Saturday, April 30, 2005
A few days ago, I featured a provocative 2005 article by University of Tennessee College of Law Professor Robert Lloyd (see below, April 24 post). Professor Lloyd is not new on the scene; he has been publishing his critical views on legal education for quite some time.
He introduces his 1995 article, "Consumerism in Legal Education," (45 J. Leg. Ed. 551) with a line from Gilbert & Sullivan: "When every one is somebodee/Then no one's anybody!" (sic) Translated to law school lingo: "Administrators, pulled by conflicting and increasingly strident constituencies, try to satisfy everyone, and satisfy no one."
Who is not satisfied? Students and their parents, faculty, clients, law firms ... and, presumably, Professor Lloyd.
The root of the problem discussed by Professor Lloyd seems to be found in schools and colleges which "...now concern themselves more with fostering self-esteem than with teaching thinking skills." He wrote those words in 1995. A few months ago (February 2005) a school district in my state of Rhode Island banned spelling bees - the paramount reason cited by school administrators was that bees "humiliate those who compete but don't fare well." Is that the buzz around academia, or just in Tennessee and Rhode Island?
This model takes its toll on law schools, Professor Lloyd posits, because we are inundated with "people [students] who have never thought critically about anything yet think they know the answer to everything," and who are personally insulted by professors who have the temerity to expose fallacies in their reasoning, or challenge their premises. Treating law students as "consumers" leads to placating them in ways inconsistent with production of lawyers with high-end critical thinking expertise; many students receive a "...style of teaching that fits their liking."
Fitting their "liking," Professor Lloyd appears to think, is different than the more benign concept of fitting their "learning style." Students often "like" to take the easy way out - classes graded more generously; classes with papers rather than exams; classes taught by lecturing profs rather than challenging profs (or, as he puts it, "...twenty-five minutes of lecture and twenty-five minutes of 'let's pretend we're thinking about this case'").
So what do you think? Have our schools drifted away from rigor? If so, or if not, how do our academic support efforts relate to this drift?
I think I know where Professor Lloyd stands on this question. He writes, "By inflating grades," (which he believes most schools do), "we're making it harder on the bar examiners. It's hard enough for them to fail the bottom ten percent when those people are D students. As we approach the point where the bottom ten percent are B students, the bar examiners will be hard pressed to maintain any standards at all."
There are many tough balancing acts inherent in law school. What are your thoughts on this one?
(Consider addressing this issue on the Academic Support List Serve. djt)
Friday, April 29, 2005
Laurie Zimet is a recognized expert in academic support and diverse teaching methods. She has planned and presented workshops at national conferences sponsored by the AALS, LSAC, Institute for Law School Teaching, SALT, and numerous law schools. One of these presentations inspired the collaboratively written article, "Inclusive Teaching Methods Across the Curriculum: Academic Resource and Law Teachers Tie a Knot at the AALS," 31 U.S.F.L.R. 875 (1997). Since 1999, she has made annual plenary presentations on learning theory at the AALS New Law Teachers Conference. She sits on the Advisory Committee for the Institute for Law School Teaching and is a founding member of the Academic Support sections of the AALS and SALT.
With two colleagues and grants from the Institute for Law School Teaching, Laurie created videotapes on teaching and learning. The videotapes are part of two faculty-training kits that have been purchased by over 170 law schools and individuals. In "Teach to the Whole Class: Barriers and Pathways to Learning,” students discuss factors that enhance and impede their learning. The second video, "Principles for Enhancing Legal Education," addresses essential principles involved in good teaching. The videos have been showcased at conferences and faculty colloquia across the country.
At Hastings, Laurie Zimet runs one of the largest academic support programs in the country. Prior to Hastings, she directed the Academic Success Program at Santa Clara University School of Law for eight years. Prior to Santa Clara, she taught Legal Writing and Research at Hastings. In addition, she has taught law courses at Mills College and served as an advisor for the school’s interdisciplinary law major.
Laurie has lectured on legal writing and litigation related topics for the Practising Law Institute, Chevron, and the Federal Deposit Corporation. Subjects of her articles range from using paralegals in pre-trial litigation to the constitutional right of privacy in discovery. Her co-authored chapter on civil liability for rape appeared in Women and the Law, which was selected Best Law Book by the Association of American Publishers.
She received her B.S., summa cum laude, from State University College at Buffalo with a double major in social work and criminal justice. She graduated from Hastings and practiced in the area of civil litigation, emphasizing third party liability. (djt)
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Ellen Swain signs on as co-editor!
I am very happy to announce that the Law School Academic Support Blog will now have TWO (2) (II) editors. Vermont Law School's ASP Director has joined the staff as co-editor - readers can now expect more posts, greater variety, and a necessary infusion of better ideas for the blog. (Two head are better than one, especially when the second one is Ellen's.) (djt)
Ellen Swain currently directs the Academic Success Program at Vermont Law School, where she holds an appointment of Assistant Professor of Law. Swain brings a varied background of writing, advocacy and public service to her position.
A cum laude graduate of Vermont Law School, Ellen held a two-year judicial clerkship in the New Hampshire Superior Court upon graduation from VLS. She then worked as a staff attorney with the New Hampshire Public Defender Program, where she represented juveniles and adults charged with a range of offenses, including identity theft and homicide. NHPD values high-quality litigation and ethical lawyering. Ellen brings those values to her work with students through the Academic Success Program at VLS and encourages students to focus on improving the quality of their work, which will help their development as a lawyer, rather than to focus on the narrow goal of a higher grade. Ellen is licensed to practice law in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Ellen believes that her training in the high-stress and fast-paced world of criminal litigation prepared her to keep her perspective while working with law students. As final exams approach and the student stress levels skyrocket, Ellen’s colleagues will ask, “How do you handle all of the anxiety of the students?” Ellen replies, “It’s not so bad; nobody is going to jail.”
She’s grateful to have the opportunity to work with bright students who are motivated to improve their skills and enjoys watching students improve their performance. Working as a public defender brought Ellen close to individuals who were vulnerable and marginalized by society and gave her a renewed appreciation for the power that education has to transform one’s life.
Helping to make the law school curriculum as accessible as possible to students with diverse learning backgrounds is one of Ellen’s goal at VLS. She is grateful that VLS agreed to support her work with an expert from Landmark College, to help her to gain specialized skills for working with students with learning differences and ADHD. She continues to seek out trainings and read voraciously on the subject.
Starting in the Spring of 2006, Ellen will teach two sections of the Evidence Labs at VLS, a weekly class for Evidence students where they complete simulated courtroom exercises.
Before attending law school, Ellen worked as a journalist and freelance writer. Learning to write quickly under pressure is a skill she developed in the newsroom as a cub reporter working on deadline for a daily newspaper. She urges the students to write as accurately and clearly as possible and to strike a 25-cent word if a 10-cent word will do the same job.
Her background in community service includes working at a home for teenaged mothers and assisting handicapped individuals to ride horses in a therapeutic riding program.
In her copious spare time (ha!) Ellen enjoys spending as much time as possible in the outdoors with her husband: skiing, hiking, biking, swimming, boating and sitting still. She continues to work on a novel and practice yoga.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
At one time or another, most of us in the Academic Support profession occasionally scratch our heads and ask ourselves, "What is this student doing in law school?" One professor believes the answer is rather self-evident.
Consider this provocative North Carolina Law Review article by Robert M. Lloyd, the Lindsay Young Distinguished Professor of Law at University of Tennessee College of Law. (83 N.C.L. Rev. 667)
Unfortunately, he maintains, "While the practice of law has been getting Harder, law schools have been getting Softer." In this recent article (March, 2005) Professor Lloyd decries the proliferation of Soft courses, which "...allow students to use what Mary Ann Glendon has referred to as 'verbal acrobatics,' rather than Hard legal analysis, and we have to accept the fact that law schools attract people who prefer verbal acrobatics to rigorous analysis." What are verbal acrobatics? "The term Professor Glendon uses is 'verbal acrobats,' describing those who engage in the practice ... Those who are less charitable call it 'bullshit.'" (fn. 64)
The "verbal acrobats" are pursued by law school admissions offices, Professor Lloyd explains: "...numbers-driven admissions policies most law schools use screen out the very students we need to give our classes a better leavening of people with strong analytical skills. ... The admissions process fills law schools with students who have weak analytical skills."
Do you agree with Professor Lloyd? (djt)
As our students enter this last week of April, many - especially the wunnelles - are turning to their academic supporters for advice particularly related to this seasonal adventure.
Reading the web pages of others in our field ... pages directed to students ... provides both an assortment of resources to direct students to, as well as a host of fresh ideas to incorporate into your own suggestions for students.
Associate Dean and Adjunct Professor of Law, Robert M. Saltzman has performed a service for us all: University of Southern California Law School's exam resource page includes book suggestions, links to practice exams, and many links to law school Academic Support pages around the country.
B.A. Swarthmore College
J.D. Loyola University School of Law
Corinne has been a member of the Academic Support Community for sixteen years! She has much to offer those of us who are (actual or relative) newcomers. When you are perplexed about how to handle an academic support situation at your law school, bounce your ideas off Corinne Morrisey. (djt)
Corinne Morrissey knows something about transitioning to a new profession, as many of her students are doing. Morrissey was an administrative assistant in the litigation department at Baker & McKenzie before enrolling in law school. “I was very familiar with cases and case law because of the work I did,” she says, “so I decided to earn a law degree.”
As an evening student, Morrissey continued her work at the law firm, and was hired by the firm after she passed the bar. She worked for Baker & McKenzie until 1989 when she transitioned again as the academic support person at The John Marshall Law School. She was the first person to hold this full-time position and created a network of services to assist students struggling with their adjustments to law school.
Today Morrissey heads the Academic Achievement Program which provides advice and resources as the situation warrants. Its primary efforts are directed to helping students: 1) Transition from undergraduate school or the workplace to the rigors of law school; 2) Meet the challenging experiences of law school; 3) Transition from law school to preparation for the bar exam and the workplace.
Drawing on her experience grading bar exams, Morrissey has worked with students to prepare for the bar. She created and wrote the Writing for the Practice of Law course. She organizes workshops on such topics as outlining and lectures on bar exam essay questions. She also sets practice times for students to take the Multistate Bar Examination, and she brings in speakers to help make students aware of the challenges the exam may present.
“The bar exam can be a very scary thing. We work with our students to help get them ready for those two days so that they aren’t traumatized by it,” Morrissey said. “Yes, the bar exam is a lot of work, but we believe that our efforts of working with students from their first semester through their last semester helps them realize that perseverance is important, and success is possible.”
Outside of John Marshall, Morrissey provides pro bono legal services through Chicago Volunteer Legal Services. She and her husband, Frank, enjoy traveling in their free time.
J.D. Santa Clara University School of Law
Although Vinita Bali refers to herself as a "fledgling in the academic support arena," after three years she seems to have come a long way. Have you met Vinita at one of our Academic Support gatherings? She offers the community this third-person biographical sketch (djt) . . .
Vinita joined the faculty of Santa Clara University School of Law in August 2002 as the Director of the Academic Success Program. Now in her third year directing the program, Vinita feels that she has developed and grown tremendously, but knows that the learning and growth have just begun.
The opportunity to empower individuals through education goes to the heart of her personal commitment, and she describes her work as "the most invigorating and fulfilling" that she has engaged in. Considering that she has had extensive experience in the legal field, encompassing representing disabled individuals in administrative courts for several years, practicing as a business litigator, and most recently as a transactional lawyer, the statement speaks volumes to the work engaged in by the numerous Academic Support professionals in the legal education community. “The ASP community gives tirelessly of itself with tremendous heart and caring. Despite the responsibilities ASP professionals carry within their own school communities, they unhesitatingly offer their support and wisdom to others in the field,” Vinita says. What makes Vinita’s experience in her work even more rewarding is the congenial and collaborative environment fostered and cultivated by both the students and the faculty at Santa Clara law school. She often describes this as the greatest asset of the law school, tapping into this enormous resource and incorporating it into the structure of the Academic Success Program at Santa Clara.
Recognizing that she is a fledgling in the academic support arena, Vinita has actively sought the advice of other professionals, attended conferences, and read extensively in the field. She has learned tremendously by visiting other programs, finding that observing selected components of programs that have caught her attention have offered her a “fast track” opportunity to learn. She sees herself as a person who takes her time to observe and learn, but who “moves with tremendous energy and enthusiasm when a truly worthy idea presents itself.” She sees the issues of her students at a more personal level as well, having recently returned to law school to obtain an LLM degree.
Vinita’s commitment to her law school and to her community are apparent in her extra curricular involvements. She serves on three Boards of Directors: the non-profit group HOPE Services, the Santa Clara County Women Lawyers' Committee, and non-profit Attorneys Helping Education and Development. Vinita also is an active member of the Board of Santa Clara University School of Law Alumni Association, and the Legal Studies Steering Committee Advisory Board of the East Side Union High School District.
When not busy with her work at Santa Clara, with her 14 year old daughter, in her of-counsel position as a transactional lawyer, or with her Board involvements, Vinita can be found rock climbing at beautiful Yosemite, off the beaches in Thailand, or in the deserts at Moab (see photo, left - can you find Vinita?) or Joshua Tree. She describes this avocation as her “true passion, and a complete release from every worry in the word.” That is, not considering the worry inherent in this dangerous sport, of course. (Editor's note: I found rock climbing on the same "dangerous sport" web page as "bull running." djt)
Saturday, April 16, 2005
This 1999 article by Professor Kevin H. Smith of Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, The University of Memphis (32 Akron L. Rev. 1), is a "must-read." (I have not yet been able to find an online version of the article to link you to - unless someone sends me a link, you need to hit the stacks or visit Lexis or Westlaw.)
In your position as an Academic Support Professional, do you work with students who have disabilities? Professor Smith's excellent primer on disability issues emphasizes the treatment of disabled individuals who have been admitted to law school.
Consider this excerpt: "Most law schools already operate an academic support program (ASP). Though legal educators must be careful not to create the double stigma of disability and participation in an ASP, the school's ASP should be made available to students with relevant disabilities. The ASP's administrator, in conjunction with on-campus learning-disability specialists, should modify the ASP curriculum to fit the needs of disabled students, particularly those with LDs, ADD, and ADHD." Does your program include these modifications? Read on.
Professor Smith travels far beyond an explanation of the basic legal requirements. He champions an expansive interpretation of both "disability" and "reasonable accommodation," strongly advocating that a "wide range of accommodations and services" should be made available to disabled law students. But wait, there's more . . .
"Similar accommodations and services," Professor Smith maintains, "should be provided to students with temporary conditions or impairments, such as pregnancy or a broken hand, which are not covered by disability laws, but which may impair a student's ability to pursue her law school education."
Eschewing the "sink-or-swim" and "Darwinian" approaches to legal education, Professor Smith grounds his positions in "...the pedagogical and normative convictions that law school administrators and legal educators should work actively to develop fully all students' skills and abilities and that they must do so in an environment of tolerance, inclusiveness, assistance, and understanding."
Let me know your reactions. (djt)
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Once again, Professor Gantt is reaching out to the Academic Support Professional community, searching anew for announcements, news items, and articles for the spring issue of The Learning Curve, the newsletter of the AALS Section on Academic Support.
He would like to receive submissions by Friday, April 22 (with some flexibility).
If you intend to submit something, timely or a little late, please send Professor Gantt an e-mail.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Associate Professor of Law
Director of the Academic Skills Program
New York Law School
J.D., NYU School of Law, 1992
B.A., Yale University, 1989
NYU Rev. of Law & Soc. Change, Editor-in-Chief
Professor Franklin joined the New York Law School faculty in 2002. She describes her position as "...leading a team of New York Law School faculty dedicated to teaching sophisticated legal reasoning skills to all entering law students, and to providing direct intervention to students who struggle after their first semester of law school."
Prior to joining the NYLS faculty she taught for six years in the Lawyering program at NYU School of Law, where she participated in a study group investigating adult learning theory and legal pedagogy, and experimenting with methods for methods for teaching skills to beginning law students.
Before beginning teaching, Kris spent four years as a staff attorney with the Brooklyn Office of the Legal Aid Society. In her practice Kris focused primarily on housing and family law, but also covering public benefits and immigration cases. She conducted numerous trials, hearings, and appellate arguments. Kris continues to take on pro bono cases in her spare time, and frequently engages in direct action activism around such issues as bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender rights, reproductive freedom, opposition to the death penalty, support for services to the poor, and preservation of community gardens.
Relatively new to the academic support field, Kris has tried to learn as much as possible from those who have been at it for a while. In addition to attending conferences and reading published ASP literature, Kris has regularly brought experienced academic support professionals together in her semi-annual New York Area Academic Support Workshops. She currently serves on the Board of the AALS Section on Academic Support.
Long a non-conformist and an activist in the political realm, Kris Franklin brings a talent for creative and unconventional thinking to her teaching of legal analysis and to her leadership of the Academic Skills Program. "I've always felt the traditional law school curriculum, and the traditional ways of teaching law, leave both the students and the clients underserved," Kris says. "The standard approach can be quite narrow, and it doesn't necessarily train people to be good, thoughtful, effective attorneys. There have to be better ways to reach and teach a far greater range of students. If we can develop them, we can not only help more students, but perhaps better understand and strengthen the foundations of legal education for everyone."
Kris's scholarship focuses on rhetorical analysis in law, with her published works, both academic and non-academic, also mirroring her political interests in gender roles, diverse family structures, and sexual identity. Her most recent article explores the necessity of theoretical skills for students learning legal reasoning.
Kris designs and builds furniture in her spare time. At any given moment at least some small portion of her attention is probably devoted to power tools. (Photo by John Halpern)
Monday, April 11, 2005
We are thrilled to announce that LexisNexis has agreed to sponsor all of the blogs in our Law Professor Blogs Network:
- AntitrustProf Blog (Shubha Ghosh (SUNY Buffalo))
- ContractsProf Blog (Carol Chomsky (Minnesota) & Frank Snyder (Texas-Wesleyan))
- CrimProf Blog (Jack Chin (Arizona) & Mark Godsey (Cincinnati))
- Health Law Prof Blog (Betsy Malloy (Cincinnati) & Tom Mayo (SMU))
- LaborProf Blog (Rafael Gely (Cincinnati))
- Law Librarian Blog (Joe Hodnicki (Cincinnati))
- Law School Academic Support Blog (Dennis Tonsing (Roger Williams))
- Media Law Prof Blog (Cristina Corcos (LSU))
- Sentencing Law & Policy Blog (Douglas Berman (Ohio State))
- White Collar Crime Prof Blog (Peter Henning (Wayne State) & Ellen Podgor (Georgia State))
- TaxProf Blog (Paul Caron (Cincinnati))
- Tech Law Prof Blog (Jonathan Ezor (Touro) & Michelle Zakarin (Touro))
- Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Gerry Beyer (St. Mary's))
LexisNexis shares our vision for expanding the network into other areas of law, so please email us if you would be interested in finding out more about starting a blog as part of our network.
Wednesday, April 6, 2005
Monday, April 4, 2005
Take the time to read: "Talking to Students About the Differences Between Undergraduate Writing and Legal Writing," a brief article by Professor Anne Enquist, Legal Writing Advisor at Seattle University School of Law.
"Yes," Professor Enquist writes to new law students, "there are things that you learned about undergraduate writing assignments that will carry over into law school writing assignments." She describes what most of us refer to as the "writing process": pre-writing, drafting, editing, and so on. But then, the legal writing path diverges.
Focusing on the "audience" for the writing, Professor Enquist points out the difference between the writer-reader relationships - "Undergraduate writing has an unusual, even artificial, writer-reader relationship," she explains. The writer is presumed to be the novice, while the reader is the expert. This relationship "...is, of course, backwards."
On the other hand, the law professor "...will probably be role-playing the real-world reader - either a supervising attorney, a judge, a client, or opposing counsel."
While a goal of undergrad writing may have been to "make simple things seem more complex," the reverse is true in legal writing, where students/attorneys strive to make complex things seem simple.
Although Professor Enquist is focusing on writing assignments, it occurred to me that her thoughts apply to exam answering as well. One characteristic of poor exam answers is the convoluted, complex, confusing analysis - often written by the student who has succeeded in making the simple seem complex.
Your thoughts? (djt)
Sunday, April 3, 2005
Depression and Anxiety in Law Students: Are We Part of the Problem and Can We Be Part of the Solution?
This article by Carolina Law's Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Learning Resources Center, Ruth Ann McKinney , appeared in the 2002 edition of the The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute. (8 Legal Writing 229 - new as of April 11: web link available)
The article begins with an introduction to the basic tenets of self-efficacy theory, a brief exploration of what that theory tells us about people's feelings and behavior, and an explanation of how self-efficacy beliefs are acquired.
In Section II, the traditional law school environment is examined through the lens of self-efficacy theory, leading to the observation that much of the emotional distress experienced by law students would be completely predictable to a social scientist versed in the theory.
Section III suggests that the choices we make daily in our classes can and do affect our students' emotional states and intellectual achievements. "We can point to the myriad of causes of the many problems in modern legal education and hope for major reform," Professor McKinney writes, "or we can take a leadership role in legal pedagogy by instituting positive changes in our own classrooms." This third section offers concrete examples of lesson plans, program policies, and teacher behaviors that will help law students select appropriate goals and inevitably increase their beliefs in their abilities to achieve those goals.
The last section of the article presents the conlcusion that professorial use of the methods suggested may reduce students' anxiety and depression, and increase the probability that law students will excel with energy and confidence. (The foregoing description borrows heavily from Professor McKinney's introduction.) (djt)
Maybe everyone else involved in Academic Support across the country already knows about this - but it was news to me.
While browsing through Westlaw, looking for some Academic Support articles, I discovered, under "Law School Life," this sub-topic description: You've made it to law school. Now you just need to make it through law school. These resources will help.
This Westlaw area includes links to articles of interest to ASP professionals (example: Professor Vernellia Randall's 1995 article, "The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, First-Year Law Students and Performance." 26 CUMLR 63) and students (example: Professor Kenney Hegland's excerpt on "What to Expect and How to Cope" in law school, from his Introduction to the Study and Practice of Law in a Nutshell, published in 2003 by (no surprise) West).
Although I abhor the title, "First Year Survival Guide" used by West (Who wants to hire a lawyer who "survived" law school? I'd prefer one who attained her personal best in law school. djt), I think the material included is very helpful, including "Tips and advice specifically for 1Ls." For example, Professor John Langbein's article on answering law exams is succinct, direct, and right on point. (Note: Professor Langbein's article, and several other exam-related tips and essays, can be found on the New York Law School exam tips page.)
How do you find this Westlaw area? Click here. (At some point, you need to login to your Westlaw account.) (djt)
Saturday, April 2, 2005
The Academic Support Spotlight is searching for another ASP-er to illuminate. Please share your bio and photo with our ASP community by sending me something along the lines of what you see (below and in the archives) from Kristen, Mario, and Charlotte. Goal: by the time we assemble in Las Vegas in June, we will all know a bit more about each other.
Click here to send me an e-mail. (djt)