Hiding the Ball

I know I promised you all pictures, and I swear, they’ll be here eventually. I promise. (There’s no consideration for that promise, though, so you can’t hold me to it as a contract.)

Also, note: the end of this gets a little bit ranty. Sorry…

Anyway. There’s a term in law school “hiding the ball”. It’s basically when professors have something very specific that they want the students to mention, but outright refuse to help the students get there. They’ll ask pointed questions and make leading statements, but they don’t show you where the ball is. You have to guess.

This is extremely common in classes that are taught using the Socratic Method. And it’s a little intimidating/scary/upsetting to be in the position of the student who has been called on, and you know that the professor wants you to answer in some specific manner, but you’re just not sure what exactly that manner is. My Contracts professor does this on a daily basis, but he does it well, and he doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself. I used to have this opinion based on watching other students in class, but as of Monday, I now know from personal experience.

Monday was my first “real” cold call, and the baby one in Torts didn’t entirely prepare me for it. I think over all I did alright – and my classmates at least tried to boost my ego afterwards by telling me how great I did. I did manage to make the entire classroom dissolve into laughter, which was a plus. In case anyone’s interested, the case I discussed was In re Soper, which is about a guy who has a wife, fakes his death (makes it look like a suicide), runs off to another state, gets “married” to another woman, who dies, gets “married” to a third woman, and then actually commits suicide. My joke was when the professor said “So now Soper’s dead…” my immediate response was “… Presumably.”

Anyway, after Contracts, I had a memo critique, and that didn’t go very well. First, keep in mind that this is for the class that was introduced to us as “The one class where we WON’T hide the ball from you.” Our professor then directed us towards Federal, State, and City codes to research. She told us, eventually, that the Federal code didn’t apply.  Then, a while later, we were told to focus only on the City code. Talking to some of my classmates, I found out that she didn’t tell them the same thing as she told me. Our professor also has an extremely difficult time providing us with feedback. We submitted a paper in September, and the majority of my class hasn’t received feedback. I sent her a couple emails asking for feedback, in order to prepare for this writing assignment, and did get a response. Unfortunately, the feedback essentially consisted of “You wrote a paper. It’s got words in it.”

This type of feedback is not the most useful. Somewhat fortunately, the class is a pass/fail class, so it won’t ruin my GPA if something unfortunate happens. On the other hand, it’s also our “practical skills” class, and it’s my only real option to produce a writing sample for use in my impending job search. So it’d be kind of nice if this were something that were more useful, and that motivated me more to put significant effort into the assignments.

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