"The drug's dangerous," she said, "but it gives insight. When a Truthsayer's gifted by the drug, she can look many places in her memory — in her body's memory. We look down so many avenues of the past . . . but only feminine avenues." Her voice took on a note of sadness. "Yet, there's a place where no Truthsayer can see. We are repelled by it, terrorized. It is said a man will come one day and find in the gift of the drug his inward eye. He will look where we cannot — into both feminine and masculine pasts."
"Your Kwisatz Haderach?"
"Yes, the one who can be many places at once: the Kwisatz Haderach. Many men have tried the drug . . . so many, but none has succeeded."
"They tried and failed, all of them?"
"Oh, no." She shook her head. "They tried and died."
Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam and Paul Atreides, Dune, Frank Herbert
I cheated in law school.
It was easy, it was worth it, and looking back, I should have done it more.
The last exam of first semester was Civil Procedure. That was the tough class for my section. Every group of 1Ls has the “tough class.” The one with the professor everyone is intimidated by. The one they spend so much time studying for that they show up to other classes unprepared. In The Paper Chase, the tough class is Contracts with Kingsfield.
Civil Procedure with Samuel Issacharoff was our tough class. It wasn’t the “Kingsfield” of our 1L year though. Our equivalent of Kingsfield, the professor students have heard about before even applying to law school, was Arthur Miller, the professor on whom Perini is based in Scott Turow’s 1L. Arthur Miller also taught civil procedure, but to a different group of students, chosen at random.
Despite the tens of thousands of dollars you pay in tuition to your law school, it’s often a crapshoot like that. Some people will take a class from a legendary professor and gain stories to tell on interviews or around the water cooler later in life. Other people get the B squad. Not that NYU’s B squad was at all bad. But, “Yeah, Arthur Miller was teaching civ pro when I was there, …I had someone else though” isn’t really a compelling story. The Paper Chase without Kingsfield is not The Paper Chase.
Despite not being Arthur Miller, Issacharoff was still the terrifying professor for our section. That makes some people terrified of the exam. They’re scared of every exam, but really on edge about the tough professor’s test. With the curve though, it doesn’t really matter. A hard exam is hard for everyone. Your performance is relative to the performance of your classmates.
And, that’s why cheating works.
Many exams in law school use a variant of the closed book rule. Some allow you to bring in an index card with notes, others a full page. Civil procedure allowed us to bring in our entire copy of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
We weren’t told this until only a few weeks before the exam, which was a pretty bone headed move for a professor to make. Naturally, being good, diligent law students, almost everyone had taken some sort of notes in their copy of the FRCP. We were told those notes did not have to be removed, but we were not to write more notes in our book. No other notes would be allowed in the exam. It was practically an invitation to cheat.
In law school, and in pretty much every other context, I am terrible with names. I can do well enough with remembering the nuances of arguments and ideas, but ask me what case it came from, and I haven’t a clue. “The one about the stove,” doesn’t cut it on a law school exam.
So, I did what you might expect from any law student in a competitive, high-stress environment. I cheated. I went through the rules in the FRCP, and next to the ones we had covered in class, I jotted down the names of the relevant cases.
The professor had given us model answers to past exams. The potential to cheat was far greater than what I did. How easy it would have been to copy the outline of a model answer into the blank inside of the back cover. There was so much white space in that book that went unused.
I know that professors and many students like to think that few students cheat, and that cheating doesn’t really improve performance on the exam. After all, the exam tests concepts and analysis, and that’s not something you can cheat on. You need a refined analytical mind, not notes you snuck into class with you.
Those people are wrong.
There was going to be an Erie Doctrine question on the exam, no doubt. If you don’t think a student would be benefitted by a roadmap to the answer, a guide to the issues that much be addressed and the order to tackle them, then you’re a fool.
Cheating, at least this sort of cheating, is not designed to take you from a B- to an A-. It is designed to help you at the margins. An hour that would have been spent memorizing case names turns into an hour studying something else, or studying for another class, or sleeping. It speeds you along by a minute or two during the exam. It is insurance against a mistake or memory lapse, and it lets you relax a bit and more effectively deal with the meat of the test.
Law schools claim that their mission is to teach students to think like lawyers. But, by looking at the way exams are handled, it’s clear that the professors themselves lack this ability.
Take home exams are a recipe for disaster, and you can rest assured study groups will be working on exams together. If the class is big enough, being in competition with each other won’t prevent collaboration; there are enough As to go around for your entire group. Closed book, or limited note exams invite students to sneak in more notes. Just print it out really tiny on a piece of paper, put the paper in your pocket, halfway through the exam, when you’ve seen what issues you need a refreshed on, you go to the bathroom, sit in a stall, and read.
If law professors practiced law the same way they give exams, they would be writing contracts where breach comes with a reward of liquidated damages. At trial, cross examinations would begin with “Isn’t it the case that everything you said on direct examination is true?”
The cynics will say that the people who cheated are the ones who learned to think like lawyers. That might be true. Some lawyers do cheat, others have hard line ethical principles they will not cross. But, no one can honestly say that a good lawyer creates clear incentives for the opposing party to cheat without recourse.
I got a B+ in Civil Procedure. A lot of students get a B+. It’s not an extraordinary grade, but it’s in the top half. Maybe I would have gotten a B+ without cheating, maybe not. I’ll never know. But, one thing I will know is that I did not get a B.
A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.
Princess Irulan, Dune, Frank Herbert