Finals

Yesterday, we told you about how Villanova Law, a school still feeling the effects of a censure from the ABA for misrepresenting their class statistics to the organization, was having difficulties administering a 1L contracts exam.

Some people in Professor Joseph Dellapenna’s 1L Contracts class received the wrong exam, other students allegedly consulted their notes while the first mistake was being corrected, and it turned into a big mess. Villanova’s response was to void the essay portion of the exam for everybody, while preserving the multiple choice section, and making everybody “self-schedule” a retake of the essay section.

That was an unpopular decision.

Today, we have news that Villanova changed course. Now the dean is involved. But one wonders if the right solution might have been for everybody to suck it up and grade the original exam as it was taken, warts and all….

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We can argue about whether law schools should be prepared to help people get jobs. I mean, it’s not much of an argument, but some educators insist that helping students make good on their investment in legal education isn’t a primary responsibility of law school administration.

But surely we can all agree that administering exams is a huge part of running a law school. So why can so few schools do it properly? Honestly, why do we live in a world where people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal education, but when it comes time to take exams that will determine the job prospects of students, law schools routinely screw it up? Why is this even acceptable? Every freaking semester we have stories about schools that can’t get their acts together.

And today, we have another story. A story of an exam issue that seems so incompetent that it’s hard to fathom. A solution that manages the rare feat of punishing everybody, while not fixing the problem.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, given that this school can’t even get its act together when reporting data to the ABA…

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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….

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Law school finals are just starting for some of you, and they are wrapping up for others, but at least the end is within sight. It’s a stressful time to be sure, and different people use different strategies to stay sane. Some schools employ therapy dogs (or llamas), some students go on Adderall benders. At one Midwestern law school, they play ping pong.

But what happens when a student goes rogue and co-opts the school’s communal ping pong table for studying? Uh-oh, people better watch out or someone might get hurt….

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It’s finals period at many law schools around the country. Here at Above the Law, that means we can expect our inbox to get very entertaining. Pressure + law students + internet = loads of fun.

Well, it’s not just “pressure” that makes some law students wilt during finals period. There is no accounting for plumb stupid.

But today, we’ve got a story that is both stupid and unethical. A student at a top 14 law school reportedly posted a question from his Constitutional Law exam on a message board. He apparently posted it during the take home.

Yes, Virginia, it’s still cheating even if you do it online.

Or should I say: “Yes, Durham”???

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We’ve covered law school therapy dogs before, and the ATL staff seems a bit divided on the issue. David Lat commended Yale Law School for Monty the rent-a-stress-puppy.

On the other hand, Elie Mystal rained on the cute parade with liability concerns and other no-fun naysaying.

But today, a T14 law school is adding another animal into the finals stress relief mix. Introducing the law school llamas….

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Looking to rock your law school exams without even trying? Good luck with that. Unless you are a part of the small minority that can take an exam with little preparation and a couple shots of tequila, you will have to do some work to do well throughout your law school career. While reading all your assignments, briefing all relevant cases, and kissing up to all your law professors may help your grades a little, there is still no guarantee that all that extra work will earn you the top grades you are gunning for.

There is a strategy to doing well in law school. Most importantly, know that there is no one strategy that works for everybody. You know how you like to study, and you know what works best for you. That being said, the recruiting professionals at Lateral Link have compiled a list of tips below that worked for them and the attorneys they have placed at top firms around the world….

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Law students are starting to get a little loopy about receiving their first semester grades. It’s still too early to feel like grades are “late,” but competitive law students are starting to get antsy.

Speaking of competition, we’ve now seen a couple of examples of top law schools trying to reassure students who might receive less than stellar grades. The Dean of Students at the University of Chicago Law School sent around an important safety tip earlier this month. And you’ll remember that Columbia Law went so far as to share the unimpressive grades of Columbia faculty in an attempt to calm students.

Now another top law school is getting into the “dear God these millennials are made of porcelain” game. Note: people at low-ranked law schools, do not try this at home. Your grades actually matter, A LOT.

But even when you are being soothed by the Student Bar Association at your great law school, you should beware of the classmate that is willing to out-compete you for treats….

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Am I happy, or in misery? Whatever it is that exam, put a spell on me.

If this were any other school, if this were any other professor, I’d probably be screaming about this in my sleep. But I can’t get mad at Professor Charles Nesson of Harvard Law School. He’s old. He’s kooky. He’s got a personality and tenure. What’s not to like?

A tipster forwarded a copy of the 2011 Evidence exam Professor Nesson just issued. I think it’s great. Some people are going to go all nuts about how their school is “just as good as HLS if this is the kind of crap exam they give to students.” Some Harvard students, especially the ones who spent all semester reading and making their own case briefs, are going to scream about how they’re paying nearly $50K a year “for this.”

But whatever. You’ve got all these people running around, mainly deans at lower-ranked law schools, screaming about how legal education confers some kind of intangible, experiential benefit that cannot be codified in simple job placement statistics. Well, Professor Nesson is all about the existential experience of thinking deeply (or casually) about law — and he’s doing it at a school that confers the very tangible benefit of high-paying, prestigious jobs to all who want them.

So, strap yourselves in: two questions, 500-word limit per answer. Have fun, kids….

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How hard is it to write an exam for a course you’ve taught all semester? Seriously, tell me, how hard is it? On a scale of one to ten — ten involving programing a rocket ship, one somewhere around putting on pants in the morning — where does formulating a law school exam rate? A two? Maybe three if you are teaching the course for the first time?

It cannot possibly be so hard that you have to use the same exam over and over again, in the digital age. We’re not talking about something as complicated as the wheel. A law school exam can be reinvented, every year, with subtle and simple changes.

Using the exact same exam is just lazy. There’s no other word for it. LAZY. The high cost of law school is largely attributed to the hefty salaries of law school faculty. The least these people can do is write a novel exam each and every semester that they teach.

And yet during this finals period alone, we’ve got students from three law schools, including two law schools in the top ten, alleging that their professors couldn’t be bothered to come up with fresh exams for this year’s students….

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