Law School Exams

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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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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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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My 1L grades were this big.

Continuing our discussion of “elite law school problems,” let’s talk about grades. If your law school is ranked poorly, waiting for your grades has made you stressed all January. But if you go to a top-ranked law school, it really shouldn’t be that stressful, right?

Hell, if you are going to a truly elite law school, you don’t even have grades. Sure, if you are gunning for the Supreme Court clerkship down the road, your transcript is important. But if you’ve made it all the way to one of the best institutions of higher learning, and all you care about it whether you get an A and a pat on the head at the end of the semester, you’re doing it wrong.

Sadly, there are a lot of people at top law schools who are doing it wrong.

At the University of Chicago, Dean of Students Amy Gardner decided to send a reassuring note to students about their grades. Most importantly, she told students not to believe each other if they try to brag about their grades.

It’s a lesson even non-Chicago students might need to hear….

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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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A little while back, we asked how many of you had tried Adderall, the ADHD drug that some students use to get a boost around study time. A whopping 30% of you said you had tried the drug and 70% of you are lying.

It’s a figure that should make law school deans sit up and take notice. You know, if they weren’t busy figuring out how to charge the students more money for an education that isn’t getting more valuable in any way.

But now let’s ask the fun question. Is using Adderall that big of a deal?

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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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* Now that Chicago has bared it all, isn’t it time for other law schools to fall in line? Show us the stats for the class of 2010 already. [Law School Transparency]

* And this is why your mother told you not to talk to strangers. [Legal Juice]

* If you’re going to send out a survey asking who your bros would like to rape, at least be classy about it. “Surprise sex” just sounds better. [Yahoo!]

* Five useful tips on how to be a better law prof, written by a law prof. Sleeping with students didn’t make the list. [PrawfsBlawg]

* In America, we make television shows about women and their witchy ways. In Saudia Arabia, they just kill them. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Martin Klotz, outside counsel for SAC Capital’s Steve Cohen, demands that you respect his client. [Dealbreaker]

* Ryan Gosling’s hotness put to good use for law school finals. [Law School Ryan Gosling]

* We should start preparing for the first Skyrim-based lawsuit. [Slate]

Downward dog... kind of.

* Protip for Mark Hansen, AT&T’s lawyer: when you want a judge to save your merger plans, it’s probably not a good idea to demand that she make a ruling by a certain date. [Businessweek]

* What’s going on in Cooley Law’s defamation suit against Rockstar05 (other than discussion of whether the school’s attorney understands the tort’s defenses)? An appeal. [Lansing State Journal]

* Getting a prep school education in New York isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Ask Philip Culhane, Simpson Thacher partner and name plaintiff in the Poly Prep sex abuse suit. [New York Times]

* America, f**k yeah! The Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is suing the DMV over free speech rights they might not have had if they seceded from the union. [Fox News]

* Yoga guru Bikram Choudhury tried to sue his disciples for infringement of his moves, but he ended up getting it downward doggy style from the Copyright Office instead. [Bloomberg]

* “If you want a good grade, you need to have sex with me.” At the height of finals season, many law students wish this were an option, but apparently it only happens in college. [New York Post]

Law students, we know that finals time is rough, because we’ve all been there. Sometimes getting together with a study group is a great way to take the edge off (not to mention a great way to “suceed” with friends). Amid the excitement of the fall 2011 bonus season, these kids are buckling down and studying their tails off, in the hopes of some day getting a dime of what Biglaw associates are currently complaining about.

And like good little scouts, these law students are prepared. Okay, maybe some of them are a little bit too prepared. When your classmates email us to let us know that they hate studying at the law school because of you, maybe you need to give it a rest….

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