Friday, February 28, 2014
This post may not be directly on point with the topic of this blog. But the attached brief is inspiring.
Or, maybe the post is related to the topic of this blog. Law students are facing a busy and pressure-filled time -- whether they are first-year students or upper-level students. The semester will rapidly come to a close, with all of the anxieties that attach to that time of the school year. Students may be seeking assistance as they prepare persuasive briefs for their first-year and upper-level writng courses. Students may be questioning their motivation for attending law school.
The attached amicus brief was written by a Michigan high school student. The student filed the brief in the Michigan Supreme Court in connection with three cases pending in that court. The cases arise under Miller v. Alabama, the SCOTUS decision prohibiting mandatory sentences of life without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.
At this time of year, as Spring Break looms large for many of us, law students are facing the, sometimes daunting, task of writng and polishing persuaive memoranda and appellate briefs. John Mollenkamp, a former academic support educator and legal writing professor, created a video that walks through the process of creating tables of authorites. The video can be found at the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8F2h8AD-9aY
Congratulations to all law schools' graduates who have completed a state bar exam this week! Yesterday we had faculty and staff gather outside the law school and cheer the bar studiers as they exited the building. Some stopped for cookies and chats before heading home for a well-deserved break.
I am sure that many of us can vividly recall our bar exam experiences. I took the Virginia bar exam in Roanoke at the Civic Center in July. In Virginia one had to wear court attire (last time I checked, they still do) so that the moment it was over the fellows were ripping off their neckties, everyone shed suit jackets, and the gals were changing into comfortable shoes.
Since my folks lived two hours away from the test site instead of my own six hours back to where my home and law school were, I drove straight to their house. I think I was semi-shell-shocked the whole way. It was over! I was worn out, already thinking about the long wait for results, and praying that I would not have to take it again.
After my mother's delicious home-cooked meal, I crashed into bed and slept until well past noon the next day. When I returned home a few days later, lots of bar studiers were still in town. Everyone had a bar exam tale to tell.
Virginia issued results late that year. Rumors were rampant about how many had failed and why there was a delay. When results finally came out, I felt like a millstone had dropped from my neck and was SOOOO relieved to pass. Even after we had all been practicing for several years, others told me that they still shuddered whenever they drove the interstate across Virginia and the Roanoke Civic Center came into view from the highway. Most passers vowed to never move from Virginia so that the experience would never have to be repeated!
So congratulations on your hard work. Celebrate your perseverence. Get some rest! (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, February 27, 2014
After my last post, several people asked me what questions I ask students after a bad first semester. For all of my poor-performing students, I point out the importance of studying what happened in the past semester and learning from mistakes, and then I give them a form asking:
1. How often did you attend class? If you missed classes, why?
2. How many Academic Success Workshops did you go to? Which ones?
3. Did you go to tutoring? How often, and for which classes?
4. Did you go to your professor's office hours? Which ones?
5. In legal writing, when did you do your assignments? Were you able to turn in multiple drafts?
6. How much time each week did you spend reading cases and other assigned readings?
7. When did you start your outlines? Did you make your own?
8. How many practice questions did you do? In what classes?
9. Did you use commercial outlines or other materials? Did you use them to make your outline?
10. Did you have a set schedule? (Please attach)
11. How did you prepare for exams?
12. Describe your typical exam writing experience. Did you have problems with time management?
13. What were your grades? Were they what you expected?
14. Have you reviewed your exams? Which ones? What weaknesses did you see?
15. Did you meet with your professors to go over exams? Which ones? What weaknesses did they see?
16. What do you think you need the most help with?
17. What do you think you need the least help with?
18. Is there anything else that happened last term that got in the way of law school?
19. Have you ever been tested for any academic disability? Do you have any accommodations in taking your exams?
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
If you have not discovered it yet, I recommend taking a look at the Listen Like a Lawyer Blog. Jennifer Murphy Romig from Emory University School of Law has some postings that deal with law students specifically. Here are several to look at that deal with listening in the law school classroom:
- September 30, 2013: Listening check-up for first-semester law students
- October 11, 2013: The listening technique that worked for me in law school
- February 11, 2014: Listening in law school: second-semester update.
There are other law school related postings that deal with externships, interviews, and other topics. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Check out Lisa McElroy's post, which highlights the discrepancies in status and salary that legal writers (and ASPers) face. http://www.dorfonlaw.org/2014/02/are-legal-writing-professors-like-nurses.html
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Assessment Across The Curriculum
Institute for Law Teaching and Learning
Spring Conference 2014
Saturday, April 5, 2014
“Assessment Across the Curriculum” is a one-day conference for new and experienced law teachers who are interested in designing and implementing effective techniques for assessing student learning. The conference will take place on Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Conference Content: Sessions will address topics such as
- Formative Assessment in Large Classes
- Classroom Assessment Techniques
- Using Rubrics for Formative and Summative Assessment
- Assessing the Ineffable: Professionalism, Judgment, and Teamwork
- Assessment Techniques for Statutory or Transactional Courses
By the end of the conference, participants will have concrete ideas and assessment practices to take back to their students, colleagues, and institutions.
Who Should Attend: This conference is for all law faculty (full-time and adjunct) who want to learn about best practices for course-level assessment of student learning.
Conference Structure: The conference opens with an optional informal gathering on Friday evening, April 4. The conference will officially start with an opening session on Saturday, April 5, followed by a series of workshops. Breaks are scheduled with adequate time to provide participants with opportunities to discuss ideas from the conference. The conference ends at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Details about the conference are available on the websites of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning (www.lawteaching.org) and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law (ualr.edu/law).
Conference Faculty: Conference workshops will be taught by experienced faculty, including Michael Hunter Schwartz (UALR Bowen), Rory Bahadur (Washburn), Sandra Simpson (Gonzaga), Sophie Sparrow (University of New Hampshire), Lyn Entrikin (UALR Bowen), and Richard Neumann (Hofstra).
Accommodations: A block of hotel rooms for conference participants has been reserved at The DoubleTree Little Rock, 424 West Markham Street, Little Rock, AR 72201. Reservations may be made by calling the hotel directly at 501-372-4371, calling the DoubleTree Central Reservations System at 800-222-TREE, or booking online at www.doubletreelr.com. The group code to use when making reservations for the conference is “LAW.”
Friday, February 14, 2014
It is not unusual for law students to have life interfere at times with their law school studies. A student gets a cold that turns into bronchitis and then pneumonia and drags on for a month. A parent has a medical emergency and needs the student home for every weekend. A car accident causes the student to miss two weeks of class. Divorce papers are served two-thirds of the way into the semester on a surprised law student who thought that the marriage was surviving okay.
If the students were on top of all their study tasks before the life interruption occurred, they tend to bounce back more easily from difficult circumstances. However, if they were barely preparing for class already and behind in every other study task, the unexpected life event can seriously jeopardize their regaining their academic momentum for the semester.
Every law school has some procedures that can help students with their academics when the unexpected happens to disrupt their studies. But, the options vary greatly among law schools. And the timing of the event may preclude some options. Financial aid and loan repayment rules may be perceived by students as blocking any real choices. Parental pressure for certain options over others may also be a factor.
Those of us in ASP are often in the thick of these situations working with the student and colleagues at the law school to help the student sort out the options and the pros and cons of each. Assisting a student with a plan to catch up on missed work and keep up with current work is part of the process. Fortunately, some options have long open windows so that everyone can monitor the student's progress and delay a stay-or-leave decision for some weeks. Other options may be on a now-or-never decision line.
Many students will work diligently with ASP, professors, and other university services to try to catch up and turn around the situation. In some cases extensions on work, rescheduled exams, underloads, or other measures will make it possible for them to succeed. Some of the students who have worked so hard will decide to withdraw from the semester at the last minute.
There are always some students who decide to stay in school no matter what. They keep attending classes knowing that they will not be able to retrieve their academics. In many cases, they are delaying the inevitable because they are locked in to leases, will be faced with earlier loan repayments, or have other family problems that make going home impossible. They see those other factors as more daunting than F grades on their transcripts.
Whatever choices the students make, those choices are inevitably theirs to make. We can advise and inform, but they have to make the final decisions. All we can do is be supportive throughout the process. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, February 13, 2014
We are pleased to announce this year’s one-day N.Y. Academic Support Workshop,
to be held on Friday, April 4 from 9:30 to 5:30 at CUNY School of Law in
Long Island City, N.Y. For those of you who are not familiar with Long
Island City, it is conveniently located minutes from midtown Manhattan and
accessible by all forms of public transportation. We want to thank Linda
Feldman of Brooklyn Law School and Kris Franklin of New York Law School for
graciously sharing with the opportunity host and plan this year’s workshop, now
that we have a beautiful, more accessible building. We are delighted to be able
to continue the wonderful workshops that Linda and Kris have held over the
We anticipate that the workshop will be an intimate and intensive gathering of
academic support professionals learning from one another. In keeping with
tradition, this year’s workshop agenda will focus on a particular theme in the
morning; in the afternoon, the agenda will be generated by the interests and
topics suggested by participants.
The title of the morning session is: Note-Taking: The Skill that Dare Not
Speak its Name. Although we have addressed this issue before, we thought
that the time seemed right to revisit it. Aside from being an almost
impossible skill to teach (hence the subtitle of the workshop), students’ need
to do it well from the very start of their law school careers, as well as
recent developments and practices (e.g., the now almost-ubiquitous use of
laptops and the classrooms in which they are banned, the “flipped” classroom,
distance learning, e-casebooks, etc.) raise new and lingering challenges to our
students and faculty colleagues. The basic pedagogy of law school - the
modified Socratic method - remains a difficult environment in which to take
notes. Since most of us advocate the linear process of note-taking -
revision - outlining, we thought it would be useful to share our techniques and
strategies for helping students learn this critical and difficult skill, and
perhaps also to bring to the group problems and issues that we have run up
Please consider this a friendly Call for Proposals, as well as a “Save the
Date.” Let us know if you want to share one of your own lessons, issues,
ideas, etc., or comment on ones brought by other participants. Also, please let
us know whether your proposed discussion relates to our theme of note-taking,
or would be more appropriate for the open agenda portion of the day. We
will send out a finalized workshop agenda in mid-March. Please RSVP to Haley at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Proposals d be happy to talk with you before then, as you think about possibly presenting.
There is no fee to attend. If you are coming from outside the immediate
N.Y. area and would like advice about hotels, etc., please let us know. Also,
if you’d love to attend but just don’t have the budget to stay overnight, let
us know and we’ll see if it is possible to help you find housing with local
We are looking forward to seeing many of you in April!
Haley and David
Haley A. Meade
Director of Professional Skills Center
Director of Academic Support Programs
CUNY School of Law
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Hat tip to Deborah Borman for the link to an article on the Legal Research and Writing Professor listserv. The article combines procrastination, writing, Dweck's research, and millenials into one piece: Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Friday, February 7, 2014
Although there have been several signs of the Apocalypse lately, including a snowball fight in my South Carolina front yard and the appearance of Prince in a sitcom with Zooey Deschanel, I have been operating under the assumption that the world will continue to turn. Consequently, I have spent most of the past few weeks meeting with students who did poorly in their first semester.
There are many, many studies showing the importance of self-evaluation. The first thing I have students in trouble do is fill out a 5-page form asking them to relive the past semester. How many classes did they go to? How much time each week do they spend reading? When did they start outlines? What were there grades in each class? Better or worse than they thought? Did they go to tutoring? Did they come to my workshops? Ever meet with me? Ever meet with their professors?
Once they take a hard look at what they did, we start making a plan of improvement. Most of the time, the biggest self-reported issues are: 1. Started outline too late, 2. Spent too much time preparing for class (and no time preparing for exam), 3. Let Legal Writing get away from them, and 4. Never sought help.
When we've worked this out, I start helping them with outlines, scheduling, and we start with simple practice problems to get IRAC under control. I also make sure they meet with their profs.
While meeting with all of these students may be disheartening (and involve a large investment in Kleenex products), this semester I've had the great pleasure of having many returning, Second, or Third year students swing by my office and tell me how much they've improved (several CALI awards, many at least one entire letter grade jumps). So, I know this approach helps the vast majority of them.
Although, as always, there are the students I am extremely worried about. As I write this, the car keys of one of my in-trouble first years continue to hang on a hook outside my office. It has been three days since he left them here and I emailed him -- I haven't heard anything. How is he getting home? Is he looking for them? Did he forget he owns a car? Is he now living the movie "Badlands"? Did he steal someone else's car with his best girl by his side fleeing from one safe house to another with Boss Hogg on his tail as he tries to swing back to Columbia in time for Civil Procedure at 8 am?
At any rate, the fact his keys are still sitting here does not inspire confidence.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
It has been a hard month for some law students. The reasons vary, but the effect is the same. The weather has been bitter cold and cloudy many days. Their grades were not what they expected after all their hard work last semester. They are worrying about whether there will be a summer clerking position or employment upon graduation for them. The excitement of a new academic year last fall has faded into same old, same old. Third-year students see the bar exam looming ahead.
Motivation is dropping right now for many students. What they dislike about law school seems magnified. Students need to refocus their thoughts away from the negative in order to jumpstart their motivation. Here are some suggestions to turn around one's focus and get back the motivation:
- Remind yourself of why you came to law school. What is your ultimate goal? To serve a specific client population? To provide services to underserved populations? To impact the policy behind the law through government employment? To become a judge, firm partner, attorney general, in-house counsel? To hang out your own shingle? By reminding yourself of the end goal, you are better able to get through the process to get there.
- Remind yourself what you like about the study of law. Do you find certain courses especially interesting? Do you like the critical thinking needed to see both sides of an issue? Do you enjoy the pro bono or clinic opportunities to take what you learn and apply it? Do you like the research and writing aspects? By remembering that not everything about law study is negative, you can refocus your energies.
- Get yourself organized with a structured study schedule. Take the guess work out of what you should be doing. If you use only a "to do" list for the day, it drains your motivation. Human nature is to waste time because we say, "I have all day to get these things done." If your day is structured in a routine schedule, you do not decide what to do but instead know it is Tuesday at 3 p.m. and this is where you do class prep for Tax or it is Friday at 11 a.m. and this is where you outline PR. Supplement your structured schedule with your "to do" list to decide what specific tasks to complete for that designated time block.
- For paper or assignment deadlines, set an artificial deadline two days earlier and work toward that deadline. On a monthly calendar, put down the deadlines (real and artificial) and then lay out the tasks to complete each day to meet the deadline. The artificial deadline allows you some cushion for final edits, a printing disaster, or other problems. Consistently working on a larger project over more days, allows the tasks to be less daunting.
- Break down tasks into small pieces to provide motivation. Your 40-page reading assignment in Criminal Law becomes eight 5-page blocks. It is easier to get motivated to read 5 pages than 40 pages. You get that small task crossed off quickly which motivates you to go on to the next 5 pages. And, if your motivation is really low, tell yourself you will just read 1 page. It is hard to convince yourself that you cannot read 1 page! The getting started is the problem - you will likely continue beyond the 1 page.
- Realize that, if you get your work done rather than procrastinate, you will feel so much better. Instead of feeling guilty about what you should be doing or feeling stressed that you should have started something sooner, you will be able to enjoy down time after completing tasks and will be less stressed because you distributed your work rather than waiting until the last minute.
- Avoid people who suck you into low motivation and procrastination. If you hang out with other law students who are moaning and groaning and avoiding their work, it will be contagious. Instead seek out students who exhibit positive mindsets and get their work done in a timely fashion.
We all get down in the dumps and falter on motivation at times. The secret is to stop the cycle quickly rather than letting it become a downward spiral. Talk to someone if you are unable to get yourself motivated again. Do not just let it continue until you are overwhelmed. (Amy Jarmon)