Law School Grades: Some Perspective


Associate Director Jill Collins

Grades came out on Friday, and there was probably a wide variety of reactions.  For some, you breathed a sigh of relief, and for others you might be wondering what you can do differently this semester.  Whether you’re feeling like your hard work paid off or like your hard work didn’t yield the results you hoped for, this post is all about keeping it in perspective.  

For more advice on moving past your 1st semester grades, please join us for the New Outlook program on Friday, January 24, noon-1pm in Room 520.  This program features advice from your professors (via video), tips on improving your performance, and advice from new Assistant Dean for Career Development, Fiona Hornblower, on how grades impact your job search.   

First of all, let me say that grades are important, and I won’t pretend they aren’t. For better or worse, your GPA will be one of the ways people evaluate you.  The problem arises when you let grades define you.  So here are my two keys to keeping grades in perspective – and finding your own success.

1.  Understand that grades are not necessarily a predictor of future success (however defined) – especially first semester grades.  Exam grades tell you who is good at law school exams, which test your ability to spot and analyze issues in a short amount of time and with only what you can memorize or bring into the exam.  However, many legal jobs require just the opposite type of performance – analysis on long-term projects where perseverance and precision are the keys to success.  Guess what else?  You’re still learning how to be a law student!  You’re already much wiser than you were on December 11 before you walked into your first law school exam.  So don’t conclude that all is lost after your first semester. 

2.  Know what you value.  Set your goals accordingly.  Then measure your progress based on YOUR values and goals.  What the heck do I mean by that?  For law students, answering this question often means thinking seriously about why you came to law school.  For some of you, you chose law school because you want to help people.  Maybe helping people means being a good counselor to your clients.  Thus, being a good counselor is one of your goals.  Meeting that goal might involve excelling in clinical work and the client counselling competition.  Where do first semester grades fit in reaching your goal?  They’re important because being knowledgeable is part of being a good counselor, but it’s not the only way you will reach your goal. 

But wait – what if I want to find the job that makes the most money?  Then I need good grades so I can get a job during OCI for a summer associate position at a big firm where they pay a lot so I can get hired right out of law school and make that big starting salary as a first year associate????   Well, that’s one way to make money.  But it’s a little short-sighted.  If you value making money, then your goal really needs to be to become a partner or head up your own firm.  In order to do that, you should be a competent attorney, which requires passing but not necessarily stellar grades.  However, what you need in addition to competence is…the ability to build business!  Bring in clients.  Keep clients. Bring in more clients.  Bring in the money, my friend, and you’ll go home with the money – regardless of your law school GPA.  So if what you value is making money, and your goal is to become partner, then you should be focusing on becoming a good (or at least competent) attorney AND building relationships with everyone – your classmates, practicing attorneys, your parents’ friends, and so on. 

What if I got great grades?  If you got terrific grades, then certain pathways might be easier for you.  But taking the time now to focus on your values and identify goals that really support those values might help you avoid simply falling into something that doesn’t support your values. 

Determining your values and setting your goals will be different for everyone.  This is just one more reason why grades – which necessarily measure everyone by the same yardstick – are only one piece of the puzzle. So, keep those grades in perspective!! 


The Bar Exam and Bar Application—How to Figure It Out!


    As if law school isn’t hard enough, you also have to decide which bar exam to take and which state(s) to apply to for bar admission.  How do you begin the process?  A great starting point is the National Conference of Bar Examiners site.  This lists different multistate bar tests that states may require, and also has links to state bar authorities.  In most states a court sets bar admissions rules, so look for applicable court rules in addition to rules set by boards of bar examiners (the latter typically administer the bar exam). 

The bar application process and bar exam requirements are complicated–every state has its own rules for bar admission and requirements.  One size does not fit all!  And state rules often change.  The big take-away is to check the rules for the states that you are interested in early, and frequently.

 Some basic points to start the process:

  • Bar applications take time to fill out; they require a lot of detailed information: e.g., they may ask you to list every employer you have had, and every address at which you have lived.  You’ll also likely need recommendations to file with your application.  Start early in gathering information!  If the application for the bar you wish to apply to is unavailable, check the state bar examiners’ website to see if they have a prior version of the application to give you some idea what might be involved.  BUT NOTE that applications can change, so don’t rely on prior applications staying the same!!
  • Most states require the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), a day-long multiple choice test. 
  • Most states have a day-long essay test in addition to the MBE.
  • Some states require additional tests, which can make the overall bar exam three days.
  • Most states also require a passing score on yet another multiple choice test, the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). Each state that requires this sets its own passing score.  NOTE that some states, including Massachusetts, require a passing score on the MPRE when you apply for bar admission (which happens during your third year of law school).  For those states, you need to allow enough time to receive the MPRE score, so you will need to take the MPRE during law school.
  • No matter which bar you apply to, both you and the law school must answer questions related to character and fitness.  These can be very detailed.  It is CRUCIAL to be forthcoming and honest in disclosing any issues related to character and fitness. 
  • State bars often have course, credit, and additional requirements related to your  law school study and/or non-law school study requirements.   For example, currently New York requires that applicants perform 50 hours of pro bono services before applying for admission to practice. Applicants seeking admission to practice in New York after January 1, 2015, must demonstrate compliance with this requirement.  Another example is a new Massachusetts bar requirement applicable to all persons newly licensed to practice law in Massachusetts on or after September 1, 2013.  The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court adopted Rule 3:16, which requires completion of a one-day Practicing with Professionalism Course” within 18 months of the date of your admission.  Thus, you may need to take specific courses/credits in law school, or complete outside programs, to meet state bar requirements.  Again, check and re-check the requirements for the states to which you are thinking of applying for bar admission!
  • Increasingly, bar authorities request a copy of your law school application to compare what you disclose to the bar with what you disclosed on your law school application related to disciplinary and criminal matters.  This can hold up your bar application if there is a discrepancy between the two (though note that some states, including Massachusetts, limit what schools can ask a law school applicant to disclose regarding criminal matters).
  • Some states’ rules make it possible for an applicant to take two bar exams during the same time period (e.g., Massachusetts and New York, currently).  Think carefully about whether to do this—it is intense and requires travel in a short time period. 
  • We strongly encourage you to take a commercial bar review course to prepare for the bar exam.  Please see our Law Financial Aid Office (13th floor) to discuss options for financing the bar application, bar exam, and bar review costs.

 What if you don’t know where you will practice?  Should you skip taking the bar exam? 
NO!  Employers  like to see that a candidate plans to take or has taken a bar exam, even if it is not the bar for that employer’s jurisdiction; that communicates a candidate’s commitment to practicing. Even if you aren’t sure you will practice, you don’t know what you will do down the road, so it’s better to be safe than regret later that you didn’t take a bar exam.  **Please consult with one of our CDO counselors, who can help you figure out which bar exam to take based on your plans and interests.**

What if I need disability accommodations for the bar exam and/or MPRE?
-State bar exams:
Every state has its own procedures and strict deadlines for requesting accomodations on the bar exam due to a disability.  Please check the requirements of the states in which you are interested in, and pay close attention to deadlines.  If you received accommodations while in law school, that does not guarantee accommodations on the bar exam!  If the bar requires a form or letter verifying accommodations received in law school, contact the Law Student Affairs’ Office.  (Note that for Massachusetts, BU Disability Services will need to complete part of the form because only that office knows the diagnosis, medical documentation supporting the accommodations, etc.).  

-MPRE:  Click here for accommodation information.

 For more detailed bar application/bar exam information, our office has planned two programs that we hope you’ll attend:

  • Tuesday, January 28, 4 p.m, Law Auditorium: A program on the bar exam, bar application process, character and fitness, and the MPRE.  CDO will discuss how to determine which bar to take when you’re not sure of your job plans; financial aid will discuss financing bar-related expenses.  (Aimed at 1Ls and 2Ls but open to all JDs).
  • Tuesday, February 11, 1-2 pm, Barristers Hall: Representatives from the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners will be here to discuss the Massachusetts bar application and admissions process, and how to handle possible character and fitness disclosure issues.  (Aimed at 3Ls but open to other JDs).

 Also check out bar information on our website.

Feel free to seek out Dean Marx, Jill Collins and Brenda Hernandez with any questions.

Diversity Fellowships and Internships

Happy Holidays!

As you enjoy your much deserved time off, here are some opportunities that may be of interest.

Also, be sure to check out the CDO’s Diversity Recruiting webpage for additional opportunities.

Happy Holidays!

From all of us in the Student Affairs Office, we congratulate you on finishing exams and wish you a very happy holiday break! Below are a few things to look out for over intersession and in the first few weeks of classes:

The Registrar’s Office is planning to release fall grades by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, January 17.  They will notify students by e-mail when grades are posted to the Student Link. 

Note: transcripts will be temporarily unavailable while grades are being processed.  Any student who might need a transcript should be sure to submit their request to the Registrar’s Office by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, January 13.

Boston Christmas

The Student Affairs Office will be sending out a Continuing Orientation packet to 1Ls during the first week of classes with important dates and information pertaining to spring semester.

There are also a number of great events in the pipeline, including two bar-related programs on January 28 and February 11, so be sure to check out the Student Life Calendar and save the dates!

Have a wonderful break, and we look forward to seeing you all again in January!

Associate Dean Chris Marx, Jill Collins, Brenda Hernandez, and Kelly Sullivan

Top ten things you can (and should) do in addition to studying for exams

You’re spending every waking moment studying, right?  Wrong!  Study hard, BU Law, but take some breaks for the following “Top Ten” to-do list:

10.   Attend the Annual BU Law Student Holiday Party.  Enjoy some snacks and delicious BU Punch at the Annual Holiday Party on Wednesday, December 4, from 12-2 pm, Room 1270.

9.  Bring your questions to our AEP (Academic Enhancement Program) Open Session on Monday December 2, 1-2 pm, Room 620, and ask any burning questions about outlining, exam preparation and stress management that arose over Thanksgiving.

8.  Sign up for one of the slots to get a short Chair Massage (for the lucky).  Keep an eye out for the e-mail with sign-up instructions for chair massages.  There are limited slots and they go quickly!

7.  Coffee Break!  Enjoy free coffee, tea and cider in the lobby on Friday, December 6, from 11am-2pm (or when it runs out).

6.  Read the *updated* list of places to study, both on and off campus.

5.  Check out the Pappas Library’s list of resources for exam prep.

4.  Use technology…to save yourself from technology!

  • Back up your work, especially your outlines.
  • Visit our friends in Systems Technology on the 17th floor if you even *think* you’re having computer problems!  Fix it now – don’t wait until you’re trying to print your outline or you’re taking your exam.
  • Speaking of printing…print early or off-campus.  There is often a BIG backlog of print jobs during reading period and exam days.
  • Check out Work Rave and set some boundaries for breaks to keep yourself healthy.

3.  Visit Toby the Therapy Dog.  Anne Benson (of Grad Tax) generously shares her big, furry family member, Toby, again this exam period.  You can find him in Barristers during the following times:

  • Friday, December 6, 11am – 2pm
  • Tuesday, December 10, 12 – 2pm
  • Friday, December 13, 12 – 2pm

2.  Take care of yourself.

  • Get out of the Tower!  See #6 above or check out our blog post on Celebrating the Holidays in Boston.  A change of scenery can increase your mental alertness.
  • Take a break.  Remember that going for a walk, hitting the gym, or allowing yourself one episode of Law & Order can be just the mental break you need to keep learning!
  • Sleep.  Studies show that memory is more effectively consolidated when you get some sleep.
  • Eat.  Try to fuel your body with some healthy stuff.  The to-go case at the GSU is full of good options and it won’t take more than a moment to grab them.  Here’s where you find what’s open at the GSU.

1.  Ask for help!!  If you’re struggling with a concept, find time to talk to your professor, reach out to your classmates for ideas, ask your student advisor or writing fellow for clarification, or grab a librarian to help you find new resources.  You are not alone with this material or experience!

If you’re having trouble with daily activities (eating, sleeping, concentrating), or are feeling severe anxiety, reach out directly to Student Health Services at 617-353-3575, BU Behavioral Medicine at 617-353-3569, or come see us now for confidential help!  We’re here for you, and have many resources we can share with you confidentially.

Good luck, BU Law!

Diversity News Roundup November 2013

It’s hard to believe, but the semester is winding down. We’ve had some great events this semester from the BLSA/LALSA Welcome Back Dinner to NALSA’s Annual Thanksgiving Celebration. Next semester promises to be no different. In the meantime, below you will find some diversity events around Boston. Also, there’s been a lot going on in the news on issues of diversity, here are some in case you missed them.




Celebrating the Holidays in Boston

The holiday season is officially upon us, and there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate across the city and beyond!

Hanukkah, Thanksgiving & Thanksgivukkah

This year, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fall on the same day for the first time in over a hundred years, spawning the superpower hybrid holiday Thanksgivukkah. Celebrate either or both at one of the events listed below:

Thanksgivukkah at the Beat Hôtel (Wednesday, November 27, 5pm)

Wanderu’s “Orphan” Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 28, 2pm)

Chanukah Celebration at Faneuil Hall (Sunday, December 1, 3-6pm)

5K Races 

Trying to stay healthy amidst the onslaught of family dinners and holiday parties? Consider registering for one of these great races:

Turkey Trot 5K (Thursday, November 28, 9am) 

13th Annual  Boston Volvo 5K Turkey Trot (Thursday, November 28, 9am)

Yulefest 5K Race (Sunday, December 1, 9:30am) 

Tree Lighting Ceremonies

Tree lighting ceremonies are fun for children of all ages, and a perfect way to get into the holiday spirit! Grab some hot chocolate and head over to one of the many options around the city:

Fanueil Hall (Saturday, November 23; musical performances will take place all day starting at noon, with the lighting ceremony slated for 7:30pm)

Boston Common (Thursday, December 5, 6-8pm. The event is preceded by a skating show on Frog Pond starting at 5pm and followed by the lighting of the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.)

Copley Square (Monday, December 2, 5pm)

Strolls & Crafts Markets

Boston’s annual “Holiday Strolls” and craft markets are a fun way to explore new neighborhoods and find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Here are a few that are happening this year:

Beacon Hill Holiday Stroll (Thursday, December 12, 6-9pm)

North End’s Buon Natale Holiday Stroll (Friday, December 6, 7pm-11pm)

SOWA Holiday Market (Saturday, December 14 and Sunday, December 15, 12-6pm)

Craftsboston Holiday Show  (Friday, December 6 – Sunday, December 8 ) 

Holiday Shows

Get your culture in this holiday season with one of these classic holiday shows:

Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker (Friday, November 29 – Sunday, December 29)

A Christmas Story (Wednesday, November 20 – Sunday, December 8 )

2013 Boston Holiday Pops (Sunday, December 1 – Tuesday, December 31)  

It’s a Wonderful Life Live Radio Play (Friday, December 13 – Sunday, December 22)


Honor African heritage with one of these exciting Kwanzaa celebrations in the greater Boston area:

BBA Diversity and Inclusion Section Holiday Reception and MBWA Kwanzaa Celebration (Thursday, December 12, 2013)

Annual Kwanzaa Concert (Friday, December 13 and Saturday, December 14)

New Year’s Eve

And lastly, celebrate the start of the New Year with First Night Boston 2014 on New Year’s Eve!

If you’ve heard of any other fun holiday events this year, please leave your tips in the comments!

Diversity News Roundup October 2013

We’ve been back almost two months and there have been so many great events on campus. In case you haven’t checked it out yet, the Student Affairs Office has a new Student Life Calendar to keep you up to date on what your fellow students are planning. The calendar will also include the Student Affairs Office events such as the Legacy Series programs. Our October Legacy Series event was a great success. If you have any ideas for future Legacy Series programs, please let me know. Now here are some upcoming events and diversity news stories.




Student Life at BU Law–Check Out Our New Calendar!

BU Law is blessed wtih a diverse array of student organizations (over 30!) who bring in speakers and alumni and plan fun social events.  Our Student Affairs’ Office also plans community events such as faculty brown bag lunch talks and student appreciation days (Ben & Jerry’s ice cream anyone?).  But sometimes it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on and where. 

To help solve this, we’ve enlisted Google’s help.  We’re excited to announce our new Google Student Life calendar, which will include student organization events and our Student Affairs’ programs and events.  When a student organization member visits the 4th floor Student Affairs’ Office to book a room, we will ask him/her to complete a form with event details that will be entered into this calendar.  The calendar will be accessible on the Student Affairs’ part of the website through a side navigation bar entitled “Student Life Calendar.”  You can select specific events to see more detail or to copy the event to your personal Google calendar to receive future reminders.  Below is a snapshot of the calendar (click on it to enlarge):

A caveat–this calendar is ONLY for student organization and Student Affairs’ events.  Please continue to check the main online BU Law calendar for all community events.

We hope you’ll find this helpful.   And keep on planning events!

Tips for New Bostonians

– When you’re taking the T, “Inbound” means heading towards the Park Street stop, and “Outbound” means heading away from it.

– The South End and South Boston are two different neighborhoods.

– You’ve probably already noticed that our public transportation doesn’t always run like clockwork. Happily, there are a number of apps to help you navigate the scheduling discrepancies, such as OpenMBTA and TransitLive.

– There’s a long-standing rivalry between people from the North Shore and South Shore (coastal towns to the north and south of Boston). As a girl from the South Shore, I don’t have to tell you which one is better.

– The Boston University Bridge on Commonwealth Avenue has the distinct recognition of being the only place on the planet where a boat can sail under a train going under a car that is driving under an airplane.

– There are some fantastic food trucks floating around the city, and thankfully someone keeps track of where they’re going to be here.

– Pop = soda; cheesesteak = steak and cheese; sub = grinder.

– The departure times for the last trains of the night vary by T station, but are generally between midnight and 1am. Bars close at 2am. This doesn’t make sense to anyone, but you still have to plan accordingly.

Any other tips for new Bostonians? Write them in the comments!