LegalJob was recently asked about how (or whether) to address low first year grades in an interview.  Below are the question and the response.


Q:  I am going in to my second year.  I bombed in my first semester but did very well in semester two, particularly in _____, the area in which I plan to concentrate.  I also obtained substantive experience in this field this summer and the partners I worked for were pleased with my work.  I have a couple of informational interviews lined up and I was wondering whether LegalJob has advice regarding how (or whether) I should address my first semester.


Answer:  Sounds like you have positive things to say so LegalJob would not shy away from discussing your poor performance in the first semester.  In later posts, LegalJob will address what to do when there are fewer or no positive things with which you can contrast this poor performance.  For you though, below are some thoughts and then a quick and dirty example of your possible pitch.

  • Try affirmatively raising the issue early in the interview to frame the issue the way you prefer.  If you bring up the issue, you can minimize the potential for defensiveness.  The focus should be on the improvement and the experience (and any other x factor) you are bringing to the table that makes you more desirable than most.
  • Demonstrate that you learned from your poor performance/poor study habits (again with the focus on the success of second semester as compared with the anomaly of first semester).
  • Provide a hint as to why the first semester is not as strong of an indicator of how you will perform at the firm as other data.  Here you have the fact that you excelled in the area in which you want to focus.

So, start with the intangibles you bring — I have had a heavy level of responsibility and gained significant experience in the area of ______ this summer and worked on projects such as ______ and ________ which involved a large amount of legal research and writing and the partners I worked for were pleased with my work (and are willing provide a recommendation for specifics or here are their recommendation letters).  This real world experience supplemented my academic training generally and my studies in the _______course for which I particularly excelled.  My positive work experience, success in this class, and overall strong performance in my second semester stand in large contrast to my disappointing first semester.  I believe that the results were vastly different because in my second semester I had a better understanding of the most effective ways for me to approach legal issues and law school exams and because I had an opportunity to pursue some courses in areas of particular interest to me.