November 12, 2005
Another Exam-Aid Page
Are you sending some exam-aid sites like this to your students?
From the feedback I have been receiving from my students over the last two weeks, I know they appreciate it! (djt)
November 11, 2005
Stacy, Dave and Nathan never sleep, they have virtually limitless memories and they get smarter every day. They are whizzes when it comes to legal analysis.
Question: Stacy, Dave and Nathan are . . .
(a) Wunnelles at Harvard Law
(b) Recent graduates from Suffolk Law
(c) Old alumni from Southwestern Law
(d) Robot lawyers
Although C is a tempting answer (I say that as an SW alum who never sleeps enough, and gets smarter every day – although my memory is so poor I can't remember if I was smart yesterday), D is the "most correct" answer.
According to a November 10 story by Lesley Stones in an online journal, Business Day, robotic lawyers are joining law firms.
A lawyer who has ordered several claims, “Although their duties would be limited and very much controlled at first, we consider them an important strategic investment for the future." Doesn't that sound like he's describing a first-year associate?
According to experts at the University of Texas, " ... artificial intelligence technology will let computers autonomously reason with the law to draw legal conclusions."
That made me wonder about my job security. Big time. Remember (those of you old enough) how we had to learn "times tables" and long division? Remember learning how to find square roots? Then calculators came along. Then computers. Suddenly, not only do people no longer need to learn long division ... they don't even need to learn to spell! So why in the world will we need to teach law students how to "reason with the law to draw legal conclusions" if robotic personnel can do the job (presumably) better, faster, cheaper?
Consider signing up for evening computer classes. (djt)
November 10, 2005
Learning and the Internet: A New Study of Teen Blogging May Have Lessons for Academic Support Professionals
The Associate Director of our law library at UMKC, Lawrence MacLachlan, just passed along a link to a study by the PEW Internet & American Life Project that may be of interest to academic support professionals. The study, "Teen Content Creators and Consumers," describes teenagers' use of Internet blogs, both as readers and creators. The subjects of the study are in an age group that will be arriving in law schools within the next five years or so, and it might be worth our time to consider how the use of blogs may drive students' collaborative learning and even professors' teaching of law courses.
It is a fairly short read and well worth the time to see what is happening among our future students and very probably among many of our current students. (DBW)
November 9, 2005
Move to New York State!
Assistant Director of Academic Development Position
Touro Law Center invites applicants for the position of Assistant Director of Academic Development to begin August 1, 2006. This 10-month renewable contract position presents an excellent opportunity for someone who wants to become a member of an engaged and dynamic law school community.
The successful candidate will assist the Director of Academic Development in all aspects of Touro's Academic Development programs, including: training and supervising teaching assistants; working with students on an individual basis; conducting skills training workshops; developing appropriate student work materials; coordinating bar-preparation programs; and implementing new services relevant to enhancing our law students' academic experience. This position reports to the Director of Academic Development.
Applicants must possess a J.D. degree with a record of high academic achievement from an ABA-accredited law school. The ideal candidate should possess excellent writing, speaking, and organizational skills as well as a commitment to academic support. Prior academic support experience (either professional or as part of a graduate or law school program) or teaching experience (legal writing or comparable teaching experience in writing and analytical skills training) is preferred. Evening and some weekend work is required.
Salary is $54,000 and includes benefits. Research stipends will also be available for articles to be written that are relevant to academic development. Please submit a letter of interest and resume by November 30, 2005 to:
Professor Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus
Director of Academic Development
Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center
300 Nassau Road
Huntington, New York 11743
(No phone calls please.)
Email inquires may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 8, 2005
Caught in the Middle Again
This is the time of year when I get a lot of referrals for help with first-year legal writing assignments. These students have turned in two to three papers already, and their legal writing professors think they need some help beyond the grading process. I am happy to help, but I wonder if I am doing these students a disservice at times. What if my style of writing and “rules of citation” are different from their professors'? And my understanding of the law—since each legal writing professor has a different issue in a different jurisdiction—may be quite limited.
Frankly, I feel like an idiot if all my advice boils down to “Well, we’ve made a list of questions for your legal writing professor. Let’s check with him and then get back to this paper when we have some answers….”
I do have a copy of each professor’s assignment and a “confidential” outline that incorporates the case law, but I have not been to class, and the assignments inevitably evolve over time. Often I hear, “Oh, we’re not supposed to cover that anymore,” or “She said we don’t need to cite that way.” Because I am not grading the paper, I always say to do it the professor's way rather than mine.
I am in a situation where I basically must trust the students to be honest with me, and sometimes I find that I have been duped. And to what end? It is a lot like fabricating things to tell your therapist. Why would you tell me that your writing professor is okay with something when it is not true?
Granted, there are students who truly believe what they are telling me, and my cautious “That doesn’t sound right” will prompt them to double check. But often there are students who take advantage of my secondary position and tell me things that are not accurate. It makes me feel like Grandma. You know how it is: “Mommy always lets me eat candy for breakfast, and Daddy lets me use his chain saw all by myself.” Gee, that doesn’t sound right, but who am I to argue?
It gets frustrating after a while. I have had students come back to me angry (really, really angry!) after my advice turned out to be incorrect in the context of a particular professor's particular assignment. I have also had writing professors gently chide me for not catching things, when in fact I did catch them and did point them out to the student as suspicious only to be told by the student that they were allowed.
So where does all this leave me? On the way home to make some chicken soup. (ezs)
November 7, 2005
Parallel Lines May Meet at Infinity, but I Don't Like It One Bit
One of our contributing editors, Mario Mainero, is a master of all things mathematical. In a recent email exchange with Mario, I took the opportunity to get something off my chest that has been there for thirty years: parallel lines most definitely do not meet at infinity, despite mathematicians' claims to the contrary. In the first place, parallel lines by definition do not intersect; in the second, infinity is not a place, so nobody meets there. Mario didn't buy my rationale; and because thirty years ago I could tell my calculus teacher wasn't buying it either, I dropped the class and stuck with Shakespeare. I get Iago.
Of course, "I get Iago" was always the real issue. I know the mathematicians are right. It was my inability to get my mind around intersecting parallel lines and countless other such concepts that ended my mathematical aspirations; and it was "I get Iago" that made an English teacher out of me.
I left calculus with the distinct sense that I just wasn't wired for higher-level mathematical theory. But I sometimes wonder today whether I bailed too quickly back then. Maybe the wiring is there, but I just wasn't up to fighting through the fog when I was 18.
Many of our students are likely wrestling with a similar problem just about now. As a legal writing teacher, I routinely encounter students who just cannot get their minds around the ambiguity that permeates the field of law. They seem to have a highly developed sense of right and wrong, of truth and falsehood. Two opposite but equally reasonable answers to the same question are like intersecting parallel lines for them; it just doesn't square with how the world is supposed to work.
So they resist the ambiguity, argue around it, ignore its implications, and generally rage against its existence. That approach can be fatal in law school, as their first battery of law school finals is about to make clear. For many of them, some Iago is about to look like a pretty good old friend.
We need to make sure they don't bail too quickly, don't conclude that they "just aren't wired" for law. After all, we need lawyers with a strong sense of right and wrong, of truth and falsehood. Those students, though today they struggle with ambiguity, will one day be powerful advocates for justice -- if they can just hang in there and face down their present discomfort.
All students bring with them obstacles to learning the law; and most of those obstacles can be overcome with some guidance, some patience, and some determination. This is a good time of year to make certain our first-year students are moving beyond a need for clear answers to complex questions, are becoming comfortable with finding the best answers from among many genuinely reasonable possibilities, are overcoming the obstacle of wanting the law to be a simple thing in a simple world.
Some students, of course, revel in the ambiguity and refuse to find any answer; theirs is a different problem. The ones I am talking about today are those who are in danger of entering their exams with a stubborn fixation on giving the professor the "right" answer. The ones I am talking about today are -- perhaps more importantly -- those who are in danger of giving up the fight because "they just aren't wired for law." They need to give themselves a genuine chance to find out that "I get Iago" is perfectly compatible with intersecting parallel lines. (DBW)
November 6, 2005
More Exam Help!
Could this Villanova Law School web page be the most inclusive site for law student exam-prep assistance?
Professor Sheila Vance's "strategies" page is ... "Based on presentations by Professor Ruth Gordon, Professor Leonard Packel, and Sheilah Vance, Assistant Dean for Academic Support, at Villanova University School of Law, November 16, 2001, at a study skills workshop titled, "Successful Exam-Taking Strategies," and on articles on exam-taking techniques by Ruta Stropus, Director of Academic Support, and Charlotte Taylor, Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs and former Assistant Director of Academic Support, at DePaul University School of Law, and Linda Feldman, Director of Educational Services at Brooklyn Law School."
No point in trying to summarize this page: Go there and enjoy. This is definitely a page for wunnelles to visit in November. (djt)