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Legal Commentary: Prawfs
Creative Writing and Essay Questions: Some Examples
By Dan Markel, Ethan Leib, Rick Garnett, Matt Bodie, Paul Horwitz , Steve Vladeck, and Orly Lobel
Last week I asked PrawfsBlawg readers to submit examples of essay questions that were more than just a fact pattern. I was looking for essays that told a good story, that had a narrative structure, that presented an interesting dilemma.
I'm happy to report that a few prawfs have emailed in some great examples. I've posted them below, along with a little commentary. The examples run the gamut -- I think you'll be surprised at the creativity.
If you would like to share an essay question (your own or someone else's), please email it to me at this address.
I've posted the essays according to category.
The "American Gothic" Category
In the comments of my previous post, James Grimmelmann at NYLS shared a few examples from Charles Donahue at Harvard Law. I found the final essay question of this exam to be truly evocative. As you read that opening passage, you can see the morning mist rising lazily above the fields in the sunrise.
The "Rewrite History" Category
Frustrated by Bush v. Gore? Scott Dodson at University of Arkansas Law gave his students the chance to undo that momentous decision in this final exam. The question raises some interesting Twelfth Amendment and standing issues as well.
The "Madcap SciFi" Category
You may remember Doc Brown's souped-up DeLorean with its time-defying flux capacitor. But have you heard of the 1975 Ford Pinto with its gravity-defying struggulium discs? In this patent exam from Eric Johnson of North Dakota Law, we meet Paula, the sculptor who unwittingly created the discs, and Rick, her electrical engineer boyfriend who combines them with the Pinto to create a flying car. You should check out the exam if only to see Figure 2, "Artist's Conception of Ford Pinto over Newport Beach, California."
The "Fan Fic" Category
We have two entries in the "Fan Fic" category. First, we have the patent exam question from Michael Risch of WVU. The exam involves a real-life "Holodeck" based on the one in the "Star Trek: Next Generation" series. While I always viewed the Holodeck as a plot contrivance to put Patrick Stewart et al. in silly costumes, Risch's inventor takes it seriously and develops a prototype. But what happens when a competing company develops a successful warfare simulation experience? Tune in to Risch's essay to find out.
Finally, Liz Glazer of Hofstra gives us her paean to the Spiderman series in this essay question. Glazer's question interweaves events in the Spiderman universe with real-life property law issues. My favorite is the regulatory takings question. If you're interested in her take on the answers, Liz has kindly provided her answer key as well.
Thanks to all our contributors. And I hope to be back with more examples -- submit them here.
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