March 30, 2006
Workshop in Rhode Island
Further information regarding the Northeast Regional Academic Support Workshop
Q. When is it?
A. Thursday, June 15 (starting at noon) and Friday, June 16 (all day).
Q. Where is it?
A. Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, Rhode Island.
Q. Who should attend?
A. Those who are (relatively) new to academic support in law school, and those who are instituting new academic support programs at their schools.
Q. How many may attend?
A. Maximum: 40.
Q. What topics will be addressed?
A. Presently scheduled workshop topics include ...
• Whom we support
• Academic support for students with LD/ADHD
• What new ASPers should know, including “political” issues, and program evaluation basics
• Interrelation between Academic and psychological (etc.) counseling
• Teaching students how to answer exams
• My first year in ASP & yours ... what to expect
• Ask the experts
Q. Who will be presenting?
A. Presenters include:
Lorraine Lalli, Roger Williams Law
Ellen Swain, Vermont Law
Darby Dickerson, Stetson Law
Linda Feldman, Brooklyn Law
Pavel Wonsowicz, U. Nevada Law
Herb Ramy, Suffolk Law
Natt Gantt, Regent Law
Dan Weddle, U. Missouri (KC) Law
Kim Baker, Roger Williams Law
Others to be announced later
[Do you want to present? Alert me and we can discuss it.]
Q. How much will this cost?
A. Registration fee: $50, which includes all materials, lunch and dinner on Thursday, and light breakfast and lunch on Friday. Registrants will pay for their own travel and lodging.
NOTE: Summer in Bristol, RI, is a tourist-heavy time. Book soon to obtain lodging. Call Tracy (below) for more travel information after visiting the web sites below.
Q. Where is Rhode Island?
A. Visit: http://www.visitrhodeisland.com/. The closest Airport is T.F. Green airport (Providence). Logan airport in Boston is about one hour away (more time if traffic).
Q. Where is Roger Williams University School of Law?
A. Visit: http://law.rwu.edu/.
Q. How do I secure a spot at the workshop?
A. Send an email to Administrative Assistant TRACY SARTRYS. Her address is email@example.com. You may reach Tracy by phone at (401) 254-4647. Because of limited space, only “for sure” reservations will be accepted.
Q. Where can I stay?
A. Newport is about 30 minutes south of Roger Williams University. Providence is about 20 minutes north of the school. The (above) websites should be your guide. We will assemble some more detailed local hotel information soon, and forward it to those who plan to attend. (djt)
March 29, 2006
Congratulations and News
Vincent A. Thomas has announced his departure from Hamline Law School, where he has served for many years as Assistant Dean of Students and Adjunct Professor of Law, and alerted our community to the opening of his position.
Vince has accepted the position of Assistant Dean for Student and Multicultural Affairs at The University of St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis.
He describes the opening at Hamline as follows:
"Hamline will commence its search for my successor immediately. My position at Hamline would be a great job for anyone in career services, academic support, or admissions who would like to transition into law school student affairs, or anyone who'd prefer a job at a smaller private school that includes an admissions component. The students, faculty, and staff at Hamline are people of uncommon warmth and decency. The Twin Cities area is a great place to live, especially if you are raising children. If you would like more information about my position at Hamline, please contact my colleague Anne T. Johnson, our Assistant Dean for Administration and Programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org."
Congratulations to Vincent. (djt)
March 28, 2006
Confessions of a Former High School Debater
In my first year of law school (on the first day), I met the man I ultimately married. We were already dating by the time we had to do oral arguments for our legal writing class and our TA’s thought it would be good ‘ole nifty fun to make us argue against each other. We both agree that I won (did I mention that he is a very smart man?).
Our first year students will be doing their oral arguments for their legal research and writing classes over the next weeks. Now, for me, oral arguments were always the fun part of the class, but then again I was a (geek alert!!) high school debater (and on the math team, too!) and I thought oral arguments were just peachy. Sadly, most of our students are not as excited by the prospect of this activity as I was.
I have seen a number of panic-stricken, yet well dressed, students this week who have come to me for advice and to answer the age old question, “why do we need to do this?” My answer is always this, “because I said so.” Oops, actually, that would be my answer for my kids, for students I say, “Because the ultimate weapon in a lawyer’s arsenal is the courtroom and being comfortable there means you have the edge over your adversary.”
It is that simple. “I’ll see you in court,” is often considered a threat (at least on TV and in movies) but if you cannot make good on that threat, you will not be the most effective lawyer you can—and you have an ethical obligation to be a zealous advocate for your clients, not someone who makes empty threats. Oral arguments are the first step in finding a comfort level in court.
Granted, there are attorneys who don’t see the inside of a
courtroom after their bar swearing-in ceremony. I know a lot of lawyers who would rather never go to the courthouse and
not just because parking is a nightmare (which it is). But I really believe that being able to
navigate a courtroom is an essential skill for lawyering. In fact, I often recommend that my
probationary students take a trial practice class or a clinic to get some
courtroom (or courtroom-like) experience.
I have found that students who lack confidence in their exam-taking abilities really thrive in a more practical lawyering-skills kind of class. I think some of these students are more hands-on learners who need to see the way the rules of evidence operate in court rather than manipulate them on paper only. Not only that, but a practical kind of class (especially a clinic) can help a student rediscover their initial reasons for wanting to come to law school. It can be an epiphany to remember why you wanted to be a lawyer in the first place. I have found (anecdotally) that this will improve a student’s grades across the board and not just in that class or clinic.
As for my nervous first year students, I tell them my old courtroom stories of embarrassing situations I lived through. My favorite: the judge who figured out that I did not know to stand up whenever addressing the court, so he signaled me to stand when I did. Well, since I did not know why I was standing, I didn’t know when to sit down either, so he gave me another signal to sit. That judge had me randomly jumping up and down for an entire proceeding using hand signals. In the end, I caught on that he was having fun at my expense and we all had a good laugh. Which taught me the most valuable lesson about oral arguments, “Never, never, never, take yourself too seriously.” Thanks, Judge Lauria! (ezs)
March 26, 2006
Knowing What You Know
As another round of exams nears, we need to make certain our students understand the difference between recognizing familiar concepts and actually knowing those concepts. When students complain that they felt they "knew the material" but inexplicably did not do well on a test, they are closer to the truth than they realize: they felt that they knew the material; they did not actually know it.
That false feeling stems from the way many students study. They prepare for tests by simply reading their notes again and again. As a result, each time they reread the same material, it naturally feels very familiar; so they believe they have learned it. Familiarity creates for them the illusion of internalization.
Unfortunately, even on open-book exams, genuine internalization of material is critical to performance because the typical test question requires students to merge multiple complex ideas with complicated fact patterns and to do so under time pressure. No time exists for looking up all of those ideas or for thinking through their relationships to one another for the first time.
We need to caution students to test themselves in real ways to see whether they can actually recall and competently manipulate critical concepts under pressure, as opposed to merely recognizing those concepts when they read them. They need, for example, to take practice exams without notes and use model answers or study partners' answers to identify what they only thought they knew. They then need to move beyond merely reading concepts over and over as a substitute for internalizing concepts through memorization and repeated use under exam-like conditions.
In other words, they need to disabuse themselves of any false sense of security about what they truly know if they hope to correct their deficiencies in time for exams. The window may still be open for making those corrections, but it is closing fast. For those who continue to think rereading material is the same as studying it, that window is going to close quietly; but it will close nonetheless. (dbw)
My friend Ellen Swain (Vermont Law School Academic Success Program Director) recently directed me to an interesting ABA Journal article.
In Discontented in the Law, author Jill Schachner Chanen explains: "It’s no secret that law and job satisfaction don’t always go hand in hand, but a recent survey shows just how miserable some lawyers really are, especially those newer to the practice. ... The reason boils down to work-life balance, according to a survey by the National Association for Law Placement Foundation. The struggle to find that balance is especially pronounced among lawyers in supervised or nonmanagerial positions, the survey found."
Consider this: what do students learn in law school?
If they don't learn to "balance," then their learning of legal concepts, analytical processes, preferred methods of citation, and tax regulations is for naught.
Excellent law students become excellent lawyers. Miserable law students (even those—or maybe especially those—with high GPAs) become miserable lawyers.
Ms. Chanen writes that Milwaukee lawyer Christina Plum, chair of the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division, also is not surprised by findings in the survey (mentioned above). "It’s hard for me to imagine a lawyer not having to struggle to balance work with all of the other choices in their lives," she says.
Yes, it is a struggle. But it would be far less of a struggle if students spent their (pardon me, please) 1000 days in law school practicing how to achieve this balance.
This, I believe, is the most critical message of academic support. Yes, students, you need to learn how to read casebooks. Follow the exercises in Ruth Ann McKinney's book. You need to learn how to brief cases. Check out the examples in Bridging the Gap. You need to learn rules, strategies, and so much more. But if you don't learn "balance," it is all for naught. Spend three hours outside of class for every hour in class. That's 60 hours each week, right? Sleep eight hours each night. 56? That gives you 52 (awake) hours each week for the other stuff of life. Use it. Or lose it.
If we don't make this message explicit to our students, we are doing them a disservice. (djt)