U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

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pcwcecac
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U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby pcwcecac » Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:33 pm

How difficult is LRW sequence at the University of Chicago? What are the classes like?

Is it on a B+ curve? How effective are the Bigelow Fellows as teachers? Did you get a lot out of that sequence?

As a prospective Chicago ED'er next round, I look forward to learning how to write properly. But being a rather slow writer, I'm dreading the grades.

Are there things that I can do to better prepare myself?

Thank you very much

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courtneylove
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby courtneylove » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:04 am

honestly... it's awful and boring as hell. and they throw everyone in lrw sections randomly, with no individual attention, so there are people of all different writing backgrounds and ability levels getting powerpoint presentations on how to do things. plus the librarian tutorials are excruciating. i heard that one section's fellow told them how to do their assignments, like how to format them, but my section didn't have that much guidance and i basically had to rewrite my first memo. the worst part i thought was the spring quarter brief... i had no idea what i was doing from the classes we had on it, and we had no drafting stage...that thing tanked my grade. i also felt really unprepared at my 1L summer job.

basically there's a big communication lag because they try to teach you a whole series of things in a limited amount of time, with very little feedback. every time i would go in to meet with my fellow he would tell me all the things wrong with my assignment, but they were things i had no idea i wasn't supposed to do, because he either hadn't told us or we were somehow supposed to know, etc. it was rough.

all that said, legal writing itself can be pretty boring and awful. i don't know how much better a job other law schools do.

oh and it's curved up to a 179 i think, but last year if you turned all your assignments in on time i think you wouldn't get below a 176. they were really strict with deadlines... i don't know how much people were actually penalized in the end for those though.

pcwcecac
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby pcwcecac » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:13 am

Thanks for your insight Courtney

Would you recommend reading about LRW beforehand? If so, what were the assigned texts?

Were the grades determined by assignments alone? No timed exams?

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby USAIRS » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:23 am

courtneylove wrote:honestly... it's awful and boring as hell. and they throw everyone in lrw sections randomly, with no individual attention, so there are people of all different writing backgrounds and ability levels getting powerpoint presentations on how to do things. plus the librarian tutorials are excruciating. i heard that one section's fellow told them how to do their assignments, like how to format them, but my section didn't have that much guidance and i basically had to rewrite my first memo. the worst part i thought was the spring quarter brief... i had no idea what i was doing from the classes we had on it, and we had no drafting stage...that thing tanked my grade. i also felt really unprepared at my 1L summer job.

basically there's a big communication lag because they try to teach you a whole series of things in a limited amount of time, with very little feedback. every time i would go in to meet with my fellow he would tell me all the things wrong with my assignment, but they were things i had no idea i wasn't supposed to do, because he either hadn't told us or we were somehow supposed to know, etc. it was rough.

all that said, legal writing itself can be pretty boring and awful. i don't know how much better a job other law schools do.

oh and it's curved up to a 179 i think, but last year if you turned all your assignments in on time i think you wouldn't get below a 176. they were really strict with deadlines... i don't know how much people were actually penalized in the end for those though.


As someone who has had to review substantial written work from at least 30 interns, I appreciate Chicago's harsher system because it actually makes you a better writer at the end of the day. It has become apparent to me over the years that non-graded LRW classes are doing a severe disservice to students and employers. Imagine the same experience you had, minus the part where you find out that you've been doing it all wrong (or that you even care about such things). That's what I've dealt with. Harvard students who don't know or don't seem to care that their brilliance does not translate to good written work.

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courtneylove
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby courtneylove » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:27 am

no exams. the open memo and the brief were the largest factored assignments in our grades, plus i think attendance and turning in smaller assignments on time. we had a closed memo in the fall (they gave us all the cases to use), then had to rewrite it, an open memo in the winter (do our own research), and an appellate brief in the spring. plus a bunch of little assignments. the blind grading system absolutely sucks, because you can't bring drafts to your fellow, and if you misunderstand some issue or detail, you're just screwed.

each fellow assigned a couple books, one was like "writing a memo," but i don't know if reading about LRW beforehand would help so much... it may be helpful to read other students' writing samples when you are doing your assignments to get an idea of what your fellow wants.

pcwcecac
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby pcwcecac » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:30 am

Thanks USAIRS.

Granted how little I got out of P/F classes in college, I can definitely see your point. I enjoy writing. Being taught how to do so properly will be great, in retrospect. =P

Thanks again Courtney.

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courtneylove
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby courtneylove » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:31 am

USAIRS wrote:As someone who has had to review substantial written work from at least 30 interns, I appreciate Chicago's harsher system because it actually makes you a better writer at the end of the day.


i don't think it's rigorous though, maybe "harsher" in the sense that it's pretty demoralizing. i didn't really know what i was striving for half the time. i would have preferred writing two or three drafts with much shorter deadlines, so i could get some feedback and actually know what i had to improve. instead, we had 5-6 weeks to write something after about two classes of vague instruction, that would be 40% of our grade. :?

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Bildungsroman
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby Bildungsroman » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:32 am

courtneylove wrote:the blind grading system absolutely sucks, because you can't bring drafts to your fellow, and if you misunderstand some issue or detail, you're just screwed.

Whether or not you like the blind grading system, does any law school not use blind grading in their legal research and writing class?

pcwcecac
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby pcwcecac » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:33 am

I see! That sounds super frustrating. Are the fellows usually not available for clarifications on assignments?

pcwcecac
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby pcwcecac » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:34 am

Bildungsroman wrote:
courtneylove wrote:the blind grading system absolutely sucks, because you can't bring drafts to your fellow, and if you misunderstand some issue or detail, you're just screwed.

Whether or not you like the blind grading system, does any law school not use blind grading in their legal research and writing class?



How did you like the LRW classes, Archer?

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Bildungsroman
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby Bildungsroman » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:39 am

pcwcecac wrote:
Bildungsroman wrote:
courtneylove wrote:the blind grading system absolutely sucks, because you can't bring drafts to your fellow, and if you misunderstand some issue or detail, you're just screwed.

Whether or not you like the blind grading system, does any law school not use blind grading in their legal research and writing class?



How did you like the LRW classes, Archer?

Well, I'm only a 1L. The first quarter of LRW (the closed memo) is ungraded and therefore not blind-graded, so there was good opportunity to get feedback and help as you go along, but we'll see how the next two quarters go. I talked with my Bigelow about how the class is graded, and the curve has a higher median than in the other 1L classes and they give out very few "low" grades (like 176 or less).


pcwcecac wrote:I see! That sounds super frustrating. Are the fellows usually not available for clarifications on assignments?

My Bigelow has been very available, but blind-grading (which imho is a very good thing to have) puts them in a difficulty position.

pcwcecac
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby pcwcecac » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:43 am

Bildungsroman wrote:
pcwcecac wrote:
Bildungsroman wrote:
courtneylove wrote:the blind grading system absolutely sucks, because you can't bring drafts to your fellow, and if you misunderstand some issue or detail, you're just screwed.

Whether or not you like the blind grading system, does any law school not use blind grading in their legal research and writing class?



How did you like the LRW classes, Archer?

Well, I'm only a 1L. The first quarter of LRW (the closed memo) is ungraded and therefore not blind-graded, so there was good opportunity to get feedback and help as you go along, but we'll see how the next two quarters go. I talked with my Bigelow about how the class is graded, and the curve has a higher median than in the other 1L classes and they give out very few "low" grades (like 176 or less).


pcwcecac wrote:I see! That sounds super frustrating. Are the fellows usually not available for clarifications on assignments?

My Bigelow has been very available, but blind-grading (which imho is a very good thing to have) puts them in a difficulty position.



Thanks man. How does the grading work? What is 176 equivalent to? 179?

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courtneylove
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby courtneylove » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:47 am

pcwcecac wrote:I see! That sounds super frustrating. Are the fellows usually not available for clarifications on assignments?


They are definitely available, mine was nice and emailed us a lot, and always took questions... he just wouldn't look at drafts and critique them. I often didn't know I was doing something wrong, or that I was going in the wrong direction, and my misunderstanding would permeate a whole section of my memo. My first year I had no idea what I was doing. When you start trying to do legal writing there seem to be like a million avenues you can go down, and it takes a while to figure out. LRW was frustrating because we had so few writing assignments; counting the first rewrite, we handed in 4 written assignments in a year! In college I wrote a paper a week, and got feedback on all of them... so this was a big frustrating letdown!

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courtneylove
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby courtneylove » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:48 am

177 is median in your other classes, so like a B. LRW was curved to a 179 last year, so that was median. 174-179 are varying Bs, and 180+ is an A.

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Whatisthis
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby Whatisthis » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:52 am

courtneylove wrote:177 is median in your other classes, so like a B. LRW was curved to a 179 last year, so that was median. 174-179 are varying Bs, and 180+ is an A.


Was it really curved to 179 last year? I thought it was 178.

pcwcecac
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby pcwcecac » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:53 am

courtneylove wrote:
pcwcecac wrote:I see! That sounds super frustrating. Are the fellows usually not available for clarifications on assignments?


They are definitely available, mine was nice and emailed us a lot, and always took questions... he just wouldn't look at drafts and critique them. I often didn't know I was doing something wrong, or that I was going in the wrong direction, and my misunderstanding would permeate a whole section of my memo. My first year I had no idea what I was doing. When you start trying to do legal writing there seem to be like a million avenues you can go down, and it takes a while to figure out. LRW was frustrating because we had so few writing assignments; counting the first rewrite, we handed in 4 written assignments in a year! In college I wrote a paper a week, and got feedback on all of them... so this was a big frustrating letdown!


I see what you mean now. That's tough...

Thanks for the heads up and the grading explanation.

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby USAIRS » Sat Jan 07, 2012 3:31 am

I had the lowest grade in my Bigelow class, a 176. Suck it up. It does make you a better writer to know where you stand relative to your peers (obviously the rest of my class did better than me - at least I knew I needed to step up my game, and I did just that). Everyone gets grades at Chicago, and Chicago grads do quite well. The proof is in the pudding.

All LRW classes for top schools have fewer assignments, which get increasingly important. Trust me, you don't want to be writing one paper a week in law school. At any rate, the crap you'd be producing once a week wouldn't teach you anything of use to me.

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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby JollyGreenGiant » Sat Jan 07, 2012 8:49 pm

Whatisthis wrote:
courtneylove wrote:177 is median in your other classes, so like a B. LRW was curved to a 179 last year, so that was median. 174-179 are varying Bs, and 180+ is an A.


Was it really curved to 179 last year? I thought it was 178.

It is. I think it did make me a better writer, but I don't think having it graded did anything differently than if it was simply a pass/fail.

As for the professors, many are pretty good. I've heard complaints about some, but the Bigelow program usually attracts the cream of the crop since it is one of the main ways many people become professors. Some of the professors at Chicago were former Bigelows (Masur, Fennell, Casey).

I really don't like that it shows up on the transcript for every single quarter (it's distributed 2-1-1 credit-wise), but that's probably because LRW was one of my worst grades. Can't win them all. It's also very time-consuming, but it's not much different than 2L year if you're on a journal, plus the program is designed nicely that it shouldn't affect your finals studying time.

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Whatisthis
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby Whatisthis » Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:54 pm

JollyGreenGiant wrote:
Whatisthis wrote:
courtneylove wrote:177 is median in your other classes, so like a B. LRW was curved to a 179 last year, so that was median. 174-179 are varying Bs, and 180+ is an A.


Was it really curved to 179 last year? I thought it was 178.

It is. I think it did make me a better writer, but I don't think having it graded did anything differently than if it was simply a pass/fail.

As for the professors, many are pretty good. I've heard complaints about some, but the Bigelow program usually attracts the cream of the crop since it is one of the main ways many people become professors. Some of the professors at Chicago were former Bigelows (Masur, Fennell, Casey).

I really don't like that it shows up on the transcript for every single quarter (it's distributed 2-1-1 credit-wise), but that's probably because LRW was one of my worst grades. Can't win them all. It's also very time-consuming, but it's not much different than 2L year if you're on a journal, plus the program is designed nicely that it shouldn't affect your finals studying time.


Wait, so it was curved to 179 and not 178? I guess that would better explain my grade.

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JollyGreenGiant
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Re: U Chicago-Bigelow: is it as bad as people claim?

Postby JollyGreenGiant » Sun Jan 08, 2012 2:31 pm

No, it's curved to 178.




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