If law students want one thing in their grading system, it’s clarity. This is especially true for first-year law students; 1L grades are too important for future job prospects to have a confusing and muddled set of rules.
Well, maybe not Yale law students. Famously, Yale doesn’t have traditional letter grading. A few top schools have followed Yale’s lead in recent years, but Yale is the OG of meaningless grading systems. (Berkeley students to start bitching in 3, 2, 1….) The meaningless of Yale’s Honors/Pass grading system doesn’t matter because all Yale students get jobs. No grades + Good jobs = “I don’t understand why humans cry.”
Yale students have such good job prospects that they can get jobs as law professors at other Ivy League law schools right after they graduate from Yale. But bringing happy-clappy Yale concepts of grading to “normal” law schools is not without its problems….
Whenever we talk about law school grading around here, it usually involves a law professor being incredibly lazy when it comes time to perform his or her most important function regarding a student’s likely job prospects. Or it involves a law school trying to arbitrarily inflate its grades in a desperate attempt to enhance its employment stats.
Sadly, these stories don’t reflect any effort on the part of legal academia to actually come up with a grading system that is fundamentally fair and useful to the students who rely on it. That law school grades are somewhat arbitrary is just a feature of the system that we all kind of accept, even as we know that employers place significant weight on law school grades when handing out scarce legal jobs.
Given all that, I wanted to take some time on a Friday afternoon to consider the proposals of one law professor who has actually thought through some modest ways to make grading exams something less of a random crapshoot…
On April 1st, first thing in the morning, a number of law students all across the state of Illinois received a forwarded message that the upcoming administration of the Illinois Bar Exam would be “harder” than it has been in the past. Students were told that the Illinois Supreme Court had “resolved” to make the exam more difficult, and the students were exhorted to make the appropriate preparations for the exam.
The email found its way into my inbox, but I largely ignored it. April 1st, April Fool’s Day, I’ve been doing this internet thing for a while now. I didn’t believe that a law professor randomly decided to freak out the entire law student population of Illinois.
But the joke is on me… and Illinois Bar takers. The test is going to be graded with more rigor this year, in an attempt to make it harder….
Would you like to go to law school, receive your grades, be sad, and then have your administration turn around and “recall” them because maybe they weren’t high enough? I mean, sure, you’d be annoyed that grades were late and that they teased you with something and then took it away… but if the end result was that your professors were not fully aware of opportunities to inflate your grades, you’d be willing to wait for everybody to take another look.
That’s what seems to be happening at a law school out west. The 2Ls and 3Ls received their grades over the long weekend. But almost immediately, the administration sent out word to disregard the grades because not all of the professors were aware of the opportunity to adjust the curve upwards. Would that make you happy?
In a way, I’m surprised we don’t have more stories about people posting their grades on social media sites. The kids are already using Facebook and Twitter as a running diary of their lives, so you’d expect there to be more instances where people throw their law school transcripts up on the internet.
In fact, let me ask the question this way: why wouldn’t you post your grades on Facebook? They’re clearly important to you. If you did well, you can brag about them just as surely as one of your friends is bragging about the exploits of their kids or dogs. If you did poorly, you can seek the solace of friends who you don’t actually like well enough to have a beer with. Why wouldn’t you post them?
The obvious answers seem painfully old-timey. “It’s in poor taste to brag about your grades.” “Your transcript should be private.” “You got an ‘A’? Go f**k yourself.” These are the thoughts of a previous generation. For the Facebook generation… I mean, have you seen what people post? This is nothing.
A law student decided to post his solid grades on Facebook. I bet you can guess what school we’re talking about. Let’s just say that it’s a school that seems to admit students who like to draw attention to themselves when things are going well by subtly upturning their collars….
Whether you like it or not, people are going to go back and forth on grade inflation until the end of time. Some think it’s God’s gift to gunners, and some don’t. But if you’ve decided to embark upon your legal career later in life, it may seem like there’s no way to compete with millennials whose college report cards are so littered with inflated grades that they might as well be printed in glitter and accompanied by gold stars.
I’ve repeatedly said that law school faculty members need to do a better job of taking exams as seriously as their students. Every semester, we have a spate of stories about law professors who are too lazy to write novel exams for their students. And then, weeks later, we have to start doing stories about professors who are too lazy to grade their exams in a timely manner.
And you’ll note that I don’t think we’ve done a story on a law school giving anybody a refund because it couldn’t get its act together to provide deliverables to students.
Well, one law school seems to be willing to hold their faculty to a standard of basic competence. And they’re doing it the only way that it can be done. The school is willing to punish faculty — publicly — for late submission of grades….
Every year, heck, every semester, we have to run a story about professors being unforgivably late in performing one of their few job requirements: transmitting grades to students. I simply don’t understand why so many professors won’t perform this basic function. But it probably has something to do with the fact that law school administrators don’t make it clear that it’s important for professors to provide student services.
At most schools, exams were two months ago. The “grade deadline” at schools that have them has already passed. If you don’t have your grades by now, your law school should be offering you a refund for the outstanding classes.
Oh, I’m sorry, there goes me thinking that law schools are providing a competitive service in an open market. Actually, the 200 of them of have a monopoly on accredited legal education, and they seem to have collectively decided that they don’t give a crap about this issue.
Well, students might not be able to do anything about late grades, but they don’t have to be happy about it…
I didn't do well in the classroom, so I'm going to the courtroom.
At least once a month, something happens that makes millennials seem insufferable. It’s like we’ve bred an entire generation of people who can’t take criticism. It’s an entire generation that hasn’t watched the Godfather and doesn’t understand the phrase “it’s business, not personal.” When they fail, they don’t redouble their efforts; instead, they get their feelings hurt, make excuses, and whine and complain to anyone who will listen.
So it is with some pathetic millennials from the Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Two students at the school received crappy grades. This is going to come as a huge shock to some of you out there, but it turns out that going to a lower ranked law school with the expectation that you’ll get a job if you finish in the top ten percent of the class doesn’t work out for 90% of the students.
Other people get bad grades and re-dedicate themselves to study, or (gasp) figure out something to do that they are actually good at. These kids, well, you can’t say that millennials are ashamed of being whiny bitches….
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
Whether you’re fresh off the bar exam or hitting your stride after hanging a shingle a few years ago, one thing’s for certain: independent attorneys who start a solo or small-law practice live with a certain amount of stress.
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