Giving Up Thumb Drives in In-Class Exams

BY LIBIN ZHANG

A guide to law firm thumb drives. Left

Your correspondent read with interest the recent Registrar’s Office announcement that “for security reasons, we will not be returning the thumb drives that you use for exams.” It used to be the case that when a student submitted an in-class exam on a thumb drive to the proctor, he or she had the chance to get the drive back once the student remembers months later.

Obviously the expenditure of one USB thumb drive per in-class exam is problematic and costly (up to $10 per drive!), especially for poor first year students who have not benefited from the large number of law firms that provide free USB thumb drives for recruiting purposes.

This article will provide an ingenious free-market solution to the thumb drive problem that will make everyone happy. Students need thumb drives. Law firms want to give out thumb drives emblazoned with the law firm’s name. Normally, students have to put in a lot of effort to go to recruiting functions and talks to acquire the law firm loot, which incurs large transaction costs overall. The solution is to cut out the middle transactions and have the law firms provide thumb drives directly to each student in a given class that has in-class exams. Everybody wins in this Pareto-optimal outcome: the firm gets name recognition, the students get to turn in their exams, and the registrar’s office gets its security.

This way, a certain law firm, such as Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, can provide free thumb drives to a particular class with in-class exams, like Law of Climate Change (The). The thumb drives can be distributed at the first class session for maximum recruiting effect, but it is probably better that they are distributed on the actual day of the exam in case people lose them. At a cost of no more than $500 per class (even lower if the drives are recycled annually), the thumb drive sponsorship is about $ 3 million dollars cheaper than endowing a chaired professorship and provides much more bang for the buck.

If the registrar really wants to make some money and use the proceeds to buy an Atari 2600 to install MyPlan on, it can auction off the right to sponsor certain classes to interested parties. Instead of sponsored chairs being attached to certain professors, sponsored chairs can run with the class.

The school can even allocate a small amount of the raised money to spend on the students. The Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP Class of Jewish Law: The Legal Thought of Maimonides, for example, has a nice ring to it and allows law firms to emphasize their multicultural heritage and commitment to certain causes.

Firm-sponsored law school classes would also solve the tricky issue of what to name the 1L sections.

Alternatively, the entire in-class exam submissions model can be reworked to use the magical powers of the Internet (a technology first developed in 1969 and later promoted by Al Gore). It is currently unclear how such groundbreaking technology would work, but it might involve students, after they have finished writing their exams in a file on their “computers,” proceed to “upload” these files to a so-called central “server” where the eventual exam readers can access and “download” these files. Confirmation might be provided over some sort of “email,” which is something like an electronic version of the post. Unfortunately, actual implementation of such advanced technology may become unpopular when students discover that they are 437 out of 439 in a queue at 4:28 PM on the day of the exam.

A third solution, slightly less controversial and used at your correspondent’s alma mater, is to not have in-class exams in the first place. If the law school does not move fast enough before law firms lose interest in spending their money on students, these students might experience the horror of actually buying their own thumb drives and giving them up. Your correspondent’s retained knowledge of property class is a bit rusty, but there is probably a vested Fifth Amendment property right protected by due process somewhere in here. On the other hand, since law students are already paying each year in tuition slightly less than the equivalent of the median income of an average American household, they can probably afford to give up some more of their wealth.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for next week’s insightful analysis on how to improve the MyPlan class registration system. The proposed solution, based also on your correspondent’s alma mater system, involves a combination of pen, paper, and having the professors teach enough useful classes that students actually want to take.

Libin Zhang is saving money to eventually put his name on a room in Hauser Hall.

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