Rule #3 – If someone says stop, goes limp, taps out… well, law school keeps going.

xThe first rule of law school is: You do not tell your grades to anyone.

The second rule of law school is: You do NOT tell your grades to ANYONE.

There’s something about law school that takes competitiveness to a new and intriguing level. It’s more of a mutually assured destruction, really. Everyone knows that there is a curve, that people are going to have better grades than others, that employers are going to be using these grades to decide who to hire and who to shun come time for OCI (on-campus interviews, for the uninitiated). Rather than acknowledge this, though, “GPA” is the new dirty word for this generation of law students. No one, and I mean no one, will voluntarily tell you their grades. On the same note, you’re going to have to get someone really drunk before they ask you to “show them yours”.

At least this is a step up from the past. Lawyers today that took their licks before the advent of wireless internet and will tell you horror stories of trying to do case law research in the library and finding whole sections of reporters torn out by paranoid peers looking for the slightest edge. Class notes and outlines couldn’t be trusted in a school locker because they would be prone to all sorts of Spetsnaz-style attacks. Just because there wasn’t a fire sprinkler above you didn’t mean there wouldn’t be a sudden leak of water into your school-assigned lockbox, destroying your hours of hand-written or hand-typed labor. It’s obviously a bit different today – I’m not so worried about sabotage, though I will say I do backup my files pretty regularly from my laptop. One can cause all sorts of mayhem with a simple household magnet.

What this has led to, though, are two types of defensive measures by law students – factgathering and misinformation. Rather than ask around to try and find their place, people will be taking silent notes on your actions and making assumptions about your grades. This occurs most noticeably after first semester grades are released in January. All the sudden, little clues emerge. The guy in the back of the class who didn’t say anything the first semester is suddenly asking questions every day, signaling to the rest of the pack that he is desperately trying to improve his grades and get more involved in his studies. The girl in the third row that now raises her hand every fifteen minutes to speak about her opinions on the Rule Against Perpetuities is signaling her dominance to the herd and asserting her role as the alpha female. And then there’s the well dressed classmate in the front row who happens to be surfing the transfer websites for Harvard and NYU during lectures – he/she is destined to be shunned and the subject of unending gossip.

This all leads to the inevitable misdirection in the fall, when interview season comes around. All of the sudden, one firm will be interviewing at the law school but 60 students will be dressed up in their Sunday best, supposedly ready to tell their future employers how great they will be at reviewing documents in an unending litigation for the next 6-10 years. Every law student has the well-traveled myth to share about their friend who wore a suit to class every day for three weeks only to leave their resume in a lounge, where their 2.6 and future in the district attorney’s office will be revealed to the world. Every urban legend has some truth to it, I suppose.

Your best bet, simple but worth stating and repeating to yourself while you lie in the fetal position after learning your own grades, is to go with the flow and keep your head down. There’s a valuable pearl of wisdom I once heard here that bears repeating: “A students become law professors, B students become judges, and C students become great lawyers.” In three years, you can pass the bar and put up your shingle in a super worst-case scenario and make your own career. To paraphrase Tyler Durden, “On a long enough timeline, the unemployment rate for everyone drops to zero.”