Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Are you thinking about getting into ASP work?

I talk several times a year to practicing lawyers or others who are considering academic support work as a career change.  I have also through the years talked with new ASP'ers at both ends of the spectrum - those who love working in ASP and those who are looking for a change because ASP was not a good match.

I am listing below some aspects to consider when thinking about becoming an Academic Support Professional: 

  • Do you sincerely enjoy working with law students on their academics regardless of their academic standing?  In ASP, you need to work with a wide range of students: students who have good GPA's but want to discuss one or two areas of concern; students who are hovering near the academic standard but not on probation; students who are on probation.  You may well have contact with the "best and the brightest" at your school, but those students will not be your main focus.  You need to assess your patience level while working with students who are struggling to learn basic study skills.
  • Are you willing to do "catch all" counseling with your students on areas that are not strictly ASP?   Academic problems often have medical, personal, family, or financial dimensions to them.  Consequently, ASP'ers become privy to information that they normally would not know as they help students improve their academics.  ASP'ers act as a referral point to help students sort out these other problems.  Academic probation or dismissal is stressful for students used to being successful.  ASP'ers may just need to listen and provide a tissue box.  For some, these every day conversations and interactions would be "too much information" and not a desireable work environment.   
  • Are you willing to work more than a 40-hour week?  Some people have the misconception that ASP must be easy 8 to 5 work.  In fact it is a labor of love for most ASP'ers because of the heavy demands of the position. In ASP, your days are filled with individual appointments, workshops, meetings, and possibly ASP classes.  Unless you have sufficient colleagues and administrative staff, the reality is that  you complete many basic administrative tasks after 5:00 p.m.  Workshop and class prep may also have to happen after 5 o'clock.   
  • Are you happy working on your own or do you prefer being part of a large staff?  Although some law schools now have 2 or more full-time professionals doing ASP work, many schools still have one-person ASP offices.  Depending on your school, you may find colleagues in other areas with similar interests in learning, teaching, and study skills.      
  • Do you have expectations about your status that will match the position?   Although things are starting to change at some law schools, most ASP folks are administrators rather than full-time faculty.  Consequently, not all things may be equal to faculty positions.  Salary, vacation time, type of contract, service on committees, eligibility for research or teaching assistants, travel funds, professional development funds, and voting rights are just some of the areas to consider.   
  • Do you have a legal specialty area that you want to teach as well as any ASP duties?  Some law schools combine an ASP class with a doctrinal course (example, Agency).  Other law schools allow their ASP staff to teach substantive law courses as part of their full-time ASP load.  Yet other schools allow ASP staff to teach such courses above and beyond their normal job duties.  And at some law schools, there is no option for an ASP'er to teach doctrinal courses.  Where teaching is an option, one has to consider the workload in ASP and how it can be balanced with teaching.  Once again, after 5 o'clock and weekends may be the only class prep and grading time available.       
  • Do you have a passion for research and writing?  Or involvement in professional associations?  With the exception of the schools having tenure-track ASP staffing, ASP positions generally do not require research, publications, or professional association involvement.  Most schools are delighted if their ASP'ers do these things, but it normally will be above and beyond the basic job description.  Consequently, ASP'ers often have to do their research, writing, and professional service activities during evening and weekend hours.
  • Do you want to make a real difference in the lives of law students?    Teaching students the skills they need to be successful in law school (and ultimately in the profession) is very rewarding.  It is a delight to have a former probation student come in to share the news of her first "A" or 3.0 GPA semester.  Law students need someone to believe in them.  ASP'ers are often those encouragers.

Being in ASP'er is a blessing for me.  I enjoy working with law students.  Combining my education and law backgrounds is a plus.  However, each person has to decide if ASP work would be a good fit for a career. 

Good luck if you are searching for an ASP position.  We try to post positions here on the Blog whenever we know about them.  (Amy Jarmon)   

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