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Midterm postmortem

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 28, 2009 in NotFail

Given the lengthy class schedule on Wednesdays, blogging on law:/dev/null usually takes a back seat to reading for LRA, CivPro, Property and Torts — hence the birth of Tweet-sized Tuesdays.  But Property was canceled yesterday so the Traveling Professor could evaluate some of the lower-ranking faculty members, giving me an extra hour and 15 minutes to give y’all something more than 140 characters to read…

…which instead morphed into an opportunity to watch a L&O:SVU marathon instead of blogging :D  So you’re getting yesterday’s post today :beatup:

Since the last two midterm grades got returned to 1Ls on Monday, several of my former colleagues at NCSU and a couple fellow 1L blawgers wanted a quick rundown on how things went.

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TDOT’S STANDARDS OF GRADE REVIEW
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But before getting into those results, I figured I should clue y’all in on the 3 basic standards I’m using for evaluating my grades in law school — which in turn determine how much stress I’m willing to tolerate in getting future grades ;)

  • The Nan Standard: This is the highest standard, applied by a minority of jurisdictions — namely my grandparents. Nan & Pops remember that I actually used to be a good student back in elementary / middle / high school, so they expect nothing less than perfection in law school.  Getting a B is unacceptable when you could get an A — and getting an A is unacceptable when you could get an A+.
  • The Teachers-Who-Know-TDot Standard: This is the opposite of the Nan Standard, applied by the (predominantly Computer Science) faculty who helped push me across the undergraduate finish line. While a few may have convinced themselves I’m a good student, these folks are realists — they’re happy as long as my grades are high enough for me to graduate.
  • The TDot Standard: The TDot Standard is a hybrid applied by the only jurisdiction that matters (me). Setting C- as a minimum and striving for an A+, this is an expectations-based standard — any grade in between the floor and ceiling is acceptable, as long as I’m fairly certain my grade is going to be around that range when I leave a test ;)

So keeping these standards in mind, how did midterms turn out? The professors are happy, the grandparents aren’t, and despite performing marginally better than I expected I’m kicking myself for missing easy points.

On to the actual classes…

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LEGAL REASONING & ANALYSIS
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Even though we didn’t have an exam in LRA, I didn’t want you loyal readers to feel cheated by me leaving out any mention of the class I loathe the most. LRA is the single most-useless class offered at the N.C. Central University School of Law, in large measure because the grading is gratuitously arbitrary and the concepts taught are of minimal utility. Every single 2L and 3L I’ve talked to has said essentially the same thing — they hated LRA, it was their worst grade in 1L year, LRP will be much better next semester, etc.

At least I know I’ll be in good company, because my grades in LRA thus far are all over the map.  LRA grades aren’t exam-based; instead, 5 assignments worth 10% each occur at roughly 1.5 week intervals, and the remaining 50% is based on drafting a legal memorandum at the end of the semester. So I’ve gone from a B one week to a D the next, on assignments that aren’t so substantially different as to merit the huge grade swings.

Grades thus far: A-, B+, D, B-, D+
Current average: C+ (raw)

Synopsis: I’ve pretty much given up hope in this class, though crossing my fingers there will be a curve of some kind. I just want to get this legal memorandum assigned so I can finish it, wash my hands of this class, and focus on the other courses.

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CIVIL PROCEDURE I
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CivPro was the first midterm in the series, and the night before the test Madame Prosecutor was kind enough to smack me upside the head with the sheer breadth of stuff I still didn’t know.  Between arguing with her and going through flashcards with Q.T. for a couple hours, the post-exam expectations ranged from supreme confidence that I knocked it out of the park to abject horror that I failed.

Luckily the former expectation was more accurate. I was 7 for 7 on the multiple choice questions and did fairly well on the essay — an analysis of supplemental jurisdiction, pendant claims, and (what I thought was a minor point) a couple motions to dismiss. I lost a boatload of points for not distinguishing the types of motions (12(b)(1) on lack of subject matter jurisdiction versus a 12(b)(6) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted), which led to bleeding more points throughout the essay in various sections.  But I wasn’t alone: the class average was 4.3 out of 7 multiple choice questions, and 4.9 from 13 points on the essay.

Expected grade: B+
Actual grade: C (raw), A (curved)

Synopsis: I love this class. It’s not easy, but it’s cool and the debates about jurisdiction have been engaging. Hoping I can keep up for the last 5 weeks.

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CONTRACTS I
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Contracts is our only class on Thursdays, so naturally it was our only Thursday midterm. Although I’ve kept up with the readings and felt like I understood the material, I had a sinking feeling when I left that I botched the test. How did I know? We’re allowed to use our supplement containing the UCC on the midterm, and I spent far more time than I should have reading through it (to the point where I almost ran out of time on the essay).

My misgivings were right, but for the wrong reasons. Turns out I only got 7 of the 10 multiples — but the multiples I missed were the first 3 (aka the easiest ones). In reviewing them in class yesterday, I misread the answer I picked for Question #1… and the answer you provide on Q1 was the basis for the answers on Q2 and Q3. So I basically gave away 15 raw points for not paying enough attention.

Expected grade: C
Actual grade: C- (raw), B (curved)

Synopsis: Need to work harder here. I wouldn’t care as much if I had fumbled the harder multiple choice questions, but knowing I gave away the equivalent of a full letter grade on a totally incompetent mistake really frosts my Wheaties…

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TORTS I
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After CivPro, Torts is my 2nd favorite class so far. We had midterms here and in Property on the same day and there was a lot of material to study, but Torts seems particularly well-suited to studying via flashcards (intentional torts, elements, defenses, etc).

Percentage and trendline of Torts midterm grades

Percentage and trendline of Torts midterm grades

I knew this stuff backwards and forwards.

But then I made a rookie mistake of not watching the clock during the midterm, running out of time before I touched 2/3 of the essay (which was worth 50% of the grade)… and that 2/3 happened to have more points per element than the 1/3 I covered.

Sure enough, this was by far my most dismal grade and the overwhelming bulk of points lost were on the essay. I consider it a blessing that Professor Torts gave me the grade she did.

Expected grade: D-
Actual grade: C+ (multiples raw + essay curved)

Synopsis: The clock is my enemy in this class. Hopefully with the 3 hours we’re given for the final everything will be fine.

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PROPERTY I
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This was our last midterm for the week, and we were given a last-minute surprise — no multiple choice questions. Turns out a professor in another section had accidentally posted the exam multiples on TWEN instead of the set of practice multiples they intended, so to keep things fair 100% of the midterm grade was on the essay results.

And it just so happened the essay topic was on adverse possession, the one area I had studied incessantly to make sure I got it right. After leaving the midterm I knew I had destroyed it so thoroughly that I was worried the essay would file suit for conversion :D

I snagged the A that I wanted, and was given the unexpected bonus of having one of the top 3 “model” responses in the section. w00t.

Expected grade: A
Actual grade: A (and in Top 3)

Synopsis: If I can keep track of all the defeasible estates terminology we’re going through now, I should be able to totally dominate the final.

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Current GPA so far through midterms: 3.07

About 5 weeks to go until finals, and a lot more work to do until then. We’ll see how it goes :)

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