Friday, October 22, 2010

Report from the LSAC Regional Workshop: Building a Bar Program

The recent LSAC regional workshop, “Building a Bar Program” was filled with useful information regarding every aspect of law school bar preparation programs.  

The agenda included:

 Carlota Toledo’s virtual presentation via Skype: “Using Skype to Reach Out of State Bar Takers”

 Courtney Lee’s presentation: “Building a Continuum of Academic Support”

 My Bar Exam Related Work in Progress: "Legitimizing and Integrating Bar Preparation Programs"

Laurie Zimet’s presentation:  “Diversity in the Profession”

Twinette Johnson’s presentation: “An Introduction to Program Design: Convincing Your Faculty that a Program is Valuable and Viable”

Jennifer Carr’s presentation:  “The Voluntary Third Year Program”

Barbara McFarland’s presentation:  “The For-Credit Program”

Odessa Alm’s presentation:  “The Post Graduation Program”

Paula Manning’s presentation:  “Psychology and Stereotype Threat”

Lessons in a Box:

            Chris Ide-Don’s lesson on “Multiple Choice Exams” 

            Russell McClain’s lesson on “Performance Exams” 

            Dan Weddle’s lesson on “Essay Exam Writing"

Mary Lu Bilek’s presentation:  “Defining Success: Evaluating and Improving Your Program”

As you can see by the list of presenters, we were graced by a stellar group of ASP veterans.  The conference was useful for ASPers looking to add bar preparation elements to their academic support program, create a new bar support program or enhance a current bar support program at their school.  Although I gained many new insights from the presentations, the most important take away from the two day conference for me personally was the feeling of camaraderie, encouragement, collaboration and support that was apparent in every presentation, interaction and discussion.

Additionally, this conference provided me with my first opportunity to present.  I greatly benefited from the process of preparing my presentation and the constructive feedback I was given during my presentation.  Presenting a work in progress is an interesting and appealing endeavor.  The “work in progress” or article is not complete (or possibly even started), you may have some ideas stewing but do not have concrete conclusions per se, and you have endless possible directions that your article may take.  Essentially, this incredible flexibility allows you to safely go out on limb. 

Once I came to grips with the fact that my work in progress was still just a work in progress and not a polished finished product, I could focus on what I wanted to gain from my session.  New insights, a critique of my current ideas, comments on organization and structure, and suggestions for expansion or narrowing were a few of my goals.  Not only were those goals met, but a thoughtful discussion of my topic (Legitimizing and Integrating Bar Preparation Programs and Techniques into the Broader Law School Curriculum) ensued.  More importantly, with every raise of a hand or comment given, I felt overwhelming support for my article but really that support was for me. 

My initial nervousness faded as I fully engaged with a truly dynamic group of individuals.  As Mihaly Csiksezentmihalyi would characterize it, I was experiencing “flow”.  Not everyone agreed with my initial thoughts, many even played the role of devil ’s advocate by challenging my premise, ideas and research, but I remained focused and motivated in a strangely euphoric state.  Wow, it was fun!

I write this post not to exalt my article or draw attention to my presentation.  Instead, I write this post to encourage everyone to take advantage of such opportunities in the future.  When you see, “Call for Proposals”, in an email subject line, do not automatically hit the delete key.  If you are excited to present or publish but do not know where to start, simply ask!  Ask someone at your school that you respect, ask someone you admire that has presented or published a piece that has inspired you, ask through the ASP list serve, or ask me. 

There are increasingly more opportunities to advance your scholarly ideas or innovative teaching techniques.  Although many of us are too busy to even keep up with our daily work schedules, you should not let finding the time hold you back.  The benefits you reap from presenting, writing, or researching far out weigh the burden it may place on your schedule.  In addition, the support and encouragement is a great confidence boost.  Find your “flow” and go out on a limb, you won’t regret the experience.

Many thanks to LSAC, Kent Lollis, and the planning committee(Odessa Alm, Hillary Burgess, Paula Manning, and Russell McClain), for the Topical Conference and for giving me the opportunity to present my work in progress. 

(Lisa Young)

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