Georgetown University Law Center will not be following the lead of three top law schools who have switched to a pass-fail system for their grading policy.

Harvard University announced last Friday that it would become the third major U.S. law school to switch from the traditional letter-grade system to pass-fail. Joining Yale University and Stanford University in adopting the pass-fail rubric, Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan informed students in an e-mail on Friday that the law school, beginning next fall, would implement a grading scale with only four levels: honors, pass, low pass and fail.

Kagan said she believes that the change, which was discussed and debated at length last year, will improve the quality of academic life at Harvard.

“[The switch] will promote pedagogical excellence and innovation and further strengthen the intellectual community in which we all live,” she said.

At Yale University, many in the law school believe that the pass-fail grading system offers freedom of opinion and flexibility in academic pursuits, according to its Web site.

“Yale allows you to make your education truly yours without worrying about grade competition,” its Web site states.

Georgetown, however, has not decided to take this step to move from the traditional letter grade system to a pass-fail system for its law school, according to T. Alexander Aleinikoff, dean and executive vice-president of GULC.

“We have no plans at this point to change our grading system, but we may undertake a review in due course,” Aleinikoff wrote yesterday in an e-mail.

GULC does, however, have a pass-fail course option for second and third-year law students. According to its Web site, a faculty evaluation committee reviewed the possibility of adding a pass-fail option in May 2002.

A compromise was then reached to offer but still limit pass-fail course options. Students can only take a maximum of six total credits pass-fail and only one course per semester, while required courses remain exempt.

However, the GULC Web site notes that before passing the pass-fail resolution in 2002, the Academic Standards Committee consulted with Gihan Fernando, assistant dean for career services, on the potential effects of a pass-fail system. Fernando reported that there could be some adverse career effects for students who pursue pass-fail options.

“Fernando concluded there would probably not be much impact on large firm hiring, although students should be aware that some might view negatively a pass/fail grade in a core course,” the Web site states.

In addition, Fernando reported that government agencies and boutique law firms might be “concerned” with students taking a pass-fail course in their specialty field, as well as judges looking to hire clerks from GULC.

However, Tali Shousterman (LAW ’10) believes that the pass-fail system could actually improve the quality of the job search process. “The pass-fail system allows employers to concentrate on factors aside from GPA, which I think is more conducive to assessing a student’s potential as a legal practitioner and selecting the best-fitting candidate for the position,” she said.

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