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Advice for 1Ls: What If You Don't Know the Answer?:
Many first-year law students worry about being called on in class. What might happen if the professor asks a question that the student just can't answer? Here are a few thoughts on what to do, depending on the nature of the question.

  1) Reciting the case. Sometimes a professor asks a question about the facts or the analysis in the case. They're trying to get students to identify and wrestle with the key parts of the opinion, and they're asking the student to remember what the opinion said. As a student, sometimes you just can't answer: You read the case earlier on, but you don't remember the part your professor has in mind.

  What to do? If you really don't know the answer, I think you should just say so. You might say, "I don't recall that from the opinion" or just "I don't remember that." The alternative is to pretend that you know the answer. You could just guess, or you could start scanning the opinion in the unlikely chance you'll see the point in a second or two. But these alternatives usually don't work. If you guess incorrectly you'll probably look a bit silly, and everyone can tell when a student is staring at the page for a long time. Just be straightfoward and acknowledge politely that you don't know the answer.

  2) Applying the rule. Sometimes a professor will ask students how a legal rule would apply to a hypothetical case. You know the rule and you understand the facts, but you're just not sure how the facts would apply.

  What to do? I think you should explain your uncertainty. To the extent you can, articulate why you're unsure. You might say, "I'm not exactly sure how the rule would apply. On one hand, it seems that the rule would apply like this [fill in details]. But on the other hand, there's a detail that seems to point the other way because [fill in details]." Articulating why a hypothetical is hard is a really essential skill: It's the same skill you'll need to show on an exam to get a high grade.

  3) Normative questions. Sometimes a professor will ask a student to take a position about what is the best rule. As a student, you might be unsure of what is the best rule. You'll have instincts about which rule you like, but you're just not confident that your instincts are sound.

  What to do? Different people will have different advice here, but I think the best approach is to just pick a position and run with it. When a professor asks a normative question, the goal is to engage in a discussion of the pros and cons of different legal rules. The questioning should bring out those pros and cons, and a student needs to take a position for the process to begin. Sure, it may happen that the questioning reveals a problem with the initial choice: Upon seeing the drawbacks to your position more clearly, you may want to change your mind. But that's a good thing, not a bad one. It means that you're learning how to think through the consequences of different rules. Further, no one should be embarrassed by changing their mind after expressing a normative view. While a student may feel embarrassed to not know the facts, as it suggests lack of proper preparation, there is no shame in learning.

  Anyway, those are my two cents. I trust readers will chime in if they disagree.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Advice for Entering Law Students:
  2. Advice for 1Ls: What If You Don't Know the Answer?:
Waldensian (mail):
This differs somewhat from the proper strategy when questioned by a judge in open court: pretend you know the answer, answer with confidence that conceals your ignorance, and then fake a heart attack if necessary.
8.26.2008 11:31pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
Rather than a productive answer, I will give my favorite law school story. People have sworn to me that they were in the room.

At a school famous for the Socratic method a particular civil procedure professor was known for being particularly Socratic and egotistical and VERY intolerant of students who did not prepare. Once day he called on a young woman sitting near the back.

She burst into tears. Weeping, she explained that the night before she had left her backpack with her books and notes and etc. on the train, and had not been able to prepare, and she was soooo sorry, and she ALWAYS prepared, and this would never happen again, and she felt terrible.

The professor stared at her for a very long and uncomfortable time. Finally he shook his head and moved on to the young man sitting next to her, who was sitting with his head in his hands. The professor repeated the question to the young man, who responded, "Whoah, I was on the same train."

Everyone laughed. Everyone except the professor. He stormed out. (Which he was known to do on occasion.)
8.26.2008 11:39pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

everyone can tell when a student is staring at the page for a long time

Presumably the geekier students make use of eyeglasses with a heads-up display.
8.26.2008 11:40pm
Glen R. Graham (mail) (www):
Get passionate about the law. You are dealing with life and death issues. You are dealing with people's freedom. Sometimes, their ability to make a living or survive. You can go ahead and being preparing for arguments you may use in your future cases. Read some of the past US Supreme Court decisions which have been over-turned. Dred Scott (upholding fugitive slavery laws even though juries routinely refused to enforce them). Plessy v. Ferguson (upholding discrimination with "separate but equal" facilities in rail road passenger cars). Korematsu (upholding Japanese internment camps - many years later restitution and apologies). Don't you see it. People pretend that the law is set in concrete and that we all know what the law is. The law is subject to change. Just because the majority of judge's at a particular point in time, think something should be the law, doesn't mean it will always be the law. The majority can be wrong. Learn to be right, whether the majority agrees with you or not. Write the most knowledgeable opinion and use the best reasoning and sooner or later, if you are right, people are going to cite your brilliant opinion and someday your opinion will be the law.
Learn to be an independent thinker. Don't be afraid to be abused. Use that abuse to become knowledgeable about the law. Your text book is just the starting point. Get online and research the issue independently. Even college professors can be wrong. You don't have to make a straight "A" to become successful. Get passionate about the law. Care.
Yours in the Defense of Fellow Human Beings,
Glen R. Graham, Attorney at Law, Tulsa Criminal Defense Lawyer, Tulsa, Oklahoma (Yeah, I blog too.)
8.27.2008 12:13am
OrinKerr:
Ex-Fed,

ARM always stormed out once a year, if I recall correctly.
8.27.2008 12:14am
Curt Fischer:
On number 3, really? I don't see what would be wrong with following the approach to #2 with #3 as well. If a student truly has no normative preferences, what's wrong with saying so? Of course, if someone has even a weak preference for one form of rule vs. another, it would make sense to articulate those leanings. But if someone really has no preference, I don't see why they should make something up.
8.27.2008 12:16am
OrinKerr:
Curt,

In my experience, students usually have some sense of which rule seems better: they're just hesitant to say so, for fear that their instincts are not sound. Maybe I should clarify that in the post?

Also, if a student really has no normative preferences, I suspect most profs will just assign them to a side.
8.27.2008 12:20am
PhanTom:
Having graded the essay portion of the bar exam in the past, I can attest that #2 is an important skill. More often than not, on the bar, we're not looking for the "right" answer (though that helps). We're looking for an analysis of the issues.

Writing a bar exam essay is easy. Identify every issue you can locate. If you have a choice between two different issues and you don't know which is correct, give both (e.g., A court could find that the defendant's confession was voluntary, based on facts x, y, z, on the other hand, it could find that it was coerced, based on facts a, b, c). Then, apply the facts the issues. Then, come to a conclusion.

--PtM
8.27.2008 12:33am
Reinhold (mail):
Just get through it. Don't spend time thinking about what to say. Professor Kerr is right: say you don't know or look for it in the case. It doesn't matter either way. The "Socratic Method" is a useless exercise. I'm shocked professors still use it. Of course, many, such as Brian Leiter, don't. Though it seems important your 1L year, your answer when called on will have no effect on your life. What will be helpful, however, is learning how to respond to judges with well-reasoned answers in your 1L moot-court competition, since that's what you'll be doing as a lawyer. Even that, though, is largely irrelevant to anything you'll be doing in the future, as Judge Kozinski argued in a law-review article, though it will probably give you confidence in homing in on the relevant parts of a case.
8.27.2008 12:39am
PLR:
I think point #3 is right on. I really don't recall many students who were so confident of their command of both sides of an issue that they were truly able to be indifferent normatively.

What I recall far more vividly is the student so convinced of the rightness of an arguable position that he or she would condescend to the rest of the class. One particularly noxious New Yawker would start her comment with "I'd like to remind my fellow colleagues that...", followed by some recitation of a rule or precedent that was barely relevant and certainly not dispositive.

No, she's not on the federal bench now, thankfully.
8.27.2008 12:41am
loki13 (mail):
OK,

I disagree with the a priori assumption of your post.

Everyone knows that 1Ls already have all the answers, so your advice isn't needed.
8.27.2008 12:51am
Tony Tutins (mail):

pretend you know the answer

This is by far the best strategy. Better to be considered wrong than to appear uncertain. Be persuasive; argue for your position.

The law does not make allowances for learners.
8.27.2008 12:57am
OrinKerr:
FWIW, I have fiddled with the post a bit in response to some comments.
8.27.2008 2:24am
NickM (mail) (www):
There's another trick that allows students to read the case to try to find the answer: Ask the professor your own question about something the class has covered that day.

Nick
8.27.2008 5:15am
BC (mail):
Here's a novel concept: If you don't know, admit it and take the consequences. Wasting your professor's and classmates' time blubbering incoherently is not a good answer.

Professor, do you think this might have something to do with your inability to keep students' attention in class without instituting draconian rules?
8.27.2008 6:06am
LoafingOaf (mail):
"Here's a novel concept: If you don't know, admit it and take the consequences. Wasting your professor's and classmates' time blubbering incoherently is not a good answer."

It depends on the class and the professor. My IL contracts professor was pretty hardcore about someone seeming unprepared. If you admitted you were unprepared, you had to call on another student to be your "lawyer" and answer for you, and if it happened a second time you would not be allowed to sit for the exam. And, after the first time you were caught unprepared, you also had the consequence that he would pick on you virtually every class for the foreseeable future. You also had the added problem that he made us stand up when called on, making it rather hard to skim thru notes or the casebook while being questioned. The one generous thing he did, however, was to allow us once each semester to tell him before class that you were unable to read the assignment and he'd give you a pass from being called on that day.

So, if you have one of these old school law profs, never ever admit you aren't prepared. It's okay to be confused. Heck, in your first semester of law school you're stilling learning how to read and brief cases properly, so the main thing is to just not be someone who doesn't know a damn thing about the case you're being questioned about. When I was in that contracts class on days I wasn't prepared, I made sure I at least was skimming a commercial casenotes brief of the next case we were gonna discuss in case I was called on next. That would give me enough to bluff my way through it without being accused of being unprepared. I didn't feel guilty about this because I thought this professor took his rules too far.
8.27.2008 6:38am
LoafingOaf (mail):
I guess the main advice I'd give to a 1L is that what's bad in class is to be called on and to have not the faintest idea of what the case is about. Then it's just embarassing for yourself and everyone else watching you, and you're wasting everyone's time. The main thing is that, even if you're confused, you give the prof something to work with. You read the materials in good faith, and you can talk about it with the professor. So, as long as you read the materials, relax - the prof will be able to tell you read the materials and can work with you even if you're confused. 1L's put a lot more stress on themselves than they need to. Yes, you have to work harder for each class than you ever had to work for for any class in your life, and you will think you'll never be able to keep up with that. But you will if you try, and then you'll discover that law school ain't rocket science. And you don't have to be an expert when you're called on. You're not actually graded till the exam, and even then there's a curve.
8.27.2008 7:15am
Modus Ponens:
I've always thought that the best response when one doesn't know the answer is "I don't know."

That said, a significant number of my professors back in law school seemed to take umbrage at this statement on the few occasions I saw fit to use it. I was left thinking that the professor would have almost preferred that I'd rummaged through my notes loudly, and stumble through a vain attempt to cough up a "legal-sounding" answer as does the majority of students.
8.27.2008 7:21am
AnneS:
Tony - No allowance for learners? Not even for students? Knowledgeable about the law is what you're supposed to be going out, not going in.

Admit you don't know, aren't sure, or are confused. You might actually learn something in the class you're paying to attend, which might prevent you from facing the same situation in front of a judge 10 years hence.
8.27.2008 8:32am
NatSecLawGuy:
Absolutely answer normative questions. My biggest pet peeve in law school is when a normative question is posed and the student answers, "I just don't have an opinion on that." Most of the time this response is given to a rather vexing question (e.g. abortion). However, you mean to tell me you expect to be a lawyer answering and taking on the vexing issues by starting out with "I just don't have an opinion on that."

Lawyers are paid to have, or more appropriately create for their clients, legal opinions on controversial issues. Start now taking a position, so when you are paid to take one you can do so competently.

**Caveat: I suppose this doesn't apply to the student who wants to document review for the rest of their career. But, who goes to law school for that?
8.27.2008 9:03am
Wallace:
Best way not to be caught unprepared is to use pre-emptive strikes. Raise your hand for easy questions that you know the answer to and the professor won't call on you at random.
8.27.2008 9:30am
Reinhold (mail):
Oddly, a lot of commenters are talking about "wasting time." The whole process of calling on students wastes time. I always zoned out in law school when someone got called on. The student isn't going to reveal anything that's important for the exam. Professors would get through a lot more material if they didn't force students to stumble through cases every class.
8.27.2008 9:40am
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
The alternative is to pretend that you know the answer. You could just guess, or you could start scanning the opinion in the unlikely chance you'll see the point in a second or two. But these alternatives usually don't work. If you guess incorrectly you'll probably look a bit silly,

When you pretend you have the answer, I suggest doing it in a very assertive but affected Jim Carey like voice.
8.27.2008 9:58am
A.C.:
The best solution is just to be prepared, at least often enough that the professor isn't going to ambush you the other days. Wallace has the right idea, but it also applies to hard questions on your good days. When you are on top of things, wade into the discussion and enjoy the process. When you have a paper due in six hours and are running on three hours' sleep and caffeine, you don't want to be the person the professor calls on because you haven't spoken up in a while.
8.27.2008 10:13am
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
My favorite word on those days was "pass."
8.27.2008 10:26am
A.C.:
Go there if you have to, but better to avoid the need if you can.
8.27.2008 10:37am
tarheel:
The modern answer -- wait for a better-prepared friend to IM you the answer. (only half-kidding, btw.)
8.27.2008 10:40am
ASlyJD (mail):
I came to law school after teaching at an inner city high school. There, not being able able to answer a student's question was death to a 23 year old's credibility. Thus, I was very prepared!

In law school, I normally take the preventative "Speak up to answer the questions you want to answer" tactic. However, I always keep in mind that no matter how wrong I am, the prof is never going to get in my face and scream "F*** you!" If I give the wrong answer, the prof will tell me so, and now I know the right answer.

So, to 1Ls, my advice is simple: Be prepared in your materials, be confident in your answers, and be willing to accept the frequent correction you will get.
(Also, don't be the person who hijacks every class with personal anecdotes or bombastic political statements.)
8.27.2008 10:49am
Happyshooter:
Our contracts professor, who was a master of the SM, had a really nasty habit of when a student locked up, jumping to the student next to them.

The woman I sat next to was a very shy asian girl who did well on facts and rules questions, if being somewhat quiet, but would lock up 100% when asked an opinion or 'what if' question.

We were on the DC unconscionability case (DC resident rents a bunch of stuff over the years from rent to own, everytime she rents a new thing they reduce the payment on the other stuff to one cent so nothing is ever paid off, she misses a few payments and they clean her home out, that makes the court sad so they give her the stuff back).

The seatmate did a good job on the law and facts, prof asks her "If you were the attorney for the rent to own what would you do?" She locks like a stuck computer, he jumps to me.

I am a former MP in the army, former enlisted Marine, I have a pretty good idea what to ask and at the time lacked the social sense to not say it. "Well, lady, when your momma and grandmamma and all your aunites got all their stuff taken when they missed payments...didn't you know the deal?"

He never called on me again in the class.

As far as advice, just fess up. "I missed that in the case." A screamer or bully is going to do what they do anyway so just get it over with, and a normal prof is going to crutch you up or move on.

Don't ever take an insult, however. If a bully asks if you are stupid or something like that, just tell them you will not be talked to in that way and back it up by walking out if they persist. The U has a whole system devoted to hate speech, in the end they will back you up on a real insult and make the bully back down-- assuming the bully does not get off you on their own.
8.27.2008 11:11am
Stevethepatentguy (mail) (www):
One L's take heed:


Best way not to be caught unprepared is to use preemptive strikes. Raise your hand for easy questions that you know the answer to and the professor won't call on you at random.


Another good strategy is to jump in on a question after someone else does the heavy lifting on facts and law. After another student chooses one of two good options argue the other good option, it's not hard the law and facts are already out there. Also, if you can't prepare the case at least skim the keynotes so you don't blither.

Research your prof's before you sign up for classes. This doesn't work for 1L's but why would any 2L or 3L take a class from LoafingOaf's "[if unprepared] a second time you would not be allowed to sit for the exam" Prof? At my law school we had a very well respected evidence professor who wrote his text book and had this attitude. All of the other evidence classes were packed and his was half full of folks who couldn't get into the other prof's class.
8.27.2008 12:21pm
PLR:
My favorite word on those days was "pass."

Hey, I remember you!
8.27.2008 12:33pm
theobromophile (www):
<blockquote>Best way not to be caught unprepared is to use pre-emptive strikes. Raise your hand for easy questions that you know the answer to and the professor won't call on you at random.</blockquote>
And sit in the front row. I swear that I had at least two professors who never called on me because they worked back-to-front (roughly) when calling on students. (I also answered questions that were fielded to the whole class, so that may have helped, too.)

If you're sitting in the back, you can whisper the answer to your unprepared next-seat-neighbour. "Third paragraph of the dissent." Extra points if you can do it without moving your lips.

To be more serious: if you don't know the answer, try to reason through it and explain why both options are appealing. "On one hand, the rule from the case is X; however, the principle, which also applies, Y states Z." Without fail, the professor will give a straight-up answer afterwards.
8.27.2008 12:56pm
pluribus:
AnneS:

Knowledgeable about the law is what you're supposed to be going out, not going in.

I thought so, but on the first day, in the first class, of my first year, the first question was: "What was the fatal error in the reasoning of Justice Holmes in his opinion in _______ v. _______?" I had no idea going in that there was a fatal error in any opinion of Justice Holmes and was totally unprepared to identify it. I was shocked to realize that the professor expected us to second guess an eminent jurist on our first day, and grateful I wasn't called on to supply the answer.
8.27.2008 12:58pm
Curt Fiscer:

I thought so, but on the first day, in the first class, of my first year, the first question was: "What was the fatal error in the reasoning of Justice Holmes in his opinion in _______ v. _______?"


Let me note again that these types of questions do not really have a place in the "Socratic Method", at least as most outside law-school circles seem to understand the term. Inside lawyer circles like here at the VC, the "Socratic Method" seems be synonymous with "asking questions". Not sure how this came to be. Maybe lazy professors wanted to make stalling for time and/or making students do the work seem like a pedagogical method?
8.27.2008 1:24pm
OrinKerr:
When you pretend you have the answer, I suggest doing it in a very assertive but affected Jim Carey like voice.

I would prefer a recreation of Spies Like Us.
8.27.2008 1:27pm
Tom Jones:
Another good way to avoid getting called on is to change your name to something hard to pronounce. For instance, in my trademarks class, there were about 8 American students with typical American names and about 35 Asian students with difficult-to-pronounce Asian names. The Americans got called on almost every day, and each of the Asian students probably got called on only once or twice during the semester.

None of my other professors were quite so blatant about it, but I did notice this general trend in some other classes.
8.27.2008 1:36pm
DiverDan (mail):

Further, no one should be embarrassed by changing their mind after expressing a normative view.


No one EXCEPT a Politician. Every Time I hear some idiot pundit or opposing politician accuse someone of engaging in a "flip-flop" on a policy issue, I remember the old quote (I can't recall the source - was it W. Somerset Maugham?) "When I discover that I was mistaken, I change my mind - why, what do you do?" That having been said, this is good advice; it's silly to think that a One-L Student's initial thoughts on what is the "right rule" ought to be fully formed. When you discover that you were mistaken, feel free to change your mind.
8.27.2008 1:44pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
I think I disagree about number 2. Once you have correctly identified a rule, it's OK to apply it to a hypothetical to which it applies. Typically, however, the professor will present a hypothetical which the rule does not answer. The professors I had then liked to run circles around the student for whichever answer they tried to defend. In that situation, I always found the best answer was to say that the rule didn't determine the outcome to the hypothetical case, and that it was a bit silly to try to pretend that it did. Of course, it was worthwhile to explain why the rule didn't solve the hypothetical.

On the third point, I would only answer one of these normative questions if I could make it clear that it was only my opinion, and in no way supposed to be a statement of the law. There were several professors who would try to catch students in this confusion.

And on the first point, telling the truth is always the best way. It's not worthwhile to try to lie to a professor. When you do the same before a judge, you are taking a much bigger risk. If you get caught, the judge will always, always remember that you are not credible. From my experience, a judge can perhaps forgive someone who is unprepared, but will not likely ever do the same for a lawyer who simply lies.
8.27.2008 1:49pm
Malvolio:
Absolutely answer normative questions. My biggest pet peeve in law school is when a normative question is posed and the student answers, "I just don't have an opinion on that."
Not exactly on point, but I interview a lot of job candidates and always ask them normative questions. "What do you think [this computer language] in comparison to [that computer language]?" "What do you think about static typing?" That sort of thing.

The fastest way to get crossed off my list is to say either "I don't have an opinion" or "I like [this language]" followed by silence.

The candidate has spent (and the student is proposed to spend) his entire adult life on the subject at hand and it is not a good sign that he is not even wrestling with its most important issues.
For instance, in my trademarks class, there were about 8 American students with typical American names and about 35 Asian students with difficult-to-pronounce Asian names.
Were they Thais? Most Asians have very easy to pronounce surnames, either (Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese) one syllable of consonant-vowel or consonant-vowel-consonant like Liu, Kim, and Nguyen, or (Japanese) a series of easy consonant-vowel pairs (Korematsu, Yamamoto).

There's no such thing as an "American name", but certainly there are a lot of European names (especially Eastern European names) that English speakers find difficult to pronounce, often because of all the consonants piled up on each other (try "Przhevalsky" or "Sczerbinski"). Among non-English speakers, perhaps one third of the world's population would not be able to distinguish between "Volokh" and "Barack".
8.27.2008 2:03pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Oren,

Heh. Absolute classic scene. Frank Oz (the voice of among others Miss Piggy, Yoda, Grover and Cookie Monster) often has small cameo roles in John Landis movies. He was good as the cop in Trading Places who busted Winthorp. ("La Boheme, it's an opera.")
8.27.2008 2:21pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Best way not to be caught unprepared is to use pre-emptive strikes. Raise your hand for easy questions that you know the answer to and the professor won't call on you at random.
Worked wonders for me. The prof very quickly quits calling on me even when I volunteered. So, by half way through a class, I could start coasting a bit on the briefing. In three years of law school, after I started this, I was never embarrassed by the prof. I was just amazed that the other students weren't doing it too, but most of them seemed to prefer being in fear the entire class. Realistically though, it takes a bit of hardening to get over the first couple of times volunteering.
8.27.2008 2:21pm
BrockLanders (mail):
Fools! The best answer is that it just doesn't matter. Class participation doesn't count towards your grade, so why sweat it? There was a girl in my 1L class who never volunteered and sounded very unimpressive when called on. She ended up with the highest GPA in the history of the school.
8.27.2008 2:26pm
KevinM:
Advice about the unpronounceable last name must come with a caveat. In my 1L contracts class there was a woman with a long German-language surname. The professor either was proud of himself for learning it, or just liked saying it. The poor woman was called on daily, at least.
8.27.2008 2:34pm
stanneus :
I attended law school back in the Paper Chase era, when students really got whacked for giving dopey or dodgy answers. No touchy-feely stuff back then. I was chosen to answer a rather straightforward question: "And what was the position of the dissenters"? I was, of course, totally unprepared, and tried to stall as I rushed to glance through the dissenting opinion in my casebook. It was futile, of course, and all I could come up with was "They disagreed with the majority". The professor threw the blackboard eraser at me, accurately, I might add. Today, that professor would be frog-walked off the faculty in a trice, and then sued for millions. Back then, everyone in the classroom, including me, thought the professor's reaction was wholly warranted. As fate would have it, I have been an adjunct professor of law for 20 years. I don't throw erasers at dopey or unprepared students, but I sure let them know what I think of their thoughtless responses. Needless to say, I'm considered a "hard case", &a tough grader, but I still get the very highest ratings from my students. My advice to students: If you're clueless when called on, fess up. It's quickly forgotten, so long as it doesn't happen again.
8.27.2008 3:21pm
theobromophile (www):
Another good way to avoid getting called on is to change your name to something hard to pronounce.

Whatever you do, don't have a last name that is also a (relatively common) first name. I was called on first day, first class, and about two or three times in other classes that first week. "Miss [Phile]" was obviously something that no professor could ever, ever mess up.
8.27.2008 3:48pm
Splunge:
Incidentally, for any current students reading this advice, it's best to remember the source. This is advice on what's best for the professor or for successful students to have remembered doing.

Is it the best for your particular goals? Good question to ask yourself.
8.27.2008 5:51pm
Federal Dog:
"Everyone laughed. Everyone except the professor. He stormed out. (Which he was known to do on occasion.)"

Actually, what's up with that? All the way through grad school, I never witnessed (nor have I ever thrown) a faculty tantrum. In law school, by contrast, I witnessed three instructors storm out; one threaten to throw chalk; another threaten to break someone's neck; and another threaten to snap someone's fingers off.

In fairness, the person being threatened in that last example was making those little air quotation marks, so he pretty much deserved it.

Anyway, given how easy law school instruction is, why are people so unstable and prone to tantrum-throwing?
8.27.2008 6:47pm
zippypinhead:
Best way not to be caught unprepared is to use pre-emptive strikes. Raise your hand for easy questions that you know the answer to and the professor won't call on you at random.
Worked wonders for me. The prof very quickly quit calling on me even when I volunteered.... I was just amazed that the other students weren't doing it too...
Just speculating here, but was it because every time you raised your hand, the other students were too busy playing what was known at my law school as "gunner bingo?"

Or to put it differently, volunteering is OK, but if you get to the point of being insufferable about it [one symptom: when even the prof starts ignoring you], that's not a good thing. Especially not if you want to get into a good study group before finals, or even get asked to go out for a drink with your fellow students after your last Friday class.
8.27.2008 9:18pm
Michael J.Z Mannheimer (mail):
Tom Jones,

So none of those 35 Asian students was an American? Were they all aliens? I find that hard to believe.
8.28.2008 1:46am
Tom Jones:

So none of those 35 Asian students was an American? Were they all aliens? I find that hard to believe.


They were LLM students. My school had an LLM program in IP law, and almost everyone in it was from an Asian country. As a result, many of the IP classes had a very large proportion of Asian (not Asian-American) students.
8.28.2008 12:55pm