Monday, July 26, 2010
On the eve of the bar exam, many students are either excited and want to get the bar over with in order to put what they know into practice or they are still wishing that they had a few more days (or weeks) to study. Either way, the exam is imminent. Remaining calm and getting proper rest are crucial components for bar students this week.
As this chapter of bar review folds into the final chapter of academic legal study and culminates with the bar exam, it clearly marks a definitive rite of passage. Current bar takers, like thousands before them, will ride the metaphoric roller coaster this week with intense highs (“Wow, I aced the Contract's essay!”) and intense lows (“Oh @%&#, I forgot to use the cases in the MPT library!”). Along with gaining their license to practice law, they will now be able to relate to this distinct and enigmatic collective experience of taking the bar exam.
While anxious, sleep deprived and emotionally drained, bar takers draw upon something deeper to invoke their self-efficacy and find their inner strength to endure this final segment of their long bar review saga. As I ponder their state of mind, a haiku I recently read with my daughter seems fitting. This poem illustrates and captures the feeling that most bar takers have felt in the last few days of their review.
Thick fog lifts---
Unfortunately, I am where
I thought I was
The clarity that comes during the last days of bar review does not alleviate the sheer dread that most students still feel. They remain students about to take the bar exam with their futures in their hands. They have arrived at one of the most significant experiences in their lifetimes and are embarking on the official start of their legal career.
However, happy endings take a few months to determine. In the fall, when bar takers receive the much anticipated packet of materials from the bar association congratulating them on passing the bar exam, their bar exam saga will truly end. For now, I wish them luck, legal fluency and patient attention to detail.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Each law school has a different "fit" for the ASP staff member within its community. Some of us are contract administrators for 9, 10, or 12 months. Some of us are tenure-track faculty. Some of us have multiple hats: doctrinal teaching or legal research and writing plus ASP or bar prep.
At the law schools where ASP'ers are not full faculty members, they sometimes can feel a bit "out of the loop" from the faculty - especially if their offices are in isolated locations or their schedules do not bring them into contact with faculty on a regular basis. ASP'ers should not be shy, however, about becoming integral members of the law school community.
Here are some tips for having more involvement with faculty and getting more exposure for your ASP program:
- Give every faculty member a general flyer on your ASP services for students. Make it a handy reference sheet so that they can tell students more about the types of services that you offer and the topics that you cover.
- Give every faculty member information regarding dates/topics for your workshops or other events that you are holding for students each semester. Again, it gives them a handy reference when they are talking with students.
- Give every faculty member a small stack of your business cards so that they can hand them out to students. A student is more likely to e-mail for an appointment if the address is right in front of her.
- Give every faculty member a flyer on how you may be able to help them. Include services such as consultation on a specific student's learning problems, solving typical student learning problems for their course material, developing visuals in the classroom, understanding how learning styles affect the classroom dynamics, in-class workshops on particular study skills, etc. Your own expertise will guide what services you might be able to offer professors.
- Ask a new faculty member to lunch to tell her more about your office and ask how you may be able to help her settle in to your law school/city.
- Attend faculty functions that may not relate to your duties directly but allow you to have more time with faculty. Show your interest in what they do: in-service talks on faculty research, coffee klatch time, lunches to honor faculty publications, dinners for faculty awards. The more faculty see you as part of the overall law school community, the more you will be seen as a colleague rather than a satellite function of the law school.
- Attend faculty meetings if you are allowed to do so. You will learn a great deal about your law school, faculty concerns, and faculty colleagues' personalities. Know the etiquette for your school, however. Speak only if that is allowed. Vote only if you have that privilege.
- Volunteer to be ex officio on faculty committees as appropriate. For example, your expertise might be helpful on a faculty subcommittee considering a for-credit bar prep course.
- Announce your presentations and publications within your school's newsletter or news website as appropriate. Your colleagues will be interested in your contributions to the law school's reputation regionally and nationally.
- Offer to teach a course outside ASP in a specialty area that you have if your law school will allow that option. If your practice expertise was in entertainment law or admiralty law, your law school might welcome an elective course in that area. Make sure that you will have the time to juggle teaching with your ASP duties before you offer though!
I have always been fortunate to have good faculty colleagues to work with at each law school. But, I have to remind myself to make the time to keep up those relationships. We all get so busy that it is easy to become isolated in ASP and "not get out much" as a result. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
It is the time of year when we begin collecting short profiles, pictures, and web links for folks who are joining ASP work for the first time or who have moved to different ASP positions over the summer.
If someone new has joined your ASP staff since May 1st or if you have moved to a different school or position, please send us a one paragraph blurb (title, duties, law degree, work experience, awards, hobbies, etc.) as well as a link to your law school's faculty/administrator profile on the web. If that profile does not include a picture, please also send us a picture of the person as an e-mail attachment.
We will begin a series of Academic Support Spotlight postings after the new academic year begins so that all of us in ASP can meet the new members of our community and congratulate our current colleagues on their job moves. Our community is so friendly that it will give folks a "heads up" so that they can watch for new colleagues at conferences and workshops.
If you would like us to do a spotlight posting on you or someone new to your ASP staff, please send the requested information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to everyone new! Congrats to all of you who have re-located this summer! I look forward to hearing from you. (Amy Jarmon)
Bar Exam Counselor, College of Law
The University of La Verne has an opening for a full-time Bar Exam Counselor at the College of Law located in Ontario, CA. Reporting directly to the Coordinator of Bar Support Services, the primary function of this position is to assist in providing Bar Exam support services to students at the College of Law.
The duties of the position include: tutoring La Verne Law graduates studying for the California Bar Exam; providing feedback on student practice assignments; counseling students on attorney licensing requirements; presenting Bar-related workshops; collecting data regarding the success of the Bar Support Program; and other related duties as assigned.
This position requires a Juris Doctor degree with at least 1 year of academic experience in either law school teaching or Bar Exam tutoring. Experience working with diverse populations is preferred. Additionally, the successful candidate will be a member of the California State Bar. Evening work is necessary to accommodate students enrolled in the part-time and evening division, and occasional attendance at weekend events is required.
The hiring range for this position is dependent upon qualifications and departmental equity. Benefits of employment include a comprehensive health and welfare plan, tuition remission program for employee, spouse and dependent children and a generous 10% contribution to the University’s 403B retirement plan. To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to Malana Jones, University of La Verne College of Law, 320 East D Street, Ontario, California 91764. Alternatively, you may submit your application materials via email to email@example.com.
DIRECTOR OF ACADEMIC ENHANCEMENT PROGRAMS – GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER
Georgetown University Law Center seeks applicants for a new senior administrative position, the Director of Academic Enhancement Programs.
The successful candidate will report to the Associate Vice President/Dean of Students at the Law Center and have four primary areas of responsibility, with additional responsibilities as assigned. First, the Director will develop, implement and manage programs to support the academic development of the school's nearly 2,000 JD students. Currently, such programs include individual and group tutorial programs for the first year JD students and periodic seminars on topics such as study habits, case briefing, outlining, and exam-taking. Supplementing the first year Legal Research and Writing classes, it is anticipated that the new Director will re-examine and expand these programs and periodically teach group skills workshops and tutorials. Second, the Director will develop resources for and counsel JD students who are having difficulty and/or for whom English is a second language. Third, the Director will supervise and support the growth of the Barrister's Council, one of the nation's premier student-run appellate advocacy, trial advocacy and alternative dispute resolution competition programs. Fourth, the Director will serve as an academic adviser. In that role, the Director will counsel individual students on academic policies, upperclass course selection, the intersection of academic and career planning, and related personal and academic development issues.
Requirements: (1) JD from an ABA-accredited law school with a record of academic and extracurricular success in law school; (2) at least three years of law practice experience and/or law teaching experience, with a focus on legal writing and analysis; (3) superior written, oral and interpersonal communication skills; (4) the ability to think imaginatively and critically about how to measurably improve law student's academic development, and to design, implement and manage programs to promote that development; (5) the ability to work collaboratively with a diverse population of students, faculty and administrators; (6) the ability to juggle multiple competing priorities and meet firm deadlines; (7) the ability and initiative to forge partnerships with faculty, staff, students and the DC legal community; (8) knowledge of and interest in recent changes in legal pedagogy and the legal profession; and (9) an appreciation of the Jesuit tradition and mission of Georgetown University.
Preferred: Significant teaching and counseling experience at the law school, post-secondary or secondary level; and significant experience as a competitor in law school moot court and/or trial advocacy competitions.
Applications may be submitted at: http://www12.georgetown.edu/hr/employment_services/joblist/job_description.cfm?CategoryID=7&RequestNo=20100617
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
The Bar Exam Saga Continues… As predicted, the heartache and challenge has begun for students studying for this summer’s bar exam. Their enthusiastic fervor has morphed into sleepless nights filled with anxiety laden nightmares and horrifically long days packed with lectures, memorization and practice bar questions. Students that heeded early warnings and sage advice from their bar providers and Professors remain steadily focused but understandably not completely carefree. No one is able to escape the overwhelming and foreboding sensation that studying for the bar exam produces.
At this point in bar review, most students have adopted a practical study routine and daily approach. Lecture attendance, while some may feel is optional, should be taken seriously and strongly encouraged. Hearing the substantive law along with heavily tested legal issues and hypos provide valuable insight into the particular subject areas. For some students, bar lectures may be the first exposure to the law for several subject areas. Therefore, missing lectures can be detrimental to their studying.
Lectures typically only consist of three or four hours daily. Most students struggle during this middle phase of bar review with how to use the unstructured portion of their day. Some bar review providers give detailed pointers but not all. Because most students feel overwhelmed with the limited amount of time remaining in their day, it is difficult for them to determine how to best use their afternoons. Inundated with new material from the lectures, creating voluminous outlines, completing scores of MBE practice questions, writing numerous and varied MPT exercises and countless essays, students are challenged beyond what feels physically and mentally possible. This fog engulfs the logical, articulate and lucid precision they once possessed. Frankly with everything on their “to-do list”, students lose sight of their ultimate goal which is to learn the law and be able to show their knowledge.
Rallying around students to give them support and passing on strategic planning guidance is essential during this phase. There are many ways to manifest such support and guidance. Depending on the resources at your law school, you could hold a MBE, MPT and/or Essay Writing workshop, offer one-on-one appointments with students who seek out help or who fall into categories with the greatest risk of failing or provide lunch or another treat during their studies.
At Seattle University School of Law, we host an “End of Bar Review Lunch” to give students a celebratory kickoff to their independent review and provide them with a chance to ask for help if they need it. The SU Bar Studies Program also holds an essay writing workshop that includes a timed writing and review. Again, this increases the likelihood that students who need either a confidence boost or additional bar prep assistance will take advantage of such assistance before it is too late.
Ultimately, studying successfully for the bar exam is about making what seems unmanageable, manageable. Students do not need a laundry list of boxes to check on a checklist. Instead they need to ascertain what they have learned and mastered verses what they still need to perfect. Ask students at this phase to prioritize and evaluate their knowledge of each subject and their comfort level with each section of the exam. Determining strengths and weaknesses will help with study schedules, time management planning for the coming weeks and lessen anxiety while increasing their confidence. If a student knows that they struggle with multiple choice questions and this struggle is reflected in their scores on the practice tests, it is best to work on a better strategy for the MBE. Alternatively, if a student consistently scores low on the essays or performance tests, it is best for them to hone their writing techniques and practice to remedy those weaknesses.
Far too many students fall into the trap of blindly following a course of action provided by their commercial bar review without considering their individual needs. That said, bar review providers should not be ignored. Instead, students should use commercial bar prep calendars and study planning ideas as guidance while focusing on ways to address their specific and particular needs.
Their happily ever after ending is not quite in sight. The light is glimmering at the end of this tunnel of bar review but for many students it is but a shadowy intimation. However, encouraging students to maintain focus, identify their strengths and weaknesses and reduce their stress levels will illuminate this tunnel and enlighten their journey during the last few weeks of this bar review saga.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Alas, it is conference season. I know many ASPer's are just getting back from Elon Law School and LSAC's conference on counseling. I wish I could have joined everyone, but sadly, I am still in a travel freeze. After 5 years, and countless conferences, here are some tips for making the most of the experience:
1) Be social, even if you are an introvert
Yes, sadly, ASP can be sort of clique-y. It's not intentional; many of us have known each other for many years, and some of us worked together for years before we switched schools, moved, etc. However, it is worth remembering that 90% of us where the uncool kids in school growing up (we were way too smart) so we welcome everyone as adults. We are not mean girls (and boys), I promise. Say hi. If you are shy and uncomfortable, let us know. Most of us were uncomfortable at our first conferences as well. The only way to get the advice and help you want is to break into the cliques and start talking to people. Really, we are like a congregation of kindergarten teachers once you know us.
2) Be a joiner, even if you are not a joiner.
You need exposure. To get exposure for your program, school, etc, you need to join things. AALS, LSAC, Institute for Law School Teaching and Learning, Humanizing Legal Education. When you are at those conferences, be a joiner. Go to the (sometimes stupid and quirky) social functions. Join subcommittees. When you join things, be social and let people get to know you and what is great about your program. The legal academy is a tiny place, so everyone knows someone at your school. This is instrumental for your career. You never know when you may need a phone call placed on your behalf to your boss/dean, letting her/him know what a great job you are doing. the only way to for that to happen is to be social, and be a joiner.
3) Ask questions
We tell our students there are no stupid questions, and then we are afraid to ask questions as conferences for fear of sounding stupid. As someone who has presented a ton, I don't think I have ever heard a stupid question. We completely understand that people new to the profession need to ask basic questions. We want to help. Conferences are places where you should be asking questions.
4) Toot your own horn. No one else will.
While being social, be sure to mention your accomplishments. If you feel like you don't have any accomplishments, then just tell people what you are doing. No one else is going to let others know the great things you are doing at your school. ASPer's are the modest, non-competitive ones in the legal academy, which is self-defeating at times.
5) If you are would like to present at a conference in the future, tell somebody
The powers-that-be (that change from year to year, conference to conference) don't know if you would like to present unless you let people know. ASP is unlike other areas of the legal academy, in that you don't necessarily have to write a paper in order to present something that you are doing. While we are a many-talented group, I haven't encountered any mind readers among ASPer's as of yet.