Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Position at New York Law School!!

New York Law School is seeking applicants for a full-time Academic Support teacher who will lead academic skills classes for low-performing law students.  This is a faculty position renewable on a contract basis, and will carry the title of “Associate Professor of Applied Legal Analysis.”

Ideal candidates will be energetic teachers with distinguished academic backgrounds, who have strong organizational and interpersonal skills.  Prior experience in academic support, academic counseling, or providing instruction in legal reasoning and writing will be very helpful.

The successful candidate will work closely with the director of our Academic Skills program and with our entire first-year faculty. 

New York Law School is a vibrant community dedicated to offering the right program to each of our students.  We have both full-time and part-time programs, so applicants should be available to teach day and evening classes.

Applications must be submitted by February 14, 2007.  Applicants should send a resume and cover letter to:

Kris Franklin
Professor of Law
New York Law School
57 Worth Street
NY, NY 10013    

Kris adds, "I’d be happy to talk personally with anyone on this list who would like more detail before deciding whether to apply.  You can e-mail me directly at or call me at (212) 431-2353."  (ezs)

January 18, 2007 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why "Two" Is Better Than "One"

During each semester, I spend a great deal of my time teaching time management to my law students.  Unfortunately, many law students have never learned how to study in high school or college.  Not knowing how to study translates into not being able to manage one's time for studying.  These important skills are not ones that suddenly develop during the summer before law school enrollment. 

If you doubt the abilities of our youth, look at the National Survey of Student Engagement results over the last few years.  Or, read the article written by Jeffrey R. Young in 2002 "Homework? What Homework?" which is in the Chronicle of Higher Education and can be easily Googled.  (You may well ask why the hyperlink is missing here. The posting gremlins will not include it no matter what I try.  It is late, and I want to go home.) 

Students gasp when I tell them to study an average of 50 - 55 hours per week in order to complete all of the necessary tasks for the semester.  Distributive learning, long-term memory, active reading, self-regulated learning, and self-evaluation are new concepts to many students.  I explain to them that a weekly time management schedule that plans consistent time every week for basic tasks will optimize learning and reduce stress and anxiety. 

First, I have students include their commitments - things that are (or should be) consistent.  These commitments will include classes, sleep, and meals.  For some students, other commitments will be study groups, tutoring, church, family meals, child-rearing, work hours, etc.  (Exercise is included, but not at this initial point.) 

Next, I ask them for each course to estimate the longest amount of time that would be needed to read a normal assignment for one day if they were reading for deeper understanding and also taking notes/writing briefs.  After reading time is scheduled (same day and time each week for the same course), I have them include other tasks at consistent days and times every week: reviewing for 30 minutes before class; reviewing class notes within 24 hours; outlining for each course; reviewing the outlines regularly and completing practice questions; working on paper/project tasks; and any other tasks specific to the requirements for a particular course.  The consistent repetition of days and times for the same tasks eliminates the "What should I do next?" and "Why begin since I have all day?" problems.   

It is common that law students read material the day before or the day of the class for which they are preparing.  However, too many students race through the material or just "do time" over the pages rather than reading for understanding and reflection.  After talking with many law students, I have decided that the best approach is what my students have dubbed "the two-day schedule." 

Because students have more flexibility in their time on the weekends, I suggest that they always begin the cycle for this method on a Saturday (and, if they "fall off the wagon," it is easier to start up again on a Saturday).  The cycle is simple: read Saturday for Monday's classes; read Sunday for Tuesday's classes; read Monday for Wednesday's classes; read Tuesday for Thursday's classes; read Wednesday for Friday's classes.  (I do realize that this is not rocket science, but I tell them the full cycle so that they suddenly realize their assigned reading for the week will be completed by Wednesday.)

Of course, part of this method is that they should review what they read and their notes and briefs before they go to class.  Thus, students have seen the material twice before walking into the classroom.  Not surprisingly, they report back that they are more active listeners in class, that they are more organized and selective in their note-taking, and that they volunteer to answer questions more often because they are more confident in the material.

Another huge pay-off is that the method allows them to spend Thursday and Friday on outlines, review, practice questions, and projects or papers rather than on frantic reading.  Most students have one "light day" in the schedule so that additional time opens for these other tasks on the day when they have less reading in the cycle. 

Students find that it takes approximately two weeks to become accustomed to the new method.  By the end of four weeks, students exclaim over how much time they have to stay "on top" of their work.  Many also notice that they are less stressed.  They often begin to enjoy the study of law for the first time in what has previously been a very harried existence.

Students who work or have family responsibilities may need to modify the method some.  But, they also find that it is easier to stay focused and organized.  Often, if a copy of the schedule is posted on the refrigerator, the family members will keep the law student on schedule because it benefits everyone.  The family members love knowing when "down time" is scheduled for the week.  They also love having a law student who is less stressed and paranoid about taking time to be with them.

I have used this method with my law students at two law schools and with both full-time and part-time law students.  Hopefully, it can benefit some of your students who just do not understand how they can get everything done.  (alj)

January 17, 2007 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Everything I know I learned from a fortune cookie...

This year, among many resolutions made in the haste of New Year’s Eve, I resolved to cook more and order in less. However, in the wake of a cold and rainy three day weekend at home with three children (who seem much smaller and less destructive outside the house), I caved. Yet, despite my lack of resolve, I found it an educational experience nonetheless. Why? Because my fortune cookie held the Secret Essence of Academic Support (in its slightly stale and crumpled state).  It said this: “correction is one thing, encouragement everything.” (It also informed me that my lucky numbers were: 5, 12, 17, 33, 36 and 45 and how to say the word “egg” in Mandarin).

In the last two days I have seen over twenty panic-stricken first year students. I have received some e-mails from professors confessing the large number of unsatisfactory grades they distributed this semester. Some professors are just not stopping to chat as usual. I knew it was coming, but, like the cold of winter, (which is finally here) I am always surprised when it arrives each year.

The first question the students ask me is always, “what did I do wrong?” Sadly, that’s probably the one question I cannot answer without more information. I could guess-and it would be a fairly educated guess-but the answer really lies in the conversation that students need to have with the professor that gave them the grade. Why speculate when the actual truth can be easily uncovered? Students, however, are extremely reluctant to do this and while I understand why, it needs to be done.

Often I can convince a student to make an appointment with a faculty member with a small and simple truth: let’s find out what the problem was, make a plan and fix it. If the problem was the multiple choice questions, then we’ll practice those; if it is was issue spotting, then we’ll practice that and so on. And I think the part of that simple truth that is most effective in relieving students of the despondency that comes with unsatisfactory grades is the plan making.

Facing the music (that is, looking at the exam itself) is only the first step, because it involves correction, and it is (as the wise and crunchy cookie tells us) only one thing. What we can do in Academic Support for our students is provide encouragement, and that, says the cookie, is everything.  (ezs)

January 17, 2007 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Spring Contact with Students

Hello all!

Like many of you, the Spring semester is my busiest time of year. The reason? Most 1Ls receive their first significant grades at the end of the fall semester. Prior to this, we could only warn students about the possible consequence of failing to adhere to our suggestions. For too many, their fall grades have confirmed everything we had been warning them about.

At the beginning of the Spring semester, I review first-year grades to assess which students have the greatest likelihood of failing at the end of the year. These students are then invited to work with me for the balance of the Spring semester. Unfortunately, it can take weeks before all grades are submitted, and during this time students become quite anxious. In addition, they are starving for morsels of information about grades, academic probation, and their prospects of one day becoming a lawyer. If they do not receive information from us, they will listen to the misinformation being passed on by their classmates. To address this issue, I send all first-year students an e-mail in which I lay out my plans for the Spring. This year’s letter appears below, and you should feel free to borrow from it liberally. (hnr) 

Over the next two weeks, you will be receiving first-semester grades. In fact, many of you have already begun to receive them. I will be reviewing these grades and inviting certain students to work with me on a one on one basis for the balance of the semester. It will take me some time to complete my review, but I hope to send out these invitations by the end of January.

In the meantime, please be aware of how grades may be affecting you and your emotional well being. Certainly, some of you will be satisfied and even pleased with your grades, but others may find their grades unsatisfying, demoralizing and depressing. If you are in the latter group, please keep a few things in mind.

Your grades are not an indication of anything except how well you were able to communicate your knowledge of a particular subject during a fairly short window of time. This does not mean that a poor grade is not your responsibility. In the larger scheme of things, however, it is only one assessment of a fairly small subject area. 

In addition, a poor grade does NOT mean that you lack intelligence, or that you will never be a lawyer, or that you are a bad person. It may mean that you have not absorbed the information adequately or that you have not conveyed your knowledge clearly. The snowball effect of one poor grade can be devastating to your future performance. Do not let a bad grade turn into anything more than an opportunity to assess where you need to improve either your study habits or exam writing skills.

As you assess your personal study habits and what you can do to improve your performance, please consider the following. In my experience, many students who perform relatively poorly during the first semester of law school have failed to dedicate sufficient time to their studies. Studying for law school is much more than merely reading your assignments for class. Reading the cases for class is a necessary first step, but the road to mastering your first year classes requires more. 

Even if you are studying more than at any other point in your academic life, it still may not be enough in law school. For both day and evening division students, law school is a full-time job. Including class time, day-division students should expect to spend approximately 60+ hours per week on their studies. For evening-division students, this number is 30-35 hours per week including class time.

Another common denominator that I find among students who have struggled during the first semester of law school is a failure to review their class notes consistently. For some this means creating an outline and for others it may mean creating a flow chart. At a bare minimum, you must read, dissect, and analyze everything in your class notes and your case briefs on a weekly basis. 

Finally, it is understandable if some of you are upset about your grades. It is likely that you have achieved a great deal academically in the past, and you are unaccustomed to your current level of performance. Being upset is natural and can be motivational, but do not lose focus of the fact that the second semester of law school has already begun. Do not let one set of relatively weak grades distract you from your ultimate goal – becoming a lawyer. 

Good luck in the spring semester.

January 16, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Seeing the Forest

I was speaking with Lorraine Lalli from Roger Williams the other day, and she commented that among the chief struggles for first-year students is an inability to see the forest for the trees.  They may understand a case; they may even master its principles; but they have a tough time seeing how the case fits into the larger scheme of things, how a rule connects to themes and principles running through a particular area of law or to themes running across legal disciplines.  If we can teach them how to find those larger connections, we will have taught them something much more valuable than any case. (dbw)

January 15, 2007 in Meetings, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)