In this column, I addressed sadness over a bad report card. I also wrote about business law classes and law school grading mysteries.
NIED #20: Sticker Shocks and Certificates
By Christopher J. Knorps
In keeping with the tradition of being an open book when it comes to grades, I must confess that my 3L Fall Semester was my worst academic performance in law school. Over the first few days of the “sticker shock” I suffered after reading the results, I searched for a reasonable explanation:
(1) The Professors did not adjust the curve upward for the two classes I took that had less than 39 students and that I got C+’s in.
(2) I had the same “first exam” jitters for Accounting for Lawyers that I had for Criminal Law—only getting 3-4 hours of sleep before a 9 AM exam.
(3) I didn’t appropriately allocate my time on the First Amendment exam.
(4) I didn’t put in enough time to ensure that I knew the material cold (or that I could do the mathematical calculations that I’d be expected to know in Corporate Finance).
(5) I never fully understood all the permutations that the different intestacy regimes for Trusts & Estates would implicate (though this was the least disappointing grade).
(6) The clinic professor didn’t really pay attention when she gave students a “P” or an “HP.”
(7) The other students in the class were just too damn smart (or the professors taught the class too damn well).
(8) The other students getting Business Law Certificates are too damn smart.
Also I had no friends that wanted to study with me.
Most likely, all 8 of these explanations, taken together, explain my precipitous drop. However, I think the last two are the most important. #7 was true for First Amendment (Araiza is an excellent professor, and while I would never brag about that grade, I am sure that everyone in the class left it with a very good understanding of the material). #8 was true for Corporate Finance and Accounting for Lawyers (I would also add that, as a left-handed person forced to handwrite knuckle-smearing page-smudging-notes and struggle to keep up with the pace of the class, I was at a disadvantage). Corporate Finance is a required course for the Business Law Certificate, and nobody in their right mind would take Accounting for Lawyers unless they are getting the Business Law Certificate (while not required it is “strongly recommended”) or taking a general Business Law Curriculum route.
Certificates have their critics. They say, “Nobody is going to care if you got a Certificate and you get to list it on your resume.” However, I “trusted the school” in deciding to do this. I felt that if I took these courses, then I would have the basic skills necessary to enter a number of different areas embedded within the general “business law” wheelhouse. Perhaps it will have served me well to “punish myself” (in a sense) and learn this material, but it remains to be seen.
Some people may read this column and think I am dumping on all the other students that don’t take the Business Law Certificate. They might think I’m implying that the Business Law kids are the really smart kids in the school. But there are kids that are brilliant when it comes to Criminal Law, Intellectual Property (which, it is perhaps worth noting, seems much less popular than I thought it would be coming into law school), and Tax too. But I must admit that I haven’t dug deeply enough into these areas (have not delved at all into IP, regrettably) to really know the kids taking the advanced courses.
Brooklyn is not a very highly-ranked school, but we suffer outside of the New York region because people do not recognize the intellectual quality of our students. I have repeatedly said that I have never been surrounded by such an intelligent peer group in any other academic context in my life (and I think my previous schools were all more “prestigious”). And I think that holds true for most of us.
I still have to believe that I would have done better if I had taken “fun” courses like I did last year (i.e. Interviewing and Counseling, Trial Advocacy, Employment Law, Business Reorganizations—all B+s through A’s). And if all you care about is your GPA, then I highly recommend you just take courses that interest you, and don’t push yourselves to take big survey classes unless you are doing it for the Bar Exam. Some people tend to say, “That sounds awful!” when I tell them I take Securities Regulation or Federal Income Taxation or Corporate Finance or Accounting for Lawyers. And my GPA and class rank are now, officially “weak,” and there is nothing I can do about it. But I remind myself that I have been learning something “new.”
It would be interesting to see if there was a correlation between class rank and area of concentration or certificate field. I would venture a guess that the Business Law kids would be highly-ranked, but then again I am sometimes accused of allowing my experience to cloud my judgment. Regardless, a study should be made.
Christopher J. Knorps is a 3L earning a Business Law Certificate. He enjoys studying bankruptcy and constitutional law. He is organizing a 2nd Annual Open Mic this Spring with the proceeds going to Sanctuary for Families. Please e-mail him at Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in performing.