Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Keeping Dreams from Coming True

On August 24, I posted a referral to lawyer/author Julie Hilden's article featuring advice to first-year law students. That post included:

Julie Hilden, a Yale Law grad, having also earned an MA in creative writing from Cornell, lives in New York city.  After practicing law for several years, Ms. Hilden now writes (creatively) full time ... in 2003 she published 3 a novel which (according to one reviewer on " both beautiful, and disturbing ... definitely not for the faint of heart ... extremely graphic [with] gut-wrenching scenes...." 

Never having thought of myself as "faint of heart," I bought "3."  As of this morning, I have not finished reading the book, and my gut is already wrenched.  Nevertheless, I had enough energy this morning to blog. 

Ms. Hilden's article (referenced above) described her wunnelle experience.  This week, I visited with many wunnelles at different law schools, and was treated to their description of the experience (contemporaneous rather than recollected).  This morning, when I read from pages 57 and 58 of Ms. Hilden's "3," I was struck with the similarity between those contemporaneous descriptions and the prenuptial dream of Ms. Hilden's featured character (a woman of about the same age as many of our wunnelles ... early twenties).

The night before we marry, I have a dream.  I am underwater, just beneath the surface of a running river that would carry me away were it not for the crooked black tree branch I hold.  The branch extends toward me through the water, like a hand reaching down.

The surge of the blue-green water is strong and unrelenting, and my hold on the branch is uncertain, slippery.  I should be moving along it hand over hand, like a child twisting in the air, legs trailing, across the span of a jungle gym.  I should be closing in on the shore, moving into the shallower water, so that I can break the water's surface and take a breath.

But I am not, I cannot move forward at all.  My hand cannot even fully get purchase on the branch's mossy skin.  So rather than getting closer to the riverbank, I only slide farther out along the branch's length, deeper into the water.

Underwater, I do not even hear the crack of the breaking branch.  All at once I lose my grip, and I only hear the water rushing.  I only feel it move my body wherever I am destined to go. The water engulfs me, and as I drown, I feel at peace.  I do not bolt awake, the prospect of my own death does not jolt me into the waking world.  The truth is that I am comfortable, drowning.

The preceding paragraphs weave very nicely into the fabric of the novel.  The similarity between the night-before-the-wedding dream and a standard reaction to law school is __________ (fill in the blank … “frightening” occurred to me).

I’m drowning,” is a frequent complaint among first-semester law students. “All I want to do is keep my head above water—I feel completely overwhelmed.” These aquatic metaphors ("to whelm" is to submerge) are apt. Often, law students find themselves awash in a flood of uncategorized information—facts and theories disconnected from, alien to, often at odds with their intuition, their preconceived ideas, their personal experiences.

As the flood continues, the vortex begins to drag them down.

Just as hopeless drowning swimmers—and Ms. Hilden's fictional dreamer—succumb to the raging surf and surrender control to this powerful force of nature, too many wunnelles capitulate to the perceived inevitability of their loss of control. This is the passive reaction. This is the reaction that keeps law students from achieving their “personal bests” during their first semester. They’ve heard it’s hard, they encounter the proof of the difficulty of law school during the first three weeks—they feel "overwhelmed."

What they don’t realize is this: they are (nearly) all great swimmers ... it's just the unfamiliarity with this environment that throws them off.

The "dream" concept is also apropos. "A series of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations occurring involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep" ... this is a "dream."  Substitute the phrase "the first three weeks of law school" for the word "sleep" and you will be reminded of conversations you have had with students these past few days.

At an Academic Support conference a few years ago, when I asked someone, "What is it, exactly, that we do?" I received this response: "We help make people's dreams come true."  True enough, when the "dream" is an aspiration.  There are some dreams—ideas and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind—that we want to help not come true.  (djt)

September 10, 2005 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 9, 2005

Academic Support Spotlight


University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law recently announced the appointment of Joginder ("Joe") S. Dhillon as Director of Academic Support and Lecturer in Law. Professor Dhillon served as an Air Force officer for 20 years, including tours as the Legal Advisor to the U.S. Space Command/North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado and as Deputy Chief, Military Personnel Branch, Air Force Litigation Division in Washington, D.C.

Professor Dhillon also served as an Assistant Professor of Law at the U.S. Air Force Academy for three years. More recently, he has acted as a consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton on homeland security issues and as an Associate/Shareholder with Schuering Zimmerman Scully, LLP in Sacramento, California.

Professor Dhillon was a member of the Harvard Environmental Law Review in 1987 and received his LL.M. in Intellectual Property in 1999.

Welcome, Joe, to the wonderful world of Academic Support! (djt)

September 9, 2005 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Law School Shorthand

When you were in law school, did you use abbreviations when taking notes?

I sure did.

Where did they come from?  Well, Gilbert Law Summaries has provided a somewhat comprehensive listing of "Law School Shorthand" abbreviations (after arriving at the web page, scroll down about halfway). 

You may want to direct your wunnelles to the page. (djt)

September 6, 2005 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Maximizing Your Computer

Do your students spend too long typing?  Every time they use multiple key strokes to type, for example ...

  • Constitutional Law
  • Section 25
  • Rule against perpetuities
  • Condition subsequent

... they are wasting time.  (You, too!)

Visit this website (then send your students) to learn how to use MS Word's "autocorrect" function to maximize your keyboard efficiency.  (djt)

September 6, 2005 in Advice, Miscellany, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Helping Students after Katrina

As Academic Support Professionals, how can we help?

Here's an example.  Scour the internet for letters like this one, and respond.  I found this (and many others) at

Question from 1L Rekha Tavva
I am a common law 1L and am completely frustrated and at a loss as of what to do and with time running out on my options I am seeking any and all advice. I was given permission to attend Loyola Chicago and MSU as a visiting student with tuition and books waived and provided respectively, however, now that I know that U of H will somewhat be Loyola's satellite campus I am confused as to what I should do. I know that many 1L's have decided to give it a go at other schools but I want to know if this is the wisest choice. Basically, I am asking people for the pros and cons of each decision. If any professor or classmate is reading this, I would greatly appreciate your advice on this pertinent matter. My email address is or and my phone number is 310-435-6479. Hope to hear from anybody. Thanks a million for your advice and time...and I hope all is well.

Let me know if you find other sites where students are reaching out for help we may offer.

See what these students and their families and friends are going through ... Professional photos from TIME magazine ... a photoessay, "The Day After Katrina."

From the "everything New Orleans" (NOLA) web site: Amazing photographs of Katrina's effects. (djt)

September 4, 2005 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Books for Free


LexisNexis' Law School Publishing group has implemented a plan to respond to the needs of law school students displaced by Hurricane Katrina. LexisNexis will provide free coursebooks to all displaced students enrolled in a law school class that requires a LexisNexis coursebook. LexisNexis will also provide free copies of relevant titles from our Understanding Series and our Q & A Series to all displaced students enrolled in a law school class that corresponds to a title in our Understanding and Q & A product lines.

To receive this assistance, an appointed school administrator (e.g., the registrar) must make this contact on behalf of the displaced student(s) who have been invited to participate in their Fall 2005 program. Requests must include:

  • Students' name
  • Mailing address
  • Email address (if any)
  • Phone number
  • Home law school
  • Author name & title of adopted LexisNexis coursebook
  • Fall 2005 course listing (to determine relevant study aid titles to send to each student).

Please send this information to: Lisa Hughes, LexisNexis Law School Sales Operations Manager, via email at, or via fax at 518-641-6090.

September 4, 2005 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)