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To Go to Class or Not to Go to Class

emptyClass.jpgA recent National Law Journal article tells of a debate over what it calls “a perennial subject,” the argument about whether or not law schools should have mandatory class attendance. Some argue that mandatory attendance is important because that’s the way things are in the real world. Says a Seattle University School of Law prof:

My view is: You need to start treating this as a job. You need to start imposing upon yourself the same standard that will be imposed upon you when you leave. When one graduates, it’s not just a matter of flipping the switch and having good habits.

I don’t buy that argument at all. First of all, many a college student (undergrad, law school, grad school - you name it) go from days of minimal class attendance to full-time jobs without having some sort of “not showing up to work” issue, so that “flip a switch” argument is just stupid. Plus, if the professor really believes that law school is truly supposed to prepare students for practicing in the real world, he’d be a proponent of much broader law school reform, as much of the law school process has little-to-nothing to do with actually preparing one to be a working lawyer (and to be fair, I have no idea what the professor’s stance is on this issue).

Meanwhile, others out there argue that mandatory attendance may not be all that important, as there’s no data to suggest that higher attendance correlates to better grades. One practitioner notes that the real problem here is that many professors aren’t engaging their students. And that’s absolutely right. I had classes I never missed, and I had classes I missed far more frequently than perhaps I should have. And with rare exception, the difference was that I went to the classes where I actually cared about the material and/or the professor, and I skipped the ones where I didn’t give a lick. And at the end of the semester, my grades were comparable, regardless of the amount of time I went to class. The majority of law school students are self-motivated types (since that’s who’s drawn to law school in the first place), and they’re going to generally prepare for exams in the way that best suits them. So rather than throwing around mandatory attendance requirements, law schools should work towards actually engaging the students and bettering the process as a whole. But that costs time and energy, and law schools are a business. And like all business, the lest time and energy spent, the more money in the pocket, right?

| Comments (6)


The only valid argument I have heard (not necessarily convincing, but not totally flawed) for mandatory attendance is that the discussion is more valuable if there are more students present, so skipping class hurts more students than just the skipper.

I had classes I missed far more frequently than perhaps I should have---
For me it was called TAX LAW, only took it because it was required as a tested subject on the Alabama Bar exam.

I think I will skip Domestic Relations tomorrow.

Here here! I think mandatory attendance rules are silly. Once you're in graduate school, one should act like and be treated like an adult. Not to mention, there were always a number of students who I wished would attend class far less as their "participation" was largely insufferable.

Some profs just have an inflated sense of their own worth. I got docked two grades for missing six sessions of ConLaw when my wife was in the hospital in another state. Then I got the little certificate in the mail congratulating me for having the top exam. Top exam. C+. Bitch.

This could really be extended to the entire American collegiate system, at least the parts I've seen. There's nothing less inspiring than a professor that would rather be somewhere else flicking through PowerPoint slides.