Professors: What was your worst grade in law school?

Grades release last month was a stressful time for Cal Western students, especially second-trimester 1Ls who were receiving law school scores for the first time ever. Although grades are certainly important, it’s also important to forgive shortcomings and remember that no one is perfect. Everyone is human, including our awesome faculty.

To illustrate this point in a lighthearted fashion, The Commentary asked professors to share their worst grade or failure when they were in law school. Read their stories below, and then vote for your favorite.

Which professor's story was your favorite?

In my last semester of law school, I arranged my schedule to only take one exam, which I took pass/no pass. The final exam was a two-question exam. I felt confident in the first answer and looked at the clock and saw that there were only five minutes remaining. So, for the second question, I outlined what I would have written had I had the time, and frantically turned that in to the box at the front of the class. It turns out that there was actually an hour and five minutes remaining. Let me tell you, I came very close to failing that one class. — Prof. Klein

My worst failure in law school was approaching law school exams the same way I did in undergrad, which resulted in a letter from my dean regarding one grade in particular. Following the meeting and seeking advice from high performing upper class peers, I adjusted my study strategy and was able to outperform my first semester performance for the remainder of my law school career. — Kiyana Kiel, Assistant Dean of Academic Achievement

I had an 8 hour take-home exam in my 1L property class, which was expected to take the full 8 hours to complete. I was approximately 2–3 hours into the exam, having outlined my answer and begun typing it out, when my laptop completely crashed. Extremely upset, I called computer services, where the technician suggested that I come all the way across campus to bring in the computer for them to look at it.  After I explained that I simply didn’t have time to do that – I was in the middle of an exam! – someone from computer services finally agreed to come to my dorm room. Unfortunately, while the technician was able to get my computer working again, he was not able to recover any of what I had already done. I had to start over with very little time. Fortunately, I was able to complete the exam (albeit, a bit over the required word limit). If I recall correctly, I think I ended up with a B or B- in the class.  I also learned a really important lesson about backing up my work as I go!Prof. Fink

My worst grade in law school was Contracts. Question 1, I saw, was marked for 75 minutes total. OK.  Questions 1A and 1B were short preliminary questions. Fine. Then comes the big essay question, 1C. I do a great job, I look at my watch, I see that exactly 75 minutes, the total time allotted for Question 1, have passed. Far out. On to Question 2. I turn the page. Do I see Question 2? No, I see Question 1D and 1E. Have you ever had this feeling that you can’t read?  Like you get to the end of a sentence and realize you have not understood a word you have read so you have to go back to the beginning and try again? And still can’t read it? That’s what happened to me. I flipped through the rest of the exam trying to find a question I knew I could answer, just to get back on track. Nope, nothing. All like in a foreign language. I wound up getting by far my lowest grade in the first year in Contracts. So of course, I teach it.Prof. Gudel

My worst grade in law school was Torts. I was shocked when the Torts results came out. Grades used to be posted publicly, so you’d know how you did and then everybody would know how you did. I was shocked, because I had thought I had done really well. But, sometimes, with exams, you don’t know if you do good or bad, you can only do the best you can. What grade you got in a particular subject in law school isn’t a judgment on how good you are in that field, just how you did on a particular test. But the way to become a better test-taker is by doing it over and over again and seeking help from your professor. Prof. Weinstein

I got a C in my first semester of contracts – I got my ass kicked and I had to go through it and do the leg work. I went back and rewrote the exam. And talked it over with my professor. I ended up getting an A at the year’s end of contracts. My contracts professor was even the one to write me a letter of rec after I graduated law school. The point is, it’s a journey, not a destination: it’s a process. Surrender to the fact that you’re not going to have all the answers.Prof. Cooper

In my first year, I bombed Property. Worst grade in law school, not just for me, but probably the lowest grade ever of any student in the first year class. I think the essay question had something to do with pirates and buried treasure. But in hindsight, that makes no sense.  I guess that explains why I did so poorly. Despite that, I still managed to graduate, pass the bar, find a good job, and gain a teaching position (but leaving Property to other faculty). — Prof. Aceves

My 1L contracts class was taught by what one would call, at that time, a “hippie” professor.  He sat cross legged on a table in the classroom with his poodle in his lap.  Every time he wanted to demonstrate how a contract was made, he would tap a metal rod into one section of a metal triangle he held. My buddy, who is now head of Pfizer Pharma, and I were totally confused and never understood contracts.  I am quite certain my grade was not an enviable one, but students should not ever give up.  One class does not a career make.Prof. Conte

Parsa Nozzari, Breanna Hayes, Varun Sabharwal and Brandon Birungi-Sengendo contributed to this reporting.

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