Wednesday, July 31, 2013

So many books, so little time...What to choose?

Many new ASP professors are in the midst of choosing books for their growing ASP library, or a text to help them teach an ASP course. The choices are amazing; there are hundreds of good ASP books out there. In the past, Amy, Dan and I have reviewed ASP books. There are now so many, and so many coming out soon, that it is impossible to keep up with them all. So for people new to ASP, I am going to tell you what I am teaching with this year, and why I chose these three books. This list is personal and somewhat idiosyncratic; there are, easily, ten other books I could have chosen that are as good as the books I chose for this semester.

For orientation: RuthAnn McKinney's Reading Like a Lawyer

Writing is thinking. Before a student can write well, they need to understand what they are reading. I chose Reading Like a Lawyer because it starts with the most fundamental skill, essential to success in all classes: reading cases, efficiently and thoroughly. I will be using Reading Like a Lawyer for the first several weeks of our required introductory skills class for incoming students after we start the book during orientation. Another good book if you want to start with a skill-building book during orientation is Plain English for Lawyers.

For our OneL (introductory skills) class: Barry Friedman and John Goldberg's Open Book

Open Book is one of the newer ASP books. I chose this book for the second 2/3rds of our required  introductory skills class, OneL. I chose this book because it is relatively short, straightforward, and it gives stellar advice on exam prep and exam-taking skills. I wanted a short(er) book for the second part of the course because students are going to overwhelmed by reading and studying for exams, and OneL is a p/f course. If I chose a longer book, I doubt students would read before class. However, it was a tough call between Open Book, John Dernbach's Writing Essay Exams to Succeed (Not Just Survive), and the late Charles Whitebread's The Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance in Law School. However, if I was not starting with Reading Like a Lawyer in OneL, I would have seriously considered Herb Ramy's Succeeding in Law School, Charles Calleros' Law School Exams, or Susan Darrow Kleinhaus' Mastering the Law School Exam.

As a (required) supplemental to my Property course: Jeremy Paul and Michael Fischl's Getting to Maybe

I am teaching Property to third-semester, part-time evening students. Getting to Maybe is, in my experience, the very best book out there for teaching advanced exam skills. I would NOT recommend Getting to Maybe during the first semester of law school; students must have some experience with law school exams before this book can be helpful.  I have a second caveat; ideally, this book should be taught, not just recommended, which is why I make it required reading for my Property class. I am embedding the lessons from the book into my lesson plans on doctrinal material. This book should be taught instead of recommended because it teaches advanced skills and dismisses foundational skills that are essential to success. I always cringe when I read the pages that dismiss IRAC; IRAC is an essential skill, and it is misunderstood by the authors. Students who are struggling with basic exam skills misunderstand the dismissal of IRAC; they take it to mean IRAC is useless. Students cannot discuss “forks in the facts” if they don’t understand they need to start with an issue statement, and a broad statement of the rule at issue. However, when the lessons from this book are discussed, given context, and explained, students gain a more nuanced, thorough understanding of exam writing. Despite my caveats, this is the best book on the market for advanced exam skills.

(RCF)

July 31, 2013 in Advice, Books, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thoughts on starting at a new school

After a 2 month absence, I am back on the blog, and a huge thank you to Amy for covering for me while I was moving!

One of the things I noticed as I was perusing past posts is the number of ASP positions that have opened up recently. Several schools will be hiring new people in the coming months, and here are my preliminary, abbreviated thoughts on starting in a new position in ASP:

1) Figure out the reporting structure:

You need to know who you will report to, and if that is a different person from the one that writes your evaluation. In past positions, I have reported to the head of legal writing, the assistant dean for academic affairs, the dean of students, and the dean of the law school. You need to know if the person who gives you assignments also writes your evaluation.

2) When you know who you report to, make sure you know what their priorities are:

It's great to hit the ground running, but it's not so helpful if you come with a stellar plan for 1L ASP when your supervisor really wants you to focus on bar prep, 2L remediation, or intro to law/orientation programs. Before you start planning, you need to figure out where you should be spending the bulk of your time and energy.

3) Know the evaluation structure:

At some schools, this is anything but transparent. Know who is evaluating you, and how you will be evaluated. Ask a lot of questions if evaluations are a black box of opacity--opacity is not always a bad thing. I've  worked at a school where evaluations were never talked about with supervisors; if there was a problem, they let me know early so I could fix the issue and move on. At that school, evaluations were not the time to discuss performance--performance was an ongoing topic of discussion, because growth was an ongoing project. I've been at (one) other school were opacity was a terrible thing; evaluations were subjective and designed to humiliate, so everyone knew who was "boss" at the law school. The evaluation structure was whatever the evaluator wanted to use, from any period of time.

4) Know what your admin. assistant/secretary can and cannot do for you:

Your admin will be your lifesaver or your worst enemy; try, try, try not to make your admin your worst enemy. Ask colleagues what your admin can and cannot do for you. Some law schools have one faculty secretary, and that person is overworked, yelled at, and stressed out all the time--do not make their life harder than it already is. Other law schools have several admins, and you are expected to delegate many tasks to them. But you cannot assume the latter; ask your colleagues.

5) Know where to get lunch, and if people lunch together (or, get to know the social culture):

The social culture of a school is critical; if you misread the social culture, it can damn you professionally. The social culture at UMass is wonderful--relaxed, and collegial. Uconn-Storrs (distinct from the law school) had a much more formal social culture, but one that was incredibly welcoming, warm and genuine. Uconn-Storrs has a very unique culture; everyone lunches together, everyday, at noon, in a conference room.  Few law schools do this, but it was fantastic. I learned the informal rules of the office that way; I learned who to ask for what, when; and I learned how I could help people. One of the things I will miss most about UConn is lunching with colleagues everyday.

I am sure I will have much more to add about starting at a new school. But for now, I need to get back to writing a new syllabus and reading for my upcoming Property class. (RCF)

 

July 30, 2013 in Advice, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Director of Academic Support Position at Washburn

Washburn University School of Law invites applicants for a faculty position as Director of Academic
Support.  This is a tenure-track position which includes teaching responsibilities.  The duties of the Director would include designing and administering a comprehensive academic support program for law students.  J.D. Degree and strong academic credentials required; prior academic support of law school teaching experience preferred.  Washburn University School of Law values diversity and encourages
applicants whose backgrounds would enrich the school.  Review of applications will begin immediately
and continue until the position is filled.  Interested candidates should send a resume, listing three references, and a cover letter.  (All faculty appointments are contingent upon funding.)  Contact:  Professor Nancy G. Maxwell, Chair, Faculty Recruitment Committee, Washburn University School of
Law, 1700 College Avenue, Topeka, KS 66621. Email: nancy.maxwell@washburn.edu

July 28, 2013 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)