Exam FAQ

1.  How should I use case names?

Generally, there are two kinds of case names.  Certain cases are of historical significance and appear in nearly all casebooks.  These cases, often authored by the United States Supreme Court, you should know by name.

  • Examples (in civil procedure):  International Shoe v. Washington; Swift v. Tyson.

Other cases, especially cases of lower courts, are less important.  However, they will often be useful as shorthand in analysis.

  • Example (in civil procedure):  If you want to explore two different ways that a court might address alternate, sufficient grounds when parsing issue preclusion, it would be helpful to refer back to Halpern v. Schwartz and Winters v. Lavine. (These specific cases are no longer in Yeazell’s Civil Procedure book.)

When citing case names, you do not need to provide the full blue book citation.  However, the first time you cite a case, I prefer that you cite some abbreviated form of both parties — plaintiff and defendant.  After the initial citation, you can use a shorthand form.  Of course, if you can remember only one party’s name, cite that.

2.  Does my writing style matter, or is it the raw content that counts?

I expect grammatical sentences.  I will not be happy with sentence fragments or glorified outlines.  Also, if I ask you to play a particular role — as attorney, law clerk, judge — your writing should be appropriate to that role.  If you would not write sentence fragments or use slang in a memorandum to your judge, then you should not do that in the exam if you are asked to be a law clerk.  This does not mean, however, that you should waste 10 minutes writing a perfect introductory paragraph. Consistently, the students who write well-organized, grammatical paragraphs get the best grades.

3.  Can I abbreviate names, parties, concepts we have abbreviated in class?

Abbreviate only moderately, consistent with the role that I’ve asked you to play. Please define all abbreviations before using them, even if the abbreviations are obvious.  This creates a level playing field for all students. Really, the time it takes to type out a word isn’t what’s distinguishing your grade from others.

  • Example (civil procedure):  If you want to abbreviate the term “subject matter jurisdiction,” please write something like “An important issue we must consider is subject matter jurisdiction (SMJ).”  After this point, you may use the abbreviation “SMJ” to refer to subject matter jurisdiction.
  • Do not, however, abbreviate everything under the sun writing a sentence like:
    “Well P1 and P2 may or may not motion to the ct re the pj or the smj re D2, unless IP makes hte issue moot.” I have a hard time reading such cryptic prose, which is not good for you.
  • Suggestion:  don’t abbreviate anything I don’t usually abbreviate in class.  Even if I do abbreviate in class, be wary of doing so on the exam.  Really, I can’t tell you the number of times I get sentences like “Since the C is not part of the same CA as the TorO, CP not probably good unless maybe I think that there’s a different std for the C not in the 12(b)(6) sense but the CP sense.”   Even if you defined every term early on, I’m not going to do the work to figure out that C means “claim” and not Charles, and CA means “civil action” instead of “California,” etc.

4.  What can I can assume the reader knows.  In other words, what should I take for granted since I do not want to repeat the obvious.

You may be uncertain about what you can take for granted in the exam.  For example, can you assume that your reader is familiar with all the cases in the casebook?  Can you assume that the reader shares your peculiar vocabulary?

  • Example (civil procedure):  “litigation unit” in claim preclusion analysis; “proactive”/”reactive” stance in summary judgment analysis.

It is best to assume that the reader is whoever happens to be identified in the examination role play and not me, your law professor.  If you use peculiar terms of art, as employed in our class, you should define how you are using such terms.  If you refer to a case simply to state a holding that is universally accepted, you can simply refer to that case and state clearly that holding.  On the other hand, if you are using that case to analogize to the facts in the examination, you should not assume that your reader knows all the details of that case.  Instead, explain whatever is relevant in that case.  Remember, the point is to show me how much you have learned in this class (without going off on tangents).

  • Example (civil procedure):  If you merely want to state the current constitutional rule for personal jurisdiction, you can state the minimum contacts and traditional notions of their play and substantial justice formulation, and cite International Shoe. You do not have to go into detail about whatInternational Shoe involved.  By contrast, if you are trying to determine what constitutes “purposeful” availment, and you want to compare and contrast with Asahi Metals, you should review for your reader the relevant details of Asahi Metals.

5.  What may I bring to an open-book exam?

Generally, you may bring any “required text and supplement” and your own class notes and outlines.  Outlines that you have jointly authored are permissible also.  Commercial outlines and treatises are not allowed.  Any deviations from this general rule will be announced in class.

  • Example (civil procedure):  Glannon is an optional text, and therefore, not permitted.