Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why did I ever go to law school?

As Liz stated in her wonderful posting yesterday, our minds are with our students who are struggling right now.  My posting below follows up on her theme.

Students are showing up in my office with the above question on their lips.  They generally fall into two categories.  Some ask because their grades are less than adequate in their eyes (and in some cases are actually probation grades).  For others, it is the thought of facing another semester of hard work and stress when they have begun to have doubts.

It would be easy to plunge in to a "Dean Fix-it" mode right away.  After all, we ASP types know lots of techniques and strategies and can usually see what needs to be "worked on" by each student.  Instead, I bite my tongue initially (fortunately, not all the way through yet), listen, and nod as the student tells me all about it.

The first thing most of my students want is the knowledge that somebody cares about how they are feeling.  My office is one of the places where they can check their machismo play-acting at the door.

The second thing most of my students want is the realization that no matter how embarrassed they are about their performing badly or questioning whether law school is still their goal, I do not judge them.  Life is full of obstacles and doubts.  My job is to help them move forward.

The third thing most of my students want is reassurance that they are not the only ones who have ever felt this way about grades or law school.  They are not failures though they may have failed or nearly failed courses.  They are not aberrant members of society if law school is no longer appealing. 

Finally, they want the reassurance that there are strategies and techniques that we can work on together that should be able to improve their grades and get them back on track if law is still their dream.  I am not a miracle worker.  But, I have seen students blessed with miracles when they worked exceedingly hard.  Does that mean that every student will make it?  No, but it means that I no longer think that I know which ones will or will not. 

[Of course, there are some students who definitely do not want to continue to pursue a law degree.  There are a few that statistically should not unless the law school has policies that provide options.  I help these types of students weigh the pros and cons, make a plan if they decide to withdraw or to stay, and believe in themselves after the decision.  If they stay, they need to know that I shall work 110% to help them (and expect them to do the same).  If they walk away, they need to know that law is not for everyone and that there is a life (and success and joy) outside law school.]

"Why did I ever go to law school?"  One of the reasons that I understand the question is because I asked it myself a few times during the process.  Fortunately for me, it was soul searching rather than grades that prompted the question.  However, the question was scary just the same.  (Amy Jarmon) 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2009/01/why-did-i-ever.html

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