Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving for law students

Most of my law students realize that the carefree days of undergraduate Thanksgiving breaks from class are no longer possible.  Unless law students have been diligent in reviewing for exams all semester (fortunately, more of my students are seeing the benefits of this strategy), they will not be able to afford 5 days away from the books.  Even my diligent students often want the extra review time.

Students who have a study plan before the break begins tend to get more accomplished than those students who "take it day by day."  By planning, they waste less time trying to decide what to study and getting started on their studying.  They are also less susceptible to the temptations of TV, shopping, non-law-school family members' relaxing, and frittering away time.

Each day basically has three potential study chunks within it: 8-12, 1-5, 6-10.  For many students, thinking about the day in thirds helps them plan their studying realistically.  It is easier to estimate what can be done in 4 hours than what can be done "today."  Even if a student decides to not use all three potential chunks every day, it allows conscious decisions about each part rather than drifting through the day.

For each chunk, a student has to determine how to use the time most effectively for her study habits and learning styles.  One student may want to spend all of the day's time (a potential 12 hours) on one subject for review.  Another student may need to switch off courses to stay focused.  Within each of the three chunks, one student may "mix it up": read through an entire outline, flashcards, intense studying of one topic, practice problems, reading a supplement, making graphic organizers for the material.  Another student may focus better by completing one type of task the entire time.

Students will maintain their focus best, gain greater understanding, and retain more information if they are active in their studying.  Some may read out loud.  Some may recite rules out loud.  Some may ask lots of questions while reviewing the material.  Some may even pace while doing flashcards.  Being actively involved is more effective than merely "doing time" over the books.

Within the longer chunks, students should take short breaks roughly every 90 minutes.  A quick trip to the refrigerator for a drink, a snack, or a brief chat with family will allow one's brain to file the recently completed information. 

Family circumstances vary.  Some students can hole up in their rooms without causing a problem with their family.  Other students will find that it is best to go to the public library, coffeehouse, or some other location to study because their family members interrupt them too much or resent "tip-toeing" around the house so the law student can study.

However, I always encourage my students whether they are here in town to study or at home with family and friends to take most, if not all, of the actual holiday itself off.  Why?  Because otherwise they are miserable.  They feel sorry for themselves and resent not having the holiday.  So, better to have some time off and enjoy it than to not focus on what they are trying to study because of their emotional response.  If they are staying in town, I encourage them to join with other law students or folks they know in the community for a dinner.  At minimum they should go out to a restaurant and have a nice meal.  Peanut butter and jelly or turkey sandwiches are not the same as a good holiday meal. 

And, I think it is helpful if the students have a reward planned for studying each day.  Being able to look forward to the reward is a motivator.  Claiming the reward at the end of the day is satisfaction for a job well done.  Whether it is watching TV with family, going to a movie, playing Spider Solitaire, or a bubble bath, the reward will make the day a success.

Happy Thanksgiving to all ASPers and to all our law students.  (Amy Jarmon) 

November 24, 2009 in Exams - Studying, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Secondary Stress Disorder and ASP

There has been considerable attention on secondary stress disorder (SSD) in the past few weeks as a result of the horrible, tragic events at Fort Hood. SSD is common in caregivers who work with people who have survived traumatic events. Care givers can take on the stress of the people they are caring for, and sometimes suffering PTSD as seriously as the people that are trying to help.

SSD relates to ASP in two ways. As ASPer’s, some of us work with students who have experienced considerable pain and suffering in their lives, enough tragedy to interfere with their learning and bring them ASP. SSD also effects our students who are care givers, who may not have suffered the tragedy themselves, but are spouses or widow(er)s of service men and women, or are caregivers to sick parents or children.

In both cases, we need to recognize that SSD is real, and it does make an impact on learning and working. SSD is not recognized among the general population, and it is particularly pernicious when those around people with SSD don’t understand or don’t believe that it is a real issue.  Not everyone is effected to the same degree, but ASPer’s who spend their days one-on-one counseling students can’t help but absorb some of the stress that surrounds them.  (RCF)

November 23, 2009 in Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Non-traditional students and exam study

All law students are into exam study mode right now.  However, I want to address non-traditional students and specific study issues that they bring to the "crunch time" of the semester. 

Unlike many of their colleagues, they are often juggling partners and/or children in the law school mix.  If they are attending part-time/evening programs, they are further juggling work deadlines and boss expectations as well.  Some of them also add community or family obligations such as care of elderly or ill parents.

Here are some tips to help "non-trads" get more study time:

  • Discuss with your family why this period in the semester is so important.  Your family may not understand since law school is so foreign to everyone who has not attended - especially if you never disappeared like this during other degree programs. 
    • Ask for help in trying to find blocks of time when you can have uninterrupted study time.
    • Agree on family time that you will participate in to stay connected with "real life": a regular dinner hour or story time before bed might be examples.
    • Agree on what chores and other responsibilities will be kept by you and what ones your family can pick up (or what chores can be temporarily jettisoned).  
  • Decide with your family whether studying at home will work.  If you have a separate study/office area, it might.  But, you cannot expect your family to tip toe around for the next 5 weeks.  Some plans that have worked for other non-trad law students are:
    • Go to the law school or some other location to study so that family knows that when you are home you are available.
    • One family had a red light-green light system for the study/office door.  If the law student could not be interrupted, the red light signaled that status.  The green light meant short interruptions were okay.
    • Post your study schedule on the refrigerator to let everyone know when you will be studying and when there will be down time.
  • Realize that you may be asking your partner (or other family members) to shoulder more of the chores and responsibilities than are truly fair.  Make sure your partner and family know how much you appreciate the support.  Plan ways to say "thank you" during the semester break.
  • If you are a single parent, then make some decisions about what your priorities are going to be:
    •  Consider what chores can be jettisoned or trimmed (example, an extreme clean may not happen each week).
    • Consider whether separate home-cooked meals every night can be replaced with crock-pot-cooked meals on the weekend that are frozen and recycled over several weeks.
    • Consider whether some activities can be trimmed down a bit in time so that extra half-hour slots can be accumulated into a larger study block during the day (example, meal time, bath time, story time).
    • Decide whether you are using time between classes during the day to greatest advantage so that you can shift some studying prior to when your children arrive home.
    • Decide whether set meal, nap, bath, and bed times would help both you and your children have a better routine. 
  • Call in the reinforcements!  If you live near parents or other family members, ask for help with childcare during this crunch period.  It is important to be able to get large blocks of uninterrupted time for exam study.  Family are probably already helping to some extent, but ask if they can assist a few additional hours each week.
  • If you do not live near family, join with other law students, friends, or neighbors to swap childcare and set up play dates.  By sharing the childcare duties, you can gain some additional study hours and the other person also gains quality time.   
  • Plan activities that will be fun for your younger children while you are occupied with your studies.  Select DVDs, games, and other favorite activities that they can participate in to provide you with some uninterrupted time to focus.  You may be in the next room with your parental radar on alert, but will at least be able to have study time. 
  • Remember that you are a role model for your children.  If they see that education and studying are important to you, then they will treat them as important in their own lives.  
  • Consider whether your partner or older children can help you study (example, flashcard quizzing).  If so, then they become part of your endeavor rather than being on the outside.
  • Plan your allotted study breaks for time with your family so that they have your attention during those slots.  Chatting over a cup of tea or reading a story together can help all of you have some relaxation and be a reward for uninterrupted study time. 
  • If you are working while in law school, consider the following:
    • Can you take vacation or personal days to gain more study time?
    • Can you work on flex-time so that you shift your hours for several weeks to allow more study time? 
    • Will your boss agree to your studying at the office if your job duties are slow?
    • Can you swap duties/deadlines for the next several weeks with other co-workers in return for repaying the favor later?
    • Are there projects or tasks that can be delayed until after exams?
  • Plan a celebration at the end of the semester to thank everyone for the much-needed understanding and support.  If your family has special things to look forward to over semester break, they will have a reward for helping you find study time now. 

Non-trads have some special responsibilities that can be managed within the exigencies of law school with some extra planning.  Fortunately, most of them have fairly good time and work management skills from their jobs and family duties.  However, communication with loved ones and work colleagues goes a long way in making the transition to law school studying a smooth one.  (Amy Jarmon) 

November 19, 2009 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Finishing up the semester

Interestingly, this is about the time of year when things become very quiet for me, in both my capacity as Director of the Pre-Law Center and as an ASPer at the law school. Students start gearing up for exams, and unprepared students are still telling themselves that they have time. Because this is the calm before the storm, this is also a great time to reach out to students before they hit the wall and panic before exams. Some strategies for reaching out to students...and where to find them at this time of year:

1) Get lunch at the cafeteria. Lots of students who won't come to your office  find it easy to chat with you about exam strategies while you are waiting for your lunch.  It makes them feel like they are not really asking for help if they are not going to a workshop or making an appointment to see you.

2) Send out inspirational emails to the 1L class. Some of Amy's older posts, such as fables for law students, are fantastic for law students needing something lighthearted but purposeful.

3) Put up study hints in bathroom stalls. A shout-out for this idea goes to Julie Kalish of Dartmouth College; she started this with bar prep hints in the stalls of the bathroom at Vermont Law School. Students do pay attention. (If you are uncomfortable going into student bathrooms--I certainly would be--student workers are generally fine with helping you out). 

4) If there is an end-of-semester party sponsored by the SBA, go for the first 15 minutes or half-hour. By all means, do not stay unless you are going with a large group of faculty. Those parties tend to inspire all sorts of student debauchery you want to know nothing about. But they are generally pretty tame at the beginning, and like the lunch line, students who won't come to your office will chat with you at the start of a party. 

5) If you can afford it, put small candy-and-note gifts in their student mailboxes. Candy makes them feel better, like someone is on their side. For $50, you can make law school feel a little less alien and the exam process a little more manageable.

If you have additional suggestions about how to reach out to students at the end of the year, or strategies that have worked for you that you would like to share, please send them along to me or Amy and we would be happy to post them for everyone to read. (RCF)

November 18, 2009 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Time savers for home and school

Now that we are approaching the final crunch before exams, I try to help my law students find ways that they can save time on some of their tasks at school and at home. 

Here are some hints that seem to ease the stress because of greater efficiency and effectiveness on school tasks:

  • Read actively now for learning rather than highlighting material to learn later.
  • Review regularly so that you do not need to relearn as much.
    • Review your readings/briefs before you go into class.
    • Review your class notes within 24 hours for better understanding.  Condense them in anticipation of outlining later.
    • Review your outline cover to cover regularly in addition to any specific topics you are learning.
  • Outline new material every week so you do not get too far away from it.
  • Condense your outline to 1-2 pages per topic after intensely studying that topic.  This way, you create a smaller, big picture outline of the essentials while the material is fresh.
  • Ask your professors any outstanding questions now rather than wait until the last minute.
  • Organize all materials for each course so that your exam review will not miss any notes, handouts, problem sets, etc.
  • Stock up on school supplies so that you will not run out at a critical time during the remainder of the semester: pens, ink cartridges, paper, index cards, tabs, file folders. 
  • Complete your hardest tasks when you are most alert so that you are more productive.
  • Evaluate your study options to choose the best strategies:
    •  Should you study at school, another academic building, a coffeehouse, or at home to avoid distractions?
    • Should you study one subject for a longer period (2-4 hours) or switch among subjects to keep focused?
    • Should you cut back on hours at your job to make studying a priority?
    • Should you lessen the time you spend on e-mailing, instant messaging, texting, and talking on the phone?

Here are some hints that seem to ease the stress because of greater efficiency and effectiveness on home tasks:

  • Minimize your time spent on cleaning by scheduling a major cleaning session now and then picking up and spot cleaning only through the end of exams.
  • Plan your errands so that you have scheduled blocks of time twice a week; place errands in the same part of town in the same time block.
  • Run your errands in "off peak" times whenever possible to avoid lines.  Since many stores stay open late or 24 hours, you do not have to shop at the same time as most people.
  • Stock up on food supplies that have a long shelf life to avoid multiple grocery trips later.
  • Buy "family size" portions of prepared foods even if you live alone so that you will have multiple meals taken care of at once.  Freeze unused portions for later if you desire more variety within a week's menu.
  • Complete as much food prep as possible on the weekend for the entire week.  Cut up fresh fruit or vegetables to be portioned out over the week.  Cook multiple servings of a recipe in the crock-pot to use during the week without extra food prep (or to freeze and thaw for greater variety later).  Make sandwiches ahead for several days. 
  • Trade off child care with other law students so that each law school student can have blocks of uninterrupted time for study.
  • Talk to family and friends about how important this period in the semester is to your success.  Ask for them to help you have concentrated periods of study until exams are over.   

By taking control over daily tasks that are not high priority, law students can minimize their stress and focus more on their study priorities.  Saving even 1/2 hour per day means 3 1/2 extra hours per week to study for exams.  (Amy Jarmon)    

November 17, 2009 in Exams - Studying, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Doodling vs. Surfing

There was a recent article on the value of doodling while listening to a dull lecture (their wording, not mine). The study found that doodling while listening to the lecture improved retention of the material, well above the retention of people who were not allowed to doodle while listening. While I would not call all law school lectures dull, looking back at my handwritten notes, there are stars in the margins of many pages. (I drew stars on the margins of my notes since high school; I try to draw the perfect 5-point star.) One of the most brilliant law professors I know also doodles while listening to lectures, and she believes student computer games have taken the part of doodling in the margins.


What interests me about this study is not just that focused attention did not result in the best retention of material, but that I don’t know if there is a similar activity on the computer that can simulate doodling. I think that there are important differences between the sort of things our students do on computers and old-school doodling. I think the level of engagement with the distraction matters; my mind is on the game while I am playing because it requires thought. However, when I am drawing stars in the margins, my mind is still on the lecture while I am drawing, much like knitting while watching television or running on a treadmill and reading.  Additionally, I believe that doodling offers something that computers can’t mimic; we know that there is a mind-body connection in learning. Some people learn better when they are moving. While doodling does not require much movement, it requires more movement than moving an index finger to scroll on a laptop. Doodling frequently requires not just moving a writing utensil, but moving the paper, and re-arranging arm position. The movement takes the edge off the boredom, just enough so lecture sinks in.


The secondary effect of doodling is listening. While this sounds paradoxical, one of the problems with using a laptop to take notes is the “transcriber” effect.  Doodling stops students from being transcribers, and allows them to listen without focusing on transcribing every word.  (RCF)

November 16, 2009 in Learning Styles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Battles with the grapevine

I must admit that at times I grow weary battling the misinformation about exam studying that stays alive and well on our law school grapevine.  So much of the advice throws water in the face of memory and learning theories. 

Students need to remember that they must allow time for four types of exam studying for each course each week if they want to achieve high grades:

  1. cover-to-cover review of their outlines to keep everything fresh;
  2. intense review of material that they still need to learn;
  3. memory drills of the essential black letter law; and
  4. practice questions to apply the law.

Misinformation #1:  Cramming works.

We forget 80% of what we learn if we do not review it regularly.  Thus, the law student who waits until 4-6 weeks (or less) from exams to learn everything for the semester is really re-learning material.  Not very efficient.

Also, the same student will at best be using working memory (previously called short-term memory) rather than long-term memory.  Working memory is like one's desk top.  Long-term memory is like one's filing cabinet.    Working memory means that the person will likely only retain it long enough for the exam.  Not very helpful for bar review or future client discussions. 

Misinformation #2:  Shirking on reading and briefing allows for more study time.

It is as if these students forget that the new material will also be on the exam.  If one skims cases (or worse does not read them at all) and skips briefs, one is not going to know the material deeply.  Professors do not discuss everything in class that may be valuable for the exam.  This is not undergraduate school where class is all one needs to do well.

Deep understanding of material allows students to think and write like lawyers.  By understanding the nuances of the law, students can better analyze questions and make arguments.

Misinformation #3:  Memorizing the black letter law is all you need.

The black letter law is the minimal foundation needed when someone goes into an exam.  However, the good grades go to those students who can apply the law to new fact scenarios.  The memorized law is merely the toolbox that students use to work on solving legal problems.

In the past when I have asked professors what grade a student who merely knows the black letter law will get on their exams, the answers have ranged from some kind of "C" to some kind of "D."

Misinformation #4:  Working with your study group can get you through the exams.

Study groups can be very helpful for clarifying material, getting to the big picture, seeing a practice question from different perspectives, and other purposes.  Alas, a student is not able to depend on the study group in the exam itself. 

Each student has to balance group time with enough individual hard work.  Unless the individual student understands the material deeply and is prepared to analyze the scenario and write a concise and cogent essay answer (or carefully choose among answer options in multiple-choice), the game is lost.  

Misinformation #5:  Waiting until exam period to do practice questions is best.

Ideally one wants to complete practice questions at the end of every topic (and in some cases, sub-topic) throughout the semester.  Then as one reviews for the exams, one completes more questions.  During the exam period, one is then ready for even harder questions rather than just getting started.  Also, students who complete many questions are ready to complete questions under timed conditions long before others can do so.

Practice questions for essay exams are essential because they not only help one spot issues and apply the law but also help one practice the approach to questions and strategies for exam writing.  The sooner one works on all of these skills and strategies, the greater the chance of success on exam day.  It is all good and well to know what "IRAC" means but an entirely different thing to do it well.

Practice questions for multiple-choice exams are also essential because they too allow practice of both skills and strategies.  Because multiple-choice questions are usually "best answer" format, lots of practice trains one in seeing the nuances that make one answer better than another.

Misinformation #6:  Studying each course for two or more weeks and then ignoring it until later works best.

If one focuses on one course for a long period and then moves on to another course (for example, two weeks on civil procedure, two weeks on contracts, etc.), it is a recipe for disaster.  A variation that you start with your last exam for two weeks, then your middle exam, etc. is equally wrong-headed.  These methods ignore how memory works. 

As mentioned above, we forget 80% of what we learn if we do not review it regularly.  Also, as mentioned, long-term memory works to greater advantage on exams.  By using the four types of review mentioned in the beginning of this posting for each course each week, memory will benefit.

One would think that merely 1L students would fall for these poorly conceived study misinformations on the grapevine.  Surprisingly, 2Ls and 3Ls hang on to grapevine misinformation even when it has not worked for them in the past!  When I explain the reasons why the misinformation is wrong, most students immediately choose better strategies.  (Amy Jarmon)  

November 12, 2009 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Managing The Sickness Season, Part 2

Amy's wonderful post Oct. 22 on students and illness brings us to another issue of illness...our own health. As someone who has had two distinct stomach viruses and a cold during the month of October, it is important for us to remember to take care of ourselves. I strongly suggest you stock up on the following, and keep them readily available in your office:

1) Tissues where students sit. If a student starts to cough, I remind them of the tissues by mentioning that I have nice, soft ones, unlike the scratchy kind provided by the school. They usually get the hint.

2) Hand sanitizer. I use some as soon as a new student walks in, and offer it to them as well.

3) Disinfecting wipes. I try, my best, to clean off the area where my students sit with disinfecting wipes at the end of the day. Realistically, it doesn't happen that much because my desk is usually covered in papers, but some cleaning is better than no cleaning. 

4) Instead of a candy bowl, I have a cough-drop bowl. A big bag of cough drops is a cheap as candy when purchased from one of the big-box discount stores, and they can keep students from coughing on you and your desk. 

My last piece of advice is for you, not for the students. Take time off if you are sick. You are not doing students any favors by coming in when you are sick. You may hear some grumbling when you are not available at the students convenience, but most students are very gracitous when you cancel office hours because you are ill. If you teach a class, think about using an online module as a make-up class, or give students the opportunity to make up class in a non-traditional way. You may sacrifice some coverage, but three weeks of groggy lessons because you didn't recover from illness is less helpful than canceling a class and only missing one week of coverage.

Stay healthy, ASPers!


November 11, 2009 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CALI Webinars: First One Is Friday, November 13th

A posting of interest to ASPers from Prof. Debra Cohen, Visiting Associate Professor and Interim Director of ASP at University of Baltimore School of Law (

I thought the ASP community might be interested in an upcoming CALI Webinar.    On Friday, November 13 at 3pm (eastern time) Professor Wise and I are going to speak about integrating CALI in our classes.  One of the things I am going to focus on is how I integrate CALI into my work in academic success.   If anyone is interested,  they can register at the below link.

REGISTER NOW: Using CALI Lessons in Your Teaching

Presenters: Professors Deb Cohen, Southern New England School of Law, and Sally Wise, University of Miami School of Law.

More upcoming webinars:

November 27: Using Moodle Management Software in Law School Courses
Professor Vernellia Randall of the University of Dayton School of Law will present on using Moodle (, an open-source course management system.

December 11: Five Steps to Promoting CALI at Your School

We'll cover free, easy, and effective ways to ensure your students know about CALI and CALI Lessons, some of the few free study tools available to them in law school. We strongly encourage CALI Reps to attend...this one's for you.

November 10, 2009 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 9, 2009

NECASP Conference

Just a quick reminder that the deadline for registering for the NECASP Conference is Friday, November 13.

·         Conference topic - Designing, Implementing and Nurturing Student-Assisted Law School Academic Support Programs.

·         Conference date and time – This will be a one day conference that will take place from 8:30 - 4:00 on Monday, December 7, 2009.

Download NECASP Conference Registration


November 9, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Working down the pipeline: P-20 educational efforts

One of the fun tasks that I have at Texas Tech is being the team leader for our partnership with the Law and Justice Magnet Program at Estacado High School, a predominately minority high school here in Lubbock.  The high school students are 9th through 12th graders who are interested in law enforcement or law careers.  Their LJMP instructor is ex-law enforcement and a wonderful teacher named Lucio Trevino.

We began the partnership because of our commitment to increasing diversity in the legal profession.  In addition, we hope to keep students in school, encourage a college-going culture, and teach good citizenship. 

Typically, we have included the following activities and resources in the partnership mix: 

  • The Seniors attend mini-classes at the law school on criminal law in the fall and civil law in the spring.  Several Legal Practice professors have generously allowed us to modify their 1L memo packets for the high school students.  Law librarians teach library and research skills during each series while Mr. Trevino and I focus on the fact pattern and cases with the students.
  • The sophomores and juniors are invited to a short non-residential summer camp that focuses on criminal law.  We again use a modified 1L memo packet as the class materials.  Students participate in presentation of arguments at the end of the camp.
  • Law students help coach the LJMP mock trial team.  The team begins practice in October and competes in February in a regional competition.   
  • Library materials are donated to the high school after they are withdrawn from the collections.  The main law library provides advance copies of the reporters.  My OASP library provides study aid materials.
  • Invitations are extended to LJMP for various events at the law school.  For example, the students are VIP guests for the Sandra Day O'Connor Distinguished Lecture Series.  They get a group photograph with the visiting U.S. Supreme Court Justice and a certificate.

This year we began an exciting program in which 7 of our upper-division law students are Dean's Community Teaching Fellows (DCTFs) helping Mr. Trevino in the classroom.  The program has been a wonderful success. 

The students love having law students in the classroom.  The law students get to share their legal knowledge and present lessons.  The mock trial team is basking in the extra attention.  Mr. Trevino is delighted to have the extra help in the classroom.  Some of the DCTFs are ex-public school teachers who missed the classroom and are excited to be back. 

The DCTFs have the option of signing up for Independent Study Credit.  As part of that course credit, I have been reading their required journals.  Their enthusiasm is obvious in their entries.  As the first DCTFs, their comments are vital to the growth of the program. 

Although pipeline efforts add to an ASPer's already at-capacity load, the rewards for working with P-12 students are worth the extra time.  I encourage any ASP professionals who have a heart for diversity and  public education to get involved.  There is a national law school group called "Wingspread" that deals with P-20 issues.  If you want more information, just contact me.  (Amy Jarmon)  


November 7, 2009 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Beware perfectionism in law school

I know lots of law students who are perfectionists.  In all prior learning experiences, they have been able to cope with this characteristic because the workload was not mammoth and the competition for grades was usually moderate. 

If you think about it, American society pushes bright students to be perfect.  We get into college by getting A grades.  We get into law school by getting A grades.  And, we are expected to get those grades while juggling lots of leadership positions and organization/team memberships.  In fact, we are encouraged also to get jobs on top.

Having to be perfect, however, is very stressful.  Why?  Because it is impossible.  No matter the prior accolades, there is always the lurking worry that one might not be perfect the next time.  One can never relax as a perfectionist.  Perfectionists tend to be unforgiving of their non-perfection: 95 is a failure; a missed response in class is an embarrassment of mammoth proportions; wrinkled jeans are shameful.

Some perfectionists have trouble beginning projects because of possible failure.  If one will not be able to write the perfect paper within the time period or with the instructions given, then why even begin?  And, if one delays, then an explanation for "failure" could be that one could have written the perfect paper if there had been more time.

Some perfectionists have trouble finishing projects.  It is hard for them to read and brief efficiently (because every detail must be understood before moving to the next case), finish their research and move on to writing (because there may be one more case out there somewhere), or finalize a paper (because it needs one more rewrite to be perfect).  If a perfectionist is also a very high-scoring sensing (detail) learner, the perfectionism may be exacerbated by that learning preference.   

The stress of being perfect is often accompanied by physical or emotional difficulties.  Stomach problems, headaches, insomnia, irritability, and depression are just a few examples.  The toll on self can be devastating. 

Perfectionists may also create tension in their work or family environments because of their expectations.  In a sense, the focus is on what is wrong rather than what is right.  A perfectionist may make an irritated remark to a group member who turned in the project with one typo.  A minor error by a professor becomes a major crisis resulting in unforgiving criticism of that person.  The apartment must be spotless at all times, and roommates beware of any transgressions.

Perfectionists can moderate the characteristic.  Here are some suggestions:

  • reorient expectations from being perfect to doing the best one can do each day
  • become aware of what situations trigger perfectionism and decide on strategies to moderate one's behaviors in those situations 
  • set realistic time limits for projects and work within those time limits
  • make realistic daily "to do" lists and keep long-term "to do" items on a monthly list to be transferred when appropriate to the daily list 
  • avoid being consumed by one task (perhaps a memo) to the exclusion of other necessary tasks
  • spread work out over the semester to lower stress and allow longer periods for studying for exams or completing an assignment
  • focus on feedback to improve a grade rather than focusing on the "failure" of meeting one's expectation for a better grade
  • do not place unrealistic expectations or criticism on others because of your own perfectionism
  • practice forgiveness for yourself and others when "perfect" is not achieved. 

For those whose perfectionism is deeply entrenched and cannot be conquered with vigilance, consider working with a counselor at your campus counseling center.  You will not be the only one who has sought help for the problem!  Conquering perfectionism in law school will not only make you a happier law student; it will make you a happier practitioner as well.  (Amy Jarmon)      

November 6, 2009 in Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Assistant Director Position at Touro

Assistant Director Position at Touro Law Center

Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center seeks applicants for a position as an Assistant Director of Academic Development.  This position assists the Director of Academic Development in all aspects of Touro’s Academic Development programs including: recruiting, training, and supervising teaching assistants; working with students on an individual basis; coordinating and providing skills training workshops; developing appropriate student learning materials; coordinating and teaching in Touro’s bar-preparation programs; and implementing new services relevant to enhancing our law students’ academic experience.  This position is a 10-month position and reports to the Director of Academic Development.  Specific duties and responsibilities include:


Primary responsibility for the administrative duties associated with the 1L Teaching Assistant ("TA") Program with shared monitoring and training responsibilities; the administrative tasks include: identifying and selecting TAs, scheduling TA sessions, monitoring TA and student attendance, reviewing weekly TA status reports, and maintaining and disseminating TA materials.


Providing individual counseling and tutoring for students with regard to study habits, skills, time management, outlining, exam preparation, etc.;


Teaching a section of Touro’s bar preparation seminar course;

             In conjunction with the Director of Academic Development, share in the creation, maintenance, and distribution of teaching materials which includes the further development and maintenance of the ASP website; and

             One-on-one tutoring in Touro’s summer bar prep program (separate summer stipend for summer tutoring).


Applicants must possess a J.D. degree with a record of high academic achievement from an ABA-accredited law school for this full-time position.  The ideal candidate should possess excellent writing, speaking, and organizational skills as well as a commitment to academic support.  A teaching background is preferred but not required.  Experience in academic support, whether at the college or law school level, is preferred.  Evening and some weekend work is required.  Salary is $60,00 and includes benefits.  Research stipends will also be available for articles to be written that are relevant to academic development.  Please submit a letter of interest, resume, and writing sample by December 1, 2009 to:

Professor Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus

Director of Academic Development

Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center

225 Eastview Drive

Central Islip, NY 11722

No phone calls please. 


November 6, 2009 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)