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January 24, 2004


Four out of five are in, and they're fine. Not awful, I don't think, but clearly not great. It's hard to tell; how fine are the distinctions between "bad" and "ok"? I assume some of our profs will be giving us grade distributions sometime soon so we can all see more precisely where we fall in the pecking order, because that matters, right? And, of course, the torts grade remains a mystery, and I suppose it could change the overall outcome significantly downward, but I doubt it. I put in the same sort of performance in that class and exam as in the others, so I assume the results will be similar.

Thanks to everyone for the comments about how grades are working at other schools. My only real concern with the fact that grades come so late at GW (and apparently at many other schools, as well) is that there's so much money on the line. If law school tuition weren't extortionate, it would be a different story; but that's not the world we live in.

In the end, I guess it's no big deal. I'm sure having to wait three weeks into a semester for last semester's grades will end up ranking among the least of the annoyances with which I'll have dealt by the time law school is over. Perspective, right? As Transmogriflaw pointed out in his comment, the real problem is simply the obsession with grades in law school. His analysis, I think, is spot-on—the legal world simply has few other ways to divide and categorize students, so grades take on an inordinate importance. However, it's not that there are no other evaluative measures; what about participation in extracurriculars, performance on skills boards, work and volunteer experience, former career and educational experience, etc? So perhaps it's not a lack of measures, but a culture of quantification that only understands measures when they're reduced to hard numbers. Of course, these difficult-to-quantify measures might not be very good predictors of success in the practice of law, but are grades really good predictors of that?

Posted January 24, 2004 08:33 AM | law school

All of the evaluative measures that you list could be used, and might be good measures of various skills. For example, I suspect that a public interest firm probably places a higher value on volunteer work.

However, unfortunately, I think that so long as there isn't at least some consensus on what's considered valuable for the legal world, those alternate measures will not get as much use.

There is one other recognized measure that I've heard of: law review. From what I understand, you can write onto law review without good grades. Therefore, law review is an option for those that are good legal writers but not necessarily the best exam-takers.

In other news, I'm a she, not a he.

Posted by: transmogriflaw at January 24, 2004 02:08 PM

have you heard what GW's curve is by chance?

Posted by: another law student at January 24, 2004 02:50 PM

Transmogriflaw: I'm very sorry about the gender gaffe. I know better. As for law review, I started law school thinking that would be a great thing for me, but now I'm not so sure. Yeah, it's good for prestige and making an impression with prospective employers, but it sounds like a lot of work that means sacrficing lots of other, possibly better, opportunities. Depends on what you want to do after you graduate, I suppose. Our write-on competition is in March, so I'll think about it then...

Another law student: As I understand it, the GW curve is a B+, which would make the mean something like 3.25, I think. I'm one of those really bad with math people, though. Perhaps former engineer Transmogriflaw could explain this curve business to us? ;-)

Posted by: ambimb at January 24, 2004 03:30 PM

Law review is a lot of work, and you're right, it might inhibit your ability to participate in other activities that you prefer. I haven't decided what I'm going to do about law review, though I do like legal writing.

As for the curve, it's implemented differently at different schools. A B+ at my school is a 3.3. My school requires that 10-20% of all grades be in the A range (A-, A, A+) and 65-80% of the grades need to be a B- or above. The remainder fall below the B-. The range is up to the instructor's discretion, and it does vary. One of my professors was widely known for giving as many A's as he could, while another was known for giving the minimum that she could.

GW may have a stricter definition of the curve, but it's probably something like this.

Posted by: transmogriflaw at January 24, 2004 08:12 PM

Thanks for that explanation T.

ALS: I couldn't find GW's detailed policy (not yet anyway), but I did find this chart of GPAs and letter equivalents:

A+ 4.167 or greater
A less than 4.167 and greater than or equal to 3.833
A- less than 3.833 and greater than or equal to 3.500
B+ less than 3.500 and greater than or equal to 3.167
B less than 3.167 and greater than or equal to 2.833
B- less than 2.833 and greater than or equal to 2.500
C+ less than 2.500 and greater than or equal to 2.167
C less than 2.167 and greater than or equal to 1.833
C- less than 1.833 and greater than or equal to 1.500
D less than 1.500

Posted by: ambimb at January 24, 2004 08:31 PM

Oops. The real grading scale is a little different, it looks like:

A+= 4.33
A = 4.0
A- = 3.66
B+ = 3.33
B = 3.00
B- = 2.66
C+ = 2.33
C = 2.0
C+ = 1.66
D = 1.0
F = 0

Posted by: ambimb at January 24, 2004 08:38 PM

thanks so much ambimb!!

unfortunately i only got 2 out of 4 grades so far. they messed up our section's grades for some reason

Posted by: another law student (at GW) at January 25, 2004 08:47 AM

thanks so much ambimb! unfortunately i've only gotten 2 out of 4 grades so far since they messed up our section, but it's nice to at least try to understand where i fall.

Posted by: another law student (at GW) at January 25, 2004 08:48 AM

GW's curve is a 3.2. Last year when I was a 1L it was only a 3.0. After much wrangling, the faculty finally realized that it meant that all of our grades were lower than those of students at comparable schools because many of them have curves set at 3.3 Why we couldn't go all the way, I have no idea.

As far as grades go, it's important to realize that they are distributive and distinguishing, NOT evaluative. In other words, grades are not a reflection of what you know, only a reflection of how you did on a single 3 hour exam compared to everyone else in your class. It's not the most comforting thing in the world, but it's always good to realize they aren't a reflection of your intelligence.

The actual grading scale doesn't mean much as far as trying to see where you are. Some professors are nice when they grade, others aren't, and it all has an effect on how the curve looks. More often than not though, the bulk of the grades will fall around the middle of the curve.

Finally, with regard to law review, I would suggest at least doing the competition. It's far better to have options than to leave yourself without a decision to make. Public interest organizations want journal members just like any firm does. Further, being on a journal will not restrict you from participating in other activities. Lots of my friends who are on journals also have internships, participate in clinics, and are active in the skills boards and as Dean's Fellows.

Anyway, hope a 2L could help a little there.

Posted by: Sam at January 25, 2004 04:44 PM

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