Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Essay Exam Answering Tip #103011 - Focus on Key Facts

“Legal problem solving — identifying and diagnosing problems and generating strategies and tactics to achieve client objectives — is a legally trained person’s most basic function. Most legal problem solving activity involves some legal analysis — combining law and facts to generate, justify, and assess a legal problem’s merits.” (Legal Services Practice Manual: Skills (2010) Link)

All lawsuits arise as a result of disputes involving facts. Our legal system revolves around resolving disputes through the application of rules of law to the facts of a case. Yes, trials and appeals are about “law,” but remember that the trial court judge, or the jury, is referred to as the “trier-of-fact.”  Determinations of facts are so important that the Bill of Rights guarantees that facts once decided by a jury are pretty much the last word.  The seventh amendment provides that, “ fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law."  This clause forbids any court from reexamining or overturning any factual determinations made by a jury, unless the factual determinations are clearly erroneous.

The two major components of the dispute resolution process are the applicable law and the facts of the dispute.  In the professional practice of law, you will be sifting through the case file to identify which of the hundreds or thousands of facts produced by discovery (for example, witness statements, deposition transcripts, answers to interrogatories, photographs, and correspondence) are “key” facts.  Key facts are those facts  that are critical to the outcome of the case. A key fact is so essential that if it were changed, the outcome of the case might well be different.

In law school, you are practicing this skill of focusing on facts – in order for you to learn to assess legal problems, you must be able to find the important facts ... the key facts, the facts upon which the outcome of the issue in question depends. When writing an answer to a law school essay exam question, you must ferret out these salient facts from all the facts presented in the narrative. Think of them as keys that unlock point-scoring issue discussions.

But how?  Here are the basic steps to determining which facts are key facts.

  • Identify each claim possibly raised by the exam question.
  • State the rules that will be used to resolve each issue of each claim. These rules include the elements which need to be addressed in the discussion of each issue.
  • Pinpoint which facts in the question possibly relate to the elements of those issues.

This last step involves determining which facts may be legally significant. Legally significant facts might be, for example, that a tenant with an eviction notice has never been supplied with hot water; or that the shooter was an off-duty policeman; or that a party to a contract may have been a minor; or that the geographical distance between the provoking incident and the killing may have been long enough to provide adequate time for a reasonable person to “cool off” the heat of his passion.

After outlining your answer, read through the exam question one more time carefully and quickly (you should be quite familiar with the question by this time, so the reading can go much faster than it did the first time through). Make sure you have assigned all the facts presented in the hypothetical question (the exam) to some issue. If not, ask yourself if these facts suggest another issue, can be used to further explain an issue you already noted, or are merely "red herrings" (facts in the question which might lead you to an errant discussion). Then use this fact-rich outline as a roadmap for answering the question. Note that your outline need not include explanations of why facts are important – the detailed analysis comes in your answer. The outline is only your writing guide.

As for the outline, you may want to follow a traditional outline pattern (bullet points, hierarchies, mind-mapping, etc.) … or, to accent the fact-finding, you may want to think about a two-column approach. You can outline your answer using two separate columns. Specifically, you can list the issues in one column, and then note the facts that need to be discussed in relation to those rules in the column next to it. This method will allow you to match the issues or sub-issues of law with the facts of the question. Skimming through the question quickly (again) before actually writing the essay, you can quickly note if you have skipped over a fact.

Long before encountering exams, work on recognizing key facts.  Focus on key facts when you brief cases for class. Some students find that including basic fact patterns in their self-made course outlines – as illustrations of the rules that appear in the outlines – helps them think of the rules in situational terms.

Many years ago, when I was a little boy, fictional Los Angeles police Sergeant Joe Friday, hero of the “Dragnet” television series, used to say to witnesses he interviewed, "All we want are the facts." Well, there’s more to it than that when you’re trying to score high on a law school essay exam … but Sgt. Friday was zeroing in on one of the two essential components – you should too!

{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)

October 30, 2011 in Advice, Exams - Theory, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Law students and procrastination

Jo Anne Sweeny recently sent out a link to a piece that she wrote that has been posted on the SALT Law Blog about types of student procrastinators and quick fixes that can be used to assist them.  You can find the post at: How to Help Law Students Overcome Procrastination and Faulty Thinking.  Jo Anne is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.  You can find her profile here: Jo Anne Sweeny.  (Amy Jarmon)   

October 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Handling Life's Disappointments

I am going to elaborate on Amy's post from a couple of weeks ago about taking time to care for yourself. Bad, unfair stuff happens to everyone. Not everyone knows how to handle it when it happens to them. Most people take some time, dust themselves off, heal, and move one. When working with law students, some additional context may help explain why  our current students may take things a bit harder than previous classes.

The three classes that are presently in law school are different; widespread anecdotal report them as younger, which is the natural consequence of students choosing to enroll in law school after undergrad to avoid a depressed economy. Younger students may have less life experience, and less practice handling the ups and downs of life. Additionally, these students are getting bombarded with press telling them that they are fools and their decision to enroll in law school is a mistake. Add in some disappointments, such as a break-up, a family issue, or a fight with a friend, and it's harder for these students to put their troubles in perspective and see that this, too, shall pass. When all the news is bad and you don't have the life experience to see that everything is temporary, disappointment can morph into depression.

Taking some points from Martin Seligman and positive psychology, there are some strategies for working with students who need some advice handling life's disappointments:

1) Whatever state you are in now is not permanent. It may feel like the pain of a break-up, a bad grade, a fight with a friend will be permanent, but the pain will pass. Just like the excitement of a special day or thrill of a good grade passes, disappointment fades. The more you (the student)focus on the disappointment, the more permanent it will feel.

2) Remember your successes. Failure can seem pervasive when several disappointments hit at once. But no one got to law school as a pervasive failure in life. Everyone has successes. When you increase the level of challenge in your life, you increase the risk of failure and disappointment. Recalling the times you were successful can help you bounce back.

3) Remember that you choose how you frame events in your life. Events, by themselves, are neither good nor bad. Even severe traumas, like the death of a loved one, can be viewed from different perspectives. One perspective focuses on being grateful for the time you had with them, another perspective focuses on how much time you wish you still had with them. Similarly, students suffering through break-ups (so common in the first semester of law school) often spend disproportionate amounts of time focusing on their sadness because that person was "the one" and their whole life was built around them. While it is valid to be sad, focusing on how things will always be negative since the significant other is gone keeps the student in a bad cycle.

4) Remind them that the press doesn't focus on the happy, because that makes for boring news. This is the time of the year 2L's are getting offers for summer employment. Mix in the constant barrage of terrible news about law school, and it's easy for students without a big-firm summer placement to feel like a failure. Students depressed about their prospects need to remember that smaller firms and non-profits hire after the new year, sometimes late into the spring. Just because you, the student, struck out in OCI doesn't mean you will never get a job. The news media fails to note that even during the "boom" years of 2002-2007, not all student got big-firm jobs.

5) As trite as it sounds, failure is the key to success. If you are always winning, how will you handle it when you fail when the stakes are high? Learning from mistakes is critical to future success. Failed relationships teach us how to behave when we meet the right person. Fights with friends teach us how to handle disagreements appropriately. Failed interviews teach us how not to answer OCI questions posed by interviewers.

I realize that ASPer's already have these skills, and they sound obvious. Many of our students have not lived enough to have gained perspective on life's disappointments, which leads them to perseverate on negative events. This can have an immediate impact on grades, because dwelling on disappointments increases cognitive load and decreases the ability to focus on homework, reading, and studying. Focusing on disappointments also negative impacts on motivation.  (RCF)


October 22, 2011 in Advice, Current Affairs, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Practice Exams Given by 1L Professors

We are entering the time period at our law school when many of our first-year professors in the doctrinal courses give their students practice exams.  The exam feedback varies by professor: some give students "grades" (check-plus, check, check-minus, for example).  Some professors review the exams in class and hand out an answer key.  Exams are usually one fact pattern if essay; they are 10-15 questions if multiple-choice.  Some professors will write combination exams.

It always surprises me how many of our first-year students do not take full advantage of these opportunities.  Some students choose not to take the practice exams.  Those students will go into the final exam without any experience of a law school exam.  Some students who take the exams do not study for them at all.  Those students often excuse their poor performance with "If I had studied, I would have gotten a good grade."  However, that statement may not be true at all - they will never know.

Practice exams allow students to monitor several things for fact-pattern essay exams:

  • Do they understand the material as well as they thought?
  • Are they able to spot the issues?
  • Can they precisely state the rules?
  • Are they able to write an organized answer applying the law to the facts with arguments for both parties?
  • Can they perform well under timed conditions?

Practice exams allow students to monitor several things for multiple-choice exams:

  • Do they understand the material as well as they thought?
  • Can they recognize the nuances in the law when choosing a "best" answer?
  • Can they perform well under timed conditions?

Students often talk about wanting feedback so that they know how they are doing.  Hopefully more students will realize that practice exams allow them to gain feedback - even if it is not of the graded variety (Amy Jarmon)




October 21, 2011 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

NECASP Annual Conference Reg Info

New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Annual Conference

ASP Without Stigma: Serving Our Diverse Populations”

Monday, December, 5, 2011

Boston College Law School

9am-2:30 pm

Please join us for the third annual NECASP conference at Boston College Law School. This year’s conference will feature admissions professionals and law students discussing who to best attract and serve the increasingly diverse law student population.  Keynote speaker will be Jacq Nance, Assistant Director of Admissions, UConn Law School, who will speak about what type of support students look for in law schools.



9:15-9:30-Welcome Address by Dean Vincent Rougeau, Boston College Law School

9:30-10:30-Keynote Address by Jacq Nance, Asst. Director of Admissions, UConn Law School

and Tracy West, Assistant Dean for Students, Diversity Initiatives, and Academic Advising, Boston College Law School

                Followed by Q and A

10:45-11:45-Mason Dunn, UNH Law student, LGBT issues and ASP

Followed by Q and A

12-1-lunch and law student panel

                Jennifer Kent, BC Law School, BLSA President

                Ramey Sylvester, The University of New Hampshire School of Law Diversity Action Coalition

1-2-group discussion of hypothetical situations encountered in ASP

2-2:30-Conference Wrap-Up


$25, payable by check to NECASP

Please mail checks to:    Elizabeth Stillman-Suffolk Law School

120 Tremont Street

Boston, MA 02108-4977


October 20, 2011 in Current Affairs, Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Leaving the Front of the Room: Increasing Student Engagement in the Classroom

One effective response to concerns about student engagement in the classroom—a topic of increasing  concern at law schools today—is to return responsibility for learning to the students themselves.  One specific technique I have used required me to relinquish control of some classroom components of a skills course and instead trust to the professional response of my students. This shared empowerment can be used effectively in both doctrinal and skills classes. My experience in academic support gave me the confidence and courage to try this experiment. 

Here's what I did:  I assigned students, in small teams of two to four students, to take responsibility for teaching several classroom components of the course.  My motivation for this major and risky step occurred at the beginning of a course in Appellate Advocacy.  I could see that the class, for whatever reason, was not engaging with the material as I would have liked. 

Some of my colleagues were skeptical of this approach.  One concern was whether “students-teaching- students” would result in incorrect information being broadcast to the class.  But it was simple enough to monitor the information and I found that it was never necessary, especially since students, for the most part, would have been relying on materials that I would have used anyway.  

Another concern, though never stated directly, was the reluctance to step aside from the front of the classroom.  This concern may just represent a personal choice and comfort level.  For the most part, I didn't see the necessity of being the expert at the front of the room for every minute of the class.

Each team was responsible for researching a topic and deciding how best to present the material to the class.  Since there were two to four students in each team, teams had to determine how to choreograph the presentation. In that sense, the  exercise presented issues similar to those we face as co-presenters at  professional development workshops.  Now I see the exercise as one more step in the development of students as professionals.

Not only did students have to complete some research on their team's topics, they also had to make  choices about how to present the information.  Since each presentation was limited to twenty minutes, students had to choose what to include, which usually meant decisions about what to cut, choices about the medium (slides and video clips were the most popular modes), how the presentation was connected to what we had already seen and covered, and what the class should take away from the presentation (information, hand-outs, etc.).  (Slides and handouts were easy to collect and post on the course TWEN page for reference and review.) One assignment required a two-student team to invite an appellate lawyer to the class and then to conduct a conversation-style interview with the lawyer about appellate preparation and practice.  

The results were immediately positive.  Even though the students, as first-year students, had no experience  with the material, they rose to the challenge of the task.  I gave them the freedom of deciding how to present: we had everything from conventional slides and handouts, to a generous sprinkling of game-show-style participation exercises (complete with the 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire" count-down music).  We also had some skits and, of course, the inevitable “YouTube” clips.  The presentations were a stepped progression from an in-class small group exercise to teaching the class. 

The presentations also revealed student talents I would not have known about.  It was clear who the talented singers were, who were the comics, and who had dazzling PowerPoint skills. It was also clear which students were the leaders in a team.  Student teams were playing to their strengths in learning and in demonstrating the information. And I collected some valuable teaching materials including handouts, slides, and presentation ideas.   

All of the presentations over the last four years, while not uniformly excellent, were still very well presented, often with points I had not anticipated. The  exercises had a profound  effect on the class and their positive response to later material in the course.

One final point, and this may be the most important point of the experiment. No grade or credit attached to the assignments, yet students responsibly fulfilled their obligations and the level of conversation about the topics was excellent.  I was watching students taking responsibility for their own education, not relying on my topical expertise at the front of the room, but finding new ways of teaching me what I thought I already knew.  In short, they kept me engaged too.

Paul Bateman








October 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Structuring a hybrid ASP-doctrinal course

After my post on retrieval practice, I have received a few questions about how I structure my Remedies course at UConn. It is an ASP-Remedies course for 2L's, with equal emphasis on ASP and Remedies. Before I go any further, I owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to Mike Schwartz for helping me get the course started, and for his suggestion of Remedies as a good subject matter for an ASP-focused doctrinal course. In this particular area, he is the master, and I am still the student.

After two years of trying to incorporate ASP into the Remedies material, I decided to try something different this year. So far, I am liking this structire MUCH better than how I have structured the course in the past. The first hour of the course is usually a skills lesson. I explicitly teach a skill, such as case briefing or outlining, using materials we have previously covered in class. The first hour of class serves not only to teach ASP, but also reviews prior concepts in Remedies.

The second hour of the class is Remedies. Because I only spend an hour of a three hour, three credit course on doctrinal subject matter, I remind students that the course is not designed to be a comprehensive course in Remedies, but an introduction to the material. Unlike a traditional law school course, I make my thinking explicit as I teach.

The last hour of the course is an exercise, either group exercise or a mini-test, but something that tests their skills so students get immediate (or nearly immediate) feedback on their learning.

A little more about why I chose this structure...

I put the skills lesson first because it allows for review. Another teacher could probably put the Remedies lesson first, and then use the skills lesson to reinforce the Remedies lesson. However, I am (primarily) a deductive thinker, and starting with a review allows me to help students create a "big picture" of the course. I don't think there is a right or a wrong answer here, just personal preference.

I added the last portion of the class this year, to reflect the lessons from this year's AALS meeting. I think it is important to note that my skills practice also asks students to think about other issues they will be seeing in future classes. So my skills exercise on the day we discussed damages for conversion had an issue dealing with unique goods. I didn't expect students to answer the issue on unique goods, but I wanted them to start contemplating how damages for conversion might be different if the good was one-of-a-kind. I think that giving students a problem before they see the issue in a case helps them better understand how the issue could come up in the real world.

Another addition to the class this year is explicit connection to Remedies in the practice context. I have to rely on the expertise of friends and colleagues for this part of the lesson, since I did not practice in an area where this was relevant. But even small hints about how damages will be relevant to my students when they are in practice makes the course seem more useful to them. I had the great benefit of speaking with a very experienced state supreme court justice a few years ago, and he shared with me the ways he thinks Remedies is one of the most important concepts for students to learn. I, in turn, share his lessons with my students throughout the semester, as well as the lessons of other practioners I have spoken with about how damages work in practice. (RCF)

October 13, 2011 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Essay Exam Answering Tip #101111 - Refer to Facts; Don't Repeat Them

It is important to avoid repeating and summarizing the facts presented in the question. Some students begin their answers with a summary of the facts.  Others quote, paraphrase, or summarize a segment of the facts as they begin their treatment of an issue.

In every law exam question, the professor wrote the facts and does not relish the idea of reading them again. What he or she wants to read is the student’s analysis of how those facts interplay with the legal requirements to achieve a resolution of the problem.

Another reason to avoid repeating the facts is more utilitarian: the fewer key strokes you use to write facts, the more time you will have to analyze. That’s where the points are: analysis!

That’s the exam tip set out as a “don’t” (that is, what not to do). Now let’s look at the other side of the coin—what frame of mind to adopt (a “do” instead of a “don’t) to help you avoid this exam-answering pitfall. When answering these essay questions, think of your audience (reader) as, let’s say, 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 area of law you’re addressing, but needs to be reminded of the precise rules of law. Then proceed as if you are explaining the situation to that person.

This will help you “refer” to the facts. If you were explaining a situation to a colleague who is already familiar with the facts, and you were addressing the issue of apprehension of imminent harm (an assault issue), you could start by writing:

“A week after Dina, age 16, stopped taking her medication, she approached a neighbor, Paul, as he walked along the sidewalk fronting Mary's home. When she has a face to face with Paul, Dina, without provocation, gestured threateningly and screamed, ‘I  know you're out to get me and I'm going to get you first,’ and then strode away.” – and then continue with your analysis.  (58 words)

Or, you could simply refer to Dina’s statement, because your colleague who already knows the facts.  That might read like this:

“Dina's statement should not have led to a reasonable apprehension of imminent harm. Although her approach, threats, and screams could have created apprehension in Paul, nevertheless her threatening statement was in the future tense, ‘I'm going to ….' Therefore, there is no reasonable apprehension of imminent harm.”  (47 words)

The second example is much more concise, and takes care of the entire issue. This is a good example of referring to facts rather than repeating them.

So, in short order, here’s the rule to follow when answering essay exams: refer to facts as they come up during your analysis and discussion; don’t repeat or summarize them.

{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)

October 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Oscar Salinas joins UNC Law

Oscar "O.J." Salinas is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law.  He teaches Research, Reasoning, Writing, and Advocacy and assists with the law school's academic success programs.  O.J. is an honors graduate from the University of Dayton School of Law and has a Master's in Counseling from the University of Texas at San Antonio ("UTSA").  Prior to joining UNC, O.J. taught undergraduate Learning Communities academic support courses at UTSA.  He also taught criminal justice courses and a graduate level seminar that focused on legal reasoning and oral advocacy at UTSA.

Please welcome O.J. to the academic support community when you meet him at a workshop!  His faculty page with additional informatioin on the UNC Law web site can be found here:  O.J. Salinas Faculty Profile

October 11, 2011 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Have you read the syllabus?

Many students never read the syllabi for their courses.  I have discovered both in teaching my three elective law classes and in talking with law students about academic success.  Not only do they not read syllabi as a natural tendency, but they often don't even read them after prompted to do so by the professors.

My syllabus always includes course objectives for the course, the learning outcomes for the course, details on attendance and participation, details on the graded assignments, details on the final, tips for success in the course, reading assignments, and the usual university/law school policies: accommodations, attendance, religious holidays, cell phones.  In short, I try to include everything that my students need to know about what they will be learning, how to succeed in that learning, and how they will be assessed.

Like many of my colleagues, I give my students a "tour" of the syllabus the first day of class.  I point out the highlights and ask them to read the syllabus in detail before the next class.  I tell them that I will take questions on the syllabus at the beginning of the class.  There are rarely any questions.

Yet over the semester, I will repeatedly get questions from my students on things that were in the syllabus.  The questioner will often start with "I was wondering if you could tell me" or "a group of us were wondering about" or "when will you tell us about."

In my academic success work, I regularly ask students questions about their final exam formats or project details or weighting of grades.  Sometimes they will not know the information because the professor has not supplied any information.  However, most often it is because they never read the syllabus. 

When we look at the syllabus (often carefully filed in the front of their class folder or binder), we discover lots of useful information.  They often looked surprised (and a bit sheepish) when we find each informational point that we need to strategize how to do well in the course.

Here are some things in many syllabi that can help students plan their studying and exam strategies:

  • What is the range of pages for reading assignments during the semester?  This information allows the student to build a routine time management schedule for reading and briefing for a course with a more realistic estimate for the amount of time.
  • What are the deadlines or other dates important to the course?  Any dates for paper outlines or drafts, assignments, midterms, or other items should immediately go into a daily planner or monthly calendar.  Now the student is ready to "work backwards" to include the steps or study topics that must be completed to meet that deadline.
  • What details are given about the papers, projects, or other assignments?  The information in the syllabus will alert students to page-lengths of papers, group or individual participation on projects, possible re-write opportunities, Honor Code warnings, or other information that helps the student accurately gauge the assignment difficulty and logistics.
  • What weighting is given to each graded portion of the class?  If participation is 20% of a seminar grade, then the student better start participating!  If the mid-term is 50% of the grade, then the student should take studying for it equally serious as the 50% final exam.  If the advanced writing requirement paper must be of "B or higher" quality, then the student needs to distribute enough time throughout the semester to guarantee reaching that standard.   
  • Does the professor recommend any study aids or other supplements for the course?  Any recommendation is likely to be a study aid that matches the course content and is considered reliable.  Although the student may use other study aids as well, the professor's recommendation should be "a first stop."
  • What will the exam formats be?  Whether essay, multiple-choice, true-false, short answer, or some combination, the format tells the students the type of practice questions to do throughout the semester in preparation for the exam.
  • Does the professor give any additional study tips for the course?  Professors often know the pitfalls for students and make suggestions to assist them. 

A careful read of the syllabus at the beginning of the semester can garner valuable information for the student.  Misunderstandings of the expectations and requirements can be easily avoided.  (Amy Jarmon)





October 10, 2011 in Miscellany, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

New Exam Skills Book

I just received a review copy of Barry Friedman and John CP Goldberg's Open Book, Succeeding on Exams from the First Day of Law School. While I have not had the chance to read the book closely, my first impression is that this is a book we will be seeing a lot in ASP. It is relatively short (180 pages) and uses cartoons and humor throughout. The structure of the book is clear; I can flip to the table of contents to find chapters on specific topics (IRACing, outlining, etc) without having to search. It starts with an introduction on how to use the book, which is especially useful, since most students do not know how to use exam skills books.

There are many good ASP books out there, but I think this one will get added to the pile I use and recommend to students. (RCF)

October 8, 2011 in Exams - Studying, Exams - Theory, Publishing, Reading, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Welcome Blair Matsumoto at Thomas Jefferson

Blair Matsumoto is the acting Associate Director of Bar Preparation at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and an adjunct professor teaching legal Synthesis and first year Academic Success classes.  He received his J.D. from California Western School of Law and is a member of the California, Maryland and District of Columbia Bars.  Prior to coming to Thomas Jefferson School of Law, he was a litigation attorney with Howrey LLP and an Assistant Attorney General for the District of Columbia serving as agency counsel for District of Columbia Public Schools.

Please welcome Blair when you see him at a workshop in your region! 

October 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Welcome to Antonia Miceli at Saint Louis

Antonia Miceli has joined Saint Louis University School of Law as the Director of Bar Exam Preparation.  She is a member of the California, Missouri, Illinois, and District of Columbia bars.  A McGeorge Law School graduate, Antonia practiced and held two federal clerkships before beginning ASP work.  To learn more about Antonia go to her faculty profile on the SLU web pages: Antonia Miceli Profile.

Welcome to the ASP community!

October 6, 2011 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Job opening in student affairs at Loyola Law LA

Vice President and Associate Dean for Student Affairs
Please include the reference number when referring to this job.

Division: Law School

Department: Office of the Dean

Job Description Summary:

Loyola Law School Los Angeles opened its doors in 1920.   Located in downtown Los Angeles – a legal, financial and media capital – Loyola Law School is home to prominent faculty, dedicated students and cutting-edge programs.  The first ABA-approved law school in California with a pro bono requirement for graduation, Loyola Law is committed to legal ethics and the public interest, and has produced top attorneys for nearly a century. 

Loyola Law School seeks an innovative, dynamic, visionary, student-centered leader to:

  • Manage the areas of Student Affairs, Enrollment Management (Admissions, Financial Aid and Student Accounts), Registrar, and Career Services with the focus on high quality and student-centered approaches to delivery of services.  Provide leadership in the development and implementation of strategic plans.  Create an assessment plan and measure performance against objectives.  Recommend changes or enhancements based on feedback and evaluation.  Develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure compliance with laws and regulations relevant to the Student Affairs area. 
  • Work with academic Associate Deans and faculty committees to develop and implement programs, policies and rules, including but not limited to, academic initiatives, academic calendar, academic awards, student conduct and reinstatements.  In consultation with the Academic Dean, oversee the development, implementation and maintenance of the annual class schedule.
  • Work with the Associate Dean of Finance and Administration on relevant administrative functions.  Direct the development and administration of the budgets for assigned functional areas.


Bachelor’s degree required with substantial relevant experience. Graduate or professional degree desirable.  Must remain current on legal issues in higher education, including policy formulation, implementation and compliance.


Minimum 6 years of experience in progressively responsible senior administrative positions in higher education student services, preferably law school.  Possess record of achievement commensurate with appointment as the chief student affairs officer of a professional school.


Highly developed administrative, organizational and leadership skills and demonstrated success in program development and management.  Ability to make an executive judgment independent of direct supervision.  Must maintain highest degree of personal/professional integrity, respect for privacy and confidentiality, and a strong sense of ethics.  Knowledge of current philosophies in higher education and senior management administrative practices, and the ability to understand and work within the Law School culture.  Highly effective interpersonal and communication skills to work collaboratively and maintain open dialogue with students, faculty, staff and administrators.  Excellent counseling, mediation/conflict resolution, negotiation and diplomatic skills are essential.  Ability to communicate effectively on diverse topics to diverse groups, and to lead and manage change.  Knowledge and understanding of current and emerging trends in legal issues, policies and principles in higher education, including policy formulation, implementation and compliance.  Advanced knowledge of assessment, predictive modeling tools and retention principles.  Exemplary communication skills (both written and oral).  Ability to prepare comprehensive reports and executive summaries incorporating complex, highly technical information.  Skill in identifying problems, analyzing data and making recommendations.  Ability to successfully manage multiple complex projects simultaneously and meet project deadlines, often with competing priorities. Must be well-organized and thorough with great attention to detail. Must possess the ability to manage personnel successfully (supervision, staff development, resolution of personnel issues, etc.).  Ability to develop and manage an organization within allocated budget.  Computer competency with Microsoft Office suite, database management, effective use of websites and other relevant technology.

We offer a competitive benefits package that includes medical, dental and vision plans, 403(b) retirement plan, long term disability, term life and AD&D insurance, tuition remission and vacation and sick leave.

Loyola Marymount University is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of sex/gender, race, age of 40 or over, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, military leave, veteran status, or any other status protected by law, in matters pertaining to employment.

Application Process:

Complete an online job application and submit a resume to:

Date posted: 09-21-11


October 5, 2011 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Welcome a new trio of ASP'ers to Loyola Law in LA

Susan Smith Bakhshian is the Director of Bar Programs & Academic Success and Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, where she has taught since 1997.  She currently teaches Bar Exam Writing, Law & Process:  Privacy Torts (an academic success class), Remedies, and California Civil Procedure, but she also has 17 years of experience teaching Legal Writing, Legal Drafting, and Professional Responsibility.  As a 1991 alum of Loyola’s evening program, she is particularly interested helping working students succeed in law school and on the bar exam.  Susan's facultly profile on the Loyola web pages can be found here: Susan Bakhshian Faculty Profile.  

Anne E. Wells is the Assistant Director of Academic Success and Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.  A graduate of Loyola, she currently teaches Professional Responsibility, Law & Process: Privacy Torts, Legal Drafting, and Bankruptcy, and has taught Legal Writing.  She began teaching at Loyola as an adjunct in 2007 and joined the faculty full time in 2009.  She brings a wealth of law firm practice experience to the position, having practiced extensively in the areas of bankruptcy, reorganization, and commercial law following her graduation from Loyola in 1991.  Anne's faculty profile on the law school web pages can be found at: Anne Wells Faculty Profile.  

Jessica Levinson is a Visiting Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. She teaches Law & Process: Privacy Torts, and Money, Politics, and the Supreme Court. She was previously the Director of Political Reform at the Center for Governmental Studies, where her work focused on election laws and political reform issues, and an adjunct professor at Loyola. After graduating from Loyola in 2005, she served as a law clerk to the Honorable James V. Selna, and an associate at the law firm of Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett.  More information about Jessica can be found in her faculty profile here: Jessica Levinson Faculty Profile

Please welcome our new colleagues at Loyola in LA!

October 5, 2011 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Essay Exam Answering Tip #10411 - Avoid Expository Writing

In law school, as well as in the practice of law, you will have many opportunities to demonstrate your skills at many types of writing. One type of writing you will need to use from time to time is expository writing. Expository writing is a rhetorical mode of writing in which the purpose of the author is to inform, explain, describe, or define his or her subject to the reader.

However, when answering law school essay exam questions, you are called upon to demonstrate a different type of writing. Exams are opportunities to show your professor your skills of resolving legal problems by identifying issues, stating concise rules that will be used to resolve the problems, then applying your analytical talents to reason to conclusions. That requires a departure from expository writing.

By way of example, in order to prove a negligence claim, a plaintiff must provide evidence of several elements, one of which is the existence of a “duty” on the part of the defendant to act with reasonable care in relation to the plaintiff. The following is unnecessary in an essay response:

“Duty” can serve as a touchstone when trying to understand the essence of the concept of negligence. The notion of duty appears to be a universal keystone in legal systems throughout the world. In civilized societies, all human action is conformable to the law, which members of each society are required to obey. Duty may be obliged by law or by contract. When imposed by law, a duty is an obligation requiring the actor to conform to a certain standard of conduct for protection of others against unreasonable risks. The word “duty” is used throughout the Restatement of Torts to denote the fact that the actor is required to conduct himself in a particular manner; if he does not do so he runs the risk of becoming subject to liability to another to whom the duty is owed for any injury sustained by such other, of which that actor’s conduct is an actual and proximate cause. 

From an essay-writing standpoint (outside of law school) this may be a fine paragraph. Including it in an expository writing could be helpful. Although introductory explanations, historical justifications, moral discussions, and segue paragraphs tend to round out good collegiate expository writing, these are not hallmarks of good law school essay exam writing.

{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)

October 4, 2011 in Advice, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Macey Edmondson joins the Ole Miss School of Law

Macey Edmondson is the Acting Dean for Student Affairs at The University of Mississippi School of Law.  She received her J.D. in 2001 from The University of Mississippi School of Law and is currently a Doctoral Candidate in the Leadership and Higher Education program.  Edmondson oversees orientation, graduation, students with disabilities, and student organizations.   

We are delighted to have Macey join the ASP community!

October 4, 2011 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Welcome Kathleen Dombrow to Whittier Law

Kathleen Dombrow is a new Graduate Fellow in Academic Support at Whittier. She received her J.D. degree cum laude from Chapman University School of Law. While at Chapman Law, she served as a Dean’s Fellow for Legal Research and Writing. She then entered private practice focusing on Family Law.  More information on Kathleen can be found on the Whittier web pages here: Kathleen Dombrow Profile.

Please welcome Kathleen to ASP work when you see her at an ASP event!

October 3, 2011 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Job, career, or calling?

Stephanie West Allen's Idelawg blog had a post this past week with a link to an article in the Los Angeles Lawyer written by Timothy A. Tosta on the subject in the title line of this posting: Job, calling, or career article .  It is a thoughtful article on how as lawyers we make a choice to have our practice of law amount to just being a job or career or amount to much more as our calling. 

As ASP'ers, we can assist our students in not only learning how to study more effectively but also in thinking about where they want to be in their lives in the future.  How will the practice of law define their lives?  Their beginning to think about that bigger question now will help them remember to continue to refine the answer later.  (Amy Jarmon)

October 2, 2011 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Giving when it hurts

ASP'ers are a caring group. They are often the ones students turn to in their darkest moments. It is not unusual for us to be privy to students' struggles and hardships outside the classroom.

Students tell us about illnesses in their families, scary medical diagnoses, deaths of friends, personal embarrassments, relationship problems, disappointments, and more. They need someone who will encourage them, support them, listen, and make referrals where appropriate. At the end of a day with 8 or 9 appointments, at least 2 of those typically are more than just a discussion about academic issues.

But what about when we have had a personal tragedy, illness, family issue, or other unexpected speed bump in our own lives? How do we keep caring when it hurts inside? We need to remember that we need solace as well. We need to put on our "brave face" and do our jobs, but need to take care of ourselves.

So here are some tips to help you focus on your students even when you are feeling depleted, tired, emotionally wrought, and distracted by your life outside the walls of the law school:

  • Take some personal time off if possible. Even a long weekend can make a difference in your ability to focus. Give yourself lots of rest, permission to do nothing, and access to emotional or medical support. Talk to trusted family or friends to get support.
  • Prioritize your work. What must get done? What can be put off for a few days or weeks? What can be forgotten about for this semester and added to the "do next semester" list?Do not try to soldier on when you do not have the strength temporarily to be "Super-ASP'er."
  • Just say "no" or "not right now" to new projects if you do not have the stamina or concentration to do them well. Realize that this is probably not the time to chair a new committee, agree to design a new web site, or implement a new program.
  • Balance your day. Give yourself at least one block of project time so that you can focus without interruptions. Decide how many one-on-one appointments you can do without being emotionally drained. Schedule appointments so that purely academic assistance is mixed with students whom you know need emotional support so that you do not become exhausted with the need to be "giving" when you really need to protect yourself emotionally.
  • Stay patient with your students. Some law students become overwrought about things that those of us with more life experience know are not crises. They see add/drop period and course decisions as earth-shattering. They feel outraged when a professor leaves them to struggle with processing a sub-topic instead of spoon-feeding them. They are devastated by their first low grade in 16 or more years of education.
  • Tell some trusted colleagues what is going on. Your boss may need to know so that you can re-negotiate project deadlines, agree to some days off, or explain some changes you have made in priorities. A few colleagues who can task share or just be supportive will be a plus.
  • Follow our own advice to students. Get enough sleep. Eat well. Exercise. Go to the doctor. Get help from a religious leader, professional counselor, or others if needed.
  • Realize some students may notice something is wrong. Some of us are able to look stunningly pulled together even on stressful days and through personal crises. However, most of us look at least somewhat haggard, tired, and stressed - just like we feel. We can still smile, appear superficially cheerful, and pretend to be energetic. However, a few students who work with us a lot are likely to realize that something is wrong. If asked, beg off with "a bad night's sleep," "busy and a little distracted," or "a touch of a bug."

ASP'ers are folks with big hearts for their students.  Life hurts sometimes.  Be there for your students, but take care of yourself when you need to do so.  (Amy Jarmon)



October 1, 2011 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)