Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Alex Ruskell is the Director of Academic Success and Bar Preparation at the University of South Carolina School of Law. He received his law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and has degrees from Washington and Lee University, Harvard University, and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is the author of A Weekly Guide to Being a Model Law Student and editor of Strategies and Tactics for the Finz Multistate Method, Strategies and Tactics for the First Year Law Student, Steve Emanuel’s First Year Questions and Answers, Strategies and Tactics for the MPRE, and several other educational and legal publications. In a review of his wife’s first book, Fumbling, The National Catholic Reporter noted "Alex is a saint. Seriously.” He is also the lead guitarist of Columbia, SC’s most sartorially challenged punk band, The Merry Chevaliers.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Scott Johns serves of Law as a Professor of the Practice of Law and Director of the Bar Passage Program at the University of Denver Sturm College. Twice per year during the bar exam seasons, Scott runs a post-graduate Bar Success Program helping graduates develop the confidence and the competence to pass the bar exam. The program’s focus is on active learning through substantive problem-solving workshops and mock bar exams to include individual feedback for numerous writing projects. During the academic terms, Scott teaches primarily in the field of Legal Analysis Strategies with additional periodic courses on Constitutional Law Individual Rights, the First Amendment Religion Clauses, and Immigration and Asylum Law. Previous to the University of Denver, Scott got his start in academic support in Southern California teaching first at Whittier Law School as an Associate Professor and Interim Director of Academic Support and Bar Passage and then at Chapman School of Law as Director of Academic Achievement.
Prior to academics, Scott served as a law clerk in federal court and then worked as an immigration litigator and national security attorney within the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. Prior to law school, Scott served as a pilot and flight safety officer in both the U.S. Air Force and the airline industry. Surprisingly, Scott’s formal pedagogical training about active learning occurred in preparation for his assignment as a military instructor pilot teaching undergraduate pilot training for aspiring Air Force aviators with coursework in educational psychology, curriculum and design.
Outside teaching, Scott has dabbled in empirical scholarship with a recent article evaluating whether bar passage interventions were statistically beneficial and a second article examining whether the bar examiner’s claim, namely, that bar exam rates are historically down, was in fact empirically due to declines in LSAT scores. Empirical Reflections: A Statistical Evaluation of Bar Exam Program Interventions, available at http://louisvillelawreview.org/printcontent/54/1/35/scott_johns-empirical_reflections_statistical_evaluation_bar_exam_program_interventions; Testing the Testers: The National Conference of Bar Examiner’s Claim and a Roller Coaster Bar Exam Ride, available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=284241
Outside law school activities, Scott enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and participating in church activities with his family.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Many ASPers have been involved with LSAC committees, workshops, and other aspects over the years. Below is an announcement regarding the sad news that LSAC's President, Dan Bernstine, has passed away.
I apologize if you have received this sad announcement more than once. It is with overwhelming sadness that I have the unfortunate task of telling you that Dan Bernstine, President of LSAC, has passed away at his home. As soon as we have more information about arrangements, we will communicate that information to you.
While our concern right now is with helping all of Dan's friends and colleagues to deal with his loss, I want to assure you that the Board and I have complete confidence in the senior management team that Dan built.
Please do not hesitate to contact me.
SUSAN L. KRINSKY
Chair, LSAC Board of Trustees
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Last week was the 30th Anniversary Celebration of Seattle University School of Law’s Access Admission Program, the Academic Resource Center, and Professor Emerita Paula Lustbader. I am an alumna of Seattle University and the few times I return to Seattle typically have something to do with Professor Lustbader. My cultural background dictates that I remember and honor those individuals who have paved the way for me. I look to them for guidance, wisdom, support, and history. For me, Professor Lustbader is one of these special individuals.
I started writing this entry prior to the celebration and surprisingly, the themes I identified aligned with the remarks and conversations at the celebration. The themes I had identified and those that emerged at the celebration included legacy, family/community, and paying it forward. I was excited to realize that I had it right but recognized that I could not include all of my observations.
In my opinion, Professor Lustbader is a pioneer of the Academic Support Movement. I imagine that very few formal academic support programs existed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a student at the University of Puget Sound School of Law (now Seattle University School of Law), Paula Lustbader had a desire to promote diversity at the law school and in the legal profession. She was recruited by Professor Emeritus David Boerner and together, Professor Boerner and student Lustbader designed and began to implement the various components of their program. Today, Seattle University School of Law boasts of one of the few true “Access Admissions Programs” in the country which is not only a testament of the institution’s commitment to social justice and diversity but also a reflection of the commitment of Professors Boerner and Lustbader to this program. I can assure you that the story is more amazing and exciting than this but you had to have been at the celebration to capture the full story. Please follow this link for Professor Lustbader’s 2010 article about this program: here.
Professors can have a profound impact on the lives of their students particularly if they take the time to listen and pay attention to their students. Professors can sometimes perceive a student’s potential before the student can even conceive of her/his ability. This particularly happens when the learning environment lends itself for students to be their authentic selves which would indicate that trust has been established.
The presence of numerous former students and individuals who gathered to celebrate Professor Lustbader and the program is a testament to the positive impact the Access Admission Program and the Academic Resource Center have had on these students. In attendance were both students from the early years of the program and current students who just started their 1L year. Individuals flew in from as far as Hawaii, Texas, Michigan, and Florida just to list a few. Former teaching assistants, faculty, and staff who contributed in some way to the program were present. It was a joyous occasion that brought together individuals unified by the impact of two key individuals (Professors Boerner and Lustbader) and a shared experience with this program.
I feel very privileged to have gotten to know Professor Paula Lustbader as a professor, supervisor, mentor, and friend. She discovered my potential early on and challenged and supported me even when I resisted. I credit her for seeing the “Academic Support Educator” within me long before I thought of this as a career option. I look forward to the many amazing things she accomplishes in this next phase of her life.
The Anniversary Celebration has reenergized me, helped redefine my purpose, and led me to reassess my passion for the professional work I do. I am contemplating a number of things: What is our legacy as academic support professionals and educators? Do we constantly reinvent the wheel simply because we want to put our imprint on something or do we recognize when something works? Do we learn from those who came before us who fought and won the battles we now find ourselves trying to fight? Are some of us young and so too proud to ask for help and too "all knowing"? Are we truly an inclusive community that practices what we preach and embodies the ideals at the foundation of Academic Support Programs? Is it at the very least helpful to assess our own hang-ups and challenges? These are all pertinent questions I am asking myself and hope to connect with like-minded individuals to explore them. (Goldie Pritchard)
Sunday, September 4, 2016
Congratulations to Scott Johns! He was a awarded a Top Ten Badge by the Texas State Bar's Texas Bar Today for his August 25th posting Alone . . . or Perhaps . . . Not Quite So Alone as 1L Students?
Saturday, September 3, 2016
Congratulations to Sara Berman on her new position at Nova Southeastern!
Sara Berman has been named the new Director of the Critical Skills Program at Nova Southeastern University in South Florida. Many of us know Sara as a long time member of the ASP and bar prep community in California, most recently as the Assistant Dean of Academic Support and Bar Support at Whittier Law School in Orange County. Previously she was at Concord Law School and UWLA, both in Los Angeles. As a brand new graduate of UCLA she began lecturing on the California bar exam on her own and was an early adopter in online legal education. In addition to law teaching, Berman has lectured for bar reviews for decades and the author of numerous articles as well as the ABA’s Pass the Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic and Professional Goals and its companion teacher’s manual. She is very excited to be moving to the Southeast where she will be closer to where her twins are attending college.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Are you a new ASP or bar prep professional at your law school? Did you change law schools/positions?
At the beginning of each academic semester, we like to introduce ASP or bar professionals who are new to their law schools or who have changed locations? We want to post an academic spotlight about you so that you are introduced to the community of readers if you are new and so readers know your news if you have moved to a different law school.
If you would like for us to post an academic spotlight about you (or a colleague at your school who is too shy to send us something), please send the following information to Amy Jarmon at email@example.com. I will be doing posts throughout September and early October.
Here is what I need from you for a spotlight post:
- A small jpeg photo.
- Your full name, title, and law school information.
- 100 - 200 words telling us about yourself: when you started your job, what you were doing before your position, your JD school, your legal practice experience/specialties, your interests professionally and personally.
- A link to your faculty/staff profile on your law school web pages if one exists.
We look forward to welcoming you to our terrific community of colleagues and updating folks on your career. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, August 4, 2016
"A great sports instructor or coach builds us up, but also teaches us important lessons of emotional management, such as confidence, perseverance, resilience and how to conquer fear and anxiety. Many times, these lessons have a permanent impact on our mind-set and attitude well beyond the playing field." So says columnist Elizabeth Bernstein in her article: "A Coach's Influence Off the Field." http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-coachs-influence-off-the-field-1470073923?tesla=y
That got me thinking about life…my life as an Academic Support Professional. With the start of a new academic year upon us, perhaps this is an opportunity - as Goldie Pritchard puts it - to try something new. So, I've been thinking and reflecting about my life as an ASP-er, and, in particular, that I might focus on something new--serving as a coach to our law students.
You see, and this is where the rub is, the most significant teachers in my life have, well, not just been teachers. Rather, they've been more than teachers; they've been coaches. And, not just sport coaches. More like life coaches. Whether they were teaching political science or trying to help me throw a ball, they all left indelible imprints, imprints that made me a better person and that went well beyond the classroom (or the baseball field)...because they taught me lessons that were much bigger than just about political science or baseball.
Let me give you an example from political science. I once had a professor by the name of Sandel. No offense, but I can't recall the principles of Kant's categorical imperative or Hannah Arndt's political theories. But, I can vividly remember something much more important that I learned, in particular, to call people by their name…to invite students to comment and participate…to let people speak…by truly listening to them. Those were lessons well given.
Or, in another context regarding life's many daily struggles, as Bernstein sums up in her column, coaches teach us lessons that help us when the going gets tough, for example, in Bernstein's words, "...when I’m on deadline or giving a speech to an intimidating crowd: You need to arrest a negative thought immediately, in midair. Remind yourself that you are competent and know what you’re doing. Slow your breath." Let me be frank. Those are the lessons that got me through law school. And, I learned them through teachers that were, really, coaches.
Thus, as we begin to embark on a new academic season, perhaps I should focus more on coaching. After all, our work brings us in contact with people that are really struggling over learning to be learners in a new learning environment…an environment that we call law school...with people that need us to coach. So, what does a coach do? According to Bernstein, a coach says things that change our lives for the better…and for ever, such as:
“Great job in difficult circumstances.”
“You should be really proud of yourself.”
But, in my own words, a coach, first and foremost, listens and observes others. That I can do, if only, I'd stop talking so much! (Scott Johns)
Sunday, July 31, 2016
Monday, June 20, 2016
Monday, May 16, 2016
Hat tip to Mary Beth Beazley for telling us the news from Ohio State. Congratulations to Katherine Silver Kelly, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Academic Support Program at Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, on her selection as Professor of the Year by the graduating class. Katherine works in legal writing and ASP and is in her fourth year at Ohio State. Her faculty profile is here: Professor Katherine Silver Kelly. Below is a picture of Katherine giving her speech at this year's graduation.
Thursday, February 4, 2016
Please join me welcoming Louisa Heiny to our community. Louisa began at University of Utah Law School in January 2016. Please take the time to chat with her when you see her at regional or AASE events!
Her faculty profile can be found here: Louisa Heiny. Below is a short introduction that she shared so all of you can get to know her:
I am an Associate Professor/ Lecturer at the University of Utah Law School. I teach Evidence, Judicial Process, and Legal Writing for Judicial Clerks. I've been teaching at Utah as an adjunct for since 2010, and before that was a Professor of Legal Writing at the University of Colorado Law School. I was hired full time in January to teach, develop ASP programs for upper-division and transfer students, and integrate those new programs into our existing 1L ASP and Bar prep programs.
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Please welcome Nicole Lefton who joined the Hofstra ASP/Bar Prep community in mid-January 2016. Please make a point of introducing yourselves to her at the next regional conference or AASE! Nicole shared the following information with us so you can get acquainted with her:
Nicole Lefton joins Hofstra as the Director of Academic Support and Bar Exam Preparation and a visiting professor. Prior to Hofstra, Nicole was the Senior Director of Academics at Kaplan Bar Review, where she worked for close to eight years. In addition, she taught Legal Writing and Lawyering Skills for several years to both JDs and International LL.M.s at Cardozo School of Law. Nicole graduated from Vassar College, and she received her JD from Cornell Law School. After graduating from Cornell, she joined the law firm of Rosenman & Colin as a real estate associate. She then joined Brownstone Publishers, a national, legal newsletter publisher, where she began as an editor and eventually became editor-in-chief. Nicole is admitted to the New York State Bar. She resides in New York City with her husband and two sons.
Friday, January 29, 2016
If you have joined the law school ASP/Bar Prep profession since May 2015 and would like to be introduced here on the Blog for the first time, please send an email to Amy Jarmon (Texas Tech) at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information:
- Your name (and nickname if you don't use your given name)
- Your title and law school
- When you began your position
- A brief paragraph with background information (degrees, work experience, interest areas).
- A link to your faculty profile on your law school's website (if you have a profile).
- A SMALL jpeg photo (if your faculty profile does not include one).
Introduction postings will be included on the Blog over the next few weeks. Welcome! We hope to see you at upcoming workshops and AASE conference. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Our guest post today is by Louis N. Schulze, Jr., Assistant Dean and Professor of Academic Support at Florida International University College of Law. He served on the faculty of Suffolk University Law School (2004-07) and New England Law | Boston (2007-14), earning tenure at the latter in 2012. He is a former Chair of the AALS Section on Academic Support.
Outsourcing Academic Support is a Problematic Proposition
I have been intrigued recently by the discussion occurring on the Academic Support listserv. One member of our community posted a request for information about whether, and to what extent, schools partner with and/ or outsource bar preparation and academic support to bar prep companies. Some schools have dabbled with partnering, and other schools report full-scale immersion. What I took from all of these reports (and my own discussions) was that bar prep companies seek not only to have a hand in for-credit bar prep courses but also in the area of traditional academic support. This troubles me.
I write to express my belief that the wholesale outsourcing of academic support to bar prep companies, though perhaps an attractive proposition for some deans, is a questionable one when viewed through the lens of assessing what is best for our students, our institutions, and the legal profession.
I. Some Preliminary Matters.
First, I think a dichotomy exists between bar prep companies’ role in curricular bar preparation during law school and bar prep companies’ role in academic support during law school. Unsurprisingly, bar prep companies are quite good at bar prep. For reasons explained infra, I believe that bar prep companies are less able to meet the unique goals of academic support.
Part of my thesis relies on this distinction; while I am somewhat more optimistic about partnering with bar prep companies for curricular bar preparation during law school, I am far less sanguine about the increased presence of bar preparation companies in the area of academic support. I think this dichotomy is a crucial one for deans and academic support professionals to digest, as there is a material difference between these two realms.
Second, I think a distinction exists between “partnering” with a bar prep company and the “wholesale outsourcing” of courses or programs. Unlike the bar prep/ academic support dichotomy I posit above, I see this distinction more as a spectrum than a binary choice. The lightest form of “partnering” would likely be adopting a bar prep company’s materials and questions in a course, while the opposite end of the spectrum (the “wholesale outsourcing”) would entail having a bar prep company fully teach and administer some facet of a law school’s offerings.
In my view, as a law school’s choices increase from “partnering” towards “wholesale outsourcing,” those choices become more questionable. While there are no doubt many acceptable points along the spectrum, law schools ought to think carefully about crossing the threshold between partnering and outsourcing, especially in the area of academic support.
II. My Arguments.
My thesis is that law schools should not outsource academic support, per se, to bar prep companies. I am less concerned about partnering/ outsourcing law school bar prep courses. I am even only mildly concerned about partnering with bar companies in the area of academic support. But what I fear is that bar prep companies, in the name of diversifying product lines and increasing profits, will seek to dominate not only the bar prep market and the law school bar prep course market, but also the field of academic support. In my view, such a result would do more harm than good to our students.
But why is this so?
1. First, one-on-one academic support is the most effective academic support, but it is not the most cost-efficient. Anyone who teaches law school academic support has had the experience of watching a student’s eyes light up as they have the big “ah ha!” moment. Some call this “the law school click.” It occurs when a student suddenly makes multiple connections, all at once, and realizes exactly what her professors are getting at – why we use cases to teach law; why creating outlines is important; why we test the way we do; why one must “argue both sides”; why all these methods make students better lawyers.
Usually, this moment occurs in an office with both student and ASP professor huddled over a desk, reviewing an exam, a paper, or some other work product. This moment is usually preceded by other less fruitful in-person moments, but the point is that the “ah ha” moment is one that happens over time and in a one-on-one setting. While it’s true that our ASP classes facilitate these moments, and give the framework and coursework for the moments of enlightenment, I’ve found that the “ah ha” moments happen in-person.
This is much less likely to happen if academic support is provided by bar prep companies. Why? Bar prep companies are corporations, and as such they owe fiduciary duties to their investors. They do not owe fiduciary duties to the students they are teaching. As a result, if they can cut costs by reducing costly endeavors they can and must do so. The first item on the chopping-block would be the costly method of one-on-one, individualized meetings.
2. Academic support is not one size fits all, but one size fits all is cost-efficient. Each law school’s academic support methods differ significantly from the methods of others. This has a lot to do with the differences in administrations, faculties, students, and missions of each law school. Applying the methods of one school to that of another would be ineffective because academic support must be tailored to the environment of the law school. An approach to the contrary waters down the effectiveness of the program, plain and simple.
But, one size fits all is cost-efficient. If a corporation could fashion an academic support program that could be installed as-is into multiple law schools, such a program would increase the profit margin of the endeavor. By contrast, tailoring an academic support program to the unique needs of individual schools (let alone students) would be cost-inefficient. Changing aspects of the curriculum to account for differences in faculties, students, and other stakeholders would require person-hours, and person-hours come with a price tag. As a result, because bar prep companies are corporations, and corporations have a fiduciary duty to the bottom line, academic support would likely become one size fits all.
3. There are many purposes for academic support, but bar passage is the ultimate purpose of any bar prep company. Law schools provide academic support for myriad reasons: to decrease dismissal rates; to support students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds; to humanize the law school environment; to communicate performance expectations more expressly; to increase bar passage rates; and to make students better lawyers. Each institution may emphasize these purposes differently, but at the very least each of these is likely on the table in terms of justifying expenditures for academic support.
But, the purpose of a bar prep company is solely to promote bar passage. While this purpose might coincide with some of the other purposes, it likely subordinates them to a “lesser” status. Moreover, setting bar passage as the sole or primary purpose of academic support could actually be antithetical to the other goals. For instance, one could argue that to increase bar passage rates, a law school should actually increase its dismissal rates. That way, only the strongest students “count” in terms of bar passage rate. An academic support program focused solely on bar passage, therefore, might spend little time on saving 1Ls and all of its time on those who managed to get through. Although this approach might increase a school’s bar passage rate, it would utterly fly in the face of schools’ duties to the students they admit.
4. Successful academic support relies heavily on an ASP faculty’s engagement with other faculty. If academic support is outsourced to bar prep companies, whose employees would not be embedded in the institution full-time (under the proposal with which I am familiar), the academic support program would lack the crucial element of connection to the institution’s faculty.
This point relates to “buy-in,” and a successful academic support program must have it from both faculty and students. Students buy in to an academic support program if they know that there is a regular and positive collaboration between their doctrinal faculty (who will grade their work) and their academic support faculty. Meanwhile, doctrinal faculty buy in to an academic support program when they know, among other things, that the academic support faculty will help students with more than just passing the bar and that the academic support faculty will not re-teach the doctrine or teach in a way that conflicts with their course. Because a cost-efficient bar prep company academic support provider must pop around between multiple law schools, neither students nor faculty can be assured that the support program will embody the type of multi-stakeholder synergy necessary for success.
5. Another crucial element of successful academic support is knowledge of one's students’ strengths and weaknesses and providing counseling that helps enhance the former and mitigate the latter. This happens over time and requires a great deal of relationship building. The level of trust required to develop these relationships seems unlikely to exist if the academic support provider is not imbedded within the institution.
This point relates to the murky intersection of academic support and counseling. While ASP faculty are (mostly) not trained psychological counselors, a great deal of our most effective work occurs on the personal level. An outsourced academic support program might be able to determine that a student is weak on essays, but a true academic support professional will know WHY the student developed this weakness and how to help work the student toward mastering the problem – both on the academic and personal level. An outsourced academic support program simply will not have time to work on this holistic (but critical) endeavor. In short, an outsourced program teaches students; a true academic support program teaches people.
6. Subtle conflicts of interest. ASP faculty are often called upon to be unofficial advocates for the student body. Because we know our constituency so well, we provide robust input in institutional conversations that could impact students. Because we have certain employment protections (and this is just one reason why ASP professionals should be eligible to earn tenure and long-term contracts), we can advocate for students in ways that outside contractors cannot. Because bar prep companies will likely have their own pecuniary interests in mind, they likely will not advocate for students in the same way as ASP faculty.
For instance, many ASP professionals serve on their law school’s Academic Review Committee or provide data to those committees when they decide whether to readmit dismissed students. Student petitions for readmission often paint the rosiest picture for the students’ readmission, while grades and LSAT scores provide only a limited picture of a student’s potential. ASP professionals who have worked closely with the dismissed students can provide information that paints a clearer and more objective picture of whether a school should take a chance on readmitting dismissed students.
Outsourced academic support programs cannot possibly provide that level of objectivity and nuance. First, it is doubtful that an Academic Review Committee would permit an outside contractor ever to serve on such a committee. But even if the committee accepted data and observations from such a source, how could the committee ever trust that the information is objective when the outside contractor has a vested interest in ensuring that no “borderline” student ever sits for the bar and possibly harm the school’s bar passage rate? Why would an outside contractor ever take such a chance when their future contractual relations rely on bar passage? As a result, law schools lose an opportunity for clearer information about their students when they outsource academic support.
Law schools should not outsource academic support to commercial bar prep companies, a proposal that at least one company is marketing. At many schools, in-house academic support programs provide a genuine and effective source for student support. Partnering with such companies in the area of academic support and even outsourcing curricular bar prep courses might be reasonable, but the wholesale abrogation of a law school’s fiduciary duty to prepare its students for success is deeply problematic. Should law schools follow this slippery slope, they slide one step closer to outsourcing clinical, legal writing, and even doctrinal teaching.
Monday, December 7, 2015
We want to congratulate our Contributing Editor, Katherine S. Kelly, on her promotion. Katherine is at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law. She has been promoted to Clinical Associate Professor of Law. Katherine is also the Director of Academic Support at Moritz. Her profile is here: Katherine S. Kelly.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
The Law School Academic Support Blog has been awarded the Texas Bar Today Top 10 badge for Amy Jarmon's Friday, October 30th post on Quick Tips from Law Students. Thank you to the State Bar of Texas for this additional recognition.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
The Law School Academic Support Blog has been awarded the Texas Bar Today Top 10 badge for Amy Jarmon's Wednesday, October 21st post on Multiple-Choice Exam Strategies. Thank you to the State Bar of Texas for this recognition.
Monday, September 14, 2015
The Law School Academic Support Blog has been awarded the Texas Bar Today Top 10 badge for Amy Jarmon's September 9th post Becoming an Expert on Your Professors' Courses. Thank you to the State Bar of Texas for this recognition.