May It Please The Court: Weblog of legal news and observations, including a quote of the day and daily updates

Skip To Content

MIPTC Author:


The Sled:

Listed in Latino Who's Who, June 2014
Categories [more]
General (1985)
Lawyer 2 Lawyer (284)
Latest Blogs
This Month's Posts [more]
Links of Interest [more]
Locations of visitors to this page

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Quote of the Day - In electronics repair the part with the highest failure rate will always be located in the least accessible area of the equipment. - Richard
Adjust font size: A A+ A++
Claim Your Profile on Avvo

What Happened To Handwriting?

Some law student members of the "I" ("I" for Internet and self-centeredness) Generation haven't handwritten anything other than their name on a credit card slip for more than the three years they've been in law school.  You know the culprit  - email, text messaging, instant messaging and papers written on the computer.

Let your fingers do the walking, not the writing, they say.

So it's understandable that when it's time for the Big Test - the bar exam - those law students are going to type their answers on their computer rather than hand-write in a blue book.  But what about cheating, you ask?  Not to worry, the technology hounds have that issue figured out.  Right before the bar exam, the tech geeks install a program on the students' computers that locks out the Internet and every software program other than Word.  After the three-day exam is over, the tech geeks uninstall the program with their super-secret password.

Temporary lockdown, in a manner of speaking.

But heaven forbid, the State Bar lockdown program doesn't work on Macs, so those students are out of luck unless they rent a computer or borrow a friends.  The lockdown program works only on computers running a Windows operating system.  There is one law, however, that applies to computer technology that the students didn't study in law school.  It applies itself rather randomly, except at Bar Exam time, when it's practically guaranteed.

You know it well, I assume.  It's called Murphy's Law, and its technology corollary:  New systems generate new problems.  That corollary works with Murphy's law, that holds something like "if it can go wrong, it will go wrong at the worst possible moment."

Take, for example, what happened in last year's Bar Exam in New York.  According to John McAlary executive director of the New York State Board of Law Examiners, quoted in this New York Times story, the temporary lockdown software program malfunctioned in the middle of the exam.  The story continues with this horror when they discovered the meltdown:  "Hundreds of laptop users who navigated back to a previously completed essay found a blank screen.  In the months after the exam, Mr. McAlary said, the board salvaged all but 47 essays. Some of those candidates passed or failed regardless of their score on the lost essay, leaving only 15 who were given an estimated score. Nine of them passed the bar; six didn't."


The NY Bar selected a new software provider for this year's impending fiasco, but the law students aren't convinced they will any fare better. Half of the 12,000 students sitting for the exam are willing to take the risk and half still aren't buying it.  '''I was kind of scared to do the handwriting,'' said Katie Brandes, a recent graduate of Columbia Law School," the NYT article reports.

The Bar itself isn't worried, and the lawyers who run the exam have things covered.  They've issued this scare-your-pants-off-warning to the students:  "Technical difficulties may include hardware or software malfunctions, data saving or retrieval problems, operator errors, upload or download problems, or the loss of electrical power at the examination facility. In the event any technical difficulties occur during the bar examination, you must hand-write your essay answers in the answer books provided and no additional time may be allowed. If you choose to continue to use your computer to write your essay answers after experiencing technical difficulties, or when you have been instructed not to do so, you do so at your own risk.''

Third-year students now fully trained in the law understand the significance of the warning.  If you type your answers and your computer or our software fails, you'll likely flunk the bar and we're not going to save you.

I'd get out my Bic pen and bluebook and write my heart out, which is exactly what I did when I took the Iowa and California Bar Exams, and passed both, thank you very much.

I will admit, however, that for the most part the only thing I hand write now is my name on a credit card slip - but thankfully I don't have to pass another Bar Exam.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, August 02, 2008 at 16:43 Comments Closed (0) |
Share Link