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Law School Grades

Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 4:22 pm
by ndhwn
Hi All,

I'm a prospective law school student. Not sure if this is the right place to ask this question, but here goes:

After reviewing the hiring policies of various law firms, a couple of the prestigious firms seek students who receive a gpa of 3.5 or higher, moot court, law review, etc.

I was just wondering how easy (or in this case, how difficult) it is to get a 3.5 in law school. I understand that it is dependent on the school and that law school, in general, is very very difficult. A lot of my seemingly brighter law school friends talk about how they are scrambling to get Bs.

Is getting a 3.5 and above THAT DIFFICULT? What does the top 5% usually graduate with? Does anyone get a 4.0?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 5:05 pm
by NYU 1L
At NYU 3.5 is extremely high. 3.7 cummulative GPA would be about the top 5% of the class. A typical grade distribution (this is a real grade distribution from a real NYU civil procedure class, the school publishes them to students) is:

A: 5%
A-: 15-%
B+: 30%
B: 42%
B-: 6%
C or below: 2%

In reality, a lot of the better students will get some As and some Bs making it extremely rare for a person to be getting enough A and A- grades to get up to a 3.7 GPA. For example, a friend of mine got an A, a B, and a B+. The point is, a lot of the A and A- grades go to people who get 3.5 or so GPAs. It is very rare for someone to be in the top 20% of all classes and net a 3.7 or higher. Since 3.7 is top 5% of the class, 3.5 is probably top 20%.

Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 5:34 pm
by ndhwn
Thanks for your reply, NYU 1L. Very helpful.

Wow, that's pretty crazy. The friends I was referring to attend the University of Hawaii School of Law. If they are struggling to get B's there, getting an A at NYU must be quite a feat.

Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 5:51 pm
by 3L who knows his s$$t
that grade breakdown is pretty close to the curve at fordham. what makes it difficult is that at almost every law school, first year classes are on a strict curve. so to get an A- at NYU or fordham, you have to be in the top 1/5 in your section on an exam. if you fall one person below the median, you get a B.

a 3.5 is between the top 15-20% at fordham after first year.

Posted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 2:30 pm
by VictoriaMarie
The UT grade breakdown is pretty similar. There are two important factors to consider if you're chosing a school where you can do well grade wise.

1. What median grade is the school curved to?
2. What is the overall grade distribution?

Most people only think about #1 and forget about #2. For instance, at a great number of schools the vast majority of people will have grades within 1 or 2 tenths of the median grade (to which the school curves). I think this is true of most of the top of tier 1. The thinking is that everyone's grades will look decent, but there will be few standouts. UT has a 3.3 curve, meaning that the median grade is a B+. To have above a 3.5 at UT means you're in the top-35% of the class.

At other schools the median grade is common, but so are grades on the far ends of the spectrum, i.e. they give several very low grades and several very high grades. I think that's more likely to be true for the lower ranked schools.

The grade distribution is really important to understand, especially because GPA doesn't say everything. A firm will know that if you got all As and maybe 1 C, then you do really good work but ran into a class where you missed an issue on an exam and had to get a lower grade on the curve. Firms will have the info about your school's distribution and know that only 15% (or less) of your class could be getting those As.

That said, a 3.5 is a challenge anywhere, but law firms don't stick rigidly to their grade cutoffs. Once you get yoru foot in the door for your interview, your resume and your personality are what matter.