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Dazed and Confused

[ 78 ] November 12, 2012 |

d & z

Let’s see, how to phrase this?

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

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

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

I’ve gone to 3 classes in two weeks. That’s three hours in two weeks. I’m exhausted.

I was assigned 8 pages to read for tomorrow…can’t even get through 4. How the hell did I read hundreds in 1L?!

Tomorrow is the third week of class. I’ve been to two days of school. And I have zero books.

I’m at 3LOL in a town where some bars stay open until 5am daily. I should leave a credit card open at each of them, just for the convenience of having a permanently open tab at all of them.

I think I’m gonna take random classes in the rest of the university. I signed up for calculus this semester. The professor emailed said he thought I might be too busy with law school. I told him I won’t be as busy as he might think.

What could explain this horribly “unprofessional” behavior, which, as every candid observer knows, is epidemic among third-year law students? (And far from unknown among the more cynical and strategic 2Ls).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The American Bar Association Standards for Approval of Law Schools and the policy of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law require regular and punctual class attendance in order for a student to satisfy residence and credit hour requirements. Accordingly, students are expected and required to attend all regularly scheduled Law School classes in which they are enrolled. Attendance includes preparation. Any student who fails to attend at least eighty percent of regularly scheduled classes for any course (i.e., fails to comply with “the 80% rule”) will be certified out and will receive a “U” (“unsatisfactory”) for the course. The 80% rule is applied based on the number of class meetings and not the number of credit hours for a course. For example:
Course Meetings (per week) Allowed Absences (per term)
4 11
3 8
2 6
1 3
Individual faculty members may impose a greater class attendance requirement for a particular course.

Attendance records will be based on sign-in sheets that will be circulated during each class, although a faculty member may adopt a different procedure for monitoring attendance in a seminar or clinical course or if the faculty member chooses to impose a greater class attendance requirement than the 80% rule. It is the responsibility of each student to sign his or her name at the appropriate place on the attendance sheet prior to the end of each class, and each student who fails to do so will be considered absent. The standards of academic integrity apply to this policy.

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

Students will receive no other notice or warning regarding their attendance unless a student violates the 80% rule (i.e., exceeds the maximum allowable number of absences) in a particular class. In that event, the student will be certified out of that class and the Deans’ Office will send a letter to the student’s Law School mailbox notifying the student that he or she has been certified out of the class. The notice will be deemed to have been received by the student upon delivery to the student’s mailbox.

Of course many schools don’t go this far. Here’s Northwestern’s policy:

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

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

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

(I’m cross-posting this from ITLSS in the hope of getting some discussion going regarding when mandatory attendance policies are and aren’t warranted in the context of higher education generally. Are there graduate programs that enforce class attendance? What about medical school? Obviously big variations are no doubt warranted at the undergraduate level, given the extremely broad range of institutions involved. But is it a good idea to require upper level undergrads at research universities to show up for class, as opposed to say first-year CC students who are learning “life skills?” This isn’t a rhetorical question btw).

Comments (78)

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  1. Don says:

    My God, you go to all the trouble to prepare a course, and how to present the material in ways that enhance the students’ comprehension, review and criticize the work product, and NOT expect them to, at the very least, show enough respect for you and all the work you do/did FOR THEM to attend your/their classes?

    And they are paying exorbitant prices for that work, and they don’t have enough respect for THEMSELVES to actually, you know, show up?

    Good grief. Perhaps we should “kill all the lawyers.”

  2. actor212 says:

    The precious little snowflakes…

  3. Professor Pansy says:

    I teach a law school writing class and an undergraduate business class, at different institutions. In the latter class, I am required by the university to take attendance and to report to the administration if a student fails to attend X number of classes. I do not comply with the policy, for a couple of reasons. One, these kids are paying $40,000+/year to go to school – I’m not going to tell them how to best spend that money. Two, IMO, a large part of college is learning how to be an adult and how to deal with real life decisions. If I treat them like high school students when they are (at least legally) adults, how on earth are they going to survive once they graduate. Three, I’d rather have students that are actually paying attention in class than students who are required to be there and waste my time by ignoring me/sleeping/playing on their phones. Four, there are consequences for not coming to class. Students who do not come to class by and large to worse on my exams. If you choose to not come to class and end up with a C or D in my class because you missed several lectures, I will be utterly unsympathetic. If you came to class and worked hard and still didn’t do well, I may work with you to come to a fair result. So I take attendance the first half of the semester so I can get to know them and who they are – I think they deserve to know that I take them and the class seriously – but once the class gets going, they know where I stand, and if they don’t care enough about what I’m teaching to come to class, I don’t really care if they come.

    My law class is slightly different because in-class assignments make up a portion of their grade. But in reality, if they want to screw their GPA up and fail to learn how write effectively, that’s their prerogative. I am not going to waste time in class pleading with them to take class more seriously. It’s their $60K.

    • shah8 says:

      As with the mortgage, that’s the *bank*’s 60k.

    • ajay says:

      You’re not a very good teacher. One of the reasons that you might take attendance is that if someone is missing a lot of classes, it might be a sign that something is seriously wrong – either in their academic or personal lives – and the university’s duty of care, your own duty to teach as well as possible, and common humanity would all demand in that case that you do something about it.

      • Murc says:

        and the university’s duty of care, your own duty to teach as well as possible,

        This is bullshit.

        A teachers job is to teach, not to mold their students into well-rounded human beings or to be a surrogate parent. They’re not being paid enough, nor are there enough hours in the day, to be life coaches, psychologists, confidants,and friends as well.

        If a student is stumbling into class half-drunk or obviously high all the time, you are correct that common humanity requires you make a referral to health services. Likewise if they start handing in work (or showing other signs) that indicates they pose a danger to themselves or others.

        But if they’re just not showing up? Yeah, maybe they’re having trouble. Or maybe they’ve decided to major in playing Halo.

        The idea that teachers are supposed to be superhuman gurus who are deeply involved in all aspects of their students lives is a deeply pernicious one that’s done a lot of damage to our national conversation on education. If people expect teachers to behave that way, they’d better be prepared to pay them six figures a year, require massive interdisciplinary training, and give them a total number of yearly students around 20 or so.

        • ajay says:

          The idea that teachers are supposed to be superhuman gurus who are deeply involved in all aspects of their students lives is a deeply pernicious one that’s done a lot of damage to our national conversation on education.

          And not one that I was intending to support. It’s not Pansy’s job to sort their lives out for them. She has plenty to do with her own teaching work. She is not being paid to give a shit about her students’ welfare.

          It is, however, her job to go to the minimal extra effort of taking attendance so that other people – people in the university who are being paid to give a shit about her students – have the information they need to decide whether or not a shit needs to be given.

          She’s not doing that, because she wants to make some sort of weird Randian point about how the university should be a sink or swim environment.

          • Bloix says:

            No, she’s not doing that because she’s a lazy pig who can’t be bothered.

            Oh, and btw, she absolutely is being “paid to give a shit about her students’ welfare.” Their welfare is her job. This idea that professors teach the subject and whether the students learn it or not is someone else’s problem is utter bullshit.

          • Linnaeus says:

            Interestingly, at my institution, instructors are actually not allowed to include “behavior” as part of a student’s grade, which includes attendance. So, even if a professor did take attendance, she or he could not make that explicitly part of a student’s grade.

    • Ricky says:

      Of course in the real world of employment your attendance is generally always taken, unless law firms are different. Ok, no one comes around and checks your name off of an attendance list, but your manager and other office mates keep track of these things. Employers have very detailed rules regarding attendance that are made clear when you are hired and I have yet to work at a place that didn’t adhere to those rules strictly. Poor attendance is used as cause to terminate employees regularly.

      I think universities would better serve their students by making class attendance required under guidelines similar to those used by employers. You don’t have to have perfect attendance, but you do have to show up most of the time to get credit.

      • FridayNext says:

        I agree with this.

        A lot.

        As a person who worked in the “Real World” and did a great deal of hiring I was shocked how many recent hires with excellent grades from good schools don’t have the basic life skill that 80% of life is just showing up on time.

        Now that I am an academic I always take attendance for this very reason and will typically make it clear this is why. (Even many PhD’s I know employed at museums and for the government still have to keep time sheets and have their schedules approved by supervisors) Of course now the onus is on me to make sure what happens in class is actually worth their time and is NOT something they can just get from a text book or Wikipedia.

        Even aside from this attendance helps me work with a student who is not doing as well diagnose the problem, helps provide me with a context when evaluating final grades that could go up or down, and, if nothing else, gives me a paper trail to cover my ass when some student starts barking about their grade.

        (As an aside, have you ever noticed that when students talk about grades it’s all “I got an A” but “The teacher gave me a C.” Regardless of the level of the student, I can almost always tell what they thought of grade by how the phrase that sentence. If they get what they consider a good grade, then they earned it. If not, then I gave it to them. I find that amusing.)

        • FridayNext says:

          I should note I am talking about liberal arts, undergrad courses for the most part. I have taught a grad course in which I did not take attendance, but then the seminar was so small I could note who was and wasn’t there without taking attendance, so I guess I took a sort of de facto, unofficial attendance.

      • Murc says:

        Of course in the real world of employment your attendance is generally always taken

        Students aren’t employees.

        They are customers.

        It can be argued that we shouldn’t have a consumer model of higher education, but that cuts both ways; if higher education isn’t just about learning to become a better office drone, what do you care about taking attendance? And if it IS, one questions why there are things like a GYM requirement or taking 20+ hours of humanities when you’re majoring in a hard science.

        • NonyNony says:

          Fuck that. Students aren’t employees and they aren’t customers either.

          They’re students.

          If they were employees they’d be getting a paycheck to come to class and I’d have some tangible thing that I could turn around and resell when they left the class (or they’d be working on a project for money during class or something where money exchanges hands all the way around).

          If they were customers they’d be purchasing a degree rather than an education – there’s no way to actually purchase an education. You can rent a seat in a classroom with an instructor in it, but that doesn’t get you an education. You can, however, buy a degree. The customer-model for education is a lie, and down that path every university becomes a degree mill.

          They’re students. They’re in a completely different category from either “employees” or “customers”. They are supposed to be learning while they are in school. For some of them it’s job training, for others it’s to show enough proficiency and ambition in a multi-year self-improvement project that employers take them seriously as applicants for a job, and some really do just want to learn more about the world for the sake of it.

          There is nothing that has become more pernicious in our business focused education system than the idea that somehow the students are customers rather than, you know, students. A category of people who are distinct in and of themselves.

          • mpowell says:

            This is true. My view is that since lectures are generally a bad way of learning, students should not be required to attend. And trust me, it doesn’t matter how good of a lecturer you are. Many students have better ways of learning the material. But I can see the arguments that in some schools, part of the university offering is paternalism, so then it would make sense to take attendance.

          • spencer says:

            I love this comment so very much.

          • Murc says:

            They’re students. They’re in a completely different category from either “employees” or “customers”.

            But they contain elements of both. Also, there’s the fact that universities basically try and have it both ways; right up until they get their hands on tuition money, they treat students as customers, but when people talk about how for most people they’re in college to acquire job skills, and maybe curricula should reflect that, suddenly it becomes about the purity of learning and providing a well-rounded liberal arts education.

      • BoredJD says:

        This is unnecessarily paternalistic. Students know the difference between an employer and a classroom. The idea that law school students don’t understand this, when almost all of them are only a few years removed from McJobs or “real jobs” before college.

        Law professors shouldn’t talk. With the exception of class time their schedules are probably among the most flexible in the entire legal profession.

      • Bloix says:

        What professors teach their students is terribly corrosive and the attitudes and work habits they encourage hurt their students’ ability to function in the real world:

        1) We don’t care if you don’t show up.
        2) We don’t care if what you do is correct, just turn something in.
        3) We will sit on what you write for weeks before giving you feedback, if we ever do.
        4) You can do nothing at all for months and still get by if you pull a few all-nighters.

        • Linnaeus says:

          In my experience, #2 and #3 don’t fit the profiles of professors I know, and with respect to #1, they do notice when students aren’t showing up, which usually comes out in the work they submit. Few students can succeed by the strategy in #4. They’ve tried, but they do average at best.

    • timb says:

      LARC being one of the most useful classes in law school, THEY better be attending

  4. Sherm says:

    I learned early on that some professors were surreptitiously taking attendance based upon the seating charts the students signed their own names to on the first day of class. Suffice it to say that I never signed my own name to a seating chart after first semester second year.

  5. dollared says:

    I really think the US would produce much better lawyers much more efficiently if 2 years of law school were followed by 2 years of externships performing paralegal tasks.

  6. David Mathias says:

    To generalize about your list of reasons why law school students do not attend classes, #2 seems like the most valid to me by far (although I am not saying that it justifies the decisions of students to skip class). #4 depends on what kind of person you are and in the subject of the classes. #1 and #3 also depend on the professor.

    I am not sure about whether or not it makes sense to require higher education students to attend classes. On one hand, it is important to show respect for education for its own sake, AND IN THE CONTEXT OF LAW which is at least is partly hierarchical it is important to accustom students to that sort of hierarchy by going to the professors’ classes, even if some people choose to call it petty authoritarianism. On the other hand, it seems like students who are able to succeed without attending lectures could make good arguments for not being penalized for their strategizing and cynicism that can go with their competence and maturity.

  7. cafl says:

    When I was an undergraduate physics major, Felix Bloch, the Nobel prize winner, described his education in Switzerland and Germany. He said students attended lectures for free, but paid to take examinations. I think this is a much better approach than the current method.

    As to law school, it used to be allowed to take the bar examination and be licensed without a degree, and it was customary to apprentice to a practicing lawyer to prepare for this. It seems that this custom changed as a form of guild behavior, to lock out competition.

    • timb says:

      It sure did. Making people pay for a degree sure helps the ABA out

    • Lurker says:

      In fact, in many European countries, teaching in any public-funded school or university is public. This is considered a safeguard: any person can attend the teaching of any class, from the primary school to the graduate seminars of a research university. This gives the public the opportunity to check the quality of teaching. As long as you do not cause disruption and there is no crowding, the educational institution may not put any bounds.

      In practice, the right to attend is very seldom used outside the universities, where it is not unheard of to see regular non-student attendees at lectures.

  8. muntz says:

    I always felt it was a poor class where the final could be aced just by memorizing a study guide.

    These students can make their own decisions. The fact they choose not to attend speaks to the lack of value of these courses. Perhaps the professors could offer better courses and teach them better?

    My second semester of business school was one of my most difficult – BECAUSE i chose to take classes where I wanted to learn something. I did take one blow-off, but the professor was dynamic and class participation went into your grade. So, I showed up.

    Still, I made fairly rational decisions- I took valuable courses and worked hard at them.

    If the current students find no value, that really isn’t their fault.

  9. Better course offerings and smaller upper division courses would go a long way towards fixing this– there is plenty to be learned in the third year of law school, but law faculty don’t necessarily feel like teaching it. Part of this is, I’m afraid, that teaching small, skills-based classes, or even just writing intensive classes, is a lot of work.

  10. Alex says:

    I literally went to more SF Giants games than classes in the last semester of my third year, back in the late 80′s, and thank God for that.

    • timb says:

      Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, and Matt Williams were more teaching you more than Learned Hand, Ben Cardozo, and Oliver Wendell Holmes would have. I think that was a fine choice

      • Julian says:

        Why are you discounting Holmes’s incredible rushing statistics

        • timb says:

          ‘Cause I’m a baseball fan. He was, also, really good at shooting at people in the Civil War

          • rea says:

            Well, actually, there’s no record of him shooting anyone during the Civil War, although he got shot three times himself, and famously told Lincoln (on a visit to the front lines) to keep your head down, you damn fool.

            • timb says:

              So, he saw combat on the front lines and never shot a weapon? I never said he hit anyone; I said he shot at people.

              You’re lucky I love you, as this is exactly the sort of pedantic answer to an obvious joke that irritates me about this place. But, since you are (I imagine), a better lawyer, a more knowledgeable commenter, and a better writer than I am, I am going to forego my usual annoyed whining…

              Oh, hold it, I failed at not whining. Still, point made.

              • rea says:

                He was an officer–back then, officers didn’t do much shooting themselves.
                (And I certainly don’t claim to be a better lawyer, commentor or writer than you).

              • Bloix says:

                This took place in July 1864 at Ft Stevens, in the District of Columbia, which was attacked when Confederate cavalry under Gen Jubal Early attempted a lightning raid with the goal of burning the capital. Lincoln rode out to the fort and Holmes, a captain, was assigned to be his aide for the day. Early was turned back and retreated back through Maryland to the Shenandoah Valley.

                “The President stood on the ramparts of Fort Stevens, next to an officer who was wounded… Captain Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. allegedly shouted at the President: “Get down, you damn fool!” Before the President left the fort, he said good-bye to the future Supreme Court justice, adding, “I’m glad to see you know how to talk to a civilian.”

                http://www.mrlincolnswhitehouse.org/inside.asp?ID=127&subjectID=4

        • Sherm says:

          That’s Priest Holmes.

      • Sherm says:

        Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, and Matt Williams were teaching you more than Learned Hand, Ben Cardozo, and Oliver Wendell Holmes would have. I think that was a fine choice.

        Can the same be said for my decision to spend the latter part of my third year at Shea Stadium watching Dick Schofield, Bobby Bonilla, Bill Pecota (included here in honor of Nate Silver), Daryl Boston, Sid Fernandez, and Anthony Young?

  11. TGP says:

    #1 and #3 are far and away the most important reasons 3L is a waste of time and money. I tried to stock my 3L with as many skills courses as I could along with classes where the final would be a written paper. That gave me the best ratio of work to sorta valuable classes.

    My school actually tried to remove the number of skills and clinical and other real world classes offered by the school. Apparently they realized that students would rather take those than their ridiculous take on civil rights law where the market would have eventually solved the problem.

  12. Rick Santorum's Leaky Faucet says:

    I’m in 2LOL. I realized that my best 1L grade, ironically, came in the class I slept through the most and didn’t make my own outline for. Add in journal and clinic, and class is an afterthought.

  13. rea says:

    I dutifully attended all my third year classes, at least most of the time, but now, looking back (class of ’78), I can’t remember them–not even the subject of the courses. I must have taken something during my third year, right?

    • Murc says:

      This seems perfectly normal to me.

      I’m about a quarter-century younger than you, and at this point I basically don’t remember what I learned in grade school or how my day was structured. I was clearly learning SOMETHING in K-6, because I know how to read and write and add and suchly, but damned if I can remember where/when/how I picked such things up.

  14. Anonymous says:

    As someone who has been through graduate school in one of the natural sciences, Law School just sounds terrible!

  15. Frankly says:

    anyone care to enlighten a shlub who’s only knowledge of law school consists of watching “The Paper Chase” (entertaining movie BTW, no idea how representative of law school) – what gets covered in year 3? Are all law school curriculum the same?

    Having been a a half dozen juries I would suggest a couple of classes in public speaking (perhaps some acting classes wouldn’t hurt) and a lot of time spent on how to organize and present a case. Swear to pasta I could do a better job then a couple of the guys I have seen.

    • Karate Bearfighter says:

      3L is pretty much self-directed. Your entire 1L courseload is required classes, and there are a few requirements you’ll still have to fill as a 2L. As a 3L you can either take classes dealing with specialized areas of law, (i.e., Bankruptcy, Tax, Elder Law,) or you can take esoteric classes (Game Theory and the Law, The History of Roman Law, etc.)

  16. LeeEsq says:

    This wasn’t anything like my third year of law school at all. And I went to one of the law school’s specifically targeted by Campos in previous threads. At least in my law school, there was a minimal attendance and hundreds of pages of assigned reading plus finals.

  17. Pamoya says:

    During my second and third years (I graduated in 2011), I was busy doing legal work. This was far more valuable for me than any of my classes, both for learning the law and for improving my job prospects with having a good resume and good references. Because I was often busy finishing work assignments, I skipped class about 1/3 of the time. In three of my classes, even though I did just fine on final exams, my grades were reduced for missing classes.

    I found this incredibly annoying. I am an adult and I understand perfectly the distinction between work and school. I am very capable of getting myself to work every day. I simply made a strategic decision in the current cutthroat environment for legal jobs that my time was better spent working. I think it is a shame that the school and the ABA, both responsible in part for the horrible job environment, thought I should be penalized for that.

    I still think I made the right choice; the reduced grades made little difference in my job prospects.

    • BoredJD says:

      I second this. Although I attended maybe 30% of my classes, I had perfect attendance at my internships and pulled all nighters to turn in assignments at my jobs. I have no regret for failing to participate in another year of “learning to think like a lawyer” when I was spending that time learning to be a lawyer.

  18. Lurker says:

    But is it a good idea to require upper level undergrads at research universities to show up for class[?]

    Where I come from, Finland, mandatory attendance is a thing that vocational schools and polytechics do. In my alma mater, only laboratory courses had mandatory attendance. For all other courses, only the exam was required. (In a few cases, the lecturer also required mandatory exercises.) It was taken for granted that any student would have, simultaneously, on-going lectures and exercise sessions of several courses, so learning to prioritize was part of the experience. In addition, the freedom not to attend is considered in Finland to be part of the essence of academic freedom.

    I well remember my freshman honours mathematics course: This course can be passed by exam only. If any of you believes to be the reincarnation of Euler, feel free to try. The rest should attend regularly and do the homework.

  19. JS says:

    The idea of taking attendance in grad school (in the humanities at least, which is my background) is frankly hilarious to me. I would hope it’s obvious enough why.

    With regard to upper level undergrad courses, I’m not sure. My natural instinct is to think, no, there isn’t or shouldn’t be any need to take attendance. But I think it can actually help, simply because an enforced attendance policy can and often does motivate students to show up to class, and they often do better if they do show up to class (most of them anyway). I should say that what I have in mind here is philosophy, because that’s what I teach. In an upper level course, the readings can be quite hard, even for smart and motivated students. So showing up to class can be rather helpful. Obviously, other disciplines might be different.

    • spencer says:

      The idea of taking attendance in grad school (in the humanities at least, which is my background) is frankly hilarious to me.

      When I was in grad school, it was completely unnecessary. Classes were small enough that it was noticed whenever someone wasn’t there. Nobody wanted the reputation of an academic lightweight.

      The more I read about people’s experience in law school, the harder time I have in relating it to my own graduate school experience. They just seem so different as to be nearly un-comparable.

  20. CJColucci says:

    I have occasionally had a nightmare in which I found myself registering for a fourth year of law school. I was scrambling around for worthwhile courses to take. One consistent theme was that, when I went to law school, my school offered Admiralty only in even-numbered years and my nightmare fourth year was an odd year, as it would have been in real life. So I couldn’t take Admiralty and had even fewer options to fill out my dance card.
    I’ve actually had two admiralty cases in 30 years, so it would have been useful.

  21. Kalil says:

    The Coast Guard requires that STCW certified courses in license programs for mariners have (near-)perfect attendance. The faculty at my school were very keen on that requirement. The administration, on the other hand, outright refused to back up faculty attempts to boot students who violated it.

    THere were a couple of factors here. First and foremost, my academy’s performance as a CSU institution was graded in large part based on our 4-year graduation rate. In a curriculum where failing a course would invariably set you back a full year, there were very strong incentives for the school not to ever fail kids. Second, many (most?) of the worst offenders were the kids of very wealthy donors, and thus were untouchable. A kid named ‘Hawke’ made it through four years of engineering curriculum while completely unable to do basic algebra. Not coincidentally, my automation classes were taught in the Hawke Family Classroom.

    It’s utterly terrifying to me. A bad lawyer can do grave disservice to the legal system (or, more likely, can find himself pretty much unemployable). A bad mariner, on the other hand, can, on his very first day, get people killed and cause massive financial and ecological damage. One of our grads, on his very first day on the job, steered a ferry full of passengers into the only rock in 5 miles. Fortunately, no one was killed, but the ferry sunk, and with it that company that operated it. That should have been a wakeup call to the school administration. It was not.

    The fundamental problem is that school administrators do not consider producing productive citizens a significant priority. In my observation, #1 is money, #2 is athletics, #3 is ‘prestige’, #4 is research (mostly due to #1). Academics barely register, and graduating educated and useful students is completely irrelevant.

  22. mch says:

    I apologize for not reading all the comments here and just plunging in to respond to the post.

    My daughter graduated from law school last June. In both 2L and especially 3L she spent much of her time in clinic work, as did many of her classmates. (Law review is another matter, time-consuming but valuable experience for them’s that gets it.) Maybe it’s just a function of her progressive law school, but that clinic work became her most important law school experience. She couldn’t possibly attend half her classes in 3L, since she was meeting clients or standing in line at 100 Centre Street, to submit some motion or other, half the time. (Even got to cross-examine NYC police detectives — quite an education.) Still, her standard courses and course work gave her something of value, however little the time she had to devote to them.

    Apprenticeship and clinics (whether or not other courses are required in 3L): is that the way to go, rather than railing against any 3 at all? I’m thinking Jonathan Lippman’s proposals (soon to be, if not already, requirements in the state of NY). Would appreciate hearing more from Paul Campos on this approach to not just some 3L problem but to the larger questions of how to educate lawyers.

    • Sherm says:

      Yes to more clinics, workshops, legal writing seminars, moot court programs and trial technique classes in lieu of bullshit 3L classes. No to Lippman’s proposals — ridiculous added burden on young lawyers to provide services which will be of little, if any, value to the public.

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