Four out of five of my grades are in. Who knows when the last one will show up. That professor is… special. His office is a 10 x 10 box of almost solid papers stuffed inside various file folders, stacked one on top of another, endlessly. His cell phone occasionally rings in class, and instead of grabbing it out of his back pocket and silencing it, he lets it ring through, staring at us both embarrassed and helpless, clearly unfamiliar with the silencing concept, pausing the class to wait for all the ringing and the inevitable voicemail notification. Then he usually says something like: “That’s probably my son. He’s got firsthand experience with the criminal justice system.”
I have him again this semester. Today he walked into class several minutes late in his parka. He took off his hat and the few strands of hair atop his head (they constitute a world-class comb over) stood almost straight up from the static. He took off the coat and revealed an oversize, sage-colored sweater that looks like something a 15-year-old girl would have bought at Express sometime in the late 90s. I wanted to hug him. Last semester, I sort of hated his class, even though he’s clearly a nice man. This week though, a little familiarity was much appreciated.
So grades. Yeah, I can’t complain. For the non-law readers: law school presents a highly competitive and strange atmosphere, where every class has a curve and class rank and GPA mean a lot for your future job prospects. Personally, I never felt this way as an undergrad. I didn’t have any special aspirations to go to graduate school or pursue anything where my GPA would matter. I did well as an undergrad, but I wasn’t obsessed with getting As, and certainly didn’t receive them all or even most of the time.
That said, because of “other factors,” like a decent LSAT, life experience and writing skills, I attend a very respectable law school. So many of my younger classmates were, quite literally, at the top of their undergraduate classes, especially those who went to smaller private schools or any of the other 4-year universities in our state system. They are used to being at the top of everything, and here here they are all forced to duke it out for the very few As and multitudes of Bs and B-s.
Since grades are almost certainly irrelevant to my future legal plans, I really tried not to stress about them. But honestly, it’s tough in this atmosphere to not care a little. So I do care a little, maybe a little more than a little, but I know my career doesn’t depend on it. There were times last semester where I was sure I would get Cs in everything (which would definitely put me in the bottom half of class) and other periods where I wondered if I might be a surprisingly brilliant legal student, proud and shocked by a set of As.
Neither is what actually transpired. But so far, I did a little better than I really thought I would do, and that makes me just a little bit happy.