Monday, May 25, 2015
Sunday, May 24, 2015
The Appalachian School of Law (ASL) is looking for a full-time, tenure-earning faculty member interested in teaching in its Academic Success and Bar Preparation programs starting August 2015. ASL is committed to student achievement, and this position will be primarily responsible for developing, leading, coordinating, and implementing programs that support ASL’s goals of assisting law students as they develop and improve legal study and test-taking skills, adjust to the challenges of law school, pass the bar exam, and prepare to enter law practice.
Minimum requirements include a J.D. degree and admission to the practice of law. Ideal candidates will have experience working in a higher-education setting in the areas of teaching, academic assistance, academic counseling or similar administrative, teaching, or practice experience. The successful candidate also must have excellent written and verbal communication skills, and the ability to work effectively with a wide range of constituents within the diverse law school community, including students served by the Academic Success Program, faculty, and administrators.
ASL is located in the scenic-mountainous region of southwest Virginia. All aspects of ASL’s academic program—from the structured curriculum and the required summer externship to the weekly community service commitment—are designed to respond to the unique needs and opportunities of a law school in this region.
Women, people of color, and others with diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply. To apply, please send a cover letter and a resume to Priscilla Harris, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee. For email, send to firstname.lastname@example.org, including in the subject line, “ASP Position.” For mail, send to Priscilla Harris, Appalachian School of Law, 1169 Edgewater Drive, Grundy, VA 24614. We will start reviewing applications immediately and continue until the position is filled.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
When I worked with undergraduates in my first career in higher education, I was heavily involved with academic advising for ten years. In fact, my doctoral dissertation was on an academic advising topic. As a result, I have always been interested in academic advising for law students. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, the lack of academic advising for law students.
Many of the students with whom I have worked on other ASP'ish topics approach me for academic advising as well. This past year, my editor for the ABA's magazine, Student Lawyer, had me focus many of my articles on topics within the purview of academic advising.
By academic advising, I do not mean the mechanics of registration or the specific academic regulations. Instead I am referring to advice to law students on aspects that help them apply the mechanics and regulations to meet their academic and career goals and optimize their success. Academic advising goes beyond the procedures, policies, and printed words to consider the individual student as a learner.
For example, a graduation audit to see how an upper-division student is progressing on the requirements for graduation is very important. (I know because I once had co-duties with the Registrar for the graduation audit at a law school.) But the audit is about regulations and mechanics rather than which courses would be the best selections in the ensuing semesters for academic and career goals and learning.
Law schools tend to provide lots of assistance with and information on the mechanics of registration and the academic regulations. There are law schools that undertake true academic advising for special groups: dual-degree students; students in specialized certificate programs, clinic students, or others. But for the majority of law students, academic advising is a hit-or-miss or non-existent experience.
At many law schools academic advising is fragmented. Academic decanal staff, registrar staff, academic support staff, and others may all be involved in some tasks. But a coordinated academic advising program is often non-existent or not effectively implemented among the varied efforts.
Consequently, many students depend on the upper-division student grapevine for their main academic advising. They may get a bit of advice here or there from an approachable faculty member. However, they are more likely to ask faculty members for advice if they know specific career plans that mesh with that faculty member's field of expertise: I want to go JAG; I want to practice oil & gas; I want to be an in-house lawyer. Career services may assist with hot job opportunities and suggested courses that mesh with those specialties in the marketplace.
But putting together a curriculum with all of the relevant nuances for anindividual is very different from this hodgepodge of sources. Academic advising needs the human interaction element of thoughtful communications about academic goals, career goals, short-term and long-term goals, course combinations, academic strengths and weaknesses, learning and cognitive processing styles, individual circumstances outside law school, and much more.
Law schools try to put together options that might help, but often miss the mark. Expensive software is available that will do the graduation audit function and allow students to play with course scenarios, but it is not academic advising. Academic advising handbooks (whether for faculty or students or both) are helpful if they have value added beyond regulations and mechanics, but these tools still miss the interaction if stand alone documents. Making every faculty member advise a certain number of assigned law students is often unhelpful because of individual faculty being overloaded with other duties, untrained, or disinterested. Mandatory advising once or twice a year with an assigned, willing, and trained academic adviser is a start on interaction; but even this option can become merely an "inoculation" process rather than an ongoing dialogue.
With the increasing number of law students who have lower admission credentials, the need for individual academic advising is more critical now than ever. Increasing numbers of non-traditional and first-generation law students also increase the pressure for academic advising. One positive of smaller entering class numbers is that with fewer law students there is greater opportunity to implement individual discussions for true academic advising. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, May 22, 2015
Professors are grading stacks of exams as the due date for grades quickly approaches. The law school is like a ghost town when it comes to faculty presence. The few colleagues who prefer to grade exams in their offices rather than at home give daily updates on how many questions/exams down and how many to go.
Some courses are already completed and the grades posted. Our trusty Registrar's staff members post grades as soon as all of the procedures for a course to link names to exam numbers and grades are completed.
The emails, telephone calls, and visits are starting from anxious students who are waiting to see whether they will meet the academic requirements. Many of them have one or two of their grades posted at this point and are frantically calculating what they need in their other courses to make the minimums. They are losing sleep over whether the next course posted will help or hurt them.
Their angst is increased because of their prior feelings as they came out of their exams. In some courses, they felt confident and visualized getting some kind of B or A. In other cases they felt discouraged by rules recalled after leaving the exam room, running out of time, or "flipping a coin" between two good answers for the best answer. Add those post-exam discussions with classmates, and they have worried about missing things other people saw.
When the first posted grades were not the hoped for As or Bs but instead Cs or lower, they likely visualized the bottom dropping out. If they were so wrong about success in those courses, what will the other grades be like? Even if the disappointing grade might be the result of a tight curve rather than their own lack of understanding, it is little consolation.
Every law school is different when it comes to policies and procedures. Here are some thoughts to help students who are concerned they may not make their academic standards:
- Read the student handbook, on-line policies/procedures, or other materials provided by your law school about academic standards. Answers to many of your questions are already available in these materials.
- Review the specific options, if any, that you may have for your law school. Some law schools dismiss without any options. Some law schools have processes for immediate petitions while others require students sit out a period of time before a petition may be filed. Some schools allow readmission on probation while others only allow repeating the first year.
- Read carefully all letters and materials you receive about your academic status. (If you were already on probation, re-read the prior letter and materials.) Answers to many of your questions are given in those communications.
- Meet any deadlines that you are given for the options available to you at your law school.
- If documentation is required for petitions (examples: doctor's letter, psychiatrist's letter, report on ADHD testing, etc.), make sure appropriate documentation is provided.
- Be honest with yourself. Law school is not the path for everyone. Is law school what you really want to do? Did you only attend because you were not sure what else to do? Do you find the law intellectually stimulating and interesting? Instead, is it drudgery for you? What is your passion? What do you really want to do with your life?
- Consider how to tell family and friends about your academics. Having support is important. Hiding the situation from those who care about you may add to your stress. Decide whether you want to talk to significant people in your life now or later about your law school career. Perhaps talk to someone at the university's counseling center if you need someone to help you with the anxiety and decision-making.
- Have your Plan B (and Plan C and Plan D if necessary). Begin to devise what you will do next if law school is no longer an option. Application to another graduate program? Certification in a new skill? Return to the career/job you left before law school? Move back home temporarily?
- Consider the implications of probation or dismissal for your financial aid. Talk to the financial aid person for your institution. Your university may have academic progress requirements that affect financial aid for probation students. Find out loan repayment procedures if you are dismissed.
As you wait for grades, realize that you are still the same intelligent and talented person you were before law school. Not becoming a lawyer (whether you decide not to continue when the grades turn out okay or you are dismissed) is not the end of your choices. You will have a positive impact on society in other ways. And the critical thinking and writing skills you have learned in law school will translate to other fields. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, May 18, 2015
Bar Exam Season is here.
Just a few days ago you took your last law school exam and celebrated graduation and hooding with family and friends. You’ve barely had time to open the graduation cards and now it’s time to hit the books again. Commercial bar prep has begun and it is just the beginning of a great adventure. You’ve worked hard for almost three (or four) years, 10 more weeks is no big deal. The good news is that the first week is the easy week so take advantage of any free time to do the following:
Organize your life.
- Do laundry, go grocery shopping, clean your apartment. Studying for the bar exam seems to affect your ability to do any of these things.
- Talk to family and friends about the next 10 weeks and how you will be less available. Assure them you will make time for them but studying for the bar is a full-time job.
- Find a healthy, non-law related activity to help with stress relief. It is important to relax and have a little fun. It’s good for your mental, physical, and emotional health.
Organize your study schedule.
- Go through your bar exam material and familiarize yourself with it. You will use some things more than others and it’s good to figure out your go-to sources early.
- Take a look at the prepared study schedule and modify it to fit your learning and study needs. Figure out your study approach and make sure you have all your study supplies.
- Find a place to study. Try out a few different places and figure out which atmosphere best promotes focused study (hint- it will not be anywhere in the vicinity of a tv, refrigerator, couch, bed, etc).
You've got 10 weeks of studying ahead of you. There's no getting around it so you might as well make the best of it. (KSK)
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Hat tip to Scott Fruehwald on the LRWProf list for pointing out a new article. You may want to check out James B. Levy's new article entitled Teaching the Digital Caveman: Rethinking the Use of Classroom Technology in Law School on SSRN: Levy Article. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, May 15, 2015
Congratulations on finishing your academic year! Now you have the summer stretching before you. Here are some thoughts on how to get the most from your summer:
- If at all possible, take some time to decompress before you plunge into a job, summer school, or other obligations. You need some time to relax after your academic year.
- Reconnect with family and friends over the summer months. Socialize with the people you are close to and spend some quality time enjoying their company. They have missed you.
- Laugh aloud as much as possible. Do silly things with your younger siblings or nieces/nephews or children; share the joy of childhood with them. Hang out with friends and family members who see the positive and funny side of things. Let your pet's antics delight you.
- Take up a new hobby or return to an old one. Fill your spare time with things you love but told yourself you did not have time for during the academic year. Then decide how you can carve out some time for your favorite outlet once the school year begins.
- Spend some time volunteering. If you help those who are less fortunate than you, it reorients your perspective and helps you realize that law school is a privilege even if it is hard work.
- Get back into a healthy routine this summer. If you are like most law students, you have become sleep-deprived, junk-food-sustained, and exercise-avoiding. Return to healthy habits so that you become your personal best this summer. Then continue your routine when the semester begins.
- Evaluate your year. What legal or academic skills did you learn this year? What legal or academic skills do you want to improve during next year? What resources at your law school can assist you with those improvements? Make some plans for those improvements.
- Make some non-academic plans for next year. What are your extracurricular goals for the next academic year: student organizations, pro bono work, part-time job, resume building, pursuit of career opportunities? What are your personal goals: stress management, curbing procrastination, better health, spiritual growth, strengthening friendships? What are some positive steps you can take next year to meet those goals.
- Take some time at the end of the summer to recharge your batteries before you return to the classroom in the fall. You want to be refreshed when you return to campus to start another semester.
Have safe and happy summers. We look forward to your return in August. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Have you ever noticed when you are working with students that some law students seem to encounter more than their fair share of life's hardships? The student with academic difficulties is often the same person with financial issues, marital or family issues, personal health issues, and more. It seems for some of my law students that life difficulties come in more than the commonly espoused three in a row.
It often occurs to me that these students persevere against huge odds that would confound most people. The fact that these students with so many obstacles graduate, pass the bar, and become lawyers is really a tribute to their courage. They may not have the highest grade point averages, but they are heads above the crowd in backbone.
Unfortunately, students in the midst of life's obstacles often struggle through them without seeking support. They may not know that assistance exists. They may misjudge the collateral damage to their academics. Or they may let pride get in their way.
Each law school varies in its policies and procedures, but I encourage law students to ask for help when they are dealing with issues that interfere with their academic focus. At least find out your options so that you can make informed decisions.
Some possible resources for students are:
- Meetings with the academic support professional to help with more efficient and effective study skills and time management decisions while the student is juggling the personal circumstances.
- Meetings with an academic or student affairs staff member in the law school to support the student and provide advice on options and referrals.
- Appointments at the university's counseling center for an objective listener during the stressful circumstances that the student is facing.
- Appointments with the university's student health services to provide medical attention and referrals to outside doctors as appropriate.
- Discussion of academic procedures that allow students to postpone exams or papers, take an incomplete grade for additional time to complete coursework, take a course underload for a semester, file a leave of absence for a semester or year, or other options.
Students do not have to handle life's obstacles on their own. As ASP'ers we need to be as familiar as possible with the policies and procedures of our law schools and to make referrals to other law school or university staff and services as appropriate. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Position Title: Assistant Director, Office of Academic & Bar Success
Department, Program, Center: Law School
Requisition Number: FAC000284
College or School: School of Law
POSITION SUMMARY INFORMATION
The faculty in the Office of Academic & Bar Success work in and out of the classroom to improve the academic success of Santa Clara Law’s students from Orientation through Bar passage. Our faculty works in coordination with doctrinal and skills faculty to design, coordinate, implement, evaluate, and improve the academic skills curriculum. Our faculty members teach courses, provide direct student counseling, and coordinate student programming on a year-round basis. The Assistant Director will primarily work with first-year and continuing students on their academic success needs.
This position is a 75% full-time, eleven-month appointment. The position is a non-tenure track, one-year lecturer position with benefits, subject to renewal contingent on programmatic need.
Salary: Depending on qualifications; benefits eligible.
- J.D. degree and California Bar membership.
- Experience counseling students in a higher education setting.
- Comfort and familiarity in working with students from diverse backgrounds.
- Ability to think imaginatively, critically, and collaboratively about how to improve and measure student academic development.
- Understanding of, and ability to work for, the mission and goals of Santa Clara University School of Law.
- Prior teaching or tutoring experience is desirable, particularly in a law school setting.
- Experience in program management and assessment is desirable.
Responsibilities include but are not limited to:
- participating in the design, direction, and evaluation of the 1L Academic Success Program (ASP).
- serving as co-supervisor of ASP student fellows and coordinators.
- leading co-curricular presentations on academic success topics during Orientation and throughout the first year.
- coordinating 1L academic success counseling.
- administering the 1L supplemental practice exam series.
In addition, the Assistant Director may teach credit-bearing skills courses, support students subject the Directed Study policy (our upper-division academic support intervention), and assist with Bar preparation programming.
The Law School supports professional development through conferences and training; scholarship is welcome but not required.
Start Date: 08/01/2015
POSTING DETAIL INFORMATION
Open Date: 05/12/2015
Close Date: 05/22/2015
Additional Information: Please include in your application: 1) Cover letter, 2) CV, 3) At least two letters of reference.
Reference letters will be automatically solicited via the system upon submitting your application.
Any questions may be addressed to Devin Kinyon, Assistant Director of the Office of Academic & Bar Success, at email@example.com.
To learn more about the School of Law, please visit http://law.scu.edu/.
About Santa Clara University: Santa Clara University is a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located in California’s Silicon Valley, offering its 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master’s, Ph.D., and law degrees.
Distinguished by the highest retention rate and ranked second among all master’s universities in the West by U.S. News and World Report, Santa Clara University is California’s oldest operating institution of higher-education. The University is focused on creating an academic community that educates citizens and leaders who will build a more just, humane, and sustainable world.
EEO Statement: Santa Clara University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer, committed to excellence through diversity and inclusion, and, in this spirit, particularly welcomes applications from women, persons of color, and members of historically underrepresented groups. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, status as a protected veteran, status as a qualified individual with a disability, or other protected category in accordance with applicable law. The University will provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with a disability.
Santa Clara University annually collects information about campus crimes and other reportable incidents in accordance with the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. To view the Santa Clara University report, please go to the Campus Safety Services website at http://www.scu.edu/cs/. To request a paper copy please call Campus Safety at (408) 554-4441. The report includes the type of crime, venue, and number of occurrences.
Pace yourself this week. You want to be as alert going into your last exams as the first ones you had.
- Get enough sleep. Being rested will help you more than staying up to the wee hours cramming.
- Take short breaks at least every 90 minutes. Your brain can continue filing away information in the 10 minutes you take off.
- If you need a longer break, combine exercise and a meal so that you have a couple of hours off and use the combination to combat stress and re-energize.
- Add movement to your breaks. Walk around outside for a few minutes. Walk throughout the hallways of the law school. Do a few jumping jacks. Jog in place.
- Eat food that nourishes your brain. Avoid overdosing on caffeine, sugar, energy drinks. Take a dinner break where you sit down and eat a real meal rather than pizza or junk food.
Prioritize what you still need to study. Spend more time on the things you are having difficulty with for a course. Light review is all you should need on the things you already know well.
If you are losing focus, mix up your study tasks; variety that suits your learning styles can help you regain focus:
- Intensely review a subtopic in your outline
- Drill with your flashcards
- Talk to a friend about the material
- Do some practice questions
- Draw a spider map of the concepts
- Write out a difficult rule 10 times
- Read aloud a topic in your outline
- Tab your code book for an open-code exam
If you are working on a paper, break down your tasks into small pieces so it will not be so overwhelming.
- Separate research, writing, and editing tasks into three “to do” lists.
- Read aloud if you are having trouble reviewing what you have already written.
- Do multiple edits with each one focusing on a different task rather than a mega-edit:
Punctuation; Grammar; Logic; Flow and style; Citation; Footnotes; Format
- If possible, finish the day before it is due so that you can set it aside and come back for a final look with fresh eyes.
Think of three things that you are going to do to celebrate your end of the semester. Having things to look forward to helps you stay motivated.
Good luck as you continue through exams! Summer is almost here. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, May 11, 2015
We are happy to announce that Katherine Kelly, one of our Contributing Editors, has been awarded a badge for a "Top 10 Blog Posts" for her posting last week entitled: Tackling a Take Home Exam. The State Bar of Texas included her on their Texas Bar Today website list of last week's top ten list. You can find their web posting here: Texas Bar Today Top 10 . The PDF badge below is to honor her accomplishment:
Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law in Orlando is seeking to fill the Coordinator of Bar Preparation position. The Coordinator, Bar Preparation will counsel students one-on-one to help increase the knowledge and provide further support to law students preparing for the bar exam or the MPRE exam. Assists Bar Preparations and Academic Success programs as needed.
- Provide one-on-one student counseling of students studying for the bar exam, preparing for the MPRE, during course registration period, preparing bar applications. and other student counseling as directed by the Assistant Dean or Directors.
- Provide instruction and feedback on essay writing for Academic Success and Bar Preparation; grade essays; teach 1 bar preparation course per year
- Support and assist Academic Success and Bar Preparation Department workshops, events and activities.
- Master scheduling of the Department’s overall Bar Preparation and Academic Success schedules, including workshops and other events within each area.
- JD required
- Must be member of the Florida Bar
- 1-3 years experience working in the legal profession; teaching and counseling experience a plus
- Advanced ability to analyze legal writing and provide productive feedback
- Ability to set up and manage semi-complex scheduling
- Proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel
- Advanced writing and one on one oral communication skills with students at varying levels of understanding of legal writing and exam taking
- Demonstrated advanced legal writing skills - Please provide writing sample
- Demonstrated high scores on all portions of the Florida Bar Exam
Salary commensurate with experience.
This position is located in Orlando, FL at 6441 East Colonial Drive.
Barry University is an Equal Opportunity Employer, committed to a diverse and inclusive work environment.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
Mississippi College School of Law (MC Law) invites applications for the position of Director of Academic Support. This position involves supervision of the law school’s academic support program for students in all years of the law school program and supervision of the law school’s bar preparation program for third-year students. The Director will also teach first-year students in the Legal Writing Program. The Director’s contract is initially a one-year probationary contract, subject to renewal for a second probationary year. The contract may then be awarded for a five-year term. At the end of the first five-year term, the Director is eligible for a presumptively renewable five-year contract. The law school support for the Director would include grants for scholarship, teaching assistants, and conference travel. Prior experience in academic support is preferred, but not required. The law school campus is in downtown Jackson, Mississippi, the state capital and a center for law, business, and culture in the mid-South. We particularly welcome applications from residents of other regions of the country, women, and minorities. To learn more about the law school and its environment, visit our website at www.law.mc.edu or contact Professor Jim Rosenblatt, Faculty Appointments Committee, Mississippi College School of Law by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at 601-925-7147. Those wishing to apply for the position should send Professor Rosenblatt an email (email@example.com) with the following attachments: a cover letter describing your interest in the position and what you would bring to the position, a Mississippi College Faculty Application, a short writing sample (3-5 pages), and resume. Transcripts are not required at this time. If one wants to be considered also for the Assistant Director of Academic Support position, indicate that in the cover letter. Priority consideration will be afforded applications received by May 14, 2015. Additional information and a job description are available on the Employment section of the Mississippi College web site at Director of Academic Support, School of Law.
Mississippi College School of Law (MC Law) invites applications for the position of Assistant Director of Academic Support. This position involves assisting the Director with the supervision of the law school’s academic support program for students in all years of the law school program and of the law school’s bar preparation program for third-year students. The Assistant Director will also teach first-year students in the Legal Writing Program. The Assistant Director’s contract is initially a one-year probationary contract, subject to renewal for a second probationary year. The contract may then be awarded for a five-year term. At the end of the first five-year term, the Assistant Director is eligible for a presumptively renewable five-year contract. The law school support for the Assistant Director would include grants for scholarship, teaching assistants, and conference travel. Prior experience in academic support is preferred, but not required. The law school campus is in downtown Jackson, Mississippi, the state capital and a center for law, business, and culture in the mid-South. We particularly welcome applications from residents of other regions of the country, women, and minorities. To learn more about the law school and its environment, visit our website at www.law.mc.edu or contact Professor Jim Rosenblatt, Faculty Appointments Committee, Mississippi College School of Law by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at 601-925-7147. Those wishing to apply for the position should send Professor Rosenblatt an email (email@example.com) with the following attachments: a cover letter describing your interest in the position and what you would bring to the position, a Mississippi College Faculty Application, a short writing sample (3-5 pages), and resume. Transcripts are not required at this time. Priority consideration will be afforded applications received by May 14, 2015. Additional information and a job description are available on the Employment section of the Mississippi College web site at Assistant Director of Academic Support, School of Law.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
After considerable debate and several public hearings, the New York Court of Appeals has adopted the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the Uniform Bar Examination and in July 2016 New York will administer the Uniform Bar Examination. The New York State Board of Law Examiners has proposed that New York set the passing score for the UBE at 266. In other jurisdictions, the UBE passing scores range from 260 (Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri) to 280 (Alaska and Idaho). The bar exam landscape is changing. Will this move create a "domino effect?" Will other states change their passing scores? Will New York see an influx of applicants? Only time will tell.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Professors do not give take home exams because they are kind or because they want you to work on the exam for 24 hours straight. Professors give take home exams because they want to read decent exam responses. A take-home exam is tough because it promotes false confidence: it’s easier because I have more time. False. More time for the exam means more time for distractions. I don’t need to study because I have more time. False. You do not have time to study during the exam. What you do have time for is thinking, outlining, writing, and editing.
Also consider the word limits. Professors have set a word limit that is more than enough to write a thorough response. If you are over the limit and find yourself cutting “a” and “the,” you’re missing the point. It is either a substance issue: you’ve addressed issues that aren’t worth mentioning, or a style issue: you are wordy, redundant, and unclear. Chances are, it is a little bit of both. This is where the thinking and outlining part comes in. Don’t skip these steps. Professors expect a well-thought out and well-written exam response. This doesn’t happen during the take-home exam itself. This happens because you prepared for it: you organized your notes, identified potential issues and how to address them, and set up a test environment where you have easy access to all your material and have minimized distractions. Think about what you want to write. Organize what you want to write. Then write. Approach a take home exam as you would an in-class exam: preparation and practice.
Sunday, May 3, 2015
Those of us in ASP are finishing up our semesters. All of us are about to dive into the next big project: some ASP'ers begin bar prep; others begin leg-up summer programs for entering 1L students; yet others begin pre-law programs for college or high school students.
All of us have been racing through the academic year and juggling dozens of balls above our heads and behind our backs. The break between fall and spring semesters gave us little respite because we were planning, revising, and preparing for that spring semester. Spring Break was another work week rather than a week off for nearly all of us.
If your last month has been typical, you feel a bit like an emergency room doctor - exhausted and overworked. You have tried to staunch the academic bloodletting and save as many academic futures as possible for students who have shown up for last-minute advice. These latecomers to the process of studying only have time for prioritizing and implementing some quick changes. You do what you can in minimal time. Some students will miraculously do okay. Others will see their law school futures expire on the exam room floors.
I now have two weeks of exams in front of me when the pace falls off because students are hunkered down. A few walking wounded will come my way, but most students will just self-treat and study for the next exam. They just want to survive, go home, and heal.
I know as an ASP'er that now is the only chance that I have to breathe. Not that I will be relaxing, mind you. I will be working my way through a massive list of projects and deadlines.
By breathing, I mean that I can look up and not see the next student waiting in line. By breathing, I mean I will not be finishing one meeting only to rush to another obligation. By breathing, I mean that instead of answering an avalanche of e-mails and handling last-minute crises, I can focus on completing a task and spending quality time with that task.
But you know the best part of being able to breathe for a few days? I get to step back and remember why I love ASP work. I can re-focus on what really matters: the many successes, the many thank yous, the academic and life changes that I have had the honor to be part of, the student tears that have led to smiles on those faces as skills were honed, and the reality that some students would have given up without my help .
So, my dear colleagues, take time to breathe. Remind yourself of why you love ASP work. Remember the little and big miracles you have witnessed and been part of this year. You are a blessing to your students and a blessing to your ASP colleagues. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, May 2, 2015
As law students settle into their exam studying, here are some tips to help them be more productive:
- Remember that exams are testing whether you can apply the law to facts in new legal scenarios to solve legal problems. You need to know the law well, but you need to go beyond mere rote memorization of the law. You need to understand the law and how to apply it.
- Focus on your professor’s course. What topics/subtopics did your professor cover? What rule statements, steps of analysis, preferred formats, etc. did your professor provide? What study tips did your professor give?
- Update your outlines with the last class material as soon as possible after your last classes because they are your master documents. Outlines, if done correctly, are the most efficient and effective way to learn 15 weeks of material.
- Re-reading cases is inefficient because you focus on unconnected case fragments. Class notes may also keep the course unconnected and include unnecessary details.
- If you do not have an outline, prioritize: condense your notes to the tools that you need to solve legal problems; organize by topics and subtopics to synthesize the material into 10 -20 pages if possible.
- Make a list of all the topics and subtopics in your outlines that you need to learn for an exam. Include subtopics, because you often can make progress on several subtopics when an entire topic looks overwhelming. As you have completed your learning for a subtopic, highlight it off the list. Highlighting will give you more psychological buzz than just checking it off.
- Practice questions are very important to exam success. The more questions you complete, the more prepared you are to tackle new scenarios on the exam. Practice questions help you monitor your understanding and get your exam-taking strategies on auto-pilot.
- Complete exam-quality practice questions after you learn material. If you do them before you have a good grasp on the topic, you will waste time and excuse your low performance with “I would have gotten it right if I had studied.”
- After you have learned a topic, wait at least a day or two before tackling practice questions on that topic if possible; otherwise you will get answers right because you just finished studying the topic and not because you have retained and understood it.
- Use commentary study aids effectively. Focus only on topics or subtopics that you still do not understand. Reading an entire 300-page study aid is usually not efficient. If you understand the topic/subtopic after reading about it in one commentary, avoid reading additional commentaries on the same information.
- Use study groups effectively. Keep the number in the group small to avoid logistic and group dynamic problems. Have an agenda for each meeting so everyone knows what topics will be covered and what practice questions to complete beforehand.
- Balance study group time with your individual study – your group members cannot help you in the exam; you need to know the material and be able to apply it. Complete practice questions individually as well as any group questions discussed.
- Open-book exams can be a trap for many students. You still need to know the material well. Normally you will not have enough time to look everything up. Beware of slacking off in your preparation. Plan your organization strategies for the materials allowed under your professor’s definition of open book.
- Each day has three main blocks of study time: morning (8 a.m. – noon), afternoon (1 – 5 p.m.), and evening (6 – 10 p.m.). The number of hours you need to study each day will depend on several factors: how much material you learned to exam-ready standard by the end of classes, your specific exam schedule, the number of practice questions you have already completed, and your individual productivity as a student.
- This is a marathon and not a sprint. Get sleep; eat nutritious meals; exercise to relieve stress. Going into an exam sleep-deprived is a disaster waiting to happen. Wearing yourself out before your last exam is counter-productive.
- The night before a morning exam or the morning before an afternoon exam should ideally be “fluff study”: a cover-to-cover read of your outline, very easy practice questions, or going through your flashcard deck again. If you have not learned it already, cramming will just make you more anxious and befuddled in those last few hours.
Finally, treat your brain with respect. When you lose your focus and cannot get it back by more active learning methods, your brain is telling you to take a break. Forcing yourself to continue when you have hit the proverbial wall is not productive. Walk away and come back later - just make sure you do come back instead of playing video games for 10 hours. Good luck on exams! (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, May 1, 2015
The John Marshall Law School is restructuring the Academic Achievement Program and seeks two Academic Achievement Specialists who will work with the Director and Associate Director of the program under the supervision of the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning. It is anticipated that one specialist will enhance the design of the Expert Learning course, which provides guidance regarding the challenges of the first year of law school. This specialist will also work with professors of first year courses to integrate the course into doctrinal courses. This specialist will design and teach in a new program, the Advanced Learning Labs in coordination with professors of second year courses. It is anticipated that the second specialist will teach in bar preparation courses for credit and bar preparation programs for students both in their final semester and during their two months of intensive bar preparation. This specialist will also design new bar preparation programs.
- J.D. from an ABA-approved law school with an excellent academic record and bar passage, preferably in Illinois.
- Law school experience preferred, either in an academic achievement program or as an adjunct professor.
- Superior oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills.
- Good organizational and judgmental abilities.
- Commitment to working with a diverse population of students, faculty, and staff.
- Ability to work under pressure and evenings and weekends as needed.
- Sensitivity to students with disabilities and multicultural backgrounds.
- Some knowledge of law school academic support and willingness to learn the approach at The John Marshall Law School.
- Willingness to attend and develop relationships at regional and national bar support meetings.
- General knowledge of intellectual technology and willingness to master new developments.
Note: As these are new positions, other job related duties and responsibilities may be assigned, and the job description may change as the needs of the Academic Achievement Program change.
Submit cover letter, resume, and three recommendations on or before application deadline on June 30, 2015, or when the position is filled. Start date scheduled for August 1, 2015. Personal interviews will take place at The John Marshall Law School, 315 S Plymouth Court, Chicago, IL 60604. Submit application to the attention of Associate Dean Anthony Niedwiecki.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Most law schools are about to begin their exam periods. Everyone can feel the stress level increasing daily among the students. The doom and gloom, nay-saying, gnashing of teeth, groaning, and moaning of some law students are infecting the atmosphere for everyone.
Keeping a positive outlook and believing in yourself during the exam period will require some strategies to counteract the negativity. Here are some ways to keep yourself from giving in to stress and bad thoughts:
- Retain your common sense and ignore the bizarre rumors that float around a law school at the end of a semester. Example: one group of students told me a rumor that a professor's curve is so tight that the few high grades are assigned alphabetically by last name. That makes no sense because exams are anonymously graded. Beware of the foolishness that abounds this time of year.
- Make conscious decisions about which people add to your positive mindset. Surround yourself with fellow students who are supportive, encouraging, and focusing on productive study. Also, make time to talk with your supporters outside the law school: parents, siblings, mentors, and others. Ask someone to be your cheerleader so you can phone every night for a pep talk.
- Make conscious decisions about which people to avoid. Walk away from the people who are negative. You can be polite in doing so, but get away from them. Do not allow yourself to waste time listening to dire predictions of failure. Do not tolerate anyone who is trying to make you feel less prepared, to undermine your confidence, or to belittle your efforts.
- Find a place to study that decreases your stress level. If the law school atmosphere makes you anxious or you get too many interruptions there, go elsewhere. Some students can study at home; others get too distracted at home. Choose a study location where you will be productive: the main university library, another academic building on campus, an empty Student Union meeting room, a coffee shop, the business center at your apartment complex.
- Focus on manageable tasks. Viewing a course as a 15-week whole is stressful. "I need to know Income Tax" is an overwhelming concept. Break your course down into topics and subtopics. Then focus on learning manageable pieces: "I need to understand the medical expense deduction for Schedule A." Remember the Chinese proverb: you can eat an elephant one bite at a time.
- Avoid talking about an exam after it is over. Put it behind you and move on. You cannot change what you did on the exam. If you talk with people about it, your stress will likely increase because someone will say there was an issue that you did not spot - and half of the time, that person is wrong.
- Take care of yourself. Having enough sleep (7-8 hours per night minimum) helps you absorb, retain, and apply information. You will also be more productive in your study hours. Going into an exam without enough sleep is a recipe for disaster. Eating healthy foods also helps your brain to work better. Exercise is one of the best stress-busters and helps you sleep.
- Encourage yourself. Read inspirational quotes or scriptures each day. Post positive sayings around your apartment. List three good things that happened each day in a journal before you go to bed. Pat yourself on the back for a good study session.
Most of all remember that you are the same intelligent person you were when you entered the law school doors for the first time. Believe in yourself. You can do this. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
On April 8th, 2015, law school students, administrators, faculty, academic support educators, and admissions officers along with members of the judiciary and leaders within the Law School Admissions Council congregated in a large hotel conference room within walking distance of the Las Vegas strip and a short bus ride from the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law. They had a common purpose: to discuss how to work together to better meet the needs of our diverse law students. Dr. Terrell Strayhorn gave the keynote speech, an inspirational start to an energizing and thought-provoking three days. Below are my notes from his keynote speech and some of the themes that I took back to Rhode Island with me from the conference. I also have pasted some links below for those of you who wish to read more about the topics touched on in this blog. I have a lot more to learn, but this conference was a wonderful starting point for me, and a much-appreciated opportunity to deepen my understanding of my own diverse students. Much thanks to Kent Lollis, LSAC’s Executive Director of Diversity Initiatives, Rod Fong, Chair of the LSAC Diversity Retention Conference Planning Group, Professor Nancy Rappaport of UNLV, and many others for their hard work in providing this opportunity for all of us.
Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, a Professor of Higher Education at the Department of Educational Studies within Ohio State’s College of Education and Human Ecology, is also the Director of the Ohio State Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE).
During his keynote address, Dr. Strayhorn spoke about the need for students of color to feel that they “belong” to a community, to feel included. In his book, College Students Sense of Belonging, A Key to Educational Success for All Students, Dr. Strayhorn defines a “sense of belonging” as “a basic human need and motivation, sufficient to influence behavior. [It] refers to students’ perceived social support on campus, a feeling or sensation of connectedness, the experience of mattering or feeling cared about, accepted, respected, valued by, and important to the group (e.g., campus community) or others on campus (e.g., faculty, peers). It’s a cognitive evaluation that typically leads to an affective response or behavior.” According to Dr. Strayhorn, a “sense of belonging” is “relational” in that “members matter to one another and to the group,” and that “each member benefits from the group” and the “group benefits from the contributions of each member.”
This sense of “belonging” is an important factor in a diverse student’s potential for success, more significant than her LSAT score. A “sense of belonging” arises from both “structural” and “curricular” diversity. “Structural” diversity refers to the number of diverse students who are in a class overall & within each individual classroom. Curricular diversity refers to bringing both diverse and non-diverse students together in a meaningful way to discuss their experiences and perspectives. Cross-racial understanding comes from this curricular diversity. Simply having a number of diverse students in the classroom does not, by itself, facilitate inclusion. True inclusion involves interaction among students about their different perspectives and experiences. This “interactional diversity” is what impacts the student body. Many law faculty across the country, however, are unready to have these conversations. (See suggestions below)
If law schools do not bring students together to discuss their diverse experiences, cross-racial understanding and inclusion suffers because understanding and inclusion results from these interactions. A lack of conversations in law school classrooms about diverse perspectives among students is a missed opportunity to provide for a deeper sense of belonging for students of color. Students of color need to feel they belong to the community in which they learn. Curricular diversity engenders a sense of belonging, which, in turn, engenders self-efficacy among students of color.
For these conversations to facilitate understanding and inclusion there must be a sufficient number of students of color in the classroom for them to disagree with one another. The risk of having these conversations with too few students of color in the classroom is that these students feel they have to be the spokespersons for their entire race. In terms of structural diversity, law schools across the country still have a long way to go.
Dr. Strayhorn, and, in fact, every member of the panel on that first day, spoke about the importance of effective pipelines that reach deep into the diverse student community as early as middle school or preschool. In addition, he spoke about mentor programs for diverse students, and the need to enhance these programs by providing more oversight and training to the mentors about how to mentor a student. Mentors should not just meet a student for lunch to periodically “breathe on a student.” Rather, he spoke about three steps to being an effective mentor: 1) believe in the students and set high expectations for the students; 2) build character and invest in the students by providing specific strategies, sharing perspectives, and teaching them tools to achieve; and 3) push them to accomplish more (he called it “intrusive exposure”).
Once students of color decide to attend law school, and must choose which school to attend, they typically will view the law school’s website, but do not typically speak with staff or faculty about the law school. Instead, they choose to speak with people outside the law school, particularly family and friends. In fact, during his research, Dr. Strayhorn heard repeatedly from students of color that they chose to attend law school because they wanted to help their family by attaining a well-paying job to make money to give to their family. This family may include spouses and children, but also parents, brothers, sisters, and grandparents or others. In addition, students of color may feel responsible for financially supporting their families while in law school. They have an aversion to taking out debt.
Feelings of belonging also impacted students’ choice of law school: Meaningful connections with law staff and faculty made a critical difference to students of color. Some sentiments that Dr. Strayhorn consistently heard when he asked students why they had chosen their law school was “it was the only law school where the faculty made time to get to know me,” or the staff had an “honest conversation with me about the strengths and challenges of each law school I had applied to.” They “cared about me.” They “helped me with my application.” “Something about the school felt like a family.” Very few students spoke of the law school’s ranking in U.S. News & World Report or the law school’s reputation. Students also rarely spoke about the alumni placement data, bar passage rates, library holdings.
Dr. Strayhorn’s final comments: Minorities are severely underrepresented in the legal profession. The legal profession should better reflect our society. A diverse workforce will make better decisions. Although some great pipeline programs exist, the critical problem facing law schools and diverse students is the lack of a preschool to undergraduate pipeline.
Kathryn Thompson, Director of Academic Success Program, Roger Williams Law School