Law School Exams

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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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?

Or, would you just like your grades now?

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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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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, with the second semester looming, Alison Monahan offers some practical advice for law students dealing with a particularly maddening type of professor.

At some point in your law school experience, you’re likely to encounter a professor who — brilliant though he or she may be — just isn’t that interested in discussing “the law.” Sure, they’ll go on for hours about their pet theory of justice, or an esoteric research problem they’re working on, but good luck getting them to explain how Rule 4(k)(2) works.

This can be a frustrating scenario. (After all, you are paying for LAW school.)

Chances are good they’re not going to change their teaching style (hooray, tenure), but you can develop some coping mechanisms.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

The only people who hate final exams as much as students are the professors who must eventually grade them. Some professors look at finals with open disdain. It takes them away from scholarship and they don’t even get the thrill of hearing themselves talk in a packed lecture hall.

Maybe it’s because so many professors hate giving exams that there seem to be so many screw-ups. Mistakes will happen, but often it doesn’t seem like schools have a clear plan of fixing mistakes in a way that is fair to all students.

NYU Law School has had its fair share of exam mishaps. It’s a long and embarrassing list.

But maybe NYU Law is finally starting to learn from past mishaps. Oh, the faculty still make mistakes when it comes time to administer exams, but this time the solution is that the professor is going to do extra work.

Then again, maybe it’s working extra hard after you’ve made an error that separates this famous NYU professor from the rabble….

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Ah, finals period, that wonderful time when all law students are crushed under pressure, and some of them turn into diamonds. Others just crumble. And still others take the pressure and sadness and turn it into a brilliant fountain of creativity.

Well, that doesn’t happen very often. But when it does, it’s pretty fun. A law student turned a case brief into a Night Before Christmas poem. It’s funny. I mean, it’s borderline insane to do this with a brief, but it’s pretty funny. Let’s hope our author backs away from the keyboard slowly…

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Party time?

It’s finals time already. For professors, that means another semester is in the books. Sure they still have to grade the exams, but that’s what stairs are for.

With their teaching duties done, the faculty at the University of Memphis School of Law decided to have a holiday party, with a band, in the reading room of the library while students were studying for finals.

Kind of brings new meaning to the term “tone deaf,” doesn’t it?

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Ed. note: This is the eighth installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan demystifies the law school exam.

The secret to doing well on law school exams is actually pretty simple: Deconstruct what you’re being asked to do, and then relentlessly focus on learning how to do it well.

No problem, right? So why does law school have such a ferocious reputation?

Several reasons:

1. Everything’s graded on a curve. Even if you do well, someone else might do better. You’re competing against all of your very smart and accomplished classmates, not just displaying your personal knowledge.

2. The pedagogy is weird. Unlike most undergrad classes, law professors won’t spoon-feed you what you need to know. You essentially have to teach yourself, and what you discuss in class often bears little resemblance to what you’re expected to do on the exam.

3. You don’t get any practice. Most law school classes only have one exam, so you don’t get the chance to practice before game time. There’s a lot of pressure, and not everyone can handle it.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

The East Coast clean-up from Hurricane Sandy is well underway. When reached for comment, the city of New Orleans said, “Clean-up? You guys need a wet-vac and you’ll be fine.”

In all fairness, you just have to look at the news to see how Sandy hammered the Northeast, especially New Jersey. Havoc abounds, and law schools in the Garden State are not immune from the disaster…

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How long does it take to do this anyway?

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….

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