Dear 1Ls (2020 Edition)

Dear COVID-19 1Ls,

By now the grades have probably started rolling in. I don’t envy you in the slightest. At least when my first semester grades came in, I had people around me to commiserate with. More importantly, I had my fellow 2Ls and 3Ls there to pick me back up and tell me everything is going to be okay.

Allow me to be that 3L.

If you did as well as I did my first semester (hint: not well), you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed with all sorts of emotions. Maybe you’re feeling a little concerned, anxious, and a bit uncertain about what the future holds. Maybe you’re doubting your job prospects, or worse, maybe you’re wondering whether you’re even cut out for law school. All of those feelings are valid. Process them.

Then pump the brakes.

I remember the night I got my first two law school grades. The first one was a C and the second was a C+. I called my Tech Edge advisor, in tears, and threatened to drop out. After years of excelling in high school and college, I was distraught over my first semester performance. If you’re a type A student like myself (and let’s be real, most of us are), you were likely programmed all of your life to treat C’s like F’s. I’m here to tell you that it’s time to ditch that attitude. Law school is a whole different academic world; one that you’ve never experienced up until now. Moving forward, I’m going to ask that you throw every norm you’ve grown accustomed to in your academic life completely out the window. C’s are the new B’s, B’s are the new A’s, and A’s…A’s are rare.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: your grades only matter as much as you want them to matter and your grades only define you as much as you let them define you. Read that as many times as it takes to sink in.

Throughout my three years here, I’ve learned that most law school stereotypes are simply mythological. I’ve seen students in the top 10% struggle to find jobs. At the same time, I’ve seen students at the bottom of the class step into roles I thought were reserved for the elite. I was one of those students. I ended my first semester with a 2.9 GPA. I landed an internship at Twitter the following summer, I was offered big law jobs, and I started full-time with Google before I even graduated. I chose to highlight my skills in ways that my grades couldn’t. You absolutely can too.

Right now, take the time you need to reflect. If you didn’t do as well as you were hoping, go ahead and feel sad about it if that’s what you need to feel. But understand that the law school curve is silly and says absolutely nothing about your ability to become a valuable professional in this field. You belong here. Next semester will be better, I promise. You’ll have a better idea of how to play the law school game. Things will start clicking faster, and you’ll only improve from there. To reiterate, your first semester grades are not the end of the world, no matter what you’ve heard from some miserable boomer attorneys. You’ll be fine.

If you’re happy with how you did, celebrate! Take this time to think about what you did that worked and how you’ll continue to succeed next semester. Just don’t get cocky and don’t rest on your laurels. You still have a long way to go. As much as I hate the saying, it really is a marathon, not a sprint.

Regardless of how you did, I hope you all take some time to think about what you just accomplished last semester. You started and completed your first semester of law school, online, in the middle of a pandemic and during a tumultuous election year. You all are going to be some of the most resilient lawyers to have ever graduated from Santa Clara Law. So, go easy on yourselves. The first year of law school is notoriously brutal. But 2020 cranked that experience up to 11. And you survived. No matter how you did, I hope you’ll treat your first semester grades like a badge of pride. In the face of adversity, you perservered.

When you’re ready to have a discussion about what you can to do improve, consider setting some time up with your professors to go over your exam answers and find opportunities for growth. When you’re ready to have a discussion about ways in which you can stand out aside from your grades, hit me up. Let’s set some goals and chart a path to success. You’re not expected to do this by yourself.

I don’t care what your grades were. The fact that you overcame so many significant challenges just to get to this point of your law school career speaks volumes about the kind of attorney you’ll be one day. Because at the end of the day, it takes one crazy, tenacious, and motivated individual to do what you all just did. For that, I’m proud of you. And I hope you are too.

Your friend, colleague, and fellow Santa Clara Law 3L that turned out just fine.

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