Monday, May 21, 2012

Going under the knife

A few days ago, MacK graciously invited tdennis239 and me to perform his upcoming knee surgery. Tongue-in-cheek, MacK used his comment to illustrate that legal education does not prepare its graduates to "do anything." I couldn't agree more, and I'm relieved to decline MacK's invitation.

But as it happens, I'm facing some minor surgery of my own. That circumstance, combined with MacK's comment, made me think about a different question: What qualities, other than an MD, do I want in my surgeon? As I thought about those qualities, I saw many connections between the characteristics I want in a doctor and the qualities our clients seek in lawyers. In this post I'll share my list of "qualities a client wants," and see whether you agree. In a future post, I'll take this one step further, using the list of client desires to assess the preparation students receive in law school today.

As background, my procedure is cataract surgery; the eye doctor will remove a cataract-clouded lens from one eye and replace it with an artificial one. WebMD assures me that this is very safe, routine surgery. But still, it's my eye! Here are the qualities I hope to find in my surgeon:

1. Extensive hands-on practice. I decided this was one of the most important qualities in choosing a surgeon. I want someone who has done this procedure many times, with good results. And I want someone who is regularly performing the procedure now; I don't want a doctor who is "remembering" how to do cataract surgery while I'm on the table.

2. Up-to-date knowledge. Even simple procedures evolve, and I'd prefer a surgeon who knows about the latest techniques and best replacement lenses.

3. Communication skills. I don't care that much about soothing words and sympathetic looks; scalpel skills matter more to me for this procedure. But before the surgeon wields that scalpel, she has to know about my individual medical history and lifestyle. Patients, apparently, differ in the type of replacement lens that benefits them. If the doctor can't communicate well enough to get the necessary information from me, I may not end up with the best result. This type of communication, which informs the treatment, is harder than many people imagine.

4. Cost. I'll pay a lot to protect my vision, but I won't pay anything. In particular, I won't pay extra dollars for reputation or prestige if those factors don't correlate with better results. I considered, for example, whether I should go to the esteemed Mayo Clinic for this surgery. But I quickly rejected that notion. Mayo would cost considerably more, this is a widely performed routine procedure, and experiences of friends and family persuade me that Mayo is no better than other venues for routine procedures like this.

5. Convenience. For unique life-saving treatment, I'd fly to another state--or even another country. But that doesn't seem necessary here. And when choosing among otherwise equivalent local doctors, I'd prefer one located close to my home who offers good parking.

6. Excellent problem solving skills. Ok, it's a routine procedure, but something could go wrong. And even with the initial procedure, there are a few decisions to make. I want a doctor who, whether things go well or poorly, can help me sort through any choices and make a wise decision tailored to my circumstances. This, by the way, is one of the areas in which I often find doctors deficient. Medical school and residencies focus doctors on following strict algorithms to treat identified conditions. The doctors often stumble when a patient suffers from unusual symptoms or doesn't fit the algorithm.

7. Sterling ethics. There are unethical doctors, just as there are unethical lawyers, law professors, and university administrators. And when you're the patient, bad ethics can hurt. My son was once forcibly held down while a gastroenterologist pushed an endoscope down his throat, through his stomach, and into his small intestine. The doctor had selected an anesthesic that doesn't work on my son (a fact that his medical record made clear), but didn't want to take the time to call an anesthesiologist to administer a different medicine. There was nothing urgent medically about completing this procedure, but time is money in the endoscopy suite and the doctor was "sure" that the anesthesia would take effect. Needless to say, I don't want a doctor who will act this way.

8. Strong foundational knowledge. I mused a bit about this one. If a surgeon has repeatedly performed a procedure with excellent results, does it matter whether the surgeon took organic chemistry or understands kidney function? It might: maybe that background knowledge helps the surgeon stay abreast of new techniques. Or maybe, if something goes wrong during surgery, all of that knowledge will lead to a better, quicker decision.  "Quick, the aldehydes are losing their carbonyl centers, and I need some ketones!" (I hope it's clear that I don't have a clue what those words mean--I found them by googling "organic chemistry.")

I don't have to decide whether this last quality matters, because the medical system will give it to me regardless. Only a licensed MD can perform this surgery, and all of them have completed both pre-med and academic training. I do know that I care more about the other qualities on this list (especially the surgeon's hands-on experience) than about the surgeon's grade in organic chemistry or even (gasp!) the quality of the medical school she attended.

So that's my list. The qualities don't appear in order of importance. Their relative importance, in fact, probably would differ according to the medical procedure. But I'm guessing that, if I needed a lawyer instead of a doctor, I would seek many of the same qualities. What do you think? If you're a practitioner, are these the qualities that clients seem to seek? Are there qualities you would add? If you've ever sought medical or legal help, what qualities benefited you?

In a future post I'll explore two related issues: Should law schools prepare students to supply the qualities that clients seek? If so, how well are schools succeeding in that task? Preview: Yes, and I'm a tough grader.

Note from DCM (DJM's son): The incident with a forced endoscopy was obviously a horrible experience, and almost two years later I still suffer from PTSD because of this procedure. I'm willing to publicly put it out there because I think it illustrates two crucial points.

First, both lawyers and doctors are professionals who must routinely deal with what may be some of the defining moments in people's lives. Sound professional skills and sound ethics are key if you want to make a beneficial, rather than devastating, impact when you intervene in those defining moments. That means not just theoretical "professional responsibility" but also retaining a healthy dose of your old, common-sense morality. It shouldn't take any special ethics class to teach that forcibly violating a struggling, improperly sedated patient is wrong, and indeed it takes a certain Olympian professional detachment to forget that.

Second, having a transformative impact - for better or worse - in someone else's life doesn't just happen in small sub-sections of the professions. It's obvious that a heart transplant surgeon or a death row criminal defense attorney is going to have an enormous impact on others' lives. It's less obvious that performing routine work - an endoscopy in medicine, a child custody agreement or small business incorporation in law - can be as vital. But done very well or very poorly, these too can shape another's life for years to come.


  1. Insurance affects one's choice of a doctor in such a significant manner that I don't think this is an apt comparison unless you want to completely ignore the economics of the transaction.

  2. DJM (and DCM) -- this is interesting and all, and I hope the surgery goes well, but maybe you'd tell us a little about to what extent, if any, 'scam awareness' has set in amongst the faculty on which you serve?

  3. Communication is huge - and honesty in the communication. I'm not looking for fluff - tell me honestly prognosis, diagnosis, and options. I'm looking for that from both the legal and medical professionalss.

    And it's amazing - I would agree with DJM and say that hands on experience is #1 - again, not stale experience but extensive. And what is the first thing big firms look for when asking for resume submissions for the new associate gig for a 5 year that just opened up?!? How many motions the applicant has argued or won? How many successful LLC formations completed? Nope. What school did you go to and what were your grades. Just a stupid professional model.

  4. I'm trying to put off my knee surgery as long as possible I was told at 18 I needed new knees in 15 years (rowing, cycling and rugby have wreaked considerable damage) - though my mother, who has had one of hers replaced has commented that the new hunk of titanium means that she can suggest to any mugger "come closer young man' I'll give you a knee in the ....... you'll never forget."


  5. Without question, the medical profession has much higher standards than the legal one. Take my father as an example. He had a cardiology practice for over 15 years before an Ivy League medical school allowed him to teach. In contrast, Harvard Law allows Charles Nesson to place his esoteric interests in copyright law above the interests of his client. Today, the Supreme Court "refused to hear an appeal from Joel Tenenbaum, whom the Recording Industry Association of America successfully sued for sharing music on peer-to-peer networks. In 2009, when he was a Boston University doctoral student, a jury ordered Tenenbaum to pay $675,000, or $22,500 for each song he illegally downloaded and shared." ( During Nesson's "representation" of Tenenbaum, Nesson received several benchslaps for ignoring filing deadlines. I guess the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure don't apply to Harvard law professors.

    Tenenbaum, like any average American, must have thought he had the best legal representation in the world. He must have exclaimed: "Gosh! Prof. Nesson wants to take my case and he teaches at Harvard. I'll beat the RIAA for sure!" Of course, the sickening irony is that any ethical attorney would have given his client a harsh dose of reality and done anything possible to convince his client to take the RIAA's $3,000 settlement offer. If medical schools had the same standards as law schools, physicians responsible for wrong-side amputations would receive tenure-track positions.

  6. Schools do a lousy job of preparing professionals.

    I have family members who've gone through med school. Some of the faculty for years 1 and 2 of medschool are "academics" who teach courses on biochem and anatomy. Most others are practicing physicians who give 3 or 4 lectures on their respective specialties. The 3d and 4th years are spent doing rotations with the teaching faculty at hospitals.

    This seems like a very good way to teach professionals. Why not have academics teach the conlaw courses, jurisprudence, federal courts, and conflicts of law; and have practicing faculty teach many/most aspects of the other courses? It might not be exclusive. You could have an academic teach parts of property, civ pro, crim pro, contracts, and torts. Most of courses, though, should be taught by practitioners.

    E.G., This is a contract. I write them for a living. "Today I'm going to lecture on battle of the forms/boilerplate, and thursday I'll be talking about incompetence to enter a contract. Read these 10 cases tonight."

    Or torts: Professor such and such told you about the elements of a negligence action. Today I'll be lecturing on duty and no duty rules. Friday I'll be lecturing on the scope and breach of duty. Next week we'll get into special cases of duty that you're not likely to see, but that some courts have created. The week after, we'll talk about pleadings in a negligence case, and the discovery process in negligence actions.

    This might make too much sense.

  7. 11:47

    You could also split it up, into a classroom component and something resembling a lab. The academic teaches you the theoretic and historical aspects of property, the practitioner teaches you how to read a lease.

  8. DJM and DCM,

    Absolutely horrifying story about the endoscopy. I certainly hope that you sued the bastard and filed a formal complaint with the state medical board. Did you? And if so, with what result?

  9. @ 12:05 -

    In the late 60s, I accompanied my then-husband [aka "practice husband"] to Harvard Law, where he was a student. When we returned to CA for Christmas, he told friends and parents that Harvard had a "torts lab" in the basement of the law school, where they recreated "famous" torts, e.g., Ms. Pfalsgraf and the railway station.

    Because Harvard was so "renown," many folks believed this.

  10. If you are going to draw analogies between the medical and legal professions, I hope you will do so responsibly.

    Specifically, I expect you will give ample attention to the (1) $200-250K in tuition it costs to go to medical school, the (2) 3-7 or more required years of government-funded training that is required of MD's before they can practice afterwards, and (3) the additional $35-120K of debt or so that accumulates in interest during residency and fellowship as residents and fellows throw their loans into forbearance, as the dozen or so doctors I know have done because they cannot make payments on a quarter million in debt while earning $48-50K. There are other differences too of course, but these are probably most relevant to this blog.

    The qualities you look for in a doctor and a lawyer may be similar. But merely shifting law school towards a more clinical model like med school would not facilitate that. You'd have to have a huge training program afterwards, and the money for that is going to have to come from somewhere. This is not a defense of the current model, but it is a criticism of glib criticisms of it.

  11. This may sound like an ouch story - but someone I know (not me) has an appendectomy at age 7-8 and in those days apparently they would put in catheter - in doing so the one of the surgeons noticed something and decided to deal with it while he was under (well just deal with that as part of the package) - so he woke up with a pain in his abdomen and - well, the doctor apparently was strongly in favor of circumcision

    No kidding.


  12. This may sound like an ouch story - but someone I know (not me) has an appendectomy at age 5 and in those days apparently they would put in catheter - in doing so the one of the surgeons noticed something and decided to deal with it while he was under (we’ll just deal with that as part of the package) - so he woke up with a pain in his abdomen and –

    well, the doctor apparently was strongly in favor of circumcision – he is still pissed 40 years later.

    No kidding.

    On the other hand there is my cousin who had to deal with an anonymous guy who did not want to tell his wife about catching gonorrhea – when my cousin explained that the wife had to be told so that she could be tested, he told Sinead that he caught it from a public toilet seat and that he wanted her to tell his wife this. Sinead’s answer was great “were you chewing it?”

    But then there was the bedside manner of the doc who dealt with my father. “What’s wrong” “You have IPF” “what does that mean” “18 months and then death” – just like that, no “is anyone with you” etc., rather “nurse, send in the next patient.” And he was dead in 18 months, at 69.


  13. @12:35, its hardly a glib criticism. Where would the money come from? I think the people in such a training program would gladly pay for it, if there was a high likelihood that such payment led to a position in a well-regulated, controlled industry that is trying to limit, and not increase the number of practitioners.

  14. Wow, this actually makes me feel excited to go there- and I HATED torts in law school. Maybe its because I know from practicing more than 10 years as a litigator, I can tell this model would actually work, in terms of teaching something both academic and something you can use...

    "Or torts: Professor such and such told you about the elements of a negligence action. Today I'll be lecturing on duty and no duty rules. Friday I'll be lecturing on the scope and breach of duty. Next week we'll get into special cases of duty that you're not likely to see, but that some courts have created. The week after, we'll talk about pleadings in a negligence case, and the discovery process in negligence actions.

    This might make too much sense."

  15. The term "deceptive" has been interpreted to include representations that have a "tendency and capacity" to convey misleading impressions to consumers even though interpretations that would not be misleading also are possible. Chrysler Corp. v. FTC, 561 F.2d 357, 363 (D.C.Cir.1977); Goodman v. FTC, 244 F.2d 584 (9th Cir.1957), reaffirmed in Simeon Management Corp. v. FTC, 579 F.2d 1137 (9th Cir.1978). The meaning and impression are to be taken from all that is reasonably implied, not just from what is said, Spiegel, Inc. v. FTC, 411 F.2d 481 (7th Cir.1969), and in evaluating the representations, the test is whether the least sophisticated reader would be misled. Exposition Press, Inc. v. FTC, 295 F.2d 869 (2d Cir.1961), cert. denied 370 U.S. 917, 82 S.Ct. 1554, 8 L.Ed.2d 497 (1962). Technical correctness of the representations is irrelevant if the capacity to mislead is found. See Chrysler Corp. v. FTC, supra. Additionally, a deceptive representation or practice may be found where earlier misrepresentations are corrected before the consumer agrees to a contract. Exposition Press, supra.


    (Except if you're a law school applicant)

  16. Re: A Sallie Mae Class Action Settlement

    Read the postcard that I scanned on my blog.

  17. JDP no one reads *this* blog. if you want readers advertise your blog on above the law and stsuff.

  18. "JDP no one reads *this* blog. if you want readers advertise your blog on above the law and stsuff."

    Don't you wish, Prof. X.

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. ^^^Damn typos.

    But don't forget, after law school I worked in a telemarketing boiler room.

    It was brutal, and after that experience, I ain't shy about promoting nothing.

  21. @12:15, we didn't sue, partly because DCM didn't want to at that time--lawsuits impose a lot of trauma and he wanted to try to move on. We did write a letter to the university president (this occurred at my university's medical center), and he arranged for us to meet with the head of the medical center and other VIPs. They assured us that they would institute procedures to make sure this type of conduct didn't occur again, which is what DCM wanted most. Although, to be frank, we're still pushing them on that. Sometimes I wish we had sued.

  22. Wow, what a post. In the last two weeks, both my mom and former boss have had cataract surgery. For DCM, in regards to PTSD, check out the book Come to Your Senses by Stanley Block MD and Carolyn Block. This methodology is being used for trauma victims. It is called mind body bridging

  23. DJM

    The cut that I mentioned was not sued over either - it was traumatic enough for the kid to wake up with a big scar on his stomach and minus his foreskin - let alone to make him go through a description of what had occurred to a court or anyone else.

    I know there is a certain level of amusement at the idea that a doctor might take a look and think - oh, his parents must have forgotten to have him circumcised as a newborn - well I'll just fix that and they and he will be so grateful. But in retrospect - his parents were travelling at the time of the emergency surgery (and the appendix did not need to come out after all, it was just tummy-ache) - it was a truly appalling thing to do to an already frightened child. In those days, in that place, no-one sued doctors, something advocates of wholesale malpractice reform should consider. And the doctor genuinely thought he had done the little boy a favor...and who knows if a court there would not have agreed with the doc's view that he was just remedying the parents' negligence.

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. DJM, @12:15 here--

    I can understand the decision not to sue. However, would it be too late at this point to file a complaint about the doctor to the state medical board? From your description, his conduct was inhumane to the point of depravity. That's not a system error or something that an institution can fix. That's a bad actor who should not have a license to practice medicine.

  26. The difference between law and medicine, is that medical malpractice means that man has lost against nature - something that may have been unavoidable. Legal malpractice, however, is totally avoidable because it means that man has lost to another man.

  27. DJM

    So sorry you will not be assisting me on MacK's surgery. I spent the weekend reading Insall & Scott's Surgery of the Knee and I think I'm ready for that first incision--I mean, if reading up on a bunch of cases prepares one to try a case, surely, studying a surgical manual prepares one to perform surgery, right?

    Now to your eye surgery. I hope it goes well. If you want to ensure you have a competent surgeon, ask several malpractice lawyers about him or her. Malpractice lawyers almost always know who has been naughty or nice.

    Finally, on suing docs. Sadly the economics of malpractice cases require there be significant, permanent damage. I just finished a malpractice case in which I invested nearly $80,000 in case expenses. Most medmal lawyers cannot take a case worth less than 500 k or the numbers and emotional investment for the client does not make sense. So, while your son's experience was awful, in my jurisdiction, at least, it would not hit that half-million dollar mark. Jurors have become very conservative---yet another point law schools fail to tell their graduates. This is yet one more impediment to making a good living in this business; particularly for those just starting out and wishing to establish a personal injury practice.

  28. 6:22
    A medical board should do something, but it won't. Docs protect their profession and each other. You pretty much have to kill someone in a blatant manner for a medical board to pull one's ticket.

    I respectfully disagree. If the untoward event was unavoidable, it is not malpractice. If the doc made a choice between two reasonable courses of action and it turns out she choose incorrectly, it is not malpractice. Only if the doc's action fall below the standard of care (I.e. what a reasonably prudent doc in that situation would do) is it malpractice. I don't think people realize just how difficult it is to prove malpractice.

  29. tdennis @ 8:58 p.m. That's exactly what I thought about the economics of a med mal case. My sense has long been that the cases are very hard to win and require high damages to support the cost of a suit. But I didn't have the current client data or courtroom knowledge to be sure--I'm glad you were able to note this.

    Sorry we can't do that surgery together! Maybe MacK would feel better if I just made up a few hypotheticals about his knee getting better?

  30. DJM

    Sadly, my knee condition is degenerative. They are not degenerating as fast as was predicted - partly because I cut back on cycling and stopped the rowing and rugby (mandatory rugby also wracked my neck (tight head)) and I am trying to lose weight to lessen the burden that 20 years of a sedentary occupation has left me with.

    10-15 years ago I remember the rule of thumb being that "there ain't no justice under $100k," i.e., that the claim needed to be more than that for even the smallest legal expense involved in pursuing it to be justifiable. That number has risen since as tdennis can point out, and even in "English rule" cost shifting systems you have to keep in mind the amount that the "taxing master" is likely to allow in fees recovery. The problem is that for most middle class households even a $20-50k uncompensated loss (including in the form of legal fees taken out of an actual damages recovery) would be financially devastating, and yet as lawyers we can really offer nothing affordable.

    One of the reasons I hate the term "shitlaw" is that many of the good practitioners at this end of the business are very very savvy and very smart and ingenious at finding ways to solve client problems without breaking the bank, while the BigLaw bound law students (they hope) that use the term will never do anything in practice that has not been done before. 20 years ago I had a girlfriend/classmate at Simpson Thatcher, who was brilliant, a Fulbright scholar. Simpson Thatcher assigned her to read bond offering documents going to the printers - mainly to make sure that the typos from the early offerings remained uncorrected in the new offerings. That is not what a smaller firm would have had her do.

  31. Oh goodness, we're back to "does law school make practice-ready lawyers" again?

    Get real...what school does? The legal "profession" knew this all along and was willing to give the hands-on, but now that they refuse to do so does all the blame fall on the schools?

    The profession bailing out on the apprentices has turned the entire system upside down...adding another writing class isn't going to help much.

  32. @DJM - Wait, you can't possibly be saying that a law degree doesn't qualify you to be the world's most awesome PR professional/writer/accountant/manager/all-round expert can you?

    Reminds me of a senior partner at a firm I know. He had a photographer round to shoot publicity photos and insisted on loudly telling the photographer how to do his job - even in those circumstances he refused to just chill back and let the real experts do their jobs. Some senior lawyers just cannot accept that there are things they don't know how to do, and I guess it's the same with Law Profs.

  33. @MacK - Glad to hear you're a fellow pack-member, although I always prefered loosehead (no getting slyly head-butted whilst the ref. isn't looking etc.).

  34. Years ago I had this type of discussion with a plastic surgeon who was complaining about the work of an inexperienced cosmetic surgeon. The cosmetic surgeon was just fine until some unplanned event occurred. But if an unexpected problem arose, he did not know how to fix it. Experience was important when dealing with the unexpected.

    Lawyers have their bags of tricks, and the one with more tricks in his bag usually wins.

  35. FOARP

    I'd have preferred loose head - coach was a sadist - I was taller than the rest too - which places huge strain on the neck. Rugby in the 70s and early 80s was as my cousin - captain of a major provincial club a few years back "little more than licensed child abuse" and the reason why he had so much trouble getting people to allow their kids to play today when the rules are much stricter.

    Fathers used to encourage their sons to collapse the scrum - I know three guys in wheelchairs from that - they played hooker - but the hooker relies on the tight head to protect him. My father was a member of Garryowen in his youth.


  36. High Plains -

    20 years ago we used to have an acronym for time sheets - SP&C - for "scheme, plot and conspire." As the cliché goes in law "age and cunning beats youth and naiveté every time." For young lawyers they need the experience to get the cunning....


  37. DJM
    Of course he would! Now why didn't I think of thar? That's why you're a law professor and I'm just an ambulance chasing' country lawyer. (sigh) (lol)

  38. organic chemistry has like no relevance to the practice of modern medicine. It is just a prereq used to weed out applicants.

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    Under a settlement reached with the FTC, Oreck is barred from making any of the allegedly deceptive claims challenged by the agency unless it has competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the claims.

    Consumers who bought the Oreck Halo vacuum will receive $25 for each item purchased, and those who bought the Oreck ProShield Plus air cleaner will receive an average of $24.65 for each item. Eligible consumers were identified through sales records provided by the company.

  40. "Get real...what school does?"

    At least one law school, I know of, comes close: The Nashville School of Law. It is not accredited by the ABA, because it relies solely on adjunct professors who are experienced lawyers and actual trial judges. I use to look down on the graduates of the Nashville Law School until I had my posterior handed to me a couple of times by graduates of this law school---graduates who were not much more experienced than myself. My only problem with this school is that it pretty much has open enrollment (therefore the bar passage rate is pretty low) and it is yet one more law school, among six in a state of 5 million people. It is also relatively cheap: about $5300 per year.

    The best medical malpractice lawyer/products liability lawyer I ever saw in my quarter century career, came from Nashville School of Law. He could get a southern jury to do almost anything--and he was a Yankee! Do you know how hard it is for a Northener to charm a jury down here? And please, Northern liberals, hold your lectures about bringing up regional differences---I promise, I am not a Confederate Romanticist---just a realist, who also happens to be a Southern liberal. (Yes, there are a few of us down here.)

    MacK: Thank you for your defense of us "shitlawyers". Your story about the Simpson, Thatcher lawyer is fascinating. But knowing big law from the other side of the aisle), I don't doubt its truth. (Once I sued a trucking company who hired a big Atlant firm---it sent four lawyers to my deposition of the driver.)

    It is possible to help people who have a claim of less than 100K as long as it does not require a huge contingent of experts, as in the case of products liability or medical malpractice. But you are right, as jury verdicts become more conservative and medical care more expensive, injured plaintiffs are left with less and less. One of the big problems is that people do not carry sufficient insurance. In a state like Tennessee, which disallows stacking of insurance policies (i.e. underinsured motorist plus offending driver's liability) and the requried limit is only $25,000, if my client has to have, say, shoulder surgery, there is nothing left for the plaintiff once the attorney fees, costs and medical bills get paid.

  41. DJM

    I have a question or two based upon the following JDUnderground entry:

    abazungu (May 21, 2012 - 6:23 pm)

    "I'll double down on whay Sirhcyam says. Law school requires being really good at school. First year comes down to your grades on single tests in five or six doctrinal classes. There are no papers or assignments to help your grades out. Screw up on a couple of exams, and your GPA goes down in flames. Also, from what I understand about grading law exams, most students turn in remarkably similar answers to the exam questions, so the differences between As Bs and Cs can be very small. Add in the fact that the grades are issued on a strict curve, and your fellow students are studying their asses off, and you can see that the margin of error in law school is very small. "

    First, is the premise true that the differences between an A, B, and C exam is relatively modest (that is what I and my fellow travellers thought in law school, but had no hard data to prove it.) Second, why such a strict curve? Whats the point? Shouldn't you be grading for competency, i.e. did this person meet goals and criterion laid out in class? Third, why base everything on one exam? What kind of sense does that make? How can one accurately evaluate a student's performance from one data point? Are you professors honestly comfortable with this form of evalution? (I know its easier.)

    I'll stop. Thats more than a couple of questions and I should get some work done. But I would love to see a post on this topic.

  42. Excellent questions, tdennis239! I'll definitely put that in the hopper of post ideas.

  43. Today I'll be lecturing on . . .

    You may be a fantastic lecturer, and you may know your subject inside and out, but you'd be a terrible teacher. Lectures are a WASTE OF TIME. Real teachers have been railing against the lecture as a means of teaching for literally four centuries.

    What I wouldn't give to force every law professor in the world to sit through a four-credit graduate seminar on some sort of cooperative learning or team-based learning or even the basics of education practice.

  44. Second, why such a strict curve? Whats the point? Shouldn't you be grading for competency, i.e. did this person meet goals and criterion laid out in class? Third, why base everything on one exam?

    Coming into law school with a decade of teaching experience meant a whole host of frustrations about the shockingly poor quality of the instruction, but the one that really dug under my skin and that I still haven't shaken now three years later is the idiocy of norm-referenced rather than criterion-referenced grading. It's so breathtakingly lazy and meaningless.


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