Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why American law school students should appreciate their laptops

I just took an exam. And now my hand hurts. It really does. Bad. This is because in Germany law students not only have to complete a second state exam (two years) after law school (five years) after elementary and high school (thirteen years) and practice for all of these (yes, there are no young German lawyers), they also have to write their exams by hand. On paper. With a pen. No laptops. No kidding.

Why? Don’t ask. Whenever I ask, telling tales from my US law school exams, they worry about students surfing the net for answers. American law schools seem to manage just fine. They provide equal opportunities because the lucky few who (for whatever reasons) have a transparent writing (probably they’re not very creative) have no advantage over the creative few (whose handwriting looks like a Jackson Pollock). In addition, the US procedure is essentially more practical: Nobody, no attorney, no professor, no judge does not use a computer.

That wouldn’t be so bad if German lawyers did not depend so tremendously upon their exam grades. But they do. Your grade in the first and second German state exam makes your career, or ruins it. A simple, and practical, change in German exam practice would thus improve equality a lot. Instead an abstract expressionist like me has to put two thirds of my efforts during exam writing into my handwriting. You may think I deserve no better, but think about the difference it makes if your exam decided about your career opportunities. That’s why I should probably sue the German state government for allowing me to write my exams on a laptop. That’s what I’m gonna do. At least I can write the brief on my laptop.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Viktor! In Argentina lap tops are not yet that popular in the classrooms - perhaps because most students cannot afford to have one. That saves me from the annoying sound of the constant typing. They are not allowed in exams as a rule. My exams are long - 2 to 3 hours. And studet have to handwrite them. As a result, instead of using their time to think, they also have to concentrate on the quality of their handwriting - so that it is readable - and fight against the fact that their hands get tired. This may mean a waste of talent! I am looking for alternatives, but since not everyone has a laptop, allowing to use them may created unfair disadvantages. I think this will change in a few years when some models of lap tops get cheaper. In the meantime, I am thinking of alternatives.


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