Our law student readers are well aware that finals season is underway. People have already started camping out at the library as they meticulously prepare and organize their outlines and note cards. They’re double- and triple-checking their professors’ slides to make sure they haven’t missed any important information. And for the average law student, poring over pages and pages of text can get mind-numbingly boring very quickly.
Law School Exams
Good luck to all.
I had a very strict, almost superstitious, regimen to get myself in the mood to take a series of eight hour exams for 100% of my grade. Before finals period, I would watch the fight at the end of the first Rocky. Because the point of finals period isn’t necessarily to win, it’s to go the distance.
My motto was always, “you can learn a lot in eight hours.” My school generally had eight hour take-home exams for 100% of your grade.
The students at Rutgers Law about to encounter their first finals period have a different sort of motto. It’s a very good one….
It’s the end of October, and you know what that means: law school finals are lurking. As law students begin to hunker down and make sweet, sweet love to their outlines and flashcards, others are busy thinking up more clever ways to study the same materials.
Visual learners think that drawing pictures will help them cram especially boring law into their brains, but those in the auditory learning crowd know better. And that’s why one law student is writing rap songs about the most boring law of all, Sarbanes-Oxley….
Last week, we told you about some law students who were holding tryouts — and charging a $20 application fee — to fill the final two spots in their study group.
The students in the group were roundly mocked. Charging an application fee made demanding an undergraduate transcript from applicants pale by comparison.
Now, if the school had been a place like UVA Law, the student body would have gotten defensive and lashed out about how the study group post “didn’t tell the full story.” They’d whine about how the study groupers didn’t “represent” the student body. They’d claim that ATL “planted” the poster, because we “had it in” for the school.
But some students at the Georgia State University College of Law didn’t feel the need to defend their school or the silly students in the study group. They realized that nobody would impute the toolish behavior of a few 1Ls to an entire institution.
Instead, they chose to have a bit of fun with it. Confidence and a sense of humor are beautiful things….
In some imperceptible yet significant way, the experience of American legal education has reached a new low.
We all feel this. Between tuition that is out of control, deans who don’t tell the truth, and students who are willing to fight other students to the death to get jobs in a market where there aren’t enough to go around, law school feels like less of a good experience than it used to be.
And we feel that in the air even if we can’t put our finger on it. And then we see something like what’s happening at one state law school, and the whole sad experience of getting a legal education in America suddenly has a new mascot.
Today we have a flyer from a group of three 1Ls who want to hold “tryouts” for the other two members of their study group. We’ve seen this type of thing before — remember the study group at a top-ten law school that required a transcript? — but this latest application process takes things to another level.
This study group wants to charge people $20 for the opportunity to try out….
If you’re a law student looking for guidance about preparing for and taking exams, you might want to check out Open Book: Succeeding on Exams From the First Day of Law School (affiliate link). Written by two law professors — Barry Friedman, of NYU Law School, and John C.P. Goldberg, of Harvard Law School — the book connects the dots of the law school experience, explaining how what takes place in class relates to both final exams and the practice of law.
How has the book been received?
You know, given the fact that most law school professors act like they are doing you a favor by grading your exams, it’s a wonder this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often. Of course, since it doesn’t happen more often, this is a noteworthy occurrence.
A criminal law professor out in California figured out there were grading errors from her fall semester course. She figured this out last week. But the errors were so significant that it changed the class rank of some students.
Yeah, so if you got dinged from a summer associate position because your first semester grades were too low, or if perhaps you didn’t even apply for some positions because you didn’t meet a percentile cut-off, whoops, your professor might have screwed up.
Which law school needs to examine its motives?
* Harvard Law School exams used to be easier. Think about that the next time you hear about grade inflation. [The Volokh Conspiracy]
* Speaking of things getting harder, this seems like proof that the Bluebook exists to propagate sales of the Bluebook. [Josh Blackman's Blog]
* And yet the Bluebook hasn’t been updated to include a special citation form for Wikipedia. Weird. [An Associate's Mind]
* Howrey going to WARN them that there are more of these lawsuits coming? [Am Law Daily]
* A professor at John Marshall Law School (Atlanta), Lucille Jewel, has written a law review article about the ability of scam blogs to impact legal education. I’m just going to sit very still until Leonardo DiCaprio confirms that I’m already dreaming. [Legal Skills Prof Blog]
* “People’s preferences can sometimes override their principles.” No, that’s not the subtitle of my upcoming book, “Bush v. Intellectual Consistency: The Antonin Scalia Story.” [Blackbook Legal]
We all know that in this legal economy, 1L grades are critically important. There aren’t enough good jobs to go around, and coming out of your first semester with a strong transcript can really help. This is why some law students flip out over changes (real or perceived) to grading policies or curves.
But getting a bad grade is not the end of the world. Performing well on law school exams is a skill, one that doesn’t come naturally to everybody. And in light of the length of a person’s entire legal career, it’s kind of amazing that people stress out so much over 1L transcripts.
At Columbia Law School, the administration wants first-year students to keep a sense of perspective about their grades. In a very nice gesture, Dean of Students Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin sent the 1Ls a nice message that highlighted some of the poor grades achieved by some Columbia’s own faculty.
The message was clearly “Everything is going to be fine.” But not all Columbia students took it that way…
Why? I have no earthly idea. We’ve talked about this problem before: we get that professors really hate spending the time it takes to grade a bunch of exams. It’s boring. It’s arbitrary. It’s annoying to know that no matter how “fairly” you grade, you’ll have at least a few students who can’t handle the truth, waiting in your office to ambush you.
But it’s also your job. It’s your duty, owed to the students who are ruining themselves financially to help pay your salary, to provide them with grades in timely fashion. This is especially true in law school. And it’s especially true in a crappy economy. Law school grades matter, and it’s just cruel to keep students in the dark about them.
Now, if I show you a hundred professors who handed in grades late, you’ll hear a hundred different excuses about why grades were delayed: “I was preparing for a conference,” “My Commodore 64 broke down,” “I was having personal problems” — whatever. We get it; sometimes life intervenes and prevents professors from doing their jobs.
But at NYU Law School, some students are alleging that professorial favoritism is allowing some professors to turn in their grades much later than others…