Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, May 4, 2012

ASP and prospective law students

An interesting issue was discussed on the ASP listserv recently. Carlota Toledo of Indiana-McKinney School of Law brought up the issue of declining law school enrollment and the impact this will have on ASP. I work with undergrads and in law school ASP; this issue is not  an abstraction for me. I spend part of my day, everyday, working with undergraduates who are exploring legal education as a post-graduate option. As I have previously discussed, this is not something we can afford to ignore. Law school deans have already spoken out about the rising cost of running a law school, as well as the challenges of providing increasing levels of services to students. Because ASP professionals are more vulnerable to budget cuts due to less job security, this is an issue that all of us should be discussing and addressing in conferences. We cannot afford to stick out heads in the sand, or hope that it will be somebody else's problem.

Personally, I can attest to the significant drop-off in interest in law school among students with high LSAT's and UGPA's. These students have paid attention to the news, they read the blogs, and they have other options besides law school. An unprecedented number of them have told me they are changing their plans and either not going to law school at all, or they are taking a wait-and-see approach, where they explore other options (Teach for America, Peace Corp, internships abroad) until a legal education guarantees a substantial return on investment. My strong-but-not elite students are taking a different approach; they are only considering law schools that discount tuition by half or more. Many of them are willing to walk away from the idea of being a lawyer if it means more than 40 or 50k in debt from law school loans. These students are still going to law school in significant numbers, but they will not be generating much, if any, revenue for law schools.

Why is this relevant to ASP? The only group of students who are not reconsidering their plans to go to law school are the ones who have no other options. I have seen no decline in interest in law school among students with mediocre to poor UGPAs and LSATs. They cannot get a job in this economy, and many of them have substantial undergraduate loan debt that they cannot pay after graduation. A handful of these students will do very well in law school, because the reason for their lackluster academic performance thus far was due to events outside of their control (death in the family, health issues that have been resolved). The majority of these students are going to struggle in law school. Their sub-par academic performance was due to a sub-par work ethic and a lack of maturity. These students are going straight from undergrad to law school, without the time to grow into themselves and gain the maturity and insight that is necessary to compete in law school. ASP is going to be a lifeline for these students. They are the students most likely to reject help until they are in crisis, and they will be the most reluctant to accept that they need remedial support because they did not learn essential skills in college. ASP needs to plan for the arrival of these students and develop strategies for working with these students.

We are facing the unprecedented convergence of twin challenges: a decline in enrollment and accompanying decline in revenue, and an increased need for our services. (RCF)

May 4, 2012 in Academic Support Spotlight, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Latest E-mail from Kent Lollis re: LSAC Academic Assistance Training Workshop

Dear Academic Assistance Professionals, Law School Admission Deans and Directors, and Minority Networkers:

This is a reminder that the priority deadline for registering for the 2012 LSAC Academic Assistance Training Workshop is May 7, 2012.  Please remember that enrollment is limited.  If there is space available after the initial registration period, there will be a lottery for open spots. The lottery will occur on May 9, 2012.   If you have any questions about registration, please contact Yusuf Abdul-Kareem,, 215-504-1488. 

The Planning Committee has selected the following theme and sessions for this Workshop: 

The Future is Now: Planning Today for the Next Twenty Years of Academic Assistance 

Plenary Sessions:

•             The Evolution and Future of Academic Assistance

•             Who Are Our Students

•             Establishing Learning Outcomes & Assessment Methods

•             Planning Strategically for Tomorrow and Beyond 

Concurrent Sessions:

•             Who We Will Be Serving - Future Demographics of the Students

•             New Innovations in Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

•              Reducing the Effects of Stereotype Threat and Other Barriers that Hinder Students from Diverse Backgrounds

•             Evaluating and Diagnosing Student Performance

•              Teaching Students to Become Better Learners

•              Counseling Students on Academic and Non-Academic Issues

•              Integrating Academic Assistance with the Casebook Classroom

•             Developing a Classroom Outcome & Assessment Plan

•             Developing an Institutional Outcome & Assessment Plan

•             Developing Your Program’s Strategic Plan

•             Implementing an Institutional Culture and Climate of Inclusion

•              Where to Find AAP resources

•             Supervising and Managing Your Staff

•              Allocating Limited Resources for Solo & Small Staff Departments

•             Everything You Want to Know About Scholarship and Didn’t Know to Ask

•             Exploring the Life Cycle of AAP Professionals 

Attached below is the link to registration information for the Workshop.

May 2, 2012 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ten Quick Tips for Exam Takers

Here are ten things that can improve your performance as an exam taker.  Each of these tips can boost your focus, organization, or time management:

  • About a week before the exam, condense your outline for a course to 5 or 10 pages of the most important material.  Learn that shorter version very well. 
  • Several days before the exam, condense that shorter version of your outline to a skeleton outline of headings and sub-headings (no more than the front and back of a sheet of paper for the entire course).  Memorize that version.  When the exam proctor says you may begin, write that checklist down on scrap paper and use it as a guide as you answer the exam questions.
  • For essay exams: Once the proctor says that you may begin the exam, make a time chart for yourself on scrap paper so that you can stay on track within the exam time allowed.  For each essay question, allot yourself 1/3 of the question time for reading, analyzing and organizing your answer.  Allot yourself 2/3 of the question time for writing the answer.  Thus, for a one-hour exam question, you will use 20 minutes for the first steps and 40 minutes for writing.  If you begin the question at 1:00 p.m., you will finish your first steps at 1:20 p.m. and begin writing; you will end writing at 2:00 p.m. 
  • For multiple-choice or true-false exams: Once the proctor says that you may begin the exam, make a time chart for yourself on scrap paper so that you can stay on track within the exam time allowed.  Allot yourself checkpoint times for the number of questions that you should have completed.  For example, if I must complete 60 questions in two hours, I might set up six checkpoints.  If the exam starts at 1:00 p.m., I should have completed 10 questions at 1:20 p.m., 20 questions by 1:40 p.m., 30 questions by 2:00 p.m., 40 questions by 2:20 p.m., 50 questions by 2:40 p.m., and all 60 questions by 3:00 p.m. 
  • If you want review time in your time chart to go back over the exam, you will need to reserve review time out of the total exam time.  You will then distribute the remaining time in the exam accordingly within the essay or multiple-choice chart for the exam.  If you have a three-hour exam and want to reserve 30 minutes to go back over your answers, you will distribute 2 1/2 hours among the actual time to work on the exam questions as indicated in the last two bullet points. 
  • You will be better prepared for your exams if you do as many practice questions as possible during your studying.  Choose practice questions of the type that your professor will have on the exam.  Increase the difficulty in the questions as you approach the exam day. 
  • When you do practice questions for essay exams during the time leading up to the exam, complete at least some of the questions under timed conditions.  Treat them just like the real exam questions.  Read, analyze, and organize; then write.  Practice your timing formula.
  • When you do practice questions for multiple-choice or true-false exams during the time leading up to the exam, complete under timed conditions at one sitting at least half the number of questions you expect on the exam.  Practice your timing checkpoints and pace during the questions.
  • Open-book exams are a trap.  You will not have time to look everything up.  You need to study for the exam basically as if it were a closed-book exam so that you are confident with the material.  Any items that your professor will allow you to have during the exam should be strategically used within the guidelines that you were given.  Know exactly what your professor defines as accessible during an open-book exam; you do not want to make a mistake under the honor code for your law school.
  • Get a good night's sleep for several inghts before an exam.  You want to be awake and alert during the exam.  Staying up for extra long hours the night before will not help.  And you might oversleep!  Eat a nutritious meal before the exam to give your brain cells fuel.  If possible with your exam schedule, take two or three hours off after an exam to relax before going back to studying. 

All the best wishes to law students getting ready for their exams.  Take one day at a time and do the best you can each day.  Then just move on to the next study day and next exam.  You cannot fix what has already passed, but you can control what is ahead of you.  (Amy Jarmon) 

May 1, 2012 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 30, 2012

TED-Ed as a Teaching Tool

Many of you are probably already aware of the TED education video/flipped lessons website.  If not, you want to check it out.  An article in today's Chronicle of Higher Education talks about TED and a link to the website is here: TED-Ed .  Although the lessons that are already on the website are not particularly useful for law, the ability to flip You Tube videos and make lessons is potentially useful.  (Amy Jarmon) 

April 30, 2012 in Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Are you looking for a first job in ASP?

As is the case every year at this time, postings for ASP jobs are beginning to proliferate.  Some of the openings are brand new positions; some of the openings result from retirements, moves to other law schools, or changes in career focus. 

If you are applying for ASP jobs for the first time, I would like to make some observations that may be helpful to you as you approach your job search.  Whether you are a recent law graduate, an attorney leaving practice, or an academic changing paths, there are some things that you need to know.

ASP positions vary greatly throughout the law school landscape.  They run the gamut of part-time to full-time, tenure-track to administrative, ASP alone to ASP with bar prep and/or writing centers, one-person offices to multi-layered staffing, entry-level positions to experience-required positions.  The positions might report to Academic Affairs or to Student Affairs or to a faculty committee.

The salaries for ASP positions will reflect that law school landscape as well.  Unfortunately, unlike our colleagues in legal writing, we are rarely privy to the salary range from the job ad that is provided.  The wide range of salaries in ASP work makes it especially hard to know whether a position for which you are applying is even realistic for your salary requirements.  If you are looking at positions in diverse geographical areas, your search is complicated even more with cost-of-living considerations.  Add differences in state and local tax rates, benefits packages, and real-estate markets to your list of considerations.

Your status as an ASP'er will also vary.  At some law schools, you will be an equal with faculty because of your tenure-track status.  At other law schools, you may be treated like a faculty member in many ways except the formal ones: promotion, retention, tenure, and voting rights.  And at other law schools, you will be treated as a staff member of lesser status.

The ASP program components will vary depending on the school as well: individual sessions, workshops, formal classes, and more.  The students who will receive services may be at-risk, probation, or all students.  There may be services for students in all three years, a focus on 1Ls, or special segments of your program designed for different populations in each year.

At some law schools, you will be encouraged to publish and teach outside the confines of ASP.  Other schools will see you as purely an ASP person and confine your classroom involvement to those areas of expertise - no matter your actual additional practice expertise.  Some law schools will not allow you to have a classroom presence at all.

You will serve on law school (and maybe even university-wide) committees in one situation. You may have service opportunities for your law school in the wider community even (for example, with a pipeline partnership with the local school district).   Another law school may not require your service at all for anything because only faculty and higher-level administrators are on committees.

At some law schools you will have a carved-in-stone-never-to-vary budget line for your program.  At other places you will justify your budget line anew each year, but have a budget line that you know ahead of time for the year.  At other law schools you will have to go hat in hand for every dollar you need throughout the year.  In some situations, you will be a miracle worker creating programs without resources.

Your facilities might include spaces for multiple staff, classrooms, conference rooms, library space, and other dedicated spaces at many schools.  At other schools, you will have an office space alone that doubles as your space for other duties if you are a part-timer.

Professional development and travel funds will be budgeted for you at some law schools.  Other law schools will have you apply on a case-by-case basis for approval.  Yet other schools will place you at the bottom of the queue for such funding. 

In other words, "it depends" is the mantra for what an ASP position entails.  Each position will have a different experience for you as an ASP'er.  You want to read job ads carefully.  Investigate the parameters of ASP at the specific law school.  Determine where you will fit in professionally.  Determine what the resources are available for the position.  Determine what avenues there will be for your professional growth.  In short, do not make assumptions or take anything for granted because of what you are familiar with at your alma mater or in a friend's ASP program.

ASP work is terrific.  It is rewarding and vital.  However, it is also hard work.  The extras of professional development and service often come out of your overtime hours.  You will not get rich.  There may be detractors if your status is not equal to faculty.  But the incentive is that you will make a huge difference in students' lives.  (Amy Jarmon)       

April 29, 2012 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)