Usually I do not post about specific events that happen in my classes, but today I'll make an exception. My point today is this: when the professor calls on a student to brief a case, the range of acceptable responses does not include "Oh, I read the case, but it was a few days ago and I don't remember it very well, but let's see . . . ."
I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard this. I've heard it several times this semester. On the one hand, sure, fine. Everyone in law school is busy, right? And I think usually students are telling the truth--typically after a few minutes, memory kicks in and the student does fine. And to be even fairer, often one reason this response pops out of students' mouths is that they are worried about looking bad in front of the class and the professor. Having read but not remembered allows one to say (a) I read, so I am putting forth the effort, but (b) I'm not dense, just rusty about this case.
Yet my question is this: would this response cut it in practice? What if you are in court during oral argument? How might a judge react? What if you are giving a presentation to a client? How good will you look?
And my other question is this: could the professor get away with this statement in class?
I have said it before, and I will say it again: when you are a law student, think of law school as your career, because right now it is.
So here's what to do. First, isn't this one of the reasons to brief a case? Yes! So brief the cases, however you might do that. Second, just keep the excuses or apologies to a minimum, and do your best. That's what you would do in court, so that's what you should do in class. The silence may seem deafening as you race to come up to speed and answer the professor's question, but it's not. And again, it's good training.
I have to say in closing that I am really not upset when this happens in my classes. But I do wish students wouldn't do it.