The atmosphere around my law school was different than that of traditional 3-year schools. Students weren't competing for grades because there was no reason to, other than pride. We had no Law Review, no Summer Internships, no special privileges to compete for. We had no time for any of the extracurricular activities that are a part of the typical law school experience. We did have a school newspaper but it languished and was unpublished most of the time because no one could spare the time to write something if it was not absolutely required.
The competition among students for grades was almost non-existent. That's not to say that groups of friends didn't compete amongst each other. It's just that there was no culling at the end of each year to worry about. The combination of the demands of law school and the ordinary, and extraordinary, demands of regular life meant that the normal law school attrition process happened automatically.
At the start of my first year, I became good friends with a very smart woman who had a successful career as a paralegal for a busy PI firm. She was married with two (three?) young teenage boys who were active in school and sports. Her husband ran a large commercial construction company and had a couple of older kids from a previous marriage. She was extremely motivated and decided right off the bat that the two of us were going to help each other through this challenge of law school as a team and nothing was going to stop us.
We studied together that first year and then prepared diligently for the First Year Law Student's Exam. When she didn't pass on the first attempt she decided that the load was too great, that her family was suffering too much from her absence because of her studies, and she dropped out of school. That happened a lot during the first year, and it continued through years two through four. These are/were very smart people who had too much on their plate to worry about what grade they earned in a class. Besides, we knew from the start that after we graduated and passed the Bar Exam, biglaw was not going to give us the time of day. Why should they when they have thousands of young over achievers to choose from who could, and would, put in 80 hour weeks. And like it.
The four year program requires 20-30 hours of study time per week For people who are already putting in 40-60 hour work weeks it's a great burden on the family, marriage, job, etc. When you consider that the schedule imposed by State Bar allows for no time off, it's a long tough road to travel. People do take time off out of necessity, but the catch-up regime can be brutal.
So, high GPAs are not on the radar. For most of us, merely graduating is tough enough. My school brings in about 300 new students per year. The last graduating class was less than 40.
Abraham Lincoln University