Dazed and Confused

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:

Page 1 of 3 | Next page