Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Does academic support extend beyond the law school environment and the time students are at an institution? Does it take on a different form? Is it even academic support anymore? We have a general idea of what academic support offices do and the nature and purpose of our interactions with students. Most of our interactions revolve around helping students develop skills to be academically successful and successful on the bar exam. Certain interactions permit us to get to know some of our students as more than just an individual who has difficulty outlining or organizing answers to essay questions. We get to know about where the student hails from, their interests, their life’s challenges, their journey to law school, and sometimes, rare information about their families. Do those relationships stop there?
My answer is no. Post-graduation interactions initially begin as pure focus on taking and passing the bar exam. Later, conversations shift to career opportunities, careers, people management, and life management. In sum, the interactions are less academic support related and more “human” focused. This indicates that academic support is an institutional community building tool that may not be visible to many. Once conversations shift to career development, they typically relate to job search successes and wows, strategic job searching, and career challenges. I am by no means a career services expert; therefore, I direct my students to that office for support and assistance. Most of my conversations pertain to what I know about alums, their interests, the truth about their strategies and approaches, and considering worse case scenarios and options. We have “real talk sessions” that culminate into unique holistic conversations.
When I am not speaking with first career or first “real job” alums, I speak with former students who have worked for one to five years and have decided to make a career change or are sorting through how to navigate office politics. Included in our discussions are debates about what it means to be a woman and/or a person of color in legal and non-legal environments and the nature of their interactions with men, other people of color, and people not of color. Alums often share personal stories and all of sudden, we have created an impromptu professional development session for all of us. While interactions with alums might not be specifically “ASP” related, they often provide me with information that I can then use to encourage and help current students. I have also built a network of alums that I can call on and know will be responsive if I need help with bar preparation advice or individuals I can connect with a current student from a similar background in need of support and direction that I know I am unable to provide them with. Alums are also a good source of assessment of various programs offered by my office because they will tell me the truth. They know that I will not take offense as I am simply trying to improve what I do to help students like them (Goldie Pritchard).