Wednesday, February 01, 2006

OK, one more about grades

Prof. Froomkin apparently was unable to comment on my post about the arbitrariness of law school grading, so he wrote his thoughts here. (Not sure why he wasn’t able to comment – 10 other people managed…on the other hand I have found that I’ve had trouble commenting on other peoples’ blogger blogs for some reason. I type in the string of letters, hit comment and it just refuses to take my comment. So I’m thinking it’s a blogger problem).

Anyway, I think one of the most interesting things the professor said – and it’s something I had never considered before – was this:

On the other hand, if you could think of 20 more things you coulda shoulda said, which tended to create a bad feeling, it was a sign you knew the subject pretty well.

In some ways, that makes sense because that’s when I did well on exams – when I could think of 20 more things I would’ve said if I had more time.

The problem is that I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing and it doesn’t seem too applicable to the real life practice of law. A good argument, brief, memo or document setting up a transaction has everything it needs to make it good. I doubt good appellate lawyer ever submitted a brief and thought “Oh, I wish I could have submitted more.”

Sure, I know when appellate courts have page limits lawyers wish they could have written more. But they present the best arguments on which they think the court will rule. Do they wish they could cram in 20 more arguments that support their position but that are each weaker than the next? Doubtful, although I’ll admit that I’m not sure.

On my Evidence exam, there were tons of important concepts that I never got to write about that – heading into the exam – I was sure were crucial to put somewhere in the exam in order to get a good grade. These weren’t extraneous, braindump, get-everything-you-learned-in-class-in-the-bluebook things; these were, at least in my mind, important concepts. And I did well. So how does this translate into the real world?


The prof has another interesting post about how he hates when people come into his class late. I have heard of other profs who have the same views on lateness but I've never had one. It’s funny because I am one of those people who is always on time and usually early, both in work and non-work life. And lateness is definitely a pet peeve of mine, too.

But in my extremely limited experience observing lawyers work, I have found that lawyers are always, always, always late. In court, lawyers spend hours sitting around waiting for their case to be called. Often there is a lot of sitting around before the judge even gets into the courtroom, which is later than he was supposed to start. Courts here in Miami set dozens of cases all at the same time and lawyers line up in the courtroom, waiting for their turn. Usually if a case is called and a lawyer isn’t here because he’s late, the judge just calls it again later. Lawyers here always seem to be driving from courthouses in Miami-Dade to Broward and back again and they are always stuck in traffic, which makes them late to court, then late again for their next meeting back at the office.

I’ve had two semesters of civil procedure so I know that being on time counts in a lot of things in litigation. But sometimes it seems like the time limits are mere suggestions, not requirements. I’ve seen plenty of court cases where opposing parties simply didn’t respond to orders, motions or requests in time, gave an excuse to the judge, and everything was OK. Of course I haven't had that much experience in court though, but usually when I see a party fail to meet a deadline, the judge just shrugs it off. Any time I've looked at a case file at work, I've noticed that neither party ever seems to comply with the time limits for responding to motions. And the other side doesn't care, although this might be a product of the cases I end up working on (the less important ones) than the real world of litigation; I'm not suggesting that I plan to ignore all the time limits when I become a lawyer.

Having said that, none of my profs have ever had a lateness policy like Prof. Froomkin does. So in every class I’ve ever had, people come in late. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest (except in the one class I have in a small room – but that’s because they crammed too many students into one room in which he desks were laid out by a kindergartener who purposely tried to make it as difficult as possible to get around -- seriously could they have possibly designed that room (room 302) any worse than it is? -- so anyone who comes in late has to shuffle and dance behind a dozen students to get to an empty seat.) As far as I can tell, it doesn’t bother most profs either because they are engaged in the teaching. It’s no more of a distraction than when people get up to go to the bathroom, make or take a call or do whatever else people do when they go out in the middle of a class.


At 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oftentimes, I'm more interested in Y's paper than my own. Grades are relative afterall, and my paper could always be better. What makes me wonder is what was so much better about the other papers that got them an A. Our Dean's Fellow copied his exam for us, and I thought my paper was at least as good a his, but he got an A, and I got something lower.

Multiple choice is a different story. Then it makes sense more often. (But sometimes the multiple choice is so hard that an A only gets 50% of the questions right; then you wonder if it was pure luck).

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of grades Someguy.....when does UM rank?

At 1:37 AM, Blogger Not my real name said...

Just on your point about briefs being complete. Don't forget that an exam is only really a snapshot of all you know and have time to say.

I think what Froomkin was saying was exactly how I have felt about law exams in which I have done really well. If you think of 20 more things you could have said, you probably have seen all the issues the examiner put in the exam. You have recognised all the problems. So often when people think they have done well it is because they haven't even recognised half of the issues. They think they saw everything, got it all done on time, and therefore think they couldn't possibly have done badly.

Problem is, they may have only seen 60% of the marks available.

See what I mean?


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