Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Thinking of Branching Out?

Are you looking for another way of helping law students achieve their dreams?  Do you love to hike and ski?

The University of Colorado School of Law is seeking a Director of Clinical Education. The Director will administer and oversee all live-client clinics and externships, teach a clinical course, and provide vision and leadership for the Law School's extensive and diverse clinical offerings. Please see the website for descriptions of the clinical offerings.

This is a twelve-month, full-time non-tenure-track Faculty/Directorship position reporting to the Assistant Dean of Students and Professional Programs.

The Director's duties include the following:

  • Direction and administration of all clinical programs.
  • Teaching in the clinical program.
  • Scholarship and Writing.

The ideal candidate will have leadership ability, excellent written and oral communication skills, strong interpersonal skills, a robust work ethic, and a commitment to the goals of the School of Law.  The ideal candidate will also have a history of providing legal services to underserved and needy clients, a vision for clinical education in the law school setting, and experience in management and administration.

This position is available on June 1, 2006 or as soon as possible thereafter. Review of applications will begin upon posting of the position. Applications will be accepted   until the position is filled. Applicants should direct a cover letter, resume, and the names, addresses and telephone numbers of at least three professional references to:

                       Director of Clinical Education
                       Search Committee
                       Attn:  Sarah Krakoff, Chair
                       University of Colorado at Boulder
                       401 UCB
                       Boulder, CO 80309-0401


December 3, 2005 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 2, 2005

Oh My God, It's Coming From Inside the Building....

What is coming from inside the building?  Other than the smell of teen spirit, what we are sensing now in our school is the overwhelming, air-deadening atmosphere of panic.  The air literally seems heavier, the students seem more frantic, and the library's usual productive hum seems more ominous.  In a (perhaps) sympathetic reaction, computers are crashing left and right.  It reminds me of all the plagues we talk about during Passover:  what next, locusts?

What is it all about?  You guessed it: exam time is here!  Just four more shopping days until the first exam and the hallways are abuzz (not decked with holly).  My advice to students is to get out.  Get out of the library and out of the building.  Find a place to study where no one knows your name and no one else is studying for the same exam.  Why?  Because the din in the library created by other people boasting about what they are studying (or, even worse, not studying) is enough to make you crazy and being in a blind panic is time consuming.

I also advise students that this is a good time to wish your fellow study group colleagues well and set them free until after exams.  Study groups are a great idea before and after exams, but during exams they may be fraught with emotional baggage you do not have time to carry.  Also, the person in your study group who always had those fabulous, off-the-wall ideas during the semester may just be wrong.

This may be a good time to indulge in superstitions as well.  I don't mean that students should necessarily set up blazing altars in the exam rooms, but rather, more along the lines of buying pens and pads they like, eating their favorite cookies and carrying around small (non-toxic, non-flammable) lucky items.  For me it was a stuffed Snuffy (from Sesame Street, and you try spelling the whole name!) that my husband gave me as his first gift to me while we were dating.

My freshman year psych professor taught us that it takes two hours away from material to truly memorize it and I've clung to that fact ever since.  So, to help students benefit from this little known fact, I keep a list of "exam movies" ready for those who need a two-hour break.  They are all insanely funny (at least I think so) ways of letting those cases move from short-term to long-term memory.  My favorite:  History of the World, Part I (Mel Brooks and a musical!).

As for me, I will be in my office with my (increased) supply of tissues and chocolate waiting for the battle fatigued to come on in.  Good luck on exams to all, and to all a good night.  (ezs)

December 2, 2005 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Avoid Those Unsightly Bulges

"Concealed weapons create problems when fitting a suit," advises attorney/mediator Rod Borlase.  "It is important to bring one’s weapon at the time of fitting."  Of course.

Do we have your attention? 

Do students ever ask you for advice on how to dress when they are ... Borlase

  • About to go to court?
  • Preparing for a job interview?
  • Thinking ahead to a trial competition?

Professor Borlase has published an informative essay you may wish to draw from.  Or not. 

Noting that his "... essay is written almost exclusively for men," the author directs our attention to "... a few points that women can garner from it." For example, after not falling into the "disheartening" trap of adopting some of the "most egregious of men's professional fashion errors" (like wearing "black funeral suits"), women ought to eschew shoes with "block heels, as if sawed off a pig’s hock."  Now you're talking.

Take a look and see if you agree with Professor Borlase.  I have a suspicion that this advice is somewhat regional. 

Your thoughts?  (djt)

December 1, 2005 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Outlining the Essay Answer

            James Kilpatrick, in his book The Writer’s Art, tells us that a writer “functions as a kind of forest guide . . . escort[ing] the tenderfoot along an unfamiliar trail.”[1]  Kilpatrick observes that this “metaphorical forest ranger would find himself in trouble if he embarked upon a hike with no plan of getting from Point A to Point B.”[2]  Therefore, he advises, “Before we begin a letter, an editorial, a brief, or a note of instructions to the babysitter, we ought to have a clear idea of the points we intend to make and the order in which we intend to make them.”[3]

            Novice writers, however, have a very difficult time accepting Kilpatrick’s advice because they cannot shake the feeling that outlining is a waste of valuable writing time.  Nowhere is that reluctance more evident than in the way most students approach writing an answer to an essay question on an exam.

            When a student has sixty minutes to answer a particular essay question, everything in him screams that there is no time for outlining the answer.  He must begin writing – NOW – if he hopes to get everything said.  He begins writing, therefore, almost immediately after reading the question.  He may jot a note or two in the margin of the question and may underline a word here or there, but he is not going to waste his time preparing an outline that no one will read and that will garner him no points.

            That approach, of course, misses a key point about writing:  writing is a form of thinking; the written product itself is only as clear as the thinking that preceded it.

            A student who understands that principle knows that she cannot begin writing in mid-air if she hopes to provide the reader with a carefully reasoned and well-crafted response to a complicated question.  She understands that, even under the time pressure inherent in exams – perhaps especially under the time pressure inherent in exams – thinking before writing is critical.

            Therefore, she takes time to brainstorm the points she will need to cover, rereads and rethinks the question, revises her brainstorming, and converts it into an outline of points and sub-points that follow a logical plan leading to a carefully considered and thoroughly explained conclusion. 

In other words, she thinks before she writes the answer itself because she knows how writing works and how reading works.    She knows that to begin writing in mid-air is to think inefficiently and to do it on the reader’s dime.  She knows that unless she plans before she writes, the reader will treated to her confusing, inefficient, meandering attempt to think through the question.  She knows her reader will find himself wandering in the woods, off the trail and unable to find his bearings.

            She also understands that she can write as least as much by thinking and planning first as she can by simply musing in a stream-of-consciousness form. The irony for the student who thinks he hasn’t time to plan is that he will waste at least the same amount of time writing in fits and starts, rereading his answer to find where he has been and where he is headed, and staring into space trying to think of what should come next.

            The primary difference between the two writers is that one spends large amounts of time inefficiently groping for words and the other spends that time efficiently designing a fully considered response.  The planner takes no more time than does her colleague, but her end product is coherent and easily read.  The non-planning writer, in contrast, produces no more prose than his colleague, but his answer is a photograph of his confusion as he attempts to figure out what he needs to say; so his professor watches him stumble through the thought process with all its missteps and false trails. 

Worse, because the unplanned writing is likely several pages of prose, it defies any attempt by the writer to see what is missing or to cut out what is extraneous.  The trees obscure the forest, so the writer misses issues and sub-issues, arguments and counter-arguments, because he cannot see the big picture and the parts’ relationship to one another. 

The planner, on the other hand, steps back from her outline and makes a final judgment as to what is there, what is missing, and what should be jettisoned.  She can see the gaps and the illogical arrangements, and she has not committed several pages of writing to missteps.

If we can help students realize that writing is in fact a thinking process, we can help them see that the best writing product is an end result of thinking carefully.  Taking time to think using some sort of sketched outline, even during time-pressured exams, is critical to producing thoughtful prose.  Thoughtful prose, in turn, is the sort of prose most likely to lead the reader comfortably and efficiently along the unfamiliar trail of the writer’s analysis; and it is the type of prose most likely to provide all the steps necessary to complete the journey.  (dbw)


[1] James J. Kilpatrick, The Writer’s Art 29 (1984).

[2] Id. at 34.

[3] Id.

November 29, 2005 in Exams - Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Did Video/MP3 Kill the ASP Attendance Star?

(With apologies to the Buggles, who had their (I believe) one hit with “Video Killed the Radio Star” back in 1979.)

Our ASP class attendance is down, way down. We offer a number of helpful classes throughout the fall semester: case briefing, outlining, exam writing and multiple choice tips. In past years, student attendance peaked for outlining and declined gradually until we got to exam writing and multiple choice tips, when it re-peaked; but it remained fairly steady throughout the semester at thirty to forty students each session.

These days I am looking at maybe ten to twenty students a session, even the exam writing and multiple choice sessions. Outlining was still very well attended, but we offered it earlier this year than in years past. When our Counseling Center came in to do a class on stress management, I was mortified that we had dragged them here for only three students; and this was our day student session, which usually draws more students than our evening session.

So, what gives? Perhaps this year’s students are more confident and think they need less help. We know we offer the class during a time when no first year classes are scheduled, so class conflict isn’t the culprit.  I shower every day, and I’ve stopped singing in class (well, for the most part). I’ve avoided the Blue’s Clues analogies (I know the students know what I mean but, oddly, they seem embarrassed to admit it). What I am beginning to think is that we have hi-teched ourselves into obsolescence.

We tape each and every class on video and in MP3 format. We post our handouts and the MP3’s (to download) on our Campus Cruiser site. We lend out the video tapes. So why come to class when you can have class whenever you want? I mean, there may be people out there driving to school while listening to me on their MP3 players. How scary for anyone else driving in the Boston area, because I just know my classes are positively riveting.

There are probably students who have invited me into their homes (and had me up at all hours no doubt) so they could cull my exam secrets, but I don’t know who they are.

Is this an effective way to teach?  More importantly, is this an effective way to learn?  I don’t know, but I suppose I will find out after the grades are in since the students who did poorly will have to see me IN PERSON in the spring.  Singing and all. (ezs)

November 28, 2005 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)