Grades Are Important
You have heard it from us, and you may hear one variation or another from your classmates and faculty: “Grades are not everything,” “Grades are not that important,” “You are not defined by your grades.” Bullshit. If you want to go work at a big firm and you want to do OCI, grades are everything.
If you don’t go to a top tier school, and you want to work for a large law firm in town then you have to be in the top ten.
Seriously, I wish I would have known that it is not worth all of the mental and emotional effort if you are not in the top ten. You are probably reading this and thinking: “Well maybe if she wasn’t in the bottom half of her class she wouldn’t be complaining.” While this may compromise what anonymity I have left, I want you, as you are reading this, to understand where I am coming from: I am on Dean’s List, law review, student government, [insert 4 other school activities here ], highly active in community service and I have several years of corporate business experience before coming to law school. My resume is just as well rounded, if not more well rounded, then most. Despite this, I’m not one of the top ten people in my class, and that is all that seems to matter.
How It Played Out
The breakdown of numbers: I applied with 14 of the big firms in our metropolis, I got interviews with 8, and a callback with only one. Given those numbers, surely I screwed something up during the on-campus interviews. That’s what I thought.
I went all out for my #1 firm. I had lunch with a partner, did a mock interview with another, schmoozed with the interviewer during our OCI Reception for over 30 minutes, and even had one of the faculty members at school that used to work at that firm put a good word in for me. I did everything to have the “in” short of having the last name that is on the letterhead. In that manner I must have done something right because instead of simply getting a rejection letter, I was left a rejection voicemail by the interviewer. After letting me down very politely, she said that if she could do anything to help me in my job search she would. So I called her.
I asked for constructive criticism, “Is there something that I said during my interview that I shouldn’t have? What can I improve on?”
She responded, “Nothing. You didn’t do anything wrong. I thought you were great. [Partner #1] thought you were great, as did [Partner #2].”
Me (thinking), “Well something must be wrong then. What the hell was it?”
She continued, “It’s just that we have a quota system here. For example, we call back 4 people from your school, and ten from [larger law school in town]. There were five law students from your school that we really liked; you were all equally qualified. The hiring committee only had one thing to make their decision on. They went by class rank, and yours was the lowest. I hate saying that because your rank is not bad…”
I tuned her out at that point, as reality began to sink in slowly. No matter how much grades were downplayed, this proved a hypocrite of every professor that had told me: “you’re not defined by your grades.” I was being defined by exactly that. They had seen me on paper, met me in person, and it all came down to the low two-digit number on my resume. Effing class rank.
Nothing is quite as demoralizing as OCI.
However, that is not to say that if you are not top 10 you will not be able to find a job or that OCI is not for you. Every school and every situation is slightly different. If the DA’s office is coming on campus and that is where you want to work – interview! If the PD’s office is coming on campus, and that is where you want to work – do it! OCI will work out a little different for everyone, but just remember that for those big firms (i.e., the majority of employers coming on campus) you probably don’t stand a chance unless you are in the top ten, or highly-ranked in a top tier school.
Was It All Bad?
While it definitely was bruising to the ego, it did help me in several respects: (1) it forced me to prepare all of my job application materials – get together my writing sample, practice writing cover letters, etc; and (2) it provided great interviewing experience. Did I get a job from it? Well, the verdict is still out on that. I only recently had my callback and have not heard back yet. So maybe. Am I still wishing that I had not put myself through this? Yes.
That’s my two cents.