How Not To Give A Pre-Exam Pep Talk

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Advice from a 1L here.

I remember receiving a pretty lousy pep talk as a 1L from a law prof who told a story about thinking she flunked an exam, freaking out and crying for days, but actually getting an A. Given the typical mandatory curves at most law schools, we knew the getting an A part couldn’t come true for most of the class, and the story just sounded like an excuse to brag about her law school achievements, which kind of made her sound like an asshole. Especially when she triumphantly added that some classmate who thought she aced the exam only wound up with a B.

My pep talk about exams for first year law students starts out: “Many will enter, few will win.” Then I try to reassure them that within a very few years of graduation, how they perform as lawyers will matter a whole lot more than what their grades were. I hope this is the correct approach.

–Ann Bartow

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0 Responses to How Not To Give A Pre-Exam Pep Talk

  1. Eric says:

    In lieu of giving my own pep talk, I gave my students a clip of Alec Baldwin’s motivational speech from Glengarry Glen Ross. I’m sure I’ll live to regret that!

  2. Pingback: Perhaps I should have gone with “Win One for the Gipper” « Debris

  3. Ralph M. Stein says:

    Your approach is fine, Ann.

    I tell 1-Ls that too often they react to first semester grades based on often unrealistic expectations tied to grade inflation in college. I also tell them that it’s their choice whether to enter into an essentially meaningless competition with their peers and suggest they take the wisdom of Ecclesiastes and recognize that the race is not always in favor of the swift.

    BUT…I also tell them that the traditional “everything rides on one exam” is divisive, counterproductive and anti-intellectual and ask if anyone had ever experienced before something called a “final examination” that had no evaluative vehicles earlier. The answer, of course, is “no.”

    I have at least three written graded components in any course with a final exam.

  4. jha says:

    And then I had the BA professor who walked in before the exam to say nothing more than “Don’t choke.”

  5. umlawgirl07 says:

    Of course, if you’re in your 50s when you graduate law school, it’s *much* easier to forget those grades…like, you know, the day you graduate! :)

    I’m having a good time as a lawyer and doing good work. It’s almost comical now to think about the worry over grades.

  6. Ralph M. Stein says:

    Older students often worry excessively about whether their many years out of school will impact their ability to do well. Their concerns are not based on competitiveness – most don’t want 25/8 jobs – but on genuine fears that should be addressed by sympathetic faculty.

    And, not surprising, often these older, fearful students are women.