Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Law students have a large number of items to memorize so that they can state the law precisely, know the exact definitions, use the correct steps of analysis, ask the right questions to analyze a topic, or connect the right policy arguments to a topic. At times the volume of information to remember can be daunting.
Here are some things that can be helpful when students are considering how they want to do memory drills:
Memory drills usually work best in shorter bursts of 30 minutes or less.
The number of memory drill time blocks per week will depend on the number of rules or other items that must be memorized. A course with lots of rules will need more drill blocks than one with fewer rules.
Because the brain can only memorize a few chunks of information at a time, memory work should be distributed throughout the semester rather than crammed in at the end of the semester.
Memory techniques should be matched to what works for an individual student - how did one successfully memorize material in the past, for example.
A combination of memory techniques may be needed by one student while another student has one memory technique that always works.
Possible ways to memorize material include:
- Flashcards: some students learn more by handwriting their own than using software
- Writing a rule out multiple times
- Reciting a rule aloud multiple times
- Drawing a spider web, mind map, or other visual of the rule
- Acronyms: taking the first letter of each word (for example the elements) and remembering them with a silly sentence (duty, breach, causation, harm becomes DBCH and then becomes Debbie's boa constrictor hid).
- Rhymes or sayings: assault and battery are like ham and eggs.
- Storytelling: coming up with a story that weaves together the words (for example, the soldier was on DUTY when a tank BREACHed the wall of the fort, etc.)
- Peg method: combining a numbered list with rhyming words (one bun, two shoe, three tree, four door, etc.) and then a visual image combining the item (bun, shoe, etc.) with the word that needs to be remembered (example: one bun duty is a sticky bun with a soldier saluting it; two shoe breach is a man's business shoe with a tank tearing apart the toe as it drives out, etc.)
Every student has to put in the time memorizing the material. However, remember that memorization alone will not garner a high grade. It is the beginning of learning. One has to understand what is being memorized and be able to apply the material to new legal scenarios on the exam with a thorough analysis. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
November 2, 2012 Conference
Teaching, Scholarship, and Service:
Professional Development for
Academic Support Professionals
Rarely do we, as academic support professionals, have the opportunity to spend a day with our colleagues discussing our development as professionals in this wonderful field. As stated by Ruth McKinney on our Law School Academic Support website, “Regardless of … time pressures, or maybe because of them, developing a strong sense of professional identity is a key component of a successful and personally rewarding career in this field. Developing that sense of professionalism, in turn, rests on holding realistic expectations, setting appropriate boundaries regarding time management, developing a strong network of supportive cohorts, finding mentors and seeking leadership opportunities, and staying intellectually engaged in the work that we do.”
We spend most of our year dedicating ourselves to the needs of our students, our school, and our communities. It is time to take a day just for us! The West Coast Consortium of Academic Support Professionals invites you to attend just such a day in sunny Northern California at the beautiful campus of the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.
We will explore topics related to teaching, scholarship, and service. Specifically we will look at best practices in teaching and presenting at conferences and workshops, further developing the body of ASP scholarship, the process of developing your own piece of scholarship, service opportunities within a law school and developing as a professional in all three of these areas. We welcome your ideas if you have specific areas you would like to discuss. If you would like to be a presenter, please email a summary of your presentation idea along with your contact information and a list of your past presentations to Lisa Young at firstname.lastname@example.org. The summary should be no more than 250 words.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Too much to do. Too little time. Too few resources. These phrases are often familiar to ASP'ers who juggle a wide range of duties under their job descriptions.
So, if your week has been extremely hectic and you are wishing that the weekend started today:
- Close your eyes. Breathe in deeply and exhale deeply. Count each time you exhale. Breathe in, Exhale, 1, etc. Repeat to a count of 10.
- Close your eyes. Concentrate on breathing deeply. Repeat a positive word over and over to yourself. Repeat until you feel relaxed.
- Close your eyes. Breathe in deeply to the count of 6. Exhale deeply to the count of 6. Repeat until you feel relaxed.
- Sit up straight. Scrunch your shoulders up towards your ears and hold. Release. Repeat until you feel your muscles relax.
- Rotate your neck gently and slowly to the right, back, left, forward. Repeat until you feel your neck muscles relax.
- Stretch your legs out in front of you and held several inches off the ground. Gently rotate your feet together in a circle to the right. Stop. Gently rotate your feet together in a circle to the left.
- Close your eyes. Picture a favorite place in your mind (beach, forest, country lane). Slowly "walk around" in the scene and savor the sounds, sights, and sounds. Relax and enjoy being in that scene.
Savor your few minutes break. Finish out your day and enjoy the weekend. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, September 21, 2012
This week on the Balance in Legal Education listser, Larry Krieger at Florida State University School of Law provided a link to a website that may be of interest to ASP'ers. I have included Larry's listserv post below. Thank you, Larry, for the resource. (Amy Jarmon)
"FSU (main university, not the law school) just distributed this link, which connects to many, many fascinating people and topics regarding ‘contemplative practices’ (and education). The scope is broad, depending on the links selected – broad in the sense of practices included (meditation, contemplation, reflection, mindfulness, dance, writing, etc.) and ways of integrating such into a course or program for students. These are all eminently qualified educators and professionals, with quite different (but not inconsistent) approaches and perspectives. Enjoy. Larry
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Law students spend a great deal of time on their case briefs while preparing for class. They then listen carefully in class and take copious notes. But sometimes in the hurry to get on to the next reading and briefing assignment, they forget to take time after class and compare their briefs to the professor's class discussion. By critiquing afterwards, the briefs can become tools to see how one can do a better job of analysis for the next case.
One professor may go into great detail on all aspects of a case while another professor will just hit the highlights of the same case. Each professor is different, so a student's brief may include more or less detail depending on how the professor teaches and what questions typically come up in class. Students' briefs will also differ in length and format because of their learning styles.
Despite these factors, students still should to use their case briefs as a learning tool for how to become more adept at analyzing and briefing cases. Student want to learn how to select all of the correct essentials for a brief rather than including too much that is extraneous or too little that ignores important points. Critiquing ones briefs increases one's ability to find the balance needed.
Take the facts section, for example. One wants to be able to differentiate between the legally significant facts and the storytelling facts in the case. The court usually includes both types of facts because the reader needs to know the facts that relate to the court's holding as well as enough facts to understand the scenario of the case.
If a brief includes all of the facts given, then it is not making the distinction about what is important. If a brief includes too few facts, then it may miss the legal significance of some facts.
By analyzing why one missed some facts that the professor emphasized as important to the outcome, one gains greater understanding on how to spot legally significant facts among the overall facts. By asking oneself why the professor left out some facts that the student thought were important, one begins to see why some facts are merely storytelling facts and not necessary to the legal analysis.
Next think about the issue in the brief. Student issue statements are often too narrow or too broad rather than in line with the professor's version. Issue statements that are too narrow restrict the court's question to fewer legal scenarios than are meant to be included. Issue statements that are too broad apply the question to more situations than are meant to be encompassed. Because the holding is the answer to the issue, an incorrect issue statement will then be mirrored in an incorrect statement of the holding of the case.
By evaluating why one's statement is too broad or too narrow, the student learns how to understand the court's specific purview and the reach of the law. One learns how to analyze the impact the case will actually have.
Because casebooks edit cases for a specific teaching purpose, students may not realize initially that cases are often far more complex than what is being assigned for the reading. They may not be aware that there are multiple issues in a case.
Also consider the reasoning section in the brief. Students sometimes miss the logic of the case because they skip steps in their briefs rather than delineate the entire reasoning process of the court. They mistakenly focus on just getting to the holding rather than learning how courts reason so they know how one would argue a client's position.
By evaluating whether one left out steps in the reasoning or misunderstood the importance of various aspects of the discussion, the student learns to work through the analysis logically and to weigh the importance of arguments. One's ability to reason persuasively increases as one gains knowledge in how courts make their decisions.
A student may find that critiquing her briefs indicates where the problem is but then the student is unsure how to fix it. For example, the issue statements may be frequently wrong, but the student may not see why and what to do differently. I would suggest that the student visit with the professor during office hours and show the professor a selection of briefs with issue problems. The professor is likely to see the pattern of error and be able to make suggestions to correct it. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Annual Scholarship Conference
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
The Central States Law Schools Association 2012 Scholarship Conference will be held October 19 and 20, 2012 at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, in Cleveland, Ohio. We invite law faculty from across the country to submit proposals to present papers or works in progress.
The purpose of CSLSA is to foster scholarly exchanges among law faculty across legal disciplines. The annual CSLSA conference is a forum for legal scholars, especially more junior scholars, to present working papers or finished articles on any law-related topic in a relaxed and supportive setting where junior and senior scholars from various disciplines are available to comment. More mature scholars have an opportunity to test new ideas in a less formal setting than is generally available for their work.
To allow scheduling of the conference, please send an abstract of no more than 500 words to Secretary Missy Lonegrass at Missy.Lonegrass@law.lsu.edu by September 22, 2012. Any late submissions will be considered on a space available basis only.
For those who are interested, the CSLSA mentorship program pairs interested junior scholars with more senior mentors in their fields of expertise to provide feedback on their presentations or papers. To participate in the mentorship program as either a mentor or mentee, please contact Vice-President Elizabeth Young at email@example.com.
In keeping with tradition, CSLSA is able to pay for one night’s lodging for presenters from member schools. If a school is interested in joining CSLSA and has not received an invoice, please contact Treasurer Carolyn Dessin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about CSLSA, visit our website at http://cslsa.us/.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Some of my students struggle with getting their work done in a timely manner. They succumb to electronic distractions: cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail. They take 2 - 3 hour naps. They allow a 2-hour reading assignment to bleed over into 3 hours. They wander around the law school chatting with friends.
Setting up accountability mechanisms works well for many of these students. They lack self-discipline, but can meet expectations when someone else is going to monitor what they do. Some examples of accountability strategies are:
- Students with major papers to write can set up a series of deadlines when they will confer with their professors or turn in certain work (if the professor is willing): topic discussion; outline of initial research; initial bibliography; first drafts of each paper section.
- Probation students meet weekly with me and know that I will ask about their reading and briefing, outlining, writing progress, and reviewing for exams each time I see them. Having to be accountable keeps most of them on track.
- Married students post their study schedules on the refrigerator at home so that their spouses know when they should be studying rather than watching television. They give their spouses permission to monitor their time and hold them accountable if they are not adhering to the schedule.
- A law student will ask a classmate to help them stick to a study schedule. The student gives the classmate permission to call them to account if they are wandering around chatting, taking too many breaks, or avoiding an assignment.
- A law student agrees to meet another law student at the library for several hours of individual study so that the appointment is incentive to show up and study instead of doing other things.
- A law student joins a study group that has a weekly agenda of review topics and practice questions that each member agrees to complete individually before the study group meets.
- A student calls a significant other or parent every evening and gives that person permission to ask what they accomplished that day in studying.
- A student uses one of the on-line time management programs to monitor use of time so that it is readily apparent how much time was used for studying versus breaks and other tasks.
Most students do not want to disappoint others even though they regularly disappoint themselves on study tasks. If accountability provides the initial way for a student to break bad habits regarding starting or completing study tasks, then the law student should take advantage of the willingness of others to help them stay on track. In time, studying will hopefully become a matter of self-discipline. All of them will need self-discipline in practice! (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Director of Academic Support & Bar Preparation
General Purpose of Position
The Director will support the overall academic mission of the law school by developing and implementing an academic support program that encourages a high level of academic performance for all students. The Director will work with the assistant dean of student affairs, in addition to the faculty and other departments, to design a comprehensive academic support program for all students. The director will have the ability to think creatively and critically to design and implement programs that are responsive to the school’s goals. In addition, the director is also responsible for maintaining statistical data and providing reports to faculty and administration regarding the academic support program, as well as bar passage.
Essential Duties and Responsibilities
• The Director will design and implement an academic support curriculum, including workshops and programs. The curriculum will include an emphasis on developing analytical skills, writing skills, time management skills, and other skills that will assist law students in achieving a high level of academic performance for all first year students.
• The Director will identify students from the second and third year class for inclusion in additional academic support programs and develop strategies to effectively communicate with students about the benefits of participating in the program.
• The Director will be responsible for assessing the academic support program and making periodic reports to the administration and faculty on the program’s progress and outcomes.
• The Director will design and coordinate a program of academic advising for all students, including counseling on academic policies, upper class course selection, the intersection of academic and career planning, and related personal and academic development issues.
• The Director will be responsible for leading the design and implementation of a bar preparation program. This will include counseling students regarding bar admissions protocols, as well as identifying 3L students that are “at risk” for failing the bar and implementing a program for bar preparation.
• The Director will assist in analyzing bar exam results and developing programs to address weaknesses in student bar performance.
• Responsibilities may include teaching or assisting in the bar prep courses currently offered based on previous experience.
Posting available: https://elon.peopleadmin.com/postings/1106
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Accountability can help all of us stay on track with the tasks we need to accomplish. When we know we are answering to someone else, we are more likely to work consistently on meeting an obligation. A real deadline keeps us focused.
The problem, I find, is when the project has no deadline or no one is expecting to see the finished product or no one else is invested in the project. If the task is merely something that I want to do as opposed to something that I need to do, the accountability seems missing. It is much easier to procrastinate, to pay attention to things right in front of me, and to delay the task. For me, these tasks become orphan tasks that are disconnected from the remainder of my work.
When I discover an orphaned task, the first thing I determine is whether I still think the task is one that should be completed:
- I remind myself of the objective/goal that I had when I originally decided the task should be added to my project list.
- If the objective/goal is still valid, I use that to as an incentive. In looking at my other projects, I determine where the orphaned task should be in priority.
- If a task is no longer important or no longer possible, I decide to let it go. Timing, budget, my energy level, or a resolved problem may all be factored in when I release the orphaned task.
When I realize that I have a task orphan that is valid but I still keep putting it on the back burner, I try to find ways to make myself accountable. Which strategy I choose will depend a great deal on the particular task, but here are some things that I try:
- I break the larger task into small steps that are then assigned to time blocks on my calendar during the next two weeks so that my calendar holds me accountable to get started..
- I discuss the task with a colleague so that someone else now knows that it is on my agenda.
- Once I make some progress, I talk to a colleague about my progress and what I want to accomplish next.
- I set a deadline date for showing the results to a colleague - or several deadline dates if I am going to have stages for completion.
Most tasks I can stay motivated and work on consistently. However, I know that orphan tasks are a different breed. By recognizing my need for accountability, I am able to get unstuck and complete the task that has been stranded on the corner of my desk for far too long. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
If you are new to ASP, and you are designing your first ASP course, here are some helpful hints to keep in mind.
1) It's okay if you are still working on your course AFTER the semester has started.This will allow you to be responsive to your students needs as you get to know them as a class. It's okay to rework your syllabus if things don't move as fast as you think they will when you first started planning. It's okay to have AH! HA! moments that change your thinking about the class.
2) Try to balance the workload. My course starts with more reading, and ends with more writing. It took me two years to figure out that students cannot have an even amount of reading throughout the semester, because they need to do much more writing towards the end of the semester. If I want to see their best work, you need to balance their workload.
3) Don't (just) rely on the teacher's guide and law books for help. When designing an ASP class, look to education resources as well as law teaching resources. Read "What Best College Teachers Do" by Ken Bain, and look for books on instructional design.
4) You don't need to do what everyone else is doing. Just because you were taught using certain techniques, does not mean they will work for your class. DON'T follow the leader; you don't get extra points if you can be the best ape of someone else's technique. It's uncomfortable to try something new, but it is the only way to becoming a better teacher.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Please welcome Amy Envall as Director of Academic Success at Barry University School of Law. Amy joined the academic support community last December, so she has a spring semester and summer under her belt. We did not get a chance to introduce her earlier and wanted you to meet her.
Amy shared the following information with us so that you can get to know her:
"After serving as a Judicial Staff Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, as an Assistant County Attorney for Osceola County, Florida, and as General Counsel for the Osceola County Clerk of Court, I am very happy to be at my law school alma mater working with law students. My undergraduate degree is in education, and I taught for six years – during my last year of teaching, I started law school part time. After practicing law for almost eight years, joining the Barry University School of Law administrative team was a perfect match because I could use both my education degree and my law degree. My legal interest lies in governmental law and legislation. My personal interests include community service, where I sit on many non-profit boards and am active with the Boy Scouts of America and Special Olympics."
Please introduce yourselves to Amy when you see her at a workshop or conference. We are delighted to have her as part of ASP. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Reading cases takes up major blocks of time in a student's schedule. Students want to become more efficient and effective in their reading, but often do not know how because they are missing some important bits of information about the task. Here are some things that I try to point out:
- Initially as 1Ls, students will take forever to read cases - even relatively short ones - because they do not have legal context, vocabulary, and awareness of what is important. By the end of the first month of law school, however, they should see their reading times begin to come down. By second semester, they should be faster still.
- There are two reasons for reading cases. One reason is to gain an in-depth understanding of the case itself. The second is to understand how the case relates to the topic and to other cases within the topic. Both aspects need to be completed if the reading time is going to be worthwhile.
- Cases are often edited for a specific use in a casebook. At times what is edited out may cause confusion for the student reader because they do not readily understand the remaining material because of a lack of context and legal experience. Consequently, three good reads should be the limit. Then put a question mark in the margin next to the confusing section and continue reading.
- Cases are written for legal professionals and not for law students. Attorneys have experience and legal context that make cases easier to understand. Some things will not make sense to the student reader until class discussion.
- Not all cases are equal in density or importance. One case may contain multiple rules plus definitions of elements plus policy arguments. Another case may contain an exception to a rule. Yet another case may contain a definition of an element. Although length often relates to complexity, even short cases can contain a great deal of law.
- Older cases may still be good law. Some older cases are assigned - even if the law is now outdated - to show how the law evolves over time. A law student has to learn how courts reason over time, how policy may change the law over time, and how the law today may be different in a few years.
Paying attention to class discussion and the professor's observations about cases helps the student learn what that professor considers important about cases. By being patient with themselves and not expecting competence immediately, new law students can improve their case understanding and decrease reading time over several weeks. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, September 6, 2012
A number of the 1L questions that I posted earlier are at least in part related to time management. Initially reading and briefing take so much time that 1Ls cannot comprehend how they will get done everything that they hear about: outline, review for exams, do practice questions, complete legal research and writing assignments, and more.
The answer is to have a routine that is repeated every week - do the same thing on the same day at the same time as much as possible. By having a standard schedule with study blocks for each task for each course, a law student can make sure that everything is getting done. A standard routine takes the guess work out of "What should I do next?"
Most new law students have never had to manage their time. They were able to get excellent grades with little effort. We know from national surveys that most of them did not study more than 20 hours per week in college and many of them studied far less. They could decide most days as they went along what they felt like doing. They could write papers at the last minute and get good grades. They rarely (if ever) studied on the weekends. And they got good grades while working and participating in leadership positions in numerous organizations.
Here are the basic steps for students who want to set up a study routine for the first time:
- Plan to spend 50-55 hours per week beyond class time for full-time studies and 35-40 hours per week for part-time studies.
- Initially set up a weekly schedule template with one-hour blocks from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. The final schedule may not use all of these time slots, but the extra slots help when first building a schedule. Eliminate any hours in the template that are not used. in your final schedule.
- Label all task blocks in the schedule with the what the time is alloted for in the block (examples: read torts; read contracts; writing assignments; meal; sleep).
- Build a time management schedule in layers so that you can make conscious decisions as you put in each layer.
- Layer One: put in your classes and any weekly review sessions that your law school provides for 1L students.
- Layer Two: include 1/2 hour review either before your class or before bed the night before the class so you have seen the material twice; back-to-back classes would mean 1/2 hour for each class.
- Layer Three: decide when you will get up (at minimum so you can get to school for your first 1/2 hour review and class); get up at the same time Monday through Friday even if your class times change.
- Layer Four: decide when you will go to bed Sunday through Thursday nights to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep (less and you are chronically sleep-deprived according to the medical research).
- Layer Five: include true commitments that are the same every week (dinner with Auntie Em on Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m.; religious service at 5:00 p.m. Saturdays; study group 2-4 p.m. on Fridays); do not include things that you want to do but have time flexibility for (exercise that is not an actual class time).
- Layer Six: estimate for each class how long it takes you to prepare for class for one day (reading, briefing, problem sets, etc.) for the longest or hardest assignments; if necessary, keep a log for a week so you can make more realistic estimates regarding the time blocks; schedule in your class preparation time - if possible, prepare for Monday and Tuesday classes over the weekend.
- Layer Seven: schedule 6-8 hours per week for any paper/project course; you decide which number and the increments (for example, 7 hours: 2 + 2 + 3).
- Layer Eight: add weekly time to outline for each doctrinal class; 1 - 1 1/2 hours depending on the difficulty of the course.
- Layer Nine: add exercise time, meals, down time, chores, and other miscellaneous tasks as they seem to fit logically in the schedule.
- Layer Ten: after you live with the schedule for 7-10 days, make any adjustments; allow more or less time for estimated blocks; move any task blocks to other days/times that work better.
- Layer Eleven: add time to review for exams (weekly read through of your entire outline; intense study of specific outline topics as though you had to walk into the exam; practice question time; memory drills).
Task blocks in the schedule can be moved up and down during the day if a task is completed earlier than expected. Task blocks can also be flipped between days if necessary. The task blocks are place markers to make sure that all study tasks are completed within the week. As long as all task blocks are completed, the student is on target and can have guilt-free down time. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Here are the most common questions that I have been getting from my first-year students during the opening weeks of the semester:
- Will it always take me so long to read and brief cases?
- What is the best way to remember all of the legal terms and definitions?
- How do I choose the critical facts from the many facts that are in the case?
- Why is it that my issue statement does not match the issue my professor wanted?
- Why is it that some professors do not seem to care much about procedure?
- What is the difference between a holding and a judgment/disposition?
- What do they mean when they talk about policy?
- Why do we read such old cases that are not even still good law?
- Do I need to know all this history and background stuff for the exam?
- What are these outlines that everyone is talking about all the time?
- Can I just use someone else's outline rather make my own?
- When do I need to start outlining for a course?
- How do I find time to outline when I barely have enough time to read and brief cases?
- What is an IRAC and how do we learn to do it?
- When should I start doing practice questions and how do I find them?
- How do I decide what study aids to use for a course?
- Why do we have to do legal research and writing when we already have enough to do with our other courses?
- Will I be able to have some down time when I do not have to study?
- When am I going to take naps?
- When am I going to watch my favorite television shows?
As you can see, the questions have covered the waterfront. I'll spend several upcoming posts answering some of these questions. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Are you a new academic support professional? Have you been an ASP'er for some time but have switched schools? Did you get promoted within ASP this summer? Please let us know your news!
We would like to do an academic support spotlight posting to introduce you if you are new. If you have switched schools or were promoted, we would like to use the same postings to update colleagues on your new position.For us to include you in a spotlight posting, just send me the following information:
- If new: One paragraph that can be posted with information on your position, law school, and you (education, past work experience, and interests).
- If job changing or promotion: Similar but with a focus on your new position and duties and where you moved from/title you held before.
- Everyone: A link to your law school's faculty profile on the website if one exists for you.
- Everyone: A link to your picture on your law school's website if one exists. (If not, you can send a small jpeg file.)
We welcome all of you who are new to the profession! Congratulations to those of you who have switched jobs or received promotions! We look forward to spotlighting you later this month. (Amy Jarmon)