Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The first-year students are finished with their exams now at my law school. The upper-division students finish on Friday. Students are stopping by to say goodbye and to update me on "how they feel" about their exams. One first-year student just stopped by to see if she could borrow a property study aid to get a headstart on Spring Semester!
What parting words can we pass on to our students as they focus on their semester break? There seem to be a number of possible tips:
- Have some fun! It has been a strenuous semester for most students. They need to relax and recharge their batteries. They need to forget about the law for a few weeks and be as carefree as children.
- Spend time with family and friends. It has also been a strenuous semester for the significant people in students' lives who have been "abandoned" in favor of studying. Now is the time to re-connect and spend quality time with those who are loved. Whether it is a parent, spouse, significant other, child, or buddy who has persevered throughout the semester, students should be liberal with thank you's and hugs and laughter. (And, do not forget the faithful family pet while spreading love.)
- Do not worry about grades. It does no good to fret about whether one did or did not do well. Grades will not be posted at most law schools until right before the next semester begins. How one "feels" after an exam is often of no consequence because many professors curve the grades.
- Allow rewards for having completed the semester. Recognize that praise is deserved for completing a semester of law school, spending all of those hours studying, reading all of those cases, and memorizing all of that law. Whether or not every grade is the one hoped for in the end, any student who has worked hard deserves rewards. Whether the rewards are large (a ski trip) or small (a new sweater), they should have personal meaning.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle during the break. Despite our warnings to the contrary, most of our students right now are overtired, overdosed on junk food, overstressed, and over-sedentary. After their initial celebrations, students need to get on a regular sleep schedule, eat healthy meals, and exercise regularly before they return to classes in January. Semester break is a training period for the next law school marathon semester.
- Do not spend the entire break reading law. Although all students want to arrive on the first day of classes on top of the class reading, it is a good idea to give one's mind a rest for most of the break. Reading weeks ahead is not productive because one forgets the material. Reading a 500-page hornbook for a new course is not productive because the professor will not cover all of that material, and it probably will not be understood or remembered.
- Practice laughter. Law students often forget how to laugh. They become so focused on their books and the competition. They seem to cultivate furrowed brows and frown lines. By remembering to laugh about oneself and life and the law, it helps maintain perspective.
- Evaluate the semester and seek help if needed once classes begin. All students should spend several days, right before the new semester begins, evaluating what worked well and what did not work well in their studies. Even "A" and "B" students can benefit from evaluating their methods of study. Any student who has concerns about how to implement plans for improvement should be visiting with the academic support professional, professors, and others for help. (alj)
Joe Dhillon asked that we post this invitation to a reception for the Wingspread P20 Leadership Pipeline Consortium. The reception will be held during the AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., next month. Consider making time to attend this reception and to talk with members of the Consortium. The Consortium is part of an important initiative that law schools across the country should seriously consider. You may want to invite your dean and your admissions coordinator to attend as well. (dbw)
Please join us for a reception for the Wingspread P20 Leadership Pipeline Consortium, a group of P-20 educators, the bench, and the bar committed to working across the educational continuum to improve participation, persistence, and success of diverse students in high school and college, with the goal of enhancing their aspirations and capacity to move into positions in the legal profession and leadership of the nation.
Friday, January 5, 2007, 6:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Caucus Room, Terrace Level, Hilton Washington & Towers, Washington, D.C.
Cynthia Fountaine, Dean, Texas Wesleyan University School of Law
Geoffrey Mearns, Dean, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Cleveland State University
Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, Dean, University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law
Suellyn Scarnecchia, Dean, University of New Mexico School of Law
For more information on Wingspread, or to RSVP, contact Professor Sarah Redfield, sredfield@Pacific.edu or at the Marriott during AALS or 207-752-1721 (cell).
Thursday, December 7, 2006
Suzanne Darrow Kleinhaus of the Touro Law Center has just published Mastering the Law School Exam, which should be in university bookstores this week. The book is designed as a resource for both law teachers and law students, and it looks like a wonderful addition to the world of academic support. Below are ways law teachers can use the book and some of the benefits the book brings to student readers.
If You Are a Law Teacher:
To supplement individual student meetings with detailed explanations of the most common questions regarding such law school basics as note-taking, outlining, and exam preparation.
As a source for additional hypotheticals with evaluation sheets so students can practice their exam-writing skills and get immediate feedback.
To provide opportunities for students to direct their own learning through examples with detailed explanations of “how to write it right.”
To provide illustrations of correct and incorrect essay answers so students can learn to see for themselves the difference between the two.
To help students cultivate the skills of active reading and self-awareness by developing their “thought monitor.”
To explain the conceptual path from note-taking -to outlining-to exam writing.
To provide detailed step-by-step guidelines for answering multiple choice questions.
To help students learn to organize their writing through IRAC diagramming.
If You Are a Law Student:
Provides a knowledgeable, reasonable, and rational voice to navigate the intricacies of law school exams and impart a practical strategy for success.
Walks you through the entire law school learning process, showing you how to integrate case readings, class discussions, and secondary source materials to achieve a working knowledge and understanding of the required materials.
Fills the gap between what the professor refers to as learning to “think like a lawyer” and the practical means for doing so.
Shows you how to tailor an individualized study program that works from the your strengths while accounting for weaknesses.
Dispels the misconception that the skills needed for success in one subject are somehow different for another.
Identifies the basic skills that exams seek to test and the precise manner in which they are tested.
Examines each type of law school exam through examples and detailed analysis of sample answers.
Provides instruction in the precise use of language and, in particular, guidance in the use of specific “signal” language in the writing of issues, statements of the rule, and analysis of the facts.
Explains what a “disorganized exam” really means and how to correct it.
Provides practical applications in the context of the substantive law. (dbw)