Sounds like, as most people have pointed out here, you probably just hit on too few issues and got diminishing returns as you went deeper into your analysis. As I'm sure you know, there's no rule of thumb that applies to every single teacher, so you won't know for sure until you speak with the professors. In my experience with issue spotting exams, though, they harp on analysis because many students stop in the very shallow end. After a certain depth, though, they also tend to give really limited points. Getting a good sense of where that limit is is part of the art of being a successful law student, and unfortunately also part of the total luck of being a successful law student.
Another issue could have just been sheer speed and volume. A lot of people told me the importance of spending 1/3-1/2 of your time outlining your answer. I worked hard to be able to organize my answers in my head quickly so that I could spend all of my time typing, and at least when the midterms were handed out I noticed my printed midterm was at least double the size of the very vast majority of students, and on that basis alone (just getting at least a point for every sentence) I was able to surpass people that may have had a much better conceptual grasp of the issues in the exam. It's unfair and more about ability to be quick than an ability to analyze well, but it's one of the few options available to a professor who wants to make sure that everyone's answers will be distinct and plottable on a curve.
I can imagine all of the humiliation, frustration, and sense of waste you're experiencing. I think you should step back and realize a few things, though. First, you should give yourself a standing ovation for putting in the effort that you did. The chillingly unsympathetic nature of law school and law school grading beckons a person to give law school everything, yet few do. Faced with the prospect of trying their hardest only to find out it wasn't good enough and that they wasted a precious, young year of their lives, most people don't invest nearly as much as they could. Rather, they bank on the offchance they will cowboy their ways into good grades and success, and if for some reason it doesn't work out, they can always comfort themselves with the thought that they didn't try that hard and that the bloodthirsty gunners got their fix. You should be proud of yourself for not taking the easy way out in terms of self-image protection. You took a real risk, and it's really admirable.
Second, there's not a single candid professor out there that can look you in the eyes and tell you that they believe their exams are reliable indicators for who would be successful practicing in that area of the law. Much of the time, it's the best they can do given all of the restraints and pressures they have, but everyone knows it's far from sure fire. Your post was written intelligently, it sounds like you had a very thoughtful approach to law school, and while it might not have been what the professors had in mind on their grading rubric, I'd be very surprised if your analysis wasn't more intricate, precise and deep than the very vast majority of your class. All of these skills combined with your willingness to work hard will, I imagine, make you a fantastic lawyer. You might not be playing croquet on the Yale lawn come this time next year, but you're going to have some very fortunate clients down the road if this is what you want to do and stick with.
Finally, while such misfortunes as yours are too disheartening to seek out, in many ways they can be cherished as gifts when they come. Some day you might have a family, even some kids (if you don't already). I guarantee at one point your child is going to invest a lot of themselves in something and it's not going to pan out, and it's going to hurt awfully bad. The ability to understand other people experiencing these things in a truly genuine way gives you a very unique and privileged position from which to love and comfort them-- and that's something not even partners at Wachtell can buy. As good ol' Garth Brooks sang, somewhere down the road you might just be thanking god for your unanswered prayers.
Best of luck to you here on out and congratulations on your courage, I wish I had more of it.
Last edited by sillyboots
on Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.