January 29, 2010
Evaluating one's study habits
Let's face it, part of success in law school is all about strategies and techniques. How one studies can be the difference between a C grade and a B or A grade. It pays big dividends to evaluate one's study habits at the beginning of each semester. Ask yourself how you can get more "oomph" from your efforts. Ask yourself what worked and what did not work last time around in your studies.
Here are some of the study skills that you should reflect upon during your evaluation. The questions suggested are not exhaustive. Make notes as you consider each study skill to indicate what you want to continue because it worked and what changes you want to make to improve your learning.
Reading cases. Did you allow enough time to read the case for understanding rather than mere highlighting to learn later? Did you focus throughout your reading or "zone out" at times? Did you preview the case before reading it? Were you an active reader, asking questions while you read? Did you think about the questions your professor usually asked in class so that you could look for those answers? Did you make margin notes to condense your reading to the important points? Did you answer the editor's questions on the case?
Briefing cases. Did you read every case whether or not you expected to be called upon by the professor? Did you brief or merely book brief? Did your briefs contain the essential points rather than everything? Did your briefs go beyond details and consider the "big picture" of the cases and how they fit within the topic and related to cases on the same topic? Did your briefs use bullet points, abbreviations, headings, and other methods to save you time? Did you critique your briefs later to see what you missed according to class discussion so that you could prevent future mistakes in your briefs?
Note-taking in class. Did you review your briefs, cases, and prior class notes (on continuing topics) before class so that you had seen the material twice? Did you focus on taking notes on the essential points rather than taking verbatim notes? Did you answer silently in your head the questions asked of other students so that you stayed engaged in the class discussion? Did you "zone out" in class? Did you focus on class rather than surf the net, play solitaire, or IM during class? Did you review your class notes within 24 hours to fill in gaps, re-organize them, and begin to condense them towards an outline?
Outlining course material. Did you make your own outlines so that you processed the information yourself rather than use someone else's outlines? Did you outline every week or at least at the end of every topic so that the material was fresh in your mind? Did you focus your outlines on topics and subtopics with the cases as illustrations rather than focus on the cases? Did you supplement your outlines with charts, tables or other visuals if they are helpful to you? Did you supplement your outlines with your own homemade flashcards if they are helpful to you?
Reviewing for exams. Did you review for exams all semester so that you could benefit from the way learning and memory work? Did you regularly review your entire outline for each class to keep everything fresh? Did you intensely review subtopics and topics to gain deep understanding of them? Did you spend enough time on memory drills to learn the rules, exceptions, methodologies, and terms of art precisely? Did you complete lots of practice questions so that you checked both your ability to apply the law and your ability to IRAC (or choose the "best" multiple-choice answer)?
Test taking of fact pattern essay exams. Did you spend 1/3 of your time reading, analyzing, and organizing an answer and 2/3 of your time writing the answer? Did you adhere to the format requirements from your professor (word or page limits, IRAC or some other style, client letter or motion format)? Did you adhere to the time parameters for the exam (spent the time indicated for each question, used all of the time allotted for the exam)? Did you "show your work" in your analysis so that the reader could follow all of the steps of your argument? Did you write everything you knew about a topic rather than answer the question asked? Did you apply the law to the facts and argue both sides? Did you use policy arguments appropriately? Did you refer to cases appropriately?
Test taking of multiple choice exams. Did you study the material in enough depth so that you could see the nuances in answer choices? When you completed practice questions did you look for patterns in your wrong answers (misread the question, forgot an element of a rule, etc.)? Did you budget your time well throughout the exam? Did you analyze each answer option rather than pick by gut? Did you avoid second-guessing right answers? Did you "mis-bubble" any answers if using a scantron answer sheet? Did you waste time looking up answers if the exam was open book/code?
If you feel that your strategies and techniques for studying were deficient, begin immediately to make improvements. Your faculty members may be able to give you tips for studying the specific areas of law that they teach. Visit your academic support office for assistance if those services are available to you at your school. (Amy Jarmon)
January 28, 2010
Dealing with the unexpected
I have spent the last month talking with students whose grades were not good after last semester. In many cases, something unexpected happened to the student during the fall semester. That unexpected happening threw the student into a tailspin that meant that law school was not the student's focus.
The circumstances vary greatly. A close friend or family member may have been killed in a car accident. A parent may have been diagnosed with cancer. A long-term relationship may have ended in acrimony. A student may have become homeless. The student became very ill. Money may have run out. The list could include many other circumstances as well.
One can easily understand how these events could derail a student's attempts at studying. My concern is that the student often tells no one what is going on and "toughs it out" rather than seek assistance. Some students react in this way because the event is embarrassing or highly personal. Some students choose this path because they have always been able to overcome obstacles on their own. Some students are from cultural backgrounds that discourage one from talking about family or personal matters. Others are so overcome by the circumstances that they just do not know where to turn for help.
Unfortunately, most of these students had options that they could have considered. Most law schools have a variety of policies, procedures, and people to help students cope with adversity. After the fact, it is impossible to salvage a semester. However, at the time of the incident/tragedy, the law school may have been able to assist.
In hopes of helping law students seek help rather than go it alone, I am offering some suggestions should the unexpected occur this semester. Each law school will differ on the services and assistance available, but a law student coping with the unexpected should consider the following:
- Many law schools have policies and procedures that offer a variety of academic options. The timing in the semester may determine which options apply. Possibilities include: leave of absence, withdrawal from school, withdrawal from one or more courses to reduce the student's course load, delayed exams, paper or project extensions, incomplete grades, in progress grades.
- Many law schools have staff members whose duties specifically include working with students who have unexpected events suddenly impede their academics. Even if the student initially contacts the "wrong" person, these persons will be able to refer the student to the correct office. Staff members with these duties likely include: the associate dean for academics, the associate dean for student affairs/dean of students, or the academic support staff members.
- Choosing among options may require financial aid advice because of implications for loans, scholarships, or grants. Some law schools have a financial aid counselor specifically for law students. Law schools may instead use the university financial aid office on main campus for advising students about how options will affect their financial circumstances (and any deadlines that may affect financial aid).
- If the circumstance is purely financial, the financial aid officer may also be able to document the situation for re-packaging the student's aid for eligibility for more dollars. Emergency loan procedures at the law school may provide for quick loan dollars to cover car repairs, the deposit on a new apartment, or other smaller amounts needed to correct a problem.
- The law school may have information on local housing to assist a student who suddenly is without a place to live. Private parties may contact the law school with information on rooms or houses for rent. Law schools may also have "roommate wanted" listings or a bulletin board system for posting housing opportunities. Universities connected with the law school may have "off-campus housing" offices that can assist.
- Student health or counseling services may be included within student's fees to provide access to these professionals. These services may well be available at law schools connected to universities.
In short, there are ways to get help in a crisis. I encourage law students to let someone in the law school administration know what is going on so that services and options can be explored. (Amy Jarmon)
January 27, 2010
Position open at Charlotte Law
Academic Success Counselor
Charlotte School of Law (CharlotteLaw) seeks applications for an experienced Academic Success Counselor.
NEW POSITION DUE TO GROWTH
This is a non-faculty full time administrative position starting immediately, at a salary commensurate with qualifications and experience.
The Academic Success Counselor reports directly to the Director of the CharlotteLaw Program for Academic Success. He or she will work with students seeking to improve academic performance or experiencing academic difficulty. The Counselor performs other academic support functions essential to promoting students’ success in law school and to the success and growth and of the institution.
The school is a member of The InfiLaw System, a consortium of independent law schools committed to making legal education more responsive to the realities of new career dynamics. Its mission is to establish student-centered, American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools in underserved markets that graduate students with practice-ready skills, and achieve true diversity programs aimed at student academic and career success.
Primary Duties & Responsibilities:
The Academic Success Counselor is responsible for the following:
• Assists in counseling and advising students on academic probation, students “at risk,” and any other student, seeking to improve academic performance;
• Assists in preparing and presenting the Academic Success workshops;
• Advises students on various academic issues, including academic probation matters, and the petitioning process to obtain additional probationary semesters;
• Tracks the academic progress of “at risk” students and students on academic probation. Updates and maintains spreadsheets used for tracking;
• Assists in planning and executing New Student Orientation;
• Assists students in reviewing answers to practice exams;
• Assists in maintaining Academic Success website and TWEN site devoted specifically to Academic Success;
• Participates in Best Practice Meetings for Academic Outcomes;
• Attends meetings as necessary within the law school; and
• Attends seminars and conferences to improve ability to provide appropriate services at the law school.
• Applicant must be a licensed attorney with one to three years of legal experience.
• Prior academic support experience (either professional or as part of a graduate or law school program) or teaching experience (i.e., legal writing or comparable teaching experience in writing and analytical skills training) is preferred.
Licensed by a State Bar Association
Salary is commensurate with experience. CharlotteLaw offers a full benefits package. For more information about Charlotte School of Law, please visit www.charlottelaw.edu.
If helping others and working in a dynamic workplace is what you feel passionate about and you are looking for a new challenge and a chance to put your experience to work in an innovative environment – Charlotte School of Law may be the place for you.
Please send a resume, the names of three references (including addresses and phone numbers) to email@example.com or via mail to:
Charlotte School of Law
2145 Suttle Avenue
Charlotte, NC, 28208
Charlotte School of Law is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
January 25, 2010
Stress and Grades: What we can do for students now
This is the point at which most students have received most, if not all, of their first semester grades. So this is also the point in the semester when they start to meltdown. They never received anything lower than an A- in their life, their parents will think they didn't work if they see these grades, they feel--especially in this climate--that they will never get a job because first semester was not what they hoped it would be. Outside of the concrete steps we can take to help them pull up their grades, there are things we can suggest to take the edge off the stress.
1) Provide a list of spas or other places where students can go for a massage. Because "massage" services can be shady if one just looks them up in the phone book, providing a list of reputable massage therapists can help students find what they need. If you live near a major metropolitan area, see if their are any massage schools in the area that provide no-charge or discount massages on weekends as training for their students.
2) Remind them to keep up their appearance. Sloppy clothing, unkempt hair and nails, and for men, remaining unshaven can be the start of a slippery slope. They feel bad about themselves so their grooming habits decline, people see their outward appearance and respond to it negatively, which makes them feel worse about themselves, and a shame spiral sets in. It's much harder to get a job if one looks like they don't care about themselves.
3) If you are a part of a university with mental health services, ask a counselor to come in for a lunchtime chat with students about the signs and signals someone may be at risk. Presenting mental health services as something for everyone instead of a service for only "crazy" people helps take away the stigma of seeking help. As long as they don't feel like they are the ones on the spot, students will be more likely to seek out the help they need.
4) Tell them to get back in touch with someone who encouraged them to go to law school but is not invested in their success. A college professor or a pre-law advisor who helped them through the application process would love to hear from them, even if they are struggling. These are people who don't have a personal stake (unlike parents, siblings, or spouses) in a student's law school career, and they can remind students of why they wanted to attend law school in the first place. I am the director of the Pre-Law Center as well as an ASPer, and I would love to hear from former students, even if they are struggling. A fresh perspective from someone outside of their normal circle of support can be enlightening.
5) If extracurricularswere not the source of student struggles during their first semester, suggest they take up a sport or play on an intramural team. Having something in their life they can feel good about, somewhere were they can achieve their goals and receive instant gratification for their effort, can go a long way towards lessening law school stress. While it is helpful for law students to exercise, the goal of playing a sport or joining a team is different. Feeling like they have something to celebrate when they win a game or score a goal can remind them that their are things in life to feel good about.