Law in Contemporary Society
The question is, should law school be teaching us competition in preparation for our careers? I think this question harks back in many ways to whether we think law school is a "vocational school." If you really think law school is just about making you into a good associate at X firm, then maybe depriving us of sleep and pitting us against one another early on is a great thing. But, if law school is about teaching you how to think critically about the law and getting you to thoroughly analyze the material that you're working with, then a system which discourages collaboration is antithetical to that idea.

-- KateVershov - 19 Feb 2008

-- AdamCarlis - 19 Feb 2008

Law firms pit their associates against each other? That would be an incredibly inefficient way to run any business/organization. I understand that at some firms the partners are out to get each other (some firms peg partner compensation directly to what their group brings in... works in sales organizations but seems like a bad idea at a law firm) but it would seem to me that the firm would want associates collaborating to improve the quality of the work product.

Or is the competition at the firm about who makes partner? It seems as though most associates quit the firm way before the 10 year mark... are they really so worried about a partnership competition that won't take place for 10 years that they are willing to burn their peers? I would find that surprising. But then, I also find it surprising that some students actually won't help others during exam time.

I think there are several reasons law schools use a curve... none of which have to do with training us: 1) Employers need some way to evaluate the students. The curve provides a very easy method for doing so.

2) The school wants a way to evaluate the students as well. Again, the curve and the tests we take are one way to do that.

3) This is how it has always been and it is what everyone does. It is difficult to resist that inertia.

-- SandorMarton - 20 Feb 2008


I think you're probably right about points (1) and (2). But what, exactly, are firms measuring us by with the curve? Our ability to take one standardized test? Surely there are better ways of predicting how well we'll fair as lawyers. All of the public interest organizations I interviewed with not only didn't ask to see my grades, but refused them when I offered them. I don't know what it means that firms care more about your grades, while public interest organizations care more about your previous work experience, but I think it must mean something.

As for your point (3), I don't know if that's true. I know the CLS only instituted the A, B, C, F grading system in December 1994; I don't know what method of evaluation they used before that (Eben, do you know?). Also, neither Berkley nor Yale use grades, and most other schools use a less strict curve than we do.

-- AmandaHungerford - 20 Feb 2008

I was in the elevator with a fellow student last month who excitedly asked "have you checked your Civ Pro grade? They just came in!" My heart began to pound. I didn't even realize they were in--how could I have possibly missed the email from the registrar? Then he said, "don't worry, you got a B. We all got Bs." He was right.
* The curve is a "safe" way instilling the trepidation of failure without allowing it as a possibility. Think about it, even if you did the absolute WORST, you are looking at a C (which in some cases is optional). Some schools will straight out give you a D. Or let you fail.
* The curve provides the backbone for a ranking system. It is arbitrary but vital to organizations (read: firms) to be able to treat us as the numbers we become in those systems.
* If we didn't have a curve, we would need some actual feedback. Most of our professors have shown they simply can't be bothered with such details. So, we get a letter and determine whether we should feel good, bad or indifferent about the whole situation.
* Law school allows for us to squeak by at 75%. Unfortunately, it allows encourages this level for those of us that put in 100% and found little reflection of our efforts on our transcript.

-- MiaWhite - 20 Feb 2008



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r7 - 20 Feb 2008 - 15:38:54 - SandorMarton
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