November 03, 2005
Present and Accounted For
November 3, 2005 01:41 PM
It has come to my attention that some law schools have mandatory class attendance policies. The hell? I'm wondering if tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and fees, as well as free wireless access for unlimited porn downloads are not enough to get you into that seat bright and early on a Friday morning, why does the school bother with coercing you into going? And does this reflect in any way on the quality of law school professors? (See, NYU Coase's list).
UPDATE: Mike, from Barely Legal, beat me to it by a day.
I'd never heard of an entire law school with mandatory attendance, but certainly some of my classes have had that in effect -- i.e. you lose points and sometimes even credit (for pass/fail courses) if you miss class too often or on the day that you're on call. My Foundations of the Regulatory State class didn't have mandatory attendance for the lecture, but it did for the TA session (though my TA was a god among men so of course I would have attended anyway).
In New York State, law professors are required to certify in writing that every student receiving academic credit for a course has attended at least 70% of the classes.
And perhaps not just NY State, but I think that the ABA has certain guidelines for the percentage of classes students attend for official credit.
Either way, you're right. You would think that between the inflated tuition rates and the decision to attend law school to become an attorney would be enough motivation to attend class. But I know I'm wrong.
Yeah, here at Stetson, we evidently follow the ABA's policy that students attend 80% all classes, which I find insulting. As if the 120K I'll owe after I graduate in May isn't enough of an incentive.
I wouldn't assume that people are paying the massive tuition for the wisdom granted by the professors. A lot of people are paying it so they can get JD and become lawyers, and if attending class doesn't strike them as absolutely necessary to that goal, they've no reason to do it. If you're going to law school for the credential and not the experience, then class isn't necessarily doing much for you unless there's a participation requirement. I've attended only 60% of the classes in one lecture course this semester, because it doesn't feel like the professor spends enough of the class time covering the material (as opposed to telling stories that really aren't very relevant), and if I don't get to talk, why bother?
I don't know about you, but I'm paying the $125,000 for a piece of paper that says I went to a top school. With a few exceptions, IMHO the professors here don't deserve a dime of that money, whether I go to class or not. It's getting harder and harder to get up for an early class (funny, it wasn't hard to get up for work), and in the classes I do go to, I seem to be suffering from law school induced ADD. i read the casebook, study emmanuels, and usually do very well on the exam. maybe the professors should try teaching better, taking cues from the few decent profs here. That might fill the seats.
My 1L contracts prof, rumor has it, goes to the registrar every semester and tries to fail students who didn't show up often enough. She always gets rebuffed.
I think this "I pay $125000" argument doesn't go as far as some people push it, though. Even though you pay money, they can still kick you out for lots of reasons and can still impose some expectations on you. Granted, most of those expectations are that you not interfere with the rights of other students to get value out of their educations, but the point remains that the fact of your paying $125000 doesn't mean that you're entitled to do whatever you want once the check clears.
A fair amount of professors believe that class participation matters, particularly in smaller classes. I see no reason why they shouldn't be entitled to require that their students attend.
That's kinda like saying, "because grade matters, everyone should study to get an A (or whatever the top grade is at a given school). But if you don't study hard enough, you fail." Maybe the analogy is a bit forced, but if attendance matters then who's in the best position to judge? I mean I can see a compulsory attendance policy in HS, but really now.