June 7, 2005
Bar Curve Is Steeper in NY
Students studying for the NY Bar Examination this July will likely feel a heavier load. The minimum passing score just rose by fifteen points.
Criticism of the point change continues from the president of the New York Bar Association. A 13-member committee, including members of the bar association, law school deans, and bar examiners has been created to evaluate the relevance of the examination.
Read an article on the controversial change that appeared in The National Law Journal. (els) (Thanks to my research assistant MS for bringing this article to my attention).
A Blip in the Bar Rate
They really had nowhere to go but up.
California State Bar Officials recently announced that the pass rate for the February examination rose 4.7 percent over the previous year. The rate was still, gulp, 40 percent, or 1,810 of the 4,520 applicants who took the bar examination.
First-time applicants passed at a rate of 54.4 percent, which translated into 1,281 of the test takers.
Bar examiners are mystified, according to the story reported by The Recorder and available on law.com, "We're very happy that the pass rate went up...Whether this is a trend of not, I don't know," according to Jerome Braun, the State Bar's director of admissions.
(Thanks to my crack research assistant, Meredith Strobridge, for bringing this story to my attention)(els).
In the Academic Support Sporlight: Michael Hunter Schwartz
(You may have read about the recent publication of Expert Learning for Law Students by Carolina Academic Press and ordered your own copy. You'll find the following biography of the author of interest. els)
Professor Michael Hunter Schwartz is a Professor of Law and the Director of Ex-L at Charleston School of Law, the academic support program at Charleston. Between 1991 and 2005, he taught at Western State University College of Law. For the first eight years of his career at Western State, Professor Schwartz was a doctrinal professor, teaching contracts, remedies and insurance law.
In 1999, Professor Schwartz decided to follow his passion and begged his way into the directorship of Western State’s academic support programs. Professor Schwartz overhauled Western State’s academic support programs, creating seven distinct programs focusing on student law school achievement and bar pass, lowering Western State’s academic attrition rate by 81% while increasing its first- time bar pass rate by 44%.
Professor Schwartz is the author of Expert Learning for Law Students (Carolina Academic Press 2005), a text designed to teach self-regulated learning skills and law school learning strategies to entering law students as part of law school’s introductory programs, academic support programs and academic probation programs.
In writing the book, which was his sabbatical project a few years ago, Professor Schwartz conducted an exhaustive review of research in the education field. The book is accompanied by a workbook that includes exercises and reflection questions and a teacher’s manual that includes, among other things, the background educational research, answers to the exercises, detailed syllabi, instructional objectives, quizzes, a set of cases (with commentary and questions similar to what students will encounter in their law school texts) and briefs of all the cases.
Professor Schwartz currently is in the process of co-authoring (with Professor Denise Riebe, who teaches at Duke University School of Law and University of North Carolina School of Law) a new text, Pass The Bar!. The authors, who met as a result of exchanging ideas on the ASP listserv, expect to complete Pass The Bar! this fall. The text, which also will be published by Carolina Academic Press, has been designed to be used by academic support professionals in law school bar pass programs.
They designed the text to be used in stand-alone bar pass courses or as a supplemental text for upper-division bar-tested courses so that faculty can integrate bar study principles into such classes, using the bar study principles to teach the doctrine and the doctrine to teach the bar study principles. The authors also believe that students will be able to use the book on their own for self-study. The book demystifies the bar preparation and bar exam process. To help students reflectively plan their bar study, adopt bar study practices that maximize their chances of passing the bar exam, and manage their stress and time during the bar study and bar exam process, the book includes dozens of exercises and practice bar exam questions. Pass The Bar! will be accompanied by a teacher’s manual that will provide background research, classroom exercises, model answers, syllabi and instructional objectives.
Professor Schwartz also has written two law review articles and three shorter works relating to law teaching and learning and two other law review articles that address doctrinally-related matters: the defects in arbitration as a form of dispute resolution and power as a legal construct.
He has delivered presentations on law teaching and learning subjects at Institute for Law School Teaching, Legal Writing Directors’ and CALI Conferences and as an invited speaker to the faculties at Hastings College of the Law, Santa Clara University School of Law, Albany Law School, UDC Law School, the John Marshall Law School, Southern New England School of Law and John Marshall Law School in Atlanta.
He also is on the Steering Committee of and is a contributor to CLEA’s “Best Practices of Law Schools for Preparing Students to Practice Law” Project/White Paper and is on the Board of Directors of the Humanizing Legal Education Movement.
Professor Schwartz is married to the person he says he most admires and likes in the world and has two daughters, ages 9 and 12, whom he describes as wonderful. His major hobby is spending time with his wife and daughters; to that end, he has volunteered his time in his daughters’ elementary school classes and to their musical theatre production group.
What's Your Focal Point?
The book makes some sweeping promises on the cover about how its contents will, "simplify your life, double your productivity, and achieve all your goals." Whether you'll find that to be true is another matter, but it's a worthwhile and quick read.
Personal productivity guru Brian Tracy explores the importance of setting a clear goal, or focal point, in all aspects of one's life as a means to achieve greater effectiveness at work and greater rewards in one's personal life and relationships. With the tendency for law school to consume both teachers' and students' time, it's always good to have a reminder of the importance of clear thinking as the work piles up.
Interested? You can read excerpts of Focal Point now.
Tracy's website contains a list of all of his titles and some free resources, including a test of your management style at work. (els).
June 6, 2005
Reading Like a Lawyer: The Book
We've been highlighting the fine work by Professor Ruth Ann McKinney who writes about how to teach law students to improve their reading skills. The attention is well deserved. She has, after all, written the book.
Her recent publication, Reading Like a Lawyer, is accompanied by a teacher's manual with suggestions and powerpoint presentations on how to incorporate the strategies to improve reading into orientation programs.
Excerpts are available on the web.
Teachers may obtain a complimentary copy by visiting the Carolina Academic Press online. (els).
June 5, 2005
Reading vs. Fishing
A few days ago, Ellen Swain (my co-editor) suggested y'all visit the site of The Learning Curve, the outstanding publication edited by Natt Gantt of Regent University School of Law. I took Ellen's advice, and it changed my life.
Well, okay, it changed my Academic Support Program.
Here's how. I read "Teach Them to Read and They'll Read for a Lifetime..." by Professor Ruth Ann McKinney of the University of North Carolina School of Law. Whoa. In her subtitle, Professor McKinney includes, "How Academic Support Professionals Can 'Turn on Light Bulbs' ...". She turned on a bulb for me.
In a nutshell: I intend to supplement the existing program at Roger Williams University School of Law with a reading program based substantially on Professor McKinney's model. And, I intend to find out all I can about it this week at UNLV, where many of us will be assembling for the LSAC (thank you) - sponsored national get-together of ASPers.
Beware, Professor McKinney. You may be awfully busy answering our questions. I suspect this article will effect changes in many Academic Support programs. Thank you, again, for sharing your insight. (djt)
Treating each individual holistically
A student recently handed me a page torn from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Take a look at it. The "First Person" article is entitled "No Harm Intended." The author is Christine Hurt, an assistant professor of law at Marquette University.
Professor Hurt describes her first year teaching Torts. She describes the cases discussed: " ... blood and guts and crazy freak accidents ... car wrecks, gun accidents, fraternity parties, medical malpractice and mean dogs."
She details her conscientious teaching strategies and concerns, and explains, " ... I thought things were going great. I loved my students, they seemed to love me, and everyone was learning."
The learning included fun. Humor. "We laughed and laughed, in the way that people do when they spend large amounts of time talking about horrible tragedies." Only near the end of the semester did Professor Hurt discover (ironically) the pain that she had inadvertently caused at least one student, whose siblings had been killed in a car accident during the semester.
"Cura personalis," Professor Hurt points out, "means to treat each individual holistically." Her attempt to practice CP was frustrated by her inadvertent failure to ... to what? ... to inquire into the circumstances and sensitivities each individual student carries to each class? I'm not sure about how to deal with these issues in the classroom context - but I am a little more sure in the Academic Support setting.
As Academic Support professionals, we deal with more than TRAC and IRAC and memory techniques and briefing strategies and learning styles. We deal with individuals holistically. More often than not, we deal with individuals who have reached levels of anxiety, stress, depression, lack of self-esteem, or even panic, that they have never before approached. And not all of it is caused by Torts, Contracts and Civil Procedure. Students have lives, too. Although most wunnelles tend to put romance, physical fitness, religious practices, family relations and leisure "on the back burner," or move such irrelevant enterprises out of the kitchen altogether, we know they can't.
As appealing as it may seem to a beginning student - to hold her breath for three years while she ingests massive quantities of law - that is not only impossible; it is lethal. It kills the spirit, at least. And a law student without spirit burns out. Fast.
When students come to our offices seeking guidance, especially in their first year, we owe it to them to offer them coaching in the area of "balance." We need to invoke a bit of the Cura Personalis that Professor Hurt mentions. Don't we?
Let me know your thoughts. (djt)