Legal Recruiting: How to Explain Bad Grades

As a practicing attorney who volunteers regularly at a couple of local law schools, I spend a fair amount of time mentoring students. One question I get frequently during the recruiting season is, “How can I explain to interviewers why my grades aren’t very good?” While it’s true that you can’t change your grades, how you explain less-than-stellar grades can be the difference between a call-back interview and, well, nothing at all.

It should first be noted that grades are, as most people assume, the factor most interviewers assign the greatest weight. However, grades often serve as a cut-off rather than a system of rank. That is, a firm may as a policy consider only students in the top 25% of their class, but a student ranked in the 87th percentile of his class is not necessarily in a much better position to receive an offer than a student ranked in the 77th.

If, however, you believe that your grades put you outside most employers’ target range, a compelling explanation can give your interviewer a reason to give you full consideration, and perhaps a call-back interview.

As a threshold matter, I believe that poor grades should be addressed in an interview. Some students (and even some career service advisers) believe it’s better not to draw attention to bad grades, and instead focus on leaving a positive impression during an interview. Whether a student decides to address or ignore grades, though, the interviewer is going to consider them. Not talking about a C+ isn’t going to change it into an A-. In my experience, a student who is able to speak candidly and thoughtfully about his or her bad grades leaves a much better impression than one who simply ignores the issue. An explanation that is honest and well-thought-out suggests a student who is self-aware, confident, analytic, and keen on self-improvement. All traits important in a new attorney. A student who does not address his poor grades, on the other hand, may simply be assumed to be a bad student.

For 1Ls: If you’re a 1L interviewing in the spring for your first summer job as a law student, then you only have one semester of grades to be evaluated on. If those grades aren’t as good as you would have liked, your explanation should:

  1. Discuss what you learned from taking exams
  2. Provide a few concise details as to why your exam didn’t earn as many points as others
  3. Emphasize what you did right
  4. Explain how you intend to improve your performance in the current (spring) semester

For example: “My grades aren’t where I expected them to be. However, when I went back and compared my essays to the model essay, I noticed a few areas where I was leaving points on the table. In the issue-spotter questions, I was able to identify all of the major issues, but my analysis was too in-depth, which didn’t leave me as much time to discuss the minor secondary issues in the issue-spotter. For example, one of our Criminal Law issue-spotters involved a kidnapping, false imprisonment, and murder that took place in a barn. In my answer, I thoroughly analyzed each of the elements of the major crimes. The professor’s model answer, however, included just a cursory analysis of the elements, but then also addressed other minor crimes that I didn’t, such as how the murderer committed larceny when he took a wheelbarrow that wasn’t his to move the body out of the barn. For this semester, I’ve already begun to work through my current professors’ past exams to get a feel for the balance of breadth and depth that my professors prefer, and I’m going to tailor my essay responses to each professor’s preferences.”

An explanation that includes a plan for how to improve grades going forward may sway an interviewer towards giving you the benefit of the doubt. However, 2Ls and 3Ls who have two or more semesters of poor grades will have a harder time convincing interviewers that their poor showing on exams was a fluke.

For 2Ls and 3Ls: Poor grades over two or more semesters suggests to interviewers that the candidate is simply not a good student. However, there are still things that 2Ls and 3Ls can do to mitigate the impact of poor grades.

First, every other component of your file needs to be perfect. Make particularly sure that the writing sample shines. A great writing sample demonstrates to the interviewer that you have strong analytic skills, and that your writing is clear, concise, and organized.

Likewise, labor over your resume until you’re sure that it will make an interviewer pay attention to you. If you don’t have an eye for design, ask a friend who does to help you with the design and layout of the resume. Ask for assistance from your Career Services office, and any mentors you may have. Get as much feedback as possible. And most importantly, be sure that the descriptions of your previous jobs and experience are clear, concise, accurate, and well-written. People don’t often realize that a resume is actually a writing sample. A poorly-written resume (wordy descriptions, tense shifts, typos) is often the only reason an interviewer needs to reject a candidate. If a student isn’t willing to put forth the effort to craft a perfect resume, interviewers will reason, then what’s the likelihood that he or she will be willing to put forth the effort required of the job?

Finally, once your sure that your candidate package is perfect, prepare and rehearse an explanation for your underwhelming transcript. Be honest. Draw attention to any academic achievements. Remind the interviewer of your stellar writing sample or other work-product. Focus on positive reviews you received in internships or clerkships. In other words, explain that your grades don’t reflect your true abilities as an attorney.

Remember, your goal is to get employed. Prove to the employer that you’re best candidate for the job.

Rape Victims Are Not Responsible For The Crime

What happens to someone who has been raped? What happens to their life? How do they get over that single event that changes their entire life? How do they get past that roadblock that stands firm in the middle of their entire existence. How do they live, even one day at a time, after an event that is one step short of murder? Rape has been called soul murder. Most people, who have never been raped, do not understand the full impact that rape has upon the average victim.

Rape is different to those who have been raped and to those who have never experienced being raped. That is why there are so many different opinions about this serious subject. If you have never been raped, then good for you. If you have been raped, know there is hope, healing, and progress in your future.

Rape and survival, both are related.

Some see rape as a one-time crime that is ended the moment the day is over. Others see rape as an act of sex. Still others see rape as something that does not exist. But only those, who have been raped or those who have been victims of attempted rape, know the full impact of this illegal act on human beings. Rape affects the mind, body and soul of a person. It changes the person and the person’s life from the very instant of impact. Yet, because of the nature of the crime and because of the way that society acts towards the victims and criminals, the real hard truth rarely comes out about rape and or about rapists.

Rape is not an act of sex and will never be an act of sex. Rape has nothing to do with sex. Rape is purely an act of violence and control. Plain and simple, violence and control are the key goals of most rapists. The criminal wishes to control the victim; and most times,the criminal gains that control through violence or threats or both at one time. Once you begin finally realizing that rape has nothing to do with sex, then you finally might really be coming to terms about what rape really is.

I will tell you a little more about this hideous crime and I invite your questions, comments and ideas so that you are a real part of this. In future articles, I will furnish real helpful hints to those recovering from rape, to those healing from rape and to those who have just had this crime committed against them. Rape has never been about sex. So when you hear a rapist claim that the event was sex or consensual sex, right off the bat, you can pretty much guess that the criminal is fabricating a story. Rape is not about sex. Rape is not sex.

The Truth:

It Is Not About Sex There is nothing sexy at all about rape and anyone can be a victim of such criminals. (You can be white, black, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, green, purple, old, young, paralyzed, drunk, sober, intelligent,fat, skinny, beautiful, bald, blonde or with purple and orange hair) You can be anyone looking any way. There is no set pattern of physical appearance, clothing, nationality, or age or religion or nationality that is excluded from the crime of rape. Rapists are criminals and they will rape anyone that they want to rape. They will rape doctors, lawyers, women, men, children, seniors, priests, maids,waitresses, flight attendants, bus drivers, and nurses, and surgeons. Do you get the picture yet? Rapists will rape anyone, anywhere, any how whenever they want to rape. Rape is never and has never been about sex. Once you realize that truth, you will realize that there is basically nothing you can do to guarantee you will not be a rapist’s next victim. However, there are things that you can do that will lessen your chances of being that next victim. No guarantees, just preparations and warnings.

It is Not About Asking For It:

No rape victim asks to be raped nor wants to be raped. When society does not understand the crime of rape then society ignorantly states that the victim asked for it. No victim asked to be attacked. If someone is stabbed or shot, society does not say the victim asked for it. If someone is run down by a hit and run driver, society does not say that the victim asked for it. If someone is operated on and the surgeon takes the wrong limb or commits malpractice, society does not state that the victim asked for it. If someone drowns, no one says that the victim asked to be drowned. Only in the crime of rape, do ignorant people state that the victim asked to be raped. Now you are educated.

No rape victim wishes to be or wants to be raped. No one would want a violent crime committed against them, and that includes rape victims. Think about this, if a nun, Priest or Rabbi were to be raped, society would not dare insinuate or say that these individuals asked for it. Yet, why when a prostitute is raped does society assume that she asked for it? The reason for the difference of opinion is because society respects nuns, Priests and Rabbis but society does not respect prostitutes. But the bottom line is that the same criminal who will rape a prostitute will rape a nun, Priest or Rabbi.

When we judge the victims of rape, we allow rapists to go free and thus we allow society to think that is okay to rape anyone. When you approve rape for prostitutes, you are approving of rape for upper class society members also. Remember that the next time you judge a victim of rape. That same rapist that you set free is the same rapist who can come back to your own neighborhood and put your children, seniors, and respected community members in great danger. Remember that some rapists do murder.

When you set rapists free, you might be setting a murderer free too. (I am not saying that all rapists are murderers; I am saying that once a criminal rapes someone, that same criminal can commit other violent crimes against society. Rape is not sex but it is a crime of control and violence. So, society forms its’ own opinions and many times those opinions are flatly and obviously wrong. So, society’s opinion that rape victims asked to be raped is one wrong opinion. So when a hooker is raped, society is wrong in its; conviction that the hooker asked to be raped. No one, not even hookers, ask to be raped. You do not ask to be raped any more than you ask someone to cut your tongue out or shoot you. Clear? I hope so.

Anyone Can Be A Rapist:

What I mean by this statement is that ANYONE can be a rapist. Society has this idea that rapists are dirty, low-class, bums; society thinks that rapists look evil and that you can tell a rapist from ten feet away. Again, society is wrong. Rapists can be anyone!. What this means is that your pediatrician can be a rapist, a fireman can be a rapist, a judge, a lawyer, a house cleaner, a maid, a hotel manager, a surgeon, a home-care attendant, an inmate, a police officer, a cook, a teacher, a principal, a dean, an insurance agent, anyone can be a rapist.

All that is necessary is a violent nature (which sometimes is quite invisible to society) and the wish to control another human being. A rapist can be a 18 year old or a rapist can be a 78 year old person. No age is exempt from a rapist’s crime or attack. Rapists are all over, in every job,every religion, every status in life, every neighborhood, and in every church or synagogue. Yes, rapists, some rapists go to church or synagogue and are – on the outside – looking religious. You cannot tell a rapist by their looks, but I can describe for you, a rapist so that you possibly might be able to know ahead of time what a person is like. LIsten carefully, a rapist is human. That is the only description of a rapist that is accurate. A rapist is a human. A rapist is a human who has sunk to depths so low that even the slime from a slug is higher than the rapist’s head.

Married? Rape happens within marriages also. For many years women were expected to put up with it simply because it was not against the law. Our archaic laws actually stated that it was not illegal for a male to rape his wife. Now, it is illegal, and it has been illegal, meaning, yes, that rape within the marriage is still rape. Rape is a crime. Yet, many boyfriends and husbands are never called on for this crime. Society is still backwards in attitude though, since there are still some that do not know or realize that a wife is allowed to say no. Finally, women get their full rights that they are entitled to. They are entitled to not be raped – by anyone, that includes even by their boyfriends, dates or husbands. Yes, it is common knowledge that men do get raped also, and this article is about women, so the focus is on women.

Young and Inexperienced? What young men and women need to learn and to remember is that it does not matter what kind of date you have with what kind of person. The bottom line is that you are not expected to have sex with someone just because you went to a movie with them or just because you had a date with them. Dating someone does not give anyone the authority or permission to rape them. No amount of money spent, no fancy restaurants, movie, no matter what style or kind of date, nobody has a right to demand sex from anyone No means no. So, perhaps instead of sex education courses, society needs to give “no” education courses. No means no. If someone said no to you, and you continue anyway, then you are raping someone. Of course there might be lots of people who disagree with this but those people will probably be the ones that do not understand the very clear meaning of the word no.

To The Rapist:

If you are a rapist and that description bothers you, or if you feel that description is not you, you can change that. Change your ways. Learn that you cannot control other human beings and when you attempt to control other human beings and make them have sex with you, that you are not having sex, but you are committing a crime. Once you rape someone, you are a criminal. Change your ways because you are the only person who can change you. If you have not been caught, turn yourself in to the law. You have made someone suffer beyond belief. You have harmed them in every single way a human being can be harmed. You have taken seconds, moments, and years off of their life. Turn yourself in to the law and that will be the beginning of good change for you, for your life and for your own family. Yes, for your family. Turn yourself in. Even if you think that you had sex, that is not the truth if you are a rapist, you did not have sex, you committed a crime. And on this day that you turn yourself in and confess to your crime, that is the day that you will begin to change your life for the better. That is the day that you will change your life, turn your life around and that is the day that you have a chance to save some lives. Turn yourself in, now, today. If you are a rapist and you have not yet been caught, know that eventually you will be caught. It is only a matter of time. Do the right thing and turn yourself in today.

The Most Important Things You Can Learn About The Crime of Rape:

  • The crime of rape affects the victim, the victim’s family, the rapists family, and everyone around them. The crime is not an isolated crime, but rather one that affects hundreds of people. If you are a rapist, you are ruining families’ lives; you are ruining your own life and you are ruining your own family’s lives.
  • The healing time for the rape victim can be as long as five months to twenty-five years and or more than that, depending on the situation, and the circumstances and the future connections of rapist and victim.
  • Society needs to stop looking for victims to blame and needs to realize that the rapist, and only the rapist is the criminal and is the one to blame.
  • Most individuals who believe that women make up the crime or accusation of rape are rapists themselves or criminals themselves. How can I say that? Here is how. I typed that purposely to let you feel how it feels to be falsely accused. Most rape victims are falsely accused of making up rape stories. And that is one of the reasons that most rape victims remain silent about the rape. That also explains why victims do not come forward until five or ten years later, perhaps when they are beginning to feel strong.

To The Accusers of Victims:

The next time you are ignorantly ready to accuse a rape victim of making up a story, look inside your own heart and mind and ask yourself why you need to accuse the victim instead of accusing the criminal, the rapist, or the attempted-rapist. Look deep inside and ask yourself why the rape victim is the only victim that you discredit, and the only victim that you feel contempt for.

Updated May, 2008.

What to Do If You Are Considering Law School

Today, many college graduates are considering law school. Many Ohioans, for example dream of becoming a Cincinnati criminal defense attorney, since a Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer is well-paid and usually well respected throughout the area. However, in order to become a well-respected lawyer, you must go to school first. There are many things that must be accomplished however before one can even think about what it will be like in a law school classroom. If one is considering law school, they should start the application process late in their third year of undergraduate study or very early in the fourth year of undergraduate study. Here is a list and description of each item that must be completed in order to send an application to any accredited law school:

1. The first thing that should be accomplished is taking the LSAT. The LSAT, is much like the SAT students take before applying to undergraduate universities to test their aptitude. The LSAT is the same kind of test as it measures what the individual knows and it is thought to be an indicator as to how well the individual will do in law school. The average score on the LSAT is a 150.

2. The law school applicant also needs to have family friends, employers, or faculty from their undergraduate school write letters of recommendation. The applicant may also choose to write the letters his or her self and have them signed and approved by those listed above.

3. The applicant also needs to have an official transcript from their undergraduate career sent to each school applied to. From the transcript, people making the admittance decision can tell the kind of work ethic the applicant has and they can tell how much the applicant applied him or her self during their undergraduate career. Obviously, a person with good grades illustrates they did the work that was necessary to receive high grades and therefore that person will probably do the same in law school.

4. Most law schools also require the applicant write a few essays. The reason for this is that it is important in law school and in the law profession to have excellent writing skills. The essays are another indicator of what writing skills the applicant currently has and whether or not those skills are in line with what is required in law school.

5. Some law schools require resumes with the application, while others do not. It is always best to double check with each school to make sure the individual knows which schools require one and which do not.

As with every kind of application, whether for a job, graduate school, or undergraduate school it is always best to double check each school’s application requirements to make sure they are met. Also, it is best to read the application several times during the application process to ensure the applicant is on track with their requirements. The process and requirements may seem overwhelming at first glance, but when each item is completed over the span of a few months there is not too much to do. The best thing to do is to start working on the application early and work through it at a reasonable, but timely pace so the applicant is not completely overwhelmed.