Saturday, December 26, 2009

OPEN THREAD: Brother Can I spare an Outline?

There is an interesting phrase in the landmark book Law School Confidential - it's something along the lines of "Anytime someone asks you for notes, or any other materials for class, you give it to them no questions asked . . . it's the right thing to do . . . and it never hurts to build up some 'favorable equity' with your classmates."

But several people emailed us over the most recent finals period, wondering how much is too much?
[D]ood, you should do an open thread on note sharing. specifically, what to do when a fellow classmate, who regularly misses class and takes terrible notes when in class, asks for all of your notes and/or an outline from the entire semester.
OK. I think most of us would give another classmate notes for a missed class. All of us I hope. What about an outline? We probably would give one of our amazing outlines to someone who asked, even if they missed a lot of class (who knows why they missed class? Could be illness / family stuff / etc.) But what about if you know the person was just a slacker and asked for an entire semester's worth notes, or an outline? Law School is a zero sum game, after all. But then again, UVA

Feel free to sound off in the comments - Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Some Thoughts About This New Paper Deadline Business

A little while ago, we praised the decision to push the due date for papers this semester back a month to January 18, in keeping with what the school has done historically, and with what many other law schools do: give students the winter break to write their papers.

Of course semester, all of that ends: the papers for all classes will, at latest, be due at the end of the normal finals period. We noted additionally when this decision came out we thought it was a bad idea. Now, having had a class where the paper was due at the end of finals, and having a class where the paper was due in January, we're sure it's a bad idea.

It should be in the Law School's interest to encourage students to submit the highest quality written work possible. Indeed, many students go on to have papers written for classes published as Notes in prestigious legal journals.

That being the case, we just can't imagine trying to write a high quality paper while trying to study for three to four exams. Some might counter and say that students should just try to get their paper writing done well in advance of the finals period, and this is a fair point in many classes (indeed, some professors require drafts earlier in the semester; others have due dates in October-November).

But it's not true in other classes. In some courses, it's difficult to write the paper before the course nears its conclusion: for Fall courses this is sometime toward the middle or end of November. And then there are short courses. We took a course from November 7th to 17th. Without the pushing of the deadline back to January 18, we would have had to have written a paper plus take four finals. It would have been tough, and our grades in those four exams, and paper would have suffered.

Instead, we have a month to write the thing, and think that we will churn out something pretty good between watching our stories and eating Chinese food with the brohim. Everyone else in the class will have the same advantage, of course.

So, what's the harm in waiting? Yea, it takes a little longer to get grades back - but it's not like grades are returned to us with lightning speed anyway. And that seems like a small price to pay for higher quality work and a collective lower level of stress of the students.

(One reader wants me to point out here that perhaps students taken a paper were unduly advantaged under the old system - having more time to study for less finals. Color us unimpressed by this logic - we'd much rather take four finals than do three finals and write a 25+ paper).

What's the Deal With this "New" Paper Deadline?

Friday, December 18, 2009

W&L Law Profiled Favorably in Washington Post

Hope everyone had a good end-of-finals wind-down; we heard Three was off the proverbial hook, although we got our kicks from watching Peyton Manning do work. We have a couple of things planned for the break blog-wise, but for the most part we'll be laying low.

Anyway, today's Washington Post featured an interesting profile of Washington & Lee Law School's third-year program. In it, students
[a]bandoned the lecture hall to spend their final year of law school learning how law is practiced -- including the mundanities of dressing for court and the intricacies of taking depositions and writing briefs on deadline.

Students are working court cases from complaint to verdict, matching wits with opposing counsel, currying favor with judges and managing difficult clients, real and simulated.

"You can act like a real attorney. It's kind of scary," said Elizabeth Clarke, who is spending part of her third year at Washington and Lee in an "externship" at the commonwealth's attorney's office in Botetourt County, 38 miles from campus. She recently watched, for the first time, a judge send to jail a man she had prosecuted under the supervision of an actual prosecutor.

Leaders at Washington and Lee say that within the hidebound world of legal education, their new curriculum amounts to revolutionary change.

So it's like a clinic . . . but all the time . . . with hypothetical clients? When would you play softball? The article notes that W&L kids are busy:

The new third year began with a two-week course that took students through a court case from start to finish. It was a grueling, sunup to sundown affair, not unlike the boot camp running next door at the Virginia Military Institute. Another two-week exercise will open the second semester.

But the core of the curriculum lies in 20 new practical courses, each designed to teach students an area of law by simulating legal proceedings.

. . .

There is a tradeoff in the new curriculum. Students lose the chance to take high-level courses offered in a traditional third year, classes typically taken by top students vying for prestigious clerkships with federal judges.

What do you guys think? Frankly, we like the opportunity to take courses my third year - and we kind of get the feeling that after this, we'll be working plenty.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Speaking of Exams, Some Professors Would Like to Know Who You Are

Sorry for the infrequent updates y'all, we've been busy, what with trying not to fail out of Law School and all.

Anyway, students often complain that LS exams are graded rather subjectively and arbitrarily, and that there is basically no chance for review of this subjective and arbitrary process. But at least, to the students' advantage, such vagaries don't correspond to a student's perceived performance in class prior to exam, or to the professors like (or dislike) of him.

Well, for now anyway. But one professor on a well-known law blog argues that law exams shouldn't be anonymous anymore:
My impression is that while my students are generally big fans of anonymous assessment, my colleagues at Drexel and elsewhere may not be.

Part of this phenomenon has to do with the realization by many legal academics that blind grading can result in some “unfortunate” outcomes. We have all had the student that we think is bound for great things do poorly on our exam and the deadbeat student get a B+ (or even an A-). That hurts given that potential employers (law firms, judges, and others) use grades as a primary screening tool when deciding between candidates.

That said, I think my discomfort comes from a slightly different place: while acknowledging the strong counters in literary theory and elsewhere, I tend to believe that texts ought not to be separated from their authors. It is authors as much as words that mark our paths through emails, essays, articles, short stories, and exams.

Literary theory? For realz? Our response is three-fold:

(1) Blind-grading allows the grader to be "objective", at least in so far as his personal likes and dislikes won't subconsciously (or, in the worst-case, consciously) be taken into account for grading purposes.

(2) I'm not writing literary analysis when I'm writing an exam. Except for my Law and Literature exam, of course. I'm writing cold, hard, legal reasoning. When I write a law exam, I'm often not answering: "What do I actually think should happen here" but "What can I argue the easiest". For that reason, I'm not going to stand by what I say in exam the same way I would stand by a brief. For the latter, Rule 11 means that I have to mean everything in good faith when I put my name down there. For the former, my signature just means that I didn't violate the honor code, not that my arguments are made in good faith (and they typically aren't - I've said some crazy things on exams).

(3) Flame? The Professor will recognize the true gunner's exam for its use of double entendres, Greek and Latin phrases, and citations to the Professor's law review articles. Or he should, anyway!

Your thoughts?

Friday, December 11, 2009

WSJ: Here's How to Crush Your Exams

A tipster points us to an article on the WSJ Law Blog titled "On Crushing Your First-Year Exams: Advice From Some Who Did":
This time, we asked a handful of current law students serving on their respective law reviews to talk about how they managed to kill it on their first-year exams. Specifically, we asked the students to finish the following sentence:

The smartest thing I did while preparing for my 1L first-semester exams was ______.

Of course, some of these responses might strike you as obvious, others as insightful, others a combination of both. We allowed folks to give names or submit anonymously if they so chose.

Naturally, there has to be someone from the Law School on there - and there is!:
Rogan Nunn, 3L at UVA and an editor on the Virginia Law Review: By far the most useful thing I did when preparing for 1L exams was to round up a few people from the class and take old exams. Don’t just go through them, take them — pretend it’s the real thing, time limits and all. Then discuss answers. You’d be amazed how much you miss the first time. It can be time-consuming, but all the outlining in the world won’t save you if you can’t spot the issues on the fly.
Truth. As we have said before, taking practice exams is practically the most important thing you can do. And (EITE) this is good advice for anyone, not just 1Ls.


On Crushing Your First-Year Exams: Advice From Some Who Did [WSJ Law Blog]

Monday, December 07, 2009

Don't Pull Our Coffee (!)

As we speak, 1Ls are taking their contracts exams. Good luck! (Although wishing you luck as a group is some what paradoxical, because you all get a B+, on average. So don't worry.)

But, on to more important things - WHY DID THEY TAKE AWAY THE COFFEE AT 10.15 AM ON SATURDAY.

Some background: as you guys know, the Law School has graciously provided coffee for the morning exams (one time they even gave breakfast and other times candy). Anyway, there has always been coffee, and they've typically kept it out until noon or so.

But this time - when I was taking our first exam - they took the coffee away before 10.15 AM. How do I know? Because I desperately, desperately needed some caffeine to power me through my Criminal Investigations final, and I couldn't get it. The coffee was gone. Gone! It was just cruel - at first I thought I was looking in the wrong WB "lounge" but no. The coffee was gone.

I'm going to file a Rest. § 90 claim against the school: I justifiable relied on coffee being there for exams - as it has been the past four semesters - and it got taken away. Almost certainly to my detriment. I was on track for an A+, but without a much-needed infusion of caffeine . . .

Obviously, I'll bring some (more) of my own coffee next time, but I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Law School Exams for Dummies

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is JCrew Model's exam "advice". You can read my previous advice here, and here. - Rule 12(f)

You may have heard exams are approaching. As UVA Law Blog’s other resident expert on all things and the second biggest know-it-all among the editors on this blog, I thought you all might enjoy a couple hundred words on how to take and pass law school exams. 1Ls will appreciate seeing behind the “law school exam” curtain and maybe 2Ls and 3Ls will appreciate the reminders. Or at least you’ll have another opportunity to bash me in the comments (liked the “douchnozzle” attack – maybe you could follow up by describing how that makes me different than a "douchebag" - - - By the way I can’t reveal exactly why I’m allowed to continue posting here, but it has something to do with very impressive feats of man.)

Now that we've cleared that up, here’s a rough approximation about how you can get a B+ grade or at least that your grade will be a letter that may or may not be followed by a mathematical operation. And no, you can’t get a Tx or a L/. Idiot.

Before the Exam

The first key to a successful exam is a successful outline. Some follow the strategy of getting all one’s most skilled acquaintances together and compiling a super awesome study team. This team would be, say, an impressive array of high-achievers who can help you put together a lengthy, beautiful, and Law Review-publication quality outline. Unfortunately, come exam time, your teammates aren’t there to help you and you’re stuck with a largely incomprehensible and unusable 100 page document. Instead, I suggest you use outlining as an extended study opportunity and that you whittle your outline down to 10-20 pages.

Also, take any practice exams you can get your hands on. This gets you in the mood of legal thinking/writing and tests your understanding of the subject. If you’re flipping aimlessly through your outline on a practice go-around, you’re not ready to take the exam. By the way, this means that you should not spend the night before the exam trying to decipher your notes. As the classic NBA motto goes on the advantages of picking up the big man way before he gets on the block (generally somewhere between the 3 point line and the top of the key), “do your work early.”

Exam Day

Go to the exam. This is crucial to passing exams. Nobody has ever passed an exam class without going to the exam. This also means that you know when you can take the exam. Don’t try to take a flex exam on the last Thursday morning for instance. When your chosen day rolls around, post up with all your stuff before you check out your exam. Pile up all your crap on the table (water, gum, pens, highlighters, lip gloss, Clif Bar) and spread out – if people can sit within two spaces of you in either direction, retreat to the bookstore and buy more things. Open a plain document and put your ID exam number in the heading. Have a thumb drive to back your exam. In sum, ensure you’re ready to start examing the moment you sit down with your exam.

Answer all of the questions. This strategy gives you the best chance of achieving a prestigious B+. Some follow the strategy of not answering all the questions, but some people eat lead paint chips and some people voted for George Bush twice (“Oh no he didn’t. Time to rage in the comments about the media’s political bias!”). More subtly and on a related note, make sure you don’t run out of time. The best way to do this is by not just standing there dumbly while the seconds tick off and the blank document awaits your answer.

For the substance of the exam, write correct, concise, and thoughtful answers. Not going to lie, even as a 3L I’m still unclear how this works. I DO know that recounting the facts of a torts case and using bold font for the words “substantive due process” do not work. Also, don’t resist the hypothetical. If the hypothetical tells you to do something, peacefully comply.

Finally, follow Rule 12(f)’s motto: hit control-s as much as possible. Like every sentence or so. If you’re not typing answers or thinking or reading, you should be hitting control-s.

After the Exam

After an exam, give yourself a little time to relax. I usually take a nap, get in some exercise, and hit up a local all-you-can-eat buffet. Going from the exam room to the library (without a pit stop to Asian Fusion buffet) is a great way to burn out by the first Thursday. Resist the urge to stage your own personal Bar Review – you’ll need those brain cells for tomorrow’s studying.

Good luck to everyone unless you’re in one of my classes. And don’t stress too much – you’ll all get jobs. Oh, wait...

Exam Advice for 1Ls
The True Gunner Never Takes His Fingers Too Far From Control + S
How to Ace Con Law

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

GUS - Too Stacked for Their Own Good? (Or Does NGSL Need a Salary Cap / More Parity?)

Maybe Al "we just didn't have the talent" Groh should have taken a recruiting lesson from GUS, who will play for the NGSL championship for the umpteenth time in two short hours. A tipster points out the North Ground Bombers' absolute dominance of NGSL in the past decade or so:
Co-Rec Division Champions:
Fall 03 GUS
Spring 04 GUS
Fall 04 GUS
Spring 05 GUS
Fall 05 Act Like You've Been There
Spring 06 GUS
Fall 06 ?
Spring 07 ?
Fall 07 GUS
Spring 08 Frosted Tips
Fall 08 GUS
Spring 09 K-Lite
For anyone counting that's (at least) seven titles in the last twelve seasons. Good scouting, lots of creatine, or both? UVA Law Blog humbly suggests that maybe The Junta should get the first draft pick (i.e. first chance at scouring studly 1Ls) in order to instill some much needed parity into the league.

EDIT: The Bombers also won last night over Shawty's Little Law Review (similar team as K-Lite) to bring home another title.