Legal Law

Your Compassionate Last Examination

It’s time to turn our attention the professors that are seeking jobs as future Bar Examiners.

As a student, I was the subject of some of these draconian measures. If you are late, don’t bother showing up. No, you don’t get a restroom break for a four-hour class. Yes, I will stare you down if you walk out.  

As a coauthor of mine tweeted about how her crim law professor would not let students use the restroom, the airing of grievances followed. And I have to say those measures don’t put some profs in a good light. You can’t go to the restroom during class! Judges won’t let you pee. You have to just hold it. Suck it up if you want to be a good lawyer. This isn’t me power tripping at all!

Yeah, that’s pretty horrific. But the exams are worse. Far worse.

Some professors are giving short, timed exams while watching their students to assure that they don’t cheat. That means a LOT can go wrong for some students. The shorter the time window, the greater the chances of problems.  Broader and larger windows (more time to work, more flexibility in the time taking the exam) go a long way to mitigate problems. But even that doesn’t eliminate some of the challenges of taking exams in a pandemic.

Some students do not have spaces in which to work, concentrate or think.  They live with parents, family, and roommates. They may not have access to reliable internet. But yeah, you watch the zoom, prof.

Schools are closing for the Thanksgiving break and afterward in anticipation of a (now certain) COVID-19 spike. Great! But, where does one take that incredibly short term final with certain internet? How does one find child care for those definitive three hours? See Law Students In the Age of Coronavirus. It’s not like these problems haven’t been foreseen for a long while. Amazing that there are still discussions about what a final should look like right now.

But, it gets better. Some professors will be engaged in REAL-TIME EXAM MONITORING! You know, the Bar Exam with all those problems. Let’s just ignore that many law schools have honor codes, which the law schools expect will assure that people will honest. Hey, can they use the restroom? What if you see them talking online? Looking down? Answering the door? What about people with anxiety disorders? Have you cleared this with general counsel?  Are some students afraid to apply for ADA exceptions? Which students are more likely to be flagged for honor code violations? Does your law school even keep such data?

I have deep concerns about all of this. And it’s funny because I wonder how many of these same professors were screaming bloody murder about the bar exam procedures. Okay, no. It’s not funny. It’s f*cked up.

I’m a little tired of hearing stories about students suffering the crushing blows of this year, only to be met by professors saying things like: Sorry. Suck it up. You should have talked to me. Sure, I would show you nothing but contempt, but now you don’t pass the class. There are too many of those stories. Pull yourself up by those bootstraps like I did. It’s amazing how short-sighted this line of thought is. It’s amazing how so much more concerned some professors are about cheating than about the mental health of their students. And it’s amazing how much more concerned some professors are about students giving those professors godlike powers over their damned lives than the professors are about the lives of the students.

I really hope you didn’t do all that while signing any “the Bar Exam is evil” letters or letters involving delayed tenure standards acknowledging dramatic changes to people’s lives due to COVID-19.

If you haven’t thought about these considerations before, now is the time. If you’re already practicing compassion with your final exams, great. If you’re doing something more draconian, I have to ask why. What is the gain to be achieved? And against what harm? If this is just about recycling exams, I’m going to be disappointed.

LawProfBlawg is an anonymous professor at a top 100 law school. You can see more of his musings here. He is way funnier on social media, he claims. Please follow him on Twitter (@lawprofblawg) or Facebook. Email him at lawprofblawg@gmail.com.

Related Articles