Saturday, April 19, 2014

Reminder: What the Best Law Teachers Do Conference in June

It is not too late to register for What the Best Law Teachers Do: Educators in Action, hosted by Northwestern Law and the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, June 25-27, 2014, in Chicago, Illinois. 

What the Best Law Teachers Do: Education in Action is a two-and-a-half day conference that will provide a forum to hear the insights and teaching techniques of one-dozen remarkable law educators from among those interviewed in Harvard Press’s recently-released book. Our educators will share their insights and teaching techniques over the course of two full days.

For detailed information about our presenters and their discussion topics, to register for the conference and to make reservations for our exquisite hotel accommodations, please visit our website.

Register now! Registration closes May 23, 2014 (which is approaching faster than spring here in Chicago).

Meanwhile, summer in Chicago is a delight to behold. Steps from Lake Michigan and just a short walk from the Magnificent Mile, the exciting Second City is at your doorstep.

Hope to see you in the Windy City!

Debbie Borman,

Northwestern University School of Law

Emily Grant,

Gerry Hess,

Michael Hunter Schwartz,

Sandra Simpson,

Sophie Sparrow,

Kelly Terry,

Institute for Law Teaching and Learning

April 19, 2014 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 18, 2014

AASE National Conference Has Three Tracks of Programs

Don’t forget to register for the 2nd Annual AASE National Conference in Indianapolis, IN, May 29 through June 1. This year AASE is proud to offer three distinct program tracks focused on professional
development; techniques for law school success; and bar exam preparation. Stick with one track all day, or switch it up based on your school’s needs, it is entirely up to you.   For the full conference schedule as well as registration and hotel details, click on the link below to visit the conference
web page.

AASE 2nd Annual Conference Registration Link

April 18, 2014 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

CAll for Papers for the AALS Section on Academic Support

Call for Papers

AALS Section on Academic Support

January 2015 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

ASP a Roadmap at the Crossroad: How Academic Support Will Meet Today’s Varied Challenges

This year, the Academic Support Program Committee opted to have a call for papers and one speaker will be selected from the call.  From isolated academic support efforts to more formalized multifaceted programs, academic support has fundamentally changed itself and legal education over the years.  In light of shrinking budgets, disappearing positions, smaller applicant pools, changing profiles of incoming students, and media attacks on legal education, academic support programs face newer and varied challenges. We seek papers highlighting innovative methods, programs, or ideas related to these challenges.

Topics might include, but are not limited to, efficient and effective ways to:  collaborate with faculty; manage limited human and financial resources; attract and retain students; provide resources for students with learning and other disabilities; and create programming for diverse populations to address any social isolation and/or bridge any skills deficiencies.

As the deadline for program proposals was April 1, 2014, our list of program proposal speakers will be forthcoming.  The selected paper speaker will join those speakers as one of the presenters.  There is no formal requirement as to length of the abstract and paper submission.  Preference will be given to papers that offer novel scholarly insights on the panel topic.  A paper may have already been accepted for publication as long as it will not be published prior to the Annual Meeting.  The Section does not have plans to publish the papers, so individual presenters are free to seek their own publishing opportunities.

Papers must include the following information:

1.  A title for your paper.

2.  An abstract of your paper.

3.  A final draft of your paper.

4.  The amount of time requested for your presentation. No single presenter should exceed 30 minutes in total.  [Deleted statement about shorter presentations because paper speaker should be given at least 30 minutes.]

5.  A detailed description of both the substantive content and the techniques to be employed, if any, to engage the audience.

6.  Whether you plan to distribute handouts, use PowerPoint, or employother technology.

7.  A list of the conferences at which you have presented within the last three years, such as AALS, national or regional ASP or writing conferences, or other academic conferences.

8. A list of your published scholarly articles or books within the last three years.

9.  Your school affiliation, title, courses taught, and contact information (please include email address and telephone number).

10. Any other information you think will help the Committee appreciate the value your paper presentation will provide.

Please submit your paper by Friday, August 15, 2014 at 5pm to Goldie Pritchard, Michigan State University College of Law, gpritch@law.msu.edu.  If you have questions, please email Goldie Pritchard or call at 517.432.6881.

The Section on Academic Support Program Committee:

Goldie Pritchard, Chair

Robin Boyle Laisure

Ilana Ben-zeev

Robert Coulthard

Steven Foster

Lyndsay Garmond

DeShun Harris

Danielle Kocal

Haley Meade

Maysa Nichter

Brendon Taga

ASP Section Chair:  Amy Jarmon

 

 

 

April 17, 2014 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Search and Destroy

As we get closer to finals, a lot of poor-performing students are struggling with outline and exam structure.  At South Carolina, the second semester for First Years is made up of Con Law, Civ Pro, and Property, and all three of these classes seem to cause certain students to "over-write."  For example, even more so than in their First Semester outlines, many students want to include all the minutiae of every case, so I have had at least a dozen students show up in my office saying something to the effect of "I have 120 pages on my outline done -- but I have a little more work to do."

A 120-page plus outline isn't going to help anyone, unless they are planning on clubbing someone with it.  One thing I have found really helpful for these students is to go over practice questions geared to the bar exam (BarBri, Kaplan, Finz, etc.).  These tend to be shorter than questions designed for doctrinal exams, and the idea that you can explain something like the rule for intermediate scrutiny or the Commerce Clause in three sentences is really helpful and mind-blowing.  I've seen a real improvement in students' answers, especially since many of these students' exam issues were running out of time, missing issues, or spending time talking about things that were not going to translate into points.

I've also been using the longer essay questions from Emanuel's Questions and Answers for First Year.  I don't know if this exactly counts as a self-serving plug since I wrote them, but I put them together specifically with this issue in mind.  They are nowhere near the most detailed questions in the world, but they are good if you have a student who just needs to get IRAC together.  I have a lot of these types of students -- who are bright, but write 16-page dissertations for a 20-minute question.  Most of our meetings tend to revolve around focus and getting to the point.

I've also been working with these students using "Shortish Questions from the Realm of Stuff You Will Be Asked" -- so, for example, I have a question about an ordinance limiting firefighters to male citizens between the ages of 20-45 and a question about the state putting the kibosh on an individual's contract with an out-of-state company.  This way, I can talk about breaking up the different levels of scrutiny and the four things that they will probably need to think about when the state messes with a private individual (commerce, contracts, privileges and immunities, due process).  The weakest students have all of this in a jumble of premises and exhortations of fairness, which will clearly sink them on exams if they don't get it cleared up.  (Alex Ruskell)

 

 

 

April 16, 2014 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Job Posting: Assistant Dean for Academic Achievement, Cal Western

Our dear friend Marilyn Scheininger is retiring. Her position at CalWestern is opening up. Please be sure to wish Marilyn well on her journeys; she has been a wonderful friend and colleague to so many people in ASP, and her presence will be deeply missed.

Assistant Dean for Academic Achievement, Cal Western

Applications will be accepted through May 10, 2014.  The start date for this position is August 1, 2014.

Qualifications:  Bachelor’s Degree and J.D. required.  Experience with law school academic support and bar support required. Excellent written and oral communication skills are essential.  Prior administrative experience, including at least 5 years supervisory experience, and budget management essential.  Must be able to work with diverse constituencies.  Knowledge and experience with statistical studies beneficial.  Demonstrated administrative experience, exceptional interpersonal advisory and supervisory skills, complex project management abilities, and superlative oral and written communication skills are also essential.
 
Summary Description:  This position is responsible for providing, coordinating, and supervising academic support and bar support programs for students at California Western.  The Assistant Dean must provide leadership for the department and effectively manage multiple tasks, programs, and responsibilities.  Strong interpersonal skills and demonstrated ability to work with a highly diverse student and faculty population are required. A commitment to supporting students and promoting academic success in a rigorous law school environment is essential.
Interested individuals should provide a cover letter describing their interest in and qualifications for the position, salary requirements, and resume to: California Western School of Law Human Resources at HR@cwsl.edu. Competitive benefits, 403(b) and Flexible Spending Plans.
California Western is an equal opportunity employer and values diversity. Founded in 1924, California Western (www.cwsl.edu) is a private, independent law school located in downtown San Diego, California that is celebrating 90 years of excellence.  It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools.
 

April 15, 2014 in Job Descriptions, Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Enrollments, Profiles, and Projections

I wanted to draw everyone's attention to two postings by Jerry Organ on The Legal Whiteboard.  Rodney Fong at University of San Francisco School of Law brought the first post to my attention, and then I noticed the second post later.  The first post is Thoughts on Fall 2013 Enrollment and Profile Data Among Law Schools.  The second post is Projections for Law School Enrollment for Fall 2014.  This second post is the first installment of what will likely be a two installments, according to the author.  (Amy Jarmon)   

April 15, 2014 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Life Versus Television

The drama!  The tears!  The gnashing of teeth!  Just another day at law school where students are reacting to the latest round of mid-term grades, a last-minute change in a course syllabus, newly scheduled make-up classes, or switched sides for the legal practice appellate brief.  Some law students are beside themselves at the very audacity of it all.

Add to those dramas: gossip about the latest student fashion faux pas, catty remarks about a student's  in-class response to a professor's question, whispered speculation about professors' lives, and wild rumors about the job market.  Mix it all together and what do you get?  Law school's version of Reality TV.

Yes, law school has a fishbowl aspect to it - too many people in one building without any relief.  Yes, it is stressful with exams roughly four weeks away.  Yes, some law students are easy targets for gossip and snide remarks.   Yes, professors have lives outside the classroom.  Yes, there are lots of rumors out there. 

However, law students need to step away from the remote and get some perspective.  Life happens.  It happens everywhere.  In and out of law school.  And many of the things that get blown out of proportion as tragedies in law school are extremely minor compared to the real tragedies in life. 

Being diagnosed with cancer, finding out your relative is seriously ill, having your spouse unexpectedly file for divorce, having your house burn down - those are tragedies.  The little things in life are irritations, inconveniences, disappointments, or annoyances in comparison.  They are not tragedies.

So take ten deep breaths.  Have a reality check.  And turn off the TV until after exams.  (Amy Jarmon) 

April 14, 2014 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ready, Set, Go: What Steps You Should Complete in an Exam before Starting the Questions

Law students tell me repeatedly that they have two huge fears when they start an exam.  First, they fear drawing a total blank during the exam and not being able to remember even the basics.  Second, they fear messing up their time managment and not being able to finish the exam or rushing at the end.

To combat these fears, you can complete two steps as soon as the exam proctor tells you to begin.  First, write down a checklist of the material on a piece of scrap paper (our law school provides scrap paper in every exam room) or on the back of the exam paper.  Second, make a time chart to manage your time during the exam.

The checklist is typically a skeleton outline of the topic and subtopic headings for the course.  By writing this information down before you begin the exam, you provide yourself with a security blanket.  Putting it down before you start answering any questions, lets you memorialize the information before you start stressing out.  You can refer to it for each essay answer to see if you forgot to discuss anything.  You can use it to jog your memory if you draw a blank during the exam.

Your checklist may look somewhat different depending on the course.  It may include rules with elements, steps of analysis for problem-based topics, policy arguments for another course, etc.  You can tailor the information to memorize for your checklist to match the course content.

You can also vary the structure of your checklist.  A visual learner may use a series of spider maps for the course.  A verbal learner may use an acronym or silly sentences to remember the topics and subtopics in the list.  An aural/oral learner may recite a sing-song of the checklist silently in her head as she writes it down.

For a closed-book exam, you memorize the checklist so you can quickly write it down.  For an open-book exam, the checklist is the first page of the outline that is allowed in the exam.

The second step is formulating a time chart for the exam.  You will want to look quickly at the instructions for the exam to check whether you complete all questions or have options (for example, complete 3 of the 5 questions).  For most exams you will be required to complete all questions.

The time chart will vary in format for essay exams and multiple-choice exams.  If an exam is mixed, there will be a time chart for each part of the exam.  The time chart will help you to work through all of the questions at a steady pace so that you complete the entire exam.

For essay questions, your chart will have 3 columns (question number and its allotted time; time for reading, analysis, and organization; time for writing).  You should spend 1/3 of your time on a question for reading, analysis, and organization.  You should spend 2/3 of your time on writing the answer.  Each exam question will have a row in the time chart with 3 columns in that row. 

As an example, assume the exam begins at 1:00 p.m. and has multiple questions:

  • Question 1 is a 1-hour question (spend 20 minutes for reading, analysis, and organization; spend 40 minutes for writing). 
  • Column 1 will show "Question 1: 1 hour." 
  • Your second column for Question 1 would show "1:00 - 1:20 p.m."
  • Your third column for Question 1 would show "1:20 - 2:00 p.m."
  • Question 2 is a 45-minute question (spend 15 minutes for reading, analysis, and organization; spend 30 minutes for writing). 
  • Column 1 for Question 2 will show "Question 2: 45 minutes." 
  • Column 2 for Question 2 will show "2:00 - 2:15 p.m." 
  • Column 3 for Question 2 will show "2:15 - 2:45 p.m." 
  • And so forth through the questions for the full exam time.

If you wish to reserve time to review your written answers before the exam ends, then you will reserve review time and decrease the time you allow for each question.  Many students would rather use the full time for each question rather than allot review time.

If your professor indicates points rather than time for each question, then determine the time to spend proportionately for the number of points.  Practicing this method ahead of time will make it more natural when converting from points to time.

For multiple-choice questions, your chart will have 2 columns (a time checkpoint; the number of questions to be completed by that time).  Each checkpoint time will be in a row with the number of questions completed column for that row.  It is usually a good idea to include 4-6 checkpoints.

As an example, assume the exam begins at 1:00 and lasts 3 hours with 90 questions:

  • 1:30 p.m. 15 questions completed
  • 2:00 p.m. 30 questions completed
  • 2:30 p.m. 45 questions completed
  • 3:00 p.m. 60 questions completed
  • 3:30 p.m. 75 questions completed
  • 4:00 p.m. 90 questions completed

If you wish to reserve time to review question answers before the exam ends, then you will reserve review time and decrease the time you allow for the checkpoints accordingly.  Again, many students would rather use the full time for the questions rather than allot review time.

You want to make sure that you devise your checklist early enough in the class or exam period to allow you time to commit it to long-term memory so that you will know it by heart.  You also want to practice making time charts so that the method is on auto-pilot.  Both of these strategies should help lessen your anxiety during the actual exam.  (Amy Jarmon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 12, 2014 in Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Second Annual AASE National Conference

2nd Annual AASE National Conference

May 29 through June 1, 2014

 

Dear Academic Support & Bar Preparation Colleagues,   

Registration for 2014 AASE Annual Conference is now open!  We are thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity again to share and learn from colleagues across the country and hope that you will join us.  This year's conference will take place at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in beautiful downtown Indianapolis.  

See you in Indy!   

Carlota Toledo

Host Planning Committee

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law 

REGISTRATION DETAILS 

Conference registration ends Sunday May 2 and the hotel block will close Sunday, April 27th. 

Complete conference and registration details, as well as hotel information can be found by clicking this link.

PLEASE NOTE: While the conference is being held May 29 through June 1, our conference rate (starting at $119) at the Westin Indianapolis can be utilized as early as May 27 for those who might like to arrive early.

 

April 11, 2014 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

College Majors and LSAT Scores and Undergraduate GPAs

Hat tip to Paul Caron on the Tax Prof Blog for a posting about undergraduate majors and LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs.  The post can be found here: College Majors and LSAT-UGPA.

April 10, 2014 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Making the Most of Practice Questions

Completing practice questions in courses is essential for the best grades on final exams.  Although students know they need to do practice questions, they sometimes make choices that do not reap the most benefit from practice question time. 

Here are some tips for making practice question time more effective:

  • Spend most of your time on practice questions that will match your professor's testing format if you know what that will be.  If fact-pattern essay, then complete fact-pattern essay questions.  If multiple-choice, then complete multiple-choice questions.  If short answer, then complete short-answer questions.  If a mix, then complete a mix of questions.  If you do not know the formats, then complete a variety of questions.
  • Complete as many questions as possible and more than you think you need to do.  That means lots and lots.  Completing more practice questions means that you are less likely to confront a scenario on the exam that is a surprise and also means that your exam-taking strategies are on auto-pilot.
  • Keep a log of your practice question performance.  Across practice question sessions, you will see repeated errors that you can self-correct long before the exams.  Why did you get answers wrong?  Missed issues?  Read too fast?  Did not know specific content?  Skipped steps in analysis?  Knew the law but not how to apply it?
  • Read the answer explanations for multiple-choice questions and the model answers for other questions.  Valuable information can be gleaned from this material.  Did you get an answer correct but missed a nuance in the law?  Did you miss sub-issues?  Did you structure an essay answer in the most organized manner?  Did you miss an argument for one of the parties? 
  • Always complete practice questions that your professor provides in class, on the course website, through the teaching assistant, on the law school's exam database, etc.  These are outright gifts!  You learn your professor's testing style.  If you have problems with these questions, talk with your professor on office hours to see how you could improve your answers.
  • Realize that practice questions come in levels of difficulty.  Some questions are testing your initial understanding: boxed flashcards, Examples & Explanations, Crunch Time short answer, CALI.  Some questions move to intermediate difficulty: multiple-choice practice question books, commercial outline questions, Siegel's.  Some questions are true exam style: exam database questions at your and other law schools.  Move through the levels of difficulty to prepare for the exams; do not hang out on the easy questions and expect to get your best grades.
  • If you are taking a course that does not have ready-made practice questions available, get with several classmates and write questions that you swap and discuss.  It is harder than you think to write questions; you will have to think carefully about the material.  Your classmates may see things in answering your questions that you missed entirely.
  • Write out fact-pattern essay answers as you would have to do on the exam.  Just completing a bullet-pointed list of what you would say does not prepare you for writing concise sentences that connect all of the dots in your analysis when you are under time pressure.
  • Wait to do practice questions until you have intensely reviewed a topic.  Doing practice questions instead of reviewing the material first is an inefficient way to study.  If you do not know the material yet, the practice questions will only tell you that you do not know it.  You will not get much out of the time.
  • Wait several days after intensely reviewing a topic before completing practice questions on it.  If you do practice questions too close to your review, you will get them right because you just reviewed the topic.  You want to see if you have retained material and can still apply it to the questions.
  • Start doing practice questions now if you have not already done so.  You do not want to wait until exam period to do practice questions for the first time.  You will not have enough time to hone your exam-taking skills.  You also will not have enough time to do lots of questions.
  • Always do practice questions on your own before discussing them with study partners.  You want to know that you can independently complete questions.  Discussion can be helpful to find points that you missed.  You will not have your study partners to do the thinking for you in the exam, so make sure you practice doing it on your own before the exams.
  • Complete some of your practice questions under exam conditions.  If your professor has a word count or page limit, practice to meet it.  If a question would be approximately one-hour on the exam, complete it in one hour.  If you will have one hour to complete 40 multiple choice on the exam, complete that number in that time span in practice. 

By using practice questions effectively ahead of time, you can increase your chances of doing well in the actual exam situations.  Practice questions can be your best friends if you cultivate your skills while doing them.  (Amy Jarmon)

 

April 9, 2014 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Publication Opportunity

Colleagues,

A friend of mine named Dr. Arne Pilniok is a German law professor who teaches at The Department of Law at the University of Hamburg, Germany.  Dr. Pilniok edits a new, German, peer-edited law journal focusing on legal education, and he has asked me to share a solicitation of articles.

The journal is looking for articles by US law teachers focusing on teaching methods and on ways to make legal education more practice focused.  The first issue of the journal appeared this quarter; it is published by a well-respected German publisher called Nomos. The journal is called "Zeitschrift für die Didaktik der Rechtswissenschaft" (ZDRW), and it will be published four times a year. The journal does have a website, www.zdrw.nomos.de, but, unfortunately, it is only in German. Of course, articles authored by US law teachers will be published in English.

This fall, I published a short piece that Dr. Piniok edited for a book also published by Nomos; the experience of working with Dr. Pilniok was great.

Here is Dr. Pilniok's email address: arne.pilniok@jura.uni-hamburg.de.  If you have any questions for me, feel free to reply to me privately.

Warm regards,

~Mike

Michael Hunter Schwartz | Dean and Professor of Law

UALR William H. Bowen School of Law

(o) 501.324.9450 | (f) 501.324.9433

twitter.com/deanmhschwartz | ualr.edu/law

 

April 8, 2014 in Publishing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Advice from Goldilocks for Law Students

Remember Goldilocks in the home of the Three Bears?  She did not want porridge that was too hot or too cold; she did not want a chair too hard or too soft; she did not want a bed that was too hard or too soft.  She wanted everything to be just right.

I often remind my law students about Goldilocks.  They do not want briefs that are too long or too short.  They do not want outlines that contain too many case details or too few rules.  They do not want exam answers too conclusory or too verbose.  They do not want to do too little research or too much research.  They want each step to be just right.

First-year students especially have trouble finding that "just right point" in their work.  Second- and third-year students are not immune from the problem, however, in at least some of their tasks. 

Students may obsess about the line to draw - how much is too little and how much is too much?  Some become paralyzed in their work because they are looking for perfection in knowing the just right point from the get-go.  They need to understand that they will learn to draw that line only by continuously repeating the tasks.  The practice in doing the tasks leads in time to the ability of finding the just right point with ease.

Learning is a process and not a "given" from the start for most law students.  Students can use self-monitoring to find the "just right point" over time as they repeat the various tasks.  Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • Reviewing one's briefs after class against what the professor indicated/discussed in class.  Why was the student's issue statement too broad or too narrow?  What facts were included that were not needed or were left out?  What policy arguments were missed or inaccurately stated? 
  • Comparing one's class notes after class with another student.  What important points were missed from the class discussion?  Did the hypotheticals mentioned by the professor get written down?  Were the professor's steps of analysis delineated in the notes?  Were notes taken down verbatim in a mechanical way or thoughtfully included for the salient points? 
  • Critiquing one's outlines after each topic is completed.  Does the outline contain the law and policy needed to solve new legal problems?  Does the outline flip one's thinking to the bigger picture and synthesis of the law or stay stuck in a series of case briefs?  Is the outline skimpy without the steps of analysis and depth of understanding or is it filled with trivia that is not helpful?
  • Comparing one's written practice question answers with the model answers or discussing them with study group members after everyone has done them separately.  Were all of the issues spotted?  Were there any rules left out or mis-stated?  Were the facts used correctly when applying the law?  Were all of the steps in the analysis delineated?  Were both parties' arguments included?
  • Reviewing low-grade exams at the beginning of the next semester to analyze what one did well or poorly.  Most professors will allow students to compare their exams to anonymous A papers or rubrics or model answers.  Many professors will go over the exams with students as well.
  • Evaluating at the end of each semester one's progress on each study task for finding the just right point.  Formulating strategies for further improvement on the tasks one is still struggling with.

If the student cannot determine strategies for further improvement after self-monitoring, then help from academic success professionals, professors, and teaching assistants should be sought out. (Amy Jarmon) 

  

April 7, 2014 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Downward Slope

Students are realizing that the semester is speeding along and rapidly coming to a close.  Many students have done a good job of completing outlines regularly, reviewing outlines already, and completing practice questions on material they have already learned.  Other students are just now contemplating efforts beyond daily class preparation.  Those students with paper courses are either well into their research and writing stages or have suddenly realized they need to get underway.

Why do some students postpone exam study or papers until the last few weeks?  There can be several things at work that influence a student's decision to delay.

The delay in exam review and on paper tasks is often a habit left over from undergraduate education.  When there were multiple tests and no cumulative final exam, it was easy to get A grades by studying a few days before the test.  The amount of material on the test was minimal.  And without a cumulative test later, there was no reason to remember the material beyond the test date.  When a paper was only a few pages long, it was easy to pull it together rapidly and still have an excellent grade.

Another aspect of delay is the well-meaning but erroneous advice of upper-division law students.  The mantra around our law school is that you do not have to study for exams until "six weeks out."  To most upper-division law students who experienced those multiple/non-cumulative exams, this mantra seems to make sense since the suggested time period is so long compared to past study periods (You want me to study for 6 whole weeks!). 

Some students delay because they are chronic procrastinators.  Like Scarlett O'Hara they will think about it tomorrow.  But then they do not think about it - or just put it off again.   Rather than go away, however, the delayed tasks become more and more urgent.  As they become more urgent, they also may become more paralyzing.  And then the delay just continues.

These students who now realize how much they need to accomplish can help themselves by implementing the following techniques:

  • Evaluate their time managment.  Honestly determine where they waste time (long lunches, e-mail/Twitter/Facebook, long exercise regimens, food preparation, sleeping late on the weekends, etc.) and commit those "found" hours for study.
  • Commit on paper to the hours that will be used for review for exams or for paper completion every week: Monday 2-4 review Wills; Tuesday 1-2 review Copyright and 6-7:30 review Tax; Wednesday 2-5 Natural Resources paper; Thursday 9-10 review Tax and 6-7 review Copyright; Friday 1-2:30 Wills practice questions and 4-6 Tax practice questions; and so forth for each day.
  • Break down the large tasks into smaller steps.  Use a monthly calendar to distribute tasks into the designated times committed each day to those tasks.  Put into review slots the subtopics to review.  Put into paper slots the research, writing, or editing tasks to complete.  Put into the practice question slots the questions to be completed from the professor's course site, a study aid, or other source.   
  • Find an accountability partner to help stay on track.  Agree to meet and study in the same room so studying cannot be skipped.  Agree to discuss certain subtopics or practice questions on a particular day so that the work must be done.  Tell the person at the end of each day what was or was not accomplished from the monthly schedule.
  • Ask for help if they need it.  The academic success professional at the law school can assist with prioritizing work, formulating study schedules, and discussing additional strategies that match the student's situation.
  • Minimize life tasks to find more study time.  Food preparation can be done on the weekends.  A major apartment cleaning now and then minimal spot cleaning and pick up until exams are over.  Stock up on food staples and other supplies now to avoid extra shopping trips.  Switch to an easy care wardrobe instead of high maintenance fashion. 

It is time to take control over the remainder of the semester.  The downward slope is here, but there is still time to correct any delaying tactics that have become detrimental.  (Amy Jarmon) 

April 5, 2014 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Depression: SLU Medical School Combats the Problem

Hat tip to Stephanie West Allen for an article regarding changes made at SLU's School of Medicine to lower depression among medical students.  Some of the techniques could be beneficial also for law schools.  The link is here: http://www.slu.edu/rel-news-slavin-med-ed-325.  (Amy Jarmon)

April 4, 2014 in Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

New Bar Exam Section -- Interpretive Dance

The National Conference of Bar Examiners announced last Thursday that it will be adding a new section to the Multistate Bar Exam -- Interpretive Dance.  

The new section will add one hour to the current bar exam, and take place on the same day as the MEE and MPT.  Students will be given a topic from the current list of MBE subjects (for example, "The Rule Against Perpetuities") and will then have 40 minutes to choreograph an appropriate dance "displaying the student's understanding and familiarity with the relevant issues and analysis" and "showing the student's aptitude in formulating the relevant rule of law in logical and complete ways."  The students will be given six potential music choices:  "Les toreadors from Carmen Suite No. 1" by Georges Bizet, "Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walkure" by Richard Wagner, "Bugler's Holiday" by Leroy Anderson, "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin, "A Love Supreme" by John Coltrane, and "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot.  The dance should take no longer than 10 minutes.    

At South Carolina, we will be instituting a new class in response to the change, which will include basic choreography to make sure the students fulfill the section's mandate of "choreography appropriate to the legal issue at hand."  The class will largely focus on Balanchine and Graham, although we will also look at Tharp and Cyrus as potential role models. 

We will also be instituting daily group sit-ups because of the importance of core strength.

(Alex Ruskell) 

April 1, 2014 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Some Thoughts for Students Who Are Conclusory on Exams

Students who are conclusory and do not give the complete analysis for their answers (do not "show their work") may do so for several reasons:

1)      They tend to write to the professor and tell themselves that they do not have to mention something “because the professor knows that.”  Changing their audience to a non-law person (grandmother, little sister, uncle) may help them give the analysis step by step because the new audience would not understand the conclusion without extra connecting of the dots.

2)      They tend to have the entire explanation in their heads but never get it onto paper.  They can ask themselves “why?” after every sentence.  If the sentence does not already state the “because” explanation, they need to continue writing to explain fully what they are thinking.

3)      They tend to dismiss arguments in their heads rather than discussing the arguments on paper.  For example: The plaintiff may be able to argue that the defendant should have posted a warning or put up a fence to keep children out of the railroad yard and prevent injuries.  The student rebuts the arguments in her head by saying “the children are too young to pay attention to warnings or will climb the fence” and leaves the arguments out.  The student instead needs to put that analysis on paper even if it then gets rebutted by the other party. 

4)      Conclusory writers are often global-intuitive processers.  They focus on the big picture and inter-relationships of concepts rather than organized analysis and detail. 

a.       They need to study for depth of understanding and not just breadth or general understanding.  (They sometimes think they know a subject until they get into the exam.)

b.      They need to learn rules precisely so they do not miss the full analysis needed for each element/factor.  (Paraphrasing the rules can lead them to inadequate analysis.)

c.       They need to spend 1/3 of their time on an exam question in reading, analyzing, and organizing an answer and 2/3 of the time writing the answer.  (They tend to write almost immediately and have less organized answers.)

d.      They need to chart or outline an answer with facts, cases, and policies to discuss rather than hold everything in their heads.  (They often find in exam review that they mixed up facts or forgot to mention an element or case.)

e.      They need to use all of the time allowed for the exam.  (They often rush through or leave early.)

f.    They need to write out answers to practice questions to make sure that they are including full analysis.  (They tend to answer practice questions in their heads but never perfect the writing process.)

Students who are conclusory in their writing of exam answers will often show the same tendencies in their legal writing classes.  The techniques mentioned can be modified for those assignments.  (Amy Jarmon) 

April 1, 2014 in Exams - Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pictures of Matchstick Men

 

 

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I'm a huge fan of Peter T. Wendel's illustration of the different "planes" of a case (from his book, Deconstructing Legal Analysis).  The idea that there are three discrete levels of thought and analysis involved in cases seems to be helpful and rather mind-blowing for many students.  I've also found it particularly helpful when I am trying to help students categorize and breakdown different rules and ideas (like breaking up the levels of scrutiny in a Con Law question, or splitting apart subject matter and personal jurisdiction on an essay).  So, I drew a picture.

I'm not sure if it exactly inspires confidence, but it gives students something to look at during a lecture besides me.

(Alex Ruskell) 

March 28, 2014 in Advice, Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reminder: April 1st Deadline for AALS Program Proposals for the Section on Academic Support

Call for Proposals

AALS Section on Academic Support

January 2015 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. 

ASP a Roadmap at the Crossroad: How Academic Support Will Meet Today’s Varied Challenges 

From isolated academic support efforts to more formalized multifaceted programs, academic support has fundamentally changed itself and legal education over the years.  In light of shrinking budgets, disappearing positions, smaller applicant pools, and media attacks on legal education, academic support programs face newer and varied challenges.  The Program Committee seeks proposals highlighting innovative methods, programs, or ideas related to these challenges. 

Topics might include, but are not limited to, efficient and effective ways to:  collaborate with faculty; manage limited human and financial resources; attract and retain students; provide resources for students with learning and other disabilities; and create programming for diverse populations to address any social isolation and/or bridge any skills deficiencies. 

Preference will be given to presentations designed to engage the workshop audience, so proposals should contain a detailed explanation of both the substance of the presentation and the methods to be employed.  Individuals as well as groups are invited to propose topics.  The Committee would prefer to highlight talent across a spectrum of law schools and disciplines and is especially interested in new and innovative ideas. Please share this call with colleagues—both within the legal academy and the academic support community. 

Proposals must include the following information:

1.  A title for your presentation.

2.  A brief description of the objectives or outcomes of your presentation.

3.  A brief description of how your presentation will support your stated objectives or outcomes.

4.  The amount of time requested for your presentation. No single presenter should exceed 30 minutes in total.  Presentations as short as 15 minutes are welcomed.

5.  A detailed description of both the substantive content and the techniques to be employed, if any, to engage the audience.

6.  Whether you plan to distribute handouts, use PowerPoint, or employ other technology.

7.  A list of the conferences at which you have presented within the last three years, such as AALS, national or regional ASP or writing conferences, or other academic conferences.  (The Committee is interested in this information because we wish to select and showcase seasoned, as well as fresh, talent.)

8.  Your school affiliation, title, courses taught, and contact information (please include email address and telephone number).

9.  Any articles or books that you have published that relate to your proposed presentation.

10. Any other information you think will help the Committee appreciate the value your presentation will provide. 

Proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so please send yours as soon as possible, but no later than Tuesday, April 1st at 5pm to Goldie Pritchard, Michigan State University College of Law, gpritch@law.msu.edu.  If you have questions, please email Goldie Pritchard or call at 517.432.6881.

The Section on Academic Support Program Committee:

Goldie Pritchard, Chair

Robin Boyle Laisure

Ilana Ben-zeev

Robert Coulthard

Steven Foster

Lyndsay Garmond

DeShun Harris

Danielle Kocal

Haley Meade

Maysa Nichter

Brendon Taga

ASP Section Chair:  Amy Jarmon

 

March 26, 2014 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Blank Generation

Many students have problems with outlining an answer before writing it on the exam.  When all you hear is typing fingers around you, taking the time to outline your answer might seem like a luxury you don't have time for.

Consequently, I have students make a short "attack" outline to use during the exam (if it is open book), and ask them to set up that outline in something of a fill-in-the-blank format.  

For example, the attack breakdown for adverse possession might look something like this:

Adverse Possesssion 

Hostile --

Exclusive --

Open and Notorious --

Continuous --

Actual --

On the exam, once the student recognizes that a question is asking about adverse possession, he or she can simply fill in the relevant facts on the attack outline and then write the exam answer.  Especially for the weakest students, who might have timing issues and tend to leave out elements and specific facts, such an attack outline can be invaluable.

(Alex Ruskell)

March 21, 2014 in Advice, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)