Thursday, January 11, 2007

Law School Grades Are Finally In

Law school grades finally came in after being back in school for a week. I personally cannot complain about my grades. I finished off doing well in criminal law and it brought my average up. Hopefully, the grade brought my average up enough to place me in the top 30%. I had hoped to do better but after hearing the horror stories and watching law students drop like flys. I am content with my grades.

The start of your second semester of the 1L year is different again then any other beginning in school. I have my grades back now and the logical next thought is, “what can I do different to improve my grades?” The problem is the answer to that question is not simple. Just like every other answer in law school; there really isn’t a correct answer to that question.

So here is my theory...(Please join me in crossing your fingers over the semester)

I spent a whole lot of time highlighting, reading, and taking class notes last semester. Then during the last 2 weeks and during pre-exam preparations, I studied outlines from fellow classmates and hand-me down outlines from upper classmen. What I came away with after taking the exams is that memorizing those rules is the most important thing a 1L can do. Making sure you know your outline(s) like it is your bible.

So this semester, I am going to change it up and spend more time during the semester memorizing black letter law and rules (aka my outline). This way when that month before exams comes, I will have a base of memorization through repetition.

Of course, I feel like I have to work on my writing and most of all time management. Those tests are made so that you do not have enough time to thoroughly go through every issue on the page. This posed a problem for me because issue spotting really has not been an issue for me (haha no pun intended).

But there is my theory that I think will work for me and might work for you or might not.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Win Prizes Searching the Internet

My brother sent me this site called Blingo and it's pretty cool. It uses the Google search engine and gives you prizes for searching. Prizes can range from $5,000 visa gift cards to $25 visa gift cards or a new car, tv, or a fandago movie ticket.

It works for me whenever I'm in class and should be paying attention. Nice little distraction.

Click Here if you want to check it out.

My brother has won a $1,500 visa gift card and 2 movie tickets already. His wife won a $500 visa gift card also. We all know law students can use any extra cash.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Funny Times and Troubling Times

It seems like with law school you have days that are troubling or funny. And more typically days that are both. A troubling day could be getting stood up in Contracts and not being prepared. A funny day could be someone else getting stood up in Contracts and not being prepared.

Today, was a little bit of both.

The day started off well with my property professor. We were talking about brokers and he made a joke using the word idiot. Like most law professors, just about anything can lead them off into a tangent. So he went on about how his children won't let him use the word idiot in front of some of his grandchildren. Now his last name is McLaughlin which is key. So He goes on to imitate them, "Daddy Mac, Mom said you couldn't say that word!"

Needless to say, the class all started laughing and it took the professor a little while to realize he was being funny.

So on to Constitutional Law, We're covering Marbury v. Madison and Judicial Review. I really enjoy this class because of the background history and politics that I hope are all through out it. I guess being a political junky and history nut explains that. Anyway, the troubling part came halfway through con law via a text message from my brother, "Call Mom ASAP, It's about grandma."

My grandma has been in the hospital since New Years Eve and I guess she's doing what all people do when they're her age. I guess law school and the busy schedule that accompanies it makes these troubling days/events that much harder.

I've heard from other 1Ls that are getting divorced now, one man's father having surgery, and the list goes on. This must be why law school is much more about survival then anything else.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Law School Grades

Law school grades are a funny thing. Let me give you a little background on this post. All you need to know is I just got my grades back and I'm a little disappointed (little background).

So grades start pouring in. Of course they only give you the first three grades turned in. In my case, this was Property, Civ. Pro. and Torts. I'm nervous when I go to check them and come away feeling like crap but happy that I beat the median so far.

Property, the exam I left and felt the best about, was my worst grade. I don't know if it's the whole idea that if you left feeling good you missed stuff. Civ. Pro. I knew I did bad and I did ehh alright to bad. Realizing a hour into the exam that you have a 7 page fact pattern is a bad thing. Torts at the time I thought was my worst test next to the hated contracts and it turned out to be my best grade.

But they are funny because of the dynamic of a law school class. You have the students that immediately tell you their grades and then the students that say the cryptic statement of "I'm satisfied." I've also realized that the kids that do really well are the ones talking and the ones that didn't do so well are quiet or "satisfied."

So Christmas break is over and you're back to school with only 3 grades. That's real cute. Then a few days back you get one of the two grades back and your average goes from ehh to worse. With one grade still out, I am beginning to feel very apathetic to the whole thing. I guess I've realize the testing structure and that really what you do in class doesn't matter. All that matters is that week and half of studying and hell called exam time.

But I truck on and try to keep my spirits up. All while reading, studying and waiting for that next week and half of hell.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Part 3 of How Not to Succeed in Law School

Third part to the funny law article. This is where it really starts to get good.

How Not to Succeed in Law School
By James D. Gordon III, Professor of Law, Brigham Young University

100 Yale L.J. 1679
Copyright © 1991 Yale Law Journal Company.


Remember those horror movies in which somebody wearing a hockey mask terrorizes people at a summer camp and slowly and carefully slashes them all into bloody little pieces? That's what the first year of law school is like. Except it's worse, because the professors don't wear hockey masks, and you have to look directly at their faces.

At first, it's not so bad. You get to read a semi-interesting medieval case in which somebody says, "Forsooth, were it not that Birnam Wood had come to Dunsinane, I would unseam thee from the nave to the chaps." But the honeymoon ends when you have to go to your first class. The professor has a black belt in an ancient martial art called "the Socratic method." After the professor completely dismantles a student for sheer sport and humiliates several dozen others, he then points out forty-seven different things in the two-paragraph case that you failed to see and still don't understand. You leave class hoping that maybe there is still a job opening at your brother-in-law's toothpick recycling factory. You are beginning to learn why law school has been compared to a besieged city: everybody outside wants in, and everybody inside wants out.

Many students write "case briefs," or one-page summaries of the cases, before class, in case the professor calls on them. This is a good strategy if you have the slightest aversion to utter humiliation. The brain is a truly wonderful thing: it works from the instant you awake until you go to sleep, and it doesn't stop until the moment you get called on in class, when it suffers a complete and immediate core meltdown. Your professor and 150 other students are waiting patiently for you to state the facts of a given case, and the only sound in the room is a low gurgling rattle coming from the back of your throat.

The key to the Socratic method is that the professor never reveals what the answer is. He keeps insisting that THERE IS NO ANSWER. Consistent with this view, he spends the whole class period asking questions that no one even begins to understand. To get the answers, you have to buy commercial outlines, which cost $ 16.95 apiece and are published by the same people who publish Cliffs Notes and Key Comics. The commercial outlines are written by the professors and provide them with a handsome income on the side. To insure that you will buy them, the professors tell you that, whatever you do, DO NOT buy any commercial outlines, because they will make it TOO EASY for you, and you will not develop the analytical skills and hard work ethic that law school is supposed to teach. Pretty cagey, these professors.

At the beginning the people in your class seem like nice enough folks. But gradually everyone begins to realize that their only hope of getting a job is to blast the chromosomes out of their classmates in the giant zero-sum thermonuclear war game called "class standing." Class standing is what saves law school from being a boring, cooperative learning experience and makes it the dynamic, exciting, survival-of-the-fittest, cutthroat, competitive, grueling treadmill of unsurpassed joy that it is.

Class standing does irreparable psychic injury and scars bright and creative people for the rest of their natural lives. Following law school graduation, it often happens that a bright and creative person is about to do something bright and creative, but then thinks, "No, I was only number 67 out of 150 in my class. I'm probably not capable of any mental activity greater than picking slugs off zucchini plants." So she doesn't do anything.

To make sure that the message gets through, the professors are not content with the demeaning and humiliating exercise of calculating class standing. No. First, they tell students that class standing and grades do not matter. Not at all. They know that the students will remember the episode with the commercial outlines and will therefore conclude that nothing else in the entire universe matters except class standing and grades. Then, to strike the final blow, the professors adopt a grading system straight out of the seventh level of Dante's Inferno. They take students who have undergraduate GPA's of A-minus, and who have never gotten a B-minus in their entire lives, and they give them -- get this -- all C's! ! This will prove that the professors know the law better than the students, in case that point was somehow overlooked. Most law students never recover from this act of evil genius. They spend the rest of their lives figuring out how to get even with the rest of humanity. This is also the reason that Supreme Court Justices are always so testy with each other in their opinions. An example: "When two of our esteemed colleagues left the majority and joined the dissent, it raised the average IQ in both groups by thirty points." HA! The Justices are still hopping mad about that C-minus they got in civil procedure forty years ago.

During the first year, the law students quickly divide into three groups:

The Active Participants: Overconfident geeks who compete with each other to take up the most airtime pointing out that before law school, when they were Fulbright Scholars, they thought of a question marginally relevant to today's discussion. Their names appear on the class' "Turkey Bingo" cards, a game you win if five people on your card speak during one class period. The Active Participants stop talking completely when first-semester grades come out and they get all C's.

The Back Benchers: Cool dudes who "opt out" of law school's competitive culture and never prepare for class. They sit on the back row, rather than in their assigned seats, so the professor can't find them on the seating chart. They ask if they can "borrow" your class outline.

The Terrified Middle Group: People who spend most of their time wondering what the hey is going on, and why don't the professors just tell us what the law is and stop playing "hide the ball" and shrouding the law in mystery/philosophy/sociology/nihilistic relativism/astrology/voodoo/sado-masochistic Socratic kung fu?

The cases are, of course, dreadfully boring. There are, however, a few interesting characters you will meet in the legal literature, like the "fertile octogenerian," the "naked trespasser," and the "officious intermeddler." It is best to keep these three people from spending much unsupervised time together. Also, there are a few interesting cases, such as Cordas v. Peerless Transportation Co., in which the judge was apparently a frustrated playwright:

This case presents the ordinary man -- that problem child of the law -- in a most bizarre setting. As a lowly chauffeur in defendant's employ, he became in a trice the protagonist in a breath-bating drama with a denouement almost tragic. It appears that a man, whose identity it would be indelicate to divulge, was feloniously relieved of his portable goods by two nondescript highwaymen in an alley near 26th Street and Third Avenue, Manhattan; they induced him to relinquish his possessions by a strong argument ad hominem couched in the convincing cant of the criminal and pressed at the point of a most persuasive pistol. Laden with their loot, but not thereby impeded, they took an abrupt departure and he, shuffling off the coil of that discretion which enmeshed him in the alley, quickly gave chase. . . .

This judge was obviously having such a good time it's hard to believe that the point of all of this humor was (chuckle, chuckle) to hand down a decision against a woman and her infant children who were injured by a runaway taxi.

Another strange, but interesting, example of our judiciary in action is United States ex rel. Mayo v. Satan and his Staff, in which the plaintiff sued Satan under federal statutes for violating his civil rights. He alleged that the defendant had on numerous occasions caused him misery, plagued him with unwarranted threats, placed deliberate obstacles in his path, and caused his downfall, and therefore had deprived him of his constitutional rights. The court denied the plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis, holding:

We question whether plaintiff may obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant in this judicial district. The complaint contains no allegation of residence in this district. While the official reports disclose no case where this defendant has appeared as defendant there is an unofficial account of a trial in New Hampshire where this defendant filed an action of mortgage foreclosure as plaintiff. The defendant in that action was represented by the preeminent advocate of that day, and raised the defense that the plaintiff was a foreign prince with no standing to sue in an American Court. This defense was overcome by overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Whether or not this would raise an estoppel in the present case we are unable to determine at this time.

We note that the plaintiff has failed to include with his complaint the required form of instructions for the United States Marshal for directions as to service of process.

The plaintiff in Mayo sued without a lawyer, because suing the devil would present lawyers with an obvious conflict of interest.

But most cases are, in Mark Twain's phrase, chloroform in print. Show me a person who finds them fascinating, and I'll show you a charisma coach for Calvin Coolidge.


The law faculty is a distinguished group of prison guards who sit in attack formation at law school assemblies. If you want to know what kind of people law professors are, ask yourself this question: "What kind of a person would give up a salary of a jillion dollars a year in a big firm to drive a rusted-out Ford Pinto and wear suits made out of old horse blankets?" Think about this carefully before asking your professor's opinion on any subject.

A law professor's greatest aspiration is to be like Professor Kingsfield in the movie The Paper Chase. One professor who saw the movie decided (this is a true story) to act out one of the scenes from the film in his class. He called on a student, who replied that he was unprepared. The professor said, "Mr. Jones, come down here." The student walked all the way down to the front of the class. The professor gave the student a dime, and said, "Take this dime. Call your mother. Tell her that there is very little chance of your ever becoming a lawyer." Ashamed, the student turned and walked slowly toward the door. Suddenly, however, he had a flash of inspiration. He turned around, and in a loud voice, said, "NO, Clyde." (He called the professor by his first name.) "I have a BETTER idea! YOU take this dime, and you go call ALL YOUR FRIENDS! !" The class broke into pandemonium. The professor broke the student into little bitty pieces.

Politics are often divisive at law schools. In the 1960's, the faculties were conservative and the students were liberal. In the 1980's, the students were conservative and the faculties were liberal -- the professors having spent their formative years as members of the Grateful Dead entourage. The 1970's were a difficult transitional period during which, for an awkward moment, faculties and students were able to communicate. They discovered that they did not like each other.

When law professors are not doing important things like writing commercial outlines, they are writing casebooks. Of course, they make you buy their casebooks for their classes. One of the cardinal rules of casebooks is that they must have as many authors as there are soldiers in the Montana National Guard. The more authors the publisher can recruit, of course, the more classes in which the casebook will be adopted.

Just to prove that at heart they are really gentle, fun-loving people, professors will occasionally do something a little bit zany, like wear a costume to class on Halloween. This makes the students laugh and cheer. Before you laugh and cheer, however, you should check your calendar. It is often difficult to tell whether a professor is wearing a costume or not.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Part 2 of How Not to Succeed in Law School

this is a continuation of the article/series of How not to succeed in law school.

These next two sections are pretty funny but the best section will come tomorrow.

How Not to Succeed in Law School
By James D. Gordon III, Professor of Law, Brigham Young University

100 Yale L.J. 1679
Copyright © 1991 Yale Law Journal Company.


There are lots of fine law schools to choose from. For instance:

Harvard. Harvard is number one, as you can learn by asking anyone who went to Harvard. Or even if you don't ask. The only disadvantage of going to Harvard is that the graduation robes are the same color as Balls O' Fire Salmon Eggs.

Yale. Forget about Yale. It's so selective that no one ever goes there. If you find this statement doubtful, ask yourself this simple question: Do you personally know anyone who is going there now? Of course not. Oh, sure, there are lots of people who say that they went there in the past, now that it can't be verified. Don't you be fooled.

Michigan. This is a good school, except the official school drink is Prestone. As each winter comes to an end, someone will have to remind you not to stare at that big yellow ball in the sky.

Chicago. Learn how many Chicago law professors it takes to screw in a light bulb. (Answer: None. The market will take care of it itself.)

Boalt Hall (Berserkeley). Boalt is built on a hill overlooking one of the most spectacular views on earth: the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Therefore, they naturally designed the building so that all its huge picture windows face directly into the fraternity houses across the street. You can't catch a glimpse of the Bay, but you do have a terrific view of fraternity blobs sitting around in their gym shorts, drinking beer, belching, and listening to the music of Twisted Sister at 300 decibels. Oh well.

Columbia. On the front of the law school building at Columbia, you will notice a huge sculpture of a man who has put a noose around the neck of a horse and is throttling it to death. You will not be able to understand the true significance of this sculpture until several days into your first year at Columbia.

Northwestern. Northwestern deliberately charges the highest tuition, on the theory -- called the "Ray-Ban Theory" -- that people will note the price tag and conclude that it must be the best school. Its goal is that eventually people will refer to Harvard as "the Northwestern of the Northeast."

Other Top Ten Law Schools. There are about twenty-five schools in this category. Consult this week's AP and UPI polls.

The "Middle Group." The Middle Group includes all other accredited law schools. These schools actually teach the law.

About Two Thousand Unaccredited California Law Schools. For example: Frank and Morty's School of Law and Cosmetology of the Lower Level of the Seven Hills Shopping Mall. Don't let the classy name fool you. There are basically two requirements for admission to this institution:
1. A pulse, and
2. $ 12,000.
The first requirement can be waived.

Be sure to avoid law schools with "Jr." in the name, such as "Leland Stanford, Jr. Law School." These are actually junior law schools.

People often ask whether it's important that they attend a law school in the state where they intend to practice. The answer, of course, is NO. A good law school's curriculum is not tied to the law of any particular state. This is also true of the "elite" law schools, except that their curriculum is not tied to the law of any particular planet. You should attend one of those schools if you intend to practice law somewhere in the Andromeda Galaxy.


You will need to submit applications to several law schools, which will cost you fifty bucks a pop. Law schools have you fill out lengthy application forms which require you not only to provide your GPA and your LSAT score, but also to describe your unique abilities and experiences, and the ways in which you might add to the rich fabric of the law school class. It takes you about eighty hours to fill out each of these forms. It takes you even more time to write and polish and repolish the "personal statement." Check over your personal statement carefully to make certain that you have used the two key words every law school looks for: "endeavor" and "cognitive." If all else fails, slip in a sentence such as: "I have always endeavored to be cognitive in all my cognitive endeavors."

When the law school receives your application, it banks your check, adds up your GPA and your LSAT, and throws the rest of the application away. No sane admissions officer is going to wade through 6,000 personal statements. And no law school in its right mind would take the risk of letting you know that your scores are all that matters. If you knew that, you might not apply in the first place. Multiply fifty bucks times 6,000 applications, and you can begin to see their point.

Anyway, after submitting the applications, you will receive several letters saying, "CONGRATULATIONS! ! You are on the 'hold' list for getting on the 'preliminary waiting list' to be considered for admission." They want to make sure that they can fill their class and get the tuition money they need, so they won't reject you until after they see how many students show up on the first day of class. I mean, what does it hurt them if you give up your other career plans and lifelong ambitions, right? Do you want to go to law school or not? OK, then stop whining.

Then, finally, you get accepted.

I know the feeling described in that last paragraph oh so well. Tomorrow will be part 3.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

How Professors Grade Exams

This is a pretty funny article on how professors grade law exams. I've heard stories about this process from friends but it's quite funny to see on a blog and with pictures.

Here's the first little bit but click here to see the full post.

It's that time of year again. Students have taken their finals, and now it is time to grade them. It is something professors have been looking forward to all semester. Exactness in grading is a well-honed skill, taking considerable expertise and years of practice to master. The purpose of this post is to serve as a guide to young professors about how to perfect their grading skills and as a way for students to learn the mysterious science of how their grades are determined.

Grading begins with the stack of exams, shown in Figure 1 below.

Enjoy the subsequent laughter.