So don’t worry if you get bad grades in law school

January 31st, 2012

Cause plenty of people, Kagan included, go on to great things after missing the mark.

Former Dean Elena Kagan received several B’s during law school, especially her first year. She went on to become the first female dean of Harvard Law School, the U.S. Solicitor General, and the 112th Supreme Court Justice.

Tax Law Professor Daniel Halperin received his worst law school grade in: tax.

Dean of Students Ellen Cosgrove received a Property exam back that had a note from the professor saying “this is exactly what I warned you not to do”—followed by her lowest grade since kindergarten. She went on to work at a top law firm before becoming a dean at Harvard.

At the time Judge Richard Posner hired Professor Robert H. Sitkoff to be his law clerk, Sitkoff had received his lowest grade in law school in Law and Economics, which had been taught by Posner. Thereafter, he had one grade that was worse, in Legal Ethics. He graduated law school with High Honors.

Professor Joseph Singer earned a B- in Property. After graduating, he clerked, worked at a law firm, and has written one of the leading casebooks and treatises on—wait for it—Property. He has also authored two theoretical books on property and teaches Property courses at Harvard.

Professor Jeannie Suk received her worst grade in law school—and ever—in Criminal Law. She went on to practice and research in criminal law. No employer has ever asked about her grade, and her Criminal Law professor has remained a powerful mentor and reference for her throughout her career. “I care much more about students’ preparation and performance in a course throughout a long semester than about performance on one timed exam taken on one day,” she said.

Professor Frank Michelman’s worst law school grade was a C+ in Property. He has written and published repeatedly in the field and has taught Property courses at Harvard for over 40 years.

Professor Jim Greiner received his worst grade on the exam he felt best about after finishing. And he nonetheless was retained as a research assistant for the course’s professor.

Professor Hal Scott got a D in Constitutional Law. “We do some of that here,” Justice Byron White told Scott when he went for a clerkship interview. Scott nonetheless was selected to serve as one of Justice White’s few Supreme Court law clerks.