hmmm that seems kind of weird. what characteristics do the professors give honors based on, then?....and what does pass/pass mean....like, no matter what, you get 'pass' for all your courses
what kinds of academic awards do they give at graduation?
Pass/pass means that first semester, everyone just gets a pass (actually "CR" for credit). It really is that simple.
In later semesters, there's no curve. Professors have discretion to give as many Hs vs. Ps as they want. [Though there also are some classes, such as some clinics and practical experiences like Trial Practice, that remain "ungraded" in that credit is granted only on a credit/no credit - pass/fail - basis.] Obviously, professors take "quality," in whatever form that takes in their subjective opinion, into account. When people describe YLS grading as "random," it's usually because it's hard to predict exactly how many Hs/Ps are going to be given out, and many students report that they get Hs in classes they didn't expect to get them, etc. It's not the case that professors just randomly assign Hs. They are, after all, professors in charge of assigning "grades," lax as YLS grades may be.
Graduation doesn't bring any special academic awards like Order of the Coif, etc., because there are no class ranks. Each year (usually in the summer or early fall), however, a number of special awards are given in specific areas of achievement: family law, corporate law, IP, etc. Usually they are basically "best paper in xyz" awards, but sometimes are more broad: "demonstrating excellence in xyz." I don't think anyone in the real world/the hiring market looks for these awards, because they only exist for certain (rather random) fields and can depend a great deal on the year in which you took certain courses, etc. (because some awards aren't given each year).