May 22, 2008
Motivating Students Post-Grades
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.
May 20, 2008
Positions at Florida A&M University College of Law
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
May 19, 2008
Inspiration by Commencement Speech
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.