How do you solve a problem like length limits on law school final exams? It’s a vexing issue. If you think we’re exaggerating, read this PrawfsBlawg post (which generated an avalanche of comments, including many from frustrated law professors).
Well, fear not. The geniuses at “the world’s premier center for legal education and research” take due process seriously when it comes to exam grading — as well they should, since that Torts grade will determine the trajectory of YOUR ENTIRE LEGAL CAREER* — and they have solved this difficulty.
From: Catherine Claypoole
Date: Nov 29, 2006 5:16 PM
Subject: [STUDENTS]: Length Limits on Exams: Memo from Vice Dean Andy Kaufman
To: [Harvard Law School students]
To all students:
During the investigation of several discipline cases last spring, the faculty became aware of substantial student concern that length limits on examinations were being enforced unevenly. Moreover, the faculty became aware that this concern was justified. Accordingly, the faculty has agreed that, starting this exam period, length limits ordinarily will be stated in a uniform way that is easy to enforce that is, by setting a page limit followed by a prescribed format as follows:
– font:12 point Times New Roman (including all footnotes)
– characters: normal spacing
– lines: double-spaced
– margin: 1″ margin on left and right, top and bottom
There is of course no need for you to remember this format. The cover pages of exams with length limits will provide this information….
Good luck with the rest of the term.
Vice Dean for Academic Programming
Our favorite detail is “characters: normal spacing.” The administration knows that within the HLS student body, there are lots of ex-college newspaper editors who know a thing or two about kerning.
Our second-favorite detail: there’s a Harvard Law School dean named Andy Kaufman.
These rules make sense, at a certain level; but the annoying thing is that someone must police them. While some violations might be apparent to the naked eye — especially naked eyes that can tell the difference between an italicized and non-italicized comma — other transgressions might be less conspicuous. Will teaching assistants have to whip out rulers to confirm that the margins are truly one inch all around, and not, say, 0.97 inches?
This is way too cumbersome. HLS profs, just adopt Dan Solove’s brilliant system for law school exam grading. Nothing could be easier or more efficient.
* No, 1Ls, we’re serious. That Torts grade will determine whether you grade on to Law Review. Which will determine whether you get a clerkship with a “feeder judge.” Which will determine whether you get a Supreme Court clerkship. Which will determine whether you end up arguing before the Supreme Court yourself, as a million-dollar partner or member of the SG’s office, or chasing ambulances in Salina, Kansas.
(Not that there’s anything wrong with Salina, for those of you who are from there. We’re sure it’s a lovely town.)
Enforcing Word Limits [PrawfsBlawg]
A Guide to Grading Exams [Concurring Opinions]