Sunday, October 08, 2006

Midterm Madness

I had a "practice midterm" today, and I am sure all two of our faithful readers are snickering.

Because "practice" anything is stupid.

If you launch a bowling ball awkwardly and it starts going in the gutter, what do you call it?

A practice ball!

If you make a horrible mistake and lose your queen in the first few moves of a chess game, what do you call it?

A practice game!

And if you give law students an ungraded examination that is far shorter than a final exam and will actually cover completely different material than the exam that counts, what do you call it?

Yep, you guessed right. Bull...plop.

The practice midterm is only given in one subject out of four, and that subject is randomly determined. Now when I found out that my midterm would be in Civil Procedure, the monster class that makes us all cringe, I actually thought that might be helpful. I'd take the midterm, see what I needed to know, and if I bombed it, I'd know to study hard for the final in that class.

However...the final, we've already been told, is multiple-choice. This midterm is an "affirmative memorandum," meaning, essentially, a sort of essay where we cite case law to support a proposition. The midterm was closed-book.

Closed-book, and you need to cite case law. This is inherently useless, since I cannot think of any situation where you would need to write a memo without having access to legal research tools. I suppose if everyone in your law firm were struck blind, and no one knew Braille, and you had to prepare a memo in one hour, then yes, this midterm was a real help for my future career.


Thanks, law school. I had to walk two miles to school, waste an hour of my time BSing an argument for some stupid fantasy client, and walk two miles back home, on a Sunday, for something that will help me neither on my final exam in that class, nor in any situation in my career as a lawyer/judge/academic/burger-flipper.



At 9:04 AM, October 10, 2006 , Blogger Hunter said...

That is spectacularly useless, even by law school standards.

At 10:08 PM, October 10, 2006 , Anonymous Jim - PRS said...

When I was in Law School, the contracts professor gave a "practice exam" for no credit. He said it would be given under game conditions and would not be graded.

At first, I thought the exercise would be a waste of very valuable time, but nonetheless, I studied for it, figuring that the extra study would not go bad.

When he handed out the questions, I was hit with a wave a panic and nausea, the likes of which I had previously rarely experienced. Still, I read through the seemingly endless question a couple times and ultimately calmed down, and wrote what I assume was a good answer.

The value in all this was that when I had to sit for the real thing, I knew to EXPECT the initial panic, and I knew that it would eventually pass and I would get my shit together.

That served me well in law school, and it served me well in practice as well, when often a real-life pile of legal problems seems overwhelming. I now know that the panic will subside.

Best of luck with your studies!

At 8:10 PM, October 12, 2006 , Blogger Vernunft said...

I don't know, Jim, I think a practice exam in Contracts under similar conditions is a bit different, since memorizing the rules of formation, defenses to formation, breach, &c. tends to make it easier when thrown into such a tough situation as that exam. Civil Procedure, not so much. Sure, I can (and did) cite the reasons for seeking a preliminary injunction (which is what I thought was the best thing to try to get under the hypothetical in the midterm), but it was garbage. I made a garbage response to what I thought and still think was a garbage question.

My problem is this - the midterm should be preparing me for the final or preparing me for a career as a lawyer, or both. I didn't think it did either. Since the testing conditions of the final are going to be completely different, it didn't even help me prepare myself for the nervousness of the final.

The thing is, I think this class is the most useful one besides LRW, and I will probably elect to take Civ Pro II from the same professor. So. Eh.


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