Law Schools and the Curve

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8 Responses

  1. James Darling says:

    I believe *ahem* law school 1’s bottom 4% is D or F, not just F. It should also be noted that law school 1’s merit scholarships are based on class rank and not GPA, so the curve’s primary impact on merit scholarships is to normalize grades between sections.

  2. Hillel Levin says:

    If it is true that few first semester law school students write good exams then maybe we need to adjust our expectations of first year law school students. That is, if one semester of law school is incapable of enabling students to succeed on their ranking metrics, then the metrics are poor. Shouldn’t we test students on what they are capable of mastering?

  3. Ken Rhodes says:

    I disagree with Hillel’s “one way” syllogism. It is equally possible that the teaching in that first semester is letting down the students.

    That would not necessarily mean the teaching of the law is failing. It could (and apparently should) imply that some of the students need a short course in “How to cope with law school.” Such a course, which would last only a few weeks at the beginning of the first semester, could teach not only how to take exams, but also how to prepare, how to take advantage of groups, how to set your priorities, and how to take advantage of the resources of the school. Watching “The Paper Chase” isn’t the best way to learn those things.

  4. Glenn Cohen says:

    I believe Liz Glazer has a paper on this very subject that might of interest/help….

  5. Glenn Cohen says:

    Whoops wrong post…this goes on Dave Hoffman’s post on names and transgender…that will teach me to browse Concurring opinions with multiple windows open….

  6. Hillel Levin says:


    I don’t think we actually disagree. My point really was that the status quo is troubling if it is true that most students cannot succeed on exams that are given to them in the first semester. I am agnostic on the question of how to improve the situation–whether through changed teaching methods, changed substance, or a sort of complementary course of the sort you suggest.

  7. Adam says:

    Maybe we could grade students more closely on skills they’ll need as lawyers. If the purpose was to train them to be court reporters, the current exam model (type at 50 wpm and gogogogogo) would be an apt test of whether they could churn out things as quickly as possible. But to the best of my knowledge, courts don’t lock the attorneys in a room with three hours to write a brief on all of their arguments in the case with just the attorney’s notes to work from. If you want to see students who think like lawyers, start testing them like lawyers.

  8. James Darling says:

    Essay exams can test necessary skills even if you’ll never be asked to write an essay exam in practice. You might say essay exams are a hybrid between the cogent logical reasoning you need for a paper and the time-sensitive issue-spotting you’d want a lawyer to possess for an initial interview or court appearance (and it’s not like a lawyer’s never had to bang out a defensible argument in half a workday).