Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Admitted students weekend

Life, the universe, and everything asks: I just received my class assignment for my admitted students weekend. I am scheduled to sit in on a constitutional law class. Can anyone enlighten me about this sort of law? The only thing I know of it is Susan Estrich's opinion that it spoils every law student because everyone wants to practice it, but almost no one gets to. What should I expect?

Just so you know, I am only answering this question because the asker quoted Douglas Adams and I look for any excuse to quote Douglas Adams. Even Administrative Law.

More generally, admitted students weekends are like a big happy open house. They trot out all the law students who actually like it there and have them gush about why they chose this law school over all others, why law school is not really as bad as you've heard, and why its exactly as bad as you've heard, but just not so bad at their school. I should know: I am one of the students my law school trots out, because I am generally very positive about it. Though I am honest with the prospectives. Feel free to ask the "hard questions." You might even get some straight answers, but remember the overall purpose of admitted students weekend is to get you to choose that law school over the others at which you were accepted. Sit back and enjoy the sales presentation, and look for indicators that the place really is the right fit for you.

In your case, you know for sure you'll be sitting on a mock class. (I assume that its not an actual Con Law class occurring on a weekend.) You may even get a case or two to read in advance of the class to get a "feel" for the Socratic method. Don't be fooled: the real deal will be a lot more intimidating, for the first few weeks of law school at least. The prof at your admitted students weekend will probably take volunteers, not cold-call on people, and eager almost-1Ls will probably actually volunteer. Again, I don't discourage this as it can be fun. Just don't expect it to reflect the real thing.

As to what the prof will actually cover, I have no idea. At my school during our admitted student weekend, we read a famous English criminal law case that involved men lost at sea in a life boat and cannibalism. (Click here to read it if you like.) So based on my experience, expect something fun and somewhat controversial in order to generate a lively discussion, but not like "hot button" controversial.

As to the Susan Estrich comment: "Con Law" touches nearly everything in the law . . . I'd say everything without the 'nearly,' but law school has made me wary of such definitive statements. What she probably means is people want to practice the sexy areas like free speech, and its true; most people will not get to argue a free speech case before a Circuit court, let alone before the Supremes. That doesn't mean you don't get to do due process, equal protection, and commerce clause arguments. My Family Law and Labor Law classes, for example, have just been Con Law with a focus.

(All right, enough. I have to go read for Admin class, otherwise known as "What Would Scalia Do.")


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the detailed response...and the Douglas Adams love.

I will be sitting in on a real, live Con law on Friday. The school's admitted students weekend is on Fri/Sat. We'll have a mock class as well on Sat, but Con law will be the real deal on Friday.

I have a much better idea of what to expect now and feel better about it. Now I just have to dream up some of the hard questions to ask my dedicated "student ambassador."

Butterflyfish said...

For your real live con law class, the students will (presumably) have done a reading assignment that you will not have been expected to do.

Listen to the questions the prof asks as opposed to the student answers -- see how the prof uses questions. Does he or she use them to beat up on the student? to move the lecture along? to get the student to use the correct, precise, legal language? to make a point about common misconceptions?

You'll have a pretty good idea of how that prof views his or her role based on an analysis of the questions.

nameless student said...

I agree with the poster above, but I'd add a note that as for the subject matter (as opposed to teaching style) con law is distinct from other law school courses. In other courses, you'll focus on constitution->statute->supreme court caselaw->other caselaw->policy issues. In conlaw, it's generally constitution->supreme court caselaw/policy issues. As a result, a lot of conlaw classes have a tendency to turn into law-students-as-social-philosophers, which can either be very interesting or get ugly, fast.

Note also that the school is probably assigning you to the best teacher they have on a friday. Ask your shepherd student how other profs compare, how teaching styles differ, how differently-sized classes are taught. I'd also suggest taking the chance after class ends (if you can) to talk to students other than the one who's been assigned to you: i.e. students who haven't been picked by the school's admissions office or volunteered.

Anonymous said...

Appropriate question??

What percentage of your applicants receive scholarship offers. I'm curious here because at the school I'll be visiting, you have to be in the top 25% to retain your scholarship. Top 26% gets you bupkiss.

So if say 50% of applicants walk in with $$$, that tells me they're trying to attract students with higher numbers, and plan on screwing them once they're in the door. Obviously in that scenario, half the folks would lose their scholarships.

Is this an appropriate/hot button question to ask? I would also want to know how the sections are allocated. I've heard of school stacking a particular section with scholarship students to make it next to impossible to be in the top percent of the class.

Unknown said...

life, universe, everything:

I would definitely ask about the scholarship percentages. Hopefully even the selected student ambassador would at least know a ballpark figure, you don't have to tell them why you're asking (which might cause someone to give you a "stock" answer instead of a real one).

I personally would be wary of having to be in the top 25% to keep a scholarship. That's very hard to do, so if you are comfortable with the possibility of having to pay after the first year or semester or whatever then don't worry about the scholarship and focus more on whether or not you think the school is a great match. If you're not comfortable having to pay the full cost of tution then be very aware that even if you work your tail off due to the somewhat arbitrary nature of law school grades you may not land in the top 25%.

As far as the question about section goes, there are similar rumors at my school and my 1L section had the reputation for being the hardest section that year. I'm not sure if it's true or not, I think sometimes it's just law students complaining. At any rate, expect to not get a candid answer from the law student ambassador/guide/etc- there are "stock" answers that the admissions/registrar's office will tell students, and there are answers that students not selected by the school to be the face of the school to prospective students will have. I would be wary of answers from both sources, at least at my school there are a lot of cynical students walking around who will probably have some pretty skewed answers to your question about sections.

I hope you have/had fun at your admitted students weekend :)

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