourself to any employer, but particularly employers for second summer and immediately post-grad, if you decide to tough it out.

Without knowing any of these answers, I'll just say generally that there are two main ways into the federal government---honors programs and coming in with experience. The GPA drop probably kills your chances for honors programs unless you can rehab your resume significantly with eligibility-preserving activities like clerkships, fellowships, or state govt work (in that order). It may not completely preclude entering federal government later once you have more experience and a proven record of good legal work, but that will take some time and effort, and if you're seriously considering dropping out at the halfway point, I would think for a bit about whether you can put that kind of effort in over several years early in your career.

thingdoo

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Re: 2.97 GPA at GW LAW

Post by thingdoo » Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:50 pm

decimalsanddollars wrote:The classic law school answer of "it depends" certainly applies here. Here's just a few questions that it'd be helpful to know the answer before advising:

Has the GPA drop affected anything else on your resume, e.g. not making it onto a journal or being asked to quit something? Did you line up good second-summer employment that isn't scared away by your GPA drop? How much debt are you in, and how much more are you willing to take on? If you did not have a law degree and could not be a lawyer, what other job could you get right now that you would be willing to do? Is this current semester refundable? Do you have personal or family connections to land a clerkship or state govt job (or any eligibility-preserving activity) that you could do for 2-3 years after graduating? How flexible are you on location, and do you have any ties to areas with less competitive legal markets? How interview-friendly (and cover letter-friendly) is the story of why your GPA dropped? What classes, if any, have you actually enjoyed and excelled in, and what kind of relationship do you have with the professors that taught those classes? To what extent can you realistically rehab your GPA between now and graduation?

A lot of these questions focus on the inputs for cost-benefit analyses of a few drastic moves, e.g. dropping out and trying to transfer somewhere to restart your GPA; dropping out and doing something else; sticking it out, maybe getting an LLM; or pulling favors that may be uncomfortable. Some of them focus on inputs for how to pitch yourself to any employer, but particularly employers for second summer and immediately post-grad, if you decide to tough it out.

Without knowing any of these answers, I'll just say generally that there are two main ways into the federal government---honors programs and coming in with experience. The GPA drop probably kills your chances for honors programs unless you can rehab your resume significantly with eligibility-preserving activities like clerkships, fellowships, or state govt work (in that order). It may not completely preclude entering federal government later once you have more experience and a proven record of good legal work, but that will take some time and effort, and if you're seriously considering dropping out at the halfway point, I would think for a bit about whether you can put that kind of effort in over several years early in your career.
First of all, thank you so much for answering honestly. I'll answer you questions the best I can and if you could answer mine I would be very thankful. I was never on journal and still have a scholarship. I am currently working for a federal agency (extern) and already have a big federal agency this summer lined up. I have no debt. The job I could get right now would probably pay only 18 bucks an hour. It's not refundable. I have no family/friend connections but my boss as my externship right now loves me. I am ok with moving, I don't really know where "better" markets are, if you could point them out to me, that would be very helpful. I interview extremely well and my cover letter has yet to be changed to reflect this drop. I tend to do very well in the workplace otherwise and my coworkers tend to love me (humble brag but relevant). I got As in Contracts with a Federal Army Judge, but our relationship isn't really there. I have 3 semesters left to improve my grades and will certainly try my best.

Sorry for not inputting information before, I really don't want to drop out. But I really want to find a job afterwards (which I realize is very difficult with my grades right now).

raven1231

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Re: 2.97 GPA at GW LAW

Post by raven1231 » Tue Jan 14, 2020 3:14 pm

thingdoo wrote:
decimalsanddollars wrote:The classic law school answer of "it depends" certainly applies here. Here's just a few questions that it'd be helpful to know the answer before advising:

Has the GPA drop affected anything else on your resume, e.g. not making it onto a journal or being asked to quit something? Did you line up good second-summer employment that isn't scared away by your GPA drop? How much debt are you in, and how much more are you willing to take on? If you did not have a law degree and could not be a lawyer, what other job could you get right now that you would be willing to do? Is this current semester refundable? Do you have personal or family connections to land a clerkship or state govt job (or any eligibility-preserving activity) that you could do for 2-3 years after graduating? How flexible are you on location, and do you have any ties to areas with less competitive legal markets? How interview-friendly (and cover letter-friendly) is the story of why your GPA dropped? What classes, if any, have you actually enjoyed and excelled in, and what kind of relationship do you have with the professors that taught those classes? To what extent can you realistically rehab your GPA between now and graduation?

A lot of these questions focus on the inputs for cost-benefit analyses of a few drastic moves, e.g. dropping out and trying to transfer somewhere to restart your GPA; dropping out and doing something else; sticking it out, maybe getting an LLM; or pulling favors that may be uncomfortable. Some of them focus on inputs for how to pitch yourself to any employer, but particularly employers for second summer and immediately post-grad, if you decide to tough it out.

Without knowing any of these answers, I'll just say generally that there are two main ways into the federal government---honors programs and coming in with experience. The GPA drop probably kills your chances for honors programs unless you can rehab your resume significantly with eligibility-preserving activities like clerkships, fellowships, or state govt work (in that order). It may not completely preclude entering federal government later once you have more experience and a proven record of good legal work, but that will take some time and effort, and if you're seriously considering dropping out at the halfway point, I would think for a bit about whether you can put that kind of effort in over several years early in your career.
First of all, thank you so much for answering honestly. I'll answer you questions the best I can and if you could answer mine I would be very thankful. I was never on journal and still have a scholarship. I am currently working for a federal agency (extern) and already have a big federal agency this summer lined up. I have no debt. The job I could get right now would probably pay only 18 bucks an hour. It's not refundable. I have no family/friend connections but my boss as my externship right now loves me. I am ok with moving, I don't really know where "better" markets are, if you could point them out to me, that would be very helpful. I interview extremely well and my cover letter has yet to be changed to reflect this drop. I tend to do very well in the workplace otherwise and my coworkers tend to love me (humble brag but relevant). I got As in Contracts with a Federal Army Judge, but our relationship isn't really there. I have 3 semesters left to improve my grades and will certainly try my best.

Sorry for not inputting information before, I really don't want to drop out. But I really want to find a job afterwards (which I realize is very difficult with my grades right now).
Given these circumstances I certainly wouldn't drop out. I would just focus on doing great work at your Summer job/making meaningful connections and pulling your grades up as much as possible. If you were going to take on a bunch of debt it would change the situation a lot but I don't honestly see any upside in dropping out given the totality of everything.

decimalsanddollars

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Re: 2.97 GPA at GW LAW

Post by decimalsanddollars » Tue Jan 14, 2020 3:27 pm

Ok, so right off the bat, I'm going to recommend you do not drop out because (1) debt is not a real issue for you, and besides you haven't lost your scholarship and can't get this semester's tuition back; (2) you are in a decent professional position despite your grades; (3) your best alternative isn't awesome; and, most importantly, (4) you do not want to drop out.

It's awesome that you have a summer internship with a "big federal agency" and that the people you work with at your (presumably other) current externship generally enjoy working with you. I would try and develop some mentorship relationships with people at both jobs; you would be surprised how far a really good connection can get you, and it sounds like that's your best forum for developing a connection. I would also consider reaching out to your Contracts prof or taking any other classes he might offer---the sooner the better, because connections like that get more stale with time. In either case, when you develop the connections, you should ask them about the relative merit of state-level clerkships, far-flung or less competitive federal clerkships, state and local government work, and any other eligibility-preserving activity you can think of. If you're comfortable asking people who review applications at your agencies what they look for, and perhaps how you could get into the good pile from where you are, that intel would be solid gold.

Do you have any academic papers in the works? Some journals take notes submissions from non-journal members, and publication is a solid way to make a resume stand out. I would also consider joining a journal if that is still possible and/or picking up an extracurricular that's relevant to what you want to do.

As for "better markets," it really depends where you're from and where you are willing to live. Many legal markets outside of the largest cities are pretty insular: it's much easier to get a job in South Carolina, New Mexico, or Colorado (to give just 3 examples) if you are from the state or went to law school in the state (and ideally both). If you are from the DMV area, you may have luck with state govt or clerkships in Maryland or Virginia, and DC local work is a possibility. But, there are some areas of the country where they really need lawyers, and you could have a decent shot at state govt positions there, even without ties---if you can convincingly say you want to be there. Also an idea: New Jersey and Nevada each hire dozens of clerks at all levels of state court.

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QContinuum

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Re: 2.97 GPA at GW LAW

Post by QContinuum » Tue Jan 14, 2020 3:34 pm

decimalsanddollars wrote:far-flung or less competitive federal clerkships
Agree with decimals' post above except for the quoted portion. OP has a 2.97 at GWU. They are not going to be landing a federal clerkship, not even in the boonies, not even with connections.

More generally, I'd say it should be priority #1 to get back above 3.0, as many government positions - even state/local positions that are otherwise not grades-sensitive - have a 3.0 GPA floor.

decimalsanddollars

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Re: 2.97 GPA at GW LAW

Post by decimalsanddollars » Tue Jan 14, 2020 4:04 pm

Let me backpedal slightly re: federal clerkships: I agree w/ QC that federal clerkships are certainly out of reach, at least for now---there's at least a slight possibility that OP does very well through the rest of law school, gets some good experience, and makes connections that make his/her finishing at 3.2-3.3 acceptable to a low-on-the-totem-pole federal judge who prefers experienced applicants and/or knows one of her/his recommenders well. But for OP's first (and probably second) job out of school, federal clerkships are out.

In context, I was talking about asking people at OP's agencies about how they consider the relative merit of state clerkships or govt experience as compared to federal clerkships. In interviewing with different federal agencies, I've encountered people who consider state clerkships to be a close-second opportunity to federal clerkship, and I've met others who more or less consider it a wasted year. I think OP should be thoughtful about her/his first job and how the federal lawyers he/she knows would view that experience, even if the standard of comparison (federal clerkship) is itself off the table.

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