Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Guest Post on Bar Prep by Courtney Lee

This is a blog post I share with my students on the Monday before the bar exam, when they need that final push to go forth and conquer.  I write with the California Bar Exam in mind, but the general ideas can transfer to other jurisdictions. 

Tant que je respire, j’attaque! 

It’s finally here!  Hopefully you set a time today to stop studying so that you can relax and attack the exam with a fresh mind tomorrow morning.  Trust me, you’ve been studying for months and a few hours will not make much, if any, difference.  As you start to wrap things up, here are a few last-minute reminders: 

Mind the clock!

It’s the cardinal rule of bar prep:  Do not exceed 60 minutes on any California Bar essay question!  No matter how difficult a particular question may be, no good can come from spending more time on one answer at the expense of others.  A graduate once admitted to spending extra time on a question that was complex and contained a lot of issues.  He received an 85% on his answer – a terrific score – but it was not enough to compensate for the scores he received on the other essays that he had to rush through. 

Follow IRAC!

You have no greater friend on the California Bar Exam (aside from your watch) than IRAC.  Even if you encounter a “throat-clearer” issue, you can still use IRAC and make your grader happy.  For example:

Personal Knowledge

A witness may not testify to a matter unless the witness has personal knowledge of the matter.  Here, Wit saw the accident occur, so Wit has personal knowledge.

That is a very short analysis, but it still follows the IRAC format. IRAC keeps your answer organized and is what your graders want and expect to see, so don’t deviate. 

Zip your lips!

No matter how tempted you are to rush out of the testing center at lunch and double-check every detail of your answers with your friends before you forget, resist!  Graders look at your answer holistically, so why bother comparing your thoughts with someone else?  There is a Contracts question on file where the two released answers each decide differently on the UCC/Common Law issue.  Can you imagine if those two applicants had discussed their answers with each other after the exam?  Each would have spent the next four months fretting about failure, when in reality they wrote the two published answers. 

Don’t panic!

This one is difficult, but important:  If you encounter a question on which you draw the dreaded blank, do not panic.  All panicking does is waste time.  Instead, there are a couple of proactive measures you can take: 

What would my mom say?

When I took the bar, the second essay question covered a topic our commercial review professors promised would hardly be anywhere in the MBE, let alone in the essays – yet there it was.  Instead of freaking out and thinking about how certain I was that I would fail (okay, maybe I did that for a minute), I thought about the question from a lay perspective:  what would my mom, who never went to college, say if I asked her this question?  Remember, the examiners are not trying to trick you.  If you think about it logically, you probably will kick-start your brain and be able to pick out the issues and even remember some (or all) of the rules. 

Reverse Engineering

If you can’t remember a rule, read through the facts again with a critical eye. Why was Fact A included? Why was Fact B included?  The examiners tailor their questions so that almost every fact can be used in an applicant’s answer.  By reading through the facts and hunting for clues, you can probably “reverse engineer” the rule by picking out the facts that illustrate the elements. 

Finally, and most importantly:  NEVER, EVER GIVE UP!!

I was reasonably sure that I failed that second question; in fact I’m still not convinced that I got a passing score on it.  Unfortunately I also encountered a couple of other questions (not just one) concerning subjects that I did not expect to see at my sitting.  On top of all of that, I felt completely confident about five MBE questions – literally, five out of two hundred!  But none of this matters because I stayed calm, answered to the best of my ability, and passed the exam as a whole. 

So you encounter a curve ball, and you swing and miss.  So what?  That’s only one strike.  If you throw down your bat and walk away, you might miss out on hitting the game-winning home run!  Cheesy analogies aside, you simply have to stay positive and keep attacking each question with confidence, even if you have to fake it. 

The title of this entry is a quote from Bernard Hinault, who won the Tour de France five times in the 1980s.  Translated to English, it means, “As long as I breathe, I attack.”  Take that attitude with you into the bar exam for the next three days, and no matter what they throw at you, don’t let it phase you.  As long as you breathe, you attack! 

I will be thinking of and rooting for every one of you this week!! 


January 29, 2012 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Job Announcement: Skadden, Arps Honors Program in Legal Studies DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND DIRECTOR OF PRE-LAW ADVISING

City College of New York

Skadden, Arps Honors Program in Legal Studies



Launched at the City College of New York (CCNY) in 2009, the Skadden, Arps Honors Program in Legal Studies at City College is designed to increase the diversity of the legal profession by preparing talented students from underrepresented and low-income groups for law school and careers in law. The Program is a unique partnership between CCNY and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP. Combining academic studies with internships, LSAT instruction, career awareness events and mentoring by leading legal professionals, the Program prepares students to be successful law school applicants. Students are selected in the second semester of their sophomore year through a competitive review process that includes an application and an interview. They begin with the Program during the summer before their junior year; each cohort of Skadden Scholars includes between 25 and 40 students. 


The Deputy Director and Pre-Law Advisor will lead efforts to provide Skadden Scholars with intensive academic and pre-professional advising. The Deputy Director is also responsible for day-to-day management and oversight of the Skadden, Arps Honors Program in Legal Studies at the City College of New York and may have opportunities to teach a course in the program.  The Deputy Director designs and implements student and professional services and also oversees the logistics of the recruitment, selection, evaluation, and placement of Skadden Scholars.  The Deputy Director reports to the Skadden Program’s Executive Director and will work closely with him on all aspects of the position’s responsibilities. The Deputy Director will also work closely on many of the position’s responsibilities with the Flom Professor of Legal Studies.

Specific Responsibilities:

Student Recruitment and Selection

  • Plan and manage new student recruitment efforts for the Skadden Program – on CCNY’s campus, from other CUNY campuses, and nationally.
  • Supervise the production of marketing materials and program publications to attract a large pool of eligible undergraduate applicants.
  • Oversee the selection process for incoming Skadden Scholars; develop rigorous selection criteria and sit on the selection committee.

Student Advisement and Professional Development

  • Supervise the design and execution of the Program’s Summer Institute, a four-week LSAT instruction program with field trips to courts and law firms as well as a series of nine lectures on the legal process.
  • Serve as a principal advisor for Skadden Scholars throughout their time in the program and until they apply to law school.
  • Monitor student progress in meeting program obligations, including in their coursework, with the LSAT, and in their applications to law school.
  • Design, organize, and facilitate regular workshops with Skadden Scholars covering topics such as workplace communication, applying to law schools, preparing for internships, and navigating the LSAC Website.
  • Plan and facilitate professional development opportunities, including events that bring guest speakers to campus from among practicing attorneys, legal advocates, law school staff and faculty, and legal scholars.
  • Identify internship opportunities for students, communicate with internship providers, and oversee the internship evaluation process.  

Management and Oversight

  • Assess instructional needs; determine additional course offerings; supervise part-time staff and adjunct instructors in the Skadden Program.
  • Supervise the Program’s writing program, including its writing tutors.
  • Draft regular progress reports on program activities and student progress.
  • Manage the Skadden Program’s website and presence in social media.
  • Authorize program expenditures, create and gain approval for the annual budget; monitor quarterly and annual expense reports.


  • Advanced degree, ideally a JD or PhD in political science, legal studies or a closely related field.
  • Demonstrated experience and success advising undergraduates from underserved and low-income communities.
  • Knowledge of pre-law advising best practices as outlined by the Law School Admissions Council and the Pre-law Advisors' National Council

Applicants should send cover letter and resume to We hope to move quickly with the search and encourage people interested in the position to apply by February 17, 2012. We will accept applications until the position is filled. Salary is competitive. This is a full-time position. The City College of New York/CUNY has a strong institutional commitment to the principle of diversity.  In that spirit, we are particularly interested in receiving applications from a broad spectrum of individuals.  Reasonable accommodations provided for individuals with disabilities upon request. An AA/EEO/IRCA/ADA employer.


January 26, 2012 in Job Descriptions, Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sadness vs. Depression, and Learning the Law

One of the more depressing statistics I have come across is the rate of depression among lawyers and law students. I am further depressed when I see the random studies linking depression with heightened analytical ability. The theory (and it is only a theory) is that there is a connection between high-achieving lawyers and depression, because a good lawyer will see the flaw, the catch, or the error in any argument, and thereby save his or her client dollars. Someone who is depressed is more likely to see the downside, and therefore, be a better lawyer or law student. This theory ignores the enormous social and emotional toll of depression. It impacts not just the person suffering, but the people who care about the person suffering from depression.

I don't like this theory. I think it gives another excuse for maintaining the status quo. Depression should not be a way of life, for any reason. There is an excellent piece in the NYT's this week on sadness and depression, and the drive to find evolutionary justifications for depression. I found the arguments for an evolutionary explanation for depression similar to the rationalizations explaining why lawyers tend to be more depressed than people in other careers. And like the author, I am disheartened when the drive for explanations leads to a justification for an unhealthy way of life.

Larry Krieger has done amazing work on law students and depression; most of us in ASP are quite familiar with his work. In ASP, we need to recognize the difference between sadness and depression. Sadness is a temporary state all of us experience; depression should not be a common experience. Due to the populations so many of us work with in ASP, we should be trained to see the differences between ordinary sadness over an unfortunate event, and depression, which as Dr. Friedman explains in the NYT article, "a failure to adapt to stress or loss, because it impairs a person’s ability to solve the very dilemmas that triggered it." Depression, unlike sadness, causes memory problems and issues with learning, which cause additional academic problems, and causes depression to snowball. (RCF)

More information on lawyers and law students and depression:

WSJ: Why are so many lawyers depressed?

Lawyers With Depression:

Psychology Today: The Depressed Lawyer:

New York Times: Depression Defies the Rush to Find an Evolutionary Upside:

January 24, 2012 in Current Affairs, Reading, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Assistant Dean of Academic and Bar Support Position at La Verne

Assistant Dean of Academic and Bar Support – College of Law - University of La Verne

Position #3170

The University of La Verne invites applicants for the position of Assistant Dean of Academic and Bar Support at the College of Law, located in Ontario, CA.  This is a full-time position reporting to the Dean of the College of Law.  The successful candidate will be responsible for designing and implementing programs that will assist students in achieving success during law school, as well as on the bar examination.

The duties include administration of various components of the academic and bar support programs which include, but are not limited to, workshops, mentoring and advising, and academic and bar support classes that are mandatory for students; teaching a mandatory academic success course for first and second year students and a mandatory bar preparation course for all students in their final year of law school; tutoring graduates preparing for the bar examination; conducting various academic success and bar preparation workshops; supervising one or more full-time or part-time Bar Exam Counselors, Assistant Directors, or Associate Directors; and collecting and evaluating data to help assess the effectiveness of the academic and bar support programs.

Candidates must be graduates of an ABA approved law school and admitted to practice in at least one jurisdiction by examination. Experience in academic support and bar preparation instruction is preferred. Other areas for consideration include administrative, teaching or counseling experience.  Banner, statistics, and data analysis training is desirable.  This position requires occasional evening and weekend work.  Employment is contingent upon passing a complete background investigation.

The hiring range for this position is dependent upon qualifications and departmental equity. Benefits of employment include a comprehensive health and welfare plan, tuition remission program for employee, spouse and dependent children and a generous contribution to the University’s 403B retirement plan.

To apply, please see instructions above, in addition, even though this position is not considered a faculty position, it does require teaching courses so we request that you also include a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae and a statement of teaching philosophy and goals along with the name and contact information of three (3) references.  To apply, please visit


January 18, 2012 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fighting for our students

I was at AALS last week. In my seven years in the academic success community, I have never experienced anything quite like last week's conference. There were two messages coming from AALS, and both messages are important for everyone in legal education: law school is too expensive, and law schools are not doing enough to increase diversity. I will discuss both messages, and the implications for ASP, in turn.

1) Law school is too expensive.

I listened to more than one speaker claim that "services"--one speaker singled out ASP--are the cause of tuition hikes. At the vast majority of schools, there is only one person in ASP (and maybe not even full-time). To isolate ASP as the cause of tuition increases is disingenuous at best, and deceitful at worst. We are paid a fraction of the salary of one tenured faculty member, but most of us work long hours to help our students succeed.

Attacking ASP and other service providers is easy; few of us have tenure, even fewer have voting rights, many of us are at-will employees, and therefore, it's difficult for us to defend our roles without threatening our employment. Staying quiet is easy, but ultimately, self-defeating. If we don't start defending what we do, and our cost-effectiveness, we will be easy to cut. Kudos to Herb Ramy who addressed this at his presentation at AALS--we keep students in school, and we earn our keep. Threatening ASP means more students will fail out of law school and fewer students will be paying tuition.

There is still the problem of escalating law school tuition at a time when our students are finding it hard to find jobs. Whether we like it or not, that is our problem, too. None of us have control over law school tuition hikes, but we do have the power to help our students. I have always considered a part of my job to help my students find jobs. Every year I meet with students who want to know how to work in education. I consider it a part of my duty as a member of a law school to brainstorm employment options with my students, write recommendations, and call in favors, when I can, to help students find employment.  I don't pretend to be in career services, but if I know someone who is looking for an academic counselor, I will pass along the resume of one of my students. This is a lesson I learned at my alma mater, where it was not uncommon for professors to help students with their job search.

2) Law schools are not doing enough to increase diversity.

Attacking ASP while lamenting the lack of diversity in the law makes no sense. ASP was born out of efforts to diversify the legal profession and help all students, regardless of ethnicity, race, or socioeconomic status, succeed in law school and as lawyers. Many of us are in ASP because we are committed to the success of underrepresented populations. At our core, ASP is about helping the neediest students, students who have no "family money" to rely on once they get out of law school, students who may be the first in their family to graduate from high school--let alone professional school, students who may be supporting their family while in law school.

This is about fighting for our students. It's about helping the neediest students make it through law school, after they have acquired debt to finance their first semester or year of law school.  It's about making law school a safe, healthy place for all students, of all backgrounds. It's about making diversity a priority. We need to fight for ASP because it is about helping students, not ourselves. We have a duty to our students, to help them achieve their personal best and to help them find their place in the profession. Helping our students means we need to start speaking up for ourselves. The time to wish for an economic miracle has passed; we need to get fired up for our students and for ourselves. (RCF)

January 14, 2012 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hope and Higher Grades

Hat tip to the Legal Writing Prof Blog for the following link to a recent article on research about law students and hope. 

Go to The National Law Journal to read the article summarizing research published in the Journal of Research in Personality and previously reported in the Duquesne Law ReviewAllison Martin, a clinical professor at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, is one of the researchers.  (Amy Jarmon)

January 13, 2012 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Losing the Lecture

There is a great piece from NPR about physicists reworking their large lecture courses after learning that lectures don't facilitate learning. I have included the link below.

Inspired by the article, here is an example of how you can lose the lecture. We know active learning is a better teaching method than lectures, but many of us (including me!) get nervous about changing our teaching methods. This is one example of how to lose the lecture and embrace active learning; there are thousands of ways to revamp your teaching to include more active learning. I am providing the example below to help ASPer's who feel stuck.

1) Start by asking students a question that will frame their learning. What is the fundamental concept I want students to know before the end of the class?

        Examples of questions:
–Why are these cases grouped together?  Name 3 things that are the SAME in each of these cases.
–Name 3 things that are DIFFERENT in each of these cases? Do they change, extend, or clarify the law?
2) When you get to discussing the cases they read in preparation for class, start each discussion with a question and 3 possible answers. Have them discuss, in pairs or in small groups, what they think the answer is and why.  Have them vote on the relevant facts of the case. Ask them to explain their answer, by asking how THESE facts (vs. the wrong choices) relate to the holding. Make sure you ask them to tell you HOW they got to their answer, so you can tease out any flawed reasoning.
3) End the class with the same question you asked at the start of class. This time, have them vote on the best answer. If they come up with answers that are off the mark, give them the correct answer, but ask them to compare how the correct answer is different from the incorrect statement.
4) The final activity in class should be an exercise. Have students demonstrate their learning by asking them to show how the concept works in context.
•How would it work in the real world, for a practitioner? What type of challenges might they encounter if they see this issue as a practitioner?
•How would it work on an exam? How would a professor test this concept? Have them make up and answer their own hypos.
•How would it get put into an outline? Ask them to outline their notes from class, and explain why they feel
•How would they find the concept in their reading? What would they need to look for in the text of a case?
Again, this is only one example. It is not the only way of incorporating active learning in your teaching.

January 12, 2012 in News, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tenure-Track Position in ASP and Bar Prep at Appalachian School of Law

The Appalachian School of Law is looking for a full-time, tenure-earning faculty member interested in teaching in its Academic Success and Bar Preparation programs starting in 2012, preferably in the spring of 2012. ASL is committed to student achievement, and this position will be primarily responsible for developing, leading, coordinating, and implementing programs that support ASL’s goals of assisting law students as they develop and improve legal study and test-taking skills, adjust to the challenges of law school, pass the bar exam, and prepare to enter law practice.

Minimum requirements include a J.D. degree and admission to the practice of law. Ideal candidates will have experience working in a higher-education setting in the areas of teaching, academic assistance, academic counseling, or similar administrative, teaching, or practice experience. The successful candidate also must have excellent written and verbal communication skills, and the ability to work effectively with a wide range of constituents within the diverse law school community, including students served by the Academic Success Program, faculty members, and the law school administration.

ASL is located in the scenic-mountainous region of southwest Virginia, in an area that is experiencing growth with the recent completion of a new town center. All aspects of ASL’s academic program—from the structured curriculum and the required summer externship to the weekly community service commitment—are designed to respond to the unique needs and opportunities of a law school in this region. ASL received full accreditation from the American Bar Association in June 2006.

Women, people of color, and others with diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply. To apply, please send a cover letter and a resume to Priscilla Harris, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee. For email, send to, including in the subject line, “ASP Position.” For mail, send to Priscilla Harris, Appalachian School of Law, P.O. Box 2825, Grundy, VA 24614.


January 10, 2012 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)