What Makes a Good 1L Law Exam Answer

Orin Kerr has done 1Ls around the country a great service by writing a very clear guide to distinguishing between Bad Answers, Good Answers, and Terrific Answers to 1L exams.

While the principles also have considerable applicability to more advanced courses, I think that we professors legitimately expect all this and more from 2Ls and 3Ls, including more complex issue-spotting, coping with more complex and contradictory rules, and taking account of various sorts of policy considerations (when relevant), to name just three. Actually, might we hope for some of those in the terrific 1L answers too? I should admit here that it's been far too long since I actually taught first years, and for some to-me-incomprehensible reason the day students (but, it must be said, not the students in our since-dismantled night program) said I was too scary….

Update: on the subject of exams, Paul Ohm has a thoughtful post about achieving fair grading in a common grading situation. (Personally, I grade each question separately and average them, but that's not without issues.)

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3 Responses to What Makes a Good 1L Law Exam Answer

  1. chairman_mao says:

    Why aren’t you plugging Fischl’s book in this posting? Should we be reading anything into the fact you didn’t mention it?

  2. Michael says:

    Well, given that I plugged it two weeks ago, all you can read into that is that since he doesn’t pay me a commission, I don’t have to mention it EVERY time….

  3. What grade would Alberto Gonzalez get for his parsing of the habeas corpus section of the Constitution out of existence?

    This is not simply a sarcastic question. I was stunned at his reasoning, too feeble for a late-night bull session among sophomores, that just because the Constitution said it couldn’t be taken away, that didn’t mean there was such a thing, but only that it couldn’t be “taken away”.

    IANAL, but really . . .

    PS – I was also stunned that he wasn’t impeached on the spot.

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