Monday, November 12, 2012

3LOL and "mandatory" attendance policies

Let's see, how to phrase this?

Version One [Polite academese]:  The pedagogic value of the third year of law school has long been questioned by law students.

Version Two [Qualitative sociology in the Internet age]: 3LOL

Seriously, legal academics and administrators could find worse uses for ten minutes of their time than reading through the linked TLS thread, which provides a mordant reminder that many 3Ls do literally none of the assigned reading, show up for class only if compelled to do so, and pay no attention to what's going on even when they're physically there.  A few highlights:

I've gone to 3 classes in two weeks. That's three hours in two weeks. I'm exhausted.
I was assigned 8 pages to read for tomorrow...can't even get through 4. How the hell did I read hundreds in 1L?!
 Tomorrow is the third week of class. I've been to two days of school. And I have zero books.
I'm at 3LOL in a town where some bars stay open until 5am daily. I should leave a credit card open at each of them, just for the convenience of having a permanently open tab at all of them.
I think I'm gonna take random classes in the rest of the university. I signed up for calculus this semester. The professor emailed said he thought I might be too busy with law school. I told him I won't be as busy as he might think.
 What could explain this horribly "unprofessional" behavior, which, as every candid observer knows, is epidemic among third-year law students? (And far from unknown among the more cynical and strategic 2Ls).

The answer is straightforward: so many 3Ls behave this way because they've concluded the third year of law school is, for them, a waste of very large amounts of both time and money.  This is hardly an irrational conclusion, given the following:

(1) They've come to realize that both class attendance and diligent reading bear only a very loose relationship to the grades they get.  Especially in traditional doctrine-oriented classes featuring an issue-spotting final exam, a couple of weeks or indeed even a couple of days of cramming with one of the many excellent outlines for the professor's class that are floating around work just as well or better in regard to getting a good grade as going to class and doing the readings.

(2) By 3L, grades don't matter anyway.  A student's class standing is pretty much determined, and worse yet students have come to realize that grades only matter for the kinds of jobs that can be gotten through OCI, which is another way of saying that the only grades that really count are those you got as a 1L.

(3)  3Ls who have done any amount of substantive legal work realize that going to law school is a very inefficient way to go about learning how to be a lawyer.

(4) Quite apart from their lack of vocational utility, a lot of law school classes have little or no inherent intellectual value. In addition, even when classes do have such value, many 3Ls have, after 20 years of formal schooling, no interest in pursuing further education for its own sake -- especially at the price they're being required to pay for something they don't want anyway.

Which brings us to the matter of the ABA's attendance policy.  It came as quite a surprise to me when, at some point early on in my legal academic career, I learned that the ABA Rules require students to go to class (see 304-d).  As a law student I had never heard of such a thing, and indeed the last time I had been formally required to show up for class, as far as I was aware, was in high school.   But it turns out that the ABA accreditation standards require "regular and punctual" attendance on the part of students, and in theory any law school that fails to enforce this policy puts its accreditation in danger.

This rule is, at least formally (an important qualifier), taken quite seriously by law schools, as illustrated by the University of Pittsburgh Law School's policy:

The American Bar Association Standards for Approval of Law Schools and the policy of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law require regular and punctual class attendance in order for a student to satisfy residence and credit hour requirements.  Accordingly, students are expected and required to attend all regularly scheduled Law School classes in which they are enrolled.  Attendance includes preparation.  Any student who fails to attend at least eighty percent of regularly scheduled classes for any course (i.e., fails to comply with “the 80% rule”) will be certified out and will receive a “U” (“unsatisfactory”) for the course.  The 80% rule is applied based on the number of class meetings and not the number of credit hours for a course.  For example:
Course Meetings (per week)Allowed Absences (per term)
4 11
3 8
2 6
1 3
Individual faculty members may impose a greater class attendance requirement for a particular course.
Attendance records will be based on sign-in sheets that will be circulated during each class, although a faculty member may adopt a different procedure for monitoring attendance in a seminar or clinical course or if the faculty member chooses to impose a greater class attendance requirement than the 80% rule.  It is the responsibility of each student to sign his or her name at the appropriate place on the attendance sheet prior to the end of each class, and each student who fails to do so will be considered absent. The standards of academic integrity apply to this policy.

Each student is responsible for maintaining his or her own records of attendance.  As a courtesy, the School’s records for each student will be available through PeopleSoft in the my.pitt.edu portal.  (Each student will have access only to his or her own records and will be able to view the attendance record for each class in which the student is registered. To learn how to track your attendance through PeopleSoft, please review the PDF or video tutorial that is available by clicking the “Learn More” link under the Student Center Login menu item. The instructions are titled “Viewing Your Law Class Attendance Online.”)

Students will receive no other notice or warning regarding their attendance unless a student violates the 80% rule (i.e., exceeds the maximum allowable number of absences) in a particular class.  In that event, the student will be certified out of that class and the Deans’ Office will send a letter to the student’s Law School mailbox notifying the student that he or she has been certified out of the class.  The notice will be deemed to have been received by the student upon delivery to the student’s mailbox.
Of course many schools don't go this far. Here's Northwestern's policy:

Class attendance is required in all courses, as is mandated by our accrediting authorities. No student should enroll in any course without the intention and capability of satisfying this requirement. Failure to attend a class regularly may cause reduction in the grade, loss of credit for the course, additional remedial work, denial of residence credit or other appropriate sanctions in the discretion of the instructor or the Dean.

This "there's a rule but we're not going to actually require anyone to do anything to enforce it" seems to remain the general practice at higher-ranked schools.  I'd be curious to learn if there are any faculty members at elite schools that employ sign-in sheets or the like, and I would expect that the percentage of a school's faculty who track attendance is inversely related to the school's hierarchical status.  (Until a couple of years ago CU faculty had the privilege of expressly waiving the "80% rule," which is apparently the common law understanding of what the ABA means by regular attendance, but the powers that be decided granting faculty this privilege was in conflict with the Plain Meaning of the ABA Text).

Anyway, the class attendance requirement casts an interesting light on the sociological structure of legal education, which in this and other ways tends towards a combination of petty authoritarianism and emotional regression, i.e. high school all over again. It's not exactly a shock that, by their third year, so many law students are in open revolt against that structure.


106 comments:

  1. Article in NYT about student loans destructive effect on families this AM. Tells story of stepdad of law student committing suicide over collection harassment.

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    1. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/12/business/some-parents-shouldering-student-loans-fall-on-tough-times.html?pagewanted=3&_r=0&hp&pagewanted=all

      Delete
    2. This is so sad. The government should not be harassing people to their death.

      What bothers me even more is the amount of bankruptcy protection provided to corporations and other business entities.

      An individual doing their best to pay back money they owe should have some protection as well.

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    3. A huge law firm like Dewey can stiff paying the janitors and the mailroom workers, but if any of the staff or lawyers who lost their jobs ( without notice) tried to erase student loans because they have no income, they have no recourse.

      How can that be allowed to stand?

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    4. "The government should not be harassing people to their death. "

      The government (public law schools) and the ABA (through its laughable lack of enforcement) should not be luring 10's of thousands to their financial death each year, either.

      Because financial and professional ruin greatly increases suicide risk.

      Delete
  2. 100% attendance, sit in front row, and always first to comment in ITLSC.

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  3. Some classes are worth attending because it would otherwise be difficult to get a good grade (exam requires more than surface level issue spotting). Some are worth attending because they're practical or interesting. The other classes take attendance.

    We're supposed to be professionals in training. Let us make our own damned decisions about when class attendance is necessary (hint: almost never).

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  4. I graduated law school ten years ago. Maybe things have changed, but I do disagree with the basic premise that the third year was completely useless.

    As someone who knew what type of legal work I wanted to do, and was able to clerk in that field from second summer on, I took a lot of classes in my area. I learned a lot and my employee did not have to teach me the basics as I had/was learning them at school. I used the professor as a sounding board for some work questions I had to improve my work product.

    I also took useful electives in business related classes that helped me in my career as well.

    I probably could have learned all this on my own, but I wouldnt call it a total waste.

    But if one has no idea what kind of attorney they want to be, then the chance of them picking useful classes is relatively low.

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    1. "As someone who knew what type of legal work I wanted to do,...I took a lot of classes in my area."

      Agree 100%. Maybe it's because I had a STEM undergrad degree (i.e., I didn't take the path of least resistance in undergrad) and/or knew what I wanted to practice, but I made sure that I took advantage of all classes in my hoped-for areas of practice (IP and tax as a fall back). Yeah, I could have taken any number of crap classes and skated by with no attendance/easy grades, but it would have been my own fault for wasting the opportunity.

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    2. "Maybe it's because I had a STEM undergrad degree (i.e., I didn't take the path of least resistance in undergrad".

      Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back about how much brighter you are than all us English majors.

      I'd actually enjoy giving all you arrogant STEM types a rigorous examination on English grammar and punctuation, or watch you break out in hives as you parse Milton or the Gawain poet without annotations.

      Oh, and you do know that LawProf has a background in literary studies, right?

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    3. I graduated about 10 years ago and my memory was that most of the classes that were useful to 3Ls filled up fast and that left most students picking from a lot of the theory or law and classes that were intensely boring and irrelevant.

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    4. This comment highlights another type of 3LOL difficulty. Many of my students, not just now but over the years, realize by 3L that they can't choose their practice field--they must apply for jobs in a wide range of fields and hope they will land something. So 3L becomes a collection of courses to prepare for anything: criminal procedure because maybe something will open up in the prosecutor's or pd's office; securities law because maybe you'll somehow land that job with a corporate firm; copyright for the IP chance; etc. All of that makes 3L a replay of the first two years, with large doctrinal courses--and no sense that one is mastering anything or making a transition to law practice. Even when some courses are available to do that, how do students with such uncertain job prospects settle on a path for mastery?

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    5. It's just a bunch of courses. Hell, for my last semester, I can get away with just one law course and any two other courses in the university. How Underwater Basketweaving 101 and 102 would contribute to my legal education is beyond me. Yet they'd satisfy the requirements.

      Delete
    6. "I'd actually . . . watch [sic] you [STEM types] break out in hives as you parse Milton or the Gawain poet without annotations."

      So? This is useful in which universe? Surely not this one.

      Delete
    7. DJM,

      I think your comment goes back to their are too many law students for the jobs out there. In better times, i think students had a better chance of getting the type of work they wanted and could take classes that focus on their choice. Now, that isnt the case for many.

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    8. Hey 1:35, I bet he gets paid big, big bucks in his starry universe for his Parsing Of The Gawain Poet Without Annotations.

      ;-)

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    9. Honestly? We're still having the STEM v. Liberal Arts debate? I'm pretty sure that if you waste time bragging anonymously about your non-achievements online, then you've already lost.

      Soc-Sci for the win!

      Delete
    10. "Soc-Sci for the win!"

      Social "science" ain't real science.

      so there.

      Delete
  5. One interesting point that LawProf does not remark upon is that the incentives for enforcement of 3L attendance policies run in parallel with the law school scam incentives in general.

    It's one thing to give a failing grade so someone in the bottom quarter of the 3L class; in fact, it might even demonstrate why that individual had such a poor outcome (lazy, unprofessional, etc.) But what school is going to give a failing grade to, and therefore possibly delay the graduation of, a law review student who has already lined up a good clerkship and a biglaw job?

    Of course, the easiest thing to do is look the other way at both types of 3L students and just keep pretending to sell high-quality education to the handful of diehards who keep showing up, hoping to trade up their own law school outcome for a better one in the last year. The people who already won and lost at the law school gamble will be checked out during 3L no matter what.

    I doubt there is a single law school grad who did not have the experience of walking into a 3L exam and seeing someone there who you didn't even know was in the class. If that never happened to you, you were probably the one who showed up only for the exam to the wonderment of the other students.

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    1. "The people who already won and lost at the law school gamble will be checked out during 3L no matter what."

      What about the joint JD/taxLLM students at NYU?

      http://www.law.nyu.edu/admissions/jdadmissions/dualdegreeprograms/jdllmintaxation/index.htm

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  6. My third year (which was 20 years ago), I took a will drafting class and the prof. died mid-semester. Not sure if that counts as irony but it certainly was morbid.

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    1. What was done about the half-finished course? Did they stick someone else in to teach it?

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    2. Hey, 8:18 - he didn't say they bothered to notify Administration about the, uh, event.

      They just carried on and graded each other's papers.

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  7. Just more proof that all you "scam" plaintiffs are spoiled, lazy wimps who couldn't cut the mustard. Right?

    OR--- Maybe proof that the architecture of law school is a flawed design.

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    1. I don't understand this comment.

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    2. Most of the people posting in that thread have jobs lined up for graduation.

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    3. I'm saying that 3Ls blow off class not because they are lazy or incompetent, but rather because they recognize that their courses aren't worthwhile.

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  8. I'm a 2L and a lot of the TLS thread rang true for me. I've been in school since I was in pre-school, I'm tired of, as LawProf said, "vocationally useless" classes that do not have "inherent intellectual value."

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  9. The third year has been an open joke for decades. I graduated order of the coif from NYU in the mid-80's. There were several third-year courses in which I didn't know what the professor even looked like. Other than the clinic I was in, I regularly attended only one class, Criminal Procedure, and then only because the professor, who sported a strong Welsh accent, was entertaining.

    By 3L, I knew I was going into public interest and, outside of the clinic, there was literally nothing left in the curriculum that, from an educational standpoint, was worth my time.

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  10. maybe i missed the answer to the following question as i skimmed thru this post, but don't 3L grades matter for those who landed V10/V50 firms and know that they are most likely going to be lateraling down to V100 or so?

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    1. They definitely do, although I'm not sure that most people realize that. I certainly didn't when I was in school.

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  11. I graduated from a T10 law school 25 years ago. I was on law review, top of the class, and so on. I attended every class my third year for the simple reason that I was paying for tuition - meaning I was paying for it out of my pocket - no loans, no parents, no guardian angels - my summer income and part-time income as well as some investment income paid for it. I shared my classmates' views on the dubious value of 3rd year classes, but stubbornly I went to class. I did notice behavior changes when your own money is at issue. I was bored to tears, but, heck, getting through a mediocre form oof misery is often what it takes.

    Law school should be two years, not three. Good luck getting that changed.

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    1. Part of the foundation of the entire law school scam is that students don't realizetreat it is their own money at issue

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    2. Good for you. But law school was A LOT cheaper 25 years ago. Imagine paying $150k over 3 years with a part time job and some summer income.

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    3. "as well as some investment income"

      how does this square with your claim not to have received help from parents and/or guardian angels?

      Delete
  12. I had one professor require attendance only on the one day we were on call, and made it very clear that we were free to not show up any other days. So much for accreditation rules.

    The class was professional responsibility.

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    1. This would be funny it it weren't so sad.

      OK it's pretty funny anyway.

      Delete
  13. The third year is pretty useless. The only exceptions are clinical courses, and perhaps pretrial and trial ad. However, most students do not participate in legal clinic programs.

    Sometimes, there is an inverse relationship between time spent reading archaic cases and the final grade. I remember playing chess and taking naps during my Admin Law class. I only read one case in the entire book - which is the one that the "professor" assigned to me at the beginning of the semester. The final exam was easy.

    By the third year of law school, the grades do not matter. Furthermore, if you don't have a job lined up - especially if you have accumulated more student debt - then you have bigger concerns than reading parsed cases for a worthless class.

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  14. 3L, I had a clinic dean try to block my internship third year with the SEC because I had "taken too many internships in the same practice area." Interestingly, while I do not practice law, I am still working in that "practice area," in compliance.

    What a bunch of clowns.

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    1. Wow. I can't understand the thinking behind that one- unless there were other students who were looking for the same limited number of spots?

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  15. Not sure why lawprof is attacking the individual taking calculus. The classes I took outside the law school my 3L year at Stanford were by far the most useful and interesting.

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  16. Well, I'm the one fool who does attend every class—haven't missed one yet—and reads all assigned material, including the optional material, on time. I don't know why I bother, embittered as I am.

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    1. stop being a buster

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    2. How has the worked for you?

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    3. How has what worked? Being a diligent student? Well, I get excellent grades, but I can't get so much as an interview for a job.

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    4. So...it hasn't worked

      #happy I left after 1L

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  17. Meh, you can find High School seniors, college seniors, taking the same attitude. The last year of anything is like that. If law school is cut down to two years, some will consider the second year like that.

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  18. http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2067&context=faculty_scholarship

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    1. Great article. Almost perfectly sums up my time at CLS. After 1L, about 50% of the students were in it for the signaling credential, probably 35% remained true believers, and 15% or so were actively opposed.

      The system encourages a cynical complacency that is more damaging than active hostility.

      I wonder how the study's results have changed now that the debt/job situation is so much worse?

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    2. "The system encourages a cynical complacency that is more damaging than active hostility."

      Figure out how to say that in Latin, and this could be the motto for all law schools.

      Delete
  19. In addition to the execllent points mentioned by Lawprof, I would add

    (5)3Ls understand that time is better spent in pursuing a job, any job, as the Law School Career Office and OCI aren't going to save their ass.If a 3L is sufficiently fortunate to have a clerking gig during the academic year, then cultivating a professional relationship with the attorneys in that firm is far more career-productive than sitting through Conflicts in International Environmental Law.

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    1. Missed this post. I added the same thing. Getting a job , if you don't have one, really matters more than grades at this point.

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  20. I got a lot out of 3L year by: (1) taking classes that I really had an interest in, reading most of the material, attending most of the classes, and then supplementing my education in the subject area by doing additional research; and (2) focusing on persuasive writing by doing moot court and taking a seminar where the main projects all involved writing persuasive pieces (memos, opinions, briefs). I still cared a lot about my grades because I wanted to apply for a position with the federal government (where I now work). I use the substantive knowledge that I got from at least 4 or 5 of my 3L classes fairly regularly in my work. Students have some responsibility for their educations.

    At the same time, I definitely had diminishing returns (learned a lot less in 3L than 2L than 1L). It's not at all clear that 3L was worth the cost of tuition for that year. And that's even more true for students who did not "win" the Law School "game." If the structure of legal education hadn't worked for me, then I would have been miserable. And it clearly doesn't work for some students. Also, the worse professors really don't add much, and it is wrong to charge a huge tuition when a student would be better served reading the books on their own.

    Personally, I would support getting rid of 3L (or making it optional for a slightly more prestigious degree such as a "JD+"). If you're going to do it, you need to stop having student-run law reviews so that students aren't wasting their time in 2L on the law reviews and instead can be working on their substantive writing skills and studying substantive law. Of course, eliminating student-run law reviews would be a good idea in its own right (both for the students and for the quality of academic production).

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  21. My God are these people pathetic.

    I was no gunner (got mediocre grades and regularly went out for beer at lunch), but by third year I had a paying job clerking for a local solo, and I was neck-deep in a clinical program as a student prosecutor.

    For 3L, I spent two mornings per week in class, three in court, and afternoons working for the solo. The work for the solo was largely dictation for a semi-retired ambulance-chaser, but dictation gradually became collaboration, as he started to realize that I wasn't a moron. Then I became responsible for the first draft of whatever was on his desk.

    Of course, in the clinical program I was actually practicing, and gradually my supervisor gave me plenty of rope. I picked juries, examined witnesses, admitted evidence, and made arguments in prosecutions for a wide-variety of minor crimes. Big deal for a 3L, especially since most of my classmates had no idea how to get in the door of the courtroom.

    By the time it was over, I wasn't just ready to try cases, I was itching for the opportunity. This has paid off quite well in the half-decade since then.

    The children in the 3LOL thread care more about their next party than the law. And their mortgaging their future to pay for it. They deserve exactly what they're going to get.

    The moral to this story isn't to eliminate the third year of law school; it's to restrict admissions to only grown-ups.

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    1. A post-script: the typos in my post are pretty embarrassing. Sorry. That's what I get for drafting in the tiny window.

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    2. They care about the law- just not an unneeded and expensive third year of law school.

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  22. New IBR a giveaway to grad schools:

    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-11-02/obamas-new-pay-as-you-earn-plan-a-windfall-for-mbas

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  23. Professors are the ones who take roll, but they rarely bother to do so. I had several 1L professors who never took role and predictably some students rarely attended class during 1L year. As you pointed out, most professors don't even know the ABA attendance rules, let alone attempt to track attendance. This again just goes to support your point about law schools. Students don't care about the material and the professors don't care about attendance or whether or not students engage the material. Teaching is a secondary or tertiary concern. The tuition money comes in whether 1 student or 90 students attend class. Most professors don't even require students to read each week, they just single out a few students each lecture to be on-call. Ordinarily this would be quite distressing, but since most law classes don't teach anything of value, it's just the status quo.

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  24. Paul,

    The new IBR is a scam enabler. I hope the academics say thank you to Obama and continue to believe and teach their social justice bullshit. It ain't true kids, and even if it were, it ain't what they're interested in.

    http://chronicle.com/article/Obamas-Loan-Repayment-Plan/135144/

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    1. Exactly.

      Only possible benefit - perhaps increasing IBR use (to feed the insatiably slimy law school beast) will perhaps open up more opportunities to use qui tam cases to financially gut the "schools".

      Delete
  25. Yes, I am all too familiar with this policy. I was docked a full letter grade in Property my first year because I missed 4 classes. This happened even though I was only one of several students who missed class, and the other students did not get docked any grades. Apparently, I was the only one the Professor noticed was absent, which is what he told me after I brought this up. Kind of ironic that my field of law is Commercial Real Estate, and I'm pretty darn good at it, despite my dismal grade in that 1L Property course.

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  26. FWIW, Tucker Max claims in Hilarity Ensues that mandatory attendance policies were a response to his writing:

    Where law school attendance rules come from:

    "Before 2004, there was no class attendance requirement at top tier law schools. Law school administrators assumed if you'd made it that far, you were probably a dedicated, anxious nerd just like them. They figured you would WANT to do all the pointless, bullshit stuff assigned to you—without them watching over you—just to prove to your classmates, who you were constantly in competition with, that you were strong enough and smart enough to hack it.

    Well, directly because of me and my trip to Cancun, the American Bar Association changed their attendance rules for ALL law schools. Below is ABA accreditation Standard 304, adopted in August 2004, two years after I put up my website detailing many of my law school antics, where I talked openly about never going to class and living in Cancun during my 2L year [. . .]

    I can tell you that at least two people—people who claim to have been privy to these discussions—have e-mailed me and told me that this rule was not only passed in direct response to the stories about not going to class I'd posted on TuckerMax.com, but that the rule is known colloquially in the ABA as 'The Tucker Max Rule'"
    {Max "Hilarity"@25–26}.

    I don't have any way of verifying this—and I suspect no one does—but it sure does seem weirdly plausible: It seems like many law schools, and perhaps universities more generally, are more concerned with looking bad than being bad. They're like the social climbers and strivers in The Bonfire of the Vanities.

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    1. Tucker Max. Seriously, fuck that guy.

      If his body of work survives the coming collapse, historians will marvel how our civilization lasted as long as it did.

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    2. I can see why the ABA would want to limit the number of potential tucker max's in law school.

      Happily , the ABA allows international study to count and to be paid for by loans. So students don't have to give up traveling all together.

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  27. When I read the ABA accreditation rules years ago, they struck me as a set of rules designed to restrict law school to people from relatively affluent backgrounds. Attendance, residency, all of these rules require adults to devote three full-time years to schooling. Today, of course, law school is too expensive for everyone--the tuition is just too darned high. But it's worth thinking about what we've been doing with these rules for a very long time. The attendance rules aren't just infantilizing and pedagogically insulting (I refuse to require people to attend a large doctrinal class if I can't do something useful enough in that class time to make them come voluntarily), they are also part of a larger pattern that has always made legal education more expensive than it needs to be.

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    1. Law school is not too expensive for the children of the rich. They could cheerfully pay five or ten times the cost—all the while living in CancĂșn (or wasting away in Margaritaville) rather than going to class.

      Taking attendance is indeed infantilizing. Unfortunately, it may be justifiable, as most law students just are not engaged. Even friends of mine—and we're all up at the top of the class—talk about skipping class in order to sleep or watch television. Paying for law school from savings as I am, I don't even think of skipping class, even when getting there means half an hour or more of trudging through heavy snow. Again, I've never missed a single class.

      On the other hand, I do often think that I could learn more efficiently and more thoroughly through self-study. Pity that a quixotic sense of duty compels me to attend class.

      My professors all admire me, but I'll be god-damned if I can get so much as an interview for a job. The rich slackers, however, have little difficulty.

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  28. When you cherry-pick comments/posts on TLS, you're doing a disservice in representing students and legal education overall. Of course anonymous students online are going to have a pissing contest on how little work they're doing. There is work that needs to be done on reforming the 3rd year curriculum, some of which you yourself have hit on reasonably, but this particular example is completely unfair. Most universities and graduate schools have mandatory attendance, even if they're not recorded with the same precision that high school attendance was. Just because a few kids in every class abuse the system (and would abuse any system) doesn't mean it's some endemic problem.

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    1. Would that it were but a few. You have a good point about reliance on anecdotal evidence from a non-representative population, but I'm afraid that the lack of engagement is indeed widespread, at least at my law school. If I decline to answer a question in class, very likely the professor will meet an embarrassing silence. Professors have complained to me—because they know that they'll find a sympathetic ear—that most of the students are lazy, ignorant, and uncommitted.

      Delete
  29. Before 3L started, I decided to calculate my potential graduating GPA, class standing, and honors. If I received all A's I would be the same rank and cum laude.. all D's and I would be the same class rank and cum laude. What was the motivation for attending?

    One of my classes met 4 days a week for 2 hours at a time. Not attending saved 8 hours of my life per week. Most of that time was spent at a part time firm that resulted in employment after law school in a government agency that I love. Other times I was at a popular happy hour spot tipping my hat to other classmates that were openly skipping that excruciating course.

    I did have one course where the professor required strict attendance. I tried to wear her down by taking extreme conservative positions when called on and/or challenging her scholarship. I still received an A in that class by taking a tabbed classmate's outline into the final.

    In sum, 3L year was kind of like Sparta. Those who followed all the rules ended up starving with no job. Those of us who skipped out on class did some major happy hour networking and landed jobs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Before 3L started, I decided to calculate my potential graduating GPA, class standing, and honors. If I received all A's I would be the same rank and cum laude.. all D's and I would be the same class rank and cum laude."

      how is that mathematically possible? what are the parameters for cum laude?

      Delete
    2. Possible at some schools where graduating with honors happens to 45% of the class (ustabe Harvard as the example, dunno if that's still true of it).

      But the class standing comment is obviously hyperbole.

      Unless, of course, s/he was home schooled.

      Delete
  30. The key to a successful law school experience is to tune out the professor, if you cannot safely skip classes. If you are called on, pass. If the professor is a true asshole and requires class participation, jot down a few notes from your Gilbert's outline, and just keep hitting your points until the professor moves on to another victim.

    In undergrad, it is the opposite. The key is to immerse yourself in the assigned material, and to attend class as well--the professor's lectures, question-and-answer-sessions, and classroom discussions are invariably helpful in guiding students through the thickets. It is that undergrad conditioning that explains why bright law students are so tardy in understanding what they need to do to win at hide-the-ball.

    Law school courses, including 1L courses, involve only a few weeks of doctrinal material and associated analytical framework, aka judicially created tests. Law faculty have an obvious vested interest to pretend that this isn't so, and stretch out and obfuscate the material, so as to fill out the whole semester; indeed to fill out three full years. Not to mention that a great many law professors wouldn't know a courtroom from a faculty lounge, but are extremely fluent in the turgid language of academic theory jargon. (Race and gender, for instance, are hugely important topics, but if the professor sandwiches those words between "critical" and "theory," with a lot of "narrative" thrown in for flavoring, you are probably dealing with a scammer).

    The caselaw method is part of the insanity. Cases should be assigned sparingly to illustrate the application of doctrines already learned by the students, and to alert them to some of the complications. Caselaw should not be used to teach doctrine, especially when the cases included in the caselaw book are invariably those seminal ones where the Supreme Court was formulating a test for the very first time and so is making all sorts of logical loop-de-loops and is barely coherent.

    dybbuk

    ReplyDelete
  31. "When I read the ABA accreditation rules years ago, they struck me as a set of rules designed to restrict law school to people from relatively affluent backgrounds. Attendance, residency, all of these rules require adults to devote three full-time years to schooling. Today, of course, law school is too expensive for everyone--the tuition is just too darned high. But it's worth thinking about what we've been doing with these rules for a very long time. The attendance rules aren't just infantilizing and pedagogically insulting (I refuse to require people to attend a large doctrinal class if I can't do something useful enough in that class time to make them come voluntarily), they are also part of a larger pattern that has always made legal education more expensive than it needs to be."

    This infantilizing is not limited to law school accreditation rules. It also infects the CLE scam. In NY, there's mandatory attendance taking and you get docked if you leave early. A couple years ago I had to leave a 3-hour CLE session an hour early to pick up my kids and they made me sign out. I then got a certificate for 2 credits instead of 3 even though at least 75% of the people who remained in the session were not paying attention. They were all on their smartphones, reading novels, doodling or staring into space.

    The CLE racket is ripe for its own ISTLSC-type blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you honestly expect full credit when you left 2/3 of the way through?

      Delete
    2. I'm surprised that they gave you any credit at all.

      Delete
    3. I think the point was that CLE, which 75% of attendees work, read or sleep through, is a total joke. Attendance is just window dressing to make it seem like someone is paying attention.

      Delete
    4. I am about to go to an 8-hour CLE next Friday because it will take care of the rest of this year's CLE credits. I have been fighting with the bar because they charged me $100 for the course even though I am below the poverty line.

      I will have to sign in/out for the morning and afternoon session. If I miss any part, they will give zero credits (or so they threaten). I believe it, however, since they will make more money from forcing a person to retake another course.

      CLE is a huge racket, and I have been confronting the NY bar about how they force new lawyers to attend live sessions for the first two years. My argument is simple: if it is about education, you can offer it for free. As it is, they make about $19,000-$25,000 from fees for each of the dozens of live courses! That is over a million dollars a year in revenue!

      Delete
    5. Geeze, stop whining already. In my state, CLE is more like $120 an hour - no way can we get 8 hrs for $100. Poverty level or otherwise.

      Delete
  32. "which in this and other ways tends towards a combination of petty authoritarianism and emotional regression."

    Wait until these baby birds get kicked out of the nest and are forced to work in the document review/LPO chop shop mills. They will really get to know what petty authoritarianism when they are forced to sign out and followed to the bathroom after taking too long to take a dump. What a joke this "profession" has become.

    ReplyDelete
  33. We need Inside The Steakhouse Scam. It was thr only good idea from the law school apologist/troll. I suggest an entry on the inconsistency of the creamed spinach appetizer.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Today the critics of the SL debtors blame them for not "working their way through school."

    But I remember that the Law School rules or handbook or whatever it was (which I took very seriously as a 1L and a 2L) either dictated or strongly recommended that the student only work a limited number of hours per week at a remunerative job.

    The implicit idea maybe being that the financial sacrifice would be worth the ultimate pay off in later career and life.


    ReplyDelete
  35. A few professors in the larger classes had sign-in sheets, but friends would rotate out and sign each other's name. Half the people in classes with laptops were chatting on facebook or playing Angry Birds.

    The people with the best grades often bought outlines from online sources, and basically the educational experience was minimally helpful with learning anything about the law, especially since almost all classes focus exclusively on federal law.

    How many of the new lawyers out there deal exclusively with federal law?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's not my approach at all. I attend every class, fully prepared. I write my own outlines. I take my notes by hand and don't even bring a computer to the law school. I sit in the front so that I usually don't have to see people fucking around on Facebook in class. I'm quite the goody-two-shoes, evidently.

      Delete
    2. 4:21 - no, you're a serious student. That doesn't make one a goody two-shoes.

      Delete
    3. Plenty of people still work hard. They might hate having another year of school, but they want to get as much as possible out of it.

      Delete
    4. There's nothing to get out of it. The only "useful" year of law school is 1L... That is because it provides a basis for employers to judge everyone on an "even" playing field, to see how each student performed against their peers. 2L is a complete joke. 3L will, I'm sure, be a complete and utter waste of time. I learned more at my summer internship than in any of the 3 semesters I've spent in law school. It's complete shit.

      I have a job lined up, which makes it even more mind numbing. It's horrible. You don't learn anything useful and the professors are pompous idiots.

      Delete
    5. Well, 4:24, maybe I'm not a goody-two-shoes, but I'm a god-damned fool for having undertaken to study law.

      Delete
  36. "especially since almost all classes focus exclusively on federal law"

    Say what?

    ReplyDelete
  37. May I add reason 5- the professors don't find it necessary to make classes compelling and engaging for their students. Just another example of the professors thinking they are the reason law schools exist.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Reason 6 - most important- students are focusing on their part-time jobs or otherwise working as hard ad possible to find a job. No time spent on school work is more important than trying to get a job.

    ReplyDelete
  39. ah jeez..
    http://law.uoregon.edu/assets/careercenter/weeklynewsletters/november8.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  40. There's nothing to get out of it. The only "useful" year of law school is 1L... That is because it provides a basis for employers to judge everyone on an "even" playing field, to see how each student performed against their peers. 2L is a complete joke. 3L will, I'm sure, be a complete and utter waste of time. I learned more at my summer internship than in any of the 3 semesters I've spent in law school. It's complete shit.

    I have a job lined up, which makes it even more mind numbing. It's horrible. You don't learn anything useful and the professors are pompous idiots.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I attended Campos' legislation class three times.

    It sucked.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Another Successful VERSATILE JDNovember 12, 2012 at 10:01 PM

    Someone above posted this link - it's a UOregon law "versatile job he got with his JD" story.

    The job this poor schmuck got was a $40K "communications director" for the local "Calapooia Watershed Council".


    For Oregon to claim this has anything to do with the JD is beyond ludicrous.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Another Successful VERSATILE JDNovember 12, 2012 at 10:05 PM

    This below is the explanation for the young JD's new career at the Calapooia Watershed Council:

    "community outreach and education, fundraising (unrestricted funds), communication and marketing."


    Guess what the educational and experience requirements are for this job?

    THERE AREN'T ANY.

    http://www.rivernetwork.org/jobs/communications-and-development-director

    ReplyDelete
  44. F-ing hilarious. I actually know some people that work at River Network. Last person to hold that job had an undergraduate degree in sociology. So, 3 years and (insert absurd debt amount here) this poor schmuck is in competition with soc. degree undergrads for jobs.

    But don't call it a scam, no one will take us serious.

    ReplyDelete
  45. The third year of law school is a complete waste of time. I graduated over 30 years ago, and had a job lined up in the first semester. I just took a lot of seminars, where grades were based on papers. Since I was a good writer, I aced those classes. It was mostly a way of passing time and amusing myself until I could graduate.

    So my third year was a waste of time. But so were my first and second years. Everything of use was learned in the bar review. As far as learning the ropes, I did that in the first year of practice.

    But then again, 30 years ago, law school was relatively cheap.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I am at a loss still. You mean to tell me that law school classes are not relevant and JDPainterguy is making you a dean of his imaginary school?

    Wow, that's really messed up...

    ReplyDelete
  47. http://law.uoregon.edu/assets/careercenter/weeklynewsletters/november8.pdf (re-posted from above)


    It's incredibly sad that they (Ore.Law) must feel like they've "just gotta put something out there", so they tee up this story.

    I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm very happy that the young man found himself a job. Very glad.

    But to have Ore.Law tout it as some kind of "see lookie what his JD did fer him" is beyond the pail.

    Here is the very saddest thing - the main undertone here is, "hey kids, even if LS stinks, even if it "ain't for you", even if you'll never work a day as a lawyer ITE, oh no, doncha dare think of dropping out!"

    See below quotes,

    - " While his first impulse was to drop out of school, he quickly recognized that the knowledge and practical skills gained from his legal education would be an asset in other lines of work." (and, closing zinger)

    - "He found exploring all options to be the best path to a satisfying career. "


    "Satisfying career"?

    He's had the job for a month and a half (my guesa based on the posting of the job in September).

    How can he know it's a satisfying career after only a few weeks?

    P.S. "Pail" not "pale" as in, "I needs a pail ta pukes in after readin' this bilgewater".

    ReplyDelete
  48. Wonder no more, Law Prof.

    http://abovethelaw.com/2012/11/change-comes-to-george-washington-university-after-a-whole-bunch-of-lying/

    ReplyDelete
  49. Law Prof: I'm a 3L at Texas, and I am in two classes that "require" attendance. Ad Law with Matt Spitzer specifies grade penalties for more than a few absences, but I dont' see any method of enforcement... I could be missing it though (see below).

    Interestingly (and why I post), my Env. Law course (Melinda Taylor) relies on a very specific and very strict policy: More than 4 absences over the semester results in a failing grade. The course meets 3x weekly, and it was not apparent to me how she even took attendance. The first couple of days she passed a sign in sheet around, but that soon stopped. After a couple of weeks, I noticed that one person who sat in the back row would usually leave after about 10 minutes. I finally realized this was not a student but the Professor's assistant, who would mark whether we were in our seats on time. I was pretty flabbergasted; I've gone to class every day but two, but I've only once read the material for the day; I honestly have no idea where my casebook even is. But seriously... 4 absences over a semester seems incredibly strict, right? And, beyond that, you can't be more than 10 minutes late or you won't get counted at all? I'm pretty resentful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My school also had a rather strict attendance policy. It forced me to show up. And, as has been stated many times previously in this comment thread, the third year of law school was a complete waste of my time and money. It was nothing short of an embarrassment.

      Delete

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