Monday, November 14, 2005
It is time for my students in academic distress to register for spring classes. Because I am often asked for advice on these matters, I am often conflicted. Should I advise students to take classes that will be sure things or to take something new and interesting to rejuvenate their passion for law school? Should I discuss exam styles with these students: "Well, he's great, but his entire exam is multiple choice," or "I hear people have needed IV fluid during the exam, but the subject is on the bar..." -- or even worse -- "Oh definitely take it with that professor, there's no exam, just a book report; no really, I'm not kidding on that"?
Do I point students in academic distress toward the easiest path; the one that might be better for their GPAs, or the one that might be more challenging but would recapture their interest in law?
After being in Academic Support for about three and a half years now, I do have some "insider" information on the professors, exams and classes; but I still try to get students to challenge themselves. I have even administered the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – I had to take a class to qualify to do it, so don't try this at home!) to provide some insight into students' learning styles and what classes and/or professors might be a more "natural fit" for various students' personalities.
I know that sometimes a slam-dunk kind of class can restore badly damaged self-esteem. In addition, classes that are "skills-based" can remind students about the end goal of law school: lawyering. Some students find these classes (like trial practice and negotiation) the antidote to a bad spell of more doctrinal classes. I also think that everyone should take a clinical class or do an internship; perhaps this stems from my co-op experiences in law school.
Eventually, all my advice boils down to this: take a variety of classes. Think of your course selection somewhat like using the food pyramid. Look at what you need to take and what you want to take. Mix statutory (or code) and case law classes because these are two different types of analysis you'll need for the bar. And ALWAYS take one fun class – the class where doing the work is not a chore.
And finally, it is often worth it to take the 8:00 a.m. class, especially if it is graded on a curve. Why? Because if you are the only one who shows up, you'll do better on the exam than anyone else. (ezs)