Saturday, December 17, 2005
Denise Riebe is a Senior Lecturing Fellow at Duke University School of Law, an Adjunct Professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, a mediator, and author. Any day now, you will find Pass the Bar!—a Carolina Academic Press publication by Professor Riebe and co-author Michael Hunter Schwartz (Professor at Charleston School of Law)—on bookstore shelves.
Professor Riebe has begun research about what type of bar preparation programs schools are offering—one of the hot topics of 2005 that promises to be hot in 2006, too. Specifically, she's interested in what schools have done in the past, whether law school programs are effective, and how law schools are responding to the new ABA Interpretation authorizing for-credit law school bar preparation courses.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
The Academic Support Section of AALS is hosting a session on reading in law school at the January conference in D.C., and it promises to be an exceptional session. The topic is hot not only in the academic support field but in others as well, so the ASP folks decided that reading should be the focus of the section’s presentation at AALS this year.
Ruth Ann McKinney, whose book Reading Like a Lawyer is a must-read for just about anyone teaching or studying law, will be active in the session. Joining her will be two other impressive experts in the field: David Nadvorney, an academic support professional from CUNY with a masters in reading, and Dorie Evensen, a Ph.D. from Penn State who has a substantial LSAC grant to study reading in law schools.
The session is designed to be relevant to all teachers, not just those in the academic support field, and will provide lots of hands-on opportunities so attendees can practice some things they can do in their own classrooms to help students become better (more powerful) readers. The concepts and techniques explored in the session will be relevant to anyone working with students whose classroom engagement is rooted in what they've read – in other words, all law professors.
So you may want to invite colleagues teaching other courses as well because they will find very helpful, practical advice. Of course, the session will be particularly relevant to those who teach legal writing. In fact, at the last Legal Writing Institute conference in Seattle, reading was a very hot topic. That conference included presentations by Ian Gallacher; Cathaleen Roach and Carol Parker; Debra Moss Curtis and Judith Karp; Laurel Oates; and education experts, Drs. Dorie Evensen and Jim Stratman.
The ASP session will run from 4:00 to 5:45 on Thursday, January 5th (Session #5400). It lets out just in time for cocktails, so there will be a great opportunity to strike up some conversations and collaborations across disciplines. Okay, conversations . . . about football or ballet or whatever. Collaborations later. (dbw)
Monday, December 12, 2005
Exams are here. The building is eerily quiet and students appear to be afraid of talking out loud in the hallways lest they disturb someone else’s exam taking. Yet, with great regularity, they meekly appear in my doorway, “just to say hi.” They browse my bookshelf for study materials; they partake of my chocolate supply and chat about their plans for the holidays. And then, they leave.
So, what is that? I think the students are just checking in to see if we are here so if they have a bad day (or a bad fiduciary relations exam), we can comfort them. Personally, I think there is nothing more comforting this time of year than coming home to house that is warm and lit, ideally with cocoa waiting for you and oddly enough, I think Academic Support is that little cottage (within the law school) during exams (if you are reading this in a warmer state, replace warm and cocoa with air-conditioning and lemonade and don’t send me any e-mails telling me how warm it is where you are since I have three kids to outfit for the frigid temperatures here, not that I am bitter…).
Is ASP the law school comfort zone? Well, we don’t grade anything, we aren’t judgmental and basically we are here to help. Often we can provide some exam tip or even practice exam questions. Hopefully, no one leaves without feeling like they have a viable plan to get through exams. Isn’t that the key to a successful exam period?
In my annual reviews, my style in ASP has been deemed “maternal.” Not that I am hugging students and providing band-aids and such (after all, I am a lawyer and I do know better than to touch students and practice medicine without a license). But my question is (insert Harvey Fierstein from “Torch Song Trilogy” imitation here), is that so wrong? I understand that we are training lawyers and that there is no crying in law school (insert Tom Hanks imitation from “A League of Their Own” here), but sometimes there are tears.
Certainly we are not asking students to forget about being human beings who are involved in relationships with other human beings? Would you want to hire a lawyer who forgets that his/her clients have something at stake; something so important that they are willing to seek a legal remedy? In short, isn’t law about people and their relationships?
I think at exam time we have to remind students that an exam is merely a measure of how they answered a set of questions on a particular day in their life and not much more. I worry about students who have defined themselves as academically talented throughout their lives and then suddenly, with the first C in law school, forget who they are.
So, maybe in addition to chocolate and tissues, I should keep a mirror here in my office so students can see who they are, both before and after exams. I hope it the same person. (ezs)
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Dan recently published his brief essay, "The Closest Thing to Junior High Since Junior High" (December 6th). Professor Amy Jarmon, Assistant Dean for Academic Success Programs at Texas Tech School of Law, added her comment, which I thought ought to be "posted" here, so y'all don't miss it.
Amy, pictured below, wrote:
Thank you for a wonderful, insightful column on the confusion, pain, and fear that are encompassing our students right now. Sadly, I find that it is not just my 1L students who are struggling with these emotions and thoughts. Some of my 2L and 3L students have never recovered a sane perspective on law school and are "casualties" of the system.
This time of year always reminds me that as an academic success professional my job title is really "CHIEF ENCOURAGER" for many students. I have had students dropping by for several weeks asking for "pep talks" and reassurance. Some students are shy about the requests while others are very upfront about their immediate needs. I gladly respond to those who ask. And, I spend time walking the halls and student lounge smiling at one and all and trying to spread some cheer to those who do not cross my threshold.
I always feel blessed to have this position because it combines my education and law backgrounds. But, I realize each December (and May) that most of all I need to be a blessing to others — some of them with worried faces, trembling smiles, or false bravado.
Thanks for your comment, Amy. (djt)
Scott Turow, a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, has written six best-selling novels, which have been translated into 20 languages with sales of 25 million copies. He has been on the cover of Time Magazine.
He wrote One L—a book many of our students have read—during his first year at Harvard Law School (from which he graduated with honors). He worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago for eight years ... during that period, he wrote Presumed Innocent on the commuter train to work.
Journalist Jeffrey Cole published and interview with Mr. Turow in the Winter 2003 edition of The Journal Of The Section Of Litigation of the American Bar Association. I stumbled upon it while searching the net for BLOG material.
Why mention it here? The following quote from the interview may shed some light on that.
Q: In One L you wrote that you thought you were less intelligent than everyone around you; you began to smoke; you began to drink; you had difficulty keeping up conversation even with your wife. Basically, you described yourself as just a mess.
A: Yes, I was. I thought I had failed. I thought I had failed as a writer. I had gone to law school looking for a fresh start. I was just really mixed up about myself and how I came to saying I am going to law school so I can support another habit. I was sure I was interested in this, but I wasn’t sure how to commit to it. It was a major U-turn in my life, and the question of my identity was involved. ...
Q: You graduated with honors?
When the next student you counsel seems to be "just a mess," consider this: you may well be talking with someone who has extraordinary capabilities, in or out of law school.
To read the entire interview (very interesting, if you've read Turow's books), click here: An Interview with Scott Turow: Reflections on Law and Life and Other Things That Matter. (djt)