Thursday, December 8, 2011

Save the Dates for the 2012 LSAC Workshop in Denver

The Law School Admission Council has announced that the LSAC Academic Assistance Training Workshop will be held at University of Denver Sturm College of Law in Denver, Colorado.  The dates are June 13 - 16, 2012.  The announcement listed the heading as "1992 - 2012: 20 Years of Academic Assistance, Training and Support.

LSAC will send out details closer to the time.  They always post the conference details to the ASP listserv, and we will post information here on the Blog when it is available.

The Planning Committee this time is:

Rodney Fong, Chair, Golden Gate University School of Law

Odessa Alm, Florida Coastal School of Law

Paula Manning, Western State University College of Law

Jeff Minnetti, Stetson University College of Law

Mark Padin, Hofstra School of Law

Mary Steefel, University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Save the dates on your calendar.  This national workshop is always a special time for ASP'ers to hear terrific presenters and share ideas with one another.

December 8, 2011 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Essay Exam Answering Tip #120611 - Memorize

Last month, Professor Jarmon wrote a piece about the importance of memorization for earning good grades.  What she wrote is one-hundred percent accurate (of course!).   Note the two steps she recommends:

  1. Memorize the rules, exceptions to rules, methodologies, policy arguments, and so forth.
  2. Go beyond memorization.

Many students do neither.  Too many concentrate on one to the exclusion of the other. 

Some professors erroneously tell students that “law school is not about memorization.”  I say “erroneously” because, as Professor Jarmon pointed out, law school IS about memorization … and so much more.  But for the moment, let’s just focus on grades – and for most courses, that means focusing on exams. 

In order to write a high-scoring essay exam answer, a student needs to employ many skills and strategies.  Cogent presentation, high level analysis, sophisticated legal reasoning … yes, these are critical capabilities when it comes to earning “A” grades.

But one cannot earn an “A” … or a “B” … without being able to spot the issues that the professor expects to see analyzed.  In order to find issues, one must “know” the law.  In the deeper sense, to “know” the law is to understand its background, variations, nuances, subtleties, and so on.  But in the fundamental sense, to “know” the law (in the context of exam-answering) is to be able to write a rule statement without actively thinking; to “know it by heart.” 

Before walking in to a Torts final exam, a student committed to earning the best grade he or she is capable of earning ought to have learned “by heart” at least each of the following:

  • As to each tort, a statement of every “rule” – meaning a sentence or more that includes every element that must be proven to result in a determination that the tort has been committed.
  • As to each affirmative defense, a statement of every “rule” – meaning a sentence or more that includes every element that must be proven to result in a determination that the defense is viable.
  • A definition of every element, including “tests” to determine if that element can be proven.

A schematic template for constructing an essay is, essentially, included within these three categories.  Here’s a partial example:

  • To prove negligence, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty to all foreseeable plaintiffs, that the defendant breached this duty by not acting in accord with the standard of care, and that this breach caused the injury to plaintiff.
  • Duty. A plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty to all foreseeable plaintiffs, that the defendant breached this duty by not acting in accord with the standard of care, and that this breach caused the injury to plaintiff.
  • Standard of care. The standard of care is the degree of prudence and caution required of an individual who is under a duty of care.
  • Breach of duty. A breach issue can be looked at from (at least) two different angles ...
  • Balancing test. Liability turns on whether the burden of adequate precautions is less than the probability of harm multiplied by the gravity of the resulting injury. B<PL. 
  • Negligence per se. The three essential criteria include: that plaintiff is a member of the class intended to be protected by the statute, that the type of injury which occurred is the type the statute was enacted to guard against, and the violation was not excused. 

But a student need not memorize these 214 words.  This works:

  • Negligence – duty, breach, standard of care, cause, damage.
  • Breach – balance, per se.  Etc.

Should a student “memorize by rote”?  Ideally, no. It’s unnecessary if a student has adequately prepared for each class, produced a personal course summary (outline), and answered dozens of short-answer (and longer) practice questions.  The repetitive use of the fundamental rules to resolve tough problems imbeds the elements into the memory for most.  But not all.  That’s why memory tools are important to many law students.  (More about that later.)

Another helpful item to add to the bullet-point list above (what to memorize) is this: a list of every issue studied.  This provides an excellent checklist for the student to quickly run through during the pre-writing stage of composing the essay answer.  How much rote memorization does this entail?  Not much.  (For an example of a Criminal Law checklist, go to this link, then scroll down to Criminal Law, Checklist.)

Students must remember that the “memorization” part – the learning by heart part – is only a small part of what must be done to score high on exams.  But if a student is not able to run through the elements of each intentional tort (for example) quickly, without pausing to try to recall specifics, issues will be missed.  Don't let that happen!

{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)

December 6, 2011 in Advice, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Generosity of Spirit

It is the time of year when various student organizations run additional projects to help other people.  In the last few weeks, there have been collections of warm coats for the homeless, non-perishable food for those without enough in their pantries, care package items for our soldiers, gifts for Salvation Army Angel Tree, and more. 

I know that our law students are not alone in these types of efforts.  Law student organizations throughout our nation have undertaken similar efforts and many more acts of kindness.  Even with the upcoming stress of exams, law students remember the needs of those in their communities.

I think it is a tribute to our students that they care - not only at this time of year but throughout the academic year - to make the lives of others better.  Whether it is through donations, fund-raisers, in-kind giving, pro bono clinics, or other ways, law students have a positive impact in the community.

It is a shame that these future lawyers do not always get the credit that they deserve for their generosity of spirit.  It is also a shame that countless practicing lawyers who also give back to their communities in so many ways do not get recognized.  The next time someone tells you a lawyer joke, tell them about a contribution made by a law student or a lawyer to make the world a better place.

Thank you to all of the future lawyers and current lawyers who make a difference each and every day for our communities.  (Amy Jarmon) 

December 6, 2011 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Some Tips for a Less Stressful and More Productive Exam Experience

During final exams, there are several things you can do to make this time period less stressful and more productive.  Here are some suggestions: 

Promote a positive attitude.  You were admitted to law school because your law school thinks you can succeed at this endeavor.  Law school is demanding, but you can do this – keep the faith about your abilities.  If you are having trouble staying positive, try the following: 

  • Post inspirational quotes or scriptures around your apartment so you see them in every room.
  • Give yourself pep talks during the day – emphasize that you can succeed.
  • Visualize yourself sitting in your exams and knowing the answers to every question.
  • Avoid other students who are negative and instead spend time with students who are upbeat.
  • Remember that you are still the same talented, successful, outstanding person you were when you walked into your law school for the first time. 

Keep grades in perspective.  You do not need 100% for an A in law school.  Students receive A grades in some courses with only 70% of the possible points on the exam.  You have approximately 90 credits in your law degree (more or less depending on your school).  One course is a very small percentage of those grades.  Remember that C and C+ grades are respectable in law school – you are not a failure if you receive these grades.  After this semester, you can evaluate your study skills and improve your grades.  The academic support/success office at your law school can help you become a better student. 

Lower your stress by taking care of yourself.  Do not succumb to the temptation to pull all-nighters, survive on caffeine and junk food, or ignore any illness.

  • Lack of sleep is one of the main reasons why students perform poorly on exams that they studied for diligently.  You cannot focus and get on paper what you know if you are not well-rested and alert.  An extra hour of sleep will do you more good than an extra hour of studying.
  • Eat nutritious meals.  Your body and brain need energy for the “heavy lifting” they need to do.  Sit down and eat a full meal rather than standing at the sink and gulping down your food.  Eat real food rather than junk food or highly processed meals.
  • Get exercise during the exam period.  Spend at least 30 minutes at some activity several times during the week.  Walking, sit-ups, yoga, running, or whatever will help you expend the stress built up in your body.  It doesn’t have to be grueling, it just has to be active.
  • If you are ill, get medical attention.  Do not let your illness worsen because you don’t want to take the time to see a doctor.  You will not perform at your best in an exam if you are sick. 

Take some breaks so your brain can rest and continue filing what you have learned.  You need breaks to renew your focus and ability to learn.  Every 90 minutes take at least a 10 minute break.  Every 3-4 hours take at least 30 minutes – 1 hour for a break.  As you do more and more studying, you may well need breaks more frequently as your brain gets overloaded and tired.  If you cannot absorb anything more, take off at least 2-3 hours before trying to study any additional time. 

Eat breakfast or lunch before your exams.  Do not go to a morning exam without eating any breakfast.  Do not go to an afternoon exam without eating any lunch.  Your body and brain need fuel.  Eat lightly and cautiously if you tend to get nervous, but still eat.

Do light review the night before a morning exam or the morning before an afternoon exam.  Heavy-duty studying during these times will likely increase your stress rather than your learning.  Pace yourself in studying so that you can just read through your outline again and do some relatively easy practice questions in these time periods.  Think of these times as “warm up” exercises before the big match. 

If at all possible, take time off after an exam.  If your exam schedule allows it, take the rest of the day off and start up again the next morning.  At minimum take off 2-3 hours after an exam before you go back to studying.  You will be more productive with a break after the stress of an exam.

Good luck on exams to all law students out there !  (Amy Jarmon)

 

 

December 6, 2011 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Change is in the air...The Uniform Bar Exam

The temperature is cooling and the brightly colored leaves are beginning to lose their hold. Autumn vividly embodies transition and change. However, the leaves are not the only things changing; changes are also underway with regard to the bar exam.

The Uniform Bar Examination is gaining popularity. Recently, Nebraska and Colorado became the latest jurisdictions to adopt the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE). Other States that have begun administering the UBE or have adopted it for future administrations are: Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana (conditional approval), North Dakota, and Washington. Susan Case, The National Conference of Bar Examiner’s Director of Testing, announced at this fall’s NCBE’s Anatomy of a Bar Exam Conference that several other jurisdictions are currently considering adopting the UBE as well. Decisions are still pending for Utah, the District of Columbia, and others.

The biggest news regarding this significant change is that Washington State (my home state) will begin administering the Uniform Bar Examination in the summer of 2013. Washington has been a holdout state (along with Louisiana, who is also now considering changes to their exam) until now. Washington State’s current bar exam is essay only. Yes, it is true, presently WA does not require the MPT, MBE, or the MPRE; at least not until the summer of 2013 when the UBE will first be given in Washington.

Some of you may be asking, “What is the UBE and how it is different from what states are currently administering?” Although, the Uniform Bar Examination does not differ greatly from what most states are administering twice a year, there are a few exceptions and some potential benefits with its adoption. The Uniform Bar Exam consists of the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) (200 multiple choice questions), the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) (six essays), and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) (two 90 minute closed universe legal writing tasks). For the UBE, the MBE is worth 50%, the MEE is worth 30%, and the MPT is worth 20% of the overall score. The overall score, or the “UBE score”, is the important number in this equation.

Score portability is the major selling point for this exam. But it is important to remember that the UBE score is portable, not the applicant’s pass status. Therefore, if an applicant passes the UBE in one jurisdiction, they may not pass in another. Admission is not automatic. An applicant needs to reach a passing UBE score in each jurisdiction for which they are applying. Therefore, a higher score on the UBE allows for greater ease of portability.

Other factors may also influence whether the creation and adoption of the UBE produce a positive impact on the ability to move from state to state in search of legal work. For one, UBE scores do not last forever. Thus, once a student takes the UBE, the score is only portable for a time frame determined by the state accepting the UBE score. What this means in reality is that portability may be short lived unless the applicant obtains licensure in multiple jurisdictions soon after taking the UBE.

While maintaining a license to practice law in multiple jurisdictions could be a positive step in one’s legal career, it is also fraught with possible hardships; namely, financial ones. According to the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements (produced by NCBE and The American Bar Association), applications fees for bar admission cost between $100- $1500 depending on the jurisdiction. Additionally, in order to maintain multiple licenses, yearly license renewal fees, pro bono requirements, and mandatory Continuing Legal Education credits may be required in each jurisdiction. In light of the state of the US economy, fees and requirements such as these may pose a genuine disadvantage to holding multiple bar licenses.

Will the advent of the UBE create more lawyer migration and/or provide more job opportunities for new law graduates? Potentially, yes. Here is the bright side of the UBE. The UBE could create more opportunities for new law grads by giving them more flexibility in where they are able to seek employment. Considering the legal job market, this could be a huge benefit for new attorneys willing to migrate to more marketable jurisdictions.

While in theory the UBE appears to have many benefits, more seasons of UBE test taking need to pass before this question can be precisely answered. Missouri and North Dakota administered the first UBE in February 2011, Alabama in July 2011, Colorado and Idaho will administer the UBE in February 2012, Nebraska anticipates the effective date of adoption to be January 1, 2013, while Washington will administer the UBE in July 2013. Once the UBE is underway in more jurisdictions and UBE transfer data is compiled by the NCBE, we will likely see the true benefits of the Uniform Bar Exam.

Until these benefits emerge, it is important to have students thoughtfully consider where they would like to live and work before applying to take the bar exam. The UBE will likely allow law grads greater mobility but not without a potential price. Although an essential rite of passage, the bar exam is not a task worth repeating and if the UBE makes that possible I hope we see more states sign on.

*Information regarding the UBE and UBE jurisdictions obtained from the NCBE and ncbex.org.

(LisaYoung)

December 5, 2011 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)