Thursday, May 29, 2008
Students have received their grades. And, those who were on probation last semester and did not make the necessary grades are telephoning, e-mailing, and arriving on my doorstep. It is the time of year when I have to balance realism, ambiguity, and compassion carefully.
Realism comes into play as I try to help students understand the pros and cons of their situations in their decisions whether to petition to be allowed to continue. For some, there are few "pros" in their favor. I gently get them to think of options should their petitions be denied. For some, there are obvious extenuating circumstances and a significant upward trend between fall and spring grades. We talk about what needs to be included in a petition.
Ambiguity comes into play because each student petition is unique. Although I have some idea of the chances for success based on past decisions, there is no formulaic answer. The decision-makers will discuss the pros and cons of allowing a student to continue as a 2L or to re-start as a 1L again, depending on the type of petition. The up or down vote results are not always what one would expect.
Compassion comes into play because I want each student to know that I am willing to listen, make suggestions, and help with weighing options. I also want them to know that I care about them and understand how traumatic the situation is. Shattered dreams, parental anger, embarrassment, guilt, and feelings of failure are just some of the components.
For the students with whom I have worked, the conversations are based on trust and rapport. We have spent a great deal of time together. In many cases, I can write a supporting letter for the petition packet.
However, the hardest conversations for me are the ones with the students whom I have never met. They decided in January that they did not need any help from Academic Success - even though multiple people urged them to work with my office. So often, as I listen to their tales, I see multiple places where I could have made an effective intervention and gotten them back on track.
When someone on probation shows up in January with a grade point average of 1.6 or lower, I warn them that we have a tough climb. But, if they truly want to remain in law school and are not prepared to withdraw, we give it our best shot. Fortunately, not all of my probation students have such significant gaps between fall grades and the requirements.
I cannot guarantee that the students who work with me seriously (as opposed to showing up in body only) will make the requirements, but usually I can help with techniques that cause their grades to jump significantly. If my probation students do not make the requirements, then most of them will have shown enough improvement to be able to petition if they had extenuating circumstances.
Fortunately, the probation students who did not make requirements are balanced by the probation students who excitedly e-mail me their grades to let me know that they are off probation. I am always blessed by being able to celebrate successes while being able to console and listen for those who need it. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, May 22, 2008
It's that time of year; students are receiving their grades. Much has been written and said about motivating students after they receive their grades after their first semester of law school. I find it more challenging to motivate students after they receive their second semester grades...because I don't see them. They are off to their summer placements or going home for the summer. In my experience, the depression and anxiety is not diminished because they are not at the law school. When I do see or hear from them, their depression has an air of permanence that their depression did not have after first semester. I have to convince them that they still have a way to go, the journey is only 1/3 completed, and there is much time to make up lost ground.
However, I have to temper my positivity with the very real problems associated with under-performing for two semesters. By this time, I have already discussed all the obvious fixes; better note-taking, more focused studying, exam strategies. The problems that cause under-performance for the entire 1L year are more nuanced and more difficult to fix.
Does the student have an undiagnosed learning disability?
Are they being honest with themselves about their study time/reading habits/exam strategies?
If not, why are they so invested in deceiving themselves?
Or the hardest question of all, are they just not made for law school?
Having the " why do you really want to be a lawyer?" talk is always hard. Family expectations, personal goals, anger, and depression are all swift undercurrents that can sink the conversation, and possibly sink the student. As much as I stress that there is absolutely no shame in trying law school and deciding it's not for them, it's hard to move past the message that leaving law school makes them a failure. I try to keep tchochkes related to famous, successful people who left law school around my office year-round; Mary Matalin, the Republican political strategist; singer/dancer/actor/choreographer Gene Kelly, author of "To Kill a Mockingbird" Harper Lee, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, and late Presidents Johnson, McKinley, Truman, and both Roosevelts.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Below is an announcement for openings at Florida A & M. Check it out. (dbw)
The Coordinator(s) of Academic Success and Bar Preparation is responsible for assisting the Director of Academic Success and Bar Preparation in designing, coordinating and administering academic support in the areas of writing, critical thinking and bar preparation. The Program is designed to develop the necessary legal skills for success in law school and on the bar examination. Emphasis will be placed on increasing the bar passage rate for the institution. Coordinator(s) duties include:
• Designing programs to improve skills relating to bar passage.
• Coordinating and designing workshops for the passage of the multistate and state essay bar examination.
• Training and supervising teaching assistants for tutorial first year courses.
• Identifying at risk and probationary students for counseling and academic support.
• Designing and conducting substantive (writing) workshops for all students.
• Monitoring bar passage rate and options for bar study.
• Maintaining a website (TWEN) devoted to disseminating academic workshops, speakers and events.
• Monitoring and tracking students’ academic progress.
• Participating in the individualized instructional services program.
• Conducting and supervising the Summer Bar Enrichment Program for bar takers.
• Assisting students with use of assistive technology.
• Participating in teaching and all law school workshops.
• Performing any and all duties as assigned by the Director.
• Evenings and some weekend work required.
The successful candidate must possess strong interpersonal skills, the ability to work collaboratively with all members of the law school community and excellent writing, speaking and organizational skills. Applicants must have a J.D., bar admission, and experience that demonstrates a potential for excellence in academic support. Prior academic support experience (either professional or as part of a law school program) or teaching experience (i.e. legal writing or comparable teaching experience in writing and analytical skills training) is preferred. All applicants must have at least three (3) years of experience as a practicing lawyer.
Please email your resume directly to Dolores.Figueroa@FAMU.edu
Monday, May 19, 2008
Yesterday I had the privilege of attending my sister's graduation from medical school. It was a truly wonderful experience and a wonderful day. Boston University Medical School chose a non-traditional graduation speaker, and I have been thinking about his speech for the past 24 hours. BUSM students chose Dean Kamen, the engineer and inventor of the Segway motor scooter, to speak to at the medical school graduation. He was a non-traditional speaker because he is an engineer by trade, not a doctor. However, many of the 400+ devices he has patented are medical devices for the most sick patients at hospitals. He spoke of how he was inspired to invent tiny catheters to treat babies with leukemia by watching his brother, a pediatric oncologist. He continued inventing catheters and stents for people with end-stage renal failure, catheters that free them from dialysis centers and allow peritoneal dialysis at home. He was inspired by watching doctors care for the most sick patients in the hospital; he was awed by their courage and caring.
His parting message for doctors was about how important they are to so many other people. He listed the ways doctors are extraordinary and the incredible power they have to change lives. I wish we heard more law school graduation speakers deliver a similar message about our field; we can change lives in way we don't think about everyday. Most law school graduation speakers I know of are attorneys. That is great, but attorneys telling future attorneys about how important we are doesn't send the same message as someone who has had their life changed by the work of a courageous attorney.
Dean Kamen also spent a large part of his time speaking about the importance of moving innovative medical devices through the FDA. I wish I could show his speech to 1L's, especially those who are undecided about law, and 2L's questioning their faith in public service in the face of big-firm job offers. The law has the power to save lives, however, in much less glamorous ways than a doctor or an inventor. The pay for saving lives isn't quite what it is for a big-firm attorney. We need more attorneys fighting for the rights of patients; these attorneys are unsung heroes.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Although many of you have already celebrated graduation, we here at VLS are gearing up for graduation this weekend. I was warned we live under something of a weather curse here at VLS; a dean was just reminiscing with me about the "one great (weather) graduation", back in 2003, when the weather cooperated with the ceremony. Last year it snowed. I interviewed for my current job the week following the snowy graduation, and it was 85+ with 85+% humidity. (Yes, it gets that hot here in the summer in Vermont!)
Besides chatting about the weather, graduates are going through the bittersweet emotions associated with graduation. I see them flying through my office hoping for a last-minute appointment to go over bar plans before they fly off. Two minutes after they leave my office, I see them teary-eyed in the hallways talking to a beloved professor or friend, yet later in the afternoon I can hear them laughing outside in the graduation tents as they try on their regalia for the first time. And yes, many of the hats do make them look like 14th century poets.
(Lesson from my own graduation: It's always a good idea to try on graduation regalia before graduation day.)
Graduation should be a time for us to celebrate our accomplishments as well as our students successes. We saw them through three years. Many, many of those who said they would not make it are now ready to pick up their diploma. If you get a thank you or two, know that there are at least 10 other students who feel the same way but are too focused on their future to stop and say the words. Stop and pat yourself on the back as you walk back from graduation; our blood, sweat, and tears went into getting them on that stage to pick up the diploma.
Addendum-May 19--graduation day was GORGEOUS here in Vermont; clear blue skies and 70 degrees, despite reports of rain showers. We may have escaped the weather curse...
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Some of my colleagues at UMKC School of Law have created a "self-editing" device to help students with their writing. Prof. Wanda Temm describes it below and asks for your help in improving it. (dbw)
Like many of us, I have just emerged from another round of critiquing briefs. I find one of the most frustrating things in critiquing papers is finding basic mistakes or just typos that the drafter should have caught with a basic proofread. With over-reliance on spell-check and grammar-check, proofreading skills are not where they should be in many of our students. That's certainly not news to all of you.
Frustrated that our pleas to "please proofread more carefully" go unnoticed, my colleagues and I seek to instill ownership of proofreading by requiring our students to complete a self-edit certification. Our aim is to break proofreading down into concrete steps for our students. The certification was originally designed by my colleagues, Professors Nancy Levit and Allen Rostron, for use with law review notes and comments. I am now incorporating into the first year legal writing program and would like your help.
Our draft certification is now available on SSRN at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1130308. Please take a look at let us know how we can improve this work in progress.
Looking forward to a few critiquing-free days,
Wanda M. Temm
Clinical Professor of Law
Director of Legal Writing
Director of Bar Services
University of Missouri-Kansas City
School of Law
5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, Missouri 64105
Friday, May 9, 2008
WINGSPREAD IX, University of Southern Maine, Portland, Maine, July 27-28 2008
Starting Sunday evening, Wingspread itself runs through Monday, followed by a law-themed strand for the full day on Tuesday and also the rest of the 15 th Annual Education & Law Conference (July 28-31).
Wingspread IX focuses on the role of career/theme, the relationships between LRE and diversity, plus the important roles of counseling & philanthropy. Specific sessions at Wingspread and in the following Ed & Law Conference sessions will include Wingspread for newcomers; law themed curricula and schools; multicultural education and resources; pipeline and admissions programs; curriculum lessons shared; student disability awareness; diversity and race neutrality; innovative law-themed programs; restroative justice models; why creativity in schools is so critical: thinking of MySpace, YouTube, etc. as positive learning environments; technology strand; the view from the Bench and the Bar. Presenters include several renowned law school faculty.
For Substantive Information Contact:
Professor Sarah E. Redfield
For Conference Information Contact:
Sherry Phillips, Assistant Director
Department of Conferences
the Bench and the Bar.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Phoenix School of Law, Arizona’s newest law school, seeks a creative and self-directed individual to serve as an Assistant Director of Bar Prep with our growing Academic Success team. Phoenix School of Law is a member of The InfiLaw System, a consortium of independent law schools committed to making legal education more responsive to the realities of new career dynamics. Its mission is to establish student-centered law schools in underserved markets that graduate students with practice-ready skills.
The Assistant Director of Bar Prep, under general supervision of the Assistant Dean of Student Academic Outcomes, will continue the development and implementation of a comprehensive bar prep program to lead the market in first-time bar passage. Duties will include: teaching the Bar Strategies course; assisting students with completion of bar exam and character and fitness applications; facilitating Bar Prep and Academic Success workshops; administering diagnostics; collecting and evaluating data; implementing interventions; providing individualized counseling with focus on students in academic difficulties; assessing, evaluating and making recommendations for revisions to bar prep programming; researching, designing and implementing best practices; and other duties as assigned.
The successful candidate will possess excellent communication skills, including verbal, written, presentation, and interpersonal; experience working with a diverse student body; knowledge of adult learning theory; ability to establish and maintain relationships with students, faculty, staff, and the community; assist in developing the culture of PhoenixLaw; and promote PhoenixLaw’s mission of service, practice-readiness, and student-centeredness.
The Assistant Director of Bar Prep is an administrative teaching position (non -faculty).
Education and experience requirements are:
Juris Doctor and prior teaching experience with intense student contact including demonstrated application of learning theory and variety of instructional strategies, assessments of student learning, and implementation of intervention strategies to a diverse student population. Applicants must be a member in good standing of a state bar (with preference to members of the State Bar of Arizona). Non-Arizona members must be willing to sit and pass the Arizona
Anticipated start date is July 15, 2008. In addition to a competitive base salary, PhoenixLaw offers an exceptional benefits program, which includes medical, dental, and vision coverage, short- and long-term disability, life insurance, two flexible spending accounts, and a generous 401(k) Plan. Send cover letter and resume as attachments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 602-682-6993, Attn: Human Resources. Applications should be submitted by June 1, 2008. Qualified candidates will be invited for interviewing and presentation of a lesson. Final candidates will also complete a Talent-Plus survey. Incomplete applications will not be considered. (dbw)
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
With apologies to Tina Turner and anyone who does not appreciate the beauty of ‘80’s music. But really, what does luck have to do with exam taking? When I send my students off to take their exams, I feel like they want me to say good luck (or break a leg for the undergrad theater majors). But I don’t want to. Why? Because after all the time and effort they have put into studying, I am not sure luck has much to do with it and I don’t want students to feel that their performance on the exams is out of their control.
I have a student who has been coming to see me everyday since classes have ended; she says that I am her study group. She has worked exceptionally hard at answering old exam questions under test conditions and we go over them everyday. We have discussed reading questions carefully, outlining before answering, issue spotting, completeness of answers and organization. We have not discussed rabbit’s feet, numerology, astrology or the idea of setting up an alter to the gods of Constitutional Law (whoever they may or may not be) in the exam room (not to mention that proctors tend to frown upon lit candles during a paper exam). Today is her Con. Law exam and as she left my office to do that last minute read through of her outline, she said, “wish me luck.” And I said no; she looked crestfallen, but then I explained my dilemma.
What is the right thing to say to my students before
sending them to the lions, I mean into exams? “Go get ‘em tiger,” seems glib and condescending. “Show ‘em what you got,” is also glib with
hints of stripper inappropriateness; and “Hrrr,” the pirate warrior cry seems
This is not to say that there cannot be any luck involved. I have been lucky every now and then on exams: like the time I had a friend contemplating a surrogate parenting arrangement in Massachusetts just prior to the bar. I did a bunch of research for her and lo and behold it was a question on the bar a few weeks later. It happens, but you cannot rely on that luck when you can’t possibly know it will happen until you are actually taking the exam. You need to be prepared for the questions you don’t happen to know the answers to already and that involves knowing the law and answering the questions so that the professor agrees that you do.
So, what I said to my student today was, “go show the professor what you know and organize it so he/she knows that you know it well.” And then I added, “I would say good luck, but you don’t need it because you have worked hard to know the material and you know how to take this exam.” While this is bit longer winded than a simple, “good luck,” I think it was a better way to prepare this student for the exam-by putting the power to ace it in her hands and not someone else’s. (ezs)
Monday, May 5, 2008
I am always looking for teachable moments; those times when "real life" intersects with law school teaching. This morning, a student sent a link regarding the passing of Mildred Loving, whose challenge to Virginia's anti-miscegenation law led to the decision in Loving v. Virginia. The short article provides a great segue into a discussion of the impact of these laws on the lives of real people.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
LSAC has e-mailed and mailed materials to ASP professionals regarding this year's Academic Assistance Topical Workshop for new professionals. In addition, information has been sent through the ASP listserv. However, if you are a new professional, you may have missed those sources of information. So, the basic topic information and contact information are included below. (Amy Jarmon)
2008 LSAC Academic Assistance Topical Workshops
Workshop for New Academic Support Professionals
"Using Hands-On Strategies to Build a Strong Foundation for Successful Academic Support"
The University of Maryland School of Law, Baltimore, MD
June 12-14, 2008
Who Should Attend:
Registrationi for this workshop is restricted to faculty and administrators who work with academic assistance programs, either as a director or in a supporting capacity, with up to three years of experience. For those new academic support faculty and adminsitrators with bar exam preparation responsibilities, there will be a conference devoted to that topic at Southwestern Law School, Los Angeles, California, September 19-20, 2008. Separate registration materials will be provided for that workshop. The topic for the third workshop has not been decided yet.
The Workshop Planning Committee wants each registrant to know that an intense training curriculum has been planned and attendance at all sessions is expected.
Additionial Information and Questions:
Questions concerning the curriculum or registration should be directed to Kent Lollis, email@example.com, 215.968.1227. Logistical questionis should be directed to Russell A. McClain, firstname.lastname@example.org, 410.706.2271.