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Friday, December 03, 2010

Introducing...and some thoughts on the financial crisis in legal education

I am delighted to be guest blogging here for December, and want to start out with a shout out to my friend, colleague and guest blogger last month, Ashira Ostrow who has just won the annual Association of American Law School’s Scholarly Papers Competition. As this year’s winner, Ashira will present her paper at the AALS annual meeting in San Francisco this January. The competition is open nationally to law professors who have been teaching for five years or fewer. Her winning article — titled “Process Preemption in Federal Siting Regimes” — also is forthcoming in the Harvard Journal on Legislation. You can view and download her paper by clicking on this link.

Next, as I work on my exam, and field the typical end of semester questions from panicked students, I worry about some of my 1Ls- Hofstra, like many if not most schools, doesn’t dismiss students after just one semester of law school. But is that really the right course of action? We have a mandatory curve, and so some percent of the students are in the C and below category. So when these students come to me to review their exams, I worry that we are taking another semester’s worth of tuition. Some will be facing tremendous pressure to improve their GPA, and based on their first semester performance, this may seem pretty unlikely.

Now add to that the article posted on November 30 in the ABA Journal “As 1L Ponders Cost-Benefit Ratio of Dropping Out Now, ATL Survey Says: Do It” which tells of a 1L worried about the job market, who is considering dropping out. This student seems to be more considered with the ultimate cost/benefit disparity between his likely massive law school debt and unlikely prospects of a super high paying and easy job [where can I get that gig, by the way, because it sounds good to me]. The article talks about the misplaced focus of this student, who should be focusing on the good he can do in the world beyond his own bank account, but I think the question of whether to stay in law school after one semester is a good and timely one, for our academically-struggling students, and for our more cynical students worried about their own success.

Posted by Miriam Albert on December 3, 2010 at 03:05 PM in Blogging, Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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You raise an interesting point about post-exam review. Certainly, we could ensure this for everyone with midterms and debriefing, which I generally support. However, students often do not appreciate that a debriefing after a one-semester exam can be equally valuable for later performance.

I think this is because the students associate their grades in a course with the courses themselves rather than with elements of their exam-taking style. That is, while some classes may for whatever reason be harder, some of the elements of good exam writing are common.

Regrettably, we do not help them to the extent that final exams don't receive a lot of written comments (I could be in the minority here, but I don't provide a lot of them). Moreover, because students obviously don't generally read their colleagues' exams, they have less of a sense of different approaches that might have been taken. Overall, I agree with you, but tend to think that students should show more initiative and seek out their professors after one-semester classes (this is more plausible after Fall exams have been returned). I might misunderstand your point - there is certainly plenty of professorial groaning in courses where conferences are the norm (unless one has students as delightful as my own, of course) - but my experience is that students rarely return for guidance after the final exam, even when reflection is merited. Those who do invariably improve.

Posted by: Adam Scales | Dec 5, 2010 8:46:16 AM

Some students start law school and right from the getgo figure out the "game" of being a law student. Others don't. That doesn't mean that these slower starters won't figure out the game and become successful students and lawyers.

Tossing in the towel (or being tossed out) after the first semester is premature. Having that happen will have a disparate impact on students who have been out of school for some period before coming back to law school.

One of the downsides of the present practice of one semester courses in the first year is that it reduces the chance for students who did not do as well as they would have liked in the first semester to meet with their professors to get help about better achieving their goals. There is moaning and groaning about meeting with students to go over exams but these are true teaching moments. It is my impression that many fewer students review their exams after the first semester when the course does not continue in the second semester.

Posted by: Mike Zimmer | Dec 3, 2010 7:28:44 PM

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