Askin’ Askin

By: Peter Askin, 3L

Editor in Chief

Hey, I’m a little nervous about my upcoming exams and was wondering if you had any advice of what I could write in my exam answers that could really impress my professors.
- gunningsince92

Hi gunningsince92, thanks for askin’. Many law professors will tell you that they expect simple, concise answers on their exams. “Cut out the fluff,” they’ll tell you. They want you to get to the issue quickly, and employ IRAC.

This is a trap.

Professors are lying when they say these things because they’re trying to find out who the good students are. They know the good students would ignore such simpleton advice and instead produce an exam answer that gets to the heart of governance, justice, and piety. They expect the best students to have cracked the cryptic lessons the professors have been conveying all semester.

I remember on my 1L Civil Procedure exam there was a question asking about pleading standards. I was much too smart to talk about Twombly-Iqbal like my average classmates. Instead I questioned the integrity of our notice-pleading system altogether using narrative theory. What I lacked in actual knowledge of the law I made up with my command of abstract thoughts that no one really has time for. My professor couldn’t have been more thrilled.

In fact, most of the exam questions are going to be trick questions. If you see a fact pattern on your torts exam that ends with something like “discuss the possibility of a trespass claim,” don’t be fooled. Throw the kitchen sink in and include some negligence analysis and bring up a jurisdiction issue. Even if you haven’t taken constitutional law yet, throw an equal protection claim in there—it’s like the catch-all of the legal profession. Your professor will be impressed you saw things they didn’t.

And, most importantly, remember to Bluebook all your exam answers before you turn them in. That period after the id better be italicized or there’s no chance you’re getting a B. If you’re really striving for that A, make sure each citation has an explanatory parenthetical so you can showcase your knowledge about obscure and irrelevant facts about that case.

Remember: when in doubt, flesh it out. Over-explaining things is a hallmark of our profession, and there’s no reason not to start in an exam. Professors get excited when they see a 30-page exam to grade.

Categories: Columns