Thursday, December 27, 2012
I spent seventeen years in my first career working with undergraduate and graduate students. Then after graduating law school as a non-traditional student and practicing for some years, I decided to return to higher education and combine my education and law backgrounds. Those earlier years in my student affairs career have certainly held me in good stead in my current ASP work.
For most of the years in my first career, I was involved not only with academic dismissals but also with disciplinary cases and, towards the end, with Honor Council cases. I was the one who investigated cases, presented at administrative hearings, and counseled dismissed students.
Part of my discussions with students focused on their behaviors (actions or lack of actions), consequences, rules, integrity, maturity, self-discipline, etc. I always wanted students to learn from the situations so they could avoid future problems. This aspect of my work was really more about the head - how to think through situations, how to see alternative courses of action, how to understand societal norms, how to implement different study strategies for success, how to behave differently, or whatever matched the circumstances.
No matter how difficult the student had been during the process of an academic dismissal or a discipline/Honor case, I always tried to add a second part to the discussion. I switched to the heart by focusing the end of a discussion on how the student was coping with the results (suspension, possible readmission later, permanent dismissal), how the student was dealing with the legal process if there was one when disciplinary actions applied (we took administrative actions first because too many lawyers had played around with court continuances in order to go beyond a graduation date or a transfer when we previously waited), whether the student had told their parents/spouse/others, and what the student's plan of action was for the future.
Why did I spend the time switching from head to heart matters? Because no matter what a student had done, the student was still a human being. Once we had dealt with the head matters, the student was still often dealing with the heart matters all alone. Most students had not told family or friends that they were in academic or disciplinary or Honor Council trouble. Most students had hoped to the last moment (often unrealistically) that a suspension or dismissal would not happen. Most students were without a game plan to deal with the worst outcome.
One thing I learned early on was that if I could look beyond the failures/behaviors to the person, the student left with a different attitude than if I stayed merely aloof and clinical. The student was more willing to take responsibility for the situation rather than blame the school, the administration, the student witnesses, the faculty member, or others involved. The student was more willing to look at the life lessons and consider change. The student was less likely to bad mouth the school to others later on in life.
By taking the time to treat the student as a person, to help the student decide the next steps, to listen to the fears, or to even role play how the student would tell family and friends, I allowed the healing to begin. I allowed the student to learn that one can recognize bad decisions the student made or disapprove of/censure behaviors but still treat the person with dignity. I let students know that someone cared about them even in unpleasant circumstances when many might say they got themselves into the situations.
At law schools, I think the head part of the process is sometimes focused on totally, and the heart process is ignored. Students from various law schools around the country have told me about getting only an academic dismissal letter and not being given an appointment to discuss it. Students have told me about being told they are "not good enough" or do not have "the right stuff" to be in law school. They have told me about comments suggesting they will be failures in life because they could not meet law school academic standards. The stories have come from students at both public and private law schools, at law schools in every tier, and law schools in different parts of the country.
Our profession has begun to recognize that there are "soft skills" that attorneys need and that the human element does have merit in the legal process. I hope that we can regularly recognize the same need for the human element at our law schools when we deal with the multitude of conduct and academic problems that students are involved in during law school.
As professional schools, we definitely need to maintain standards of conduct, integrity, and academics. But we also need to maintain those standards while treating others as human beings during the processes.
Few of our students are dismissed under circumstances so egregious that they are incapable of being productive and worthy members of society. If we model combining head and heart in unpleasant circumstances, we treat students with dignity and provide a lesson that will resonate throughout their lives about how to treat others. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, December 24, 2012
Among non-ASP faculty, there is sometimes a misperception that ASP is a magic band-aid. The magic band-aid theory of ASP holds that a good ASP that can easily and painlessly fix what ails a student, a program, or a school, in only a few short meetings. But ASP is not a magic band-aid. Here is why:
It is hard to learn new ways to think. This is difficult for many law professors to understand, because law came easy to them. But for students who have great potential, but did not grow up with logic puzzles or parents who were lawyers or teachers, law requires new, unfamiliar ways of thinking. Emotion and desire are less important than logic and process. For students who go to law school because of a burning passion to fix an injustice, the first semester of law school is not only bewildering, but it can be disheartening to learn that burning passion is not logical. Using process to find justice can be disheartening as well, because process does not always end in the result they feel is fair. Learning new ways to think can be emotionally and mentally taxing. Teaching students how to use logic and argument is taxing for the professionals who need to keep students motivated, while helping them see that logic is the key to exam success.
It is hard to change the way you study. Students who start law school with inadequate or dysfunctional study skills need to accept that 1) those study skills that got them to law school will not help them in law school 2) that they have to let go of something that is comfortable, and find a new way of doing things that is unfamiliar. This does not happen overnight; learning new study skills is a long-term process. It is challenging for ASP professionals, because there is not one, master way to study. Study skills need to fit the work (law) as well as the student. It takes time to get to know the student, for them to open up and trust you enough to admit how they study for classes and exams. And it takes even more time for students to learn new study skills, to practice with them, and to find which techniques are the best fit.
It is hard to change the way you teach. Non-ASP law professors can sometimes hold onto the belief that if their ASP was just "better," than their students would not struggle (on exams, on the bar, finding jobs, etc). But ASP alone cannot create "better" students. Across the curriculum, teaching needs to evolve in tandem with efforts by ASP. Teachers need to meet students where they are, not where they think they ought to be. That may mean using techniques and methods in the classroom that are new. ASP can help students with study skills, writing, and thinking, but it cannot create "better" students without assistance and support from across the curriculum. (RCF)
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Thursday, December 20, 2012
If you have the opportunity to team-teach a course at your law school, jump at the opportunity.
With the close of this semester, I've had a chance to think about how team-teaching has worked in one of the new courses a colleague and I teach. Two advantages to the team approach were obvious: the broadening of the students' learning experience, and the broadening of the teaching experience for those of us at the front of the room (yes, I know, asp-ers, you are all over the room!).
This new course, “Practical Lawyering Skills,” was created to fill a gap in our academic support offerings. While we had plenty of academic support offerings in the first year, and a newly introduced third-year “just-before-you-take-the-bar” course for graduating students, the second year (or third year for our part-time students) was empty of academic support opportunities. Intervention in the second year seemed a natural extension of academic support offerings.
It also seemed natural to me to design the course as a team-taught enterprise in order to bring as much diverse experience to the class as possible, both in teaching style as well as in legal experience. My co-teacher in the fall semester is a senior faculty member, highly respected by faculty and students alike. As well as having impressive criminal law experience, she is also an experienced doctrinal professor having won “best teacher” awards several times. The two of us, having team-taught in other courses over many years, are comfortable together in the classroom.
In the spring I teach with a newer professor, but one with plenty of civil practice experience. While our experience teaching together is not as deep as that with my fall colleague, the teaching relationship is quickly maturing after just one semester together. I think students enjoy this ”double treat,” something we carry over into the grading of their assignments so that students get a broad spectrum of evaluation.
The "carry-over" effect of team-teaching reaches outside the classroom as well. My colleagues often ask about the "how" of our team-teaching, about the logistics of how we do it—the choreography. (More about that at another time.)
What I tell my colleagues, however, is that the strength of our team-teaching is more about what happens outside the classroom--in our preparation, debriefing, and shared evaluation of students--more so than in our dual presence in the classroom. While many of us have had someone observe our classes to receive feedback on our approach, the team-teaching model creates a constant stream of observation and evaluation, as well as a constant conversation about how we approach the course and, on any given day, how we approach and deliver specific, daily classroom goals.
That conversation provides endless opportunities for evaluating global teaching approaches as well as the individual components of a class session. So you can have a continual discussion and evaluation from the creator's point of view, and you don't have to wait for the student reviews some time after the final exam to make some navigation corrections. What I have learned from this experience has given me greater confidence in the classroom and a greater willingness to take risks.
We in the Northeast had a wonderful conference on Dec. 10, on counseling students. Marty Peters, PhD, and professor emeritus of Elon Law School, led us through several exercises designed to help ASP professionals counsel students during one-on-one appointments. The conference was attended by ASPer's from up and down the East Coast. I think I speak for everyone at the conference when I say it was incredibly valuable.
Thank you to Marty Peters, and NECASP co-chairs Sunny Mulligan and Elizabeth Bloom. (RCF)
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
To piggy-back on Lisa's post today on getting the most out of AALS, I wanted to post an e-mail that was on the listserv from Herb Ramy reminding all of us of days/times/rooms for the sessions at AALS. (Amy Jarmon)
Just a quick reminder that the AALS Section on Academic Support will be presenting our first section award to Kent Lollis during the section breakfast on January 5th. The breakfast begins at 7:00 AM in the Grand Salon 9 & 12, First Floor, Hilton New Orleans, Riverside. This is a separate fee event, so please be sure to purchase your tickets in advance. Tickets are available online through the AALS Website (pre-registration is required) and at the AALS meeting site until Friday evening, January 4th, if space is available. No tickets for the breakfast will be sold at the door.
In addition to the section breakfast and the awards ceremony, here is an updated list (including locations) of other events related to our section:
Saturday, January 5th, 1:30 – 2:30 PM
Court Assembly, Third Floor, Hilton New Orleans Riverside
Sunday, January 6, 4:00–5:45 p.m.
AALS Section Program, Assessing Our Students, Our Success and Ourselves
Grand Ballroom C, First Floor, Hilton New Orleans Riverside
In response to a growing need within the legal academy, many institutions and individuals have developed programs to assure the success of law students as well as techniques to assess those programs. Increasingly, law schools are interested in institutional assessment but lack the expertise to reach beyond the obvious measures to fully evaluate the relationships between programs and outcomes. Each of these presentations highlights a different aspect of assessment to inform participants about sources of existing data, methods of gathering additional information, and uses of that information to create new programs and assess existing ones.
Section Business Meeting, Windsor, Third Floor, Hilton New Orleans Riverside
Sunday, January 6, 7:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Court Assembly, Third Floor, Hilton New Orleans Riverside
The Section Business Meeting did not appear in the AALS Preliminary Program or in the programs that were mailed to AALS members. It does appear in the online version of the program.
I look forward to seeing all of you in New Orleans!
Herb Ramy, Section Chair
AALS Section on Academic Support
Professor Herbert N. Ramy, Director
Academic Support Program
Suffolk University Law School
120 Tremont St.
Boston, MA 02108
Going to the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Conference is a huge perk for someone in Academic Support. The registration cost is astronomical and the cost of travel and accommodations often pushes this event out of reach and out of budget. Thus, if you do get a chance to attend AALS, you want to make the most of it. I have included a few ideas about how to maximize your experience.
- Review the Program ahead of time. I read the Program and flag all of the presentations that I must attend and the ones that I would like to attend. There may not be enough time in the day to attend all of the presentations that look interesting to you but you should at least commit to making it to the ones that you must attend. If at first you do not find enough sessions, I suggest taking another look. Look not only at the Presentation Titles or the Sections offering the presentations, but also look at the specific presenters. You may find familiar names among the presenters or moderators. Even if the topic does not interest you, seeing particular speakers in their element can make attendance worth it. If you do not have a hard copy, you can access it here AALS 2013 Annual Meeting Program.
- Calendar all of the presentations in your phone or on a list that you can easily carry with you. Believe me, you will thank me later. When someone asks you to join them for a cup of coffee or at another presentation later in the day, you can quickly check your list to see whether you are available.
- Try to connect with others in the field. This year our section program is not being given until late Sunday. Personally, that is too long for me to wait to find “my people”. Try to touch base with a few others before arriving in New Orleans or approach someone from ASP at another earlier presentation. Or better yet, attend the Academic Support Breakfast on Saturday morning (more later on this).
- It’s NOLA! New Orleans is one of the most fascinating cities. It is rich in tradition, culture, and history. And….the food is amazing! Take advantage of soaking in a bit of the jazzy nightlife, the sinfully delicious po’boys and infamous Café Du Monde beignets, and the French Quarter architecture. I still remember the incredible flavors of the roasted duck and buttery cornbread pudding that I ate at NOLA (one of Emeril’s restaurants) two years ago. Now, I am getting hungry!
- Attend the Academic Support Breakfast on Saturday morning. (Yes, I know I already mentioned this above.) I want to mention this breakfast again because it a great way to network, vent, generate ideas, make dining plans for the weekend, and make new friends. Warning, this will not be a culinary experience to remember. Instead, this is a wonderful reunion of friends and colleagues and an exchange of ideas and support. It is well worth the cost. You can work up an appetite for lunch and find someone new to share it with. Jambalaya anyone?
- Make plans, be a joiner, and be inclusive. ASPers are known for being fun, inclusive, and movers and shakers. Do not be a loner at AALS! Go site seeing, enjoy a group meal, or maybe a late night game of Taboo with old (or new) friends;) If you are new, introduce yourself; if you are seasoned, find a newbie to befriend. My first AALS in 2009 was so overwhelming! I literally got lost at the hotel while trying to find a presentation. This was not fun and I was late for the presentation. Plan ahead and leave extra time for detours.
- Do not forget to attend the Poster Presentations. This year they are on Saturday from 1:30-2:30 in the Court Assembly, Third Floor, at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. This is a great way to connect with ASPers, support our colleagues, and learn something new.
- Attend our Section Program: Assessing Our Students, Our Successes, and Ourselves; and, don’t forget to stay for the Business Meeting. This is a great way to discuss assessment and get involved with others in Academic Support.
I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
We finish our exam period tomorrow afternoon. The first-year students finished yesterday. The building has emptied significantly since 5:00 p.m. after the last 1L exam.
Some students (especially 1Ls) have been asking what they should do over the semester break to get ready for second semester. For the most part, I advise them to relax, rest, recharge their batteries, and renew their relationships with family and friends.
They are often surprised that I do not tell them to read a study aid for each new class or start to read their casebooks. I realize that some of them are eager to "get ahead" and "have a leg up on their classmates" for the next semester. However, I caution them to not get too gung-ho.
Here are some reasons why I do not suggest a bookish break:
- Most law students are worn out after the semester and need time away from the law school routine.
- Many law students have become myopic over the semester without a life outside of law school and need to regain perspective on life outside the law school walls.
- Family and friends have endured the "loss" of their law student for 15 weeks and want to reconnect.
- Brain cells are often gasping from exertion and need a Florida vacation from the heavy-lifting of cases, hypotheticals, and legal analysis.
- Many law students have had too little sleep, too few nutritious meals, and minimal exercise for the entire semester - good habits need to be re-established.
- Professors will skip topics in the casebooks, take a different perspective on a course from a study aid, and emphasize different angles on a course - studying/reading ahead may cause a student to go off track before the course even begins.
- Reading a casebook or study aid without class discussion can lead to emphasizing the wrong material or, even worse, serious confusion about the material.
If a student really feels compelled to prepare for the second semester, I suggest that reading a good book on law school study skills might be more beneficial than a book about a course subject area. Books by Michael Hunter Schwartz, Herb Ramy, Dennis Tonsing, Ruth Ann McKinney, Andrew McClurg, John Delaney, Charles Calleros, Will Huhn, or other ASP'ers and professors will likely assist students who want to become better law students during the next semester.
Why do I say that? Many law students read "how to succeed" books before they arrive at law school. That is useful preparation, but I seriously think they get even more out of the books if they re-read them after they have at least one or more semesters under their belts. What previously was merely theoretical to them now has real context.
Students who are in their 2L and 3L years can also benefit from these books because they now realize they have specific, repeating areas of weakness that need to be addressed. If they do not know where they are weak, then the books will help them to evaluate changes that they may need in multiple study areas.
Most of all, I think students need to have a break - that is why it is called a semester break. It is fine to do some general evaluation of study skills and preparation to do better as a student. However, burning oneself out with studying before the next fifteen-week marathon is just asking for trouble. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, December 17, 2012
Not taking the bar exam until summer but curious about what to expect? Thinking about ways to get a head start on your bar prep over the break? Want to have a better idea of what is required in your state when applying for the bar exam? Great! Advance planning is an essential ingredient in your bar exam preparation. Here are a few ways to get started without causing anxiety, taking too much time, or causing you to feel overwhelmed. In fact, these helpful ideas will help reduce the brewing stress that the bar exam produces and will help you feel more in control when you are studying for the bar exam this summer.
1. Plan financially for the bar exam. This could mean stocking away money every week reducing your current spending (forgo that extra latte, brown bag it, or take the bus instead of paying forparking), or creating a budget that incorporates your bar review expenses. Taking the bar exam can be an expensive endeavor. So even if we avoid the fiscal cliff, a substantial expense is still in your future. You should anticipate spending approximately $2000-$6000 for your bar preparation.
2. Make your hotel reservation. It may seem too early to call the hotel closest to the bar exam testing center, but it is not. Hotels book quickly and you want to have a choice as to where you stay when you take the most important exam of your life. Find out where your state bar will take place and research the hotels in the area. Once you have made your selection, call them directly and ask for the group rate, use your AAA discount (or other discount), or search online for the best deals.
3. If you have not already, sign up for a commercial bar review. In these economic times, many students ask me if taking a bar review is really necessary. Resolutely, my answer is always yes, a bar review is necessary to achieving success on the bar exam. Take your time to determine your options and how they will suit your individual needs. Bar prep courses are an investment, see item #1 above, but one that is wholly worth it.
4. Check out The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) web page at www.ncbex.org. You will find information regarding the MBE, MEE, MPT, MPRE, and UBE. There are also helpful articles and resources regarding every aspect of the bar examination process from bar exam application information, character and fitness issues, and psychometrics and scoring of the bar exam. Even if you have a limited amount of time, I highly suggest becoming familiar with the NCBE’s website.
5. Similarly, think about where you want to sit for the bar exam. Once you have thought through where you want to be licensed, determine the jurisdictional requirements in that state. Contact the licensing entity and review the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions published by the NCBE and the American Bar Association. In this document, you will find information regarding every aspect of the bar examination and contact information for state bar admission agencies.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
When repeat bar takers come to me for assistance, there are many facets to my strategy to help them. In previous posts, I discussed how to lend support and encouragement, how to help them diagnose their weaknesses, and how to destroy their self-doubt. Now, the next and final phase is to start planning for their next (and final) attempt at the bar exam.
A strong plan will make a huge difference in their preparation. I ask them to map out the next two to three months. They can print a blank calendar; use an online program; represent days on index cards and tape them to a wall; or use a white board. But, I find that they need a visual because it provides motivation, perspective, and a finish line.
Realistic, achievable goals are important for repeat exam takers. Easily reached goals are ineffective; but, goals that are challenging but doable provide the incentive students need to keep progressing. One tip is to have them use learning strategies like chunking to guide their organization of the material that they will be studying. Taking small chunks or pieces of subject will help them feel more in control and less overwhelmed.
Although they may get a calendar from their commercial bar review, since they are repeaters, I ask them to create their calendar based on their individual priorities and needs. They may need to spend more time memorizing, or more time on a particular subject, or they may need to concentrate their time on essay writing practice. In multistate jurisdictions, some students may need to devote more time to the MBE questions than the written portion or vice versa. Yes, they need to study every subject and they need to practice within every subject, but I want their schedule to reflect the specific needs we have diagnosed.
In addition to creating a calendar outlining their study schedule, I ask them to infuse a few “rewards” into their daily or weekly routines. For some, a reward will be time for an exercise class or a run around the lake. For others, it will be enjoying happy hour with friends on a Friday night. For students with children, it is carving out time to suit the needs of their family. It is a mistake to leave these soul- filling, stress releasing activities off of their schedules. Plus, when a productive environment with sufficient break time is created, the student is less likely to procrastinate.
Before they leave my office, the reality is that I may never see them again, so I not only try to get them to make a plan, I also try to get them to make a deal. The deal is that they commit to passing the exam this time around. While this seems like a simple statement, the ripple effect is powerful. They have made a conscious decision in my presence to begin again and declare their ability to pass. Now, they are ready, they are empowered, and they are equipped with the tools to help them succeed.
Best wishes to all of the repeater exam takers this coming February!
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
In mulling over various problems that students have told me about this semester after the fact, it struck me how often students have stated as part of the story, "I didn't know what to do."
Some situations take place in the dead of night when no one at the law school would be monitoring e-mail or answering phones. Other situations arise during the day.
Here are some examples of problems that students have told me about and remarked that they did not know what to do:
- A student wakes up seriously ill on the day of a mid-term or final exam.
- A student realizes that she inadvertently forgot to turn in a study aid book within the deadlines.
- A student is uncertain about allowed assistance on a paper.
- A student is uncertain of the professor's definition of "open book" for an exam two days from now.
- A student spills coffee on a library book and tries to minimize the damage.
- A student's laptop crashes right before a paper is to be turned in to a professor.
- A student tries to submit a paper electronically as required without success.
- A student's car breaks down, and she does not have the $200 to get it fixed.
- A student's car breaks down, and she needs to get to an exam.
- A student's whose grandmother has been admitted to hospital has to miss classes for a week.
These are all classic situations that we see over and over again in law schol. However, students often seem to think they are alone with the problem.
When you do not know what to do, it is usually a sign that you need to ask someone for help. E-mail, phone, or stop by to get advice and find out the correct protocol. If it is the middle of the night, there is still voicemail and e-mail to notify someone of the problem and indicate the steps one is taking. If the Honor Code requires anonymity so that a professor cannot be contacted, there are still faculty secretaries, administrators, IT/library personnel, and others who can help.
Often the student can get assistance or at least ameliorate the consequences by contacting someone or seeking an alternative. For the examples above, the possibilities will vary by law school. However, here are some examples of problem-solving that may work:
- If ill, go to the student health services or another doctor as soon as possible as well as leaving a voicemail for or sending an e-mail to the Registrar/Associate Dean to inquire about postponing the mid-term or final exam.
- For a late study aid, contact the law library circulation desk to explain the situation and request permission to turn it in late.
- Read the assignment instructions or contact the professor for clarification as to the assistance that is allowed on an assignment.
- Read the syllabus, contact the professor for clarification on the definition of "open book," or ask the Registrar's Office if the exam paperwork might have the professor's instructions as to what students can bring in to an exam.
- For damage to a library book, take the item to the circulation desk and explain what happened; depending on the amount of damage, the student may or may not need to pay for a replacement.
- For a laptop crash, contact the law school or university IT folks for assistance.
- Electronic submission can again be assisted by the IT folks. If all else fails, submission by the deadline may be possible to a faculty secretary or administrator if anonymity is an issue.
- Most law schools have emergency loan programs to help students with unexpected expenses when other financial options are not available.
- If a student has allowed ample time to get to the exam without rushing, a telephone call to a classmate or request for help from a neighbor or calling a taxi may all be options.
- A quick e-mail or voicemail to the Registrar when a student has to leave unexpectedly provides the law school with the information that can then be relayed to professors as appropriate.
Some crises can be averted by simple planning. Considering the parameters of assignments or of exams early can forestall problems (asking ahead about what assistance is allowed or what is "open book"). Completing work ahead of schedule rather than at the last minute can also lessen snafus (extra time to sort electronic submission or printer problems). Any computer-related assignment should have a back-up copy external to the student's computer (flashdrive or external hard drive) to provide an alternate copy. Allowing extra time to get to an exam can give the cushion needed for car problems or traffic jams.
Student Handbooks and professors' syllabi normally include procedures and information that relate to some of these problems. Students often mention that they never thought to look at those resources in the heat of the moment. It is a shame that panicky feelings and stress often exacerbate the situations so that students choose to go it alone or make less beneficial decisions. (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Professor Donald J. Kochan published an article in Nevada Law Journal that might be of interest to you in this exam season. The article uses the Deweyan concept of suspended conclusion (approaching a problem with an open mind and without a predetermined conclusion) as a way for students to improve their thinking about exam questions. He explains the concept and then uses it to formulate 12 points for students to consider as they work through exam questions.
The suspended conclusion concept is specifically applied to the exam scenario in the article, but has wide application to exam school studying and lawyering in general. (Amy Jarmon)
The article can be downloaded from SSRN at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2034154. An abstract is included below:
As creatures of thought, we are thinking all the time, but that does not necessarily mean that we are thinking well. Answering the law school exam, like solving any problem, requires that the student exercise thinking in an effective and productive manner. This Article provides some guidance in that pursuit. Using John Dewey’s suspended conclusion concept for effective thinking as an organizing theme, this Article presents one basic set of lessons for thinking through issues that arise regarding the approach to a law school exam. This means that the lessons contained here help exercise thought while taking the exam—to think through the exam approach. The second, more subtle, purpose is to demonstrate that the law school exam can serve as a case study in the effectiveness of certain thinking tools that have much broader application. For that reason, this Article is not your typical “how-to” guide, but instead provides guidance critically and generally applicable to the thinking enterprise itself.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Director of Academic Success & Bar Preparation
The LSU Law Center is a top 100 ranked law school located on the main campus of LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The school draws its students from Louisiana and throughout the United States and has a strong tradition of academic excellence dating from its founding more than a century ago. LSU Law is the only law school in the United States at which all graduates receive a dual degree that reflects the mixed civil and common law tradition of Louisiana and the preparation of LSU Law students for practice or service in the global, national, and state arenas.
The Director will support the mission and vision of the law school by monitoring student learning outcomes, academic performance, and academic success activities; working with students individually and in group settings to teach and enhance the analytical, writing, and other academic and related skills necessary for law-school and professional success; managing all bar preparation and evaluation activities; and participating in other activities related to student success and retention. The Director will have the opportunity to play a major role in designing, developing, implementing, and managing an academic success and bar preparation program reflecting the best practices in the field. In so doing, he or she will be expected to rely on both innovative and established practices in academic success. The Director will be expected to both work collaboratively with the faculty and administration of the Law Center and exercise initiative and judgment in the creation of new programming, drawing on both past experience and careful analysis of the Law School’s particular needs. Specifically, the Director will be charged with:
- Designing, developing, implementing, and conducting academic-success workshops and programs, including instruction for refining students’ analytical, learning, and time management skills, as well as guidance in case briefing, note taking, outlining, exam preparation and exam taking;
- Identifying students for possible inclusion in the Law Center’s academic success programs and communicating with students who could benefit from academic success services; tracking and evaluating the academic progress of those students being served; and evaluating and prioritizing student requests and referrals for tutoring;
- Providing individual and small-group educational counseling and tutoring to students in need of academic support, including assisting students with basic writing and analytical skills through regular written diagnostic and corrective feedback;
- Working in coordination with the faculty and administration to design, coordinate, implement, evaluate, and improve the academic success program;
- Coordinating and supervising an effective, high-quality peer tutoring or student teaching fellow program, including designing appropriate student-led sessions and recruiting, training, supervising, and evaluating the participating upper class students;
- Designing and coordinating 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;
- Assisting in the collection and evaluation of data to help assess the effectiveness of the academic success program; reporting on all programs and services; and critically evaluating all available programs and initiatives to assist in determining which should be continued or expanded and which should be discontinued or modified;
- Assisting in developing and overseeing a budget for academic success and success programs;
- Participating in the greater academic success professional community in order to stay apprised of best practices through regular attendance at conferences, participation in relevant listservs and blogs, and study of relevant books and other resources;
- Assisting in implementing and teaching programs of academic success related to bar-exam preparation;
- Analyzing bar exam results and providing regular reports concerning results;
- Providing bar-related information to faculty members regarding topics tested and recent bar exam questions in the faculty member’s area of teaching; and
- Other duties related to academic support, success, retention and bar preparation as assigned by the Chancellor.
The successful candidate must demonstrate a commitment to and understanding of academic success in legal education and have the requisite knowledge to design and implement legal academic success and bar preparation programs. The successful candidate will –
- Be able to work with multiple, diverse constituencies, including students, faculty and administration;
- Have superior verbal, written, and interpersonal communication skills as well as either demonstrated or potential teaching skills;
- Have the ability to encourage self-improvement by students from diverse backgrounds by counseling and critiquing in a professional, rigorous, respectful, and supportive environment;
- Think imaginatively, critically, and collaboratively about how to improve and measure law student academic development;
- Have an understanding of and strong interest in developments in legal pedagogy in order to assist in designing, implementing, and managing programs that will promote law student academic development;
- Have a strong commitment to student confidentiality and privacy;
- Possess excellent organizational skills and a strong attention to detail;
- Effectively manage multiple priorities and related deadlines; and
- Have a commitment to maintaining and enhancing the academic strength and cultural diversity of the Law Center community
- A strong academic record that demonstrates potential for leading a successful law school academic support and success program;
- A J.D. or equivalent degree from an ABA-approved law school, with admission to a state bar in the United States;
- Substantial relevant legal experience, with a focus on legal analysis and writing (including a combination of public or private law practice, judicial clerkship, teaching or academic success delivery experience in an ABA-approved law school, or providing writing instruction in a law firm or an ABA-approved law school); and
- Demonstrated understanding of legal education (which may include experience in teaching legal writing and analysis, academic success, other law school teaching or law school administration).
- Experience in an ABA-approved law school’s academic success program; and
- Additional experience or an advanced degree in psychology, counseling or secondary or post-secondary education.
Interested applicants should provide a cover letter, resume, and three references to https://lsusystemcareers.lsu.edu (position number 027846). The Law Center will begin reviewing applications on December 18, 2012, and the position will remain open until filled. Inquiries may be directed to Professor Lee Ann Lockridge at email@example.com or 225-578-8689.
The LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center is an Equal Opportunity/Equal Access Employer
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Merriam Webster defines observation as:
1. to conform one's action or practice to (as a law, rite, or condition) : comply with
2. to inspect or take note of as an augury, omen, or presage
3. to celebrate or solemnize (as a ceremony or festival) in a customary or accepted way
4. a: to watch carefully especially with attention to details or behavior for the purpose of arriving at a judgment
b: to make a scientific observation on or of
5. to come to realize or know especially through consideration of noted facts
6. to utter as a remark
a: to take notice
People-watching is a fascinating pastime. My favorite people-watching venues are outdoor events like festivals, parades, or concerts. They are chockfull of interesting and diverse crowds. But, observation is not only passive entertainment or a fun diversion. Observation is a critical step in the scientific method and in the learning process.
During a scientific inquiry, one must gather information by first observing. Then, they must prove or disprove their hypothesis with observational evidence. Although closely tied to science, observation is an integral part of any discipline.
When we observe, we not only watch but we engage. We make judgments based on our observations and we realize or discover something new. In essence, we learn. We transfer prior thoughts, experiences, and preconceptions to new contexts. Most of this is done involuntarily. However, intentional observation can be extremely enlightening.
I have had the opportunity to become a deliberate observer this week. I say deliberate because as humans we are constantly observing our surroundings. However, we are not always taking notice of the things we see. Thus, merely seeing is immensely different than observing.
I was able to observe several 2Ls deliver their first appellate oral argument when I volunteered as a judge for the Legal Writing appellate arguments. While focusing on the substance of their case, I also paid close attention to how they presented their arguments. Specifically, I took notice of their demeanor in answering the panel’s questions, their professionalism in dealing with the court and arguments presented by opposing counsel, and their ability to move fluidly from questions from the bench back to their prepared outline.
As most of us know, adhering to courtroom etiquette and having a strong delivery can make the difference between winning or losing a case. We also know that subjective judgment occurs when assessing communication and can contribute to our impression of the objective content. While I did not let my personal preferences skew my ultimate ruling on the case, they did have a significant impact on how I evaluated each student's performance.
Much different from a courtroom, last week I also observed my daughter’s ballet class as it was “parent watch week”. Interestingly, much like my observation of oral arguments, during the ballet class I focused on how the dancers interacted, instead of concentrating on whether they were performing a tour jeté, pirouette, or grand plié. The dancer's form and positioning, their presence as a dancer, and their engagement with their instructor were significant elements in how I assessed their attitude, energy, and technique.
Noticing the world around us is such a gift but we rarely acknowledge it as such. We so easily fall into our daily routines and the monotony of our lives. We should take advantage of being coerced, cajoled, or granted a chance to observe. From these focused observations, I learned that I often overlook seemingly meaningless details. Instead, I now realize that we should embrace these details.
The details can teach us about ourselves, our interactions with others, and our preconceptions. They can teach us how to be empathetic, how to gain a particular skill, how to distinguish what is relevant from what is irrelevant and so much more. Ultimately, being mindfully observant allows us to be better decision makers, better students, and better teachers.
As teachers, we teach our students to pay close attention to the nuances of the law or the key facts in a hypo or a case. We too should walk the walk and take the time to observe. Try to observe students outside of class, prior to the start of class, and when they are working in groups during class. Are they interacting with each other, are they loners, do they appear engaged? We can use these observations to get to know our students and to understand how to best teach them. By paying attention, we are setting a good example and we may learn a thing or two.
I know this title sounds like a new Hollywood apocalyptic action film; but, it is not. Instead, this is the next step that I suggest repeat bar examinees take in their journey to passing the bar exam. Once these grads have processed their emotions regarding their bar results, they are ready to look toward the future.
Diagnosing weaknesses from their past exam is helpful so that they know how to effectively structure their study schedule for the upcoming exam. I read through their essays and look for accurate and complete issue identification, errors or law, and their use of key facts in their analysis. (The WA bar exam is currently essay-only.) I also pay close attention to their organizational framework and approach to each essay. I find that students with weak organization likely did not write enough practice essays. Or, they wrote practice essays during bar review; but, they either did not write the essays under testing conditions (closed-book and timed) or they did not evaluate their essays after writing them. I ask them to assess how they studied for the bar the first time and to think about ways they could improve their routine.
Delivering tough love is also a necessary part of this process. Sometimes delivering tough love along with pointing out their imperfections is too much for them to take in one sitting. One must tread lightly and gauge emotional stability when dealing with repeat bar exam takers. While you may hear Aaron Neville crooning the song “Tell it Like It Is” in the back of your mind, these repeat exam takers may not be prepared mentally to hear what you have to say. If you recognize that they have not already reached a level of acceptance with their results, they may not be ready to move forward with the rest of the meeting.
However, it is counterproductive to merely tell these grads what they want to hear. They are in my office for my honest opinion about what they did wrong and how they can remedy those defects. Thus, I offer constructive criticism and try to deliver it with a spoonful of sugar (…it helps the medicine go down). As mentioned in my earlier post, I always have a basket full of chocolate nearby and that seems to help.
Likely, there are high points in their exam file. I focus first on a good example or concentrate on a higher scored essay. Then, I move to an essay that may need more work. By evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, they have a better understanding of which features to maintain and which to change. In recognizing their strengths; they build confidence. In understanding their weaknesses, they build up their determination and resilience, which they will need in order to move forward.
Together, once we have diagnosed the flaws in their past exam and identified their strengths, I instruct them to put that exam away and stop thinking about it. They can no longer change what happened during that 2 day exam. It was a snapshot in their life, which will be filled with a million more. In order to move forward, one must let go of the past. It is time for them to destroy their self-doubt. It is time for them to destroy the negativity around their past experience. They cannot make a new plan without first destroying any uncertainty that they have in their ability to pass.