Friday, January 23, 2015
Law school is a challenging endeavor. The LSAT, application process, and transition to law school are hurdles that arise before students are even asked to write their first legal memo, participate in their first round of Socratic torture, or face the fierce competition exhibited by their new peer group. These are daily challenges for new law students. Why then would I suggest that they (and we) seek out more challenges?
When we are challenged, we sometimes feel deflated or weaker. We are out of our comfort zone; we are troubled, worried, stressed; and we are overwhelmed. This does not seem like a state of mind to encourage. However, I firmly believe that it is when are challenged, that we are able to grow, transcend our self-doubts, and establish mechanisms to better prepare for future challenges. Unfortunately, challenges, obstacles, naysayers, and competitors exist. They exist in law school, in life; and, they certainly exist in legal practice. Therefore, we need to face them head-on and become better at overcoming them.
The more often we are challenged, the more empowered we become. Thus, take on an extra project, or register for an intensive course on a complex topic, run a race or climb a peak, participate in moot court, apply for a competitive job, or do something really scary (caveat: do not break the law, remember to wear safety glasses, and always read the fine print).
Undoubtedly, there will be failures, mistakes, and defeats; but, the learning and self-growth is an incredible silver lining. Whether success is elusive or easily achieved, the experience builds resilience and a new level of self-confidence. As the FM dial frequently reminds us, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Being in ASP is unlike most any other position in a law school. First, there is usually only one ASP professional at the school, and if you’re really lucky, two. Second, most ASP professionals are administrators, program directors, and have teaching responsibilities. Summers are not slow with plenty of time to write. Summers are full of bar prep, classes, programming, and planning for the next academic year. ASP professionals work with students for three years and get to share in growth and success. It is a wonderful position but it can be a bit lonely, especially when you have questions or need a little support of your own. You can’t just walk down the hall to all the other folks who do what you do because, there isn’t anyone. The listserv and this blog are great sources of support and inspiration but so is attending the AASE conference. Hundreds of ASPer’s from all over the country converge in one place, and if you’ve ever attended you know what a magical few days it is. Yes, you get some great ideas, but more importantly it is an opportunity to recharge and get in-person support from your peers. I love technology but there is something about actual contact that cannot be replaced. You deserve it. You need it. Find a way to attend this year’s AASE conference. (KSK)
Monday, January 19, 2015
If you are a first year law student - especially - it is important to take stock of your law school learning and progress. Regardless of the results of your fall exams, there is much to be learned from your exam results.
* Get copies of your exams -- all of them -- to the extent that your law school permits. Review your exams carefully.
* Ask yourself how your best essay answers differ from the essays that you are less pleased with.
* If your professors have made rubrics or sample/model answers available make good use of those resources.
- outline the model or sample answer & look to see how it compares with your own.
- does the model or sample answer use the IRAC structure?
- does your answer follow the IRAC structure, using IRAC is a good way to ensure that you include the necessary components of legal analysis, such as the rule and use of the exam facts?
- what points of law or analysis are noted in the rubric or sample/model answer -- but not in your answer?
- did your course outlines contain the information needed to do well on the exams? If not, learn from this experience as you prepare outlines for the spring courses.
* Make appointments to meet with your porfessors -- even for courses that ended in December. Meeting with your professors helps you to learn from the exam experience. But be prepared for those meetings by thoroughly reviewing your exams - before the meetings.
Saturday, January 17, 2015
ASP conferences and presentations frequently extol the virtues of group work. Books and articles suggest that group work would enhance legal education, make students better prepared for law practice, and make law school less isolating. Business schools rely on group projects. Despite the evidence, law schools hew to the familiar, and few 1L courses include group work, although some upper-division seminar and clinical courses include group exercises. For women, there may be some benefit to this arrangement.
Women are subject to the "secretary effect," where they are the secretary, the recorder, or the stenographer in group projects. The spit-balling, the creative thinking, and the leadership roles are taken by the men of the group. Women are expected to play supporting roles, while men take the lead, when they work in groups. This arrangement extends into adulthood.
I never liked group work, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed law school. In group projects, I felt like my contributions were never valued, I did more work than other members of the group, and I was stuck in ill-fitting roles where I could not demonstrate my competance. On the rare occasion I had to work in a group during law school, I sought out all-female groups, where I knew I would feel more comfortable.
Professionally, I see the same pattern. ASP is dominated by women, who rarely rise to leadership roles outside of our small community. ASP is designed to support students, but is frequently expected to support the (predominately) male tenured and tenure-track faculty. ASP, as a field, keeps the students in school, helps them achieve career success through bar support, yet rarely receives the credit for helping law schools meet accreditation standards. In ASP, we are still the unsung secretaries, the essential member of the group who is undervalued and overlooked.
Group Projects and the Secretary Effect
Friday, January 16, 2015
I was speaking with one of my students, a 3L, about her preparation for the bar exam this summer. She mentioned that she did not take several bar tested subjects, but that she felt prepared for the core courses except for Contracts. I asked her what happened in Contracts. She said she loved her Professor; she participated in class, studied hard and understood the material, but got a C on the final both semesters. I then asked her what happened when she reviewed her exam. She replied that she did not review her exam. I asked her what her Professor said when she met with him to discuss her performance. To my dismay, she said that she did not meet with him. Why? She said she was too scared to meet with him. While I know this happens with scary Professor Kingsfield types, her Professor does not fit that description. I explained that even if she was a bit nervous about meeting with him, she should have made the effort.
After we take an exam, we have a good idea about how we performed. If, for some reason, our actual performance does not align with our perceived performance, it is best determine why this discrepancy exists. This student is now in her last semester of law school and approaching her bar review without knowing whether she truly understands Contracts. Was it merely an organizational error on her final? Did she manage her time poorly? Did she miss an essential issue? Or, did she have fundamental problems with her conceptual knowledge of contract law?
In retrospect, she realized that she should have faced her fears and made an appointment to discuss her final exam with her Professor. But, we cannot live in the past. I suggested that she make an appointment now with her 1L Contracts Professor. He may not remember her, he most certainly will not remember her final exam, and he may not be able to give her a ton of feedback. However, he might be able to provide some insights into her grade. For instance, there are likely some common trends that appear in exams that he gives a C grade. Also, he may be able to offer insights about how he grades verses what will be tested and graded on the bar exam. And, lastly, even if he does not offer much information about her particular performance, she will feel more empowered by the experience. By facing her fear and being self-motivated to ascertain why Contracts eluded her, she will be more confident moving forward with her last semester and her bar prep and will likely stop letting this moment in her past affect how she feels in the present.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Every year at the beginning of the second semester, I send out the same email to the first years. It seems to help. So, if you are a student who has stumbled across this blog, you might appreciate this story. I bet most of your professors have a similar one (and, like me, turned out better for going through it):
"By now, the grades have started to roll in, and you may be less than happy with how things are turning out.
In all honesty, the best thing that ever happened to me during my schooling was after I turned in my first English paper in college. I had never gotten less than an A in anything in my life, I was the “English” guy for the Academic Decathlon Team, I’d won several creative writing contests, and I wanted to major in English. On my first paper, I got a C.
When I went to talk to the professor, a man who wore seersucker suits and looked like a cross between Mark Twain and Colonel Sanders, he said in his genteel Virginia-tidewater accent, “Is English your first language? Your name is Russian. Are you translating as you write?”
The unfortunate thing was that he was genuinely curious and English is my first, and only, language.
As painful as it was at the time, I truly believe that that C made me a better student — I learned from my mistakes, buckled down, and did a lot better in school than I probably would have had I never experienced that setback."
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
3rd Annual Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Workshop
March 6th, 2015
Assessing Students and Programs to Develop
a Targeted Approach to Academic Support
Texas A&M’s School of Law
in Ft. Worth, Texas
The Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals will host a one day workshop focused on targeting our efforts for maximum efficiency. Decreased enrollment created a budget crunch for most schools. Decreased budgets can disproportionately fall on ASP shoulders, but we are still expected to provide the same level of support. We must be efficient to provide a high level of service with the decreased resources. To maximize efficiency, we need to assess where to utilize resources and whether our programs are making an impact. This year’s workshop will include programs to help us assess which students need our help from pre-matriculation through the bar exam. We will also discuss ways to determine whether our programs are working and more efficient ways to deliver our services.
Registration is open to anyone interested in academic support. There is no registration fee. If you are interested in attending, please fill out the attached form and return to: Camesha Little, Assistant Director of Academic Support at email@example.com. Forms will be accepted through February 27th.
A block of rooms has been reserved at the Sheraton Ft. Worth Hotel and Spa, 1701 Commerce St., Ft. Worth, TX 76102. This hotel is located right across from the law school. We negotiated a rate of $139.00 per night. Please be advised that this block will release and the price will expire on February 20, 2015. You can book your room online at https://www.starwoodmeeting.com/StarGroupsWeb/res?id=1409306215&key=216B6F3F, or by phone by calling (800) 325-3535 and referencing Southwest Consortium of Academic Support Professionals.
6:30 – Dinner for anyone arriving early.
9-9:50 – Assessing Students before they enter – Marta Miller, Director of Academic Achievement at Texas A&M School of Law
10-10:50 – How to use LSSSE Data in ASP – Dr. Evan Parker, Director of Analytics at Lawyer Metrics
11-11:50 – Developing a targeted class to improve academic performance – John Murphy, Associate Professor of Law at Texas A&M School of Law
12-12:50 – Lunch
1-1:50 – Assessing the effectiveness of Voluntary ASP Programs – Rebecca Flanagan, Assistant Professor of Law, Director of Academic Skills Program at UMass School of Law
2-2:50 – Determining who is at-risk for Bar Struggles and creating a program to improve success – Jamie Kleppetsch, Assistant Professor, Associate Director, Academic Achievement Program at The John Marshall Law School
2:50-3 – Closing Remarks
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:
Steven Foster (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Director of Academic Achievement at Oklahoma City University
Marta Miller (email@example.com)
Director of Academic Support at Texas A&M School of Law
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Winter Break is over and the semester has begun. Regardless of whether you have your fall semester grades, it’s important to start the new semester with the right approach: optimistic, determined, and with an open mind. The last one is the toughest because it means having an open mind about yourself and ability to grow and change. When a friend experiences a set-back we are quick to encourage but when it comes to ourselves, we aren’t very forgiving. This semester, try doing for yourself what you do for others. Instead of giving up because something is too hard, accept that success will take some time and effort. Don’t think you can’t make your situation any better because you can improve if you keep trying. See mistakes as something to learn from; and before you settle, ask yourself if this is really the best you can do. Think back to something that didn’t come easy to you (learning to swim, ride a bike, drive a car). What if you quit instead of persevering? You certainly wouldn’t be where you are today. Keep your head up, keep working hard, and keep that mind open. (KSK)
Monday, January 12, 2015
When it comes to legal writing, "if you cannot say it, it does not exist."
While attending the 2015 meeting of the American Association of Law Schools, I had the opportunity to attend the Blackwell Reception. The Blackwell Reception is put on by the Legal Writing Institute and the Association of Legal Writing Directors.
At the 2015 Blackwell Reception, these organizations presented two awards:
The Golden Pen Award went to the Honorable Michael Ponsor, Judge for the United States District court for the Western District of Massachusetts.
So, finally -- the significance of the title of this blog post: "If you cannot say it, it does not exist." Judge Ponsor made this statement as he accepted his award and, not surprisingly, received much applause from the roomful of legal writing professors. Judge Ponsor's statement goes well beyond the confines of legal research and writing classes.
Even if this bloger did not do double duty in both Academic Support and Legal Writing and even if this blogger did not work at a law school in Western Massachusetts (where Judge Ponsor is a welcome and respected speaker) his statement would be worthy of this blog. The statement applies to every aspect of a law student's journey toward success in law school and in law practice. As law professors, law students, or lawyers, if we cannot explain or articulate our analysis, that analysis does not exist. I have already used Judge Ponsor's statement -- in the first class of my upper level course.
Have a great Spring Semester!
Saturday, January 10, 2015
Interested in presenting, but do not know where to start? There are many great conferences in the coming year and you should share your insights, practices, and teaching methods with the ASP community at one of them. If you have never presented or feel like you need a fresh perspective to writing your proposal, I have included a few ideas to get you started:
- Carefully read the call for proposals and craft your proposal by using that as your template. If there are samples, even better. Use them as a guide, but add your unique viewpoints to set yours apart.
- Think about the audience that is attending the conference. What do they want to know? And, how would they like you to deliver it? Lecture, poster presentation, or interactive involvement.
- Be specific, but not too specific. Make a few broad statements and support them with a few specific examples. You do not want your proposal to be too amorphous, but you also do not want it to be too narrow. This flexibility will allow you to make changes between submitting the proposals and giving the presentation.
- Brainstorm ideas:
- Think about the best presentations that you have seen. Why were they meaningful to you? What did you take away from those presentations?
- Think about your year. What is something impressive that you accomplished in the classroom or within your school? What was your lightbulb moment? What was your biggest challenge in the classroom, with your co-workers, or with your students? How did you overcome those challenges? What was the best article your read, book you read, or class you attended? What did you learn? How did it change your teaching?
- Write ten things that are you really good at doing. Go!
- Write ten things that you wish you were really good at doing. Go!
- Look over recent listserve threads, blog posts, or news stories. Think about how you can add to the discussions or elaborate on the issues.
- Make a bold statement- something provocative, debatable, or controversial. Go boldly where no ASPer has gone before!
- Once you have brainstormed your ideas, draft the outcomes you expect. What do you want the participants to be able to do or do differently after they hear your presentation?
- Revise, edit, and redraft. Use spell check and have someone you trust read through your draft. This will help you appeal to a wider audience and will ensure that you do not have typos or confusing goals.
- Submit your proposal and do not get discouraged if it is not selected. It is not personal! There are typically many more submissions than available openings. The important thing is to keep trying if your proposal is not at first selected.
- If your proposal is selected- congratulations! Now, begin thinking about your presentation straightaway. Record your thoughts and start preparing while your ideas are still percolating.
I can’t wait to hear your presentation!
Lisa Bove Young
Friday, January 9, 2015
I have attended a few conferences this fall, and it has been wonderful to meet new ASPers. So many new ASPers have fantastic new ideas, new programs, and new skills. As program co-chair for this year's conference, I want to encourage professionals new to ASP to submit a proposal to AASE. We need you to talk about your new ideas! Don't worry that you are "too new"--"too new" is exactly the right time to present at AASE, a community of friends, colleagues, and helpers who want to see new professionals succeed. Don't worry that other people have already done what you are doing; we need people who will remind us of what it is like to start out in the field. And everyone approaches the same challenges in different ways, so chances are your methods will be new, and helpful, to members of our community. And don't worry that you can't commit to a presentation on your own; if you would like to present with a more experienced member of our community, we are happy to arrange a joint presentation--you don't even need to suggest your co-presenter!
The bottom line is that new ASPers are critical to our success as a community, the vitality of our organization, and we want YOU to add to this year's conference. Presentation proposals are due Jan 12, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
There is still time to submit proposals to present at the 2015 AASE Conference at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. The conference will take place on May 26th - May 28th. The Call for Proposals is available on the AASE Web Site.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
This semester has been eye-opening for me. I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about sexism in ASP. Although I am a dyed-in-the-wool, true-blue feminist, I've been lucky that I haven't faced much individual sexism (as opposed to institutional or systemic sexism, which are think are endemic to the academy). In the past, it's been one-off incidents, nothing that made me really question whether ASP fosters sexism. ASPs are predominantly run by untenured women, teaching in second-class rolls. While more men have joined our ranks, many of the (admittedly talented, committed) men that have been in ASP for more than 5 years have moved into tenured or high-level administrative positions, while I see equally talented, committed women stuck in the same second-class positions, without promotions or recognition, year after year.
I don't think this is solely due to institutional sexism. Studies have shown that women receive lower course evaluations than men. A tiny, needs-to-be-replicated study out of North Carolina State demonstrated that students will give higher course evaluations if they believe their instructor is a man--whether to not the instructor actually is a man or a woman. (See study here)
This semester I co-taught an ASP course with a fantastic, very talented male (tenured) professor. Mid-semester, we asked students to fill out qualitative evals, asking them to tell us what we should do and how to improve. While the majority of the surveys were helpful and fair, a disconcerting minority used the evaluations to make personal, sexist comments that had nothing to do with the substance of the course. Not one evaluation made personal comments about my male co-teacher.
I spoke with several experienced female professors after I read the evaluations. Everyone had a similar story; students feel it's okay to attack a female professor's attire, posture, hair style, or tone of voice in evaluations meant to measure teaching.
These attacks on female professors are damaging careers. Students evaluations are regularly used to renew contracts and earn tenure. The best administrators know to ignore these damaging comments in evaluations. But many evaluations are on a 1-5 scale, with female professors losing valuable points for things that have nothing to do with their ability to teach. And administrators can't distinguish between someone who needs help in the classroom, and someone who is receiving low scores because "their voice hurts my ears" or "their clothes are too bright for my taste."
ASP is integral to the success of the legal academy. It is time we started looking at the reasons why we are still second-class citizens.
Friday, January 2, 2015
The Association of American Law Schools annual conference begins today. Like it was yesterday, I remember arriving at the hotel in San Diego for my first AALS conference. (It was six years ago!) I was overwhelmed with the labyrinthine maze of halls and conference rooms. I was equally overwhelmed by the sheer number of suits navigating the labyrinth. But, once I got my bearings, I jumped right in. I attended as many presentations as I could and I introduced myself to numerous ASPers. I joined committees and exchanged business cards and learned so many things from that first conference. If it is your first or your tenth AALS, I hope you get involved, meet someone new, and learn something relevant to your work. If you are a seasoned ASPer, consider reaching out to a newbie.
The AALS Section on Academic Support is hosting its business meeting Friday, January 2nd, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. and its program on Saturday, January 3rd from 1:30 to 3:15 p.m. Academic Support -ASP a Roadmap at the Crossroad: How Academic Support with Meet Today’s Varied Challenges. I hope to see you there!
Other Programs of Interest for Academic Support Professionals
- Saturday, January 3rd from 8:30 to 10:15 a.m. Teaching Methods – Incorporating Teaching Professional Identity into the Legal Education Curriculum
- Saturday, January 3rd from 3:30 to 5:15 p.m. Balance in Legal Education – The Future of Educating Effective Lawyers
- Saturday, January 3rd from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. Balance in Legal Education – Pedagogy Promoting Practice – Ready Law Students: Lessons Learned from Recent Practice
- Saturday, January 3rd from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. Legal Writing, Reasoning & Research – Lessons Learned: Know Thy Student – International Students in American Law Schools – and in Your Class!
- Sunday, January 4th from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. AALS Committee on Curriculum Issues Program – Teaching to the New Class
- Sunday, January 4th from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Post-Graduate Legal Education – The Exploding Post-Graduate Degree: Alternative Degrees, Online Degrees and Economics
- Sunday, January 4th from 2-3:45 p.m. for New Law Professors- Behind the Veil: Learning Teaching Techniques from the Best
- Sunday, January 4th from 4:00 to 5:45 p.m. Law Libraries and Legal Information – Should We Be Teaching Law Practice Technology?
- Monday, January 5th from 9:00 to 4:30 p.m. – Student Services Day-Long Program of Workshops
Thursday, January 1, 2015
The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on the past, determine what worked for you personally and professionally over the last year, and to create a plan for the year ahead. Here is a template to help you get started.
Professional Goals 2014
Professional Successes 2014
Personal Goals 2014
Personal Successess 2014
Most Memorable Moments 2014
Most Challenging Moments 2014
Intentions for 2015
Completing an exercise like this helps provide a broad picture of what has happened over the last year and propels the motivation for establishing a realistic plan for 2015. Reflecting on which goals were met, which goals you are still working toward, and challenges you faced helps to reprioritze your intentions for the coming year. What was your biggest accomplishment? What successful practice do you want to continue in 2015? What did you learn from your most challenging moment? Reflection is insightful and helps us grow professionally and personally. I hope you are able to find time for this reflective practice before the start of the semester.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
AALS is about the begin, and here is my near-yearly reminder to network, network, network. The best part of AALS is the networking; network in ASP-specific sessions (which I encourage everyone to attend) as well as general networking at breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The amazing thing about our field is the spirit of giving between colleagues. We will share everything we have, and everything we know, with anyone who asks. Most of our current programs are built on the shoulders of the giants in our field (and I won't try to name them, because I'll miss someone). The most beneficial learning experiences come from working with peers at other schools, sharing programs and advice. And in this time of budget-cuts and right-sized enrollment trends, it's wonderful to be able to share anecdotes and stories with colleagues in the field.
No one believes me when I say I am painfully shy and socially awkward (maybe they believe the socially awkward part, but are too nice to tell me!) I know many of us struggle to get to know people we have never met before when we are attending big conferences. One of the great learning experiences of my career came from a serendipitous connection with Joanne Koren from Miami Law. It was my first year in ASP, and my first AALS, and I didn't know anyone. I met Joanne, and she mentioned she was looking for someone to tour the D.C. monuments with her. I said I would love to go, and it was one of the most memorable , wonderful AALS experiences. I have learned so much from Joanne over the years, but I would not have had the opportunity if I didn't take the leap and tour the monuments with someone I had just met.
Enjoy AALS, and network, network, network!
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
The semester is over and you've spent the last week either sleeping or catching up on everything you put off during exams. You've still got a few weeks until next semester starts so it is time to find a balance between rest and relaxation, and reenergizing so you can start the new year off right.
The first goal is to stay healthy:
- Drink plenty of water: we often eat when what our body really needs is hydration. Drink a glass of water the next time you feel sluggish or have the munchies. Odds are this will do the trick.
- Get moving: in addition to physical benefits, regular exercise gives you more energy, improves your mood and lowers stress.
Next, do something each day:
- Plan your day: even if you are on vacation, identify two or three things to accomplish each day. This prevents the stress of scrambling at the last minute.
- Use your brain: you don’t have to read legal tomes or memorize statutes but you should learn something new every day. Increasing your knowledge keeps you inspired and motivated.
- Reflect daily: end each day with a few minutes of reflection of what you’ve accomplished (not what you haven’t done).
Last, focus on what makes you happy:
- Express gratitude: identifying things you are grateful for promotes happiness and increases self-worth.
- Clean your desk/room: doing this might not make you happy but the end result will. A clean space allows you to focus on your work instead of the clutter.
- Indulge yourself: set aside time to indulge yourself (just a little) so that you don’t resent having to work or study.
Too much of any one thing is never good so use these next few weeks to find a balance. It will be both enjoyable and productive and you’ll have a good foundation for next semester.
Monday, December 22, 2014
Well -- relax and breathe. Enjoy your winter break. Read books for fun and enjoy time with family and friends. Here are a few - slightly out of the box - reading suggestions on memory and dealing with stress:
1. Moonwalking with Einstein: the Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer.
The book's title seems to tell it all - right - or does it? Joshua Foer, a -- shall we say -- forgetful science writer, became a U.S. Memory Champion. In his book, Foer writes about how he achieved that transformation. For a "taste" of that journey, you can view Foer's Ted Talk.
2. Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment--and Your Life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
This book provides a good introduction to mindfulness meditation. Jon Kabat-Zinn is Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Professor Kabat-Zinn created the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
3. Mindfulness for Law Students: Using the Power of Mindfulness to Achieve Balance and Success in Law School, by Scott L. Rogers.
In this book, the author introduces law students to mindfulness techniques and to the scientific research that establishes the benefits of the practice of mindfulness practice.