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February 19, 2008

Get Your Priorities Straight: PRS Registration Explained

By Rebecca Oyama and Charlie Clinch

When registering for this semester’s classes, how did you fare? For some, the registration process is a confusing lottery. The first of this two-part series will explain the registration process and what makes it distinct. In the next issue, we will address common critiques of the system and offer up some possible remedies.

The Basics

In “Round One” of registration, students have one week to submit requests for seminars, practice/simulation courses, and clinics. Students may request up to seven classes in these categories, but the system enrolls each student in no more than one of each type of class. Seminars are generally capped at fifteen students, but may vary according to the seating capacity of the classroom assigned. Placement in most seminars is determined by seniority and the use of “priorities,” of which each student has two that can be used at any time. For each course, the system first places students who elected to use a priority for that course in random order regardless of seniority. Any remaining seats are then assigned based on seniority (3Ls, 2Ls, then 1Ls). If at any time a class fills, a waitlist is created based on the same criteria. Students on a seminar waitlist must respond to an email if they would like to remain on the waitlist or they will forfeit their position.

A “special sign up procedure,” called “Professor Pick,” allows professors to bypass the normal placement procedure and functions as a wildcard for students, especially those new to PRS. By designating their class as Prof Pick, professors are able to hand select their class based on interviews or short statements of interest. The waitlist is also up to the professor’s discretion in a Prof Pick class; as enrolled students drop the class, the professor is not bound to a rigid waitlist order. Using a priority on a Prof Pick course, then, is unnecessary, and priorities that are used on such classes are returned to students. This return policy has provided some students with an incentive to “use” a priority with the idea of conveying to the professor a sincere commitment to the course, but there is no way to know if it is ever actually taken into consideration.

“Round Two” is a subsequent week-long period during which students submit their selection of “upper-class courses” that have more available seats and no Prof Pick designations. Students may also request “open” (not full) seminars and practice/simulation courses as they did in Round One, or add their name to the bottom of a waitlist in the event that the course is full. There are no waitlists for upper class courses and the size of each course is determined by the capacity of the classroom in which it will meet.

Lastly, in Round Three, students use Wolverine Access to add or drop upper-class courses from their schedule. At that point in the process, students can no longer enroll in an open seminar, practice/simulation course, or clinic, although they may still add their name to the bottom of a waitlist.

We’ve come a long way, baby

According to Curriculum Coordinator Amy Bishop, who administers the law school’s course scheduling and registration, the Priority Registration System (“PRS”) was developed roughly ten years ago to replace a paper-based system that used to line the walls of Hutchins Hall for the entire registration period. Students had to look up course information on lists, fill out forms, and obtain sign-offs from various professors and administrators before the process was complete. An in-house programmer designed PRS to mimic the old system electronically and transfer students’ course data easily into the University’s Wolverine system for Round Three (“Add/Drop”) to take place. Despite the appearance of a completely automated system, each round of PRS can take a different amount of time to run and still requires a staff member to check or modify the course data before results can be released, usually about four days after the end of each round. This could explain the fluctuation in wait time for PRS results, which has been a source of confusion for some students in the past.

According to Ms. Bishop, the most common mistake that she hears from students is that they forget to register during the PRS period and thus miss their shot at the lottery. Another common problem occurs when students do not successfully save changes after making a modification to their request. The PRS system automatically sends a confirmation email after recording any change, and Ms. Bishop urges students to check their inbox before assuming their request accurately reflects recent changes. Other students have voiced uncertainty about the actual layout of the PRS Round Two request page. (Note: your second choice should always be placed beneath your first choice; if you put it only to the right of the first choice, the system will give it to you only in the event that you do not get your first choice. Many students place their second choice both to the right of the first choice – first line, second spot – and under the first choice, in the first spot of the second line.)

The process at other schools

As complicated as our process may sound, PRS appears to offer some advantages over those used at our peer schools. At NYU, there are no waiting lists. Instead, the school relies on a system that at times resembles Ticketmaster the moment U2 concert tickets go on sale. If a student doesn’t get into a requested course, the system will notify the student when extra spaces open up. It then assigns a specific time (e.g., Thursday at 10 p.m. – no, really) at which the student will have the opportunity to go online and try his or her luck against any others hoping to get into the class. One has to wonder whether students schedule their bar nights around the registration calendar.

Other schools also don’t allow students the benefit of priorities. At Harvard, Georgetown, and Berkeley law schools, registration requests are strictly by seniority. For example, at Georgetown law 3Ls and LLMs register a couple of days before 2Ls (1L schedules are predetermined). Berkeley employs a hybrid version of our PRS system, where each student is assigned one 24-hour window during a week-long period when they may register for 12 of an average 14-15 credits total. 3Ls register at the beginning of the week, then 2Ls, and so on. Once everyone has these courses set, the process to register for the remaining credits begins.

Moving forward

Our system is complicated partially because of the difficulty of accommodating the needs of more than 1,000 students and the desires of some professors to mold their course enrollment. Given these variables, it is understandable that students – especially 1Ls – find the process confusing. In the next issue, we will look at ways to make the system more user-friendly and effective.

Preview: The Federalist Society Student Symposium, March 7th & 8th

Submitted by The Federalist Society

The law school experience often saddles students with blinders which limit their view of the judicial system to interactions between lawyers, judges, statutes, and the “common” law. This March 7th and 8th, the Michigan Federalist Society will challenge that perspective by asking what role “we the People” retain in our constitutional order. We are delighted to host the 27th annual Federalist Society National Student Symposium, a gathering of hundreds of conservative and libertarian law students which will explore questions about popular referenda, the democratic legitimacy of the common law, and the merits of electing our judges. Entitled “The People & The Courts”, we think the Symposium will host one of the most impressive group of speakers to converge on the Law School in some time, and we hope to see plenty of our non-Federalists friends turn out to hear them.

The Federalist Society National Student Symposium is an annual gathering of Federalists from around the country hosted at a different venue each year. This year’s Symposium will be held in our own Hutchins Hall on the afternoon of Friday, March 7th and throughout the day on March 8th. Guests will enjoy four panels, a debate, and presentations by over 25 law professors, legal commentators, and respected jurists, including our very own Sherman Clark, Doug Laycock, Richard Primus, and Brian Simpson. The festivities will culminate in a Saturday evening banquet and keynote address by Judge Janice Rogers Brown, one of President Bush’s most prominent appointments to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

We hope that the law school community will embrace the vibrant discussion that the Symposium will bring to Michigan. Introductory remarks will begin at 6:30pm on Friday, March 7th and attendees will end the evening with the opportunity to interact with speakers and guests from other schools at a reception at the Michigan League. Attendees will reconvene at 9:00am on Saturday for a full day of panels and speeches, culminating in the banquet reception with a speech by Judge Brown. Anyone interested in registering for the Symposium and/or Banquet should contact FedSocSymposium2008@gmail.com or visit http://students.law.umich.edu/federalist/symposium/, where you can find more information about the event.

Symposium Events Include:
• “Judicial Interference with Community Values” – A panel discussion inquiring whether judicial review homogenizes community norms and jeopardizes the existence of unique community traditions and values. Featuring Professor Richard Garnett (Notre Dame); Professor Roderick Hills, Jr. (NYU); Professor Douglas Laycock (Michigan); and Professor Amy Wax (Penn).

• “The Merits of Electing Our Judges” – This debate will discuss whether increasing “judicial activism” calls into question our system of appointing federal judges. Participants include Chief Justice Tom Phillips (retired from the Texas Supreme Court) and Justice Harold See, of the Alabama Supreme Court.

• “Kelo, Grutter, and Popular Responses to Unpopular Decisions” – Michigan students are already familiar with the role that popular referenda have assumed as a means of reacting to Supreme Court decisions. Panelists will discuss grassroots responses to the Kelo and Grutter decisions and the merits of these popular efforts to shape jurisprudence. Panelists include Professor Sherman Clark (Michigan); Mr. Ward Connerly (Founder, American Civil Rights Institute); and Professor Marci Hamilton (Cardozo).

• “The People’s Common Law: Is Law & Economics Anti-Democratic?” – This panel will explore whether the ascendancy of the “law and economics” movement threatens the right of the people to govern their own private relationships by imposing market-driven values such as efficiency on the civil law. Panelists include Professor Robert Ellickson (Yale); Professor Brian Simpson (Michigan); and Professor Henry Smith (Yale).

• “An Originalist Judge and the Media” – Justice Stephen Markman, of the Michigan Supreme Court, will speak on the proper task of an “originalist judge,” and whether media coverage aids the public in understanding what judges should do. Commentators include Professor Richard Primus (Michigan) and Pete Williams, NBC’s Justice Department and Supreme Court correspondent.

• “Tradition and the People’s Constitution” – The final panel will discuss the role that tradition should play in interpreting public law—especially Constitutional interpretation. Do Constitutional doctrines rooted in tradition preserve “who we are,” or do they instead restrict individual liberties? Panelists include Professor William Eskridge (Yale); Professor Thomas Merrill (Columbia); Professor Reva Siegel (Yale); and Professor Keith Whittington (Princeton).

We hope to see you there!

Preview: Sotheby’s. Christie’s. SFF.

Submitted by Mitch Holzrichter and Carolyn Grunst

This year’s SFF Auction—Thursday, March 13—will rival the best in the world, as bidders from throughout the Hutchins community compete for unique items and priceless experiences.

This year’s Auction will feature almost 200 items, more than in any other year. Bidders of all income-levels will find something for them: from Tigers tickets to a luxury golf package in Arizona.

The crème-de-la-crème item this year, as in past years, is a lunch for four students with Judge Richard Posner. Professor Brian Simpson has again generously arranged for Michigan students to meet with this living god of the Seventh Circuit. The Posner lunch will be the final item auctioned during the Live Auction in Hutchins room 100.

New this year, to give Judge Posner a run for his money, SFF bidders have the opportunity at a once-in-a-lifetime experience with a liberal lion of the Ninth Circuit: Chief Judge Alex Kozinski or Judge Stephen Reinhardt. Judge Kozinski and his guest will join a Michigan student and his or her guest for dinner and the world premiere production of the drama “Of Equal Measure,” in Los Angeles on Friday, July 25th. Judge Reinhardt and his wife, Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, will join a Michigan student and his or her guest for dinner and the world premiere production of the play “Keep Your Pantheon,” in Los Angeles on Friday, June 6th. Who knows: maybe they’ll still be looking for clerks?

For those students who aspire to more than Circuit Courts, Alumna Heidi Bond (MLS ’06), a clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, will give the winning bidder and three guests an insider’s tour of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

For the golfers (or sun bathers) among you, the Biltmore Country Club in Phoenix, Arizona, one of America’s most luxurious resort destinations, offers a two-night stay, with two rounds of golf, a $400 air travel gift card, and a 90-minute ride in a new Cessna, for the winning bidder and his or her guest.

Not to be outdone, the MLS faculty has once again put forth a variety of generous and unique experiences and gifts. Prof. Reimann will again take a lucky student sky-diving, where he’ll explain transnational law while free-falling from 10,000 feet. Second-degree black-belt holder Prof. Len Neihoff will use his powers for good: he’ll teach the winning bidder and friend self-defense in a private two-hour class. Be warned: Prof. Niehoff tells us that ethics rules don’t apply!

Of course there will be iPods, gift certificates to local restaurants, and tickets to shows, plays, and games, at all price levels, thanks to the generosity of Michigan students, faculty, and staff, Ann Arbor community businesses, and law firms from across the country.

The silent auction begins at 5:30 in Hutchins Hall, with the (open-bar!) LSSS Faculty-Student Wine and Cheese. The Live Auction begins at 7:00 in Hutchins room 100, during which time eight highly-qualified faculty auctioneers will entertain you and take your money.

This year marks SFF’s 30th Anniversary. Last year, SFF provided approximately $200,000 to Michigan students working in public interest jobs during the summer. The Auction contributes about a third of the available funding.

In order to increase the number of grants available to Michigan students, and to ensure the continuing financial stability of the organization for years to come, SFF has begun the first-ever SFF Endowment. To help build this Endowment—and to raise additional funds for this year’s class of grant recipients—SFF has developed new fundraising programs and improved those already existing.

With the continued support of the Michigan community, SFF hopes to one day fund every Michigan law student working in the public interest. You can do your part: come drink, bid, and be a part of a great MLS tradition!


Mitch Holzrichter and Carolyn Grunst are 3Ls and members of the SFF Board.

Wal-Mart's Take on Public Health Care

By Anna Magazinnik

On February 12 John O. Agwunobi delivered the Second Annual Susan B. Meister Lecture in Child Health Policy, sponsored by the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit (CHEAR) of the University of Michigan. Founded in 1999, CHEAR seeks to bring a multidisciplinary approach to the problem of children’s health care. CHEAR brings together faculty from the schools of Medicine, Public Policy, Dentistry, Public Health, Nursing, Law, Pharmacy, Business and Social Work to research and evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of state, local and federal government health care initiatives and programs. Mr. Agwunobi, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., is a Senior Vice President of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., as well as President of Wal-Mart’s Professional Services Division. He is also a former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health and was in charge of the State Health Program of Florida.

Mr. Agwunobi set the theme for his lecture by reference to Henrik Ibsen’s play, An Enemy of the People. In a small town in Norway, whose only source of funding comes from healing baths, a doctor discovers that the baths are contaminated and a health threat and notifies the town officials. When they refuse to shut down the baths, he quits and becomes a school teacher. Mr. Agwunobi described a commentary on the play which saw the doctor as a hero for standing up for what was right. He, however, saw the doctor as a failure. The right response was not to demand that the baths be shut down, ignoring the legitimate economic needs and concerns of the people and businesses of the town, but to include all these actors in a collaborative effort to find a solution. Mr. Agwunobi acknowledged that Wal-Mart was seen by many people as the enemy of “all that is right,” but said that changes to health care would never come just from government alone, or just from individuals attempting to stand up for what is right through grassroots efforts. His lecture stressed the need for the corporate world to be included in a collaborative effort between the government, individuals and corporations. Relying on his past experience in the government, he concludes that the government is too slow of an actor to accomplish health care changes alone.

Mr. Agwunobi believes that the corporate world’s strength of responding quickly to the needs of its customers makes corporations ideal agents of change in health care. He noted that there is a proven track record of success when the business world takes responsibility for health care. For example, Rockefeller’s announcement from the offices of the Standard Oil Company, in 1909, that he would provide one million dollars to fight hookworm infestation in the Southeastern parts of the nation is credited by many people for the eradication of hookworm in the United States. Likewise, the work of Bill Gates to fight malaria and AIDS has the potential to help eradicate these diseases. What these types of corporate programs have in common is the setting of specific goals. Mr. Agwunobi explained that up until his coming to Wal-Mart, the company had a foundation for health care projects, but lacked “strategic clarity.” Now, Wal-Mart has figured out that the best way for a corporation to get involved is to do what it does best: listen to the customer.

Mr. Agwunobi believes that the key to success for corporate health care programs is the corporation’s presence among the local people. With over 1.5 million employees in the United States, and stores throughout the most rural areas, Wal-Mart is in a position to know the needs of local communities better than most large government actors. Furthermore, Wal-Mart’s customers are the very people that are most underserved by the health care system, the people who live “check to check” and are “price-sensitive.” Every week 136 million of these people are served by Wal-Mart. Thus, Wal-Mart has instituted its “personal sustainability project.” Employees receive credit for making individual differences in health care, the environment, or other related areas, and can choose their own projects, knowing better than anyone else what is most needed in their community. Likewise, Wal-Mart’s retail health clinics, a recent addition to some of the corporation’s stores, work on a model stressing connection to the local community. For example, every customer that comes in, fifty-five percent of whom do not have health insurance, can have basic medical procedures performed at the clinic, which is staffed by local doctors and nurses, and upon discharge every attempt is made to connect the individual to a local health care provider for follow up treatment. However, Mr. Agwunobi also stressed that Wal-Mart and other corporations have a duty to be willing to sacrifice some profits to further health care improvement goals that they are in a unique position to fulfill. He highlighted Wal-Mart’s four dollar generic drug program as an example. Under the program, Wal-Mart uses its massive supply chain and unique relationship with suppliers to receive generic drugs more cheaply than a smaller or non-corporate actor might be able to, and is thus able to sell them for four dollars only.

Conceding that corporations still have far to go, Mr. Agwunobi nevertheless hopes for a future where corporations become local health care providers to the communities they serve. He believes changes in health care will happen only when individuals from every field become involved, bridging the gap between the government and the corporate world.

Reliable Consultants v. Earle, One down, Three to go

"Between the Briefs"
By Rooks

Valentine’s Day may be over, but I have to tell y’all - the 5th circuit down in New Orleans really knows how to show a gal a good time. But more on that later . . .

Would you ever date a guy you knew had cheated on his ex? Because as comfortable as I am with so many aspects of sex, I just can’t help thinking my Momma is right on this one. Ya know, leopards don’t change their spots . . .
-Invests With Fidelity Mutual

IWFM,
Hmm, this is a toughie. As much as my initial instinct is to say “no, I wouldn’t”, we have to deal with a certain reality here: a not insignificant amount of people cheat.

Be more specific with my nouns, you say? Well, I can’t – I’ve done a lot of digging, and suffice it to say that data on cheating, though it seems to be everywhere, is mostly crap. Kinsey’s data (50% of men and 26% of women have cheated before the age of forty) suffers for lack of a probability sample, and it’s over a half a century old to boot. The General Social Survey (as of 2004, 21% of men and 12% of women) and books like Lust in Translation focus almost exclusively on “extramarital” sex – the data is in no way representative of the cheating habits of all Americans, just the married ones.

Now, as we all realize that the law school population is in no way representative of the real world, the best data for your question might be UVa Law’s sex survey, precisely for the reasons that make it statistically dubious elsewhere, namely that it focuses exclusively on a small, inclusive, generally nut-jobby segment of the population who all opted to attend a top law school in a college town. So, for the sake of argument (and since I don’t have Michigan stats, ahem) UVa’s data claims that roughly 30% of law students have cheated at some point in their lives, and further that the numbers were essentially the same for both men and women.

So how about a wee little hypo: Let’s say John (or Jane) Q. Law School cheated on his SO, was punished for his efforts with an uncomfortable, yet eye-opening, trip to the doctor’s office (not to mention a case of the clap no one would applaud), and has since sworn that he will never, but ever stray again. If that scenario happened when he was 14 and he’s stuck to his word, he’s probably a safe bet. If it happened last week, all bets are off.

Essentially, IWFM, as much as I’d like to think that MLaw is rife with stand up people (after all, cheating isn’t very collegial), if the UVa data is in any way representative, it would mean that nearly a third of us have, at some point in our lives, engaged in some sort of illicit extracurricular activity. It would seem illogical to write off all of these people without some context as to how and when the cheating happened; folks do, after all, make mistakes. If, however, someone has a lot of what I’ll euphemistically refer to as non-mutual relationship overlap (chronic cheating), it doesn’t exactly engender a lot of trust.

So let’s amend my answer to no, I probably wouldn’t (but there’s room to negotiate).
-Rooks

What the hell is a P-spot? Someone mentioned it in conversation at a bar and I had to nod along knowingly, but I have no clue what they were talking about.
-See Spot Run

SSR,
The p-spot is a nickname for the prostate gland. Some folks call it the male G-spot, but that makes no sense, as G-spot is actually a just nickname for the Gräfenberg spot, which is not only a distinctly female erogenous zone, but named for the German gynecologist who discovered it, where “discovered” equals “wrote the first paper.” (Fun fact: Since Gräfenberg worked closely with an American, Robert L. Dickenson, the G-spot could have almost as easily been the D-spot. Either way, everything would still rhyme.) Regardless, you can reach the p-spot externally (by deeply massaging the perineum), or internally (trim your nails first) to provide what are apparently some very intense orgasms to a lucky fellow near you.

I wish you’d said what the conversation was about, SSR, but I’m going to hazard a guess that it likely had to do with prostate stimulation, which you can do with a sex toy like the Aneros, which you can’t buy in some states unless it’s for medical purposes, which gives me a good segue into what I want to talk about, namely the 5th Circuit’s Feb.12th 2-1 decision to overturn Texas’ ban on the sale of sex toys! Texas will likely appeal to the Supreme Court, and as the 5th Circuit relied heavily on Lawrence, it’ll be interesting to see if the Court grants cert, seeing as they denied it for the Alabama sex toy case I wrote about last October. Perhaps the nice folks of the 5th read the RG?
-Rooks

Five Tips to Bounce Back From ‘Bad’ Grades (Taken from thefrugallawstudent.com)

If you weren’t happy with last semester’s grades, here are some quick tips that can help put a smile on your face next time you check Wolverine Access.

1. Visit your old professor: Make an appointment with your professor as soon as possible to go over your exam. The key to make these appointments successful is to go in without a chip on your shoulder. Go in with the attitude that you really want to know what you did wrong and make it clear that you are not there to get your grade changed.


2. Visit your new professors: After visiting last semester’s professors, make an appointment to see your new professors. Go in a few weeks after the semester has started to ask some questions you’ve come up with from their classes. The visits have another purpose other than getting answers to your questions. You also want to get as much information about how they give exams and what they’re looking for in an answer. Each professor is different. Some just want you to spot all the issues, while others want deep analysis with lots of policy arguments. Find out as soon as possible so you can start preparing for their exam.

3. Write down what went wrong last semester: Take a few minutes to sit down with pen and paper to write what you did wrong last semester. Start from the beginning of the semester and work your way to the day of the exam. Did you spend less time outlining? Did you not do enough practice exams? Were there any outside factors that could have affected your performance? Be as thorough and brutal as possible. If you don’t know what went wrong you won’t know how you can improve. Keep this list posted in your study area.

4. Make a plan for this semester: After you de-construct last semester, make a plan for this semester. If there were outside distractions that may have affected your exam performance, make plans to eliminate those distractions. If you didn’t have enough time to review your outlines, plan to finish your outline earlier this semester. Also take into consideration what each professor is looking for on their exam and plan accordingly. Are the tests closed book? Plan for more time to memorize your outline. Do they use lots of objective multiple choice questions? If multiple choice gives you hard time, then gather as many practice multiple questions as you can.

5. Forget last semester: After you’ve made your goals and plans for the upcoming semester, forget about last semester. There’s nothing you can do to change your grade and dwelling on it will only you hold you back this semester. Forget that past and focus on what you can do on the future.

Good Beer, Veggie Eats At Sidetrack in Ypsi

By George Bishop

On Valentine’s day my girlfriend and I forsook the usual romantic hot spots that Ann Arbor has to offer and took a brief trip down 94 to Sidetrack Bar and Grille in Ypsilanti. While I can’t recommend Sidetrack for a romantic getaway, it does have a great pub-like atmosphere, a good selection of beer on tap and some well above-average bar food.

Located in Ypsilanti’s historic depot town, Sidetrack, and the rest of the businesses on the block, seem as if they were plucked from the 1950s. The illusion is maintained upon entering the restaurant, where one is greeted with a sea of tables that stretch to the back of the building. The restaurant was packed to capacity (perhaps 75-100 people at tables and the bar) when we arrived around 7:00 but was not cramped or claustrophobic considering the large crowd. Upon the walls one can find a stuffed menagerie of the local wildlife along with some old-timey photographs. Despite the clichés, the décor resists the over-the-top camp of a TGI Fridays and makes for very cozy, tavern atmosphere.


While the atmosphere was a pleasant surprise, it was the menu that drew us to Sidetrack. My girlfriend had received a tip the Sidetrack was especially vegetarian friendly and the selections did not disappoint. The menu was quite varied and displayed more than just a nominal vegetarian selection (quite a surprise as Sidetrack is famous for its burgers). I decided upon a cup of black bean chili and the goat cheese quesadilla. The chili, which came smothered with cheese and onions, was perfectly seasoned, not too spicy but still with a little kick to it. After the chili, the quesadilla seemed a bit lacking. It came with a generous portion of goat cheese and a variety of peppers, spinach and other veggies wrapped in a grilled tortilla. The quesadillas were tasty but underdone and thus slightly soggy. For desert we split an order of cherry bread pudding topped with a caramel sauce. This desert was a tasty as you’d imagine and the portion was enormous as well. To cap it off, Sidetrack boasts a great selection of draught beers. While the selection can’t rival Ashley’s, anyone who appreciates a good brew should be able to find something suitable. In all I’d recommend Sidetrack to anyone looking to get out of AA for the night or if you’re simply searching for a good meal at a laid-back local pub.

Bouncing Back From ‘Bad’ Grades

By Sumeera Younis

When considering how you feel about the grades you received this semester, keep in mind that 90% of you will not be in the top 10% of your class. Let’s face it, the numbers are stacked from the beginning. Perhaps even more reassuring is what Professor Steve Croley often tells his first year Civ Pro classes: “People who get A’s become professors, people who get B’s become judges, and people who get C’s become millionaires.”

Die Ego Die

If the Spears family is where sanity goes to die, perhaps law school is where egos come to die, and that is not a bad thing. Before I received my first set of grades in law school, one friend put it this way: he was going to be happy with whatever grade he got because there were a lot of really freaking smart people around us. Getting an average or below average grade doesn’t mean you are dumb, it just means that someone else did better on an exam. Professors or law firms might try to convince you that letter grades mean something more than that, but whether you did really well or really terribly, don’t delude yourself into thinking that grades are more than what they are. Let’s face it, we know morons who get all As, and some of the best people we know get Cs and we know everything in between. Grades are just one part of many, many parts -- they are by no means the defining element of your intelligence or your worth.

We go to Michigan,
We are Kind of a Big Deal

As jack-assy as that may sound, it should offer some sense of perspective. We are not some higher more refined being because we attend Michigan -- anyone who has been to Rick’s on a Thursday knows that -- but the reputation and respect of our school does help us out. As I was researching how people across the country cope with bad grades, I realized that a lot of them talk about us ‘top tenners’ with a great deal of contempt., because they face a ton of problems we don’t. For them, being in the top 15% isn’t a matter of having one more line item on their resume, it is the difference between being employed and unemployed. Even with low grades at Michigan, you have a strong likelihood of getting the job you want if you just learn to highlight the many other things that make you awesome. Maybe doing moot court or writing for the RG are more your thing -- use your energy to focus on those aspects as well, while still trying your best in school.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

No, seriously, just be happy. Studies show that there is no correlation between higher grades and/or salaries and actually liking life. Try to keep the endgame in mind. At the end of the day we are all searching for something that will leave us satisfied, that will make us happy about life. If that thing happens to be a Supreme Court clerkship, just keep in mind that the steps to get there should also make you relatively happy. I recently read an article that said “Law students began with higher subjective well-being than comparison samples of undergraduates and other new professional students, but by the end of their first year that had plummeted. Meanwhile, the law students became more motivated by externals—grades, appearances, money—and less by intrinsic values such as personal growth and contribution to the community.” Chances are if you are miserable all through law school, just fighting to be on top and not having any regard for the people you are around, you are setting up a crappy template for the rest of your life. You don’t just get to that dream job and hit the off switch and become an amazingly chill and loveable person. This doesn’t mean that being smart or good at school automatically qualifies you as sucking at life, it just means to keep things balanced today, so they stay balanced tomorrow.

And if all else fails, remember this. A friend of mine always asks, “What do they call the guy who finishes last in his law school class?” He smirks and responds, “A lawyer.”