Harvard, Jury Duty, Law Professors, Law Schools, Movies

The Harvard Law Exam That Requires You To Apply Lessons From ‘12 Angry Men’

Last fall, we shared the evidence exam of Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson. His fall exam didn’t seem to require a lot of evidence knowledge.

This semester, Professor Nesson is teaching an “American Jury” class. We received a copy of the spring take-home exam.

How do you ace a class at Harvard? You better play a lot of attention to cases your professor is currently involved in, and you better not fall asleep during the screening of 12 Angry Men….

As per usual, Nesson’s exam is short. This is a good thing. Law students tend to ramble on, desperately trying to put everything they’ve learned into their exam answers in hope that at least one thing sounds intelligent.

More importantly, Nesson always has some fun on his exam. This first question is really exactly what I was always looking for on a law school exam. If I had gotten questions like this, I’d have gotten straight As in law school:

1. Relate what you learned about advocacy within a jury context from our study of ‘Twelve Angry Men’ to the advice about appellate advocacy that Paul Pape (Attachment 1) offers appellate advocates. 500 words.

Tell me how this movie applies to a document I’m providing you? Man, I would have killed that.

But the other fun thing is that Nesson is giving his students some real legal work to do during their exam. Or at least Nesson gives them the chance to do some of his legal work during the exam.

Charles Nesson is representing a guy against the evil Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Nesson and his client have recently applied for Supreme Court review, and the RIAA is opposing certiorari. That brings us to question three on Nesson’s spring exam:

3. Write your reply to the RIAA’s Brief for Respondents in Opposition (Attachment 2) to Joel Tenenbaum’s Petition for Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court (Attachment 3). 500 words.

Sweet. Why hire research assistants when you can make all of your students help you out?

Seriously though, people need to go into their exams in a calm state with an open mind. As long as you have an agile mind, you can do fine on an exam like this. It’s only the kids who are too rigid who break when the exam is a bit of a curveball.

And hey, it’s an exam at Harvard Law School. Everybody is getting a job anyway.

On the next page is the full exam from Professor Nesson’s “American Jury” class. How would you have fared on it?

(hidden for your protection)

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