March 20, 2013
The Downward Slope
For most law schools, the semester is on the downward slope to exams - the midpoint for classes has passed. Students who have been putting things off are waking up to the fact that time is not on their side any longer.
Many law students whose Spring Breaks are over used the recent time away from class to catch up: outlines were started or completed, paper research was started or completed, and paper drafts were begun. Law students with Spring Break this week are planning the same machinations.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of the time left in the semester:
- Add to course outlines weekly so that new material is pulled together while it is still fresh.
- Write down all of your questions for each course and get them answered now: by classmates, by professors, or through study aids.
- List all of the topics and subtopics that must be learned for each exam course to get a realistic view of the amount of material.
- Estimate the amount of time needed to learn each topic already covered in class to the level needed to walk into the exam.
- Schedule learning that same older material for no more than two-thirds of the remaining class period; reserve the other weeks for learning the new material that has not yet been covered. For example, if there are six weeks left, try to learn the first eight or nine weeks of material in four weeks and reserve the remaining two weeks to learn brand new material. During the exam period, focus on the last one to two weeks of new material and review everything else.
- Do as many practice questions as possible for each exam course. However, it is ineffective to do practice questions on a topic before you have intensely studied it. Wait a few days after intensely studying a topic before you do practice questions - you want to see if you retained the information well enough to get the answers correct.
- Do not skip classes because professors will begin to give information about the final exams and pull material together.
- Also do not skip classes because the last few weeks are often heavily tested when the course builds over the semester.
- Expect every step for researching and writing a paper to take longer than you think it will. Plan your work accordingly.
- Leave ample time to edit your paper in stages for specific aspects rather than edit for everything at once. Stages might be for logic, grammar, punctuation, style, accurate quotations, citations, tables/exhibits, or other appropriate categories.
The last part of the semester will be more productive if there is a plan for using the time. Do not waste time just thinking about study tasks; start studying in earnest. (Amy Jarmon)
March 19, 2013
Several law students have recently bemoaned the pettiness and spitefulness of other law students. It is not uncommon in the midst of the competition and the quest for superiority that some law students denigrate others' intelligence or abilities or accomplishments. They think the put-downs show their own competence and lessen the other person's worth. They want to sabotage their competition with mean remarks.
In truth, the inferior ones are the law students who feel compelled to make such remarks, to taunt other law students, and to tout their own superiority. They are simply not nice people. And if it were not for the self-contained environment of the law school, everyone could easily avoid them.
Too often law students react to these toxic people in ways that encourage them rather than short-circuit their venom. Onlookers will snicker to feel accepted by these toxic students or to cover up their own insecurities. The fawning snickerers should beware; toxic law students don't have loyalty to anyone except themselves. One slip and the fawner today can be the target next week.
Other law students stand by silently and say nothing even though they know the behavior is unacceptable. They don't want to get involved. They don't want to tell the toxic law student to apologize or to leave the other person alone. They could counter the snide remark with a positive one to the student who has just been put down. Or they could even befriend the student who is the target.
How sad that the people who are some day going to be officers of the court and supposedly uphold justice and protect the vulnerable are so unwilling to act professionally during law school. The toxic ones will probably turn into the arrogant partners who bully new associates and paralegals. The fawners will continue to be spineless ingratiators in practice. The silent onlookers will continue to not take a stand once they are admitted to the bar.
Fortunately, there are some law students who know the difference between right and wrong and will come to the defense of others. Instead of fuming later, they will intervene at the time. They will be polite, even diplomatic, but stand up for what is appropriate behavior among professionals.
Some law students will likely comment that nothing can be done and that it is just the way law school is. However, each law student's individual actions can impact the atmosphere of a law school. If each person who does not like the toxic behavior that develops in law schools were to oppose that behavior, law schools would be less stressful places for everyone. (Amy Jarmon)
March 18, 2013
Academic dishonesty and academic distress
Many law students and law professors think the student most likely to be involved in academic dishonesty is the gunnar. The gunnar will do anything to get ahead, including cheating or plagiarizing materials. The gunnar is the student that either impresses or annoys the professor, and either annoys or terrorizes classmates. The gunnar cheats because they want to be number one, and don't care how they become number one.
As an ASP professional, I see a different type of student involved in academic dishonesty, the student who is not deliberately breaking the rules, but is willing to do anything to survive. This is the student who will take any advice about how to succeed, because they know they are barely keeping their head above water. Unfortunately, this is also the type of student who is trying so many different strategies, that they fall behind in their legal writing projects or homework assignments for class. In desperation, they copy from commercial sources, copy from models of legal writing assignments, and break rules about collaboration on graded assignments. Unlike the gunnar, this type of student doesn't always see what they are doing as dishonest. Because they don't understand why they don't understand what is being taught, they assume everyone must be using these methods to survive.They rationalize their choices, which blinds them to the depth of their challenges.
I find that this type of student is sometimes the most difficult for an ASP professional. Oftentimes, we have built a strong relationship with the struggling student, and we know how hard they are trying. We see the student as a someone doing everything they can to succeed, so we blind overselves to the possibility that they may be turning in materials that are not their true work product. It is only when another professor turns the student in for breaking the honor code or academic policy that we see what they student has been doing.
It is important for ASP professionals to recognize that some of our most beloved students, the students we see trying so hard to succeed, are also capable of academic dishonesty. It does not serve the student or the profession to overlook their actions. It is emotionally difficult to confront a student about academic dishonesty, but it is essential to their personal and professional development. (RCF)