Finals

‘If they hadn’t done what I told them not to do, they’d be alive.’

It’s final exams time, which means it’s time to start our semi-annual series on law professors who are too busy to write novel exams for the students who pay their exorbitant salaries.

I really don’t understand how this happens every semester. You know how in children’s stories there’s often a key plot point that revolves around the child/hero being specifically told not to touch something or else horrible things will happen to them, but they touch it anyway because they’re just kids, but the “horrible thing” doesn’t kill them? That’s what this feels like.

Every semester we write stories about how one professor’s laziness in question usage screws up entire transcripts, and yet every next semester it happens again. Either writing exams is one of the hardest thing to do on the planet or there are way too many law professors who don’t care one iota about the careers of their charges.

I don’t know about you, but I’m leaning towards the latter….

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Earlier this week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo:

Let’s have a look at what our readers came up with, and then vote on the finalists….

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Whether they like it or not, law students need to be very flexible; after all, they’re preparing themselves to some day bend over backwards for Biglaw partners. By way of example, just take a look at law school finals. This time of year tends to put students into some pretty awkward positions. From going shirtless in the library to sleeping with a classmate — for an outline, obviously! — law students are willing to do just about anything to make the grade.

But just how far can a law student bend before she breaks?

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Finals time is upon us once again, and that means law students are about to reach their breaking points. Perhaps that outline you got in exchange for hooking up with a 3L wasn’t very helpful, or maybe you missed one too many classes to know what the hell’s going to be on the test. Whichever way you slice it, you think you’re going to be screwed.

Luckily, your law school’s administration is well aware of the situation, and to try to alleviate some of the stress, law schools are offering students relief in the form of food, massages, and puppies. These are just some of the perks of an education that costs up to six figures to complete.

Come on, wouldn’t you rather snuggle with a cute and cuddly animal instead of grabbing a handful of your poop and smearing it all over the walls? Let’s see what law schools are doing to prevent their students from losing their sh*t — literally….

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I prefer my final exam freak-out stories to be of this variety instead of a freaking remake of Quills.

You all know how much I appreciate a good final exam freak-out. Law students losing their minds under the crushing pressure of end-of-the-year exams is one of those things that makes my job fun.

But not today. Because I really don’t like fecal humor. If I’m going to talk about poo on the walls, I want to be making an elaborate, overwrought analogy about what I intend to do with the conservative opinion in Fisher. I don’t want to be talking about literal poop on an actual wall in a real law school.

Unfortunately, it looks like this semester’s top exam disassociative break involves: poop, walls, urinals, and a New York area law school…

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The answer to the question of where you should be with just a couple of weeks until finals is “it depends.” Of course, every law student knows that almost every question can be answered with “it depends,” so the following will discuss what it depends on and why.

First, it depends how you learn. What I mean by that is that while most law students are busy outlining, the students I coach (at lawstudentcoach.com) are doing a variety of activities, some of which include outlining. Why do law students outline or study from outlines? The simple answer is that your exams will require you to show that you can work with the law and use the law in a manner that is structured and well thought out. It makes sense, then, to prepare in a manner that forces you to examine how the rules of law fit together, that forces you to categorize and to make decisions about what rules are related and how they are related. Creating an outline can thus be a very valuable study activity.

The downside of an outline, however, is that it works best for those who think in straight lines. In a traditional outline, things are related in only one or two possible ways. Concepts are either separate enough to be side-by-side or one concept is a subcategory of another. However, legal concepts often have a more complex relationship….

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Here are some subject lines on emails currently floating around in my inbox:

“Unfair Grading Policy at Fordham Law (due to Professor negligence!)”

“Constitutional Law Exam at Fordham Law School (One wrong move after another by the Administration)”

“Fordham Law Fiasco”

Here’s a text message I received yesterday:

“Elie, how can you write about the Michigan douchenozzles when we’ve got a professor who screwed up the basic integrity of our law school transcripts?”

Without reading any of these emails, what would you guess happened? I’d say that a constitutional law professor at Fordham School of Law got lazy when it came time to write exams, made a mistake that gave one group of students an unfair advantage, and when it was revealed, the administration came up with a solution that most students feel is unfair.

That’s what I would guess. But I could be wrong. I’m not an expert or anything, I’m just a guy who has gotten very used to the way professors treat law school exams. Let’s read the emails to find out what happened….

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Now that we’re done yelling at all the law professors in America who couldn’t bother to submit grades for their classes in a timely manner, it’s time for our other semi-annual tradition of covering total grading screw-ups by esteemed legal academics. Exam period isn’t truly over until at least one professor adds to the misery of current law students in some odd way.

The screw-up in this instant case is a doozy. We’re looking at a large 1L class, a massive administrative failure, and a loss of privacy for the students.

You know your screw-up is noteworthy when the official administrative “solution” to the problem is “wait, don’t read that email…”

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We talk about this twice a year. Sorry, I should say we are forced to talk about this twice a year. Every year. Because every semester, there are law professors out there who refuse to submit grades in a timely fashion.

I don’t know why. Professors have to work like nine or 12 hours a week, maybe eight months a year, and write a final exam and grade it. That’s what the students are paying them for. The rest, the research, scholarship, whatever glad handing they do on their path to tenure, is something they can do on their own time. On the student’s dime, they have to lecture, write exams, and grade them.

WHY DO SO MANY OF THEM FAIL TO DO THIS?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I may never know. Last semester, Columbia Law School threatened to fine professors who handed in late grades.

Columbia’s plan seems to be working, so maybe other New York area schools should give it a try….

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The train to crazy town is now entering the station.

I was getting worried. It’s almost Christmas, and I hadn’t seen one really good “law student meltdown” during finals period. Until today. Today, the good students at Brooklyn Law School provided me with my favorite semiannual experience of following along as a law student cracks under the pressure over email for every one to see. It’s like watching Gollum scamper out on screen and thinking, “Yes, this is why I’ve committed 29 hours to see this movie.”

Allow me to set the stage. It’s a three hour exam: one hour of multiple choice, two hours of essays. The exam is being administered in two different rooms. The proctors are supposed to collect the multiple choice section after the first hour. And that happens in exam room 601. But in exam room 603, the proctors don’t collect the multiple choice; instead, they leave it with the students as they hand out the essay section. So, arguably students in room 603 had two “extra hours” to fiddle with the multiple choice section if they wanted to.

And this caused one Brooklyn Law student who took the exam in room 601 to basically lose his freaking mind and try to start a grassroots campaign to get the multiple choice section nullified.

It’s pretty funny, in a “crazy person loses his s*** in public” kind of way….

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