Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Saturday, March 25, 2006


"I stayed up till 4:30 a.m. studying, crashed, then woke up just in time to get to school for my Property final.  That's after three days of constant studying.  I haven't had a full night's sleep since Spring Break."

Well, you didn't do as well as you could have on that exam, did you?

I think this may be accurate: sleep deprivation causes more poor grades than we imagine.

Read Dr. Sanjay Gupta's article, "Sleep Deprived," on page 66 of the March 13 issue of TIME magazine.

Sanjay_gupta1The good doc explains that "...a chronically sleep-deprived person will often go through repeated episodes of microsleep, sometimes accompanied by micro-dreams (which are usually interpreted as hallucinations)."  Did you ever wonder why students "answer questions that the professor didn't ask," or "use facts not included in the hypothetical?" ... micro-dreams, my friends.

"If you have been up for more than 20 hours, your reflexes are roughly comparable to those of someone with a blood-alcohol level of .08—which in many states is enough to be considered legally [or illegally (ed.)] drunk." 

"Sleeping only six hours a night for a week makes you as tired on the seventh night as if you had had no sleep at all," he explains.

Now the math is a bit too sticky for me, but I get the idea.  A student who sleeps only five or six hours each night (max) for most/all of the week, then stays up most/all night to study for a final is operating in this condition:

   * hallucinatory; and
   * drunk.

I tell students to practice law now ... to practice being the kind of lawyer they themselves would like to have representing them if they were, for example, being tried for a serious felony they did not commit.  How many of your students would like their lawyer to show up at trial in that condition?

Balance.  That's the key.  Let them know.  (djt)

March 25, 2006 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 24, 2006

It's the Majors

I once had a student whose husband was a professional baseball player; and when, during her first year of law school, she complained about how frustrated she was with the results of her hard work, he responded with what I think is one of the best analogies I have ever heard regarding the law school experience.

He said, "When I played high school baseball, in that league I was it.  When I played college ball, in that league I was still it.  When I made the pros, everyone had always been it; suddenly, I wasn't it anymore." Then he told her, "You've just found out you're in the majors."

I like that analogy because I think it holds up pretty well.  Those who make it into law school tend to have been it everywhere else, and what served them well before no longer sets them apart from the crowd.  But there is also an important corollary:  in the highest levels of competition, minor adjustments in technique can have startling impacts on performance.

For example, when George Brett first began playing for the Kansas City Royals in the '70's, he was no hitting phenom.  He was hitting around .200 and was worried about staying in the majors.  Charlie Lau, Brett's batting coach, convinced him to change his hitting style, to shift his weight and improve his extension.  Brett won his first batting crown two years later and finished his career having won batting crowns in each of three decades, something no one had ever done before.  He's in the Hall of Fame.

My students sometimes think it sounds crazy that something as insignificant as changing a studying technique here or there could actually turn an average law student into a pacesetter.  I think to myself, yeah, and it sounds crazy that changing a major leaguer's batting style can transform him from a .200 hitter into a hall of fame batter; but that's how it works when you're playing in the majors. (dbw) 

March 24, 2006 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Top Ten Mid-March ASP Nags

After seeing a number of students over the past few days (post-Spring break), I realize that I am basically saying the same things at each meeting.  So here, for your distributing pleasure, is my top-ten list of things I nag students about in Mid-March.  Enjoy!

  1. Yes, you really do need to do your own outlining. The person who gave you theirs probably did get an A in the class because he/she did it themselves and did not rely on any one else’s outline.  You only get 50% of the benefit in having someone else's outline as opposed to 100% of the benefit of writing your own.
  1. Neither Mr. Emmanuel nor Mr. Gilbert will be giving you your exams.  Do the reading your professor assigned.
  1. Go to class. Go directly to class. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.00.
  1. Go to the Dean’s office and request accommodations for your exams if you need them. Do it now because there is a deadline, and no, I don’t think the deadline can be extended and/or waived because of your disability. When should you go?  NOW!!!
  1. Think about whether you are typing or writing your exams and do something about it now if you plan to type. There is a deadline (see above for deadline stuff).  Again, I recommend doing it NOW!!!
  1. If you are tan (from the sun, a spray-on tan is ok) after spring break, I will know you did not do the reading, outlining and exercises we discussed.  You may look great, but that tan will fade before exams and the reading and outlining requirements will not.  Get back to work!
  1. Do at least 10 multiple choice questions a day in the subjects where they will appear on your exams. 4 out of 5 ASP professionals recommend it and the 5th one says, “Do 15.” 
  1. Get old exams from the library website and answer them. Go talk to your professor after you’ve done it and ask for feedback.  This is the most valuable study aid known to mankind (and by mankind, I mean ASP professionals).  Are you giving your professors what they want on exams?  This is a question best answered before the exams start.
  1. Get to know your exam schedule now and try to pre-plan your studying accordingly. (See my rant from last semester on “exam plans.”)
  1. Come see the ASP office to talk about exams and to borrow study aids. You can test drive a variety of materials before spending a lot of panicked money by stopping by to see us. We are here to help. (ezs)

March 22, 2006 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Little Push Goes a Long Way

We had a lovely adventure last week as we were driving down to New York City from Boston. And by lovely, I mean hair-raising and awful. We were driving out of New Haven after having had a nice lunch at a diner, when our car seemed to be struggling to get up the hill after the tunnel (for those of you who travel on Route 15 in Connecticut, you know where I mean). Then the motor revved really high and we couldn’t seem to put the car in gear. Did I mention the three small children in the backseat? Anyway, we made it up the hill, coasted down the hill toward an exit ramp and made it pretty far until the ramp started to curve uphill slightly.

At this point my husband got out of the car and I moved over to the steering wheel and he pushed. The people in the green Honda Odyssey (and you know who you are!!!) who beeped at us and made rude gestures because we were in their way, made me wonder if the people of Connecticut and by extrapolation, the whole world (I cannot claim my thinking was rational at that moment) were all horribly unhelpful. (“Look mommy, that lady is pointing at us”, said my five-year-old).  I felt that we were all alone in our misery.

But then, some nice stranger made me see that wasn’t the case: he got out of his scary looking black Dodge Ram pickup truck (“look Mommy, he has a big skeleton painted on his car.”) and helped my husband push the car until we got over the little hill and could coast easily into the conveniently located “park and ride” lot next to the highway. I parked beautifully; if I do say so myself.

After that, every encounter we had with other people: the tow-truck driver, the mechanics, the car-rental folks, was positive and affirming. What does this have to do with Academic Support, you ask? Well, it made me think that ASP is the place where students’ events can be turned around and that hopefully after a little push from us, every subsequent encounter students have in law school will be positive.  

Law school can be an uphill battle and not every student can get their acts in gear at the same speed as others. Also, the people who students might think will be helpful sometimes prove to be more concerned with their own comings and goings (wow, is this analogy great or what?). And sometimes, all it takes is a little common kindness and help from a stranger to make the rest of the journey seem less lonely.

Bottom line: a little help makes a big difference. Our story ended well, too. We rented a car and continued on our way. After all, we were on our way to visit my 97-year-old grandmother and while we were halfway there already, why turn back? She was glad to see us. (ezs)

March 21, 2006 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Finishing Strong

It's late in what has been a long, grueling year for first-year students; briefs are due soon; exams are around the corner; and all the intensity is beginning to wear students thin.  Our students, who have given more to law school than they have ever given before to an academic endeavor and done so for less immediate reward, are tempted like exhausted swimmers to let up and let whatever happens happen.

This is a good time to send a note of encouragement or to wander the halls a little, keeping an eye out for opportunities to encourage individual students and remind them how far they've come in just a few months.  It's a time of year that students need to know that they can do this work and that the hard work will pay off.  (dbw)

March 19, 2006 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)