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.
Friday, July 3, 2015
UMass Law School will be hosting our 3rd Jr. Faculty Scholarship Exchange this fall. I strongly recommend ASPer's who have a work-in-progress to attend. I participated last year, and the experience was invaluable. Feedback from colleagues sparked an "AHA! That's it!" moment for me. It's a fantastic event, during a gorgeous time of year in Boston. I hope to see you there. (RCF)
As the weather finally begins to look like summer here along the coast, the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth School of Law wishes to invite you to our Third Annual Junior Faculty Scholarship Exchange. This is an opportunity for junior law school faculty to gather together to discuss works in progress, finished papers, research interests, and to network and collaborate with peers from other institutions. Our hope is to provide a forum for legal scholars to develop their ideas and scholarship with input and constructive criticism from fellow law teachers. This past year we hosted 23 attendees from a dozen different law schools, from as far as Texas. This event is especially aimed at faculty with seven, or fewer, years of law teaching experience.
We are hosting this conference at the UMass Club, located in the heart of Boston’s financial district, on the 33rd floor of 225 Franklin Street. The venue is close to South Station, and the red and orange lines of the MBTA, several parking garages and local hotels. A hot buffet lunch, with morning and afternoon snack services will be provided. For directions, see: http://www.clubcorp.com/Clubs/University-of-Massachusetts-Club/About-the-Club/Directions-Hours.
Please consider joining us for this event by marking your calendar for Friday, October 16th, 2015, from 10 to 4. Seating will be limited. Registration for this event will open August 24th. Attendees will need to assume responsibility for their personal travel or lodging expenses.
Feel free to forward this invitation to a junior faculty member that you believe may be interested. If this is information that you would prefer not to receive, please let us know and we will take you off of our list. If you have any immediate questions or concerns please call us at (508)985-1121, and ask to speak with Emma, Jessica, or me. Thank you.
Spencer E. Clough
Associate Dean/Director of the Law Library
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Please welcome Cyrah Khan as Associate Director of Academic Support at Seattle University School of Law where she assumed ASP duties this winter. She grew up in New York and became interested in education during high school when she started tutoring at-risk kids in NYC public schools. After moving to Seattle to pursue a Criminal Justice degree at Seattle University, she attended Seattle University School of Law and started doing work in education equity and access to education. She has worked for the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights and the ACLU Education Equity Program. Most recently, she clerked at Division Two of the Washington Court of Appeals. While clerking she earned her Master's Degree in Education with a focus on differentiated instruction and program assessment.
Please welcome Cyrah to ASP!
Monday, May 11, 2015
We are happy to announce that Katherine Kelly, one of our Contributing Editors, has been awarded a badge for a "Top 10 Blog Posts" for her posting last week entitled: Tackling a Take Home Exam. The State Bar of Texas included her on their Texas Bar Today website list of last week's top ten list. You can find their web posting here: Texas Bar Today Top 10 . The PDF badge below is to honor her accomplishment:
Friday, March 6, 2015
We are pleased to announce this year’s full-day NY Academic Support Workshop, to be held from 9:30 to 5:30 at New York Law School on Friday, April 17. As usual, this will be a small and rather-intimate gathering of academic support professionals and colleagues actively working to learn from one another.
As is our usual practice, the afternoon sessions of the workshop will have an open agenda and room to include any subject of interest to those in attendance, while the morning sessions will be centered on a specific topic. For this year’s morning session we would like to concentrate on working with law students who have recently been placed on academic supervision or probation. How do we best help these students? What unique problems do they face? What sorts of pedagogies help them become motivated and effective learners? Any and all insights, discussions, ideas or presentations will be welcome.
One thing that makes all ASP gatherings exciting has always been our unique emphasis on interaction – ASP folks DO things together so that we can learn together. NY Workshop participants work with one another to develop or enhance our individual lessons, materials, presentations, or any other part of our professional endeavors. No one who comes is allowed to be a back-bencher. If you would like to attend, please let us know whether you want to share one of your own issues, ideas, etc., comment on ones brought by other participants, or both. And please let us know whether you think your topic/question/issue/material/presentation lends itself to our morning’s theme or to the more open-ended part of our agenda. When we confirm who will attend and what specific questions the participants plan to address, we will send out a finalized workshop agenda.
RSVP to Kris at email@example.com.
Since this is not a formal conference there is no fee to attend. We hope to see many of you soon!
Saturday, January 17, 2015
ASP conferences and presentations frequently extol the virtues of group work. Books and articles suggest that group work would enhance legal education, make students better prepared for law practice, and make law school less isolating. Business schools rely on group projects. Despite the evidence, law schools hew to the familiar, and few 1L courses include group work, although some upper-division seminar and clinical courses include group exercises. For women, there may be some benefit to this arrangement.
Women are subject to the "secretary effect," where they are the secretary, the recorder, or the stenographer in group projects. The spit-balling, the creative thinking, and the leadership roles are taken by the men of the group. Women are expected to play supporting roles, while men take the lead, when they work in groups. This arrangement extends into adulthood.
I never liked group work, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed law school. In group projects, I felt like my contributions were never valued, I did more work than other members of the group, and I was stuck in ill-fitting roles where I could not demonstrate my competance. On the rare occasion I had to work in a group during law school, I sought out all-female groups, where I knew I would feel more comfortable.
Professionally, I see the same pattern. ASP is dominated by women, who rarely rise to leadership roles outside of our small community. ASP is designed to support students, but is frequently expected to support the (predominately) male tenured and tenure-track faculty. ASP, as a field, keeps the students in school, helps them achieve career success through bar support, yet rarely receives the credit for helping law schools meet accreditation standards. In ASP, we are still the unsung secretaries, the essential member of the group who is undervalued and overlooked.
Group Projects and the Secretary Effect
Friday, January 9, 2015
I have attended a few conferences this fall, and it has been wonderful to meet new ASPers. So many new ASPers have fantastic new ideas, new programs, and new skills. As program co-chair for this year's conference, I want to encourage professionals new to ASP to submit a proposal to AASE. We need you to talk about your new ideas! Don't worry that you are "too new"--"too new" is exactly the right time to present at AASE, a community of friends, colleagues, and helpers who want to see new professionals succeed. Don't worry that other people have already done what you are doing; we need people who will remind us of what it is like to start out in the field. And everyone approaches the same challenges in different ways, so chances are your methods will be new, and helpful, to members of our community. And don't worry that you can't commit to a presentation on your own; if you would like to present with a more experienced member of our community, we are happy to arrange a joint presentation--you don't even need to suggest your co-presenter!
The bottom line is that new ASPers are critical to our success as a community, the vitality of our organization, and we want YOU to add to this year's conference. Presentation proposals are due Jan 12, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Please welcome Phil Kaplan as Associate Professor of Academic Support at Suffolk University Law School where he assumed ASP duties in July 2014.
Phil graduated from Suffolk University Law School and practiced law in Boston for nine years prior to returning to Suffolk to teach. This past July he transferred to the Academic Support Program. For the past eighteen years he has taught in the law school’s Legal Practice Skills Department, including a semester as acting director in spring of 2007. Phil was also the 2009 recipient of the Thomas J. McMahon Award for Dedication to Students.
Phil has thoroughly enjoyed his new position. It allows him to take the skills and knowledge that he has taught for 18 years and focus them in a new direction. Academic Support also affords him a greater opportunity for one-to-one contact with students, which has always been one of his favorite parts of academia.
Please welcome Phil to academic support when you see him at a regional conference, the AALS Annual Meeting, or AASE!
Friday, October 17, 2014
Please welcome Mary Ann Becker! Mary Ann is the Associate Director of Writing Programs and Academic Support at Loyola Unviersity Chicago School of Law. Thank you to Jennifer Brendel, the Director, for providing more information on Mary Ann:
Before joining Loyola’s faculty as the Associate Director of Writing Programs and Academic Support, Mary Ann Becker taught legal research and writing to first, second, and third year students at DePaul University College of Law for seven years. She had also acted as the interim assistant director of the legal writing program at DePaul and was a member of Board of Editors for The Second Draft. Before teaching, she worked as a litigation attorney in Chicago. She graduated from Northwestern University with a B.A. in French language and literature and she earned her J.D. from DePaul University. Though new to academic support, she will be presenting an article she wrote at Duquesne’s December 6 conference, Teaching the Academically Underprepared Law Student, and she looks forward to meeting many of you soon!
Mary Ann's faculty profile can be found here: Mary Ann Becker. Please welcome her when you see her at a conference or workshop.