Saturday, March 12, 2005

Some Strategies to Teach Reluctant Talkers About Law

Sarah_ricksAn 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?

(djt)

March 12, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Academic Support Programs: Effective Support Through a Systemic Approach

Adam_g_toddAn 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
writing professors.

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)

March 12, 2005 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 11, 2005

Position Opening in California

School_entrance University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law invites applications for the non-tenured track position of Director of Academic Support Programs for the 2005-2006 academic year.  The Programs focus on first-year students, advanced students needing additional assistance, and students preparing for the bar examination; the Director also teaches the Principles of Agency course to first-year students.
The salary offered will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. 
The search committee will accept applications through April 8, 2005.  McGeorge anticipates the starting date of employment as July 1, 2005.  Persons of color and women are especially encouraged to apply as are all others with traits that would add diversity to the faculty. 
Contact:  Timothy E. Naccarato, Assistant Dean of Academic Programs, University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, 3200 Fifth Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95817.  Telephone: 916-739-7399; Fax: 916-739-7272; Email: tnaccarato@pacific.edu.       (djt)

March 11, 2005 in Job Descriptions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

In the Academic Support Spotlight

Charlotte_taylor_1 Charlotte D. Taylor
Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs
and Student Support Services
DePaul University College of Law

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)

March 8, 2005 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 7, 2005

Law School Exams - valuable or not?

"Artificial Intelligence," an essay by Northwestern University law Professor Steven Lubet.

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)

March 7, 2005 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)