Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE)
Inaugural Conference: May 28-30, 2013
UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law
Las Vegas, Nevada
Save-the-date! The Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) is pleased to announce the inaugural AASE conference will be held May28-30, 2013 at UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The AASE is a new national professional organization for law school academic support educators. We invite fellow academic support educators, interested faculty, administrators and friends to join us in Las Vegas in May 2013 to:
- Learn about innovative academic support and bar pass programs from around the country;
- Discuss the latest academic support research trends;
- Engage in professional development topics including publishing, teaching skills development, social media, and effective communication strategies;
- Network and share ideas with academic support colleagues;
- Celebrate another successful academic year for our members; and
- Most importantly – help build the foundation necessary for AASE to be the great national organization we all know it can be:
- Discuss and vote upon our mission and by-laws; and
- Elect our inaugural executive board and regional representatives from the membership.
A call for proposals and additional conference details coming soon.
AASE website content contributors needed: If you would like to submit content and articles for the new AASE website please contact Hillary Burgess at firstname.lastname@example.org
AASE 2012 Conference Planning Committee Members (alphabetical order)
Hillary Burgess – Charlotte School of Law
Jennifer Carr – William S. Boyd School of Law (UNLV)
Linda Feldman – Brooklyn Law School
Kris Franklin – New York Law School
Twinette Johnson – Southern Illinois University School of law
Joanne Harvest Koren – University of Miami School of Law
Paula Manning – Western State College of Law
LaRasz Moody – Villanova Law School
Louis N. Schulze Jr.- New England Law - Boston
Michael Hunter Schwartz – Washburn University School of Law
Carlota Toledo – IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law (Indianapolis)
Monday, November 26, 2012
Many of us have recommended Ruth Ann McKinney's book, Reading Like a Lawyer: Time-Saving Strategies for Reading Law Like an Expert, to our students over the past seven years. If you have not taken a look at the second edition of the book, I would encourage you to do so.
Ruth Ann has added a chapter which has very interesting observations about dealing with technology in our reading of law on a screen. In addition to referencing studies about reading on-line, she also gives practical tips for the three new literacy skills needed: mastering technology, making wise choices about what to read and how deeply to read, and managing one's energy.
Ruth Ann McKinney is a Clinical Professor of Law Emeritus at UNC School of Law. For many years before her retirement, Ruth Ann was a mainstay and inspiration to our ASP community. We are all so glad that she is still active through her writing and listserv comments. (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Emily L. Scivoletto, Assistant Dean for JD Student Affairs at University of San Diego School of Law, has been involved in ASP work for eight years. She shares the following about why she works in our professional niche:
"I work in ASP to provide direct support to our world’s future leaders. I truly believe there is no greater calling than the law and no better job than preparing students to be ethical, kind, smart, compassionate and hard-working advocates. I also learn so much about myself through this work."
Thank you, Emily, for your dedication to the success of law students. As colleagues, we also learn so much from one another. Your contributions to ASP are greatly appreciated. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, November 24, 2012
I did not cook for Thanksgiving this year. My best friend and I decided to go out to dinner instead. I realized in the days after Thanksgiving that I basically was content not to have leftovers crowded in my refrigerator. Except maybe the from-scratch cranberry sauce. And the stuffing. But the turkey, green beans, succotash, gravy, potato au gratin, sweet potato casserole, crescent rolls, pumpkin pie, pecan pie - well you get the picture - were not missed.
I realized for many of my students, the last week of classes (at our law school immediately after the holiday break) is a lot like leftovers. More reading, briefing, and new class material up to the last minute are now no longer appealing. One is already sated with those items and ready for something else. The professors who wrap up or review material are like the favorite leftovers that one is happy to have servings of for the next 5 days after the holiday.
Like all of us who ate too much and sat overstuffed on the couch after the holiday meal, our students are lethargic when it comes to more class sessions. They are focused on exams and want the leftover classes to be over. Wrap-up and reviews make sense because they go along with the exam purposefulness that students have. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
This is a question frequently asked of us in ASP. "Reading Week" is a misnomer; we should call it "fine-tuning your exam approaches and taking practice exams" week. Here is a list of things students should and shouldn't be doing during reading week:
1) Students SHOULD have their course outlines/summaries completed before reading week. Reading week is the worst time to complete a course outline, because it's too late to internalize the material and use it to study.
2) Students SHOULD use reading week to create exam approaches. Exam approaches fine-tune the course outline, and reshape the contents to help students anticipate exam questions. An exam approach for negligence would look like this (but with a lot more detail!)
1) Was there a duty? Definition.
Cases that examine duty: X, Y, Z
Exceptions to duty:
2) Did the D breach the duty?
Cases that examine duty: A, B. C
Things to look for if breach is at issue: res ipsa, per se...
3) Students SHOULD be rest during reading week; reading week should NOT be cram week! Students should be rested and ready for exams. It does not help them if they use reading week to cram in any reading they haven't finished, or write papers that should have been finished earlier in the semester.
4) Students should be taking practice exams in all their classes during reading week. I give the advice that was given to me: the first practice exam should before the class the student feels least confident. Tackle what is hardest first. Students should NOT do practice exams together; they SHOULD take practice exams independently, and then get together to compare answers.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I have watched this classic law school film multiple times over the years and vividly remember seeing it in the cinema when it first came out (long before I ever ventured across a law school threshold as a 1L student). Recently I decided to watch it once more because it had been several years since my last viewing.
The film has always seemed to me to be the perfect commentary on how not to have a study group. I was reminded of those points once again. Here are some of the things we learn from the movie:
- A study group needs to have members with the same goals and purposes to avoid logistical and group dynamic problems.
- A study group needs to have some ground rules so that each member knows the responsibilities and etiquette of the group.
- A study group will falter if each person is assigned one course to specialize in because only that one person learns the course well and the others suffer if the expert drops out of the group.
- A study group will have conflict if its members become overly competitive, are argumentative, refuse to negotiate on tasks, or hold others hostage by refusing to share information.
- A study group does not belong to the person who invites others to join; it belongs to everyone and should be cooperative.
- A study group will be disrupted by members who become overwhelmed and are unable to pull their weight in the group.
- If one does not study outlines all semester long and distribute learning the material, it may require holing up for days with no sleep at the end in order to cram.
- Learning styles within a group vary; one person will consider an 800-page outline a treasure while the others will view it as a curse.
- Always have a back up copy of your outline in case your computer crashes (or your outline is accidentally tossed out a window).
My wish for all law students would be to have supportive, cooperative, hard-working study groups without drama and negativity. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, November 19, 2012
At this time of the year many of us have the honor of congratulating grads who successfully passed the bar exam this past summer. However, what takes more time and attention is assisting those grads that did not pass the bar exam on their first (or second…) attempt. I find that working with this group of students to be one of the most heart-wrenching yet also one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. At one of the most fragile times in their lives, I am a shoulder to cry on, a beacon of hope, and a giver of sweet treats.
Having a plan in life is essential. More importantly, having a plan for retaking the bar exam is critical to repeaters success. Thus, since grads need a clear plan in place for retaking the bar exam; I need a clear plan to help get them started. After some thought, I have identified three steps/phases to this plan. First, there is the “Support, Encouragement, and Chocolate” step. Next, the “Diagnose, Deliver, and Destroy” (no this is not a new Hollywood action film) step. Lastly, there is the “Let’s Make a Deal and a Plan” step. In this post I will highlight the first step in this three step approach.
Grads often email or call me within a week or two of the receiving their bar results. Since directly after the results are released I am occupied assisting students with bar exam appeals, I typically make appointments with repeat takers for three weeks later. Although I mainly schedule these appointments a few weeks out because my time is otherwise occupied, I find that it is also beneficial for these individuals to take time to process their bar results.
Applicants who have failed the bar go through many emotional phases, much like the phases of grief. There is denial and isolation, pain and anger, possibly some guilt, shock, or depression, and ultimately some level of acceptance. While each individual moves through these phases on their own time-line, I usually meet with them once they have reached, or gotten close to reaching, some level of acceptance. This timing is beneficial because our time together can be spent more productively with an eye to the future instead of dwelling on the past.
“Support, Encouragement, and Chocolate”
During our session, I first provide support by listening to their story and asking pointed questions. How did they study? What worked best for their memorization? What was the hardest part of studying or taking the bar exam? Were their scores somewhat expected or were they surprised by them? Do they want to take the bar again? What do they think they need to change? These questions help me understand their emotional state and help me to understand how I can best help them for their next attempt at taking the bar.
But before I begin to fully diagnose their weaknesses or help them to construct a new study plan, I listen; and, then I listen some more. Then, I give them encouragement. I do not have a canned speech that I recite, nor do I pretend to have all of the answers. But, I do know that they can do this and I help make them believe it. I give them hope that they can take the exam again and be successful. I channel Bandura so that these bar applicants wholeheartedly believe that they are competent and that they have the power and ability to pass the bar exam...because they do.
Let’s not forget the sweetest part…chocolate. I always have chocolate in my office in a big red basket (next to the tissues). The chocolate (and tissues) come in handy for times like these. No matter what takes place during this meeting, they typically leave with a smile and feel empowered and more optimistic about conquering the next bar exam.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
My road to ASP was through some amazing mentors, and a tragedy that shifted the direction of my career. I still work in ASP because of the students, and the amazing support of our incredible community.
I went to law school to work in education policy. I had worked in k-3 education before law school, and I loved it. But I saw political agendas, not research and science, shaping curriculum, and I decided to leave teaching so I could move policy towards sound education practices. Once I started law school, I was appalled by the teaching methods. I had some amazing, gifted teachers who gave 100% to their students, but the overall program, with large classes, little or no feedback, and vicious competition for grades, was appalling to me. So I applied to work in the RRWA program at Carolina Law, run by the phenomenal RuthAnn McKinney. I was selected to teach a spring ASP tutorial to students who volunteered to be a part of the program. I quickly found myself spending more time on my ASP lesson plans than my classwork. The perfect moment was when one of the students in the tutorial told me his grades for the semester, and he did better than I did in classes I had taken with the same teachers the year before.
I was searching for jobs in education and policy in the Boston area during my 3L year of law school. My fiance had a job at a big firm in Boston. Tragically, my fiance died unexpectedly of natural causes during our 3L year. Suddenly, I had no job, no place to live, and needed to figure out my future plans ASAP. Ruth McKinney gently nudged me away from education policy and towards ASP. Ruth passed my resume out during an LSAC ASP meeting. I got a call, and started in ASP that fall. In addition to Ruth, I had the fantastic luck to be taught by two giants in legal education, Gail Agrawal and Judith Wegner. Both Judith and Gail were instrumental in my development as a professional, and helped me find my way to ASP. If Ruth was my mentor, I can count Gail and Judith as guardian angels.
Starting off in ASP is overwhelming. I felt like I was in over my head, despite a previous career in teaching, experience teaching ASP in law school, and fantastic mentoring and support from Ruth. At my first job, I was absolutely blessed with the second amazing mentor of my career, Paula Manning. I don't think I would have stayed in ASP after that first year if it wasn't for the constant support, encouragement, and hand-holding from Paula. I loved my students, I loved my work, but Paula always had my back, professionally and personally. I think that support from the ASP community is what keeps many of us in the field, even when times are tough. We are here for our students, but it's the incredible support from the ASP community that keep us going through the hard times. (RCF)
Thursday, November 15, 2012
When reviewing 1L's first drafts of practice exams, there is one problem that always comes up: writing in law is not creative writing. 1L's get confused by this statement, especially when their professors tell them that creativity is an important part of lawyering. However, the creativity that law professors are referring to, and the creativity that law students try to demonstrate on exams, are two different things. This is a particular challenge for students who majored in English in undergrad, and for law students who previously worked in creative fields, such as PR or marketing. Students need to understand that the purpose of writing for a legal audience is different from the purpose of writing in those fields. Lawyers need to be understood. A creatively written contract, that uses terms of art in new or novel ways, is likely to be misunderstood by the parties, and wind up in court. This is NOT what a lawyer wants when they write a contract. Therefore, lawyers use terms of art carefully; in fact, lawyers use words carefully. The goal of writing for a legal audience is not to show them how many 25 cent SAT words you know; the goal is to be understood.
Here are some other basic rules of writing for a legal audience that 1L's frequently misunderstand:
1) Using the same words throughout an exam is smart. Don't try to change your vocabulary so you don't overuse a word. That rule is true for creative writing, but it undermines the coherence of your essay when writing in law.
2) Keep your sentences short. Long sentences frequently contain too many ideas that need to be discussed separately.
3) Use linking words, like because. Although your sentences should be short, you need to be sure that you make explicit connections between law and fact. You are not a fiction writer; you do not want to make the reader make inferences. Spell it out for them.
4) A paragraph should focus on one idea. If you have a new idea, start a new paragraph. If you reread your work, and find that you have multiple ideas in one paragraph, chances are you are not discussing any one idea completely.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Jeremiah Ho, Assistant Professor of Law, has worked in academic support for three years. He is currently at UMass Dartmouth and shares why he is in ASP work:
"I work in academic support because when I was in law school, I had great ASP professors who cared about students, and without their help and dedication, I would not have excelled so early. Now I get to teach as well and try to do right by them."
Jeremiah is known for incorporating ASP principles in the classroom. We have been so glad to have you as an ASP colleague.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
One of the great books on law school exam prep has one piece of terrible advice: don't use IRAC. The bottom line is that ALL law school professors expect law school exam answers that are organized, easy to read, and logical. It may be called CRAC, IRAC, TRAC, or TICRA-FLIPC; the name of the organizational system doesn't matter. A law school exam needs an organized answer. The problem is that many law professors don't understand IRAC is just an organizational system, and that students need to have an organizational system before they can move to the fluid, responsive (and organized!) answers that get A's. Just like most people learn how to drive an automatic before moving to a stick shift (and they generally stall the car quite a few times before they are fluid with a stick), law students need to start with a simple organizational system before they can move to the move to more advanced writing styles.
Here are some rules of thumb I use with students who are just starting to write practice exams:
1) Issue: It's the problem you need to solve. Your issue should tell the reader (your professor) what legal problem you found in that facts. Your issue should be narrow enough to be answerable; a too-broad issue statement means you have too many questions to answer in the time allotted.
2) Rule: What legal rule is implicated in the hypothetical facts?
3) Analysis: An element of law/case + relevant hypothetical facts in EVERY sentence. I use this formula because students just starting to write practice exams tend to restate too many hypo facts, restate entire case holdings, or they do the opposite, and only include too little law or too few facts. Another problem is parallel structure; students write a sentence about the law, and a sentence about the hypothetical facts, but do not make the connection between them. By telling students they need law and facts in every sentence, it moves them away from common mistakes in analysis. THEN I move on to more advanced analysis, but only after they have mastered the basic structure of analysis.
4) Conclusion: It doesn't matter how you conclude, but you need a conclusion that is the logical extension of your analysis. Don't get stuck in analysis paralysis, where all possible options seem equally plausible, so you leave the reader hanging.
Lamborghini's are amazing cars. However, no one learns how to drive on a Lamborghini; the sports stick is so stiff that a new driver would give up before learning how to drive. An automatic Honda Civic is the way to go when learning how to drive. And like learning to drive, learning to write an organized law school exam takes time and practice. It's better to start mechanical and move to advanced, even if the advanced writing skills are ultimately what we want from our students. (RCF)
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Herb Ramy, Professor of Academic Support, at Suffolk University School of Law is in his fourteenth year working with law students. Many of you know Herb from his excellent book, Succeeding in Law School. Herb shares the reasons why he loves working in ASP:
"Working as an ASP Professor, while challenging, is extremely rewarding. There are many barriers to success in law school, and I derive a great deal of satisfaction from helping students see those barriers and overcome them. Each year students come experiencing fear and doubt as to whether they can make it in law school, and I get to watch as they hit their stride and slowly grow more confident in their newfound abilities. Three or four years later I get to watch them walk across the stage at graduation. How many people have jobs where they get to make this kind of difference in people’s lives?"
Thank you, Herb, for being an inspiration to many of us in ASP and to your students!
Friday, November 9, 2012
Grace Wigal, Teaching Professor and Director of Academic Excellence Program, at West Virginia University College of Law has been working in academic support for 20 years. She responded to our request for ASP'ers to comment on why they work in academic support. Grace writes:
"I work in academic support because it is challenging and rewarding. Most students in law school will benefit from support services at some point in their law school career, thus, the work that we do allows us to make a difference in many, many lives!"
Thank you, Grace, for being so devoted to helping law students succeed. We are all grateful to have you as a colleague!
Please join your colleagues in sharing why you work in academic support. Send the following information to me (e-mail in left-hand column): number of months/years in ASP work; link to your faculty profile on your law school web pages and/or a small jpeg photo; your title; your reason for working in ASP in 50 words or less. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Texas Tech School of Law has had a partnership for seven years now with the Law and Justice Magnet Program at one of the local high schools that has predominately minority student enrollment. Recently I had lunch with the LJMP instructor. We are both passionate about the partnership and were discussing plans for next semester.
We started the partnership for several reasons. First, it allows us to support the high school's efforts in increasing student awareness of legal issues and potential careers in law. Second, it provides us with an avenue to encourage students to stay in school, continue on to college, and enter professional education after college. Third, it provides opportunities and role models for students who have dreams to reach beyond their backgrounds and become success stories for their families.
Some of the aspects of the program are:
- Upper-division law students who are selected as Dean's Community Teaching Fellows to assist at the high school in the LJMP courses. These DCTFs mentor individual students, participate in the classroom experiences, and help coach the mock trial team for the Texas high school competition.
- Mini-classes for senior students in which we discuss fact patterns and cases as well as legal research. The Legal Practice professors provided us with 1L legal memorandum packets that we modified for high school use. The law librarians assist with the legal research component.
- VIP attendance at a variety of law school events. For example, the students have attended lectures with Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, and Stephen Breyer. They have attended hearings in front of the Texas Seventh Court of Appeals. In several cases, the students have had the honor of being photographed with our guests.
- Donated items for the LJMP library of study aids that cover civil and criminal topics in their courses.
Will all of the students end up at Texas Tech School of Law? Will all of them become lawyers some day? No. But that is okay.
We definitely want to see the diversity of the legal profession increase and some of these students will become lawyers. They may not attend Tech Law, but the legal profession will benefit.
However, if all of these high school students become successful citizens and reach their dreams, we will also have succeeded. Whether they become police officers, forensic scientists, lawyers, doctors, small business owners, nurses, teachers, or meet other career goals, they will have followed their dreams.
Most importantly, they will have known that we believed in them and their futures. They will have had our encouragement and support. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Wayne State University School of Law is looking for a Director of Academic Success and Bar Preparation. The link to the job ad can be found below (Academic Advisor II Dean's Office School of Law).
Wayne State University Law School
Applications are online through the university employment website.
The Academic Advisor II is committed to student achievement and will be primarily responsible for developing, leading, coordinating, and implementing programs that support Wayne Law's goals of improving students' academic success and success on the bar examination.
Coordinate Bar Preparation Program
* Develop a comprehensive array of bar preparation services for J.D. students at Wayne Law
* Teach (or co-teach) a series of bar examination workshops for third-year students
* Counsel students who are preparing to sit for the bar examination and help them develop and execute customized study plans and strategies for passing the bar exam
* Provide analysis and feedback to help students improve their examination writing and test-taking skills
* Provide individual counseling and review essays etc. for repeat bar takers
* Develop and run programming related to the bar application process and the bar examination, with an emphasis on Michigan and the Multistate Bar Examination Coordinate Academic Success Program
* Design and implement an academic success and support program, including individualized assistance, with an emphasis on developing skills that will assist law students in improving academic performance
* Coordinate and conduct ASP workshops for first-year students on topics such as time management, effective note-taking, outlining and examination preparation
* Conduct group and individual counseling sessions, and develop individualized remediation and referral programs for law students at all levels who are in need of academic support, including students on probation
* Provide learning assessments to address basic grammar and (non-legal) standard English writing skills, conduct appropriate workshops and/or provide referrals to appropriate resources to support fundamental writing skills, all in support of the Practice Skills curriculum being taught by the legal writing faculty as well as other courses taught by various faculty
* Develop a student academic mentor program and provide training, facilitation and supervision for the student mentors
* Gather, compile, and report statistical data regarding student participation in, and impact on student performance of, the various ASP offerings
* Serve on Wayne Law and University committees, as assigned
* Undertake other duties related to academic support, success, retention and bar preparation as assigned by the Assistant Dean of Students
Unique Duties / Qualifications
* J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school, be admitted to the practice of law in at least one jurisdiction and possess strong academic credentials
* Excellent interpersonal skills, written and oral communication skills, and the ability to work effectively with a wide range of constituents within the diverse Wayne Law community, including students served by the ASP, faculty members and Wayne Law administration
* Must be able to work independently in a highly organized, detail-oriented, multi-tasking, fast-paced environment
* At least three years' experience working in a law school, teaching legal writing or other classroom teaching, or in academic assistance or academic counseling
* A law school GPA of 3.0 or higher
* Ability to manage a variety of projects while ensuring appropriate tracking, quality control, follow-up and multiple deadlines are met
* Strong organizational and time-management skills
* Availability to work at evening and weekend ASP programs, as required
* Experience with diverse student populations: ethnic, gender, age, economic level, etc.
* Ability to work effectively with students of varying levels of academic preparedness
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Courtney Lee, Associate Professor of Lawyering Skills and Director of Academic Success, at McGeorge has responded to our request that ASP'ers share why they work in ASP.
Courtney has worked for 4.5 years in academic success and writes:
"Working in ASP allows me to help people much more directly than I could if I worked in a firm. Then I get to watch them go forth and help others! Some come from unimaginable hardship, and there is nothing better than watching them rise, shine, and pay it forward."
Thank you for your insight into ASP work, Courtney. We are so fortunate to have you involved in the ASP profession and helping law students at McGeorge.
Join us and share why you work in ASP. Send the information requested in our earlier 10/31 post to Amy Jarmon, Co-Editor (e-mail link in the left-hand column of the blog page).