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Do your marks really matter after law school?

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As much as we hate to admit it, law school seems like a safe haven when compared to the ‘real world’. Law school is well within my comfort zone and the idea of finally leaving the nest leaves me feeling uneasy – so much so, that the last three years have been my ‘final year’ of law school.

At the time of writing this piece, I was in the process of completing my final law subject – a research thesis which I put off for about 18 months. In the words of my supervisor, my first draft was “good, it’s just not amazing”. She gave me the opportunity to submit it as it is or to use the rest of the month to put my head down, and re-work it in hope of a higher mark.

So why would I choose the latter, the harder option, rather than just handing that damn thesis in and graduating? Why do those pesky numbers on my transcript matter so much? How long will my marks matter after law school? Is it really worth all the effort?

The reality is, your marks matter – but mainly only to get your foot in the door. This includes clerkships, graduate opportunities at government departments or associateships with courts. It’s true that while these employers will place some weight on your marks, they’ll also look at your application holistically to determine whether you made the most of your law school experience and whether you’re able to apply skills broader than acing open book exams. Marks also matter when you’re applying for postgraduate studies, particularly if, like me, you’re interested in a scholarship.

Other than that, it’s hard to say your marks will matter for much longer after getting that foot in the door. Ultimately, it’s about being able to perform and execute the tasks delegated to you, which sometimes involves more than being familiar with a whole lot of case law and statute. To succeed in the ‘real world’, you’ll need interpersonal skills, time management skills and the ability to adapt to new environments – things that aren’t necessarily reflected in your marks.

But still, why bother re-writing your thesis, putting all that work in, just for a number that may or may not matter for very long?

For me, it’s about the process of learning, developing those ideas and producing a piece of work that I can submit proudly – I couldn’t possibly be proud of a piece of work unless I knew it was the best that I could do, and the same goes for work as in uni.

At the same time, I believe that law school is about putting your best effort in and whether that results in a credit or a high distinction, at least you know you’ve given it your all. I know that no amount of numbers will be able to define me and the broader skills that I would be able to add to a profession or workplace – you are not your marks.

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