Do Students Assume the Risk?

Above the Law posts the following hypothetical:

Something very strange is happening at the UNLV Boyd School of Law. One of the school’s professors has randomly gone missing, and she left before she turned in the students’ grades. In response, UNLV Law Dean John Valery White just decided to give all of the students a “pass.” Literally.

The Nevada law blog, Wild Wild Law, picks up the story and its impact on one UNLV Law Student:

Sally Student is a “rising 2L” at Boyd School of Law, a state-run facility located in the state of Nevada. Sally studied for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week during her 1L year, and put up with a variety of pointless hypotheticals posed to her by various professors.

Sally had good grades and was hopeful that she would obtain a position on Boyd’s “law review” so that she could obtain her dream job – corporate document review monkey at a large insurance defense firm.

But after getting a mere pass, “Sally Student” feels more like “Sexually Assualted Sandra.”

Sally reasonably expected to receive an “A” in Con Law. Now that she will be graded on a pass/fail basis, however, her class ranking, journal status, scholarship and job prospects are all likely to be affected. Sally has come to you seeking advice as to her rights and the possibility of filing suit against Boyd for losing her law professor.

I feel for Sally, I really do.  But how many times do law students have to be consoled that “law school grades are random” before we believe it?  I’m going into my third year of law school and I’ve seen all kinds of tests.  Some professors give fair, hard exams designed to tease out differentiated understanding.  On the other hand, one professor plagiarized his entire exam from the learning aids he advised us not to use.  There’s no question that the more time I spend poring over materials and law articles the worse I do on the exam.  When I read once and trust myself to understand what I think I’ve gleaned from the reading, I perform well overall.  All of this is conventional wisdom upperclassmen will give Sally Student when she starts school: trust yourself, do the reading, don’t over-think, review your notes.

More interesting for the Sally Student hypothetical is the pervasive trend against contract among legal professionals.  Schools change grading systems—and even the number of years required to obtain a JD—with little notice.  Deans leave to serve the government, schools slide up and down the rankings, and summer programs, job offers, and even firms come and go.

If Sally Student has a suit against her Con Law professor, where does that leave the rest of the profession?  Do the many attorneys who have survived the layoffs deserve to endure another round because the firm engages in contract litigation with former employees?  Contract law is obviously poised for evolution.  The Patent Office voided a number of promises to pay for employees’ legal education this year, well into many employees’ degrees.  For maybe the first time many people affected by contracts changed mid-race are lawyers—or about to be lawyers.

Will we renegotiate boilerplate?  Read more carefully?  Contract around course of dealing?  Interesting.


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