Below the curve support

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SkyVan64
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Below the curve support

Postby SkyVan64 » Sat Jan 23, 2010 2:07 am

Hey all, semester one ended for the 1L's and in every school there are people that end up below curve. It's there that you must decide whether to say Fuck it and give up, or to try to salvage some dignity in second semester.

This is intended to serve two purposes: to share support, and also to exchange information geared toward SECOND SEMESTER 1L's who have landed below the curve. I hope that we can normalize. Better luck next time.

ok2bedifferent
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby ok2bedifferent » Sat Jan 23, 2010 2:48 am

Good thread. I think we're so caught up with the t14 and the top 5% on here that we forget that there are people (like me) who lament over our deplorable performance of the fall semester. As stated in my personal thread, I think that an interviewer may have more respect for someone who stuck it through over someone who has given up. While probably too optimistic on my part, I can only hope to learn from my past mistakes and hope to do better next time. I don't know how much luck has to do with it all, I think it's more about how good of a test taker you are. Fortunately, I have one take home exam this semester, so hopefully.... I will see brighter days ahead (knock on wood). It's always easy to call it quits.

Leeroy Jenkins
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby Leeroy Jenkins » Sat Jan 23, 2010 2:50 am

ok2bedifferent wrote:I think that an interviewer may have more respect for someone who stuck it through over someone who has given up.

You'll never know, because I don't think an interviewer is ever going to interview someone at OCI who dropped out.

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dresden doll
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby dresden doll » Sat Jan 23, 2010 3:41 am

Lxw wrote:
ok2bedifferent wrote:I think that an interviewer may have more respect for someone who stuck it through over someone who has given up.

You'll never know, because I don't think an interviewer is ever going to interview someone at OCI who dropped out.


:lol:

dt15
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby dt15 » Sat Jan 23, 2010 3:02 pm

ok2bedifferent wrote:I don't know how much luck has to do with it all, I think it's more about how good of a test taker you are.


But you have to be lucky to be a good test-taker.

Hard work can help. Going to office hours can help. Doing the professor's previous exams (if you're lucky enough to have access to any) can help. Studying the model answers from those previous exams (if you're lucky enough to have access to any) can help. Feedback from your professor (if you're lucky enough to get any, from a midterm or maybe even a practice problem) can help.

Many professors don't offer midterms, model answers, or even a significant amount of practice problems. But I think luck is a significant factor no matter how you look at it. At least on first-semester exams.

KSCO
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby KSCO » Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:37 pm

It's frustrating as hell since there's no one really to gripe about this with.

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Kohinoor
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby Kohinoor » Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:38 pm

KSCO wrote:It's frustrating as hell since there's no one really to gripe about this with.

50% of the class?

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prezidentv8
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby prezidentv8 » Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:46 pm

dt15 wrote:model answers from those previous exams...


...would have been great to have. Don't know where the grades are yet, but I had to comment on the cruelty of giving practice exams without model answers.

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rayiner
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby rayiner » Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:23 pm

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Last edited by rayiner on Sun Jan 24, 2010 1:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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prezidentv8
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby prezidentv8 » Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:32 pm

rayiner wrote:.


Yeah, point well taken. I think the reason I (and some others) have been attributing how well we do, or not, to luck is because none of us have taken these kinds of tests before, don't know the grading system, and are aware that everyone knows the black letter very well. So maybe it could be better said that, while not exactly luck, it might be innate ability or style or familiarity with law in general. But to put it another way, I don't know what my grades will be, but doubt that more studying would have helped. Even more practice exams would have been of marginal value since two of my finals came down to squeezing our answers into word limits that were way tighter than the number of issues raised warranted (again, not luck technically, but I have no idea when to prioritize and go into detail on issues and when to just hit all of them). And don't get me started on the policy questions. Un-studyable.

So...maybe not luck, but definitely more innate skill than hard work from my standpoint. And that aspect of it seems far different from the LSAT.

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OperaSoprano
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby OperaSoprano » Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:46 pm

rayiner wrote:some really good advice, as he always does.


I seriously wish I could do that for my long memo. It was way the hell below the curve. I'm nervous about approaching the professor, though. Since I have a marked up copy of the memo, would there be any utility in going over it with someone else?

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Aeroplane
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby Aeroplane » Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:49 pm

prezidentv8 wrote:
rayiner wrote:.


Yeah, point well taken. I think the reason I (and some others) have been attributing how well we do, or not, to luck is because none of us have taken these kinds of tests before, don't know the grading system, and are aware that everyone knows the black letter very well. So maybe it could be better said that, while not exactly luck, it might be innate ability or style or familiarity with law in general. But to put it another way, I don't know what my grades will be, but doubt that more studying would have helped. Even more practice exams would have been of marginal value since two of my finals came down to squeezing our answers into word limits that were way tighter than the number of issues raised warranted (again, not luck technically, but I have no idea when to prioritize and go into detail on issues and when to just hit all of them). And don't get me started on the policy questions. Un-studyable.

So...maybe not luck, but definitely more innate skill than hard work from my standpoint. And that aspect of it seems far different from the LSAT.

After a semester of law school, I am highly dubious of the bolded conventional wisdom.

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rayiner
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby rayiner » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:01 pm

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Last edited by rayiner on Sun Jan 24, 2010 1:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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OperaSoprano
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby OperaSoprano » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:11 pm

rayiner wrote:
prezidentv8 wrote:
rayiner wrote:.


Yeah, point well taken. I think the reason I (and some others) have been attributing how well we do, or not, to luck is because none of us have taken these kinds of tests before, don't know the grading system, and are aware that everyone knows the black letter very well. So maybe it could be better said that, while not exactly luck, it might be innate ability or style or familiarity with law in general. But to put it another way, I don't know what my grades will be, but doubt that more studying would have helped. Even more practice exams would have been of marginal value since two of my finals came down to squeezing our answers into word limits that were way tighter than the number of issues raised warranted (again, not luck technically, but I have no idea when to prioritize and go into detail on issues and when to just hit all of them). And don't get me started on the policy questions. Un-studyable.

So...maybe not luck, but definitely more innate skill than hard work from my standpoint. And that aspect of it seems far different from the LSAT.


It's true that there is some luck involved in figuring out how to take the exam. I had midterms in 3 of my 4 classes which made it pretty clear what a good exam was supposed to look like. Model answers to practice exams can be similarly helpful.

My point is that once you've done your first semester, it's best not to get into the mindset that your grades are uncorrelated with what you put down on the exam paper. Use the opportunity to figure out what 'A' exams look like, then figure out how you can write them for second semester.

BTW: I don't think policy questions are unstudyable. They're all based on points the professor makes in class. Our Civ Pro exam had two policy questions. One was an open-ended one that was basically: "talk about something I talked about in class." The other was about a metaphor he had kept referring to in class, and you had to fit the cases you'd read over the semester into that metaphor (I used Pennoyer, lol). Our Torts policy question was an incentives question about a nuisance scenario our professor had spent an entire lecture on. Our Crim policy question was about analyzing a potential new statute. We hadn't talked about anything like that before, but it was really just a matter of applying the various policy debates we'd encountered before. Where do you draw the line between punishing acts and punishing pure mens rea? What are the retributive/deterrence/rehabilitative justifications for such a statute? I actually think I didn't do that great on this question because I spent most of the time ranting about prosecutorial discretion and big government instead of hitting the policy issues we'd been discussing all semester.


Wow, Ray, your exams were 100% different from mine. We just had standard, no word limit issue spotters, plus some multiple choice in Crim. Did you get a sense beforehand of whether your prof wanted cases cited? I think in Contracts I might have done better (I'm not complaining about what I have) if I had found a way to work them in, instead of focusing completely on the BLL. I just went in and broke everything down Arrow style, and I'm sure I missed things, but I have no idea what else I should have been doing.

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rayiner
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby rayiner » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:17 pm

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rayiner
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby rayiner » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:26 pm

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Aeroplane
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby Aeroplane » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:29 pm

rayiner wrote:
Aeroplane wrote:After a semester of law school, I am highly dubious of the bolded conventional wisdom.


It depends on how you define "well". Lot's of points come from knowing the subtle aspects of the black letter law. Consider something very simple: but-for causation. Factual cause when "but-for the actor's negligent act, the harm would not have occurred." On both my torts midterm and final, the wrinkle presented by the word "negligent" in the definition was a source of points.

On our midterm we had a hypo where someone was kite surfing on a windy day without a license, and someone with "extreme sports watching syndrome" got into a bicycle accident because he was transfixed by watching the kite surfer. People who said: "the kite surfing was a but-for cause of the bicycle accident" lost points, because the 'negligent' aspect actually introduced an issue. You had to ask: "what was the non-neglient behavior here?" If a reasonable person would have kite surfed with a license, then it was not a but-for cause, because even if the surfer had been licensed the bicyclist would've still been transfixed by the extreme sport. If a reasonable person would not have kite surfed at all on such a windy day, then maybe the kite surfing was a but-for cause because then the bicyclist would not have had his attention distracted.

I missed a point on my torts final for neglecting that for concert of action to apply, one party has to encourage a tortious act, not just encourage an act that results in a tort. Ie: the person encouraging a snowball fight is not liable under concert of action if a third party gets hit by an iceball just for encouraging the fight, unless you can show that a snowball fight was an inherently tortious activity under the circumstances.

People tend to know the BLL in the sense that they know what but-for causation is and generally when concert of action applies, but you get points by systematically applying all the elements of each rule, and I think a lot of people really fail to consider the more subtle wrinkles of those rules.

That sounds more like application. And in torts, I do think that everyone knows the BLL fairly well because there's relatively little of it. I don't think that everyone, including myself, knew the BLL "very well" in property and contracts. At least not without referring back to outlines/notes. And even with notes available, there were times on the contracts exam where I didn't know what the BLL on the issue was. IIRC I may have even stated incorrect BLL at one point as a rule. If I'd done poorly, then I'd think maybe it was just me and a few others, but that wasn't the case. It's not conclusive proof or anything, just my perception that maybe the "everyone has the BLL down" meme is not entirely accurate.

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prezidentv8
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby prezidentv8 » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:35 pm

rayiner wrote:Use the opportunity to figure out what 'A' exams look like, then figure out how you can write them for second semester.

^My plan exactly

rayiner wrote:BTW: I don't think policy questions are unstudyable. They're all based on points the professor makes in class. Our Civ Pro exam had two policy questions. One was an open-ended one that was basically: "talk about something I talked about in class." The other was about a metaphor he had kept referring to in class, and you had to fit the cases you'd read over the semester into that metaphor (I used Pennoyer, lol). Our Torts policy question was an incentives question about a nuisance scenario our professor had spent an entire lecture on. Our Crim policy question was about analyzing a potential new statute. We hadn't talked about anything like that before, but it was really just a matter of applying the various policy debates we'd encountered before. Where do you draw the line between punishing acts and punishing pure mens rea? What are the retributive/deterrence/rehabilitative justifications for such a statute? I actually think I didn't do that great on this question because I spent most of the time ranting about prosecutorial discretion and big government instead of hitting the policy issues we'd been discussing all semester.

Your policy questions seem much more directly related to the material than mine were. I had five policy questions, one of which looked anything like those. I am quite jealous at the moment.

dt15
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby dt15 » Sat Jan 23, 2010 8:08 pm

prezidentv8 wrote:
rayiner wrote:.


Yeah, point well taken. I think the reason I (and some others) have been attributing how well we do, or not, to luck is because none of us have taken these kinds of tests before, don't know the grading system, and are aware that everyone knows the black letter very well. So maybe it could be better said that, while not exactly luck, it might be innate ability or style or familiarity with law in general. But to put it another way, I don't know what my grades will be, but doubt that more studying would have helped. Even more practice exams would have been of marginal value since two of my finals came down to squeezing our answers into word limits that were way tighter than the number of issues raised warranted (again, not luck technically, but I have no idea when to prioritize and go into detail on issues and when to just hit all of them). And don't get me started on the policy questions. Un-studyable.

So...maybe not luck, but definitely more innate skill than hard work from my standpoint. And that aspect of it seems far different from the LSAT.


I agree with this, although to me "innate ability" means almost, but not quite, the same thing as "luck".

Those who did find themselves in the top xx% will certainly defend the system. (And I'm not saying that Rayiner's posts aren't correct - of course they are, and worth reading.) They put in the work; they will reap their rewards - which includes the limited number of paid Biglaw internships and prestigious judicial internships.

Everyone else takes their median or below grades. Most of them worked as hard as those in the top xx%. When a student does get his first exam back, he might look down and realize that (e.g.) the single unwarranted assumption that he made while reading the first sentence of the exam's single essay question caused him to write an answer which missed almost every single point on the professor's grading rubric. The professor gave him a C+ because the answer did demonstrate that the writer understood much of the BLL and applied it to what he thought were the facts. On another exam, (e.g.) he might have allocated his time incorrectly on the exam, spending a great deal of time discussing issues which in fact were worth very few points, and arriving at the issues that were worth the majority of the points with only a few minutes left in the exam time period. Since the student had never had feedback from his professor on an exam question even remotely resembling the one on the exam, he would have had little idea which issues were worth a great deal of points and which were not. The student received a below-median B-. (And ironically, two classmates that this student had helped learn concepts (e.g. Res Ipsa or Parol Evidence) over the course of the semester somehow made B+s.)

I'm just making up some hypotheticals here. Such a student would see and understand his mistakes, but he would have little to no idea how to change his study habits.

Word-limits are even more difficult for a student to deal with (as said above) than time-limits - how is one supposed to know which issues to discuss and in how much depth to discuss them? By making educated guesses.

As for policy questions: they're hit and miss too. As said above, sometimes they reflect on policy that the professor explicitly discussed in class. Sometimes they expect the student to draw conclusions far and outside the scope of the policy discussed in class; maybe analogizing the policies behind some other situation to the situation in the question. Surely these types of questions are even more difficult so far as allocating time and effort goes.

I would think that the best thing to remember is: Practicing law in real life is not at all like taking law school exams (or the LSAT) (so I'm told). :lol: Maybe the best law students are not always the best attorneys!

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prezidentv8
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby prezidentv8 » Sat Jan 23, 2010 8:33 pm

dt15 wrote:educated guesses.


Far too much of this experience has felt like one version or another of this^.

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Aeroplane
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby Aeroplane » Sat Jan 23, 2010 8:48 pm

Aside from practice exams and exam feedback, IME most professors are happy to discuss general exam-writing skills, their grading philosophy, how to prioritize given limited time, what they emphasize (e.g. maximal issue spotting v. thorough analysis of fewer issues), and stuff like that during office hours.

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rayiner
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby rayiner » Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:18 pm

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Last edited by rayiner on Sun Jan 24, 2010 1:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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prezidentv8
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby prezidentv8 » Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:37 pm

rayiner wrote:Now, I'm not really trying to "defend the system" or whatever. I'm saying that it's defeatist to think that people who did well on their exams have some inherent ability that other people don't. You should be telling yourself that being top of your class this semester is not a matter of luck, but a matter of writing 'A' exams, and that your job over this semester is figuring out how.


Agreed.

dt15
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby dt15 » Sun Jan 24, 2010 12:40 am

rayiner wrote:.


I had a whole reasonably-thought-out reply to all that written up and I pressed "Submit", and my internet goofed and it didn't go through, and then I went back on the browser (had no choice but to do so) and it was all gone. Ain't that the story of my life. I am not typing it again, it's not that important. It was just all about how everyone at every school does their best to improve at all the things Rayiner suggests - and then the curve moves and most people - myself included, although the hypothetical situations I made up above aren't mine - end up at the median anyway.

Most of us goof up here or there on exams, since we have only a small window of time (and sometimes, space) in which to prove our worth. I suppose that those who do not (or do so the least) are the ones who get the As. I admire those people. I also suppose I should expect that those are the people who will likewise goof up the least in their real-life jobs, starting out making $160,000 at a huge firm, and ending up on the Supreme Court someday. The rest of us are doomed to a life of mediocrity, scraping out a living handling nasty divorces and handling speeding tickets and DWIs (really, not such a bad living to be made there, except that for some reason they don't cover these things in first-year law school courses). Of course, that's for those of us who get a job at all (those of us not at a coveted T14)... those of us who are not so fortunate, perhaps we can pump gas or something.

Really. We'll be fine (speaking to all here, not to anyone in particular). I know several lawyers that would disagree with anyone trying to make a case that the greatest legal eagles in law school always turn out to be the same attorneys that you would want to represent you in a case. Whether you all believe that is up to you.

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OperaSoprano
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Re: Below the curve support

Postby OperaSoprano » Sun Jan 24, 2010 1:14 am

A couple of things: I did not defend the curve before I had my grades, and my showing this semester has not altered how I feel by one whit. Rayiner's eloquent reply is proof positive that the curve can be beat, not that it is a net positive, or should exist at all. The nature of the curve is such that there must be winners and losers, and I object to this system in which I am here because one of my classmates is not. I object to this system for what it did to me. This system is rotten, but until it can be changed, learning how to take exams is crucial. I don't like it any more than you do, and possibly even less, but Ray is correct in the assertion that no one has inherent exam taking abilities. Until the curve is abolished, we have to devote time to learning how to take exams. I can't heap enough excoriation on this system, and if I were ranked #1 in my section I would not defend it.




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