Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, March 5, 2010

Study tips from students

I often pick up study tips from my students.  They mention software that helps them or a technique that has worked.  Periodically, I gather their ideas and share them here on the Blog.

Using One Note:  More and more students are mentioning to me that they like the One Note software for organizing their work.  They find the folders easy to use.  They like the "tag" feature that allows them to tag rules, policy, code sections or other items and print a special list of those particular items.  The only negative that I have heard repeatedly is that the features for making graphics are not very helpful.

Graphic organizers:  There are lots of web sites that give examples of graphic organizers that students can use for converting law concepts into visuals.  One website that has templates that students can print off is Education Place. 

True/false questions: Students often confuse themselves on true/false questions by ignoring the "little bit false" part of a statement - almost like arguing you can be just "a little bit pregnant."  One student suggests that you ask yourself "Is it TOTALLY true that..." as you read the statement.  If there is anything that is false, then the statement is false.   

IPhone and IPodTouch applications:  A number of students have mentioned to me that the aps for bar study are useful - some free and some costly.  One student especially liked the free ap from BarMax for MPRE studying.

Cutting up practice essay question answers:  A student mentioned that she was having trouble 1) organizing her practice question analysis and 2) avoiding flowery language.  She discovered that after she typed an initial answer she needed to print out a copy and cut it up into the separate sentences.  She then could reorganize the sentences into a more logical format.  And flowery sentences could get removed entirely or rewritten on the sentence slips.  She would then type the new answer and compare it to the original.  The exercise helped her to improve on both of her problem areas. 

Yahoo Messenger to conference: One of our 1L sections regularly uses this capability to discuss questions that the students have in all three of their doctrinal classes.  Most of the section participates in the discussions about the material.

Our students have creative ideas for studying that use their different learning styles and computer literacy to advantage.  I always enjoy learning something new from my students!  (Amy Jarmon) 

March 5, 2010 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Settling for bronze, striving for silver, going for gold

Several law students were chatting with me this week and noted that most law students are divided into three categories: those who are satisfied to get just C's; those who are striving to do better than last semester's grades; and those who have done well in the past and believe that they will continue to do so. 

With the recent Winter Olympics, I automatically started thinking about these categories in relation to the three levels of medals at the ceremonies.  However, I would add a fourth category for those students who are "in training" for the qualifying rounds before the medal categories.

Training for the qualifying rounds:  These students are those whose fall performance was far under the minimal academic standard but who were allowed to continue on probation (example, at schools where no one is dismissed after the first semester and given the full year to meet the standards).  Many of these students will be able to turn around their academics with assistance from academic support.  However, some will be enormously challenged by their very weak fall grades and mathematically will still be below standard. 

For some of them, they came to law school with minimal study habits because A's and B's came easily in undergraduate school with little studying.  They are learning how to study now for the first time.

For some of them, they just did not apply themselves during fall semester until too late and found that they could not learn it all in time for the exams.  They are taking it all more seriously this time around. 

For a few, they just took longer learning how to "think and write like lawyers."  Now that it has clicked for them, it will get easier. 

Settling for bronze:  These students are content to stay with their current achievement of C's.  They have consciously decided that they will not seek A's and B's.  They see themselves as excelling beyond their classmates on probation, staying "safe" above the academic standards, and accepting their status as the "third quartile" of the class.  Why do these students settle for bronze?     

For some students, it is discouragement after fall semester (for 1L's) or consecutive semesters (for upper-division students).  They have decided that they will never be more than C students in law school.  Their performance did not live up to all their hard work last semester so improvement is seen as unattainable.  They often talk about the "curve" being against them.  Most of these students could in fact get B's and probably A's if they became more efficient and effective in their studying and incorporated new study techniques.

For some students, it is a lifestyle decision.  Family commitments, part-time work, devotion to a particular student organization, or devotion to an outside passion may support the decision.  Even these students may improve their grades without sacrificing life balance if they became more efficient and effective and adopted new strategies.    

For a few, it may be a lack of willingness to work any harder than they did in their undergraduate experience.  They simply do not want to study the number of hours necessary to increase their grade point average in law school.  These students may respond to discussions of strategies with "I don't really want to work that hard; what is the shortcut that I can take."       

Striving for silver:  These students are motivated to move forward in their academics.  They believe that they can make positive improvements in time management, study skills, and exam writing to do better than the past semester.  They want to "go into training" to hone their skills.  They are focused on a new goal.  They evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, ask for coaching, and get to work.  Why do these students strive for silver? 

For some students, it is a matter of pride.  They know they have greater academic potential than they have shown.  They want to master law school studying and improve so that they succeed in their own eyes.  The competition is often internal rather than focused on how others have done.

For some of these students, it relates to a goal of being the best lawyer that they can be.  They know that striving for improvement will have payoff for the bar exam and in practice.  They believe in themselves and in their ultimate role in society.

Some of the students in this group will actually be those currently on probation whose grade points are damaged but not irretrievable.  They will not only get off probation; they will achieve a major jump in grade point that will put distance between them and the minimal academic standard.  Some of them will then set their sights on going for gold in future semesters.    

Going for gold: These students did well in the fall semester and have the afterglow of academic success.  Many will continue their hard work because they want to replicate the achievement.  They will use their confidence to push themselves to hone their skills and again come out on top.  These students are the gold medalists who achieve their best semester after semester. 

However, a few in this group of initial "gold medalists" will be overtaken by other classmates because they will become too smug at their standing and assume that they cannot be bumped from the top spots.  As in the Olympics, the "best" are not automatically secure and should avoid resting on their laurels.  Hard work and focus are still needed if one is to improve and stay at the very top.

The important thing to remember about law students is that whether they are training for the qualifying rounds or among the bronze, silver, or gold medalists, they were still the cream of the crop of our applicants.  They are highly intelligent and have a history of success prior to law school.  Some may not continue in law school next semester by their own choice or for academic standard reasons.  Those who leave will still have successful and productive lives, just not in law.

For those who continue and graduate, many will pass the bar on the first attempt.  Most will have competent and respectable careers.  And, they may replicate their status while in law school or they may excel far beyond it.  Academics do not always predict success in the "real world" of practice.  New criteria in the work world may reconfigure where they are in the ranks of attorneys.  (Amy Jarmon) 


March 4, 2010 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Report from the NY regional ASP workshop

Friday was the annual NY regional ASP workshop; the workshop from which all other regionals have been born. Thanks again to Kris Franklin and Linda Feldman for doing an awesome job, even if Kris tells  everyone that participants do all the work. All attendees deserve a pat on the back for braving a snowstorm that shut down the NYC public schools. 

The morning session opened with a group exercise facilitated by Professor Micah J. Yarbrough, Widener School of Law (Delaware campus) and Everett Chambers of Texas Wesleyan.  Through this group exercise a colleague (Linda Feldman of Brooklyn Law and Susan Zusman of William Mitchell)  was selected to present a “problem or classroom challenge” to the workshop.  Attendees then through a series of guided conversations, assisted the colleague in assessing the challenge, resulting teaching decisions made and any embedded motivations within.  The result was that the presenter as well as participants benefited from thoughtful collective reflection on issues common to many involved in academic and bar program support including student/teacher and faculty/administration relationships, the motivations underlying student intervention, and professional development within the Academy.    “Rounds” was introduced at last year’s workshop by Mary Lu Bilek and David Nadvorney of CUNY Law with so much success, it was repeated again this time around.

Our afternoons were a roundtable discussion on a topic of the presenters choice. Angela Baker of Rutgers-Camden presentedon the process of getting faculty approval for bar courses for credit. David Epstein of NYLS presented some fascinating statistics on the differing study habits and perceptions of study habits between day and evening law students. Susan Feathers of Albany Law presented on teaching courses outlining to students. Everett Chambers presented a question for thegroup on how to structure student-led spring semester study groups to reduce 1L attrition in ASP programming.  I presented on my experiences teaching a hybrid doctrinal-ASP course to 2L's. And finally, Kris Franklin had us play a game that can be used with students to teach reasoning skills.  Kris's game was a spectacular success on many levels, and taught me I am a bad loser (my apologies to Everett!) 

As other regionals come up, please send me or Amy a synopsis of events and we will be happy to post on the blog. Remember, everyone in ASP has something to share that is valuable to the community, no matter how new you are to the field. (RCF)

(Thanks to Micah Yarbrough for composing the blurb on the morning events)


March 3, 2010 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Advice from law students

In my role of Director of the Pre-law Center at UConn, I am noticing an interesting phenomena. I am in the process of arranging a law student panel for pre-law students here at the Storrs campus. I have been contacting the UConn alums who left their contact information with the school to see if they would be interested in participating.  I am inviting roughly twice as many students as I need to fill the panel, with the understanding that a law student's life is busy and many won't be able to make it simply because it will take time away from studying. However, the students I have contacted thus far have been wonderful, enthusiastic, and want to help.  In a time when we hear so much about law student depression, negativity, and apathy, it has been a joy to talk to these law students.  I should note that these students are randomly chosen. There is no selection bias; I am contacting students who left contact information with the school before they started law school for reasons that had nothing to do with the Pre-Law Center. I don't know their grades. I don't know their job prospects.  They did not leave the information for the purpose of being a part of a "Yeah! Law School!" panel.  They don't have to respond to me, so they probably aren't giving me answers to rationalize their choice. 

I have been pondering why it is that so many people respond happily--even when they can't make it--to a request to talk about the law school experience when the predominant feeling one gets from the news is that law students are miserable.  The students I have talked to are happy with the choice they made, and would make it again, even in this job market. 

This has led me to think about the conversations I have with students in my role as an ASPer. We see the students who are struggling and/or suffering.  Many tell us they would not make the same choice again.  We don't get the chance to talk to students who say they would make the same choice. One of my goals for the student panel is to ask them why; why do they find law school enriching? I think that their answers might be helpful for students who are struggling.  I do not want to diminish or belittle student suffering, but I think there are parts of the law school experience that are easy to forget when one is struggling.  I think there is something rewarding about law school that we might be missing, something that students still feel but don't readily express.  Among the general (non-lawyer) public, there are a lot of trite responses about why law school is a positive life choice, and most of them involve money, career potential, or degree flexibility. Current law students know those responses are no longer accurate.  But law school is a positive thing; I think we all could benefit from listening to students tell us why, in their own words. (RCF)

March 1, 2010 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)