Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, September 15, 2006

Law Students Helping Other Law Students

I am always very proud of my law students when they come to me with tips that they think might help other law students. Although I always encourage law students to share study "secrets" with others, I am concerned that they may get too involved in the competition for grades and share only with friends. My students have stopped by to tell me about some tech ideas for more efficient and effective studying.

In the same spirit of sharing, here are the recent tips that law students have shared with me that may be worthwhile for your own students:

Software for graphics:

If your visual learners have not discovered the Inspiration 8.0 software for making flowcharts, they want to check it out. A free 30-day trial is available either through downloading at the web site or ordering a trial CD-Rom. I used the 30-day trial option and was impressed with the software. The web site for Inspiration is (choose Inspiration 8).

Although designed for lower grades, the software is very useable for law students. Features include: various categories of shapes and pictures to use in graphics; shading or color options; capabilities to build flowcharts with linking lines with or without text as well as in-shape text; nifty click-of-a-button conversion of the flowchart into an outline; and much more. The software is easier to use than Power Point or other text-block or drawing softwares for graphics, in my opinion.

If you have trouble with the download or loading the CD-Rom, check with your IT department because it may need administrative access. Also, make sure you print out hard copies of any graphics designed during the trial period because you will not be able to read the files saved on your computer after the trial period is over.  (I assume if you purchase the software this may not be the case.)

Smart scanning pen:

QuickLink Pen Elite is a nifty mobile note-taker that acts like a highlighter. The pen from Wizcom Technologies scans text as it is "highlighted" and stores the text into its memory. You can transfer the text to a PC, PDA or smart phone.  There is a wireless or USB connection. My student ordered the pen through (choose electronics and gadgets; language tools; Wizcom).

The pen has dictionary access. It can be used for English and Spanish (possibly other languages as well). It also has an audio read-back function. Although the pen takes some training to learn how to scan properly and text may need some editing for misunderstood letters, this gadget has real potential. I warned my student to avoid the potential "scan-and-transfer-without-brain-in-gear" phenomenon. I can see this gadget being especially useful for legal research as well as other study tasks.

Excel briefs:

One of my 2L students suggested that students with Excel experience may want to use the spreadsheet capabilities for briefing. He uses the beginning rows for his case name, court information, date, and topic-subtopic headings. He then titles the lettered columns "Item Number" (he numbers each "Category" he uses); "Category" (examples: Facts, Procedural History, etc.); "Brief" (using as many rows as needed for his text). This method is easier for some students than designing their own templates.

I encourage students to use a combination brief and class notes page. So, a twist on the Excel method could be to use another column for class notes on each of the categories. This method would allow a student to see more easily what is already in the brief and not repeat information in class notes. The method also allows the student to critique and edit the brief more easily. (alj)

September 15, 2006 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Teacher of the Year!

Pic_biomainero One of our own, Mario Mainero, was voted Teacher of the Year for the 2005-2006 school year by the students at Whittier Law School.  The honor, of course, is hardly a surprise to anyone familiar with all that he does for the Whittier students. Congratulations, Mario!  (dbw)

September 15, 2006 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Another Addition to the Editorial Team

Schwartzmichaelthumb_1 I am beginning to feel as though we're getting away with something as I look at the new folks who are joining our editorial team.  Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Michael Schwartz onto the blog as a contributing editor.

Mike has been teaching law for fifteen years.  Six years ago, after nine years as a doctrinal professor, he "begged his way into a hybrid doctrinal/academic support slot."  Mike, who is in his first year at Washburn University School of Law, oversees and teaches Washburn’s First Week Program, an eighteen-hour, self-regulated learning curriculum integrated into his and a colleague’s torts classes; oversees a structured study group program for all entering Washburn students; and oversees the law school’s bar pass program, which he has integrated into his remedies class.

He is the author of Expert Learning for Law Students and a co-author (with Denise Riebe) of Pass the Bar!, both published by Carolina Academic Press.  His Remedies/Bar Pass hybrid text (co-athored with Carole Buckner) is forthcoming from Carolina Academic Press in Spring 2008. 

His teaching and learning scholarship includes two recent law review articles on teaching and learning: "Teaching Law By Design: How Learning Theory and Instructional Design Can Inform and Reform Law Teaching," 38 SAN DIEGO L. REV. 347 (2001), and "Teaching Law Students to be Self-Regulated Learners," MICH. ST. L. REV. 447 (2003), as well as shorter teaching and learning pieces addressing best practices in law school course web page design and the process of creating instructional objectives.  Mike is also a contributing author to Best Practices of Law Schools for Preparing Students to Practice Law (a CLEA publication forthcoming December 2006) and is on the Steering Committee for that project.  He also serves on the Board of Directors of Humanizing Legal Education.

Mike has presented his work on teaching and learning to the law faculties at Hastings, Mercer, Santa Clara, UDC, Albany, the John Marshall Law School (Chicago), John Marshall Law School (Atlanta), North Carolina Central, and Southern New England.  This year, he is scheduled to present to the State Bar of New York and to the law faculties at UMKC Wisconsin. (dbw)

September 12, 2006 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11

File this under: “this entry has nothing to do with Academic Support.” Today is the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks on New York, Washington and the brave plane that went down in Pennsylvania. According to NPR, over 3000 people perished in one day. And where are we five years later? We’ve lost almost as many people in our “War on Terror.” Is there a difference between someone taking our citizens and giving them up? I’m not sure there is.

Maybe my view has changed because in the time since 9/11/01, I’ve had a son. Since it was first obvious to me that I was having a boy (the ultrasound), I’ve had a big problem with war. Before you hit that comment link, I know that my thinking is sexist and I am duly ashamed. But before seeing the tell-tale signs of boyness on the screen, I hadn’t thought about war and soldiers except in the context of my nieces and nephews who are growing up in Israel and destined to join the army someday.

It is not as if I am unfamiliar with the idea of war and soldiers. My father fought in WWII, but his stories usually involved big snakes and Jeep tires (he was stationed in Panama and the Philippines). My father thought the war was educational in that he might never have left Brooklyn and seen some other part of the world had he not be drafted. I don’t know what he would have thought of this current situation.

And, it is not as if I did not know anyone who died in the 9/11 attacks. For many years, I was a prosecutor in the New York Family Court. Our courthouse was about six blocks north of the World Trade Center. (All of my directions to the courthouse involved using the World Trade Center as an orienting landmark.) Most importantly, I was the person in my office that handled the runaways and filed the petitions to have their home states take custody of them. In that capacity, I was the de facto liaison with the Port Authority Police Department. I ended up with most of the shoplifting and drug interdiction cases from the bus terminal, George Washington Bridge and World Trade Center as well. I did a number of trials with officers whose pictures I later saw lining the streets downtown.<>

I am also a native New Yorker. I remember the day the World Trade Center was finished and thinking how ugly it was, now I take it back. I remember the clever ads channel 11 used to show using the twin towers for their logo. I now find that I get disoriented in lower Manhattan without my insanely large directional landmark. I suppose I could find other ways to ascertain my whereabouts, but some part of me refuses to do so. I think I haven’t re-oriented myself so I can remember what is not there.

So, on the anniversary of this tragedy, I think about my friends in the Port Authority Police who gave up everything to keep us safe. I think about all the firefighters and police officers that I didn’t know who did the same and those who still put themselves on the line each and every day and I say this to the world: my son is 18 months old, you have 16 and a half years to find a lasting peace, or else. (ezs)

September 11, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)