Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What's love got to do with it?

When I was in law school, I had a love affair with the study of law.  However, I had a love-hate relationship at times with law school itself.  Law school was daunting on occasion when juggled with two part-time jobs, student organization responsibilities, and financial concerns.   

I was lucky to attend a law school where the professors and deans really cared about their law students and their learning so the environment was more humane than many institutions during the 80's and 90's.  Their enthusiasm for the law and encouragement helped to keep things in perspective for me.  And if I started feeling sorry for myself, I plunged into some community service in my town to remind myself that my life was really good in comparison to the struggles many people faced on a daily basis.   

Sometimes law students will confide in me that they love studying the law and/or law school.  They often will end these declarations with "Don't tell anyone."  They are embarrassed to admit they can love something that is challenging, exasperating, exciting, and fulfilling when others seem to dislike the experience.  They fear that other law students will laugh at them or consider them strange.

Mind you these same law students will have bad weeks when they get a bit overwhelmed and lose confidence in their abilities.  But the underlying love affair with the law will get them through those times.  As long as they can keep focused on the bigger picture, they will prosper.

Some law students, however, are consistently miserable during law school.  Perhaps they are here because of a bad economy, parent expectations, or a misconception as to what law school and the legal profession entail.  In some cases, their self-esteem has been knocked hard as they get grades lower than any in their prior experience.  Often these students will tell me that they are going to stick it out because "they started it" or "they don't know what else to do" or "they will be failures if they leave." 

My heart aches for these students because it is so difficult to continue something in life that has become pure drudgery.  A few students are able to turn around the situation once they learn better study habits.  As they become less overwhelmed, they are able to capture the love of the law that they missed sight of before.  But for others, the misery goes unabated.

There are times when we learn more about ourselves and our goals in life from what does not work out than from what does.  Personally, I think we all deserve to love our life's work.  There is no shame in saying that a graduate program or a job is not a good match.  It takes courage to walk away when the love is gone from our work or study, but it can be the wiser choice. 

I wish that all of my students might have a love affair with the law.  I hope that they will have more "love days" than "hate days" during law school.  And if the law is not the best match, I hope they will have the courage to seek out the alternative path that will give them happiness in their work and lives.  And, I hope that they will come talk about their struggles.  As ASP'ers we can often serve best by listening.  (Amy Jarmon)     



October 5, 2010 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Starting a new semester

As we move past the beginning and approach the middle of the semester, we are trying new things and experimenting with new formats. We are learning what wroks, and what needs some tweaks. Some of us are teaching new classes, others are teaching the same classes in a new way.  This is my second year of teaching Remedies as an ASP course, and here are some of the new things I am trying. Some are going well, others need more tweaks in teh coming weeks:

1) My student's don't use a traditional casebook (until Mike Schwartz's comes out) so I send them their reading in chunks. I don't know how this will work. But my rationale for the change is that I can better tailor the reading to the movement of the class if I periodically review where we are and where we want to go throughout the semester rather than give them everything at once. I add questions and comments to the reading, and this way, I can tailor my questions and comments in the text to what the students are struggling with in the material.

2) I am definitely using handouts to go with my PowerPoints.  I know, I should have been doing this from the start. I would love to say my rationale was that I researched the science and saw that handouts scaffold the material learned in class, and therefore, make for better learning by students. That is 75% of my rationale. The other 25% has to do with attention in class. I really don't like giving away my PowerPoints because I believe it reduces the motivation to be alert and attentive in class. I teach at night, and I could be Robin Williams and students would still want to zone out.  If I create a handout the acts as a roadmap to where we are going, they can fill in the pertinent information. I am hoping this method also helps students start to see what they should be taking notes on in their other classes. If I give them a template, they will (hopefully) extrapolate what are the important headings to their other classes.

3) I am trying a slower movement through the material. I am trying to go one step deeper with the material, making deeper connections between the material and what students should be thinking. This is an ongoing metacognitive process for me. I am not only re-reading the material, but stopping myself to ask why? when I write notes on the case.


October 4, 2010 in Program Evaluation, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Congratulations and welcome to ASP colleagues at Pace


Congratulations to Danielle Bifulci Focal (pictured above) who has been promoted from Associate Director of Academic Support at Pace School of Law to the Director position. Danielle has kindly provided us with a bio if you have not previously met her at conferences:

Danielle Bifulci Kocal first joined Pace Law School as an adjunct professor, when she taught the Advanced Analytical Skills course to third-year students preparing for the Bar Exam. She then became the Associate Director of the Academic Support Program, and was involved in all aspects of academic support at the law school. She is now thrilled to be the Director of the Academic Support Program, and to have the opportunity to use her experiences at Pace, both as a student and a Professor, to expand and improve the Academic Support Program. Danielle graduated magna cum laude from Pace Law School in 2006. Prior to joining the Academic Support Program at Pace, Danielle was an associate at the law office of Elizabeth Swire Falker, Esq., PC, where she practiced in the areas of reproductive and adoption law.

In addition, Pace has a new Associate Director of Academic Support in Elizabeth Corwin who previously was connected with Pace in other capacities. Again, we have obtained a bio to help you get acquainted with Elizabeth:

Elizabeth Corwin is the new Associate Director of Academic Support at Pace. Previously, she worked as a Staff Attorney representing victims of domestic violence in family courts at the Pace Women’s Justice Center and as an Associate in commercial litigation and government investigations at Day, Pitney LLP in Stamford, Connecticut. She has been an adjunct professor at Pace, co-teaching Interviewing, Counseling and Negotiating for the past several years. Elizabeth graduated magna cum laude from Pace Law School in 1999.

Please introduce yourselves when you see these Pace colleagues at a future workshop. (Amy Jarmon)




October 4, 2010 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)