|ONE HELL minus the sugarcoating:
'Dear Alice . . .'
- by Alice Marie Beard
This is the sugar-free version of life as a returning
homemaker at The Catholic University of America's
Columbus School of Law.
letters below came in response to my "ONE
Thoughts on law school," a
journal of my "one hell year." Maybe the
information can help the next middle-aged mom who tries
to pick up the pieces and put them together again.
By the way, my J.D. is from George
|To get to the
index of ONE HELL,
letters begin immediately below.]
From a lawyer from IU, after my one-hell
Everyone doesn't fit in the same box. Activist students can be a pain to an institution but, to some
schools, it's also a part of their mission to encourage
that type of diversity. That you didn't match Catholic's
norm doesn't mean you are not intended for law school or
even the law; it just means not "their" law
Attending a place that is more welcoming to diversity
(and the ability to fit other students in is as much a
diversity issue as gender or skin color) is key to a
successful completion of your studies. Remember the
analogy that law school is an overcoat? It doesn't make
the person; it's really a trade school that goes around
the core person, helping prepare him with new tools and
terms to do what's important to him in the real world
after he leaves.
Diversity is very important to SOME institutions. Go find
Thank you for your kind words. Finally, it's time to
laugh: The interim dean's words were, "You're a pain
in the ass." A little later in the same
conversation, he said, "Now, let's keep this
I said, "Yes, Bob.
Let's." I figured we were on a first-name basis by
I'd gone to him for help
in dealing with harassment I was getting as a result of
publicity about my online writing. I got no help.
Suicide attempt by big-city cop/law
[e-mail from Feb. 2001]
I am 35 and have just been kicked out of law school for
less than a 2.0 GPA. All I can think about now is getting
back in. I'm devastated.
Last semester, a cop I knew and had studied with put a
gun to his head a few months after he flunked out. His
name is Joe, and he's in a coma and wasting away. He was
in my first year torts class; there were fewer than 50 of
us. He was a good guy. As far as I know, the story didn't
hit the press. The last I heard, he had pneumonia. The
school did nothing to communicate what happened; I heard
about it from his fellow cop students. They are
understandably a hard bunch and don't seem to dwell on it
I wonder, is it possible to do law school a few years
from now? I hear horror stories from my friends who are
over 40 and say you slow down after 35.
Oh my God! For any law student thinking of the cop's
solution, check this page: 'Before you
It's from an Ann Landers' column and written by a nurse.
... Remember: Everything but death is appealable: Find
the rule, and meet it or defeat it.
"slowing down after 35," according to studies
that I found after my time at Catholic's law school,
returning older students have a different adjustment
pattern/curve than younger students. The biggest
predictor seems to be the number of years between the
undergraduate degree and the start of law school: The
more years, the harder that first-year adjustment.
Competent law school administrators know this. They
should share the information bluntly with returning
students rather than pretend otherwise, and there need to
be considerations for such students. ... Treating older
students like outsiders, as I was treated at Catholic, is
not an unheard of situation for older students. ... Law
schools are admitting older students. The question is: Do
the law schools only want our tuition dollars, or do they
honestly want to educate us? Or, are they perhaps
agreeing to fulfill a contract that they don't even know
how to fulfill?
A law school is like a law
firm: If no professor decides you are WORTH educating and
worth mentoring, you are on your own. It's both harder
for older students to survive on their own and harder for
them to find mentors. And, for older female students,
particularly returning homemakers, it's doubly hard to
find a mentor.
I am sorry about the cop
in the coma. For you, as you come to grips with your own
situation, check this link:
and the Brightest
Or, check my Coda page for excerpts.
From a first year down South:
I'm a 47 yr old 1L. It's been 25 yrs since I took a test
and am trying to prep for finals without freaking!
Graduated as an Electrical Engineer in '75 and recently
took a 'golden handshake' deal; wanted to do something
different. My school has a VERY traditional 1L: no tests
prior to finals, intentional intimidation by profs, case
Some things are done
to first years simply to intimidate them. The logic may
be that the practice of law is adversarial. You've heard
people say, "I want a lawyer who's meaner than a
junkyard dog." Well, how do you think they make
junkyard dogs mean?
From a second year:
I'm 45, major in Air Force, father of five, and 2nd year
night law school student. My hardest challenge is to
refrain from jumping out of my seat and strangling law
professors. Why are they so arrogant? It has nothing to
do with Socratic method.
Why? Probably because many law professors do NOT like
students and see them as interruptions to their own
research and writing. WHERE did I hear that? The words
came from a law professor who was named "Teacher of
the Year" at his own very fine law school (not
From a nuclear engineer/Civil War buff,
after my one-hell year:
I hate to generalize, but I have an
idea why Catholic's law school was hostile. First,
while they may say they want diversity and inclusion, the
kind of diversity the law school wants is differing views
of the faculty, not the students. Second, like the
military, law school is all about breaking down
previously established ideas about thinking and then
rebuilding the individual in a new mold. Anything that
sets students apart in a way that gives them power
outside of the regimen of the law school could interfere
with the process. Your journal set you apart because you
could write well. It also set you apart because you had
an outlet for recognition that the faculty could not
I think you did a lot of good with your journal. It is
unfortunate that Catholic Law probably thinks otherwise.
There's a good chance the hostility came from my in-house
complaints. I complained about backward computer
services, lack of access to professors, lack of a faculty
advisor, lack of a student directory, lack of a
dependable faculty directory, lack of any listing of
faculty office phone numbers.
As an example of the
computer services, we had our LEXIS training on an
overhead projector in a lecture hall.
Law students are known for
complaining, and many CUA law students complained, but I
I suspect I was admitted
"for flavor," and I may have been expected to
behave like CUA's version of a "Catholic mom."
Another returning homemaker told of getting down on her
knees before a male professor, in his private office, and
begging and crying for the help she needed. Yes, she got
help, but the middle-aged Catholic wife and mother got
that help by getting down on her knees and begging.
So, where did the mutual
hostility come from? I felt I'd bought a pig in a poke
and complained; CUA kept wondering where their
"nice-girl Catholic momma" was and was
confused. It was a bad marriage that lasted nine months
and cost me $24,500.
From a law professor at a school in the
Law schools admit non-traditional
students, then do very little to help ensure their
success. From what I can see at my school, it's
more "benign" neglect (if neglect can ever be
considered benign) than an intent to do harm. It is, in
large part, not knowing how to remedy the problem.
Yes, to the first sentence, but I've heard from students
at some law schools who say their schools bend over
backward to support non-traditional students. For
example, University of New Mexico boasts about their
academic support programs: "There are a number of
academic support programs designed to help students
adjust to the first year of law school. Tutorials in all
substantive courses are available to first-year students.
Tutors are chosen from among outstanding upper-class
students." Another school says, "If a student
is admitted, we expect him or her to graduate, and our
academic support programs do all they can to assure
academic success of all admitted students." An
increasing number of law schools have academic support
Also, there are a wide
variety of "non-traditional" law students. Even
among non-traditionals, a woman who spent 20 years
rearing children and doing community service is rare. Law
schools service the masses of their students. Because my
"type" was so minuscule in number, my needs
were of similar concern to the law school.
U. of Dayton law professor
Vernellia R. Randall argues, "The one-size-fits-all
approach to student learning has historically
disadvantaged non-traditional groups." She says
that, since law schools "admit a student population
that is diverse in its learning styles," law schools
"have an ethical, if not a legal, responsibility to
those students right now to today provide them with a
pedagogically-sound legal education."
Once more, for more on the subject,
check these links:
and the Brightest
For excerpts, check here: Coda to ONE HELL.
From a student who quit early:
I enrolled in law school this year and withdrew from
school a week ago [before the end of the third week of
school]. I go back and forth a lot on whether I did the
right thing. I spent a lot of time and money on the prep
for admission to law school, moved across several states,
signed a lease, and bought furniture. Then I started at
law school and found that it was just going to be at
least 70-80 pages of reading every night and I never had
done that before and felt that I might fail with a large
debt load. How can there be so many people willing to put
themselves through hell with no certain reward? Maybe
others see something I don't, but it is really this
uncertainty which fazed me into quitting.
Schools are different. Faculties are different.
Administrations and collections of students are
different. Some law schools are more likely to have
genuine communities; others, no. If you and the law
school are NOT matching that early, withdrawal would be
the best option. You'll get most of your money back, and
you can apply elsewhere for a better match. If you decide
to stick out the year and try for a transfer, you'll need
a B average to transfer, and Bs are hard to come by for
most first-year law students.
Here are attrition rates for Washington, DC,
area ABA-approved law schools, from high to low:
The numbers are the
"no excuses" attrition rates, with no breakdown
between those who left for academic reasons and those who
left for other reasons. They're from this web site: DeLoggio Admissions Achievement Program. Because some law schools try to manipulate
situations to get at-risk students to withdraw under
color of "other reason," the best number to
consider is the "no excuses" attrition rate.
Law schools try to avoid admitting
that any student leaves because of academic troubles
since the question is not only, "Why did the student
fail," but also, "Did the school fail that
From a 1/2 L who decided to "bag
comes the case of the Juice v. the Squeeze:
Dear Ms. Beard,
I started law school this year and am now at the end of
first semester studying for Torts. What did this semester
do to me? Well, I'm taking my finals and wrapping it up
for good. A month ago I broke the news to my parents and
my girlfriend that it was not my bag.
I'm a 21-year-old guy from NY who was a Finance major
in college. I've been like an oozing wound all semester,
complaining about law school. I'm not sure what put me
over the edge, but it probably would be a combination of
the fact that I never wanted to practice law (saw law
school as an alternative to an MBA) and the fact that I
am coping with the $14,000 I just blew on one semester. I
concluded that the Juice was not worth the Squeeze.
My sister's babysitter graduated
from Tulane Law and passed the LA bar; now my sister pays
her $8 an hour. The hall monitor at my mother's
vocational school went to St. John's and passed the NY
bar. My sister's best friend in high school finished at
Fordham, passed the NY bar, and left the state to be a
bartender in Salt Lake City.
I figure if I stop now and work, if I find a job I
like, great! If I hate my job and get pushed back to
school, probably for an MBA, that's fine. But $86,000 in
debt after 3 years with a stressed-out look on my face
and no work experience, that is for the birds.
You may change your mind about law. As Everett
Dirksen said, "Life is not a static thing. The only
people who do not change their minds are incompetents in
asylums, and those in cemeteries." ... Life changes,
and so do decisions.
About life after a JD: My brother's
first job was as a security guard at a department store.
A friend's first job was as an assistant on a
construction crew. My godmother is a nun who went to law
school at 40+ and flunked the bar three times; she
appealed one failure with the phrase, "Due to the
shortness of human life." ... My brother's second
job was researching for a federal judge, and my brother
now has a private practice that suits him. The plumber's
helper now has a career encouraging industrial recycling;
his job doesn't require a law degree, but it helps. The
nun finally passed the bar and has worked immigration law
for many years in Chicago.
Subj: TWO Hell
I am in my second year of law school, and I'm miserable.
I hated it on the second day of orientation but stuck out
the first year because fellow law students and faculty
assured me that what I was feeling was normal the first
year. They said I would enjoy classes after my first
year. I hardly go anymore. I want to withdraw, but I'm
scared since I don't know what I want to do, but I do
know I hate law school, and I hate the people associated
with the school, and I hate myself.
I discovered early that I did not like the competitive,
evil law school environment, but there was so much
pressure to stay. My family and friends treat me as if
quitting law school is not a choice.
I've made poor attempts to commit suicide with alcohol
and sleeping pills and to hurt myself physically because
of the depression. At 25, with $40,000 in law-school loan
debt, I feel like my life is over. I always thought I
wanted to be a lawyer; now I truly despise the
profession. I haven't an ounce of self-worth, and
everyone treats me as if I am such a disappointment. I
found your website looking to meet or talk with someone
who can relate somewhat to the experience because I've
felt so alone and desperate for someone to just listen to
how I feel and to know that I'm not the first to leave,
that I can still be successful in life and be happy
I want to thank you because, through reading about your
experiences and those of others, I have found the courage
to do what I wanted to do my first week of law school. I
know I will probably never get past the criticism of
others for quitting. I don't know how I'll move or find
the funds to leave, but I actually welcome the struggle.
Please check this site: Before you
You are young. Make a
decision that works for you. If you're not going to class
and intend to quit, quit immediately. It will mean that
you don't have grades for this semester. That will be a
plus if you change your mind in a year or two.
At 50, I realize that most
people have so many of their own troubles that they don't
have time to judge my choices. And about that loan? This
country does not have debtors' prisons. Get a good nite's
sleep; go for a long walk in the morning, and thank God
that the sun came up. Then, watch Tom Hanks' movie Castaway.
"The sun will come up tomorrow, and you never know
what the tide will wash in."
From a retired law professor:
My mother was in her mid 50s when she went
back to law school. (She had finished the first year
before I was born, but started all over again). She
passed the bar on the first try and was a solo
practitioner into her 80s. I've had a number of students
-- male and female -- in their 40s or better since I
began teaching, and most have finished, passed the bar,
and practiced law.
From a 50-year-old lawyer
with a big firm that has offices in big cities:
Let's be very honest: When you graduate at 53/54, you
will NOT be the normal first year associate material and,
because of that, you will not be a candidate to join one
of the big firms. Big firms (frankly, like mine), want 25
year old first year associates who can be molded into the
firm's image. (There are always exceptions to dogmatic
statements like that, but I believe I speak from
Does anyone want to play "spot the
issue" here? Yes, the lawyer clearly and absolutely
identified himself and his firm. He wrote as a friend,
but his candor was surprising. And, by the way, I've no
interest in "BIGLAW," the buzz expression for
huge, almost factory-style law firms with branches in big
cities thruout the country and the world. I thanked the
gentleman, but I added, "I think God has some other
plan for me."
From a law student whose
had to repeat her first year:
I know several students who, after receiving their 1st yr
grades, were forced to withdraw, apply for readmission,
be interviewed by a committee of faculty as to why they
did not make a 2.0, then wait for an answer from this
"Godlike" group. They must start completely
over like a new student, go through the entire first year
again! One of the students who had to repeat her first
year, described the experience: "Humiliating,
degrading, debilitating, embarrassing, physically and
mentally sickening, maddening, unbelievable, unnecessary,
destructive, horrible, sad, mean, disorienting,
self-esteem lowering, and the sh*ttiest thing that I've
ever been through."
sh*ttiest thing" in life is getting less than a 2.0
the first year of law school and having to repeat it? ...
I have a friend who does the daily physical care for her
22-year-old son. He is in a coma because of a head injury
sustained after his seatbelt broke when he was hit by an
oncoming car. ... We must keep things in perspective,
For those facing the bar,
words from a well-seasoned Arizona lawyer:
When I got outa school, we took a 2.5 day
bar exam. The first day was the multistate, with multiple
choice answers. Passing grade was 50%. Yep, 50%. For a
The multistate salesman had been
lobbying the Arizona Supreme Court to adopt it. The Chief Justice found out the
company had released a sample test and answers from a few
years before. One night, he took the test. And flunked,
badly, with a score just over 50%.
The next day the salesman came back, and got an earful. A
compromise was reached: Arizona would use the test, but if 50% was good enough for the
Chief Justice, it was good enough to practice law.
From a new JD with Brethren roots:
I remember 3 years ago. I was very
nervous. On the first semester exams, I had gotten a
"D" in Civ Pro, and I was praying my grade
improved on the final. It did, and I squeeked by into 2L.
I found that the 2L and 3L classes are easier to get
From another Camp Fire Girl in law school
in her 40s:
I'm a 43-year old female 2nd year law
student. I've had my own struggles getting back to school
& figuring out what this law school thing was all
about while getting my grey roots colored periodically.
The scariest thing for me is that the generation gap
exists, and we're on the other side. The second year is
both less and more difficult - but suddenly it's over and
there's only one more year. My grades are only beginning
to be other than mediocre, and I've recently been diagnosed
with a learning disability (which I
know I've had all my life, but in these enlightened times
it has a name!)
p.s. - I'm a Camp Fire Girl from way back (Grizzly Peak
Wo-He-Lo, from the now-vanished Mishawaka Council and
from the Patuxent Area Council!
Just because you learn
differently doesn't mean you are "disabled."
Many teachers believe there is only one way to learn --
whatever way a student must learn in order to learn with
the teacher's style of teaching. Sometimes, the
problem might not be a "learning disability,"
but rather a "teaching disability." A whole crew of teachers were
convinced that Helen Keller could not learn, but the
problem was that the teachers knew only one way to teach.
From another older One-L:
First year is almost over. Second semester
was and is still hell for me. The brief [writing]
experience was a nightmare, and the kids are really getting on
my nerves. Law school is going to high school at 44.
From a Camp Fire Girl
who turned 49 in the midst of bar review classes:
I was miserable my 1st year. A friend and
I joked that our grades were the ones that made the top
1/2 of the class possible. We joked, but it was true. And
it was demoralizing. I had better than good undergrad
grades and outstanding grad school grades, albeit many
years ago. And I had a long, very successful career that
I had tossed aside to go to law school. And now here I sat, giving up
not only that recognition, but also any life outside law
school, only to get slapped around and feel totally
incompetent and downright stupid.
There was one professor who encouraged me, and I stuck it
My second year I got involved in a research project of my
choosing. I found out that I had good research skills. I
was open when I started law school that I did this
because I wanted to go to law school. During my 1st year
I forgot that, and I think that is part of what caused me
so much grief. It was easy to get sucked into that
competitive grind. By my 2nd year I was regaining my
sense of why I was there and was able to roll with the
I write this from the perspective of finishing my 3rd
year a week ago. I did what I wanted: I was admitted to
law school; I went
to law school, and I finished. The
disappointing grades were easier to take when I look back
at why I made the choice to go to law school. I have no
idea what my class rank is. I do know that my grades have
progressively improved semester by semester. I remember
talking to a 1L at the end of last year who was totally
devastated by her 1L experience. She finally decided to
return for a 2nd year and says it was the difference
between night and day. She is returning next year.
P.S. I was a BlueBird and a Camp Fire Girl while growing
up in Idaho.
Remember that part of the Blue Bird Wish? "Remember
to finish what I begin." Congratulations on
"flying up," and Wo-He-Lo!
From a student in New England:
As a third-year part-time law student, I found ONE HELL to be very
similar to my first-year law school experience. I am 40,
work full-time in a non-law-related business, and have
another 1 1/2 years of night classes. I BARELY survived
first year; since then my grades have improved slightly
and, hopefully, they will continue to improve now that I
have finished the required core courses and can take some
elective courses. I now realize I will probably survive
law school and actually earn my JD; what keeps me awake
at night now are the prospects of passing the Bar and
finding a decent job without taking a tremendous pay cut
from what I currently make (and paying off what will
eventually be $60-$70,000 of school loans).
To repeat: Studies show that older students with older
undergraduate degrees tend to have first-year grades that
are NOT predictors of what they can do. Once more, I
refer to The Best and the
From a juvenile prosecutor in the Midwest:
The practice of law
doesn't have much to do with the law school experience. I
have always seen it as sort of "boot camp." You don't need to do law review, no matter what
anyone tells you. I did internships instead to focus my
practice area and position myself for employment. I was a
Non-Trad law student in the early '90s. Being 40 years
old in law school with a bunch of kids was a real trip.
None of them experienced the Viet Nam War, President
Kennedy, etc. I found the experience very interesting.
People hire older law grads. I found a job right away. I
made it through law school, passed the bar, even though I
couldn't stay up past 10 PM studying.
From a student at Catholic's law school
4/15/2000 5:37:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: [name deleted
by Alice Beard]
Who do you think you are??
Not only do you critize this law school unjustly,
you put my law degree in jeopardy.
Please do us all a favor and stop with these ramblings.
Here's another one for your page: A little less time on
the WEB and a lot more time in the books and your grades
will come up to par with those of the 2o-somethings in
The above was emailed
anonymously from a CUA law school computer. It was among
the "fan mail" I got from "Catholic's
kids." The day before, a first-year male in CUA's
class of 2002 had hurled the same words at me in the
cafeteria. He and five other young students whom I didn't
know confronted me. Their claim was that I was
"devaluing" their degrees with my online
journal. Their spokesman was angry and hostile. He said
that he himself hated Catholic's law school; however,
since he'd already invested so much money in tuition and
since his grades weren't good enough to transfer, he
wanted that investment safe-guarded against possible
The encounter was typical
of what I got from several CUA law students once they
became aware of my online journal. When I sought help
from law school officials, it was refused. That was the "community" I
experienced at Catholic's law school. As an
attorney/friend said when we spoke after my nine months
'Community'? At Catholic?! There IS no sense of
community there! At least there never was when I was
He graduated from
Catholic's law school in 1977, and he also is a Catholic.
From an older One-L at CUA in 2000-2001:
I don't know as you'll remember me. We corresponded last
year in September as I started 1-L at CUA Law. Everything
in your site about the lack of a community at CUA Law is
dead on, at least for the older returning student.
I was accepted [at George Mason] and
stupidly went to CUA instead. Some of the people at CUA
were worth the time, such as Prof. [name
deleted]; others were not. None of
it was worth [the cost of tuition]. I am trying to decide
now if going back to school next fall is really worth it.
George Mason is George Mason University School
of Law, in Arlington, Virginia, inside the DC-beltway.
This writer's remorse likely comes from the fact that GMU
is now a "first-tier" law school, while CUA has
dropped to the bottom of the "second tier."
Also, GMU is a state school so the tuition is cheaper.
Perhaps a case of "buyer's regret" for having
bought a pig in a poke.
In April 2002, CUA's law school dropped into the third
tier. Mason remains in the first tier.]
From an older One-L in the Midwest:
First semester I was grasping at anything
and everything that I thought would help me with law
school. I was frantic! But this semester things have
mellowed out. Do you find that in second semester you
sometimes go to class without having the assignment read?
I NEVER did that first semester. I'm afraid the first
year law school FEAR is gone.
imagine being in a class where there is no one around
your age. There is a group of us
over 30 year olds in our section, and we often have the
same gripes. Invariably it has to do with our HUSBANDS
being spoiled little babies used to us doing EVERYTHING
for them and then the difficulty they have adjusting to
our having to STUDY instead of waiting on them hand and
foot. Then throw raising children into the equation and
it is a recipe for ripping hair out at the roots!
Grades were disheartening, I admit. Everyone wants A's;
instead, we end up with C's and if we are exceptionally
lucky, a B.
From a Two-L:
I am a 2L. Some days I feel like I'm just
a kid who shouldn't be here, and some days I don't
understand why other people don't get it. I have met some
of the nicest, neatest people with a high degree of
integrity at this law school, and I have also met some of the most
back-stabbing, unethical slimes I have ever known in my
24 short years on this planet.
Welcome to law school! One does not go to law
school "to meet nice people." A friend
graduated from Georgetown. As a first-year, he was dating
another first-year in a not serious but friendly
relationship. He was sick, missed a class, asked the
woman for her notes. She refused: "No. I'm competing
against you. Why would I help you?"
With the grade system in law
school, by hurting student X,
student Y helps him/herself.
And, the easiest one to hurt is the weakest. ... You know
the old joke about the two "friends" who are
set upon by a bear. The first puts on his running shoes.
The second asks, "WHY? You can't out run the
bear." The first says, "I don't have to out run
the bear. I only have to out run YOU." ... Welcome
to your "friends" in law school.
From a lawyer with Hoosier roots:
donate to my [undergraduate] alma mater, I get great
satisfaction that I do not give a dime to my law school.
My feeling is they used the bottom 90% of us so there
could be a top 10% to fawn over. A
students become law professors; B
students become judges, and C
students go out and practice law!
From a student "down South":
I am 42 years old and finishing my 3d year (evening
division). Next to marrying my wife, going to law school
is the single best decision I have ever made in my life.
Yes, juggling a full-time position, wife, child,
studying, Law Review, etc, etc has been incredibly
trying. But it does get more manageable as you get
further into it. Not easier as such, but fewer surprises.
A good example is case briefing. The first part of the
first semester, I would spend hours briefing a few cases,
each taking up several pages. Sometimes I would spend
more time redoing them to make sure I had everything down
just right. Now, I book brief, and can get the meat of
most cases on the first good pass through.
professor told me that once in a
while in law school the student's whole world view
shrinks, everything else is shunted off stage, and what
is left is a small hard marble; that marble is the law.
of torts professors,
and since it's time to laugh, the torts professor at
Catholic used an outline that, as several students joked,
was 20 years old and yellowed and brittle with age. There
were two student outlines for his class that circulated
freely among students. One was a near verbatim
transcription, including his jokes. He told the same
jokes, at the same point, every time he taught the class.
... We used a new book, but he would pass over new cases
and substitute "oldies but goodies" from
Ready to copy and paste. Just fill in the
Subj: <blank> Law School Sucks...
I just withdrew from <blank> Law School, located in <blank>. This place is
hell on earth. The professors are jerks. The competition
is 100% cutthroat. I highly encourage anyone NOT to
attend this torture chamber.
The only reason I came to this school is because of my
LSAT score. There are people who are here only because
they got full-scholarships, and they admit it was like
making a pact with the devil. They regret that decision.
The above is offered as a form letter for all law
students other than those at Yale, and maybe Harvard and
- We all would be at
better schools if our LSATs had been higher.
- All law schools use
scholarships to buy some students who could go to
- Professors and bosses
all over are jerks!
- Several people have
found this web site by doing a 'net search on the
phrase "law school sucks."
a 1st year at a 1st tier in the West,
two letters sent in late January 2001:
I am in my first year and do not like the school I'm at.
I am sticking it out for the academic year to avoid
financial problems. I do want a law degree, but not here.
I wonder if another school will take me, or if they will
they consider me a failure. I don't care if I have to
start over; I just want out of this school. I was
accepted at a better school and wait-listed at an even
better one -- both national schools. In March, when the
acceptance letters were coming in, my wife found out we
were expecting. The school I'm at offered me a full
tuition scholarship and a monthly stipend, so here I am.
I don't think this is the school for me or my goals. I
plan to call other schools to see what their policies are
for accepting students who have previously attended some
law school, transfer or not. My grades are just below a
3.0. We are just starting week 3. ... I don't want to be
stuck in this area. The school I'm at is a good school,
but a regional school. ... A funny thing is that my son
was born right in the middle of finals. When I took one
exam, my wife had started labor, and we had been up all
night. I could have postponed the exam, but I did not.
That was my lowest grade, a C+. I don't think it made a
difference, but it is a little excuse I can throw in. My
other grades were a B- and an A-, but altogether my
average is just below a 3.0. I just want out.
A week later, he wrote
I quit law school today. I still really
want to be a lawyer, and I don't know what this will do
to my chances. After numerous meetings with deans at this
school and phone calls to deans at other schools, I
decided to take my chances at starting over. When I
reapply, I will have to show that the reason I quit was
not because of the law and not because of my grades, but
because of the school, the environment, and the
circumstances. I would rather take my chances with that
than my chances of a transfer.
Let me translate this for the uninitiated:
First semester grades had just come out, and this man was
surprised. His undergrad grades and LSAT were good enough
that he got in at one of the top 25 schools and got
wait-listed at an even better one. (The top 25 schools
are the "national" schools. All other schools
are "regional," with some having bigger regions
than others.) ... His "numbers" were good
enough that one of the lower 25 first-tiers bought him
with not only a full scholarship, but a monthly stipend.
He was at a school where his "numbers" said
that his grades should have been among the highest, but
he pulled under a B average. ... To transfer to another
school, normally a student needs a B average. ... His
grades shocked him, and he realized that, if he finished
the year, he might not be able to transfer out of the
regional into one of the nationals, but he'd be stuck
finishing at a regional. ... Likely, his plan had been to
get the first year paid for thru scholarship, get high
grades as he competed against students with lower
numbers, then transfer to one of the national schools.
... Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men go
From an older woman student at another law
If I could do it over, I would go part time, but I don't
have that option. I think law school would be more
enjoyable in smaller classes with more mature students.
We have a lot of "children," and even some of
the older students are surprisingly immature. Our school recruits
non-traditional students, but they don't really do
anything after they get them, which
is why it is so
disorienting to be around kids who want to go out and get
drunk every night. Are other law schools like this?
But we do have a tutoring program for every subject, and
that has helped.
FIRST, my experience has me saying that
Catholic also will admit non-traditional students but
does not know or care how to handle them. ... (No
consideration in section formation. Profs who feel
awkward with older students. No experience by placement
staff in placing older, returning homemakers. No mentor
system. No academic support programs.)
However, in some cases,
what was needed was not a "study skills" class,
but advice on what to do if your teacher couldn't or
didn't teach. That happens. Successful students had
solutions. One solution was to find out from students in
other sections who the best lecturer was for the subject,
go directly to that teacher, and ask for permission to
sit in on his/her lectures, silently. (Several students
did this for one class.) In another class where the
students claimed that the professor didn't like the
students and wasn't attempting to teach, the smartest
students ignored the class, the prof, and the case book;
found the best "teaching book" on the subject,
and prepped for being tested.
the specific non-traditional group of older, traditional,
Catholic moms, I saw CUA's law school particularly
failing them. One such
mom who now has her JD from Catholic said that the
"moms" as a group do not do well academically
at Catholic. C's are the typical grades, giving them no
margin for error. This woman feared that a higher than
usual percentage of them fail the bar.
She had her own complaints
about CUA's treatment of mature returning moms. She told
of going to a male professor for help and having the
professor "talk down" to her. He said,
"Let me put this in words you might understand. I'll
give you an example of a patchwork quilt." He had no
reason to suspect the woman had ever done any quilting,
and he gave no suggestion that he knew anything about
The same woman had words
about women law professors at CUA. Her long description
could be boiled down to her claim that CUA's women law
professors tended to look down on mature returning
homemakers. She told of arranging a research position
with a professor. The woman professor looked at this
woman who had reared several children, run a household,
managed her family's stock portfolio, and been her
husband's helpmate, but hadn't drawn a paycheck in many
years, and the woman professor said, "Isn't it nice?
You finally will have a real job?" The woman law
student said to the woman professor, "I don't think
this arrangement will work."
I had expected that
Catholic moms would have a special "fit" with
the law school. I found quite the opposite: Genuine
returning homemakers were few in number, but as a group
they did not do well at the law school. They tended to be
the just-hanging-on C students, not really part of
anything. We were over 40, female, and came in with LSATs
in range with the other students. However, as a group, we
did poorly. If any other minority group did poorly as a
group, some might wonder how the law school failed to
service those students.
However, it may be that my
opinion of Catholic has little to do with my having been
a "non-traditional." A lawyer who graduated
from CUA in about 1970 and who was a law student at a
more traditional age said, "Catholic has never been
student supportive. There has always been a 'sink or
swim' mentality at Catholic. Many old-school law
professors pride themselves in that attitude."
SECOND, yes, I saw many kids at Catholic who
drank to excess. There is a self-help group called
"Lawyer's Assistance Program," or LAP. It
"recognizes that addiction
and mental health problems significantly impact a
person's ability to function in the practice of
law." LAP claims three main purposes: protecting the
interests of clients from harm caused by impaired judges
and attorneys; assisting impaired judges, attorneys, law
students and their families in recovery; and educating
the legal profession on issues of addiction and mental
health. ... LAP will also help with law students who are
drunks, and my time at CUA has me saying that some CUA
students need such help.
From a law student whose mom
studied law as a returning homemaker:
Dear Ms. Beard (or Alice,
I'm not sure which you prefer):
In the mid-1990s, my mother (then in her late 40s) went
back to school after having been a homemaker for 17
years. During her first-year law school courses, I
remember her feeling, at times, very angry, sad, and
frustrated about being the second oldest person in the
class. She, too, was often asked why she was doing this
after all this time, being a "housewife and
all." And her treatment by the younger law students
was less than polite. For what it's worth, I think
motherhood is a wonderful career choice, and becoming a
lawyer is a great second career. Thanks again for a
wonderful read. Best wishes.
If a first name is good enough for Jesus, it's fine for
From a One-L in the West:
I'm 44. I too
considered dropping out after my grades (some of which
were actually good). Very shocking. Very demoralizing to
think that kids, babes, were scoring higher than me even
though they couldn't write and didn't know basic stuff
about our society and culture. Also, I too have found it
impossible to set up a study buddy or group. I
actually tried...and was rebuffed.
From a One-L west of the Rockies:
I am a non-traditional student returning to law school
after 20 years of being out of school. My law school has 10+ women over
40 in my entering class. The professors are very
deferential to us and I have barely been called on in
class, but the young kids are
definitely doing better than I did last semester. I
really need to connect with people like me - who lived
and know the 70's and 80's.
But the young students and law
school culture do have a debilitating effect on my
over-40 group. It is hard to have done things and been
places and find they don't count for much. I recently
told my 47-year old classmate that making the decision to
return to school with all these young people (risking a
new transition, challenges, etc) is a sign of courage
that any job recruiter should welcome. She was despondent
over her grades. Our
school has a lot of young kids with great grades with no
social skills and less tact.
"Deferential" as you describe it is NOT a
positive. If they aren't calling on you, chances are good
that they don't care to teach you. Some professors do not
know how to act with students their age or older.
From a law student west of the Rockies:
I'm a 3L. Our 2nd year we started a group called Older
and Wiser Law Students (OWLS) for what we call "2nd
career students". Membership is self-identifying --
no age limits. It is mostly a social group. This year
(its second year in existence) we sponsored a get
together for incoming 1Ls before orientation so they
could meet each other and have a familiar face when they
arrived at orientation and were surrounded with those
fresh young faces. The first thing we did was start a
mentoring program matching 1Ls with upper division
students. We've had great support from the faculty. We
get referrals from them and from the admissions office of
people looking at law as a career change. One faculty
member regularly comes to our meetings and our social
That same faculty member is the
one that had the pep talk with me after 1st semester
grades came out. After the 1st semester of 2nd year, my
grades really did improve. As the "support"
prof said, I had
spent the last 20+ years thinking in a way that was very
successful for me -- and now the law profs were telling
me it was wrong. Before I could learn their way of
thinking, I had to unlearn what the last 20 years had
taught me, something the 20-somethings don't have to do.
From an old girlfriend who sat on the
you can't get shot out of the saddle unless you had the
guts to get on the horse in the first place! Hang in
From a professor with One-L's:
The 1L students in my program were unusually quiet for
our first meeting a couple of weeks ago (after the
first-semester grades came out). Most of them were
depressed about their grades. They wanted to talk about
how to keep going when the costs (financial and
otherwise) were so high and increasing, and any benefit
seemed further and further away.
From "an old Hoosier Pal"
I just read
your "Thoughts," and I realize how fortunate I
was to make law school just a continuation of the
preceding 16 years of study! I remember taking the Bar
Exam ... and thinking: "Thank God! That's the last
test I'll ever take!"
From a Three-L down south:
Dear Ms. Beard,
I am a 44 year old retired Navy office who went back to
law school as a 42-year-old. I desperately searched for
some clue as to good grades after the first semester's
results had been posted. I found the following:
- started sitting up close - I felt more connected to the
- lived on both the textbook and emanuels/gilberts
- the top grade getters could not explain how they got
- practiced writing out the exam from samples approx
three weeks before the end of the semester
- started organizing the material by the topics in the
index of the textbook (helped me see which items were
sub-issues of the big topics)
- organized the
material into pictures (actually
slides in Microsoft Powerpoint - couldn't remember the
topics as well as I could a picture)
Organizing ideas into pictures is an ancient and
forgotten skill. It's called "building a memory
palace." Catholic Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci
(1552-1616) is credited with having taught the system in
China. Jonathan Spence's 1984 book The
Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci tells of building
memory palaces: Ricci's A
Treatise on Mnemonics, written in 1596 for a
political leader in China, explained the medieval
European idea of a memory palace -- a place created
inside your mind and furnished with things that help you
remember. As a young man, Ricci briefly studied law
before turning to math and physics.
The snippet below is from Eden Muir
and Rory O'Neil's 1995 "Architecture of Digital
|The art of
memory was a necessity before the era of cheap
paper and printing. To a Greek or Roman orator,
memory was power, and the most powerful memory
techniques were spatial. The ancient technique of
spatial memory is surprisingly straightforward.
One systematically plants memory objects in
memory locations along a familiar route that can
be visited in the mind's eye. Later, these
objects are recalled in sequence, forward or
backwards, as one mentally revisits the route.
Precise instructions for constructing a personal
memory palace appear in three classical sources: Ad
Herrennium (anonymous), Quintilian's Insitutio
oratorio, and Cicero's De Oratorio.
From a woman lawyer "down
I was 42
when I started law in Australia, and I recall towards the
end of first year finding written on my library carrel
"Old women shouldn't be here!" I persevered.
Despite the panic (and maybe by
dint of being one of those diligent types who did read
every case and the odd academic article) I not only
persevered, I thrived. I graduated three years later
(1984) with marks good enough to earn me a postgraduate
scholarship which set me on the road to a PhD. Having
begun the law with every intention of entering legal
practice, I somehow got "derailed" into
academia - and became one of those "dratted
professors." Despite the "wisdom" of those
who said I was too old and that a woman my age would
never make a career in law, I have somehow made it to the
top of my chosen profession. I've never regretted my
choice. Law became a calling not merely a job.
How you were treated reminds me of the day the young
female student at Catholic chastised me about being in
law school at my age. Older, returning students need to
know in advance that they may come up against such
From an older student in New England:
I see snottiness of the younger students towards the
older students. A woman in her 50s who I started with
transferred to day [classes] and says she hates the young
day students. I spent a day there and hated it too.
From a lawyer who graduated from CUA:
Ah, yes, I remember the first exam terrors. Vernon X.
Miller taught torts in his own unique way, pounding
facts, and it was sheer misery learning how to
regurgitate the facts on the exam to make the lawyer
noises he expected. I took the UCC from Dean Rohner, and
I have to say that it is still a mystery to me. ... The
student loan dilemma is a real problem. I shudder at the
idea that people are in the law for money rather than
public service. ... Now,
as then, I sense that the case book method is a mystery. I would read the cases to try to figure out
what in the heck the chapter was about, and the horn
books and outlines didn't seem to be much help. I like to shock people by saying
that it's really quite simple: (1) Decide the right thing
to do and make the decision. (2) Look up the law. (3)
Make the law fit what the right thing to do happens to
From another Catholic Law grad:
I remember well the crunch of that first semester in law
school. ... The stress of too little time and too much to
do continues throughout law school, and even into the
practice of law. ... In my days, the first semester first
year exams were only "practice exams," since
the courses were all 2 semester courses, and all
mandatory. This meant that the second semester exams were
even more stressful. Everything rode on them.
In some ways, that practice continues. If a
student has a poor first semester, everything is riding
on the second semester exams.
Subject: "One-L v. Satan, cert.
years ago tonight I was slaving away in my dorm, creating
my course outline for Civ Pro. It was my "small
section" class and it was taught by an old line
"stand and deliver" professor who happened to
be blind. He had no pity for himself and certainly none
for us. I was made to look foolish on a regular basis in
his class. On the one occasion when I performed the
required legal analysis and argument flawlessly, I smiled
to myself at the conclusion of my final statement. As if
on cue, my blind professor looked directly at me and said
"Is your argument based on the reasoning set forth
in the fifth and sixth lines from the bottom of page 764
in the text?" ... Eventually all first years come to
the realization that they are fighting a Panzer division
with a plastic fork.
From a lawyer in California:
own obliviousness in the first year was to the fact that
the testable skill in law school is knowing what issues
are raised by a fact pattern. The only way to
get good at this is to take one practice test after
another, and have someone explain afterwards what you
were expected to spot and discuss. The way law profs
create a curve among whole student bodies of smart folks
is to complexify the exam fact patterns such that
students who haven't been directly practicing the
testable skill (by taking numerous practice exams per
subject) will overlook enough issues to receive 65s and
Where 90% of first year
law students go "wrong" is by studying the law
excessively, and paying much less attention to the
testable skill of seeing how legal issues present
themselves in complex fact patterns. (The case method is
a very awkward heuristic exercise for this purpose; it is
much better accomplished by studying raw fact patterns
alone, i.e. those embedded in practice exams.)
If I had to do it over,
I would obtain stacks of practice exams in each subject,
and start taking them at least 2 months prior to the real
exams. If I had it do again, I would mark the half-way
point of the semester on a calendar, and make that an
absolute deadline for learning all of the legal rules in
the subject. Use those bar review tapes for a general
orientation, and then use outlines to refine your
knowledge. Then spend the entire rest of the semester
taking practice exams.
Finesse whatever is
going on in the classes themselves. They are a huge
imposition on your valuable time and a distraction.
Nothing relevant to testable skills is taught! Don't
be among the naive majority who dutifully
"prepare" for class, and think it translates
into exam readiness. That is the surest route to a
middling law school academic record. Class work is over
"here"; exam readiness skills are over
"there." The prizes go to those few
who see through the misdirection and create their own
regime for practicing the testable skills. Law schools
are run this way b/c it is the only way to create a curve
among very intelligent folks who are almost all willing
to apply themselves to the material.
From a woman who went to law school
when her children were young:
I, too, was a
retread. In 1971 I went back to law school. My undergrad degree was in art. The job I had
was designing paper napkins. I had a husband and two
little children, ages 4 and 6. The decision to retread
was the best I made in my life. I intended to enroll in
an MFA program to get out of napkins and into teaching
when I approached the university. Teaching positions for
MFAs were scarce to nonexistent at that time. The dean of
admissions talked me out of incurring debt and loosing
income for three years with scant prospect of future
employment in my location. I contacted my younger brother, who was then a
law student, and we sloshed through several quarts of
beer at a local pub discussing (he discussed, I whined)
my professional future. He repeatedly suggested I enroll
in law school as that was the only graduate degree
possible for folks with "questionable"
undergrad degrees. I staggered across the street and
picked up an application to humor him. We filled it in, while sitting at the sticky
pub table. That was the degree of analysis that initiated
my new career.
First and foremost, you must have what
I call the "grocery-store" mentality. Not only
are you paying for this education, you have opportunity
costs. You're not working, you're probably incurring high
incidental expenses by eating out instead of in,
transportation, etc. DEMAND YOUR MONEY'S WORTH!
Set your own agenda. Learn what you need to know. Question until you're a pain in
the ass. (They don't give Miss
Congeniality awards at graduation.) Get out of classes with profs
who can't or won't teach well. Educational institutions,
like grocery stores, have "bargains" and
rip-offs. I was so abjectly
impoverished when in law school I was desperate to pull
as much useful information out as I could in the shortest
time. I found "bargains," professors who had
real world experience, who understood the skills that
were needed for the successful practice of law. I made
them my friends. They provided research projects in my
fields of interest and afforded me the opportunity to
research and write FOR CREDIT to shorten my stay and to
accumulate a portfolio of useful papers when seeking
The second suggestion is to be flexible
in determining your ultimate practice areas. The law
affects most areas of social endeavor. I ended up
practicing environmental law, an "unknown"
niche at the time I was in law school. (I thought labor
was my field as Title IX was in the congress at the time
and Title VII was just then being enforced as to women.)
I found "women and children's issues" jobs in
my location very routine (same case 200 times, scant
impact on the source of the problem). That may have
changed, but I remember an old '70s radical saying the public interest lawyers need to
"go after the wringer, not defend victims ass by
ass." Figure out where you
want to end up before you spend much more time or money,
then train for the job. You are a consumer of educational
services; act like a consumer. You shouldn't be
frightened or cowed by the institution.
From a law student taking time off after
profession needs to look long and hard at the 1L
experience, especially how stable, healthy people are
turned into depressed and sometimes suicidal first-year
law students. I know it must sound
a bit hollow as the semester winds down and the exams
begin, but it will get better. To be honest, I'm not sure
it really did get any better for me. I just became used
to it. After (or maybe it was during) that fall semester,
I became emotionally numb. It took me another year to
realize the effect this was having on my family and
myself. I decided to take a couple of years off and
rediscover why I went to law school in the first place.
So now I'm plugging myself back into my marriage and the
outside world. I'm hoping that I'll be able to maintain
this perspective once I return to law school in August.
All I can say is that I wish I had kept a better grip on
my family, the outside world, and the reasons I wanted to
become a lawyer when I was a 1 and 2L.
From a law student south of the
I'm a 38-year-old-law student. I became a law student
after 21 years working as a dental nurse. Felt need for a
career change, so against advice of family & friends
I enrolled at the Law School. I, too, had to face the
challenge of having younger students as my class-mates,
but we'll make it! Tell your prof. with the cowboy boots
that his advice helped me! Have a Blessed Christmas!
The professor with the cowboy boots advised, "You've
got to believe that whatever got you to this point will
get you the rest of the way."
From another Southern:
I arose at 4:30 am on Sunday morning to begin studying
for my Con. Law exam. This will be the last of five that
I have taken in six days. I went back to law school later
in life (forty-two). I have spent 20 years working. ... I
left my evidence exam on Friday night and got into my car
to make my two-hour commute home with no intention of
about an hour I had convinced myself that making a
"D" was not the end of the world. By the time an hour-and-a-half had gone by I
was trying to figure out the bare minimum needed to
graduate. I am not part of a study group. I have a hard
time asking for help from anyone 15-20 my junior. I am
tired of answering questions that have no answers. I want
to stand up and shout, "Just answer the QUESTION,
please!" If it were not for a few lawyer friends
that tell me that practicing law is nothing like law
school, I probably would not have made it this far. They
tell me it's a right of passage. Where do you put that on
The trouble with a D is that you need a C average to stay
in law school.
From the original "One L":
Dear Ms. Beard,
Good luck and enjoy it if you can.
From a lawyer in Israel
commenting on my fear of failing civil procedure:
Not to worry. I managed it
in the second round, barely! What a boring subject. They
forget in Law school and the Bar Association that
computers do this work much much better. This is only for
the sake of plain memory. It has nothing to do with the
real litigation where one has to test brains and the
spirit of Law.
Here, I disagree. The rules of law are often where cases
are won or lost. (No, I didn't fail the class. I got a
From a law professor west of the
Never fear--Civil Procedure was THE MOST DIFFICULT course
I took in law school. I've tried to convince our faculty
to move it into the second year for that reason. A few
years ago, I ran across my first year outlines. Although
all were bad, my civ pro outline was definitely the
worst. Paging through the 50-or-so pages, I saw only
about 1 page of material that was at all useful!
From a lawyer soon to clerk
for a Federal District judge:
I was an older student (37 when I started,
40 when I finished), and I had trouble myself during my
first year of law school with Civil Procedure, but
managed to squeak by on the exam. I'm now six years out
of law school and will be clerking for a federal district
judge beginning in August. I haven't been practicing law
since I left school in 1993 so I'm planning to bone up on
procedure, and evidence, and the big movements in current
case law and fed statues. I want to feel that I've got a
working vocabulary in the basics, so I'm going to read
the nutshells, and the outlines, and maybe, just maybe, I
might read through my fed courts or con law hornbooks. I
bought them all during first year, and barely cracked
their spines. I also bought case notes, and blonds, and
gilberts and emanuels. ... It was quite a shock to study
for the bar exam and learn everything about all those
courses all over again -- in just 15 hours of
speed-writing notes-scribbling lectures per subject. ...
The key is to feel confident as your understanding of the
law grows, that the concepts repeat themselves from
subject area to subject area, with small twists and
nuances, and that most of what you really need to know to
pass the exams in school, or the bar exam, for that
matter, will have little or nothing to do with what
you'll really need to know to practice in your own
specialty. Except, of course, either criminal or civil
procedure. And even there, what you really need to know
is your own state's take on those subjects, and its
rules, neither of which you are likely to encounter in
Let me recommend the
only thing I found useful for civ pro when I was a lass
of 37 -- The Buffalo Creek Disaster. The entire story is about the civ pro tactics
and torments of a trial lawyer running a class action
suit. The narrative was gripping, and it made the
concepts stick in my mind more clearly than anything else
The Buffalo Creek disaster was a Logan Co., WV,
coal mining disaster: "In February 1972, 125 persons
were killed when a mine dam broke at Buffalo Creek in
West Virginia. ... The 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster, for
example, occurred after the mine had been assessed over
$1.5 million in penalties, 'not one cent of which had
been paid.'" Justice Blackmun's words from Thunder
Basin Coal Company v. Robert B. Reich, Secretary of Labor,
510 U.S. 200 (1994).
From a someone who found
his own way to pass Civ Pro:
I graduated from CUA Law School in 1985. In
my first semester I was so naïve that I didn't know it
was okay to look at old exams for guidance, and I thought
that study aids were in some way dishonest. And my
grades showed it.
By second semester I'd caught on a
little. Four days before the Civil Procedure exam, I went
to the store to get a study aid for Civ Pro. My professor
was the future dean Bill Fox, and Fox favored an open
book final. He told us the only thing we couldn't bring
to the exam was an actual lawyer.
I asked the clerk for a Civil Procedure
study aid. She said, "We've been sold out of
everything for weeks." I panicked.
"I have a test in four days!" I must have
looked pitiful, because she said she'd look in the stock
room. She returned with a shiny black book.
"This is from a brand new publisher. It's
called Sum & Substance. It's all we
have." I paid the $15 and rushed out.
I had only a limited time to study, but
the study aid looked pretty good as I skimmed it. I
enjoyed Civil Procedure, had participated and done well
in class, so I wasn't overly anxious about the
exam. The day of the test I took in my casebook,
notes, group outline, and Sum & Substance. The
proctor passed out the exams, and we began. I read
the first question, and it looked familiar. I
flipped to the model questions in Sum & Substance,
and there it was, followed by a model answer. I
read the second exam question. It was the second
model question in Sum & Substance, with a model
answer. The test was five questions identical to
Sum & Substance, and I had all of the model
Had I hit the jackpot? Was I
cheating? Should I copy out the answers? Should I
report myself to the dean? What a quandary!
Finally, recalling Professor Fox's admonition that this
was a totally open book test, I plunged ahead and started
copying the model answers into my bluebook. At
first, I tried to change every 7th word, worried as I was
about a copyright violation. Then I simply gave up
and copied wholesale. I added a few points here and
there, but mostly I copied.
The test was four hours long, but my
copying only took about 40 minutes. I sat for
another five minutes deciding what to do next. In
for a dime, in for a dollar, I thought. I stood up,
took my bluebooks to the front and passed them in.
The proctor thought I had to use the restroom. No, I was
done. Most of the class was watching me,
stunned. I smiled weakly, and left.
Grades came out a few weeks later.
There, next to my code number was my grade -- 100 on the
test, 4 extra points for class participation. A
104. The next highest grade was a 93 or 94.
A few years later, I ran into Bill Fox
at a reception and I told him this story. He
laughed so hard he cried. "I remember
that! I signed up with a publisher getting into the
law book business. They needed an editor for their
Civil Procedure text. When the book was done, I was
preparing test questions for your class. I called
the publisher, and he assured me that the book was
embargoed until well after the exam date. So I used
the questions that I'd written for the book as the
questions for your test. When I saw your answers, I
knew someone had gotten hold of the book. But, a
rule is a rule. You took the advantage given to
Note from Alice:
"Every dark cloud has a silver
lining." The silver lining to the dark cloud of my
one-hell year is that, after serving my time in hell at
Catholic, I got into a first-tier law school. Sometimes
God has a sense of humor, but it was one hell of a way to
get into a first-tier!