Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thoughts from an '09, Georgetown Law Student

Read the sentiments of a recent LDS, Georgetown Law Grad. He does an excellent job of sharing his feelings about the experience and his goals for the future. As I'm staring down one more year of law school I can't help but feel a little jealous. Congrats!

2 comments:

  1. I'm amazed at how much coverage my simple blog has generated. It's been great publicity for me!

    P.S. If any readers out there are looking to hire an entry-level attorney who just graduated from Georgetown, I may know someone...

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  2. Rather than post my response on Brian's blog, I'll do so here....

    “A student could give complete and intelligent answers to each question, but still receive one of the lowest grades in the class if most of his classmates went above and beyond him/her. Essentially, you are only being graded on whether or not you will do more than someone else, considering that you all have the same general level of intelligence.”

    After more than a decade of grading as an adjunct professor, I have to disagree with this. I never give additional points to an answer that goes beyond being “complete.” And frankly, I doubt that many other professors do. The problem is that most of the answers I see are NOT complete.

    “For many students, it's disheartening to receive a B or B+ after countless hours of study and a near memorization of the underlying legal principles at issue.”

    “Memorization of legal principles” matters, sure. But what differentiates the A exam answer from the B answer isn’t the ability to regurgitate principles (though that is often what distinguishes a B from a C). Rather, it’s application – the ability to effectively apply legal principles to answer the question. Focusing on “near-memorization” may actually be counterproductive to that effort.

    “Another con is that the grading truly is subjective. A teacher can have a ‘hang-up’ on a key issue of the law, and may be looking for a student to reflect back his own slightly biased view of the world.”

    I admit that the weight I give to particular issues or principles in an exam generally or in a particular question is somewhat arbitrary, i.e., it reflects what I think is important in the subject, and others may legitimately disagree with my preferences. But I can’t imagine there is any academic field where that isn’t true. Nor can I imagine a method to eliminate that subjectivity.

    “Based on the established law school curve, the odds of getting a mediocre test score are quite high, which has the tendency of deflating a student's sense of self worth.”

    The deflation certainly occurs. But you have it right when you carry your analysis back into the entering credentials of the class. To be in the middle of an excellent group is not mediocrity!

    “I would rather have mediocre grades at a top law school, than have top grades at a mediocre law school.”

    If I knew in advance that was my choice, I might disagree – especially when taking into account the cost of going to a “top” school. The top student (or perhaps 2-3 students) at mid-range schools compete very effectively against the “mediocre” (I’ll fall into your trap) students at the top schools. In fact, they may well do better. Example: many federal judges will take as a clerk the top student from a mid-range school (especially a local one) over an average student from a top school. The same was true, back when they were hiring, of many or most) top firms. But of course, no one knows when they enter law school if they will be at or near the top. In the end you may be right simply because, I suspect, it’s easier to make it into the great middle at a top school than to reach the pinnacle at a mid-range school.

    Then again, one thing that many prospective law students ignore is the impact of where they ultimately want to practice. In many places, you’re better off having done well (not necessarily even reaching the top of your class) at a local school than having been “mediocre” at a top school. Not because you will have significantly better opportunities right out of law school (that that may well be true), but because of the connections you make in law school. As someone who went to law school in another state and landed where I now am mid-career, I frequently see the networking and business advantages that my colleagues have because of their law school connections.

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