Some Exam-Taking Advice from Professor Kircher

[Editor’s note:  In this post, Professor John J. Kircher provides the first installment in our new series, “What are your best exam-taking tips for law students?”]

To begin with, always be careful to understand the “call” of the question. That is, what is the professor asking you to do? If he or she casts you in the role of the defense counsel and asks you to evaluate that side, don’t waste your time explaining what a great case the plaintiff has under the circumstances provided!

Also, if the question is jurisdiction-specific (e.g., Wisconsin), don’t waste your time and effort explaining the law of all other jurisdictions.

Finally, if you are uncertain about the answer to a particular question, go on to the other exam questions.  It is better to have one unanswered question than to spin your wheels and waste time trying to figure out its answer only to have inadequate time to properly answer the remaining questions.

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Memories of Sensenbrenner Hall (Part 1)

As the Law School community prepares to leave our current home and move into a new facility, it seems appropriate to pause and recall some of the memorable events that have taken place in Sensenbrenner Hall over the years.  Professor Jack Kircher shares the first of what we hope will be many faculty memories recounting the various classroom surprises, distinguished visitors, and construction oddities associated with our present surroundings.  These memories will ensure that Sensenbrenner Hall lives on forever in our hearts.  

My first memory of Sensenbrenner Hall goes back to my time as a 1L.  At that time, the library occupied all of the third floor, the second floor had two large classrooms and a moot court room, the first floor had two large classrooms, and the administrative offices (Dean, etc.) occupied the space now used by Admissions.  During the 2d semester of my first year, we were in our Contracts class during the early afternoon in a second floor classroom that occupied all of the east side of that floor (now Rooms 204 and 210). It must have been Springtime, as I remember that the windows in the room were open (they opened back then).  Unbeknownst to us, Marquette University had just announced that the school would no longer play varsity football beginning the following fall.  As we sat there in class, discussing some arcane Contracts issue, we slowly began to hear the chant “we want football” coming from the west.

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Judicial Verbosity – It’s Not Easy Being Green

paper-millAn article, “Conciseness in Legal Writing,” by my colleague Lisa Hatlen in the June 2009 issue of Wisconsin Lawyer [at 21] got me thinking.  My conclusion: I am surprised that “green” organizations do not picket at various appellate courthouses in this country, especially in Madison, Wisconsin.  A lot of trees are paying a price for judicial verbosity.

It took Judge Benjamin Cardozo about two and a half pages to write Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad, 248 N.Y. 339, 162 N.E. 99 (1928). Less than forty years later, it took Justice Roger Traynor only about one page more to write Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, 59 Cal.2d 57, 377 P.2d 897 (1963). Shortly thereafter, here in Wisconsin, it took Justice Bruce Beilfuss only eight pages to write Dippel v. Sciano, 37 Wis.2d 443, 155 N.W.2d 55 (1967). All three are landmark opinions in their respective jurisdictions, with the first two having national status. [All references here are to West reporter pages.] 

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