Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, May 15, 2009

Helping Probation Students Deal with Grades

Finals finished a week ago today.  Grades are due on Monday. 

I am beginning to get e-mails and queries from students who were on probation last semester.  It is as if they have had some relaxation but also just long enough to rehash exams.  They are now mentally preparing themselves.

Some are inquiring about meetings in preparation for attending summer school.  They are feeling confident that grades will allow them to continue.  They want to start working on their study habits for the short, intense summer classes.  They will often be juggling classes and part-time jobs.  The discussions with these students tend to focus on:

  • Discussion about the differences between regular semesters and summer sessions.
  • Discussion about progress in their study skills and honing improved skills to new levels while shoring up areas that are still weak.
  • A draft time management schedule for their planned courses and work hours.
  • If they ask, we discuss how the petition process ties into summer school start-up should their grades fail to meet all of the requirements.  (With no grades posted yet, I tend to allow them to ask.  We still have time for this discussion if needed as grades come in.) 

Some are making backup plans.  They are somewhat hopeful about grades, but are contacting me about possible alternatives.  The discussions with these students tend to focus on:

  • The petition process if their grades fail to meet all of the requirements.  They usually ask about the process immediately.  The time line for the process is often important to them.
  • Discussion of possible avenues other than law school: work, other graduate programs, later readmission, application to other law schools.
  • The reality that it will take a few days for all grades to be posted and that some grades may be late coming in because of professor illness or other extenuating circumstances.
  • Stress management tips as needed. 
  • A few of these students doubt that they will want to continue even if their grades turn out okay.  I encourage them to do what is best for them and remind them that law school is not a perfect match for everyone.    

Several different types of probation students will contact me once grades begin to post.  The context will vary with each situation.

Some will contact me with excitement over the postive changes they made and their first ever Bs - or even As.  What are fondly known as "Atta Boy! Atta Girl!" letters will be in the mail for them before too long as they surpass their probation requirements.  In these cases, I focus on:

  • Being enthusiastic in my celebration with them.
  • Talking about future honing of study habits to continue a sharp upward trend in their grade point averages.
  • Offering to work with them again on a regular basis to help them improve further when they take their next courses.

Some students will contact me with despair when not all of their grades measure up to their expectations even though they met the requirements.  Why?  They are personally disappointed because they just eked by the probation requirements or have not yet achieved anything higher than perhaps a C+.  For such students, the discussion focuses on:

  • The areas of improvement that they did have and what changes contributed to that improvement.
  • The fact that study habits improve over time and need to be honed each semester.
  • A game plan for ways they can improve in the future.
  • An offer to work with them again on a weekly basis to help them improve further when they take their next courses.

Some of the students who are despairing will have fallen below the requirements but have a right to petition because of extraordinary circumstances.  With these students, I will focus on:

  • Listening to their concerns and worries so that they are able to process some of the shock and sorrow.
  • Turning their attention to any options that they have and how to take action on those options.
  • Explaining what the requirements mean for the student's specific transcript and discussing the petition option(s) appropriate for that student.  Again, time lines are often important.
  • Explaining what categories of information must be included in the written petition.
  • Beginning the process of thinking about alternatives if a petition is unsuccessful.
  • Discussing stress management tips as needed. 
  • Referring them to other deans or offices as appropriate. 

And for those students whose grades are so far away from the requirements that petitioning is not realistic or impossible because of the rules, the discussion focuses on:

  • Listening to their concerns and worries so that they are able to process some of the shock and sorrow.
  • Turning their attention to any options that they have outside law school.
  • Helping them see their support network of family and friends and mentors who will be there for them.

    At the end of the day, I want each of these students to exit whatever level in the process feeling that someone listened, gave accurate information, and helped them through the process.  A student may have abysmal grades, no extraordinary circumstances, or no options left in regard to law school.  However, that student still deserves someone who listens with patience and courtesy.  (Amy Jarmon)     

  • May 15, 2009 in Advice, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Thursday, May 14, 2009

    Congratulations to students finished with exams

    Our exams ended last Friday.  By that time there were only a few students left taking elective course exams.  One of which was my European Union seminar.

    Our 1L students finished their last exam a few days earlier on the Tuesday.  Their tired and smiling faces (for the most part) reminded me of my own 1L year.  I still remember vividly that feeling of jubilation after my last 1L exam was completed.  It was almost too good to be true that I was a rising 2L.

    Each law school semester after that, I was pleased to have finished another set of exams.  However, the sense of accomplishment and the feeling of euphoria were never the same as the end of my 1L year.  I was closer to graduation (and ultimately the bar exam) each time, but the semesters and exams never seemed as long or as difficult after I had finished 1L year.

    Best wishes to all of our students as they finish their exams at our respective schools.  I hope that they will have good rising 2L and 3L summers whether they are working, in summer school, or relaxing.  I hope that the our graduates will have successful bar preparation and pass on their first attempts in July in whatever states they are sitting the exam.

    And now that hooding ceremony celebrations are over and the registrar's office has delivered my exam stack, I get to grade all those essay answers that my students wrote.  (Amy Jarmon)

    May 14, 2009 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    ASP position at FAMU


    Director, Academic Success and Bar Preparation

    QUALIFICATIONS: Juris Doctorate from an ABA-accredited law school, bar admission, demonstrated skill in legal research, writing and oral communication, and the ability to work collaboratively. Excellent academic background and sound organizational administrative and interpersonal skills and experience in academic support program or comparable work experience is required. PREFER: Preference will be given to applicants with ability design and administer an academic support program to enhance the learning and study skills of all law students. Individual in this position will implement, direct, and coordinate law school efforts to enhance overall academic performance.

    Application Information

    TITLE: Faculty Administrator (Director, Academic Success and Bar Preparation)
    POSITION NUMBER: 19339 (Faculty)
    LOCATION: College of Law (Orlando)
    SALARY: Negotiable
    FTE: 1.00
    CONTRACT PERIOD: 12 Months
    DEADLINE DATE: 05/21/09

    Postal Address:

    Human Resources
    Florida A&M University
    211 Foote-Hilyer Administration Center
    Tallahassee, FL 32307





    Online App. Form:


    Markita D. Cooper

    Associate Dean of Academic Affairs

    Florida A&M University College of Law

    201 Beggs Avenue

    Orlando, FL 32801

    May 13, 2009 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    ASP Director at UK


    University of Kentucky College of Law Academic Success and Legal Writing Specialist



                The University of Kentucky College of Law seeks an Academic Success Program Director who will be primarily responsible for implementing the Legal Education Access Program (LEAP), a program that includes a variety of efforts designed to encourage students from economically disadvantaged rural and urban communities to attend law school and ultimately return to their communities to encourage others to attend law school.  Part of LEAP includes the Ambassadors of the Law program in which students travel throughout Kentucky visiting colleges and high schools to enhance understanding about legal education possibilities.  Because LEAP includes an intense legal writing component for the ASP participants, the position includes responsibilities of an Assistant Director of Legal Writing and the various academic support efforts involved in that program. 

                The ASP Director will be responsible for program operation, development, and evaluation.  S/he will plan the schedule of classes and other events; coordinate participant recruitment, application and selection processes; select and oversee ASP student mentors; and ensure the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of all program records and databases.  The ASP Director will be responsible for program enhancement and development, including all programmatic assessment and revision, design and innovation initiatives, grant writing and other efforts to obtain additional resources for the program, its participants, and/or its activities.

    Minimum qualifications are Juris Doctor and four years of related experience and a current Bar license from any state that will allow you to practice law.

    To apply for job # SM526301, submit a UK Online Application at

    If you have any questions, contact HR/Employment, phone (859) 257-9555 press 2, or email Application deadline is May 25, 2009.

                Founded in 1865 as a land-grant institution adjacent to downtown Lexington, UK is nestled in the scenic heart of the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. Recently ranked as one of the safest, most creative, and the brainiest cities in the nation, Lexington is an ideal location to experience the work-life balance that the University strives to provide to its employees. See for yourself what makes UK one great place to work.

    The University of Kentucky is an equal opportunity employer and encourages applications from minorities and women.

    May 12, 2009 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Monday, May 11, 2009

    Teaching our students to be collegial

    Academic Support has crossovers into many other areas of legal education; one of the most fascinating to me is the crossover between ASP and balance in legal education.  The issues that impact ASP are often the same issues that arise because of the lack of balance in legal education; stress, depression, substance abuse.  Bullying is a problem in law school that exacerbates all of these things. In this economy, we can expect to see the sharp elbows and evil comments increase. This is an issue we need to keep an eye out for with our students because so many feel stigmatized by being a student who needs (or wants) additional support and assistance.  When there are sparse resources (or the perception of sparse resources), students can turn on each other as a way of getting ahead. I would love to say these tactics don't work, but sometimes they do work. When an otherwise qualified student doesn't bother to apply for a position because they have been told they are too stupid, based on their use of ASP resources, bullying has worked.  What is our role, as ASPer's, in helping our students see that this behavior only brings down the very profession they worked so hard to be a part of? The first step is modeling appropriate behavior.  ASP is one of the most welcoming, warm, wonderful communities I have had the privilege to be a part of, but that does not mean that they stress does not get the best of us sometimes. I know I have been guilty of the saying things I want to put back into my mouth, especially when I am in a high-stress, high pressure environment where bullying is the norm. The challenge is to rise above this, and remember that are students are always watching what we do and what we say.  They look to us to show them how to be professionals. And they are looking to us to show them how to behave when we are under stress.

    When you see bullying between students, take action. This behavior will perpetuate itself in the professional setting if it is not stopped.  Remember, sometimes this behavior works, and the bully gets what they want from harassing, belittling, or "freezing out" the classmates. It is our responsibility to show that this is not acceptable in our profession, even if it results in short-term gains. Sometimes students need to be reminded that their reputation in law school will carry to their professional careers.  It brings us all down when a law student or a lawyer embodies the greedy, mean-spirited lawyer of so many jokes and cartoons.

    I know many of us don't feel like we have the power to stop something that is pervasive in law school community. But if we can stop it in one small corner, it will make a difference. (RCF)

    Backlash: Women Bullying Women at Work
    Published: May 10, 2009
    It’s a taboo topic in the workplace sisterhood: Women who bully usually pick on other women.

    May 11, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)