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.

  (LBY)

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 http://jobs.unc.edu/2501569.  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 crgsmith@email.unc.edu.  For more information about the UNC-CH School of Law, please visit our website: www.law.unc.edu.

 

 

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)