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St. Louis Diary

After a nice three-week Christmas break which I spend with my family in Germany, I am now back in Saint Louis.


 

After a nice three-week Christmas break which I spend with my family in Germany, I am now back in Saint Louis. The semester has already started and my schedule for the spring consists of the following classes: Business Associations, Secured Transactions (UCC Article 9), Patent Law, Law & Technology, and Criminal Procedure. Nevertheless let me first tell you something about my finals in the last semester. (As you might remember, I mentioned those quite a few times).

The general organizational set up of the exam is somewhat different from Germany, since there is only one final examination ad the end of each semester (some professors also do mid-term exams but these seem not to be very popular at law school). Before the actual examination every student gets a three-digit examination number from the registrarís office. You have to write this number on all exams instead of your name in order to guarantee a fair and just grading that is not influenced by personal likes or dislikes of the professor. The professors only get to know the studentsí names that stand behind the number after they have reported all grades to the registrarís office. Later the results are posted on the web as well as on a board in school under the respective examination number.

However, when it comes to the examination itself, American law school examinations are not too different from German law school exams. That is, the way the exam questions are constructed is quite similar to a German exam. Usually you get a certain set of facts or a short case that presents legal problems, which you have to evaluate. For example, a typical question from a contracts exam would be a fact situation in which seller S agrees to sell his 1972 Mercedes to buyer B. After they have agreed on the price etc. and the seller has to deliver the car, it is destroyed by a tornado. A typical question would now deal with the formation of the contract, the breach, Sís obligation to deliver, and Bís remedies.

So far this could be a typical fact situation from a German exam. The difference lays in the technique one has to employ in order to answer the question. While in German exams the student in most often is requested to picture himself in the role of a judge and to solve the case justly, American examinations normally donít ask for solutions but for arguments one could make to support either party. Therefore a typical question would be: "Imagine you are the sellerís counsel. What advice would you give him? What defenses is the seller likely to rise? How will you counter these defenses?" In order to answer these questions, one has not to make lengthy statements of the law or give excessive interpretation of the thereof. Rather you have to follow an answering technique, which is called "IRAC" (standing for Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion). By means of this technique you have to present a concise and precise analysis of the relevant facts, the rule of law that you are going to apply, and a reasoning that goes directly to the hart of the problem and leaves out all unnecessary details. Another way to describe this type of exam solving is to call it "Narrow Issue Thinking": Throw all unnecessary ballast over board and concentrate on the essentials

Most three hour examinations consist of up to 12 different factual situations each of which have to be evaluated in 10 to 15 minutes. The time that you should spend on each question is thereby marked on your exam form.

Other popular forms of exam designs are True or False and Multiple Circe Examinations. My Commercial Transactions final consisted of 85 multiple-choice questions, some of which required an additional short reasoning for the answer chosen. The trick with this examination was that even when you made the right selection, your answer still could be wrong because of a false reasoning. While this method of examination is still not very well accepted in German legal education it is not completely unknown.

Yet, a completely new experience for me presented my cyberspace final, which was a 24-hour take home examination. The exam consisted of three essay questions about ecommerce and cyberlaw with a total page limit of 14 pages, each question requiring some modest research. The exam had to be picked up with a date and time stamp in the registrarís office and to be returned typed within 24 hours, either by hand delivery or by email. While this might sound not to difficult, it really is somehow tricky. Most likely you are doing far too much research, which can result in some severe time managing problems towards the end of the exam. Nevertheless, with a large enough supply of hot coffee and chocolate it is doable

For all of you that still canít get enough of exams, just follow the link and you will be directed to my cyberlaw examination (yes, it really was an A-). And if you are more interested in important things: The Saint Louis Rams are on the winning street and I am closely following them. So stay tuned!

Nils