ABA Journal


Law Students

Federal Judge Tosses Suit by Ex-Law Students Who Challenged ‘Arbitrary and Capricious’ D Minus

Nov 21, 2012, 12:34 pm CST


Years ago a young acquaintance took off for Texas Southern, and he mentioned while visiting during breaks that the school was very proud of its high attrition. In fact, during orientation, the members of the entering class were told "Look to your right, and look to your left. Chances are one of those people will not be here when you graduate." He did graduate, and landed a decent job on staff at HUD. At the end of the day, however, not everyone is going to make it, at any school. Some students really are D- students.

By B. McLeod on 2012 11 21, 1:21 pm CST

I knew grade inflation (and inflated expectations of grades) were becoming a problem in all levels of education, but gee whiz. How can you expect to pass if you only answer one question out of eight correctly? Even if it's half the points, that still only puts you up to 50% of the available points. That's a D under ANY grade scale, even the old standard 90%=A, 80%=B, 70%=C, 60%=D . . . oh, wait, under most grading scales a 50% would be an F.

And since there were seven other questions with available points, odds are the curve wouldn't have been in their favor, regardless of how sharp it was.

By RecentGrad on 2012 11 21, 2:22 pm CST

Stupid people are stupid.

By BobsYourUncle on 2012 11 21, 3:04 pm CST


By This Vato on 2012 11 21, 3:40 pm CST

McLeod - that old story about looking right and left is straight out of the fifties, and is usually attributed to Clark Byse, a legendary Administrative Law professor at Harvard widely thought to be the model for the Kingsfield character in the Paper Chase novel and movie. Byse was famously hard on people, of course, (though a softie at heart), but he always denied inventing or using that line. He thought it was a little simple-minded and crude. It's hard to believe that someone on the Texas Southern faculty was recycling it "years ago." A movie theater might have been the closes your "young acquaintance" (or you) ever came to law school.

By Pushkin on 2012 11 21, 3:43 pm CST

1. I can't imagine what inspired these two to file this lawsuit. Now the whole world know what only Professor Smith previously knew: That they don't have an adequate grasp of 1L Contract Law.

2. @1 /@5 Although I never heard the line "Look to your right, and look to your left" while I was in law school, I can verify that it has been used in various engineering schools for at least three decades, and was used by multiple professors in my son's engineering school just four years ago. (Thank God he is scheduled to graduate on time with his B.S.E.E.)

By Yankee on 2012 11 21, 5:50 pm CST

For even taking on the case, makes one wonder how Ford and Chan's attorney, Jason Bach, did in Law School.

By TMJ on 2012 11 21, 6:13 pm CST

I'm sure it's a well known refrain, but when I was in law school the mantra was "A students become judges, B students become law professors, and C students become wealthy."

By Fred on 2012 11 21, 8:14 pm CST

Wow, Pushki is so out of sorts today he actually misspelled a word (for probably the first time ever). I'm thinking the Texas Southern story was late 90's or early 2000's. Certainly far more recent than the 1950's.

By B. McLeod on 2012 11 21, 11:51 pm CST


During orientation, the Dean of my law school told members of my class to “Look to your right, and look to your left. Chances are that you'll probably sleep with one of those people by the time you graduate.”

By ipthereforeiam on 2012 11 22, 4:12 pm CST

Ah, the two students only provided more proof that they have no knowledge on Contract Law. Both students answered only one of eight questions correctly. Who wants to guess that the correct answer was to the same question for both students?

By StudentK on 2012 11 24, 6:19 pm CST

At freshman orientation for Syracuse University's College of Liberal Arts, the class of 1966 was told to look to the right/left and 1/3 would not be there at the end of the year. That's first hand, folks.

By Jackson on 2012 11 24, 9:50 pm CST

The "look to your left & right" comment has been used in various settings. I received an undergrad degree in engineering and heard it way back then; recycle and repeat for law school. Folks that have to keeping telling everyone how it was said to their class are trying to impress upon others how competitive their educational experience was. Get over it. Loads of schools use it and it doesn't mean a darn thing about the quality or difficulty of your experience. No one is impressed by this statement. End of story.

By BigWoop on 2012 11 25, 7:49 pm CST

The other thing I remember from the conversation was that Texas Southern, in those days, had been having a lot of problems with bar pass rates, and so the 1L class was having to take a lot of tests. I assume that effort to terrorize the students into performance continued through their 3L year, but I don't remember getting any follow-up reports, so I don't know if the school managed to bring up its pass rate.

If I ever open a law school, the highest possible score there (which will largely exist only in the abstract ) will be a "B+" and will be limited to those students whom I believe to have the potential to surpass my own practice level. Few students, perhaps only the top 3 or 4 on an exam, if they do a truly spectatular job, should expect the "B+". Next will be the "B," for those students who appear to be peforming at a level suggesting they may attain a practice ability roughly equivalent to my own (maybe the next top 5 scores on each exam, if all the answers are at least arguably correct on the main substantive points). Below those will be the "C's" rounding out the rest of the top 25% of the class, and below them, the "L's". Within the "L" range, I would have a gradation by debt level, with an "L+" for students who at least did not incur debt for their schooling, an "L" for those who incurred debt up to $100,000, and an "L-" for those who incurred debt over $100,000. Below the "L-" would be the category "Cloddy Dumbkins," for those who go beyond the "L-" criteria by also financing their bar review costs.

By B. McLeod on 2012 11 26, 12:11 am CST

@B. Mcleod:

You're absolutely right. Getting a law degree is not easy. If it were, everybody and his sister would get one.

By Mickey on 2012 11 26, 1:14 am CST

I wonder what compelled these two students, along with their lawyer, to keep going with the lawsuit once they discovered that they missed 7 out of 8 questions on the final exam.

By Mickey on 2012 11 26, 1:17 am CST

@ 5: Wow Pushkin, really scraping the bottom this time around.

I can vouch for the lines "Look to your left, look to your right, only one of you will be here next year" still being used up until recently at least. Many third and fourth year schools have high attrition rates. (See, example, Cooley.) These schools have retread these tired phrases as recently as my time through law school (2005-2008).

Although this has changed. Not because of any softening in law schools, but rather because these schools with high attrition rate want students to suffer and linger on past when they should quit so they can collect tuition as long as possible. So the name of the game currently is to be as nice as possible, even while flunking them.

By John on 2012 11 26, 12:24 pm CST

Maybe the “look to your left & right” phrase needs updating for the times in which we live?

Given the poor economy and the recent particularly poor placement of new law school graduates, maybe the saying should be updated as follows: 'Look to your left & right: Chances are one of those people will be working part time at McDonald's and the other at Burger King after you all graduate"

By Yankee on 2012 11 26, 5:40 pm CST

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