Friday, September 21, 2012
This week on the Balance in Legal Education listser, Larry Krieger at Florida State University School of Law provided a link to a website that may be of interest to ASP'ers. I have included Larry's listserv post below. Thank you, Larry, for the resource. (Amy Jarmon)
"FSU (main university, not the law school) just distributed this link, which connects to many, many fascinating people and topics regarding ‘contemplative practices’ (and education). The scope is broad, depending on the links selected – broad in the sense of practices included (meditation, contemplation, reflection, mindfulness, dance, writing, etc.) and ways of integrating such into a course or program for students. These are all eminently qualified educators and professionals, with quite different (but not inconsistent) approaches and perspectives. Enjoy. Larry
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Law students spend a great deal of time on their case briefs while preparing for class. They then listen carefully in class and take copious notes. But sometimes in the hurry to get on to the next reading and briefing assignment, they forget to take time after class and compare their briefs to the professor's class discussion. By critiquing afterwards, the briefs can become tools to see how one can do a better job of analysis for the next case.
One professor may go into great detail on all aspects of a case while another professor will just hit the highlights of the same case. Each professor is different, so a student's brief may include more or less detail depending on how the professor teaches and what questions typically come up in class. Students' briefs will also differ in length and format because of their learning styles.
Despite these factors, students still should to use their case briefs as a learning tool for how to become more adept at analyzing and briefing cases. Student want to learn how to select all of the correct essentials for a brief rather than including too much that is extraneous or too little that ignores important points. Critiquing ones briefs increases one's ability to find the balance needed.
Take the facts section, for example. One wants to be able to differentiate between the legally significant facts and the storytelling facts in the case. The court usually includes both types of facts because the reader needs to know the facts that relate to the court's holding as well as enough facts to understand the scenario of the case.
If a brief includes all of the facts given, then it is not making the distinction about what is important. If a brief includes too few facts, then it may miss the legal significance of some facts.
By analyzing why one missed some facts that the professor emphasized as important to the outcome, one gains greater understanding on how to spot legally significant facts among the overall facts. By asking oneself why the professor left out some facts that the student thought were important, one begins to see why some facts are merely storytelling facts and not necessary to the legal analysis.
Next think about the issue in the brief. Student issue statements are often too narrow or too broad rather than in line with the professor's version. Issue statements that are too narrow restrict the court's question to fewer legal scenarios than are meant to be included. Issue statements that are too broad apply the question to more situations than are meant to be encompassed. Because the holding is the answer to the issue, an incorrect issue statement will then be mirrored in an incorrect statement of the holding of the case.
By evaluating why one's statement is too broad or too narrow, the student learns how to understand the court's specific purview and the reach of the law. One learns how to analyze the impact the case will actually have.
Because casebooks edit cases for a specific teaching purpose, students may not realize initially that cases are often far more complex than what is being assigned for the reading. They may not be aware that there are multiple issues in a case.
Also consider the reasoning section in the brief. Students sometimes miss the logic of the case because they skip steps in their briefs rather than delineate the entire reasoning process of the court. They mistakenly focus on just getting to the holding rather than learning how courts reason so they know how one would argue a client's position.
By evaluating whether one left out steps in the reasoning or misunderstood the importance of various aspects of the discussion, the student learns to work through the analysis logically and to weigh the importance of arguments. One's ability to reason persuasively increases as one gains knowledge in how courts make their decisions.
A student may find that critiquing her briefs indicates where the problem is but then the student is unsure how to fix it. For example, the issue statements may be frequently wrong, but the student may not see why and what to do differently. I would suggest that the student visit with the professor during office hours and show the professor a selection of briefs with issue problems. The professor is likely to see the pattern of error and be able to make suggestions to correct it. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Annual Scholarship Conference
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
The Central States Law Schools Association 2012 Scholarship Conference will be held October 19 and 20, 2012 at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, in Cleveland, Ohio. We invite law faculty from across the country to submit proposals to present papers or works in progress.
The purpose of CSLSA is to foster scholarly exchanges among law faculty across legal disciplines. The annual CSLSA conference is a forum for legal scholars, especially more junior scholars, to present working papers or finished articles on any law-related topic in a relaxed and supportive setting where junior and senior scholars from various disciplines are available to comment. More mature scholars have an opportunity to test new ideas in a less formal setting than is generally available for their work.
To allow scheduling of the conference, please send an abstract of no more than 500 words to Secretary Missy Lonegrass at Missy.Lonegrass@law.lsu.edu by September 22, 2012. Any late submissions will be considered on a space available basis only.
For those who are interested, the CSLSA mentorship program pairs interested junior scholars with more senior mentors in their fields of expertise to provide feedback on their presentations or papers. To participate in the mentorship program as either a mentor or mentee, please contact Vice-President Elizabeth Young at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In keeping with tradition, CSLSA is able to pay for one night’s lodging for presenters from member schools. If a school is interested in joining CSLSA and has not received an invoice, please contact Treasurer Carolyn Dessin at email@example.com.
For more information about CSLSA, visit our website at http://cslsa.us/.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Some of my students struggle with getting their work done in a timely manner. They succumb to electronic distractions: cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail. They take 2 - 3 hour naps. They allow a 2-hour reading assignment to bleed over into 3 hours. They wander around the law school chatting with friends.
Setting up accountability mechanisms works well for many of these students. They lack self-discipline, but can meet expectations when someone else is going to monitor what they do. Some examples of accountability strategies are:
- Students with major papers to write can set up a series of deadlines when they will confer with their professors or turn in certain work (if the professor is willing): topic discussion; outline of initial research; initial bibliography; first drafts of each paper section.
- Probation students meet weekly with me and know that I will ask about their reading and briefing, outlining, writing progress, and reviewing for exams each time I see them. Having to be accountable keeps most of them on track.
- Married students post their study schedules on the refrigerator at home so that their spouses know when they should be studying rather than watching television. They give their spouses permission to monitor their time and hold them accountable if they are not adhering to the schedule.
- A law student will ask a classmate to help them stick to a study schedule. The student gives the classmate permission to call them to account if they are wandering around chatting, taking too many breaks, or avoiding an assignment.
- A law student agrees to meet another law student at the library for several hours of individual study so that the appointment is incentive to show up and study instead of doing other things.
- A law student joins a study group that has a weekly agenda of review topics and practice questions that each member agrees to complete individually before the study group meets.
- A student calls a significant other or parent every evening and gives that person permission to ask what they accomplished that day in studying.
- A student uses one of the on-line time management programs to monitor use of time so that it is readily apparent how much time was used for studying versus breaks and other tasks.
Most students do not want to disappoint others even though they regularly disappoint themselves on study tasks. If accountability provides the initial way for a student to break bad habits regarding starting or completing study tasks, then the law student should take advantage of the willingness of others to help them stay on track. In time, studying will hopefully become a matter of self-discipline. All of them will need self-discipline in practice! (Amy Jarmon)