Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Reminder about a Resource

Our four-week Summer Entry Program is in full swing.  This year, we have 15 students beginning the 1L class through the program.  We talked about stress management in the early days of the course, but I knew they would hit the first "real" stress point after taking a one-hour quiz on legal reasoning and the legal system at the end of week one. 

Although I made in-class remarks to prepare them for the differences in law-school testing and the reality that some of them would receive lower grades than they expected, I wanted to provide them with information from another source.  Therefore, I gave each student a copy of Larry Krieger's The Hidden Sources of Law School StressLarry Krieger is a professor at Florida State University School of Law and is well-known in the humanizing legal education efforts (also known as balancing legal education).

A number of the students commented afterwards that they appreciated the resource.  Several mentioned that they had read it several times during the week and that it would stay handy on their bookshelves for later reference.

We have ordered a copy this year for each of our 1L students.  We also have extra copies for any 2L or 3L who requests a copy (a sample is posted on the OASP bulletin board).  If you have never checked out the booklet, Larry's website is Humanizing Law School Booklets.  There are two booklets available: one on stress in law school and one on career choices.  Our Career Services staff ordered the second booklet to distribute to our law students.  (Amy Jarmon)    

July 31, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Teaching Students the Nature of Legal Argument

I would like to recommend a book on legal argument that you may have overlooked.  Wison Huhn at the University of Akron School of Law is the author of The Five Types of Legal Argument.  The book was published in 2002 by Carolina Academic Press.  Will is very interested in making law accessible to our students, is actively involved in teaching/learning discussions, and has been selected as Outstanding Professor of the Year on five occasions.    

This book is a resource that can be helpful to law students in all three years of law school.  However, it was intended to assist the first-year law student who is trying to figure out the "art" of legal argument.  The first half of the book deals with an introduction to the foundations of legal argument.  The second half of the book details intra-type arguments and cross-type arguments. This book may be a good addition to your legal reasoning courses, your suggested books for prospective law students, or your own library. (Amy Jarmon) 

July 30, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 27, 2007

How to Build a Study Aids Library

Whether we are working with a selected group of "at risk" students or working with all law students, we often need to have study aid resources for ourselves and our students.  We need academic support volumes for our own reference and professional growth.  We need study aids to "brush up" on the law that we will use for examples in workshops.  Also, we need practice questions, commercial outlines, hornbooks, Nutshells, and other items to loan to our students.

Some of the students with whom I work cannot afford to buy the study aids they need to perform successfully.  Other students have purchased some study aids but find at certain times in the semester that they need to check other sources or find more practice questions.  By having a collection for short-term loans (for example, two items for 48 hours), I can make sure that they have access to the study aids that more affluent students can purchase or that are needed to supplement their own purchases.

However, for those ASP professionals who do not have generous budget lines, it can be a daunting task to obtain a study aids collection without spending a fortune.  Here are some ways that you can build a library of resources:

  1. Work with your law school deans to have funding added to your office budget.  If you do not have a specific line in your budget for books, audiotapes, and other study aids, talk with your decanal staff about this need.  Start with your supervisor and work up the chain as appropriate to your internal procedures and politics.  Explain why resources are fundamental to your own professionalism and why resources are fundamental to your students' success.  Even a small addition to funds for this purpose is a step in the right direction.  If faculty members have a professional books allowance, you may be able to negotiate a similar allowance for your own professional needs.
  2. Work with your law school deans to identify alternative sources of funding.  Some universities have internal grant monies to initiate new academic endeavors.  If your university has such a program, apply for "start-up" funds for your core library.  Also, most law schools have private monies that can be used for special projects.  In addition, there may be a graduate who has been out a few years (especially if the graduate benefited from ASP) that the development staff for the law school could approach for start-up funds and/or funds for the purchase of future updates and new editions.
  3. Ask your faculty members to donate complimentary copies of study aids that they do not use.  Most faculty members receive complimentary copies of study aids.  Examples would be Lexis Q&A, Aspen Examples and Explanations, West Nutshells, Lexis Understanding Law, and many others.  The faculty members often put these volumes on their bookshelves without even looking at them.  At least once a semester and during the summer send out an e-mail to your entire faculty asking them to donate current editions of these items.  Ask for "clean" copies that are unmarked (usually the bindings will not have been cracked open).
  4. Ask your law students and recent graduates to donate copies of study aids that they will not be using.  Again, you want to ask for current editions and clean copies.  You will need to do some sorting because your idea of a "clean" copy may not mesh with the students' idea of the concept.  Also, law students will assume an edition is current because it is no more than three years old.  Your law library staff may be able to help you check editions.
  5. Always ask for complimentary copies of books that are in the academic success area and overlap areas.  Be on the look-out for ASP, legal writing, introduction to the legal system, legal reasoning, and other books that you can legitimately ask for a complimentary copy for your office.  Get on the catalog list for all of the legal education publishers who produce titles of the type you want.  If the complimentary copy turns out to not be one that you want on your own bookshelf, then put it in your new ASP library.  (By the way, complimentary copies are not to be sold.  But, you can donate them to your ASP library or another faculty member who can use them.)
  6. Contact all of the legal education publishers of study aids for complimentary copies.  Your own regional representative may be the best place to start.  However, if you do not know who that person is, call the toll-free number and make your request.  Why would they be willing to help you build a library?  First, the smaller publishers want to build market share.  Because all law students use my library, the publishers know that students are likely to buy copies of items they "test drive" and like.  Second, the publishers likely have a policy that supports giving out complimentary copies as part of their marketing strategy.  Third, if you are likely to buy extra copies of items that you like and recommend to your students, then they get your new library business as well.  One publisher sends me a complimentary copy automatically of all new editions in all study aids series.
  7. Ask faculty members at your institution who are authors of study aids for a complimentary copy.  Each study aid author receives some copies of her book or cassette/CD when it is published.  My faculty author gives me a copy for the study aids library every time a new edition comes out. 
  8. Ask your law library if they can purchase study aid books for your office library that can be permanently catalogued to your collection.  Your law library may be able to support some of your purchases from its own budget.  In any event, your law library most likely can purchase the books at a discount instead of your paying full price.  By utilizing their purchasing system you can get more items for the same budget dollars.
  9. Visit publishers' stands at legal education conferences and events.  Some time at the book displays can be helpful in four ways.  First, you can see what is new in your areas of interest that you might want to purchase.  Second, you can often actually thumb through copies to decide what you really need rather than taking a guess from a catalog description.  Third, the representative may be willing to help you through her publisher's procedures for complimentary copies of entire series.  Fourth, you can make sure you get on a catalog and e-mail alert list.

Depending on the size of a collection that you wish to build and to whom you want to lend the items, you will have more or less library management issues.  There will always be some cost issues with even small collections because you will need to purchase new editions. 

The study aids library attached to my office has over 900 items.  My law library staff members are an enormous help in the purchase, catalogue, and circulation steps.  In fact, I consider my law library staff members to be shining examples of collegiality and helpfulness.  (Amy Jarmon)

July 27, 2007 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Practical Article on Brief Writing

You may be interested in a new article designed to offer a succinct, straightforward guide to effective persuasive writing, with examples. In describing the article, author Sarah Ricks says that a common problem plaguing many briefs is the inability of writers to see their briefs from the point of view of "the busy judge or inexperienced law clerk."  The article suggests how to use the reader's perspective to avoid ten of the most common errors that weaken a brief's persuasive impact.

She and a practicing attorney, Jane L. Istvan, co-wrote the article, basing it on a series of CLE's the two taught.  The article is "Effective Brief Writing Despite High Volume Practice: Ten Misconceptions That Result in Bad Briefs," forthcoming in Toledo Law Review and available at SSRN: < >  (Dan Weddle)

July 24, 2007 in Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Good Idea from Sarah Ricks

Sarah Ricks sent the blog a good idea for using Ruth Ann McKinney's Reading Like a Lawyer:  Time-Saving Strategies for Reading Law Like an Expert (Carolina Academic Press).  Below is her suggestion.

"Last fall, I required all of my One L students to buy Ruth Ann McKinney's book, which I learned about at an Academic Support AALS meeting. 

"I tacked on an additional two classes at the outset of the semester to function as a substantive orientation to legal reading.  We spent two classes walking through much of the book, and I later assigned portions of it to introduce specific types of legal material such as 'how to read statutes.'

"It is an excellent book - unpretentious, accessible, and interesting.  If anyone would like the handouts I created to use in those first two classes, just drop me an e-mail and I'd be glad to share."

Sarah Ricks, Rutgers-Camden

July 23, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Good Book for 1L's

Herb Ramy's Succeeding in Law School (Carolina Academic Press 2006) is a great book you can recommend to new law students.  It gives the beginner a good overview of the skills she will need and challenges she will face in her first year of law school. This is one of those books every student should read before the first day of school.  (Dan Weddle)

July 21, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Our Own Skills 3: Flexibility

Russell Smith, Assistant Dean for Student Services at Campbell University's Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, suggests that flexibility is a skill that all academic support professionals must master.  Dean Smith notes that "one size fits one"; therefore, "we have to be very flexible in dealing with students.  Some need specific academic help, some need the accountability of a weekly appointment, and some just need a friendly person."  (Dan Weddle)

July 17, 2007 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 16, 2007

"Not smart enough for law school? Prove it."

At the LSAC Academic Assistance Training Workshop this past June, James Levy advised participants to believe in each student's ability to perform at a high level.  He makes an important point.  We cannot help our students effectively if we do not believe they can be helped. Rather, we should be the ones that say, "If you are not smart enough for law school, you will have to prove it to me."

The temptation to believe that some students simply cannot succeed in law school is great, especially when they are performing poorly; but we cannot afford to give in to the temptation.  It is imperative that we work from the assumption that each student can succeed.  Any other approach is a self-fulfilling prophecy of defeat. 

Students who struggle in law school are already prone to believing they are failures; after all, their grades say so. But they should hear something very different from us.

We should be the ones who refuse to believe that their grades are a true reflection of their capacity to learn and to excel.  If we are unwilling to accept their grades as the final word, we are much more likely to keep searching for the keys to their success; and they are much more likely to keep searching with us.

I have found again and again that students who want to succeed and who are willing to diligently apply effective learning strategies will ultimately perform well, despite early failures.  It may take some time for the wheels to catch, but they will catch if the students are willing to keep at it. 

When a student says, directly or indirectly, that she is just not smart enough to be in law school, we should insist that she prove it.  We should insist that she implement the strategies we suggest and prove that despite employing them faithfully and accurately, she is still doomed to fail.

Students need no help in giving up, in letting their setbacks define them.  We should be the voice that says success is within reach and that the end of the story has yet to be written.  For many students, ours may be the only voice saying it.  (Dan Weddle)

July 16, 2007 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Reading Law Like a Lawyer

Want a great resource for learning to read law like a lawyer?  Take a look at Ruth Ann McKinney's Reading Like a Lawyer:  Time-Saving Strategies for Reading Law Like an Expert (Carolina Academic Press).  (Dan Weddle)

July 15, 2007 in Reading | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

An Overlooked Resource?

In the search for good academic support resources, one that is sometimes overlooked is right under our noses:  our own faculty.  Our faculty colleagues were all very successful law students.  Why not ask them how they outlined or took notes or briefed for their classes?  Some of their old briefs, etc., can serve as powerful and credible examples of what works.  In fact, when you find an example that seems especially appropriate for students to emulate, have the faculty member give a short lunchtime lecture on her particular method.  (Dan Weddle)

July 14, 2007 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

An Excellent Text on Preparing for and Taking Law School Exams

Professor John Delany's How to Do Your Best on Law School Exams, is an excellent resource for both law students and ASP professionals.  A longtime criminal law professor, Delaney provides an insightful and detailed approach to semester-long exam preparation, as well as practical strategies for answering the exam questions themselves in ways that demonstrate the analytical skills that law professors are trying to assess. 

One of the most powerful aspects of the book is Professor Delaney's ability to tie exam preparation to the analytical skills that lie at the heart of a proper legal education.  Through thoughtful explanations of effective learning strategies and multiple practical illustrations and sample problems and answers, Professor Delaney demystifies much of both the study of law and the keys to success on law school assessments.

Any student who wonders why in the world we test the way we do should read this book.  Any student who wants to transform exam preparation into deep learning and powerful analytical skill development should read it and then reread it several times.  (Dan Weddle)   

July 12, 2007 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Our Own Skills 2: Empathizing

A law school's greatest strength can often be one of its greatest weaknesses:  its faculty's intellectual prowess.  Law professors are always those who were exceptionally successful as law students, so they are necessarily exceptional legal thinkers and are precisely the people who should make up our law school faculties.  Many of those exceptional legal thinkers, however, share a common weakness:  an inability to understand why some of their students struggle mastering the law. 

For many professors, the study of law, while certainly challenging and demanding, was fairly intuitive.  When they encounter students who do not seem to "get it," they have a tough time believing that those students are intellectually capable of succeeding in law school, and they have a tough time empathizing with those students' plight.  Too often, they believe that struggling students ought to accept their limitations and find another profession.

It is seldom the case, by the way, that these professors don't care; it is that they can't relate.  Having spent their lives in nearly unbroken academic success, they see law school success as primarily a matter of intelligence and hard work; when success is lacking, one of those elements must be missing.  They may empathize with dashed hopes and failed dreams, but not with academic failure where there exist the brains and drive to succeed. 

Therefore, it is essential that students find empathy in our offices.  We must be able to understand what our students feel when, despite their best efforts, they cannot seem to succeed; and, just as importantly, we must genuinely believe that they can succeed.  We must truly believe that bad learning strategies are more often the problem than lack of ability and effort, and that bad learning strategies can be changed. 

That sort of empathy is very different from what students often encounter in law school.  It is an empathy filled with hope and buttressed by real help.  In our offices, at least, students ought to find people who believe in them, who believe they can succeed and who can offer the means to do so.  In our offices, they should find people who know how it feels to fail and how it feels to succeed in the face of failure.  That is a helpful kind of empathy.

We need to deliberately cultivate in ourselves that sort of empathy.  We need to reach back into our own lives and find those times when we struggled, nearly gave up, and then found a way to succeed.  Remembering those times will affect our tone, our advice, and the tenacity with which we stick with our students until they do "get it."  That sort of empathy can become one of a law school's greatest strengths. (Dan Weddle)

July 11, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 9, 2007

Resources for New ASP Professionals

If you are working in Academic Support, an essential resource is Michael Hunter Schwartz's Expert Learning for Law Students (Carolina Academic Press 2005).  Prof. Schwartz gives the reader an insightful explanation of the implications of learning theory for students facing the rigors of law study and provides abundant practical strategies for learning and living in the law school environment.  (Dan Weddle)

July 9, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Don't Read This Blog Today

Don't read this blog today.  Declare your independence and take the day off.  Have a beer, eat some barbecue, and watch the city blow stuff up tonight. Here's to a great Fourth of July! (Dan Weddle)

July 4, 2007 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Check Out Vernellia Randall's ASP Website

If you have never visited Vernellia Randall's ASP website, you are in for a treat.  It is up and running at  (Dan Weddle)

July 2, 2007 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)