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Messages - shambala

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People I had to hang with ... one or two jackass professors ...

Current Law Students / Are law school grades random?
« on: May 19, 2005, 07:21:04 PM »
Many students think so. They usually reach this conclusion after getting back their grades, and finding that they had better grades in the classes they hated and expected to fail than in the classes they loved and expected to ace. There's no rhyme or reason to these silly letters, the thinking goes; the profs must just throw them down the stairs and see where they land.

Not quite. To be sure, different professors have different approaches when they grade. Some pore over exams for hours, others read them pretty quickly. Some use a point system that gives you credit for mentioning an argument, others focus more on how skillfully you make the arguments. Some take off points for incorrect answers, others just don't add any. Some care about how well you write, others don't. Given these differences, and the great difficulty (if not impossibility) of turning essay exams into a reliable and precise numerical score, some amount of the process will seem and in some cases be a bit random. The process requires judgment, judgment brings discretion, and discretion can be unpredictable.

But there are two important reasons why grades may seem random when they are not. First, in law it's hard to know how much or how little you know. It's surprisingly easy to have a false sense of security, or a false sense of insecurity, about a course or an exam. Consider exams. Most law school exam questions are "issue spotters," and it's quite hard to gauge how well you answered an issue-spotter. If you miss all of the big difficult issues, you will think that the problem is easy for you and that you aced it. If you see all of the big issues, you will think that the problem is impossibly hard and consider yourself a failure for being unable to know for sure how to resolve all of the difficult questions. The more you know, the more you see the difficulties of the problem and the more you know how little you know. The same goes for courses, too: the more you understand an area of law, the harder it seems to be. Of course, the student who sees all of the hard issues in a course and on an exam and grapples with those difficulties gets a high grade; the student who misses the issues and wrongly thinks the hard questions are easy does not.

The second reason grades may seem random when they are not is that grades are almost always curved. You are graded not on how well you did in an absolute sense, but rather on how well you did relative to everyone else in your class. This means that your grade won't necessarily correlate to how much you knew, or how well you answered the questions on the exam. If you totally clicked with crim law, but hated and never understood civ pro, you may get a higher grade in civ pro than crim because lots of other people in the class felt the same way and spent way more time mastering crim law than studying civ pro. Similarly, if the exam in a particular class was unusually hard, you may end up with a top grade in the course simply because you were less lost on the exam than most of your classmates. Again, perceptions of your performance won't always match the curve-induced reality.

Transferring / Re: transfer by tier
« on: May 19, 2005, 07:15:31 PM »
BAFF are you not yet in law school? You've been around for a long time, by now ..

Current Law Students / Re: Active, engaged learner or gunner?
« on: May 19, 2005, 07:13:02 PM »
People who talk all the time are seen as stupid in law school

Current Law Students / Re: For 1Ls: Open Book v. Closed Book
« on: May 19, 2005, 07:09:39 PM »
Even if it may be a "closed book" exam, if they allow you to go to the bathroom, it becomes "open book", in case they give you all the questions to answer to from the very beginning of the exam.

Current Law Students / Re: Sage advice for soon to be 1L's
« on: May 19, 2005, 07:06:13 PM »
The cases are usually edited to illustrate distinct legal rules, often with very little commentary or enlightenment by the casebook editor. The casebooks often lack anything more than a general structure, and law professors often contribute little to the limited structure. Students are asked to read and analyze hundreds of cases in a vacuum.

Only stupid students read cases ..

Current Law Students / Re: law school depression
« on: May 19, 2005, 07:01:13 PM »
I must say that this is the best frat boy definition I have ever heard.  Really, it should be published.

I think it IS published, Ezekiel!

Current Law Students / Re: Playing up the minority card
« on: May 19, 2005, 06:58:46 PM »

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