Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Stress Relief at Last

Although I cannot claim to be an avid reader of Woman’s World magazine, nevertheless, I do thumb through it on occasion when I visit the dentist.

Do you suppose he (my dentist) will mind that I tore out part of a (March 7 edition) page detailing “9 Easy Ways to Boost Your Energy?”   You may want to send your students some of these methods … for between study sessions.  Included in the nine easy ways are:

• Take a catnap (the magazine recommends no longer than 30 minutes).
• Walk briskly for about ten minutes to raise your alertness level. 
• Munch almonds—but not in the library of course.  Almonds are loaded with magnesium (also, I discovered, with fat).
• Eat snacks—also outside the library—composed of carbos and proteins, for a “longer-lasting” power boost.
• Sip green tea.  In addition to the law students' main nutrient (caffeine), this fluid contains “the amino acid L-thiamine, which helps counteract energy-sapping anxiety.”
• Sniff some flowers.  No study quoted, but the magazine claims the scent of fresh flowers has been “proven to increase vitality and concentration by 17 percent.”
• Stretch for 30 seconds every quarter hour, according to research at LSU.
• Laugh.  Now that’s the toughest one to handle when studying for a law school final.
• Drink water.  Dehydration is draining.  Most libraries allow water.

Do you have other energy-boosting tips to pass along to students?  E-mail some to me and I’ll post them on the blog.  (djt)

March 11, 2006 in Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 10, 2006

An Opportunity to Share Your Expertise with the Rest of Us

Do you have something you could share with the ASP community?  Here's a great opportunity from the program committee of the AALS Section on Academic Support:


The Section on Academic Support is seeking presenters for the AALS Annual Meeting program.  If you are interested, please send a one or two page description or bullet outline of the content you want to present. Be sure to include a description of your proposed presentation methods along with a biographical description and your qualifications for presenting on this year's topic.
        Workshop Topic: "Integrating Academic Support Across the Curriculum."  Our workshop description and suggested subtopics for prospective presenters are as follows:
        Brief Workshop Description:  This workshop will highlight ways in which schools can interweave academic support topics throughout their first-year curriculum and beyond.  Studies have shown that the most effective interventions are integrated into students' regular coursework.  The presenters will address how to achieve maximum benefit of academic support throughout a school curriculum.  Workshop participants will be asked to think broadly and critically about what constitutes effective teaching learning in law school.  The workshop will be geared towards both doctrinal and skills professors.
        Potential Subtopics:  The presenters could potentially address the following subtopics:
        - Including the "Must-Haves" - academic support topics that all schools   should include (such as course outlining techniques, developing analysis - application of law to fact);
       - Integrating academic support concepts into doctrinal and skills courses;
       - Designing, critiquing, and grading individual and group assignments;
       - Team-teaching;
       - Teaching with low-tech and high-tech resources; and
       - A related idea not on this list.
      Please send your presentation abstracts to Prof. Robin Boyle via email at: by Friday, March 31, 2006.  If you have questions, you may direct your questions to Prof. Boyle at her email address or call her at (718) 990-6609.(dbw)

March 10, 2006 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Spectral Analysis

I have been meeting with students about their legal writing papers this week. Lots and lots of students. The papers are due tomorrow, so I am seeing about 8-10 students a day until then. Often these students have done all the requisite research and really given the problem a lot of thought, but cannot seem to organize their issues even using the templates we bombard them with: IRAC, CREAC, PREAC etc.

The biggest problem seems to be in discussing and synthesizing the vast array of case law they have found in the E sections for CREAC and PREAC, or in the A for IRAC. Students often seem to flounder on what information on the case to include and which to exclude in these sections and more importantly how to arrange the cases in their thematic paragraphs. I’ve actually invented a new word to help students in determining what not to do, “write thematically, not casematically.” Nifty, huh?

But really, I tell students that they can usually sum up the case in two sentences using the formula of facts, holding, rationale (oh my!). It should look like this: “In the Smith case, the court found that monkeys were in fact members of the legislature because they were easily as capable as elected officials in making law for the state. The court reasoned that if a ham sandwich could be indicted, then a monkey could rule the land.” This is not a real case (I felt the need to mention that because you never know).

I have also been advising students to use these “explanation of the law” areas to lay out a spectrum upon which they can place their fact pattern to show that they are correct. In persuasive writing you can control the spectrum so long as you do not misstate the law or attempt to mislead the court.

Basically, the spectrum idea looks like this: in [our first case] in this jurisdiction we have slam-dunk summary judgment, in [another case] the court granted summary judgment where the facts were slightly less compelling than ours and finally, in [a third case], where the facts are highly distinguishable from ours, the court laughed at the motion for summary judgment and then set the motion papers on fire using their wands. The key is to lay out a spectrum where the relief you are seeking has been granted to parties who are less worthy than you for reasons you will explain later on (in the next paragraph in IRAC or really soon in CREAC) in the paper.

This makes perfect sense to me, but I have been forced to draw pictures in some cases to make this point to students. I fully expect to see my post-it diagrams of case law spectra flutter by me on the Boston Common some day. Probably tomorrow, after the papers are turned in. (ezs)

March 8, 2006 in Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be lawyers....

Yesterday, as I was walking into school I bumped into a former student of mine. She was “six minutes late for a depo” she said. She was dressed in a suit, hosiery and nice shoes. She had a briefcase and a big handful of other documents. My first thought was, wow doesn’t she look all grown up and lawyerly. I had to really hold myself back from pinching her cheeks and telling her how much she had grown.

Sometimes I think I lose sight of the fact that a vast majority of the students I work with will graduate, pass the bar and start being lawyers. In ASP we tend to work on the small picture: the next set of exams or legal writing assignments. Sometimes we even help to micro-manage the outlining process. But our success with a student inevitably takes that student out of our lives because they no longer need us.

This is very much like parenting, isn’t it? Nurturing followed by letting go is a pattern I am sure I will have to follow with my children (but not yet, because I am absolutely, certainly not ready to let go and I won’t be for a while….). I often tell students to remember their big picture: the goals that led them to law school, where they fit in the universe of their friends and family outside this building, etc. But I seem to have lost sight of mine.

I think somewhere along the way I forgot that my role in a student’s trip through this building was to help and then disappear. The reminder that the students I work with go on to be real, grown-up lawyers was refreshing.  And I swear that former student looked taller too. (ezs).

March 7, 2006 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 6, 2006


Do you find that as the "final brief" deadline approaches, first-year students at your school become [more] frenzied?  Do they blow off classes?  Do they stay up all night writing, rewriting, and drinking way too much coffee?

This is not a good thing.

However, neither is taking the first-year legal writing class too lightly either.  The practice of law begins now.  Practice ... during these few years of law school ... is important. San_antonio_bankruptcy_court

Here is a recent (February 2006) example of what happens when students (apparently) don't pay enough attention to their legal writing class.  See King Order.  Be sure to read the footnote.

Thanks to Jon Tonsing for bringing this order to my attention.  (Note: Jon is not involved in the litigation that spawned this order.)   (djt)

March 6, 2006 in Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Need Inspiring Stories?

Do students sometimes show up in your office with tales of woe that almost (or do) bring tears to your eyes?  Dollars to donuts you haven't heard a story quite like this one . . .

"Reclaiming a Dream" is the name of the article on the last page of the March 2006 issue of California Lawyer.  I guess I read it because of the author's unlikely first name.

Cupcake.  Yup.

This Cupcake is rather special, I discovered.  Who is she?  Well, during much of her life, these appellations were appropriate: "Dope fiend, gangsta, prostitute, crook, high schoold dropout, drunk." 

You've heard the expression, "She had it all."  Cupcake Brown had none of it.

What a life. According to a New York Times review of her recent book, "Ms. Brown describes discovering her mother's dead body as an 8-year-old. She traces every terrible thing that later happened back to this catastrophic loss. The man she called Daddy turned out not to be her biological father, and so he lost custody of Cupcake. The man she called Sperm Donor handed her over to foster care in California. Bounced from place to place, she was abused not only by Cinderella's wicked stepmother but by yet another father figure, a man who took her to the parking lot of a Kmart for sexual assignations at 12. She never made it to cheerleading practice."

After 14 years of working the streets, "You could see the imprint of my ribs I was a size 1. I had no shoes. My hair was sticking up like Buckwheat. My lips were cracked and burnt from the crack pipe," Ms.Brown, 40, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It was then that I realized that I was dying, and I didn't want to die like that."

Cupcake Now, Cupcake Brown is referred to by her clients and judges before whom she appears as "counsel."  As an antitrust litigator with one of the largest law firms in the country, Ms. Brown, a magna cum laude graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law, is not only a busy lawyer, but also a busy speaker.

Her memoir, A Piece of Cake, was published last month.

Cupcake? According to Oprah Winfrey's web site Ms. Brown's unlikely first name is the result of a nurse's misunderstanding of her mother's post-delivery request for a snack.

In the California Lawyer article, Ms. Brown writes, "The journey was well worth it. I tell my story openly on the chance that others will find hope and inspiration in it."  Maybe some of your students will.  (djt)

March 5, 2006 in Job Descriptions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)