Meredith Duncan


Torts 1,
Criminal Law
Professional Responsibility, Ethics Seminar


My section had Duncan for Torts 1 in our first semester and she was a fun prof. Not that being a torts professor isn't fame and fortune in its own right, Prof. Duncan is married to Curtis Duncan, former Houston Oiler. I'm from the UK so that's wasted on me, but I'm told he was very good. Duncan doesn’t like people wearing ball caps in her class and if you do she’ll ask you to take it off. She doesn’t flip out over it or anything, that’s just her thing. I had to wait until I took Duncan for Professional Responsibility in 2L to find out why - it's just a manners thing. A member of my section opted to refuse to take his hat off when she asked him, so his reward was to be on panel that day. Duncan is one of the younger profs and graduated from UHLC herself before going on to a judicial clerkship then to Vinson & Elkins in Houston for a time. As a matter of fact, she had Crump. Duncan will call on a panelat the beginning of each class, usually 3 people, then will ask those 3 only about the assigned reading for that day. She’s neither tough nor lax in getting answers from people: saying you don’t know won’t cut it, but she won’t drag you over the coals either. Duncan is fine with taking questions during class time. Duncan is VERY good about giving students the black letter law and being explicit about what principles of law you’re supposed to get out of each case. Come exam time your notes should be very good for Duncan’s class. She’s also good about making time to see students outside of class time during her office hours.


Criminal Law:


The following review was submitted to me anonymously on April 12, 2012:


Professor Duncan is a great professor. She is very good about conveying information to students. There are no computers in this class, but she is able to keep the class engaged and encourage conversation. Her panels (3 students a day) are helpful, and she is demanding, which is great. She makes sure that students read and know the material, and she won't easily let them off the hook. This is what keeps her classes entertaining. She also does a great job of making sure to correct someone who has stated the law wrong, so that other students don't get lost in peer comments.


The only problem with Professor Duncan is that she spends way too much time reviewing from the previous class. Almost 1/3 of each class is devoted to review of the last class, and often the review doesn't contribute anything extra from the prior class. This leads to a waste of time when we could be moving through the material more quickly and cover more subjects. If she cut down on the review time and made sure students asked "but I don't understand" questions during office hours, the class would be much more effective.


Duncan’s Torts I Exam:


We experienced no big surprises. The multiple-choice were fair and were representative of the material taught, but be sure to read them closely...some of the questions it appeared that there wasn't a right answer, turns out you just had to not think about the answer in a linear way. The fact pattern was a big train wreck type, with a long fact pattern that contained lots of info. Duncan tends to take a shotgun approach and likes the students to spot as many possible claims and come up with as many novel observations/theories as possible. While you can't be creative with the black letter law (i.e. you can't "make up" law), Duncan's exam is one where you definitely do want to be creative in generating legal theories or novel claims.

Subsequent to the posting of this information Professor Duncan has pointed out to me that some might misconceive the above reference to her "shotgun approach" (my term, not hers). This is not to say that your answers shouldn't be organized, in fact a good way to answer her exam would be to subhead your essay by potential causes of action, e.g. "Mr. Brown v Ms. Smith - IIED claim" or "Ms. Smith v Mr. White - negligence claim". All professors dig that kind of organization and it makes for a more readable answer. By "shotgun approach" I mean to indicate that the exam covers a broad spectrum of the topic taught throughout the semester. Update: I got an email in March 2011 from a current student who suggested I add that students should expect a policy question on Duncan’s torts exam in addition to the train wreck issue spotter style question.


Duncan Torts Outline – Anonymous – Grade B+ - outline based on new book authored by Duncan and Turner added 03-07-2011
Duncan Torts Outline - anonymous contribution
Duncan Torts 1 Outline (circa 2002) - thanks to Carole Hitt
Duncan Torts 1 Outline (circa 2002) - thanks to Courtney Walsh
Negligence Map (this is a one page flow-chart style diagram that helps explain the elements of a negligence claim, as taught to us by Prof. Duncan)

Professional Responsibility


Duncan herself will tell you that this is an area of the law she's particularly enthusiastic about - she likes the issues and, of course, the policy questions. Duncan emphasized several times that it's an honor code violation to discuss/disclose the content of her exams, so I won't go down that road here. I can tell you it was an open book exam though - everything was o.k. to bring in except commercial outlines. Take note of that early and keep your notes in good order.

There was a substantial amount of reading given for this class - 40 page casebook assignments. Toward the latter part of the semester the reading schedule was adjusted and trimmed back some, but in the early weeks expect to read a lot. The fact patterns in the ethics cases are often pretty messy - usually multiple law firms, lawyers and clients involved at varying levels - so contrary to popular opinion, you'll probably want to write case briefs.

This class places heavy emphasis on the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC). Duncan gave us a "redlined" version of the rules at the start of the semester (100+ pages) which shows newly added language as underlined text, removed language as strikethrough text. These rules and the accompanying comments are your friend and you'll need to be intimately familiar with them come exam time. As soon as you can, print them out, put them in a binder, tab them and highlight and annotate the rules and comments that are talked about in class.

Duncan used her familiar panel system of calling on people - three or four panelists notified ahead of time that they're up. I prepared for this class by making my own typed notes from the casebook while I did each reading assignment, then brought those to class with me. It seems like more work, but if you treat those notes as your outline (as I did) then you just bought back some time you'd otherwise spend outlining. You're also prepared for class, so you get to listen not scribble.

There were practice problems posted online when we took the course, which are posted with answers from our study group below. These are very definitely worth talking through yourself for issue spotting and practice at figuring out which rules and comments apply. As with 1L, Duncan is always amenable to meeting with people to go over answers - do it, it's worth it.

Preface to downloadable stuff: Give serious consideration to trying the practice problems yourself before reading our answers, and keep in mind that all they are is someone else's take on the questions - no guarantees that we hit every issue or even that we're right. Also - my outline is written in my shorthand...if I didn't think it would be helpful I wouldn't have posted it, but keep in mind it wasn't written to read like a casebook.


Anonymously contributed criminal law outline, Grade A [this is a zip file since it contains several outlines, one per topic] added 12/02/2012
Criminal law outline
added 05/09/2012
Index of MRPC with rules emphasized in class highlighted
Fees problems and study group answers
Conflicts problems and study group answers
Miscellaneous problems and study group answers
Carter outline - casebook notes, briefs, etc.

Criminal law outline (cheat sheet style) added 07/06/2010
Anonymously contributed Criminal Law Outline 2006
Another anonymously contributed Criminal Law Outline 2006


Ethics Seminar


While writing a seminar paper during the (allegedly relaxing) 3L year is not everyone's idea of a good time, it needn't be the chore you probably anticipate, particularly if you choose to take this class. Duncan's ethics seminar was two credits, which translates to a 25 page requirement for your seminar paper, exclusive of footnotes; I had a friend who took a 3 credit seminar class (which means a larger page requirement) and was sorry he didn't opt for a shorter paper. A unique and much appreciated feature of this class is the grading method; your entire grade does not hinge on the single paper you turn in at the end of the semester, rather the available points are spread out over the semester and break down thus:

A. Thesis and Bibliography 10%
B. Introduction
C. First Draft
D. Class Participation (co-teaching and class discussions)
E. Oral Presentation of Your Topic
F. Critiques
G. Final Paper

So doing the math, by the time your final paper is due, you've already completed 60% of the class. The class I was in was small (about 13 students I think) and the oral presentations were no biggie, lasting about 20 minutes including fielding questions from other classmembers. The reading was not your typical law school fodder; we read books like "There's no such thing as business ethics" and a book by Alan Dershowitz on his views of ethics in the legal profession. Class discussion is encouraged, and a couple of people will be assigned each class to facilitate the discussion (which is not a big deal, the conversation usually flows well on its own).

The "critiques" mentioned above, worth 10%, are written critiques of other classmembers draft papers; before you give an oral presentation of your topic to the class, you email out your draft paper. On the class meeting where your presentation is given, all the other people in the class will turn in to you (with a copy to Duncan) their one page written critique of your paper with suggestions for improvements.

You can pick just about anything as your paper topics, provided it touches on ethics. We had a handful of I.P. law guys in our class who had no trouble finding something to write about, some immigration law folks...there is no shortage of ethics issues, you won't struggle to find something to write about.

Unless there is some specific area of the law you really want to write about, give this seminar class a good look.