Sunday, March 27, 2005
University of Dayton School of Law's Professor Vernellia Randall directs the school's Academic Excellence Program. Professor Randall's web pages (there must be hundreds of separate pages) are filled with information that is not just helpful, but critically important to law students and those who teach them.
On the series of pages beginning with "Passing the Bar," Professor Randall includes an array of links we ought to become familiar with. "This Site," she explains, "provides advice to law students and recent law school graduates on preparing for the bar including advice on how to take bar essay exams and multiple choice exams." That, my friends, is a very modest summary.
For example, under the heading "Other Bar Passage Resources," Professor Randall links to fourteen, other "resources." One link I found very helpful - not only for its California Bar information, but for the nationally applicable advice - is Attorney Travis A. Wise's well-designed California Bar Exam Primer site. A 2000 Santa Clara graduate, Mr. Wise provides an abundance of explanations and advice (including what the letters "PMBR" stand for).
If you find other bar prep web sites that would help our students and those who prepare them for bar examinations, please send them to Vernellia Randall to add to her growing list on the web site (if you include a "cc" to me, I may include the links on this Blog). Also, if you find Professor's Randall's pages and bar links to be a valuable resource, let her know. (djt)
Friday, March 25, 2005
A.B. U.C. Berkeley, 1991
J.D. UCLA, 1996
Professor Kristen Holmquist took over UCLA Law's Academic Support Program in the fall of 2002. As part of the program she teaches sections of Constitutional Law (which she loves) and Wills and Trusts (which she likes on good days). In addition to teaching, her academic support work involves conducting individual counseling and how-to workshops, and administering programs aimed at acclimating first-year students to law school. She also teaches a (nonacademic support) seminar on judicial process.
Prior to joining the School of Law, Kristen worked first in the litigation department of a large, scary firm and later transitioned to a smaller, kinder, gentler litigation boutique. Her practice focused largely on employment law, intellectual property, and appellate work. During law school, she served as comments editor for the UCLA Law Review and assistant articles editor for the Women's Law Journal. After graduation, she clerked for the Honorable Robert Boochever of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Kristen's first article, "Cultural Defense or False Stereotype? What Happens When Latina Defendants Collide with the Federal Sentencing Guidelines," appeared in the Berkeley Women's Law Journal (1997). She is currently working on an article that addresses issues at the intersection of civil rights and education, specifically as they relate to LGBT students.
In her free time -- never mind. Kristen has no free time. She has two (smart, talented and beautiful) young sons. (djt)
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Time for Words of Encouragement?
Here's a letter I just sent to our wonderful wunnelles. Do you have a similar letter you send or post somewhere? If so, e-mail me a copy and I'll post it here. Please feel free to adapt my letter for your own students.
The Krieger pamphlet mentioned in my letter is excellent. You can order a stack of them from FSU Law Professor Krieger direct (email@example.com (850) 644-7262).
March 24, 2005
You ought to be entering into your Final Exam Preparation mode of studying. You ought to have your plan of action designed by this coming weekend - preferably in writing, with precise times allocated for each component of your studying, for each subject. For detailed instructions on how to prepare your final exam study action plan, read "A Plan for Your Exams," in the March 2005 issue of the ABA's "Student Lawyer" magazine (page 32). (All ABA Student Division members received a copy in the mail others can find the magazine in the library and posted on my bulletin board.
Now is the time to shift into high gear. For about 5 or 6 weeks, you need to focus focus focus on exam preparation - and that means practice, practice, practice.
Answer those practice hypotheticals in writing. Each class, each topic. Near the end of the semester, answer your professors' previous exams - in writing - if available. Be sure to reserve enough time in your detailed written study schedule to complete your Legal Methods assignment (appellate brief), and to prepare for your oral argument. Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.
Does this mean "stress out?" No way. Proactive planning and follow through lead to LESS stress, and allow you to enter the final exam rooms with well-deserved confidence. This week, each of you picked up a booklet written by law professor Larry Krieger about handling law school stress. Read it. Enter your exam period stress-free. Want MORE help relieving. Check the bulletin boards around school for announcements of Professor Zlotnick's introduction of his March 31st meditation session led by a psychologist who is a stress-reduction expert. Want MORE help? Select from the 23 topics covered in the FAQ study matrix at http://dennistonsing.com/FAQ-Page-11.html.
Need assistance with any of this? We are here to help! Do you have questions about subject matter, doctrinal issues, substantive loose ends? Schedule appointments with your professors. Could you use help with your appellate brief, or with exam answering style? Schedule an appointment with Kim Baker. Do you need advice on study skills, scheduling, or exam answering techniques? Visit Tracy Sartrys and make an appointment with me.
This is not the time to procrastinate. This is the time to strategize. Achieve your personal best this semester in law school.
Dennis J. Tonsing
Dean of Students
Academic Support Program Director
Sunday, March 20, 2005
An article by University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law Professor Kevin H. Smith. (2003 L. Rev. M.S.U.-D.C.L. 177 - I have not discovered a web link to this article. djt)
Professor Smith discusses the value of an academic support program and provides guidelines to assist in the development and implementation of sound and effective evaluation methods. He focuses on three methodological issues at the core of any useful evaluation effort: "First, what is meant by 'success?' ... Second, how is 'success' ... to be measured? Third, how may that data be obtained?"
By advocating the use of a variety of empirical data rather than theoretical templates, Professor Smith describes how a successful evaluation can only be achieved in the context of student perspectives and objectives.
The article offers three types of evaluations (formative, summative, and confirmative) that can be implemented in a variety of settings, all conducted within the context of relevant student concerns and goals.
Professor Smith’s scientific and methodical guidelines are at once intuitive and instructive. (djt)
Entitled, Reflections on Teaching Law as Right Livelihood: Cultivating Ethics, Professionalism, and Commitment to Public Serivce from the Inside Out, this article by University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law Professor and Director of the Mason Enhancement Program for Academic Success, Laurie A. Morin, appeared in the Winter 2000 edition of the Tulsa Law Journal. (35 Tulsa L.J. 227 - no web link currently available)
"This is a story," Professor Laurie Morin begins, "of inner transformation that led me to question the very foundation of what it means to 'teach' and to 'learn.' My quest," she continues, "grew out of a period of struggle in which I doubted both" her teaching capability and the value of teaching money-oriented, grade-centered law students. In her search for answers, she visited "the vast playing grounds of philosophy, theology, and education." Not only does Professor Morin provide the reader with a snapshot travelogue of her journey, but she offers solid advice for enhancing the educational experiences of our students. Each suggestion targets "vocational integration," and relates to the profound questions lawyers (and law students) should be asking, for example: "How can I use my profession to make a meaningful contribution to my community and to the world around me?"
Professor Morin's article describes teaching techniques aimed at integrating notions of fairness, justice, public service, and dignity for others within a legal curriculum. She provides examples of techniques for creating moral dialogues, reconnecting students with their personal goals through discussion, fostering a sense of public service, and cultivating civility and respect for diversity.
Professor Morin argues that the gap between the increasing number of lawyers and the unmet legal needs of the poor and middle class can be directly addressed by encouraging a new generation of lawyers to “do well by doing good,” and to fulfill the highest ideals of the profession.
"I have come to the conclusion," Professor Morin writes, "that the opportunity for meaningful reflection on personal and professional values should not be separated from the learning of legal doctrine, analytical skills, and professional ethics."
Several appendices include exercises - described within the text of the article - for providing these opportunities within the context of legal education.
I suggest that we, as Academic Support professionals, infuse these values and ideals in our interaction with students - complementing the efforts of "enlightened" professors like Professor Morin. (djt)
Saturday, March 19, 2005
J.D., magna cum laude, Order of the Coif, University of New Mexico, 1980
M.A., Political Science (American Government and Research Methodology and Statistics), University of New Mexico, 1977
B.A, Political Science, Claremont McKenna College, 1975
Mario Mainero joined Whittier Law School as its first Director of the Academic Success Program in August 2001, after practicing for 21 years in Orange County, California, in the areas of commercial and probate litigation. He also served for 5 years as a Judge pro tem in Orange County Municipal Court, hearing small claims and traffic cases.
Since joining the faculty at Whittier Law School, he has developed an Academic Support Program that includes a two-week Summer Program for at-risk incoming admittees, a program for all first-year law students that includes both large-group lectures and small group weekly sessions to teach note-taking, outlining, study and exam-writing skills, one-on-one weekly meetings with students in academic difficulty, and a full-year Early Bar Preparation Program that addresses all subjects and examination styles on the California Bar Exam, and includes a three-day Simulated Bar Exam administered during Spring Break.
Mario was a panel member at the LSAC Academic Assistance Workshop on bar passage in Ft. Worth in 2003, presented a talk on statistical trends in bar passage, LSAT scores, and law school GPA’s at the AALS Annual Meeting this past January in San Francisco, and will be a member of a panel on Program Models at this year’s upcoming LSAC Academic Assistance Workshop in Las Vegas. Mario also contributed several “tips” to Dennis Tonsing’s seminal work, 1000 Days to the Bar - But the Practice of Law Begins Now.
Mario and his wife, Denise, live in Corona del Mar, California, with their two children, Christina, 16, and Anthony, 13, and their two dogs, “Belle” and “Electra.” Mario and Denise have been long-time active supporters of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis. While St. Jude’s founder Danny Thomas was still alive, Mario, Denise, and Denise’s family sponsored an annual fundraiser for St. Jude’s in Los Angeles, and now continue to sponsor an annual fundraiser in Orange County. In addition, Mario and Denise are politically active, and had the opportunity to attend the inauguration of President Bush this past January, where Mario was able to chat with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the Congressional Leadership Inaugural Ball.
Mario enjoys advanced mathematics and singing, and sang in his local Catholic Church’s Contemporary Choir for 15 years. In 1981, Mario sang the National Anthem on “Gene Autry Day” at Anaheim Stadium, home of Major League Baseball’s Angels.
“I have been truly blessed," Professor Mainero explains, "to have the opportunity to give back to the profession of law this way. I have found that by treating students with respect, as adults and individuals, by focusing on what their individual strengths and weaknesses are, and by expecting their personal best from them, and by not assuming anything about them or labeling them merely based on being a part of a group, I have had success in getting them to reach inside and achieve their personal best. All the lectures in the world about skills cannot take the place of expressing a personal faith and belief in the student, and letting them know exactly what you expect and how they can take personal responsibility for meeting those expectations.”
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Professor Uelmen's article appears in the March 2005 issue of California Lawyer magazine, and is (of course) directed towards practicing lawyers. Insofar as I consistently tell my students that "the practice of law begins now," in law school, I believe advice like this can be very helpful for them.
Here's what I mean: read Professor Uelmen's bio (click on his name, above), and you will see that he has had considerable experience representing clients in public forums. In this article, he is explaining to other practitioners the value of "mooting" - that is, rehearsal. Isn't that what we want our students to know? Even the most experienced lawyers rehearse, considering it "invaluable experience." So should our students.
(Article reprinted at link with author's permission - djt)
Saturday, March 12, 2005
An article by Professor Sarah E. Ricks in the December 2004 issue of the Journal of Legal Education. (54 J. Legal Educ. 570 - click on citation, then scroll down through "publications" to find the link to the article)
Sarah E. Ricks is a member of the legal writing faculty and coordinator of the Pro Bono Research Project at Rutgers University School of Law - Camden. Professor Ricks points out that oral communication skills are at the top of the list of important skills essential for beginning lawyers, and that recent law grads believe that their educations are deficient in that respect.
Professor Ricks posits that "learning to talk about law is important to success in law schol and later in law practice," and therefore, we ought to put more emphasis on oral communication skills. She suggests how: affirmation, group experiences, advance notice of class participation, rehearsal opportunities, "low-risk" oral arguments, applause - and more.
"Talking about the law," Professor Ricks reminds her readers, "is an important way to think through a legal concept or problem." How many of us in Academic Support have found that those students who need our help the most are often the most "intimidated" students when it comes to speaking in class.
Citing the works of Lani Guinier, Stephanie Wildman, and Cathaleen Roach, Professor Ricks points to the isolation, fear, and even "acute psychological distress" among many first year students resulting from Socratic or Langdellian classroom questioning.
Consider implementing some of the strategies suggested by Professor Ricks in your Academic Support (and other) classes.
Do you have any ideas along these lines you care to add to the "comments" below?
An article by Salmon P. Chase College of Law Professor
and Director of Academic Support Adam G. Todd.
In this 2002 - 2003 article, Professor Todd reviews and suggests steps for delivery of academic support programs (ASP) on a more system-wide basis in order to engage a greater number of students and faculty.
The author argues that unless academic support is fully integrated within a law school, the promotion of social, racial, and economic diversity in the legal profession may not ultimately be achieved.
By using the Salmon P. Chase College of Law Academic Support Program as a case-study, Professor Todd highlights techniques designed for systemicapplication. Examples include holding workshops and participating in faculty meetings with doctrinal professors, offering to co-teach courses with doctrinal professors, creating voluntary as well as mandatory summer courses designed for incoming students, and collaborating with legal
Finally, Professor Todd cautions that these techniques must be implemented “with great tact, patience, and political acumen” as each school’s faculty, administration, and student body differs.
(For this review, and others I post, I thank my Research Assistant, Ronald Belluso, a second-year student at Roger Williams Law School. Ron provides invaluable assistance not only to this Blog effort, but also to the Academic Support Program at our school, by assisting me with the administration of our first-year spring semester Agency class. djt)
Friday, March 11, 2005
Tuesday, March 8, 2005
J.D., DePaul University College of Law, 1996
B.S., Business Management and Administration, Bradley University 1992
Assistant Dean Taylor joined DePaul University College of Law in 1997 as the Assistant Director of Academic Support after practicing in the area of insurance defense. She worked in academic support for three years, specifically helping students in academic jeopardy. During this time she co-authored a book with then Assistant Dean and Director of Academic Support, Ruta Stropus, entitled Bridging the Gap Between College and Law School: Strategies for Success (Carolina Academic Press May 2001) for use by academic support professionals and pre-law and first year law students.
In 2000, the College of Law created the position of Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs and appointed her to that position. As Assistant Dean, Charlotte counseled and mentored minority students and assisted minority student organizations with programming and outreach to alumni. In 2004, "Student Support Services" was added to her title to emphasize the counseling and mentoring nature of her work with all law students.
Charlotte has presented at several conferences for law professors in the areas of academic support and minority affairs and published two articles on the website www.prelawcommentator.com for pre-law students. She has been very active as an Executive Board member of the American Association of Law Schools Section on Pre-Legal Education and Admission to Law School since 2000, serving as treasurer, secretary, chair-elect and chair. She also currently serves as the co-chair of the planning committee for the 2005 National Law School Admission Council Academic Assistance Training Workshop. She also gives back to the community through work with her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Tau Psi Zeta chapter (Alsip, Illinois). On a personal note, Charlotte is very involved in the self-management of her co-op and enjoys reading and writing poetry.
In Charlotte Taylor's own words: “In terms of career planning, a dear friend told me to find the person in the job (or similar job) that I wanted and to take a look at his or her resume. She said I should mirror my resume after his or hers. To a certain extent, I think that there is a given path to various jobs and careers, and this advice holds true for most. However, I also think that it is important to take advantage of every opportunity presented because you never know where it will lead.” (djt)
Monday, March 7, 2005
In this brief work, Professor Lubet (who "almost never gives exams") opines about the relevance of law school examinations. His opinion? He doesn't hold them in high esteem.
Here's why, in a nutshell: "...the key lawyering skills," Professor Lubet writes, "- the ones that separate highly successful practitioners from mediocrities - are barely taught in most law schools, outside the clinic, let alone tested: tenacity, diligence, thoroughness, collaboration, consultation, fact investigation, and, crucially, the willingness to admit error and start over from scratch. Those qualities will actually put you at a disadvantage on law school exams. Far better to rely on flashes of insight and an ability to write on the fly."
I can't disagree with the Professor: diligence is not "taught" in law school. Neither is thoroughness. Nor are most of the skills required for high-end lawyering. But, by and large, aren't the students who excel in law school (and, therefore, who excel on exams) the students who bring those qualities with them to school - or who teach themselves those qualities and the associated skills? Aren't these the students who recognize (whether through self-realization, reading "how-to-do-law school books," or visiting their Academic Support professionals and tutors) the relationship between development of these metalegal characteristics and "success" in law school? Aren't those the very skills which are more or less essential to the quality of preparation that will lead (many) to higher exam scores?
I think so.
The classroom teachers (law professors) assuredly do not teach students to admit error and begin anew - nor should they. They should teach Torts and Contracts and Criminal Law. They should teach analytical thinking. They should teach how to apply law to facts. And they do - that and more.
However, the assessments they make - by grading final exams - include recognition of the development or refining of the qualities Professor Lubet mentions. That development is reflected in a student's ability to reflect and react quickly to (fairly constructed) hypothetical questions by providing cogent written resolutions, frequently (but not always) under time pressure.
Of course there is more to good grades than an assortment of skills. I agree completely that there is more to good lawyering than a diploma with an "honors" designation on it. And who (except for a gathering of bar examiners) really believes that bar exams are superb instruments to measure potential success, or even actual competency, to practice law?
"Exams do a great job," Professor Lubet writes, "of dividing test takers into measurable categories, even if those categories measure nothing more than an ability to take tests in an artificial, nonlawyerly setting."
But they do measure more than an ability to take tests, don't they? Aren't exams measures of student ability to extricate relevant facts from a narrative, to identify legal issues quickly, to recall basic rules with precision, to persuasively interweave law and fact, and to recognize the driving force of policy behind many laws? Aren't they, in fact, a measure of what is going on in a student's mind - that is, "thinking like a lawyer." I suggest that law school essay exams may be a fairly reasonable way of determining whether our students are, indeed, thinking like lawyers (at least as we believe lawyers ought to think).
"...Those damn exams," Professor Lubet continues, "send all the wrong messages, emphasizing a sort of counterproductive intellectual stoicism in which you have to come up with the right answer, on your own, or else." Then, he continues, this emphasis may lead to "ruinous consequences," including malpractice.
No doubt we have a long way to go before our tinkering with the educational process associated with our profession is what it ought to be. I wonder about Professor Lubet's opinion. Your thoughts? (djt)
Saturday, March 5, 2005
Clicking on the article title (above) will bring you to the National Conference of Bar Examiners' pages that include a long excerpt from Professor Day's thought-provoking article. Professor Day notes that many of the ideas and information included in his essay were the result of a two-day conference at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, in June of 2001. Rich Litvin and I were also in attendance - what a remarkable gathering of Academic Support professionals and Bar Examiners. We ought to do that more often. The essay from which these excerpts were taken was originally published in the California Western Law Review, Spring 2004 issue (40 Cal.W.L.Rev. 321).
"The most important obligation of law schools," Professor Day maintains, "is to prepare their students to become capable, practicing lawyers ... and law students must pass the bar or they cannot practice law." Professor Day describes the alarming decline in bar passage rates. "This article," he suggests, "calls law schools and their faculty to action to recognize and address the problem." He then offers a variety of techniques and strategies (twenty-two to be specific) to help increase overall scores and prevent the devastating consequences of failure.
Through techniques such as identifying innate learning differences in students, emphasizing better legal writing, offering special non-credit bar prep courses, and giving students more detailed feedback and assistance, Professor Day provides straightforward advice about the bar and how to increase pass rates.
Wednesday, March 2, 2005
The Newsletter of the Academic Support Section of AALS
...is The Learning Curve, expertly edited by Natt Gantt, Assistant Professor and Director of Regent University School of Law's Academic Success Program.
Packed with information and resource material, each issue deserves our attention. Thanks, Natt, for continuing a job well done for many years by Southwestern University's Paul Bateman.
Would you like to contribute to The Learning Curve? Natt is soliciting articles right now! Contact him for details: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You don't need to be a law student to use these "quick relaxation techniques," recommended by the Suffolk University School of Law Academic Support Program.
Director Herbert N. Ramy credits the University's Counseling Center Stress Management Program for providing the material. Consider trying the techniques yourself, then recommending them to your students as the end-of-year "crunch" begins.
Practicing law is stressful. So is attending law school. (And, we agree, so is "practicing" academic support.)
California lawyer Amy O'Keefe addressed the stress issue in her excellent (and brief) article in the November 2004 issue of "California Lawyer" magazine (See: Curing the Ills of Work-Related Stress, by Amy O'Keefe, Esq.). I have reprinted the article on my web site, with permission from the author and the publisher.
As ASP professionals, we see high-end stress daily -- how many boxes of kleenex have you used already this semester? The more familiarity we can have with this demon, the better off we are, in terms of preparing ourselves to assist our students.
Here's my advice to students: start practicing now to relieve your stress, so that when you enter the professional practice of law you won't fall into the pitfalls described by Ms. O'Keefe.
“The brief,” Professor Bateman explains to beginning law students, “is not an end in itself but, like a hammer, is a tool that lets you nail down a legal concept.” Rather than setting forth a detailed format for case briefing, Bateman describes the why and wherefore of preparing a brief.
To help neophyte law students avoid much of the inevitable frustration of their initial briefing experiences, he cautions them never to lose sight of the target: the final examination.
By mapping the relationship between case reading, case briefing, classroom discussion, course outlining and exam answering, Bateman provides an instructive and very useful tool for either: (a) designing an Academic Support orientation presentation around, and/or (b) bringing directly to the attention of the students we serve.