Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Old Exams—and Really Old Exams

The library hosts an archive of old UW Law exams, which many students use to prepare for the strange genre of law school exams. (By request of the faculty, it is limited to UW users: you'll have to enter your NetID.)

The archive is arranged by faculty name. If you don't find your professor listed, take heart! You can use ctrl-f to search for the name of the course. If you don't find a civil procedure exam from your professor, you can find many exams from other professors. (Even if you do find exams from your professor, you might find it helpful to look at other exams, too.)

If you'd like even more exams to practice on, see this list of exams from other schools.

Pay attention to the dates. If you find a model answer to a Civil Procedure exam from 1994, don't be surprised if it doesn't mention  Bell Atlantic v. Twombly or Ashcroft v. Iqbal: they were decided in 2007 and 2009. You're looking at model answers to see how successful students organize and explain their answers, not for the substantive law.

Harvard Law School’s old exams cover 1871–1995. The more recent decades will have exams very much like the ones that are common today. The old ones have a different format and sometimes cover different concepts.

Christopher Columbus Langdell (1826–1906), a professor at and then the dean of Harvard Law School, is famous for pioneering the case method in law schools, teaching from collections of cases, using Socratic questioning, rather than lecturing. The1872/73 volume of Harvard exams includes some of Professor Langdell's. The Contracts exam (p. 312) could be handled by a current student. E.g.,
gray-scale etching of Langdell - old man with white beard
Christopher Columbus Langdell, by Otto J. Schneider.
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

1. What is a unilateral contract, and what is a bilateral contract? Give an example of each. What is the consideration of a bilateral contract not under seal?  
5. A and B being engaged to be married, the uncle of B promised A that if he would marry B, he (the uncle) would pay A an annuity of $500- during the life of B. The marriage having taken place, can the uncle, or not, be compelled to perform his promise, and why? Would it, or not, make any difference if there were mutual promises between A and the uncle, and why? 
But his exam for Civil Procedure at Common Law (p. 314) asked about concepts I'd never heard of:
1. What is profert, and when is it necessary to make it? What is oyer, when is a party entitled to it, and what purpose does it serve? 
3. When should a count begin with the words “For that whereas,” and when should the word “whereas” be omitted, and why? 
5. What is the plea of liberum tenementum, and when may it be pleaded?
6. In an action for slander, imputing theft, is it or not necessary for the plaintiff to aver that he is not a thief, and why? 
7. Upon a special demurrer to a replication, it appeared that the declaration, plea, and replication were all bad in substance. Who was entitled to judgment, and why?
10. What is a repleader, and when does it become necessary?
(There's another Civil Procedure exam, just as arcane, on p. 315.)

What a difference the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure made!

For more on Langdell, see this memorial from the American Law Register (the predecessor to the University of Pennsylvania Law Review) from 1907.

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