Wednesday, June 6, 2018
For two years in a row, several Academic Support colleague recommended that Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus be highlighted in the Veteran ASP Spotlight Series. I was excited to read what Suzanne had to share. Let’s all learn about Suzanne. (Goldie Pritchard)
Q: Please indicate your full name, title, and institution of employment.
Professor of Law, Director of Academic Development and Bar Programs
Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center
Q: Please briefly describe your ASP work including length of time associated with it and what initially stimulated your interest.
The law was a second career for me so I didn’t exactly pick ASP but think that it picked me. My work in bar preparation goes back to 1998, not long after I passed the bar exam. Having developed very close relationships with my classmates, I was devastated when I passed the bar exam and they did not. I wanted to help so I began hosting weekly sessions on Sundays in my home to study with them. This experience helped me see the individual and highly different ways that people learned. I was in private practice at the time, but when I shared what I was doing with Howard Glickstein, Touro Law’s dean at the time, he started referring students seeking assistance with the bar to me. By the spring of 1999, I was teaching Sunday workshops at Touro Law to guide students with essay writing and by 2000, I was offered an opportunity to teach Legal Process for a professor on sabbatical. While I enjoyed my work at the firm, I realized how much I loved teaching and helping students so I decided to take this opportunity. I taught Legal Process for three years and developed academic workshops focusing on developing legal reasoning and writing skills for students at all levels. Touro did not have a formal academic support program at the time --- like many other law schools in 2000 --- so we developed one, a program at a time. I was named Director of Academic Development in August 2003 and devoted my time exclusively to ASP functions, including teaching a first-year Contracts class that combined skills and doctrine for at-risk students.
Q: Which aspect(s) of ASP work do you enjoy the most? What would you consider your greatest challenge thus far and how have you overcome the challenge?
Like most of my ASP colleagues, I enjoy working one-on-one with students. Still, as crazy as it might seem, I most enjoy that time between graduation and the bar exam when I work with our graduates to prepare for the bar exam. This is the one of the best things about being a law professor because once students graduate, we’re all lawyers together, just peers, and I can help them navigate that next step to becoming a practitioner. The bar prep period can be the loneliest, most anxiety-producing part of a student’s educational process. I want to make it less so by sharing that burden with them.
The greatest challenge is helping first year students overcome their shock and loss of confidence when they do not do as well as they expected. The key to helping students in this situation is to remember that every student is unique; while the students who “get it” are pretty much alike in how they connect with the process of legal reasoning and analysis, those who struggle do so each in their own way. It is my job to help them figure out what they need to do to get a different result. Everything is on the table, beginning with setting up a daily study schedule. Having said that, it’s important to stress that every schedule has to be flexible so we monitor how that schedule works on a weekly basis and make adjustments. I am constantly surprised to learn how many students have never used a schedule before so that means they never knew how long it would take to perform a task --- which translates into not knowing how much time to allocate for a law school assignment.
Like others in ASP, I am constantly learning from my students and use what I learn in helping them to help others. If one student has a problem, then others have it too.
Q: What do you want your professional legacy to be?
For students: Touro Law gave me the opportunity to have the life I always dreamed of having. Each student comes to law school with a dream and I want to help them achieve it. I want them to realize their dream of becoming licensed and practicing attorneys.
For colleagues: I’ve never really thought of a legacy because I am so busy in the here and now. There is always another student and another bar exam. I guess I would like to be remembered as one who was always available to help a colleague. Professionally, I value most the work that I’ve done to try to change the National Conference of Bar Examiners’ scoring practices to ensure that the bar exam is a fair and reliable assessment of an individual's minimum competency to practice law.
Q: What motivational advice or encouragement would you offer to new and/or midcareer ASPers or law students?
New and mid-career ASP’ers: Do not hesitate to reach out to your ASP colleagues. We are an invaluable resource for advice and practical materials. And just like we tell our students, do not lose perspective. It is easy to get caught up in our students’ anxiety and emotionally drained by all that we give of ourselves. We need to remember to take care of ourselves! I know that it is difficult, but you need to set limits on your availability, especially in responding to emails. Unless it is a bona-fide emergency, you must let students know that you will respond within a certain window --- set that line and keep to it, or you will be answering emails around the clock. Finally, remember that everything changes --- whether it is good or bad. There will always be changes in administration, faculty, and policies. Keep steady and steer the course.
Q: Is there anything else you deem necessary to share (quote, encouragement, inspiration, visual, etc.…)?
My favorite quote is from Benjamin Franklin --- it got me through law school and continues to guide me in my teaching: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”