Wednesday, March 28, 2007
One of the most difficult aspects of ASP work is figuring out who is in most need of our help. The reason? As I see it, the primary reason for this problem is that we have competing factors at play that don’t always lead to the same conclusion.
For example, most would agree that we want to get students into our offices as early as possible. Addressing weaknesses in how students approach their studies as early as possible, gives students more time to implement our ideas and, ultimately, succeed. If earlier is better, then we should all be using LSAT scores and college GPAs to select students who should work with us, right?? Not so fast.
Many of us are unconvinced that LSAT scores and college GPAs are particularly good indicators of success in law school. Of the two, LSAT is likely the better indicator, but using LSAT scores to identify students in need of assistance is a tricky proposition. At best, using LSAT as a prime indicator will produce both overinclusive and underinclusive results. While using LSAT scores will help us “capture” students in need of assistance, not all students with relatively low scores need help. Just as important, some students with relatively high LSAT scores do need assistance. Also, some of us simply do not like the mixed message that the pre-selection of students for ASP assistance sends – your credential are good enough to get into law school, but we really don’t think you can make it without help.
For these reasons, some folks prefer to use law school grades to select students who will receive ASP assistance. The main advantages of using law school grades for this purpose are fairly obvious. We are no longer in the position of having to guess whether someone will struggle in law school. These students are struggling in law school, and therefore do require assistance. Almost as important, these students are more likely to be amenable to receiving help.
Unfortunately, there is an important flaw in using law school grades to determine who needs help. In some schools, student grades are still based on a single final examination, making them essentially useless as a means for getting students into our offices early. In schools where mid-term exams are common, these grades also tend to come out fairly late in the year. If students receive their mid-term grades in January, February, or even March, it can be very difficult to affect any sort of meaningful change in their study habits prior to final exams.
There is one source of law school grades, however, that is too often overlooked when selecting students for ASP assistance – performance in a legal research and writing class. First, most legal writing professors assess student performance early and often, and these classes are typically taught in relatively small sections. The number of grades and more intimate atmosphere allows legal writing professors to determine relatively quickly whether a student is struggling. From personal experience, I can tell that you that students who struggle in a legal writing class are likely to need assistance with more than their legal writing.
I suggest developing a good working relationship with the folks in your legal writing department. They will know before anyone else that a student needs help. The student will be so thrilled to receive assistance with his/her writing assignments, that s/he will be more amenable to other forms of academic help.