June 18, 2005
What Law Schools Are Doing to Accommodate Students with Learning Disabilities
Are you involved in deciding whether a student qualifies (under the ADA) for accommodations? Do you determine what those accommodations will be? If so, you will find this (year 2000) article of interest. Professor Donald H. Stone (University of Baltimore School of Law) explores the entire subject of accommodations for law students with learning disabilities. (42 S. Tex. L. Rev. 19)
Relying on a study involving eighty law schools as well as case histories (several court decisions are presented and analyzed), Professor Stone discusses the most common procedures for properly accommodating law students.
In order to maintain fairness to the entire student body while making accommodations, Professor Stone suggests that proper identification and documentation of the disability must be performed by a qualified diagnostician. He argues that too few schools have written policies and procedures for academic modifications for disabled students.
The article provides some useful quantitative benchmarks. Example - "The majority of law schools that provide students with additional time to complete course examinations usually allow an average of one and one-half times the amount of time normally allowed for the exam."
Professor Stone recommends that any student requesting accommodation should (1) be required to provide the documentation, and (2) submit the request to the Dean of Students, Disability Services Director, or other designated school officer. Should professors be involved in the determination of whether/which accommodations are to be provided? "In a significant majority of cases, professors have no input in the decision to provide an exam accommodation," he reports - and discusses the wisdom of this approach.
The article provides interesting statistical/geographical information. Example - "Comparing law schools by geographical region reveals a striking contrast in the role of the law professor in the decision to provide an academic modification in the course examination."
Professor Stone includes comprehensive discussions of testing accommodations, testing formats, environmental control, alternative testing strategies, scoring accommodations, implications of test accommodations, and bar examination/admission issues.
This article provides valuable guidelines to any student unsure of the procedures for receiving accommodations for disabilities, and to academic support professionals who are interested in better accommodating their disabled students. (djt)
Making Contracts Relevant
Robert M. Lloyd, Lindsay Young Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee College of Law, recently (Spring 2004) published an interesting article in the Arizona State Law Journal (36 Ariz. St. LJ. 257) - interesting to me, and I hope to y'all.
My interest was piqued by these opening sentences: "The traditional first-year contracts course is a disaster. There is almost nothing in the course that bears any relation to what lawyers really do. Rather than teaching students what good lawyers do in representing parties to contracts, we just show them a lot of usually unsuccessful arguments that can be made where somebody screws up."
Professor Boyd offers "Thirteen Lessons for the First-Year Contracts Course" that relate directly to "what lawyers really do." (Example - Lesson Ten: Perjury Does Occur - And the Good Guys Don't Always Wear White Hats.)
Most Academic Support folks don't teach Contracts - so why did this article appeal to me? As an advocate of the concept that "The Practice of Law Begins Now" (in law school), I maintain that the more we can tie students' academic experiences to "what lawyers really do," the more we can keep the passion to practice (professionally) burning ... or in many cases, ignite the fire.
Do you remember your Criminal Law professor who actually defended criminals for a living for two decades? ...your Torts professor who had prevailed in some significant jury trials? ...your Constitutional Law professor who recounted her several arguments before the Supreme Court? "War stories" (when artfully intertwined with doctrinal lessons) can enchant and inspire students.
Here's another novel thought: Could it be that infusing practical and useful information and exercises into presentation of substantive material will actually help our students become the lawyers they want to be?
Those of us in Academic Support (a) who teach doctrinal subject matter and/or (b) who engage in pedagogic philosophy discussions with those who do, ought to maintain a bibliography of articles along these lines. Send me some.
As Ellen and I construct the left-side panel of this blog (to be introduced within weeks) we are hoping to build an electronic resource library/bibliography choc-fulla' info, links, articles and opinions of interest to our AcSup community members. This - actually preparing students for "The Practice" through skills training and mastery, as well as through introduction of practical and useful substantive material - is one of the subjects we will feature. (djt)
June 17, 2005
Briefing: A PowerPoint Slide Show
Are you planning to teach "case-briefing" during Orientation?
Would a pre-fab PPT slide-show help?
Try this: Ruth Ann McKinney's Power Point slide show. You will need a user name (mckinney ... all lower case) and a password (reading4law ... all lower case). Don't worry, Professor McKinney authorized the publication of her user name and password. (djt)
June 16, 2005
Multiple Choice Question
Here's a multiple-choice question everyone should get right ...
A national conference is only as good as its:
(a) Sponsoring organization
(b) Development committee
(c) Host school
(e) Agenda and topics
(f) Materials provided
(g) All of the above.
I happened to find a kudo on my desk - next to the Westlaw paperweight - and I intend to gift-wrap it and send it to Kent Lollis. I will hunt around the office for more, but I'm sure I could never find enough to send one to each deserving recipient.
Most of what I have learned about law school academic support has come directly from attendance at these LSAC national and regional conferences. This summer conference was no exception.
One of the greatest "lessons" learned - again and again at these gatherings - is that people involved in academic support are unusual. In a good ... no, great ... way. We don't just have jobs. Most of us look at what we do more as a "calling." What a great bunch to hang out with!
One of my colleagues at Roger Williams just asked me this morning, "Do you still get something out of these conferences?"
"You bet," I responded. I intend to make substantial changes - not just "tweaks" - to the Academic Support Program here ... all based on what I learned from my friends at the conference.
And more importantly, each time I attend a conference, I extend my network ... that is, I find more and more people to turn to for advice when needed. Believe me, I need it often. (djt)
June 15, 2005
What Happened In Vegas?
So maybe our in boxes are a bit fuller than those of you who stayed at home last week, but it was worth the trek to Las Vegas.
First, a toast to our hosts, UNLV's William S. Boyd School of Law and their ASP Director, Professor Pavel Wonsowicz, and LSAC, the organization that graciously covered our airfare, registration and most of the week's meals.
The Conference offered a day of events on Wednesday for newcomers, and the event kicked off with an opening reception and dinner that evening at the swanky Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel, which, gratefully, had no slot machines to blink, beep, whistle or otherwise make a racket in the reception area, unlike the airport and most buildings on the strip, but that's another story.
After a rousing welcome by UNLV Dean Morgan, UMKC Dean Ellen Suni and President of the AALS Section on Academic Support led an exercise on how to select students for a first-semester ASP program. Working through an exercise on how to whittle down a list of applicants for a program during break out sessions made for a lively debate.
Leading the discussion on whether to limit program sizes for academic assistance programs were Ann Iijima, William Mitchell College of Law, Carolyn Nygren, Nova Southeastern University - Shepard Broad Law Center, and Martha "Marty" Peters of University of Iowa College of Law.
After lunch, a new panel discussed program models that included UCLA's Kristen Holmquist, Whittier Law School's Mario Mainero, Roger Williams' & this blog's own Dennis Tonsing, Herbert "Herb" Ramy of Suffolk University Law School, and UNLV's Pavel Wonsowicz.
An evening in local restaurants, hosted by LSAC, gave us all terrific opportunities to swap ideas and stories about our programs, among other topics of idle and not so idle conversation.
(The following evening we got together in groups and enjoyed meals together as well)(L-R Dionne Koller, Alison Nissen, Ellen Swain, Jennifer Swezey, Marcia Goldsmith, Tracey Banks Coan).
While mention of the B-A-R passage rates can often stifle a conversation quickly, Friday's sessions offered some valuable suggestions on how to approach the issue at your school.
The afternoon offered a choice of six break-out sessions on topics varying from the role of academic support and the bar exam, program models, learning theory, training and evaluating teaching assistants, and ways to help students manage their time more efficiently.
Saturday's sessions offered a morning of discussion and braining storming about professional development and ways to achieve your own professional goals.
The afternoon strategic planning session spilled over into an unexpected session of brainstorming for the future of Academic Support, led by Seattle's Paula Lustbader.
Here's a positive use of peer pressure. Encourage the presenters to send their program materials to the blog. Just include them as attachments in an e-mail to either one of us (check out the top left-hand column of the blog) and attach your program materials. Really, share the wealth.
Amid the fruitful exchange of ideas and the hallway business card swapping, the chance to talk with others who confront the same challenges at their law schools was truly reviving and offered some opportunities for ground-breaking brain storming (really, it's not hyperbole). Meeting the incredibly bright and talented men and women who work away quietly in the ASP field as tenure-track professors, instructors, assistant professors, directors and assistant deans was a real gift. And, wow, do they have great ideas.
My hunch is that program participants felt a little more revived than the man sitting next to me on the plane out of Vegas on Saturday morning who oozed stale beer and said, "I just wanted to let you know that I may need to jump up and run to the bathroom," which brought my gloating over the fact that I had an aisle, not middle seat, to an abrupt halt.
Before he nodded off into a clearly needed slumber he said, "Vegas always seems like such a good idea before you go and not so good on the way home." I suppose that was true for most of my fellow travelers on the plane, but then again, they didn't attend the ASP conference.
Now back to the overflowing in box. Hopefully, thanks to the fine planning work of the ASP Section of the AALS and LSAC we'll all have an opportunity to get together again soon. (els)
Unexpected Twist in the NY Bar Score Controversy
The NY Court of Appeals has decided to put the brakes on the graduated rise in the minimum passing score for the NY Bar Examination, an apparent response to criticism of the change.
The New York Law Journal reports today that New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye said in a letter to two Senate committees, "We are distressed by the deep divisions that the subject has generated among the law schools, the Bar Association and the Bar Examiners...You have the Court's assurance that we will devote ourselves to repairing the rifts, beginning with efforts to work with the newly formed State Bar Association Special Committee."
While the minimum score will rise by 15 points with the upcoming July test, the effect of the score hike will be studied before the imposition of further increases in the minimum passing score. Incremental minimum score increases were scheduled for the following two summers, July 2006, July 2007. (els)(Thanks to my sharp RA, Meredith Strobridge, who found this moments, I believe, after it was posted).
June 14, 2005
So How Was the Conference?
Up tomorrow, a posting about last week's ASP Conference in Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas, yes, you guessed it, stays on the blog.
Debate Over Mental Illness
A hot debate is brewing within the American Psychiatric Association regarding the definition of mental illness: whether to tighten up the definitions of the current symptoms and categories or to broaden the concept of mental illnesses, "to be broad enough to include mild conditions, which can make people miserable and often lead to more severe problems later," according to an article in today's New York Times.
The trigger for the debate? The revised diagnostic manual that will appear in 2010 or 2011.
"Severity is at the core of the debate. Are slumps in mood bad enough to make someone miss work? Does anxiety over social situations disrupt friendships and play havoc with romantic relationships?" according to the article.
When a mental illness becomes a psychiatric disability, of course, the ADA and Section 504, as well as the Office of Civil Rights take notice and expect law schools to make reasonable accommodations.
View the DSM-IV on line (els)
June 13, 2005
Census of Law Professor Bloggers
This morning's PrawfsBlawg has an interesting census of the current law professor blogging population. They report that 103 law professors currently blog; we have 24 law professors who blog as part of our Law Professor Blogs Network.
PrawfsBlawg notes that of the 103 law professor bloggers, 80.6% (83) are male and 19.4% (20) are female. The comparable numbers for the 24 members of the Law Professor Blogs Network: 62.5% (15) male and 37.5% (9) female.
Here are the law schools with the most law professor bloggers:
Law Schools with Most Law Prof Bloggers
Number of Bloggers