April 6, 2005
Don't expect any new posts until next week. (djt)
April 4, 2005
The Writing Corner
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)
April 3, 2005
Taking Steps toward Solving the Anxiety Problem
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)
Westlaw Academic Support
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)