Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Save the date! NECASP Conference, 12.5.2011

SAVE THE DATE! December 5, 2011

ASP Without Stigma: Serving Our Diverse Populations

Please save the date for the 3rd annual New England Consortium of Academic Success Professionals (NECASP) conference, ASP Without Stigma: Serving Our Diverse Populations. The conference will be December 5, 2011, 9-2:30, hosted by Boston College Law School, Newton, Massachusetts.

More details will be coming in late September. Hope to see you there!

August 31, 2011 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Report from the LSAC Newcomers Conference, “Helping the Helpers: ASP Basics From Orientation to the Bar,” August 4-6, 2011, Western State College of Law

Report from the LSAC Newcomers Conference, “Helping the Helpers: ASP Basics From Orientation to the Bar,” August 4-6, 2011, Western State College of Law

by Jeremiah Ho

As executing feedback and assessment was one of several common themes running throughout the most recent LSAC Newcomers Conference held earlier this month, I thought I would share that the most common feedback I heard at the conclusion of the conference titled, “Helping the Helpers: ASP Basics from the Orientation to the Bar,” was that we, as ASP professionals, don’t get together and share our great ideas nearly as often enough as we should.  And if that feedback was the prevailing sentiment, then I would assess that the conference itself, which was hosted by Western State College of Law in Fullerton, California, was a veritable success.  Below is a list of presentations that explored the various aspects of academic support teaching from Day One of law school to the bar exam:   

“Maintaining Balance in Your Life and Work:  A Special Challenge for ASP Professionals” by Paula Lustbader

“Creating Collaborative Environments:  An Introduction to Team Based Learning” by Sophie Sparrow

“Making Ourselves Smaller:  Interactive Teaching and Class-Led Learning” by Kris Franklin

“Listening Well: The What and Why of Hearing What Students Have to Say” by Marty Peters

“Learning Outside the Box: Assisting Students that Learn Differently” by Leah Christensen

“It’s Both What You Say and How You Say It: Supporting Self-Determined Learning” by Paula Manning

“Envisioning Your Program” by Laurie Zimet

“Because Otherwise They’ll Be Disoriented: Developing a Student-Centered Orientation Process” by Jeremiah Ho

“Between the Bookends: Creating ASP Courses to Fill the Gap between the First Semester and Final Year” by Courtney Lee

“Managing, Maximizing & Motivating Student Leaders” by Brendon Taga

“Top Ten Design Decisions for a Bar Prep Program” by Barbara McFarland

“Designing a Bar Prep Course that Offers More than Substantive Review” by Lisa Blasser

“Assessing Skills:  A Taxonomy of Cognitive Legal Learning Objectives and Outcome Measurements” by Hillary Burgess.

Much thanks goes out to the organizers for putting together a comprehensive event that allowed seasoned ASPers from all over the country to share ideas and to welcome new colleagues into the field.  But if you ask me—someone who was a “child” of ASP during law school and now teaches in ASP world—the presentations provided information and ideas helpful to everyone working in ASP, regardless of experience. 

The first day of the conference was kicked off with a warm and engaging plenary about the profession by the always-lively Pavel Wonsowicz.  Then the following days were devoted to three important components of our profession—our students, our program, and our own sense of professional well-being.

There were insights by Paula Lustbader in a presentation that dealt with self-care as an ASP professional, reminding us of the thought that you can’t give away what you don’t have and so it is important to maintain a sense of balance and well-being in a world where it’s often hard for us to naturally say no.  Then the narrative of the conference transitioned to issues of student-care with a series of presentations covering team-based learning methods by Sophie Sparrow, techniques for bringing interactive learning into the classroom by Kris Franklin, how to develop effective listening skills by Marty Peters, helping law students with learning disabilities and different learning styles by Lean Christensen, and optimal ways of setting an environment for self-determined learning by Paula Manning.

Finally, the conference focused on program-care with presentations on the envisioning process for developing an ASP program from the ground up by Laurie Zimet, how to humanize the law school orientation process by yours truly, teaching ASP courses to upper-division students by Courtney Lee, motivating student leaders by Brendon Taga, 10 great design questions every bar prep program should ask of itself by Barbara McFarland, designing a bar prep course that veers beyond substantive review by Lisa Blasser, and on a new innovative taxonomy of law school learning developed and presented by Hillary Burgess.         

But outside the classroom and after each day was done, there was much time spent out in the crisp California weather as we got to know each other during activities that the conference organize, including dinners at both Downtown Disney and the Huntington Beach Pier.  With the right balance of work, play, and inspiration amongst a terrific group of colleagues, no wonder the common feedback was that it’s a shame we don’t do this quite as often as we should.          

August 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 26, 2011

1L's, Strong Arm Your Fears!

There is no doubt that you have been caught up in the flurry of activity that accompanies the beginning of the academic year.  Heavy meddlesome casebooks; jam packed orientation;  a throng of new faces; and the cacophony of perplexing terminology bombarding you in each lecture- Welcome to Law School!  Although the first days and weeks (or even your entire first year) of law school may seem overwhelming, there are ways to ease your transition and maintain a positive outlook. 

Here is one way to get started on the right track with your law school journey.  Grab a sheet of paper and a pen (yes, this requires a little work).  Do this when you have about 30+ minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time to devote to it.  Now, open your mind and focus on yourself…

First, take a few minutes to reflect on your personal strengths.  These could be anything from having a friendly smile to being a great basketball player.   Create a list of as many positive attributes about yourself that you can think of.   Do not shy away from being excessive or even exaggeratedly vain.  This list is for your eyes only- so go for it!

Next, write down your fears related to law school.  Is it hard for you to meet new people?  Are you nervous about the infamous Socratic Method?  Are you scared that you do not have what it takes to succeed?   Do you think the workload will be too challenging?  Again, write it all down.  This too is for your eyes only- so try not to limit your list. 

Finally, take the remaining time to think of how you can put your strengths to work on your most dreaded fears.  This may take some work.  Connecting your exquisite knitting ability with your debilitating fear of being called on in class may not seem feasible.  However, with a little creativity anything is possible.  Such as: if you could knit while being called on in class or while in a study group (possibly with other stitchers), you may find that your anxiety has decreased. 

Use your strengths to overcome your fears.  If you are a great communicator one-on-one but fear speaking in large groups, try sitting in the front row and pretend you are conversing with only the professor.  This may help you in more ways than you can imagine.  Grab a seat in the front row and you will likely be more actively engaged and less intimidated or distracted by other classmates. 

Acknowledging your strengths and your fears will help you determine your best personal strategy for success in law school.   Putting your strengths at the forefront and focusing on them (instead of being destroyed by your fears), will lead to more productivity, less stress, and better mental and physical health (and likely a higher GPA). 

Therefore, above all, remain optimistic even on your darkest day.  If you need a reminder of how great you are, ask your significant other, best friend, or a close relative.  They will help you see through the self doubting haze that many law students acquire their first year.  Of course if you need to hear it from an unbiased, trustworthy source, I suggest that you read your list.


August 26, 2011 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Orientation, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Essay Exam Answering Tip #82511 – Writing for your audience.

If you were to write a book for youngsters about how to play baseball, or an adult-oriented romance novel, your “audience” would be easy to identify.  In the first example, you’d be writing for an age group between 7 and 11; the readers would all be interested in baseball; and they’d be, let’s say, beginner-to-intermediate level of capability and sophistication in the sport.  In the second example, you could Google the demographics for who buys romance novels, and get a pretty good idea of who might purchase your book.  Audience identification is critical whenever you write—and that’s the case when you write answers to law school essay exam questions as well.

When you write the answer to a law school essay exam question, your audience is fictional.  Think of your audience (reader) as an informed attorney or a colleague (law student) who is quite familiar with the nature and purpose of law in general; who has read the fact pattern; and who has a passing familiarity with the law of the subject (torts or contracts, for example), but needs to be reminded of the precise rules of law. Then proceed as if you are explaining the situation to that person.

For example, that person would not need to read that often hunting knives have sharp edges, that if a person is the manager of a grocery store, one can assume that she is the person who ought to be in charge of the store, or that there is a difference between tortious battery and criminal battery in that the latter is punishable by imprisonment. 

Also, because the fictional reader has read the fact pattern, there’s no need to repeat sections or sentences of the question.  In other words, if the question includes, “When Mr. Slocum walked into the airport he noticed the aroma of something burning—and this immediately caused him concern” … then there is no need to include in your essay, “When Mr. Slocum walked into the airport he noticed the aroma of something burning—and this immediately caused him concern.”  (Rather, you could refer to Slocum’s location, refer to the aroma, or refer to Slocum’s concern, if they are key facts in your argument—no need to repeat what the reader has just read in the question.)

Although each step of your legal analysis ought to be in the essay, it is important not to waste your limited time by explaining what your audience can be expected to know.

Now let’s look at the “real” audience: your professor. Always write with your professor in mind. In general, hallmarks of an “A” grade answer include: identification of all issues, significant attention to “grey areas,” incorporation of higher-level argument techniques (example: using the “slippery slope” argument), integration of the legal principles and facts of the hypothetical with common sense notions, and policy support for a position taken.

However, professors differ in what they consider “A” grade material. Therefore, it is very important to obtain not only the old exam questions your professor has filed, but also—if available—her examples of quality answers. You should study these answers carefully, for there you will find which qualities your professor rewards with high grades.

You ought to also discuss with your professors what they look for in exam answers during office visits.  You will also get quite a bit of this information during class—be sure to put that in your notes! Do this with each of your professors to learn what he or she expects on a real exam. Whatever you discover, that’s what to practice!  Then incorporate your professors’ suggestions into your practice exam answers. 

Audience matters in everything you write … and the audience you write for when you compose answers to law school essay exam questions is likely to be a determinative factor in the grade you receive!

{This “tip” is one of a continuing series.  Law school academic professionals are authorized to use this material in their work however they choose – and law students who read these tips are encouraged to integrate them into their practice sessions. To see where this tip fits in the grand schema: Click here.} (djt)

August 25, 2011 in Advice, Exams - Theory, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Clinical Faculty Appointment with Academic Success Component at UNC Chapel Hill

Position Announcement for Clinical Faculty Appointment

Research, Reasoning, Writing, and Advocacy, and Academic Success

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law invites applications for full‑time Clinical Faculty Appointments to teach first-year legal research and writing and to serve in the Writing and Learning Resources Center beginning in the 2012-13 academic year.  The Center houses the law school’s first-year writing program and its three-year academic success program.  Each individual selected for these positions will teach two seminar-sized sections of the research and writing course (“Research, Reasoning, Writing, and Advocacy”) per semester.  In addition, successful candidates will work with the Director of Academic Success Programs to teach academic-success workshops or to provide individual and group educational counseling or tutoring.

            Candidates should have outstanding academic records in law school, the ability and desire to work collaboratively on an established team, and experience or demonstrated potential in teaching.  A J.D. and practice or clerkship experience is required.  A strong plus would be additional experience or degrees in education, counseling, or academic success work. The individuals hired will receive an initial three-year, nine-month appointment subject to long‑term contract renewal.

            Applications will be accepted until the positions are filled.  The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is an Equal Opportunity Employer.  Applications must be submitted electronically at  Click on this direct link URL from any browser to apply for this position.  Applications should include a resume or curriculum vitae, a letter of application, and contact information for four references.  Confidential inquiries are welcome; they can be made to Professor Craig Smith, Assistant Dean for Legal Writing and Academic Success, at 919.962.7059 or  For more information about the UNC-CH School of Law, please visit our website:



August 23, 2011 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Essay Exam Answering Tip #82211 – What “conclusory” means.

Professors and academic support professionals warn against writing answers – or addressing issues – in a way that is “conclusory.” Let’s take a look at what “conclusory” means.

Law examination answers that do not supply the explanatory information detailing how each step of the argument is arrived at are “conclusory.” That is, they recite conclusions without stating supportive analysis. A display of the thought process leading to every conclusion is essential in a law examination answer.

When you enter the professional practice, judges, lawyers, and clients will be asking, “How did you reach that conclusion?” Throughout law school, your professors will expect you to respond to that latent question in every class session and on every examination. The ability to conclude is not what “thinking like a lawyer” is about—rather, you are developing the ability to persuade another that the conclusion you have reached is supportable by application of rules of law to a set of facts.

To score the most points on each issue, the essay ought to specify the issue, indicate which rule (or set of rules) a lawyer would employ to resolve the issue, articulate an analysis of how the facts of this hypothetical case are affected by application of the rule, and reason to a solid conclusion.

Lawyerly analysis, in its most fundamental sense, boils down to an interweaving of the facts presented in the hypothetical, with the law you have identified. So to score more exam points, avoid conclusory statements—instead work on your analytical skills. {Where this tip fits in the grand schema: Click here.} (djt)

August 22, 2011 in Advice, Exams - Theory, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Essay Exam Answering Tip #82011 – What an “issue” is.

Let’s take a look at what an “issue” is, within the context of answering law school essay exams. An issue is usually a question the court will be called upon to answer. Sometimes “major” issues, like whether a defendant is liable for negligence, are referred to as “ultimate questions” in the case – whereas the elemental questions are the determinative issues … the questions which, when answered, will determine the answer to the ultimate question.

For example, a major issue, or ultimate question in a Torts exam may be whether the defendant’s actions or omissions constitute the tort of negligence. The elemental issues which the trier of fact will be called upon to determine include whether the plaintiff can prove each of the elements of negligence: duty owed to the plaintiff, breach of that duty, causation, and damage. 

Many issues include sub-issues.  For example, when one finds a negligence issue, often it will require a thorough analysis of breach of duty, including a discussion based on the balancing of the gravity of harm against the burden on the defendant to have acted differently, and also including attention to the utility of the defendant’s allegedly negligent conduct.

To help identify issues and sub-issues, carefully read the facts to determine which elements of each rule ought to be discussed. As to issues, remember that it’s important to not only name them, but to explain how they arise in the circumstances set forth in the essay question.

After each issue is named, state the applicable rule that will be used to resolve the issue; then engage in discussion and analysis to reach a conclusion before moving to the next issue or sub-issue.

{Where this tip fits in the grand schema: Click here.} (djt)

August 20, 2011 in Advice, Exams - Theory, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Interesting Ideas on Class Attendance Policies at Freakanomics

There is a very interesting discussion at the Freakonomics blog (same authors as the book) about how to incentivize class attendance. I think this dovetails nicely with a question posted yesterday on the ASP listserv about laptops in class. Both attendance policies and laptops bans get at the same fundamental issue: how do professors keep students in class and engaged? I don't think there is one answer to this question, but a theme seems to run through both issues. The theme is lecture-only or lecture-from-the-book courses bore students, encourage students to miss class, and increase the use of distractions in class. I have heard over and over from doctrinal professors that the Socratic Method is not lecture-only, but as the Socratic Method is employed in many classes, students can't see the difference. This is especially true when the Socratic Method is used to question only a tiny number of students in a large class; I have heard students complain they would rather lecture-only, because questioning only a few students, who may or may not have done the reading, just increases confusion.

The comments below the post in Freaknomics make sense and pose the same questions law schools are struggling to answer.


August 20, 2011 in Current Affairs, Miscellany, News, Reading, Teaching Tips, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Giving 3L's a time line

On the heels of my last post, I realized that a time line is appropriate for 3L's planning on taking the bar exam next July. This is especially important if your school does not offer bar prep; every year I hear about students who miss the deadlines for bar exam paperwork because they didn't know when they were due. The best resource when creating a 3L time line is Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz's Pass the Bar!; I would strongly recommend it to all 3L's.

A few pointers for 3L's and the ASPer's who work with them:

1) Know the state where you plan to sit for the bar and and the paperwork deadlines.

2) Know what paperwork is required for character and fitness and how long it will take to get the required documents. If students need to request their driving records from a state DMV or work summary from Social Security, they need to know how long this will take.

3) If a student is moving before the bar exam, they need to know when graduation is scheduled and when the commercial bar prep course starts. If graduation is on a Sunday and bar prep starts on Monday, it is good to be packed and ready to go before Sunday night.

4) Know the deadlines for signing up for commercial bar prep courses, and decide if they will need additional loans in order to pay for a course.

5) Ask recommenders how much time they will need to submit a reference.

There are many other pointers for 3L's that are state-specific. These are just a sampling of the things that trip up students and add stress to the 3L year.


August 18, 2011 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Giving 1L's a time line

As many ASPer's start orientation this week, I wanted to remind everyone that 1L's want (and need) a time line. I won't suggest a time line, because I think they are different depending on your school. Without a solid plan for their first semester, 1L's are left to rely on advice from the web and word-of-mouth regarding the proper time to start outlines, studying for exams, and working on practice essays. Here is a short list of things you might want on a time line for your incoming students:

1) Legal Writing Assignments: 1L's are always shocked at the amount of time they must devote to their first legal writing assignment. It's a good idea to give 1L's a rough idea of how many hours go into their first memo or brief. Encourage students to calendar the due dates and plan ahead. Students should understand that most professors do not want to see a "draft" 24-48 hours before the completed assignment is due, especially if they have been given weeks to complete the memo or brief. A time line should result in better assignments, and doctrinal teachers will thank you when they see fewer sleepy students the day after the assignment is due.

2) Outlining: I used to believe that there was a set time all students should start outlining. As I have gained experience, I realize this is something that is best decided school-by-school. Some professors finish a definable, set amount of material that allows ASPer's to tell students to start as soon as that topic is finished. Other professors start with an overview of the entire class, and then delve into topics in depth. When to start outlining depends on how your faculty teaches their courses and whether your school gives midterms. The only absolute advice applicable to all students is the need to start outlining before reading week.

3) Practice exams: Again, this is something that is best decided school-by-school. Some schools have midterms in each course, some have midterms in only one course, some schools still don't offer midterms.  Students should take a practice essay or exam before a midterm, especially if it is a graded midterm. Another variable is the amount and availability of prior exams students can use as practice. If your school offers only a few exams to students to use as practice, students should start later in the semester. Practice exams are crucial to success.

4) Take-home assignments (if applicable): If professors offer take-home assignments, students should have a rough sense of what it takes to complete the assignment. Like legal writing assignments, without a time line, students will either over-or-under prepare the assignment. This is not a result of student laziness (most of the time) but 1L's misunderstanding about the difference between undergrad and law school assignments.

I am sure there are many other things that can go on a timeline to distribute to 1L's; this is just a short list of things that baffle 1L's.


August 16, 2011 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Director of Bar Passage and Academic Support Opening at OSU

           The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law invites applications for its Director of Bar Passage and Academic Support program.  The position includes appointment as a clinical faculty member and would also include teaching in the Legal Writing and Analysis curriculum. 

           We will consider all applicants; however, we prefer candidates with experience in providing academic support services and/or in teaching legal writing and analysis.  Candidates should have a strong academic record that demonstrates potential for leading such a program and for such clinical instruction.   The starting salary range will be in the $78,000 - $83,000 range for a 12-month appointment with a renewable contract; full University fringe benefits are provided as well. The ideal starting date will be early November 2011 or as soon thereafter as possible. 

            A resume, references, and cover letter should be submitted to Associate Dean Kathy Northern, Chair,  Director of Bar Passage and Academic Support Program Search Committee, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, 55 West 12th Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210.   Send e-mail applications to .  Applications will be reviewed immediately and will be accepted until the position is filled.

             The Ohio State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer.  To build a diverse workforce, Ohio State encourages applications from individuals with disabilities, minorities, veterans, and women.


August 16, 2011 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Essay Exam Answering Tip #81411 - What professors look for when they grade essay exam answers.

In order to hit the target, you must have a clear view of the bulls-eye.  When you’re writing a law school essay-exam answer, you need to know exactly what your professor is hoping to find when he or she reads that answer.  It's true that some professors are looking for items, information, or methods of analysis that other professors don’t give a hoot about – there are differences in grading.  You ought to be able to pick up on these differences during class, during conferences with your professors, and by reviewing prior exam questions and (perhaps) prior graded answers.

Writing law school exam answers is different than almost any other writing you’ve done.  One of the most important differences is that – due in part to time constraints – you ought to focus on limiting each essay to point-scoring text. While wit, historical perspective, moral theorizing, and other aspects of what we consider to be “good writing” are definitely important to include in many genres – often even in legal writing – these generally lie somewhere between unimportant and deleterious when considering how to score the most points in essay exam answers.

Even though professors have their own preferences, when grading exams nearly all law professors award points for these characteristics:

  • Lawyerly skill in extricating the salient facts from inert, non-determinative facts presented in the narrative.
  • Capability to identify and specify the legal issues these key facts raise.
  • Ability to recall and accurately set out the applicable law or principle which leads to the resolution of the conflict.
  • Logical, organized interweaving of the facts with the elements of the law in a compelling analytical presentation.
  • Recognition of the driving policies and purposes of the law in question, and the ability to express how these policies and purposes support the resolution proposed by the answer. (Often you will find that there’s not much need for policy discussion.)
  • Proficiency in clear, concise, organized legal writing.

These criteria coincide with the several points stressed by Professor John Delaney, in his classic How to do Your Best on Law School Exams, and they continue to be the most important targets for high-scoring exam answers. 

{Where this tip fits in the grand schema: Click here.} (djt)

August 14, 2011 in Advice, Exams - Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Essay Exam-Answering Tips

Amy Jarmon recently asked me if I would consider adding some posts on a continuing (irregular) basis pointing out “…not only on patterns of error that students have in exam writing, but also on tips how to correct those errors.  A lot of students read the blog,” Amy continued, “and could benefit from postings that focused each time on one type of error and practical tips for correcting that specific error.  It would also help those of us who look at practice questions or review exams with students as a good refresher.  It is easy for us to ‘get stale’ in our discussions.” 

Amy is right about getting stale.  When we use our same notes semester after semester for our “How to Write a High-Scoring Essay Exam Answer” presentations, then answer the same student questions week after week in the office about “What’s the professor looking for in my answer?” or “Should I use IRAC?” … we get stale. 

Because my work these days is principally devoted to commenting on essay exam answers, I tend to avoid that problem (that’s right – I don’t avoid it – I only “tend” to).  Almost every day, I grade and comment on several essay exam answers online for Concord Law School.  Although the same problems pop up very often, each exam answer is different.  So I wind up writing quite a bit of fresh commentary. 

Exam tips must be in context to have meaning.  So here’s how I’ll approach this task.  I’ve just added a “context schemata” to a page on my blog … and each time I add a tip to the Law School Academic Support Blog I will assign it a number (based on the date) which will make it easy to locate in the schemata.  As Amy Jarmon put it, “It would be helpful to our student readers (as well as to our ASP readers) to have tip entries that address specific problems and the ability to see them within the greater context.  Those who become readers part way through the series would be better served by the continuity provided.  In addition, students with differing learning styles would benefit from the two-layer approach.”  Right!

Soon I will add the first “tip” to this blog, and we’ll see how it goes.  If/when you have suggestions for exam-answering problem areas you think ought to be addressed, send them along to me and I’ll do my best to respond!  (djt)

August 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Road to Success

Warning: this post is too long.  Can we blame it on Amy?  Thanks.  Writing about stress a few days ago, Amy Jarmon suggested that our law students need to learn how to manage stress early in their careers. Hoorah, Amy!  Yes, “…early in their careers…” is now. 

If there is one universal and outstanding surprise to the new academic support professional it is this: it’s not all about showing students how to brief cases, read like lawyers, or handle study groups.  There’s SO much more to academic support than that.  I have had colleagues who (sort of) complained that they didn’t have enough time to get to the core skills (reading, briefing, note-taking, etc.) because they were inundated with requests – overt or subtle – to help cope with the meta-skills of handling time and stress.

Even more surprising (and here, I certainly include me as a surprisee in the first few years of academic supporting) is the fact that so many students honestly believe the road to success in law school is paved with formats for briefing, IRAC structures for exam writing, speed-reading techniques, quick and efficient course outline production methods, and fail-safe study strategies.  Yup, those are important topics to cover.  But they’re worthless if one does not (borrowing from Amy’s list) . . .

  • Manage time carefully.  Every student in this incoming first-year class has exactly one thing in common: 168 hours to use to his or her best advantage each week.  If a student spends 8 hours each night sleeping – almost essential for most, and the first time rule to be broken by nearly every first-year student – that leaves 112 for studying law and handling the “other parts” of life.  If one were to work a 65-hour week at law (not unlike many lawyers), that would leave 47 hours for exercise, church, shopping, cooking, eating, entertainment, _____, _____, and friends & family time.  (Two blanks is enough, don’t you think?)   Not bad.  When you break the individual tasks associated with being a great law student down into their chunks, you can usually show students how 65 (okay, 70?) hours ought to be more than enough time to get the job done very well.  More than forty hours completely away from the law is essential each week to maintain recognizable sanity.   If students can learn to work within a framework similar to that, many of the time management issues will resolve.
  • Recognize and minimize procrastination.  I advise students to put off thinking about procrastination.  
  • Follow optimal sleep, exercise, and nutrition routines. Can you imagine hiring a lawyer who never slept a full night’s sleep, seldom left the office chair, and (remember: you are what you eat) lived on a diet of beer and junk food?  Good luck   I hope your lawyer isn’t representing you for anything important.
  • Keep in touch with friends and family.  Duh.  Those who have loved you and supported you much or all of your life … uh, let’s see … could contact with them possibly help keep your head screwed on straight?  But there’s more to it than that.  The non-law-oriented spouse or significant other of a law student is in for some tough times.  And the last one to notice the “change” in the law student’s behavior is (guess who) the law student.  So all law students who have many hours of contact per week with someone who loves them but does not necessarily love the law need to receive some pretty strong advice about how to relate … and the non-student half of that equation needs a support group of some type as well (“No,” I have told some unfortunate adults in that position, “it’s not just you, and it’s not just her … it’s … it’s … well, it’s bigger than both of you – but you can handle it.  You just need to know what to expect and how to get the job done.  Love works.”  (Sorry, I sometimes get carried away.)
  • Talk to someone about the stress.  Too many students find that most qualified people to talk to about stress is (either or both) their bartender or their equally stressed law student friends.  Too few visit their Dean of Students, Academic Support professionals, law-school savvy psychologists, or other professionals who can support them and/or refer them.  They need the way to these offices highlighted … like those little lights that the flight attendant promises will come on in case of an emergency to show you the way to the emergency exists.  (Unfortunately, taping those yellow paper footprints to the corridor carpets is frowned upon by the Dean, and seldom works anyway.)

Help students realize that the “practice” of law begins near Orientation day.  Help them (perhaps through a guest speaker or two at Orientation or soon after) realize that the pressures and stresses of law school (generally) pale when compared with those of the professional practice.  “What you are practicing, students,” they need to know, “is less about how to revise a contract, and more about how to balance/juggle thirty things that need to be done during a day – with no possibility of ‘forgiveness’ if they are not all completed, and completed at your highest level of capability.”  Would you hire a lawyer who settled for less? 

Does this suggest that a trip to the gym for a 30-minute swim or a one-hour yoga class is more important than an hour in the library briefing a couple of torts cases?  Not really … but it sure is meant to suggest that either one without the other will not lead to a student’s performance at his or her highest level of competence. 

Teaching time and stress management ought to be a high priority in every academic support program.  If the professionals in the department can’t teach it … by talk, by counseling, and most of all, by example … they ought to bring in those who can as guests.  But … as you well know … he/she who is most stressed has no time to attend that guest presentation.  And if you don’t believe that, stop by the cafeteria or the local pub later in the day and he or she will tell you.

We are not obliged to make every law student the best law student that person can be.  But I think we are obliged to try as hard as we can to do just that.  Your thoughts? (djt)

August 6, 2011 in Advice, Miscellany, Professionalism, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Position at UALR

The UALR Bowen School of Law is seeking an Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. The Assistant Dean is in charge of all aspects of the law school academic counseling, academic success, and bar passage programs. The Assistant Dean for Student Affairs reports to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. This is a twelve-month renewable position and the preferred start date is August 15, 2011.
Candidates should have a J.D. from an accredited law school. Administrative experience, teaching experience, and an educational background are helpful. The successful candidate will be outgoing, will be able to work with diverse groups of people, and will have excellent teaching, writing and verbal skills.
The UALR Bowen School of Law, established in 1975, has approximately 440 full and part-time students and boasts innovative academic partnerships with UAMS, the Clinton School for Public Service, and the Boozman College of Public Health.  The school’s alumni include federal and state judges, elected officials, business leaders, corporate counsel, partners of major law firms, and dedicated public servants.  The school, located next to MacArthur Park, enjoys strong support from its students, alumni, and the legal community.
To apply, submit a letter of application (reference R97577), resume and references to:  Patti Bell, Administrative Projects Coordinator, Bowen School of Law, 1201 McMath Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas 72202.  Electronic submissions are preferred; e-mail with R97577 in the subject line or fax to 501.324.9433. Screening of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.  For more information visit or
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer and actively seeks the candidacy of minorities, women, and persons with disabilities.  Under Arkansas law, all applications are subject to disclosure.  Persons hired must have proof of legal authority to work in the United States.

August 1, 2011 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)