No. of Recommendations: 17
Hi all, I'm back with a new name. Those of you who know me on other boards, I was lessob and now I'm HoosierDeb.

Feels like a much more fitting name (especially since the other was very much associated with my ex-hub).

These last two weeks have been a roller-coaster. Without meaning to, I was crying on the phone with my parents nearly every night, until about Wednesday of this week.

A lot of this had to do with my law school grades, which just came back.

I am finally able to say what they are, and not flinch too much. For those of you who were anal overachievers in school, you will understand how bad grades can put you in bed for a time.

Some background:
I was an "A" student all through school. I got a "C" one semester in sophomore-year Chemistry, which would have destroyed me if I hadn't known that the teacher was an idiot who coached football on the side and made sure to help the football players and cheerleaders, but told everyone else who struggled that they were just "dumb."

College was not a breeze, but I did very well - kept a 3.9 in my major, and a 3.8 overall. I studied abroad at Oxford for a semester where I earned A's.

I chose a 2nd tier law school, even though I could get into a 1st tier school. I did this for financial and academic reasons. I got a full ride at my school, and I figured that at a top school, I might "only" be in the middle of the class, whereas at a "lower" school, I would be at the top somewhat. I was resigned to the fact that in law school, I might only be able to pull of a 3.5, and that was okay. I had to "prepare" myself for that inevitability. I thought I would do better than that, but was willing to put the pieces back together if it came to a "low" GPA like that.

Which is why, when my grades came back as follows:
Property: B
Torts: B
Contracts: B
Legal Writing: B
Civil Procedure: C

I thought, momentarily (okay, a two-week moment) that my life was over.

I am now a law student with a 2.8. I have to get that up to a 3.2 by the end of the year to keep my full scholarship.


Some side-effects of this stress: (and I know that my life could be worse; lecture me if you want about how horrible my life could be, and tell me to stop whining, but it doesn't change the fact that I am struggling with this emotionally)

- for the first time in my life, nightmares about exams and papers: being late/unprepared for exams; my legal writing professor laughing maniacally at me for not turning my completed paper in until a day later because I forgot

- very low self-worth, deeper depression than usual

- inability to concentrate on this semester's workload


A few notes about grades and self-worth:
- I was paid for "A's" as a kid
- I was the youngest in my family, and labeled early on "the smart one"
- I got a lot of attention and praise from teachers, all throughout, even in college
- I went to a college where the professors were available, and very close to me. Affirmation of my work was constant, even at Oxford. One-on-one feedback was a regular occurrence.
- I was the first in my family to go to college.
- My social structure is composed of people to whom education is "everything."

Does it surprise you then, that my self-worth is so closely correlated with my performance in school?

To combat these feelings, I took a few steps back. Over the last two weeks, I have done the following:

- re-assessed my goals in life
- re-assessed my reasons for being in law school (to help people who can't help themselves)
- examined why the grades were so important to me
- visited the Office of Professional Development at my school to talk about pro-bono and public interest jobs for the summer (something I had been leaning away from throughout the first semester for reasons I'll talk about in a minute)
- called my boyfriend's sister to ask for some therapeutic relief in the form of borrowing her dog
- created a new, less-strenuous study schedule with breaks and time for my own enjoyment figured in
- talked to some professors about how to do better on this semester's exams (there is no way that I could study more than I did last semester)
- I stopped freaking out about the possibility of losing my scholarship.

Here were some results of these actions:
- I remembered that in life, I want to do "good" in the world, which is not the same as doing "well" in school, or doing "well" by others' standards.
- I remembered why I wanted to go to law school in the first place. I decided on my own to go to law school, because I was frustrated by the lack of help immigrants were getting in their legal affairs; I was frustrated by the cost of legal services, and by the insane amount of knowledge INS expects every immigrant and non-immigrant to understand (even though most are still struggling with English, they are supposed to know all the Federal Code pertaining to people in their situation); I was frustrated by the trouble low-income people get into with consumer credit and ignorance of their rights; a lot of social injustices that I have wanted to fight my whole life became problems that I might actually be able to do something about with a law degree.

My reasons for going to law school were different than the reasons people around me were trying to project onto me. In other words, my parents thought I just wanted to make a lot of money. My boyfriend thought I just wanted a high-powered, prestigious job. My other family members just thought I was trying to continue with what they consider my "high-and-mighty" use of my smarts. They all thought I was out to prove something, and/or make a ton of money.

Most people I care about (my family and friends) have a very limited idea of what a lawyer is and does . I let that get in the way this semester. I became infected with their projections, and began to consider working for a big firm, making a load of money this summer (do you KNOW how much a stupid corporate firm will pay a little 1L intern for the summer, if you have good grades? it's an insanely large amount of money.)

I got infected with that, and I kept that 3.5 idea in mind, AND I got infected with the competitive spirit at my school. The cockiness at law school is a sight to see. There are some real a$$holes who are out to make as much money as they can by doing whatever they can to people. And then there are some amazingly good-hearted people who want to see society improve overall. I came in with the latter attitude, and I allowed the viruses associated with the field of law get in the way.

- When I decided to stop trying to impress my boyfriend and live up to his "image" of me as a lawyer, and stopped trying to fit into my parents' and family members' views, I got excited again. The last semester had become a real drag - I had forgotten why I was excited to become a lawyer. Last week, I attended an "Equal Justice Works" meeting, and paid my dues. I signed up for a pro-bono opportunity in February, mentoring high-school kids in a thing called "Teen Court." I got in touch with the Property professors to get some ideas for work with tenants rights in Chicago this summer, affordable housing and urban development associations. I bid for interviews with employers at the Public Interest Law Career Fair in Chicago in a couple of weeks.

- Grades are important, but they are not more important than my ultimate goal. If I am doing this for the right reasons, my grades will come along, and if they don't, it only shows that I am not good at taking a 4-hour written exam. It doesn't mean that I can't help people.

- I decided to get away from the law school and its toxic atmosphere regularly: my boyfriend's sister has the sweetest dog that never gets enough exercise. She and I made a deal that I will at least once a week take the dog for a run at the dog park. I can't have my own pet because of my apartment regulations. I LOVE playing with Sara's dog.

- My study schedule now includes regular breaks, regardless of where I am in studying. These breaks include getting away from the school; going to eat with friends, taking a jog, watching a movie, etc. Keeping things in perspective, in other words.

- All my professors have emphasized the idea that your first semester grades do not define you. They reinforced some of my own thoughts I have just mentioned, and told me a few things I could do to improve this semester.

- The scholarship is important. But if I lose it, it isn't the end of the world. I'm not quitting law school. I will have to take more loans, but I won't be the only person in this world with high student loans. The rest of my spending and debt is under control, so it is not as earth-shattering as I had let myself believe.

Anyway - I could go on about this, but it's time for me to go study. :)

The point is, I feel much better after these assessments. If anyone else is in school or will be, my advice is to 1) know why you're doing it, and 2) keep things in perspective.

Sorry this is so long.

Thanks for letting me vent/explain.

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No. of Recommendations: 12
Greetings, Deb, I am so proud that you have made it intact to the OTHER SIDE of the whole grief process that goes along with receiving disappointing news about your grades! In a way, it does take certain pressure off because you needed those grades to be up due to a set of conditions which mandated it. It's only too easy to let your own reasons for studying and learning get a bit sidetracked when you must jump through the grade hoop to keep a scholarship and to conform to someone else's expectations (for possible clerkships that you may not even truly care about) more so than your own.

I speak from similar experience. Starting medical school at age 38, you can well imagine that I had rather different reasons for entering medicine than did the bulk of my young, fresh-from-undergrad class who had not been out in the world yet. Like you, grades had always come easily to me and I have always been surrounded by academic superstars. Like you, I won a scholarship to attend medical school. AND like you, retaining it was contingent upon medical school performance. I must say that frankly, the scholarship got in my way. I was far more tense during exams than there was any reason to be. I did eventually keep the scholarship but was fortunate that the performance standard was evenly distributed throughout the entire academic year. Like you, I had a humbling semester or two - I worked plenty hard but I just wasn't HUNGRY enough. I was not driven by the competition around me (and like in law school, there is plenty of obnoxious posturing that goes on among medical students - phooey). As it turned out, my best friend in medical school, whom I met and was awed by even as of the very first class, was like the 2nd student from the top of our class - and I was somewhere SQUARELY in the middle of the pack. I felt always a little small around her because she was such an intensely hard worker. But she, like me, was definitely not among the braggarts and swaggerers.

So I decided fairly early on that there was ALWAYS going to be someone academically stronger than me, someone striving harder than me, someone shining more brightly than me - and it was actually LIBERATING. I stopped worrying about how I was doing in relation to anyone else. This time it was interesting to observe in myself: when I was guaranteed A's I didn't worry because I assumed I would get them. But this time, in medical school, I was not even guaranteed C's and stopped worrying anyway because my grades ceased to be a reflection of my central reason for studying medicine. Granted, the grades became important insofar as hoping to hold on to my scholarship but, like you, I developed a contingency plan in the event that I lost it. And once I could sleep at night about it, I found that the grades rode along with the studying I began to do FOR ITS OWN SAKE. I wanted to understand medicine with my ultimate goals in mind of taking care of patients in such a way as to help teach each patient about his or her own disease in lay terms and to inspire ongoing health care as a partnership of efforts.

Like you, I found that I strongly gravitated to the underserved. I travelled to Russia for a part of one summer to offer medical services. And even now, I have been working in the area county hospital that treats indigent patients. My grades in medical school have no relevancy at all - I am fully medically licensed and have the privilege to treat. Of course, my classmates who earned higher grades have the same privilege but I would not claim they are any happier or more fulfilled than I am!

You are going to be a phenomenal attorney. Learning does not stop when the class concludes - something that may have been hard for you the first time you were introduced to it may end up being an arena that later fascinates you. Grades are a snapshot in time - what is going to matter is that you are equipping yourself with the knowledge necessary to be of true service to those who will need your skills AND who will trust your compassion and your good intentions towards their welfare. Law review and high powered clerkships are only one of the avenues to practicing out there - your choices are much wider than that and by making wonderful plans to take good care of yourself, I think you will find renewed energy, passion and dedication towards the process of learning the law ON YOUR TERMS.

Deb, you rate and have always rated a 4.0 in my book, and that is about how very adaptable, open-hearted and perseverent you are towards whatever crosses your path. I deeply admire you and am totally grateful that you come to the boards to share your experiences. I know that I have learned much from you and that you reaffirm my deep belief that there are good and humanitarian people on this earth who light the way for others they meet. You are such a person, I am certain.

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xray said: I deeply admire you and am totally grateful that you come to the boards to share your experiences.

I am sure that we are kindred spirits, xray, and the only way I can think to thank you for your kind words and everlasting support is to send the sentiment above right back to you.

The kind-hearted have to learn how to survive the chaff and discouraging obstacles of this form of education - those who do are the best in their field, I think.

I can't wait to be a lawyer. Now that I have, as you said, made it to the other side of the "good grades" continuum, I can focus on that task without so much fuzz and chatter in my mind about what I should be doing, or earning.

Thanks again!

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Deb, thank you so much for sharing your struggle! I understand, a bit, what you're going through (got two "c"s in classes related to my major last term - YUCK) and had to do some re-evaluating, too. I'm glad you are once again focusing on the aspect of law that gets you excited!

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No. of Recommendations: 5

deb, forgive me for jumping right in without having "talked" with you before. I also went to an Indiana law school as an older student (at 27) with the same history that you describe of building my identity on my intelligence and being expected to make (and making) high grades.

I've been practicing for 8 years now and have the perspective to be able to tell you that grades are *not* the end all and be all they're said to be in law school. Law school tests only measure a couple of skills it takes to be a lawyer, and employers recognize that (IMO, the ability to memorize rules and write fast under pressure). Skills that are also important include general people skills, the ability to be aggressive where necessary (and to know when it's NOT necessary), to be a good oral advocate and explain complicated concepts to people easily, to be well-organized and manage time well, to show confidence even when you're scared to death or on shaky ground, to have a good grasp of the overall picture.... I could go on and on.

I've followed your posts for quite some time and have been impressed with your intelligence and maturity. Xraymond has wonderful advice for you in telling you to focus on why you went to law school. Corporate defense firms *do* look at grades as part of the hiring process and pay well, but the work can be deadly dull, particularly early on, and typically doesn't serve any sort of humanitarian purpose. (Of course, law schools like to push students toward those lucrative jobs so their alumni will give them big checks during fundraising drives). I suspect the employers at the type of job you're looking for will look for demonstrated commitment and caring for people needing help in your practice area first off, along with general intelligence and people skills, with law school grades a far second or third.

Although I'm repeating what you've already said you'll do, my best advice to you is *not* to stress out about your grades. Instead, challenge yourself and learn as many skills and make as many contacts as you can in the area where you want to practice. Have fun with the law.

Feel free to email me if you want to "chat" more.

Part Veela

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(aka lessob)

posted & emailed!

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