Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Importance of Following Instructions

Lawyers have to to be careful about court rules, deadlines, and various other instructions throughout their professional lives - the right format for an appellate brief, meeting filing deadlines, etc. 

Unfortunately, law students sometimes overlook the importance of following instructions and face unpleasant consequences during law school as a result.  Hopefully, learning from their errors during law school will prevent more serious errors later in practice. 

Here are some law student mishaps with unread instructions or ignored instructions that I have known about:

  • The professor's final exam instructions stated that the students could choose three of the five essay questions to complete and must only answer a total of three questions.  A student did not read the instructions and answered all five questions while other classmates spent the time on three questions.  The professor stopped grading the five-answer exam paper after the third answer.  The student received a failing grade for the course.
  • The professor's midterm exam instructions stated that each question should be answered true or false and each answer should then be explained.   A student did not read the instructions, answered true or false for each question, and explained none of the answers.  The student received a failing grade on the midterm exam.
  • The professor's exam instructions listed three steps that students were to complete in answering several scenarios on the exam (instructions handed out the day before the exam and also included on the exam).  A student ignored step one for each scenario and lost around 15 points as a result.
  • A student ignored multiple legal research and writing format requirements for an assignment and lost 20 points.
  • Exam procedures required that students who wanted to request an exam move because of having three exams in two days had to file the request by a certain date.  A student failed to request an exam move in time and had to complete the exams as scheduled.  The student got a D in the course for the third exam because of being too worn out to focus well during that exam.
  • A third-year student was warned that he had used up all of his absences in a required course and would be withdrawn with a grade of F if more classes were missed.  The student's explanation did not warrant an exception to the attendance policy.  The student missed more classes and was withdrawn from the course with the F grade.  The student appealed the grade and was surprised that it was upheld.

Legal work requires attention to details.  Missed details can have dire consequences.  Thankfully, most of our students pay attention to instructions.  (Amy Jarmon)

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