Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, January 25, 2013

Using "Positive Procrastination" in ASP

An essential part of ASP is dealing with students who have problems with procrastination.  There are two types of procrastinators; positive procrastinators and toxic procrastinators. Toxic procastinators are easy to spot; they just don't get the work done on time. They have a million excuses. Toxic procrastinators usually have psychological issues, like an intense fear of failure or issues with perfectionism, that are beyond the scope of a typical ASP, and need the intervention of a mental health professional. The New York Times has a wonderful article on positive, or productive, procrastinators. Positive procrastinators, according to Robert Benchley, "can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” In law schools, we can also break this down further: positive procrastinators who limit themselves to law-related work, and positive procrastinators who do everything possible to avoid law-related work. The first group are remarkably productive, if always stressed out. Their outlines will be done a month in advance, but only because it allowed them to avoid writing their law review note. In my experience, most of these positive procrastinators see us in ASP because of stress. Their grades do not suffer from this form of procrastination, but their sanity and close associates suffer a great deal.

The second group of procrastinators are common in ASP classes and workshops; they will do anything, as long as it is not law-related work (I am defining law-related work as reading, homework, outlines, resumes, cover letters, and other essential tasks). They will  take on leadership roles in every law school club or team sport. They will initiate fundraisers and chair student committees. They will often have significant, out-of-school commitments that they insist they must oblige. Superficially, these students seem to be the most productive students on campus. Underneath all this productivity is an intense desire to avoid doing the work that needs to be done to succeed in law school. These students need to stay involved, but also need to be persuaded to drop some commitments. They need to make to-do lists, and they must include law-related work. It also helps if these students can share why they feel like they need to overextend themselves; ask them to discuss what is most important to them. Law school is usually one of their priorities, but they don't know how to succeed academically, so they try to succeed in extracurricular. These students can become positive, productive procrastinators if they modify their schedules; they can also become toxic procrastinators if they feel they can not succeed academically.


January 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I Forgot to Attend Civil Procedure -- All Semester!!!!

I had my Civil Procedure dream the other night. Ever since law school, I have had a recurring dream that I was enrolled in Civil Procedure but forgot to attend it until the week before finals.

What is it about law school that so unnerves us? I graduated, passed two bars, practiced without committing malpractice that I know of, and became a professor.

But still I regularly dream that I forgot to attend Civil Procedure and have to take the final exam. My professor is going to be so mad.

Do you worry that you are a failure? Me, too, sometimes. Do you think you have no business in this profession? Me, too, sometimes.

The trick is to refuse to believe your fears. Press forward and learn well. Keep going and find that perfect fit for yourself in this profession. Do not aim low when it comes to jobs -- aim high for the perfect fit and take what comes. What is the worst that can happen? You don't get the high flying job of your dreams? You will find the right job if you stay persistent.

When you do not get the "perfect offer" from some firm or agency, just say what I always say: I've been thrown out of nicer joints than this. Then laugh off the fears and aim high again.

Dan Weddle

January 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Asst. Dean of Student Success position at Charlotte Law

Assistant Dean position open at Charlotte School of Law


Charlotte School of Law is seeking qualified applicants for the position of Assistant Dean of Student Success.  The Assistant Dean position oversees the management of Charlotte Law’s Academic Success and Bar Preparation functions.  The position carries faculty status with eligibility for long-term renewable contracts.  Visit their website ( and click the “Join Our Team” link at the top of the page for official details and how to apply.


Professor Christopher Woodyard is currently serving in the position on an interim basis and will be happy to discuss the role/team with interested individuals.  You can email him directly at

January 24, 2013 in Job Descriptions, Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Academic Success Counselor Position at Valparaiso

Valparaiso University Law School is pleased to announce an opening for the position of Academic Success Counselor.  Those interested may contact Bethany Lesniewski, Director of Academic Success, with any questions regarding this position, but should apply formally through the Human Resources website:  


Please see below for the position description or click the link to the job posting:


Valparaiso University Law School


Valparaiso University Law School invites applicants for the position of Academic Success Counselor.  


Valparaiso University Law School is located in Northwest Indiana and is part of a residential community with excellent public schools and other resources.  It is approximately ten miles from Lake Michigan and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as well as one hour from downtown Chicago.


The law school is an integral part of Valparaiso University, a Lutheran affiliated institution founded in 1859 and known for its outstanding liberal arts education and professional programs.  For more information about Valparaiso University Law School, see


Valparaiso University Law School is looking for an Academic Success Counselor.  The duties of the position include, but are not limited to, teaching academic study skills to currently enrolled Valparaiso University law students, counseling students on academic and bar exam success skills and attorney licensing requirements, and advising graduates studying for the bar examination.


Responsibilities Include:

  • Assists in counseling and advising new students, students on academic probation, students "at risk", and any other student seeking to improve academic performance and/or other academic issues including course scheduling social influences, etc.
  • Prepares and presents academic success workshops for 1L students during the fall and spring semesters. Assists in planning and executing new student orientation.
  • Develops lesson plans and teaches the Legal Method course for 1L students on academic probation.
  • In conjunction with the Director of Academic Success, directs the Dean's Fellow's program. Recruits, trains, and supervises the Dean's fellows. Evaluates the success of the program through student evaluations and other means.
  • Assists students in reviewing answers to practice exams and provides advice regarding exam strategy, including bar exam essays and strategies.
  • Tracks the academic progress of "at risk" students on academic probation. Assists the Director in maintaining the Academic Success website.
  • Perform all other duties assigned by the Director of Academic Success.


Please upload cover letter, resume and professional references when applying for this position.

Cover letters may be addressed to:

Bethany Lesniewski, Director of Academic Success

School of Law
Valparaiso University
Valparaiso, IN  46383

Employment will require a background check.


Required Skills

  • Excellent verbal, written, and interpersonal communication skills.
  • Demonstrated commitment to cultural diversity and the ability to work with individuals or groups from diverse backgrounds.

Required Experience


  • J.D. degree from an ABA accredited law school with a strong academic record is required.
  • Have at least one (1) year of academic experience in either law school teaching, counseling, or bar exam tutoring is preferred.
  • Must be a member of a state bar who has successfully completed a bar examination.
  • Strong academic and professional qualifications, as well as a demonstrated interest in teaching students with diverse backgrounds.
  • Ability to establish and maintain positive working relationships with faculty, staff, law school affiliates and guests.
  • Ability to use initiative and independent judgment within established policy and procedural guidelines.
  • Ability to handle and keep confidential a variety of different student questions and concerns.

Job Location

Valparaiso, Indiana, United States

Position Type



January 23, 2013 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Back to Basics

Students who fail to perform as well as they would like in the first semester have often made a critical mistake early on in their law school experiences: they have not thoroughly briefed the assigned cases. They hear from others that they need only the facts and the rule and a one-paragraph rationale, and they embrace that approach wholeheartedly. Many times, they realize they can capture all three by merely highlighting parts of the text.

The problem, of course, is that they have failed to process the cases deeply on the one hand, and have created no record of the critical steps in the reasoning on the other. Therefore, they must get back to basics, but they have largely forgotten what those basics might have been.

Below are briefing steps I teach my students and insist on for those asking for or needing academic support. Because these steps form the basis for other critical strategies, I insist that students follow them if they are working with me. They should complete the steps for the majority opinion and repeat the reasoning steps for concurrences and dissents.

Begin with SPRS

Step 1 -- (S) Skim

Skim through the case looking for headings that may be helpful in giving a quick overview of the opinion.

Step 2 -- (P) Preread

Read the first sentence of each paragraph of the case. This step will take only a couple of minutes, even for lengthy cases. The result will be that you will have read most of the key concepts and will have a general grasp of the case before actually reading it. Details will make more sense, and the logic will jump out more easily.

Step 3 -- (R) Read

Read the case straight through, placing a dot in the margin next to each idea that seems important in the court's reasoning. Do not place dots next to facts because you have no real idea which facts are critical to the portion of the case excerpted for your casebook. Focus on reasoning, and do not worry if you find that nearly every sentence has a dot after it.

Step 4 -- (S) Summarize

Begin your brief by converting each dot into a numbered sentence under the heading "reasoning." As you reread the sentences you have marked, make a decision whether you still believe the concept is important enough to keep. In other words, could you use that concept to resolve a similar legal issue on an exam? If so, put it in your brief as a discreet concept. You should end up with a list of important principles, steps in the logic, tests, definitions, etc., instead of a vague paragraph that describes generally what the case means.

Complete Your Brief

Step 5 -- Identify the Holding

The holding is the specific result for the litigants in the case.

Step 6 -- Identify the Rule

The case has been chosen for the casebook because it articulates and applies some key rule or corollary rule. You should find the key rule in your reasoning section and can generally copy and paste under "Rule."

Step 7 -- Identify the Material Facts

Capture, as briefly as possible, the critical facts that will trigger the story for you in the future. The critical facts are those on which the decision turned. One way to think about critical facts is to decide which facts, if they had not existed, would have changed the outcome of the case.

Step 8 -- Additional Possibilities

You can add whatever else you find helpful. For example, many highly successful law students add a short personal reaction to the case or to its dissents or concurrences.

Dan Weddle

January 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Planning Your Finances for the Bar Exam

An important piece of your bar exam preparation has nothing to do with Torts, Family Law, or Criminal Law.  It has to do with planning ahead to ensure that you have a budget in place to pay for the expense of taking the bar exam.  

A few ideas to get you started with your Bar Study Financial Plan:

  • Create a budget that incorporates your bar review expenses.  Make sure to include your bar review course fee, your bar exam application fees, examsoft fees if applicable, MPRE registration fees, your hotel/transportation during the administration of the bar exam, and living expenses while studying for the bar exam.
  • Save a designated amount of money each month for your bar review.  Put this money in a separate account or a “cookie jar” so that you do not unintentionally (or intentionally) spend it on something else.  Try to make sure that you have scheduled enough months of saving to cover your projected expenses.
  •  Reduce your current spending (forgo that extra latte, brown bag it for lunch, or take the bus instead of paying for parking).  Cutting out the extras can be a bummer but in the end, you will be happy to have saved enough to get through your bar preparation without having to work.  It is unnatural to give up every luxury.  Pick one or two things that help you feel good and that are good for you.  If you enjoy your yoga classes or gym membership, keep those.  If you like to get a smoothie or fill up at the salad bar once a week, you should continue.  These are healthy choices that also make you feel good.  Keep the treats that nourish you and pass on the rest.
  • Discuss bar loans and/or bar scholarships with your law school’s Financial Services Office. If your finances will require you to apply for a bar loan, do not wait to research your options. Scholarships are numbered and due to the economic times there will be a great deal of competition.  Learn about the opportunities in your State or City and apply early.
  • You do not want to hear this but you could move back in with your folks.  I know this may be a bitter pill to swallow.  On one hand, you are an adult and you do not want to move back in with your parents.  However, on the other hand, it is best to think about how you can save money while you are studying.  Check to see if your relatives or friends have an apartment, cabin, or summer home that will be unoccupied or ask around to see if someone you know needs a house sitter for the summer. 
  • Graduation is around the corner.  While you would rather use a gift of cash on a trip to Hawaii for after the bar exam, using graduation money to fund your bar study is a smarter and more fiscally responsible idea.

Although they are a costly endeavor, bar review courses are essential if you want to be successful on the bar exam.  Planning ahead for the costs associated with the exam will lessen your stress and help you cope with the potential financial strain.

Lisa Young

January 21, 2013 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Job Tip: Believe in Yourself

I once blew a job I really wanted because I became convinced on the way to the interview that I was just filler in a field of heavy hitter applicants. In at least one way, I deserved to lose that offer because I had no right to think they would waste their time and mine if I were not a very serious candidate. Nevertheless, all the way to the interview, I could not shake the thought that I was up against people with whom I could never compete.

You might think I choked and wilted during the interview, but I did something completely different. I spent the entire day-long interview trying to convince everyone that I was a heavy hitter, that I was every bit as good as whoever was already in their back pocket.

I told them everything I had ever accomplished and everything I had ever thought of accomplishing. I assured them I would accomplish all those new things and probably much more. I was there to help them change the world, and I would give all that I had to be a key player in that mission.

I wore them out. By the end of the day, they thought I was a self-important blowhard that could not listen, cared nothing for others' interests, and thought I was God's gift to their organization and the profession.

I found out later that I had been the top candidate until that interview. The job had been mine to lose, and I had lost it with a vengeance.

Had I actually ignored my fears and believed I would be a good fit, I might have landed that job. It may be that I would have lost out to someone better anyway, but at least it would have been the real me losing out instead of the lunatic they met.

Identify your strengths and be able to talk about them realistically. Have some faith in those strengths, however, and do not work too hard to show them off to everyone. Give the organization a little credit and assume they are not in the habit of interviewing people they are not serious about. They have seen something in you. Be yourself, and that something might just come out naturally.

Dan Weddle

January 20, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)