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What about my grades? Q&A/FAQ from email

I am a 2L and have spent the summer at an internship out of state. I have reviewed my grades and guess that I am in the 4th quartile. I ultimately would like to work as an attorney for the federal government, but am open to any government position.

1) What should I do now to prepare myself to obtain employment?

Join the gov’t or public service sections of the MN bar and ABA. The MN Public Service section is very welcoming to students and very often willing to give them projects. Two or three years ago, one student did such good work that everyone he worked with in the section told me (without prompting) that they would be references for him and, if possible, create a budget line for him in their offices.

2) Is it possible to obtain a paid position, an externship, or an internship that would boost my resume?

Where would you like to work? Some places have paid law clerk positions; most public offices do not have paid internships, but have opportunities for volunteers. MJF handles referrals to the Ramsey County PD, which lets students do arraignments RIGHT NOW. You can get a lot of very valuable experience through MJF referrals.

However, you should define "boost my resume." Are you looking for skills or connections? Or both?

3) How can I overcome my sub-par GPA?

Read the “My Grades [are Dreadfu]l? chapter in Kimm Walton’s Guerilla Tactics. Then, remember this: the only jobs that are totally grade dependent for new grads are tenure track teaching positions in law schools, most federal clerkships, and associate positions at giant law firms. Everything – every other job – goes to students (and alums) who build skills (clinic and volunteer work), build relationships (bar associations, alumni, other non-alumni professionals), and build expertise (write a paper – enter into an essay contest; participate smartly in professional listserves and blogs).

Finally, remember that this is a top 20 law school, and you and your classmates – regardless of quartile – are in the top 10% of all law students in the US. You are smart, creative, curious, energetic and enthusiastic. Learn to portray those characteristic for potential employers.

4) How can I place my community service in the best light?

What have you done? What do you do each week? Be as specific as you can.

5) What is the best way to put my sub-par GPA in the best light?

Don’t fret about it. See #3. Talk to us.

6) What should I be doing now, if anything, as to OCIs?

Apply to the public sector jobs that interest you. Know, though, that for most private OCI employers, making a cut GPA is a way to manage a nearly-unmanageable interview season. They can't interview everyone, and so decide not to interview the people who don't make the credential cut who are otherwise unknown to them. Yet another reason to become a purposeful-but-relentless networker.

7) When do government positions for law students usually present themselves?

Now is the time to think about federal jobs. The 2006-2007 University of Arizona Gov’t & Honors Handbook will be available shortly. When the site is up, we will send you the password, which you will then be able to find password-protected on our website.

8) What information should I disclose on my resume as to grades?

None. If you aren't applying to employers making a cut for grades, use the space on your resume to tell them something compelling about you and your skills and experience.