Awards are often given to law school students who receive the highest final (total) grade for a class for each semester. Since some professors do not give 4.0s, an individual may receive an award for a 3.5, 3.8, etc. Therefore, a student who received a 3.9 in a Torts class may not receive an award, while another student who received a 3.7 in a separate Torts class may receive an award. If awards are made available to students, everyone who receives a 4.0 in a class is guaranteed to receive an award since a 4.0 is the highest possible grade awarded by professors. Sometimes, due to the class size, the highest grades in legal research and writing classes are around a 3.6.
A student can determine if they will receive an award by reviewing the grade distribution from their professor.
Typically, official rankings are made by combining all students (from all tracks/groups and usually even part-time students) together into one pool. They are made available to students at the end of their school year when grades are posted (ie in June). Usually schools wait until this time to post rankings because they have no incentive to rank students after only one semester (rankings are made by the school to determine scholarships for the next school year, Law Review eligibility, etc. and these rankings are based on a cumulative GPA).
A student may be able to estimate their ranking based on their GPA. For some schools, a 3.5-3.8 GPA is around the top 2-5% and 3.0-3.2 is around the top 30%.
Because students’ GPAs are often so close to their classmates’ GPAs (i.e. several students may have a 3.67 and several students may have a 3.60), it is difficult to predict rankings, scholarship money and Law Review eligibility.
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