Entries categorized "Law School Stuff"

The Ivory Wall of Silence

Every vocation and profession has its code of silence.  Union members don't often speak out against unions, organized criminals don't speak out against the family, and police officers don't criticize other officers.  Judges don't criticize prosecutors (at least by name in published opinions), and lawyers seek to keep lawyer misconduct private. 

Perhaps everyone is silent because they fear retaliation.  Silence motivated by fear, while not commendable, is understandable.  And forgivable.  But what do academics have to fear?

We expect academics to address misconduct by their peers with vigor.  Academics need "academic freedom," we're told, so that they can opine about controversial issues without fear of reprisal.  Yet the way in which academic freedom is exercised should make us wonder if, like prosecutorial discretion, academic freedom is exercised solely for the benefit of those in who have it.  Why do I say this?

I say this because there has been zero coverage by academics of Constantine v. George Mason Univesity:

[Carin Manders] Constantine was a student in Professor Nelson Lund’s constitutional law course at GMU.... Constantine suffered from "intractable migraine syndrome," for which she took prescription medication. While taking Professor Lund’s final exam, Constantine suffered a migraine headache. She alerted exam administrators to her condition and requested additional time to complete the exam, but they refused. Constantine failed the exam. She then requested a grade appeal and re-examination, but those requests were denied as well.

Constantine complained to Professor Lund, the dean of the law school, and other law school officials about the construction of Professor Lund’s exam and GMU’s grade appeals process. She publicized her complaints in an article she wrote for the law school newspaper.

About three months after Constantine made her initial request for re-examination, and after she voiced criticism of the grade appeals process, the dean agreed to give Constantine a second chance to take Professor Lund’s final exam. Because Constantine was carrying a full load of law school courses during the spring semester, the parties agreed that the re-examination would take place "sometime in June" 2003. On May 17, 2003, however, Constantine received an e-mail notifying her that she must present herself for the re-examination on May 21, 2003.

Constantine notified the dean, the law school registrar, and two other administrators that she would not be able to take Professor Lund’s exam at that time because she had a conflict related to another law school course and, in any event, the dean had told her that she would be re-examined in June. These law school officials told Constantine that she should appear for re-examination at the time specified or forfeit her right to take the exam. Constantine requested an opportunity to take the exam in June, but that request was denied. Constantine then filed this lawsuit and moved the district court for a temporary restraining order. After a hearing, the district court denied the motion. Constantine declined to take Professor Lund’s exam on May 21, 2003. GMU later offered to give Constantine another chance to take Professor Lund’s exam, but Constantine believes that in retaliation for her criticism of GMU’s handling of her case, GMU decided in advance to give her an "F" on the exam. Constantine eventually took Professor Lund’s exam, and she received an "F."

As a result of this failing grade in constitutional law, Constantine was not able to graduate on time. Delayed graduation compromised her ability to begin on time the judicial clerkship that she had previously accepted, so Constantine had to inform her judge of the failing grade and obtain special permission to start work a year later. According to Constantine, the "F" on her transcript continues to hamper her employment prospects.

Where is the outcry from the academic community?  Where is the criticism?  Some poor student with crippling migraines was treated like dirt. But all we hear, from liberal and conservive academics alike, is... nothing. 

Perhaps the cries for justice can't crack the ivory wall of silence.


Legal Education According to Law Students

Law.com has an interesting story - "New Survey Tackles Complex Questions About Law Schools" - about a detailed law student survey.

Survey factors went beyond demographics and traditional ranking measures, such as campus resources, school reputations and bar exam pass rates, to more complex factors, including student expectations, attitudes and scholastic habits.

The survey revealed some real downers.

• 63 percent of students said they received scant support in job placement.
• 56 percent had not participated in pro bono or volunteer work.
• 56 percent incurred $60,000 or more in tuition debt.
• 32 percent never have substantive discussions with faculty outside of class.
• 18 percent said they "never" received prompt written or oral feedback from professors.

I'll probably comment later: in the meantime, check it out.


Summer School at George Mason

This just in:

"Constitutional Law: The Federalist Understanding" -- Professor John S. Baker, Jr., LSU Law School, with a lecture by Justice Antonin Scalia.

This course will cover the explanation of the Constitution provided in the Federalist Papers, with references to Supreme Court opinions reflecting this Originalist understanding.  Students will read the entire Federalist, using the Liberty Fund edition by Drs. Carey and McClellan.  The one-hour course will focus on federalism and separation of powers with particular discussion of essays numbers 1,9,10, 23, 31-33, 39, 46-51, 76, 78-81, and 84.  The course will be delivered over two days, Friday and Saturday,  June 3-4, from 9AM to Noon and 2PM to 5PM with a morning and afternoon break. On Friday afternoon, the class will meet with Justice Scalia at the Supreme Court for part of the time. Justice Scalia will discuss Separation of Powers, etc.  The exact times on Friday may have to be adjusted in order to accomodate the Justice's schedule.   The grade in the class will be based on  a 7 to 10 page discussion of questions posed about The Federalist, which is to be delivered electronically to Professor Baker by July 8, 2005.

The tuition for the one-hour credit course is $830 for out-of-State students and $420 for Virginia residents.  To register for the course, go to the home-page for George Mason Law School, which is http://www.law.gmu.edu/.  Under "Admissions" go to the section for "Visiting Students" and print out, complete, and mail the application form. Application on-line is not an option.

Housing is available nearby at the discounted rate of $110.00 + tax.  The rate is for either single or double per room per night. Please note that these efficiency rooms have one queen size bed and a sofa that converts to a queen.  With tax the rate is $121.28 which can be split in the event some individuals care to share. The hotel will require a credit card to secure the reservations. To make reservations telephone (703)516-4630 or email nsica [at sign] fdic.gov or pejones [at sign] fdic.gov.


Law School Exams

Law Professor Orin Kerr has an informative post (with terrific comments) on law school exams and law school grades.  Professors Heller and Yin also provide personal-knowledge based insight into law school exam writing and grading.

My 1L grades were horrible.  However, I figured out the Law School Exam Writing Game, and obtained wonderful results, earning numerous "A's" and the highest scores in four extremely competitive classes.

My advice is to use the "Law in a Flash" flashcards for each class. (I also found the Examples and Explanation series helpful).  As you work through the cards, type out your answer in IRAC format.  The reason the cards and the examples questions are so helpful is because each presents a single issue and thus every card challenges you to write a minature IRAC-based exam answer.

You should also cross off every sentence in the law school exam question as you use it.  Almost every sentence in a law school exam raises some issue.  Thus, you should use every sentence from the exam in your answer.  Crossing off as you go along helps ensure that you use everything.

You should also use headings.

Below the fold is my answer to the Fall 2003 Con Law exam, which incorporates all of my suggestions.  Because I typed my law school exams, I simply copied and pasted my answer, which is reproduced exactly as submitted. (It was a three-hour exam).  To find the questions I had to answer, click here, then select "Kmiec" and "Constitutional Law - Federal and State Power Relations."  Click the button in the middle of the page that says "Find Exams."  Select the "Fall 2003" exam, which is the first one that appears on the page.  Then click the "View Exam" button.

Continue reading "Law School Exams" »


Why Students Should Go

Mr. Sandefur writes:

[If you're a law student] you must attend the Institute for Justice law student seminar, a free weekend seminar that takes place every year at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The seminar is great fun, and very educational, and the best way to get a crash course on the law of economic liberty. (Hint: if you’re a law student, and you come asking us for a job, having attended the IJ student seminar gives you a big plus in my book.)

I agree.  A good friend of mine attended IJ's seminar, and he loved it.  I didn't get to go, however, because I atteneded the Federalist Society's Student Leadership Conference.  But some of the reasons I enjoyed the student leadership conference will apply to IJ's seminar.

But I'm not going to give you the standard line that, "It's lonely being conservative," or other platitudes.  Life is tough and often lonely.  Get used to it.  I'll give you the real scoop.

First, you will learn a lot.  Since the folks at IJ only have you for a short time, they will cram as much into your brain as possible.  You will learn things that none of your classmates know, and that few experienced attorneys know.  You will have another (or perhaps your first) means of filing lawsuits against the government.  It's foolish not to put a new arrow in your quiver, especially when you're in law school and thus have the time to explore unconventional legal theories.

Second, you will meet people from numerous law schools.  If you're from a high-ranked law school (and unless you're attending Yale, someone is from a higher-ranked school than you are), you'll realize that there are a lot of intelligent students from every law school.  If you're from a lower-ranked school, you'll realize that people from higher-ranked schools are not snobs just because they attend one of the fourteen schools in the Top 10.  Life is too short for prejudice, especially when prejudice can harm you, e.g., by thinking that someone from a low-ranked school will roll over, or that someone from a high-ranked school somehow lacks the "cool power" and thus won't be able to talk to a jury.

Third, you will have a lot of fun.  Half of your enjoyment in attending a seminar will be the late night trips to the tobacconist or other venue. 

Fourth, you will make at least one new friend who lives outside your home state.  The benefit of this should be obvious.

Apply now for the Institute for Justice's weekend seminar
.  If the deadline has passed, then ask for an extension.  Then, go to this list.  Find out who the chapter president of your school's Federalist Society is.  If your school isn't listed, e-mail Peter Redpath to find out how you can start a Federalist Society at your school.


California Bar Pass Statistics

The complete statistics from the July 2004 California Bar Exam are available online here

The overall bar pass rate was 48.2% but first-time takers had a 62.8% success rate.  Graduates of in-state, ABA-approved law schools had a 69.4% pass rate.  Out-of-state, ABA-approved law schools saw a 65.8% pass rate.

Below are the bar pass rate of in-state, ABA-approved law schools whose bar pass rate exceeded 50%. 

Stanford (91%)
UCLA (87%)
UC - Berkeley (87%)
UC - Hastings (81%)
USC (80%)
UC - Davis (76%)
Pepperdine (74%)
University of San Diego (70%)
McGeorge (69%)
Chapman (67%)
Loyola Los Angeles (67%)
Santa Clara (67%)
University of San Francisco (65%)
Southwestern (57%)

Schools in the Top 50 (according to USNews), not surprisingly, had excellent pass rates.  The winner was Emory, with a 90% pass rate.  Harvard took second (89%), but ten times as many Harvard graduates took the bar as did Emory grads (91 Harvard to 10 Emory).  Here are how some of the out-of-state schools fared:

Emory (90%)
Harvard (89%)
Columbia (88%)
Pennsylvania (88%)
Virginia (88%)
Yale (88%)
Texas (85%)
Duke (84%)
NYU (83%)
Chicago (82%)
Cornell (82%)
Georgetown (82%)
Michigan (82%)
Boston University (80%)
Brigham Young (77%)


Professors Having Fun

Juan Non-Volokh presented exams that had pop culture references inserted into the facts.  Amber Taylor thinks "it's cute especially when they get the terminology right."

I think the master of the "pop culture exam" is Prof. Roger Alford, whom my wife had for Contracts.  He would wind the lyrics from popular songs into the fact pattern.  With great sucess.  He was so good at inserting the lyrics that his students begged him to stop, since his exams caused them to have songs buzzing in their heads during the exam. 

Here is one of his best pop culture exams:

Mr. Play It Safe was afraid to fly. He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids good-bye. He waited his whole life to take that flight, and as the plane crashed down he thought “Well isn’t this nice. . . Isn’t this ironic.”

Two years later, in early February 2000, Alanis, the executrix of the estate of Mr. Play It Safe, contacted Ironic Airlines and threatened to sue for wrongful death, negligence, and breach of implied warranty of merchantability. Ironic responded with an offer to settle the case quietly for $1 million provided she accepted the offer within thirty days. The general counsel for Ironic was an old man who just turned ninety-eight. After he made the offer to settle he died the next day. Alanis contacted her attorney to tell him the news. She said “Isn’t it ironic?” He said, “Yeah, a little too ironic.”

The statute of limitations for her claims was set to expire on March 2. Over drinks, Alanis and her attorney discussed her options. He strongly advised Alanis to sue Ironic Airlines and gave her a copy of his draft complaint. Alanis said she had agonized over this for days but had decided to accept the settlement and forego filing her claims. Just as she finished speaking he noticed something ominous. He said, “Is that a black fly in your Chardonnay?” She said, “Well isn’t that ironic.” He said, “Yeah, a little too ironic.”

On March 2, she left a telephone message with Ironic stating that “she really appreciated the offer because life has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything’s gone wrong but now I know everything’s gonna be okay.” She then listened to her voice messages. One message was from Ironic calling to inform Alanis that “given her recent action it just mailed her a letter formally revoking its offer.” Dazed and confused, and with only one hour to file her claim, Alanis dashed to her car. She hit a traffic jam but she was already late. She arrived at the courthouse and started banging on the door. The security guard said “I beg your pardon ma’am but you’re two minutes too late.” She said, “Isn’t it ironic?” He said, “Yeah, a little too ironic.”

In tears, Alanis went back to her attorney and explained the situation. He said, “I gave you good advice that you just didn’t take.” She said, “Who would’ve thought . . . it figures.” But then the attorney paused for a minute and said, “You know, life has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything’s wrong and everything’s blown up in your face. You may have a contract here after all.” After explaining his reasoning to her he said, “Oh, and by the way, I filed the case for you this morning. Just in case. Now isn’t that ironic?” She said, “Yeah, I really do think.”

Is the attorney correct that Alanis has a contract?


Exam Horror Stories

I'm sure everyone has a law school exam horror story.  RawLaw tells us about hers here.  Tell me about yours in the comments section.

I have two exam stories.  My first comes from my last semester of law school, where I overstudied for Taxation of Business Entities.  My brain would not allow me to analyze fact patterns I had deftly dealt with the day before.  Thus, a very bad grade.  Which was a real bummer because I had done well with the same professor in Business Planning and Corporations.  My second story is also horrible, but at least it has a happening ending.

I was 2 hours and 40 minutes into my 3-hour con law exam when I realized that I was done.  Smugly, I chuckled to myself, "I bet no one saw the hidden Ex parte Young issue.  And who knows Chadha the way I do?"  I went back through to embolden my subject headings and to proofread the answer.  I refined a few rule statements and cited decisions.  Ten minutes to go.

"Do I get up and leave, or look at it once more," I asked myself.  "Sure, just read the facts once more, to make sure that you used all of them in your answer."  I skimmed through them an saw an administrative regulation that I had not scratched out.  (My exam method was to cross off every fact I used in the exam hypo, to make sure I incorporated every fact into my final answer).  Gasp!

"Oh shoot, this regulation is screaming, 'preemption!'"  I hurriedly typed everything I knew about preemption for the next ten minutes, and was sweating as the proctor called, "Time!"

That preemption issue I almost missed was worth 30 of 100 possible points.  I would have received a 72 had I not stuck around for those last ten minutes.

I never left an exam - or any project - early after that.  And I quit being cocky.  Ten minutes separated me from a C- and the much better grade I received.  Who can be arrogant when the big difference in the grades was determined by such a small amount of time?  I think life is a lot like that.  The difference between poverty and wealth might be one mere accident of birth.  Or one bad choice.  Or ten minutes pondering one decision.