Here is the LPPE puzzle: the subject matter of the class is probably the most straightforward compared to other 1L courses, but the classes themselves are some of the most convoluted.
This boggles my mind. LPPE is arguably the most practical class taught in 1L—even more so than Legal Research and Writing, since research and writing skills are usually developed outside the classroom. Unlike case law in other, more theoretical courses in 1L, the Rules of Civil Procedure are something we will actually need to use as soon as we begin practicing. As such, it seems important that we take advantage of our classroom time to get a good grasp of the material.
Moreover, an alarming number of upper years have managed to receive an H or higher in LPPE without attending a majority of the classes. This implies that the subject matter in the course is not actually that difficult. So, most students can get away with teaching themselves all the material in the last few days, maybe a week, before the exam. This effectively signals to students that it might be worthwhile using the class time during the rest of the term to work on other things.
What’s even more confounding is that the instructors for the course, Professors Simon Stern and Albert Yoon, seem to genuinely care about their teaching. Professor Stern has openly invited past students into his office to criticize his course; Professor Yoon tries to engage his students with various pop culture references (albeit by spoiling Sherlock for half the class). Both instructors have amply demonstrated their well-intentioned dedication to providing a better classroom experience. I just don’t understand why the classes continue to disappoint students year after year.
Perhaps it is because the professors know so much and we know so little that there is such a large disconnect in the classroom. Professors Stern and Yoon are distinguished scholars who represent some of the leading minds in civil procedure. In all likelihood, they are probably so deeply immersed in the nuances of their field that they sometimes forget what it was like to be a law student, i.e. someone who has never heard of Rule 14 before.
There are undoubtedly many legal issues that challenge the apparent simplicity of the rules we learn. Unfortunately, these issues are not clearly communicated in class, making it difficult for interested students to properly engage with them. Instead, we end up getting lost in the fast-paced, soliloquizing lectures. Instead of exerting the mental effort required to discern the somewhat-relevant points from the purely tangential ones, we decide it’s better to tune out and scroll through Facebook—or abstain from attending class completely.
While we may take solace in having one less course to worry about, most of us would still prefer to have a more worthwhile classroom experience. We want to learn from our accomplished professors, and to get value out of the classes we paid all that tuition money for.
While other students will have their own thoughts on the course, these are some of my own suggestions: invite more practicing lawyers to speak about their perspective on the topics in class; use PowerPoints more effectively by not including so much text in the slide; and maybe just dumb down some of the material in general.
I can’t help but think that maybe the entire LPPE experience is a metaphor for law school (think Stickergate 2017), or even life itself: we tend to make things into a bigger deal than they sometimes really are.