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“Be Yourself On Law School Exams?” Nah.

Trying to ‘game the system’ by tailoring your law school exam answers to the professor’s world view?  Paul Horowitz finds this counterproductive at his blog PrawfsBlawg, but I think the issue is more complex than his analysis suggests.

To the extent the strategy is forced and clumsy (that is, for example, simply mirroring the professor’s politics and world view), he has a great point.  On the other hand, keying your answers to the language and intellectual strategies of individual professors is very productive.  It’s a key element of The Law School Mastery Method and it is not a difficult skill to master, and as attorney Scott H. Greenfield writes in his blog post excerpted below, it is a very useful and essential skillset to have when you actually practice law in the future.

Mr Greenfield is right.  Here’s some excellent analysis and good advice at the Simple Justice blog.  Please visit and read his entire post: it’s very informative and wise.

How To Succeed In Law School. Maybe
by Scott H. Greenfield

Paul Horowitz, with whom I rarely disagree, urges law students to be themselves rather than “package” themselves to appeal to individual professors, in this post at PrawfsBlawg. In other words, don’t try to game the system.

A little of this advice is useful to some extent: if your professor says, for instance, that she wants you to cover all the issues on an exam rather than delve into a few at great detail, you’d do well to listen. But students who think this approach is the best or most efficient way to yield good grades are, I think, quite mistaken. This approach yields few long-term benefits and only uncertain short-term benefits.

These students are not trying to suit the preferences of Professor X or Professor Y; they are simply trying to be good lawyers (or at least good law students). They develop a skill set that gets them far better results, and with less duplication of effort, than if they had tried to game the system by figuring out each individual professor’s pecadilloes.

While this advice would meet with Pollyanna’s approval, and the suggestion that students would do better to strive to learn how to be a “good lawyer,” it reflects one of the fundamental errors of legal pedagogy as opposed to practical efficacy. Good lawyers win cases. Good lawyers figure out what they have to do to win cases. Good lawyers, amongst other things, learn about their judge, find out what arguments appeal to the specific individual who will be making decisions in their case, and hone their arguments to suit the person in the robe.


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