Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Law Professor Creativity in Law School Exams
This post over at the Volokh Conspiracy brought back memories, good and bad, about law professors' efforts to be clever in drafting their exams. To some degree, a clever hypothetical can interject a small dose of comic relief into an intense examination process. At the same time, it isn't particularly creative to set the hypothetical in the "State of Grace", "State of Ignorance" or "State of Anxiety". At least to me, such obvious jokes aren't particularly impressive, and aren't likely to help with a law student's State of Mind.
I had one professor who, well, was a lunkhead. He did use one of the obvious "State of" jokes for the context of his hypothetical, but then gave all of the various actors in the hypothetical meaningless, generic and extraordinarily similar names along the lines of the "Mr. Smith of the ABC Company," and "Mr. Jones of the CBA Corporation". The professor's personality left me with little doubt that he was looking for a "gotcha" - that he was less interested in grading the students on what they knew than downgrading them, for example, for mistakenly referencing the "ABC Corporation".
I don't mind the fact that law professors have the time to be creative in writing their examinations, as long as the time they spend being clever doesn't take away from their writing a clear, fair exam. But I am curious as to whether this type of exam-drafting creativity is commonly seen in any other graduate school context.