Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Studying vs. Learning: A Matter of Perspective

It's the time of the year when one group of graduates are taking their oaths of office while another group of graduates are preparing for the bar exam this summer.  That brings me to an interesting conversation with a recent bar passer and his spouse about studying versus learning.

You see, with an introduction in hand, I asked the bar passer's spouse if she noticed anything different between her spouse's law school experience preparing for final exams and her spouse's bar prep experiencing in preparing for the bar exam.

Without hesitation, the report came back: "No. It was much the same, same hours, same long days, the same through and through."  

In rapid response and without the slightest hesitation, the recent graduate - who just passed the bar exam - exclaimed that it was "totally different. No comparison between preparing for law school exams and the bar exam."  

You see, according to his spouse's perspective, preparing for law school exams and bar exams outwardly seemed identical, but, according to the recent graduate, in law school he spent most of his time reading...and reading...and reading...and then learning as much as he could just a few days before final exams.  In other words, he spent his law school years studying.  In contrast, even though outwardly he put in similar hours for bar prep as for law school studies, his focus was on practicing...and practicing...and practicing.  In other words, for law school he was studying; for the bar exam he was learning.

So, for those of you preparing for the bar exam this summer, focus on learning - not studying.  What does that mean?  Well, a great day is completing two tasks: working through lots of actual bar exam problems and then journaling about what you learned that very day.  Yep...that very day.  That's key.  Learn today.  Spend less time studying (reading commercial outlines, watching lectures, and reading lecture notes) and more time learning (doing lots and lots of practice problems).  That's because on bar exam day you aren't going to be asked about what you read but rather asked to show what you can do.  So, be a doer this summer!  (Scott Johns).

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 14, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Kristen Holmquist

About four years ago, I met Kristen.  I did not physically meet her but communicated with her by email and phone.  I was the program chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Academic Support and her proposal was selected for that year’s program.  Kristen had co-authored a paper with one of her former students.  Interacting with program presenters was a highlight of my experience as chair as I had some great side conversations with Kristen who provided me with great perspective.  I also appreciate her periodic comments on the academic support listserv.  Let’s learn about Kristen! (Goldie Pritchard)

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Q: Please indicate your full name, title, and institution of employment.

Kristen Holmquist

Director of Academic Skills Program, Director of Experiential Education, Lecturer in Residence

Berkeley Law

 

Q: Please briefly describe your ASP work including length of time associated with it and what initially stimulated your interest.  

I fell in love with ASP as a 2L. I was incredibly lucky to work as a teaching fellow under Kris Knaplund at UCLA - and it didn't take very long at all for me to realize that ASP was my calling. I loved teaching. I loved working closely with students eager to learn new skills. I loved watching that "aha!" moment. I took over as Director at UCLA in 2003 (after Kris left for Pepperdine), and then I moved to Berkeley Law in 2008. 

 

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?

The best part of my job, easily, is teaching. Over the course of a semester, my students and I learn to trust each other, to be vulnerable and to try hard, new things. Even this many years in I am astounded by how much growth can happen over the course of a semester when teacher and student are working together as a team. 

The greatest challenge for me is the program development piece - making sure we have a cohesive whole, that we're on top of communications, etc. I've overcome the challenge by hiring tremendous people. My former associate director, Suzanne Miles, and my current associate director, Diana DiGennaro are both gifted teachers and excellent strategic thinkers. 

 

Q: What do you want your professional legacy to be?

If I've helped, in some small way, to diversify the profession - made it more accessible to first generation students, students of color, students with disabilities - then that's plenty enough for me. 

 

Q: What motivational advice or encouragement would you offer to new and/or midcareer ASPers or law students?

To new ASPers I'd say this - if you're wondering whether this career is worth it (maybe it isn't as prestigious as you'd hoped, maybe it doesn't pay as well as you would like), the answer is absolutely YES. It's fun. It's rewarding. It's an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of real human beings - who will go out there and make a difference in the lives of even more folks. And if you're on the fence? Reach out - I'd be glad to talk to you about it!

June 13, 2018 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A "Get-To" vs. "Got-To" Attitude as a Spring Board to Learning!

We're just about three weeks into bar prep.  The excitement of graduation seems so long ago.  We're back in the same 'ole schoolhouse setting, watching bar review lectures and working through hypothetical legal problems.  Sure seems like the same old pattern as law school.  But, it need not be.

But first, a bit of background...

In aviation, air traffic controllers will often query pilots about their altitude.  It's a bit of a hint from the controllers to the pilots that something might be amiss.  And, it almost sounds sort of polite:  "Easy-Go Airline Flight 100, Say Altitude."  

In response, the pilots make a quick check of the altimeter - the instrument that measures altitude (i.e, height of the airplane in the skies) to confirm that they are at proper altitude as assigned by air traffic control:  "Roger Denver Approach Control, Easy-Go Airline Flight 100, level at 15,000 feet."  

In between the two communications, however, you can bet that the pilots were quickly making some fast-footed adjustments to the aircraft's altitude to make sure that they would not be busted by the air traffic controllers.

That brings us back to the world of bar prep.  A quick "attitude check" might be similarly helpful for your learning.

You see, as Professor Chad Noreuil from Arizona State University puts it in his book entitled "The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam," it can be mighty helpful for your learning to have what I call an "attitude check."  In particular, as Professor Noreuil cites in his book, researchers have identified a positive relationship between an optimistic approach to learning and achievement in learning.  Consequently, Professor Noreuil counsels bar takers to take on a "get-to" attitude rather than a "have-to" attitude towards bar prep because a "get-to" attitude improves one's chances of succeeding on the bar exam.  That's what I refer to as a "get-to" versus a "got-to" attitude.

But how do you change your attitude from a "got-to" to a "get-to" attitude?  Well, here's a possible approach that might just help provide some perspective about the wonderful opportunity that you have to take the bar exam this summer.  You see, very few have that opportunity.  That's because the numbers are just stacked against most people.  They'll never get the chance that you have this summer.  

Here are the details.  According to the U.S. government, there are about 7.5 billion people worldwide, and the U.S. population is close to 330 million.  https://www.census.gov/popclock/   Out of that population, according to the ABA, there are about 35,000 law school JD graduates per year.  That's it.  https://www.americanbar.org/content/  And, because most states require a JD in order to to the bar exam, very few people get to take a bar exam, very few indeed.  

That brings me back to you.  As a JD grad preparing for the bar exam, you are one of the very few who get to take the bar exam.  So, take advantage of that opportunity this summer by approaching your bar exam studies as once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to "get-to" show your state supreme court all the wonderful things that you have learned about practicing law.  You've worked hard in law school for just such a season as this, so, to paraphrase a popular slogan, "Just do it...but do it with a get-to attitude this summer!  (Scott Johns).

 

June 7, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus

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)

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Q: Please indicate your full name, title, and institution of employment.

Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus

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.”

June 6, 2018 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Procrastination Avoidance

A report is due next week, and I could do it today.  However, I think tomorrow is a better time to complete it.  The next day, I think tomorrow is a better time to complete it.  The 1L appellate brief is due, but facebook is much more fun than Lexis.  The Statute of Limitations runs next week, but I know I can draft a petition in no time.  Sound familiar?  I won’t assume any of you encounter these problems, but I am sure you talk to students about them.

Procrastination is a problem in law schools, and honestly, throughout society.  Some people always think tomorrow is a better day or justify putting something off because he/she works well under pressure.  Procrastination strategies have serious ramifications in law school, on the bar exam, and especially, the practice of law.  Any time is a great time to stop procrastinating.

Stopping procrastination is easier said than done, but I am recommending a short and great book to my students titled Solving the Procrastination Puzzle by Timothy Pychyl.  Pychyl researched procrastination, and he wrote the book to make it easy to apply in everyday life.

Pychyl addresses all the comments we hear from students and explains why people have certain procrastination feelings, why the feelings are wrong, and how to overcome putting off the task.  He discusses how most of our explanations are merely justifications for procrastination behavior.  People tend to always think tomorrow is a better day than today to complete a difficult task (affective forecasting).  Unfortunately, tomorrow is always a day away, and nothing is completed.  We never really feel like doing it tomorrow, so we continually delay. 

He also addresses the common justification of working better under stress.  Many of our students, and many attorneys unfortunately, think waiting to the last minute produces better work product.  His research indicates what we all know.  Last minute writing leads to more errors and less accuracy.  Our students could overcome the errors in undergrad by being near the top of the class.  We all know that doesn’t work in LRW or in front of judges in practice.

The good news is he provides practical actions to overcome those issues and others, including digital distractions.  Each chapter has a mantra to help get past the delay.  He does emphasize just getting started, but he moves beyond just telling readers to start.  He provides good mental models and advice to overcome procrastination.  His advice could make a huge difference for many of our students putting off briefs and outlines.  I will definitely recommend to my students.

(Steven Foster)

June 4, 2018 in Advice, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Reichi Lee

Reichi Lee was a recipient of the 2017 Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) Excellence Awards.  An Academic Support colleague recommended she be highlighted in the Veteran ASP Spotlight Series.  Let’s learn about Reichi! (Goldie Pritchard)

Golden Gate University - Niall David Photography-0326_preview

Q: Please indicate your full name, title, and institution of employment.

Reichi Lee

Associate Professor & Director, Academic Development

Golden Gate University School of Law

Q: Please briefly describe your ASP work including length of time associated with it and what initially stimulated your interest.

I’ve been in ASP for over 11 years, first as an adjunct teaching skills courses, then Assistant Director of Academic Development, and now as Associate Professor and Director, teaching skills and doctrinal courses, and overseeing a comprehensive academic support curriculum.

ASP work has become increasingly relevant and has transformed dramatically in the last decade. I love being a part of an ASP community that is proactively tackling the challenges of educating contemporary law students through constant adaption and innovation.

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?

My favorite part of the job is seeing a student who had struggled but worked hard to turn things around, alongside his or her family on graduation day.

My greatest challenge has been reconciling my own career ambitions and expectations from my youth, with being a mother, and finding the right mix of intellectual fulfillment, career advancement, and work-life balance – all in the context of an acceptable salary for survival in the Bay Area!

Q: What do you want your professional legacy to be?

Making an impact in someone’s life so that they can have a better life.

Q: What motivational advice or encouragement would you offer to new and/or midcareer ASPers or law students?

A law degree is not just a degree. For some students, obtaining a law degree means transforming an entire family and community, for generations to come.

To new students: when things get tough, pull out your admissions personal statement and re-read it. Remember, your struggle today is ultimately about so much more than just grades.

To new/midcareer ASPers: although the day-to-day may feel less than glamourous and you might have to work hard to be seen and valued - your work has much greater impact than you may think. I thank you!

May 30, 2018 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Is Learning Comfortable?

There's a line in the movie "The Greatest Showman" that goes something like this:  "Comfort is the enemy of progress."  

Attributed to PT Barnum, that got me thinking.  

I began to wonder if comfort might also be the enemy of learning, or at least perhaps a barrier to learning.

That's because learning is, frankly, uncomfortable.  And, it's uncomfortable because we learn from our own mistakes.  And, mistakes are, well, hard for us to accept because they show us that we are frail and have much to learn.

In my own case, I got to thinking that I might be trying to create such a "perfect" learning environment, so perfect, that I might be leaving my students with very little room for making mistakes.  In short, if that is the case, then there is very little left for my students to do, and if my students aren't doing, then they aren't making mistakes, and if they aren't making mistakes, then they really aren't learning at all.  My quest for perfect teaching might be crowding out learning.

Of course, it's important to inspire our students, to serve a role models of what it means to be learners, and to create optimal learning environments.  But, an optimal learning environment might just mean a lot less of them watching, listening, and observing me and a lot more of me watching, listening, and observing them.  That's really hard for me to do because, quite simply, I want to help them along, I want to speed the learning process along, and I want to make learning as simple as possible because I don't like to see my students be uncomfortable.

That's especially true in the bar prep world.  Much of bar prep is focused around talking heads featuring hours after hours of watching lectures hosted by prominent academics.  And, those lectures (and especially re-watching those lectures) can lull us into a false sense that we are learning.  In short, we can get mighty comfortable while watching lectures.  But, unfortunately, watching is not learning.  It might be an important and indeed necessary first step on the way to success on the bar exam, but, I daresay, no one passes the bar exam by watching others solve legal problems.  Instead, people pass the bar exam because of what they are doing after the bar review lectures.  And, that is really uncomfortable, especially in bar prep, because the stakes are so high and we make so many mistakes along the way.  In fact, because the questions are so difficult, it's hard to feel like we are learning when we are making so many mistakes.  

That's where we can come in as academic support professionals.  We can dispel the myth that learning comes "naturally." No it doesn't.  As I heard on a recent radio program, no one drifts into losing weight (or gaining strength or developing any new skill at all).  We have to be intentional.  We have to act purposefully.  So too with learning.  We don't become good at solving legal problems by osmosis, by watching lectures, by sitting on the sidelines observing others solve legal problems.  We become good at solving legal problems by solving legal problems (and lots of them).  And, I'm pretty sure that those wonderfully rehearsed bar review lectures didn't come out perfectly on the first cut.  In fact, take a look at any of the back scenes from any movie.  There are lots of outtakes that didn't make the cut.  But, without the outtakes, there wouldn't be a movie because, like learning, making a movie means making a lot of mistakes along the way.  So, as we support our students this summer as they prepare for their bar exams, let's give them room to learn.  Let's help them appreciate that none of us became experts by being experts.  Instead, we became good because we recognized that we weren't very good at all in the beginning but we keep at it, over and over, until we started to make progress, until we started to learn.  Of course, along the way, it didn't feel very comfortable.  But, because we know that learning is hard, humbling work...for all of us...it's okay to be uncomfortable.  So, this summer, let's help our students embrace the uncomfortableness of learning by being myth-busters, and, in the process breaking down the real barriers to learning, namely, believing that learning comes naturally for everyone but us.  (Scott Johns).

 

 

 

May 24, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Excited for AASE

As of this post, AASE is approximately 24 hours from beginning.  I can’t wait for it to start.  AASE always produces great ideas and a good recharge to make it through bar prep.

Everyone will have different suggestions for how to approach the conference.  My suggestions are based on my personality and experience, so you may benefit from different strategies.  Here are a handful of my thoughts. 

First, steal great ideas.  The presenters are there to help everyone get better.  Use their ideas in your class, workshops, or interactions with students.  I would guess the vast majority of presenters want you to steal their ideas.  Give them credit when appropriate, but don’t reinvent the wheel.  Most people in ASP are working on limited budgets, with limited staff, and are responsible for helping an entire law school succeed.  Work smarter while working harder.

Second, devote a notebook page or word document to great ideas.  I normally have a blank word document or the first page of my notebook devoted to great ideas I can implement when I get back.  I call it my takeaway sheet.  As I hear something that I can implement, I quickly write it down.  Keeping all of the great ideas in 1 space helps me stay organized for when I get back.

Third, attend a variety of presentations.  I know the schedule is roughly setup in tracks to help specific populations.  For some people, they may need to focus on 1 track.  However, I usually tell people to attend a few presentations outside your track.  You never know when a great 1L exercise would work really well in a bar prep class.  We are all trying to help our students improve fundamental legal analysis.  Take ideas from everywhere to do that.

Fourth, talk to people.  This is the hardest one for me.  I do not naturally introduce myself or try to meet new people.  However, the people you meet may be the biggest resource you take away from the conference.  My first conference, which happened to be at SLU in summer 2009, made a huge impact on my career in a number of ways.  One of the biggest impacts came from simply sitting on the bus.  I sat by myself, like normal, and an outgoing, awesome person sat next to me.  I had no idea who Paula Manning was at that time (probably should have).  The insight she provided in that 15 minute ride made in an impact on my students that summer.  She also became one of the people I can always reach out to when I have a question.  Paula will never know the impact she continually has on my students, and it all happened because I talked to someone on the bus.  You can both learn from and help out others just by talking to them.

Lastly, enjoy the break.  I know many of us have bar takers starting bar prep.  Others have grading or numerous tasks waiting back home.  However, I would implore everyone to take a second and enjoy the break.  Go visit the arch one night or go to sleep early.  The mental recharge getting away from the office can make a huge difference in the coming months.

I hope everyone enjoys AASE.  I can’t wait to see everyone, even if I may not say hello.

(Steven Foster)

May 21, 2018 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Secret to a Great Weekend Get-Away!

I just had one of the best weekends of my life.  

But, before I get into the details, here's a bit of background about law school life in general.

As summarized by the Colorado Supreme Court, a 2016 survey of 3300 law students at 15 law schools indicated that law school life is, simply put, brutal to one's well-being.  

Here's the specifics:

  • 23 percent of surveyed law students reported mild to moderate anxiety with another 14 percent reporting severe anxiety
  • 17 percent of surveyed law students reported being depressed
  • 43 percent of surveyed law students reported binge drinking at least once in the previous two weeks 

http://coloradosupremecourt.com/Well-Being

In short, law school life can be really tough.  I know.  In my case, anxiety started to first take over my life...as a first-year law student in law school.  There's so much to think about, which I translate into "there's so much to worry about."  And, I was worried about everything, especially being called upon, in which, of course, I felt like I would finally be revealed as a fraud - an imposter not really belonging in law school.  Ever since I have realized how powerful our thoughts can be to our well-being.

That brings me to my recent weekend adventure...  

You see, it started just like any other weekend - busy.  In fact, extra busy.  So, busy that in my rush to wash my blue jeans, I forgot to check my pockets. Yep, my gleaming smartphone took a deep water plunge into the washing machine...for a good hour (my pants were really dirty).  The good news is that my phone was really clean now.  The great news...I actually felt relieved.  I felt free.  I no longer had this overarching, almost itching desire to constantly check my phone for messages, texts, and yes I'm old-fashioned, phone calls.  Simply put, my phone was dead.  Completely lifeless.  Just a bunch of fancy sparkling metal and glass that couldn't speak to me, write to me, talk with me, or respond to me.

At first, to be honest, that left me speechless.  But, oh what a weekend did I have! Or, to put it better, what a weekend did I experience!  

Why, I started to connect to real things, real people, real situations, real life.  And, in the course of connecting (or rather re-connecting), I started to feel less anxious.  I wasn't worried about constantly checking email.  It was almost gleeful.  

Now, I don't recommend washing your phone.  But, it was a lesson well-worth the price of admission.  Even now, with a replacement phone at hand, I try to leave it behind.  That's because the farther away my phone is from me, the better my own well-being.  

So, with finals almost finished (or nearly so), take a weekend get-away that will be, simply put, priceless.  Put that phone of yours away; bury it for the weekend; and go meet up with the world.

For more tips on developing well-being, please see the ABA's "Well-Being Took Kit for the Legal Profession," written by Anne Bradford, available at:  

 https://www.americanbar.org/well-beingkit  

For the entire article regarding the survey results of law students, please see David B. Jaffe, et. al, "Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being," available at:

 https://jle.aals.org/home/vol66/iss1/13/.  

(Scott Johns)

May 10, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 30, 2018

Modeling Failure

The best plans don’t always work out as intended.  Trying something new with a course or activity may sound groundbreaking.  However, the reality is sometimes it doesn’t work.  Students may dislike the program and not engage in the work or the message doesn’t click with students.  Our response to those difficulties can help train our students to overcome similar occurrences.    

I had one of those groundbreaking failures this year.  I planned to create super-learners.  I completely agree with Louis Schultz’s arguments in his article and have implemented similar programs throughout my tenure at OCU.  The art of learning can make a huge impact on students, and the earlier students understand how to learn, the better they can perform in school and on the bar.  I took that idea a step further.  I heard presentations and read articles about Millennial students.  One tidbit I latched onto was the notion that Millennial’s won’t do what they are told “because I said so”, but they want more information for why they are told to do something.  I knew I could provide them that information, so I started planning to assign learning articles.

I teach Legal Analysis to every 1L.  I found good articles about spaced repetition, testing effect, reading on a screen, self-regulated learning, mindfulness, and growth mindset.  I thought reading the articles combined with short discussions and activities related to those topics would produce better learners that remembered significantly more than ever before.  I was wrong.

Students despised the new readings.  To be fair, I chose longer articles that took a while to read.  Legal Analysis is 1 credit hour and credit/no credit graded, so they felt the reading was disproportionate to those facts.  My philosophy was the reading benefitted them and provided the why when I told them to start outlining early in the semester or study a certain way.  However, the students were probably correct.  The amount of reading was long, so many of them didn’t do it.

In essence, my new idea and integration failed.  I am sure that happens to everyone.  However, our response to our own failures is the best way to model improvement to our students.  As a former type A law student who did well in law school, I don’t handle being wrong very well (or at all really).  My frustration was that I knew the science, which is clear that certain activities are best for students.  Anecdotally, I have seen our best students use these methods for years.  From a learning science perspective, I did know more than most of the students, as do many of you.  That knowledge doesn’t matter though if the students don’t receive or internalize it.  Being substantively correct doesn’t help students succeed if they ignore the message.  Frustration or complaints about students not showing up to sessions, doing the reading, or putting in the effort are legitimate, cathartic, and unproductive.  If we want students to overcome their failures, creating a new solution can model that behavior.

Constant improvement is critical to success in law school and the practice of law.  We all know that is true in Academic Support as well.  New students, research, and technology make change inevitable.  I will rely on much shorter articles or more excerpts next year to decrease the amount of reading.  I will utilize more of the learning science during the spring after students receive a set of grades and realize they need help.  My hope is to balance the need to convey the information with the willingness of students to acquire the information.

My planned changes will help the new group of 1Ls but also show the 2Ls that their opinion matters.  I ask students every July to analyze their own BARBRI MBE report to find improvement areas before the bar.  They are much more likely to follow that advice if they already saw me make changes based on their experience and suggestions.  Modeling improvement can encourage others to also seek improvement, which can make a huge difference whether some students succeed.

(Steven Foster)

April 30, 2018 in Advice, Program Evaluation, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Am I Still A Baby ASP’er?

As my students transition into exam study mode and I start to close out all of the activities of this academic year, I have started to reflect on my accomplishments and goals. Reflection of this depth does not happen very often but I have a present awareness as I prepare for my series highlighting veteran members of our Academic Support (ASP) community. Last May, I sent a number of individuals who I consider veterans (10 years or more doing ASP work) a list of questions to guide what I wanted to know about them. I did provide some flexibility but most answered all of the questions. As I approach the ten-year mark as an academic support professional and about the thirteenth year if we count law school and graduate school, I am even more curious about what everyone has to share.

I never understood what people meant when they would say they looked up and ten years had flown by. Now I do because it is happening to me. I believe that this is a great time to reflect on where I am, whether it is what I envisioned for myself, what things are working well, what things are not working so well, and where I see myself in the years to come. It is a great time to have new or modified aspirations. This is certainly something everyone should consider whether a few months into ASP work or several years in. I have decided to borrow from my student affairs and career services colleagues, specifically what they tell students to consider as they try to navigate a professional career. It is unlikely that I will share all of my personal reflections but I will list some of the questions they tell students to consider but I will also list some of the questions I would ask students in my past life as a diversity and academic advising professional.

A. Self-Assessment

• What do I need from my career? (what role it plays in my life)

• What makes me feel truly fulfilled? (how do I measure success)

• What do I know about myself that helps me make good career decisions?

• What is important to me based on my personal values and beliefs?

• What do I know about my personality and style?

B. Skills Assessment

         • What skills, experiences, and knowledge have I acquired?

• What skills, experiences, and knowledge would I like to acquire?

• What responsibilities do I have/have I had?

• What have I achieved?

• What are my strengths?

• What have been the highlights of my career and life to date?

C. Set Goals & Plan

• Are my talents being used and developed? If not, look for opportunities that allow you to use or develop the talents you have.

• Identify and exploit opportunities that address gaps in knowledge, ability, and growth.

• Select worthwhile but realistic goals.

• Consider steps you need to follow to accomplish my goals.

• Be flexible.

• Consider what will keep me motivated to achieve my goals.

I am certain that there are more sophisticated assessments and questions available but this is somewhere to start and verbalizing or writing these things down can be powerful. Also, if you have a person who helped you along the way as an ASP professional and who you trust, use them as a sounding board.  Moreover, if you know of an ASP veteran that you would like to see spotlighted, please email me their name and school and I might be able to highlight them. (Goldie Pritchard)

April 25, 2018 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Art of Living: "Talk Less; Listen More" says Columnist Writer

I'm a clipper.  That's right.  I keep an assortment of articles that intrigue me and then I return to them periodically to reflect on what I have learned.  One article caught my attention today...and...just in the nick of time.  You see, I'm just plain tired out.  Perhaps you are too, trying to do too much and to be too much.  Just spread out too thin to make much of a difference in the world, it seems.

So with classes starting to come to a close for many of us and our law students, I thought I'd take a pause to reflect on some principles that might help me become better at being better.  Here's what I mean by that.  Rather than being better at doing things, perhaps I might become better at being, in short, at being human.  I love that word "being" because it deals with the "hear and now" rather than the tomorrows.  It's loaded with action...in the present moment.  So, what action did I take that helped me get back to the present today?

Well, I've been carrying around an article that I clipped out dealing with New Year's Resolutions.  With so much stress right now as I try to finish teaching my courses, preparing for finals, and getting ready for the summer bar passage season, I thought that now was the perfect time to reflect on what I had learned about being a better person from an article entitled "Set the Bar High for Your 2018 Resolutions" by Jason Zweig (Wall Street Journal dated December 30-31, 2017), available at:   https://blogs.wsj.com/lessismore  Here are some of the quotes:

  1.  "Talk less; listen more."  Unfortunately, much of the time, I'm talking but not listening.  I love the advice here because it helps remind me to appreciate the other person, to value the other person, to embrace the other person.  On a personal note, within the world of academic support, I find that I am often too quick to provide solutions before I've yet to even understand the problem. So, this is great advice when working with students too.
  2. "Learn something interesting every day."  That's right; be curious.  As I drove to school today, I was passed by a school bus.  That's right - a school bus.  Yes, I am a slow driver (at least usually when I'm headed to work; much faster when I'm headed home!).  As the bus passed me by, I happened to notice something strange about the school bus.  It was from a public school that was named something like "The School for Expeditionary Learning."  That got me thinking.  Perhaps that's the way that I might better describe the learning process with my students.  Be courageous in your learning. Be daring in your learning.  Be expeditionary in your learning.
  3. "Get home 15 minutes earlier. It will make you 15 minutes more efficient the next day."  To be honest, I'm not quite sure I understand this advice. But, here's my take nonetheless.  Much of my day is hurried and busy because I let it be that way.  Take for instance email and messaging.  Rather than disabling notifications, I just keep getting these pop-up alerts, right from the get-go of my day, taking me off message from what my first priorities ought to be.  So, here's my take on this quote.  Disable notifications.  Only look at email in the middle of the day after I've already worked on the big tasks at hand.  Don't let the little things get in the way of doing the great things each day.
  4. "Stop walking with your phone in your hand all of the time. Look up and see how beautiful and strange the world is."  I did one better, at least I think so.  I am practicing leaving my phone in my car while at work.  That's because I find that even if I just carry my phone with me I feel drawn to it.  So, I make it unavailable to me in order that I can't fall prey to its tantalizing alerts and beeps that so often distractingly beckon for my attention.
  5. "Introduce yourself to all the people at your job [school] whom you see every day but haven't met yet."  As a corollary to no. 4 above (leaving your phone behind while at school), you'll have a lot more time to actually take note of the people around you.  So, share a smile with them.  Look one another in the eyes.  Maybe even say a friendly word or two.  You see, I suspect that one of the loneliest places in the world is right in the midst of the crowd, especially a law school crowd.  If true, there are many people all around us that are yearning for a place of fellowship, a place of relational togetherness, a place to belong.  That's definitely me.  So, rather than wait for others to say hello, I thought I'd just take the initiative and extend a friendly greeting to those I know...and those I don't too.  The more the merrier!  

 With all of the stresses and strains of our busy law school lives, I was so glad that I happened to clip this article.  It reminded me that often its the little things of the here and now that are really the great things.  Unfortunately, so often I have it backwards.  I'm busy, so busy that I don't have time to do anything meaningful at all.  So, I took a brief pause today to remind myself of what it means to be a human being in relationship with others.  That sure looks much more exciting that staring yet again at my phone.  So, have fun smiling...and being too!  (Scott Johns).

 

 

April 12, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

I’m Over It: End of Semester Blues

It is about that time of the semester when students are simply tired. Most, if not all of their major commitments are completed and the final commitment is probably to finish off the semester. At this time, moaning and groaning are common. Some students simply want classes to end so they can begin to prepare for exams while others would rather skip exams and begin the summer break.

3Ls

From this group of students, I hear: “I am over it!” “I don’t care anymore.” “I am ready to graduate.” “Get me out of here, I have completely checked-out.” For many 3Ls, fatigue seems to weigh them down as the end approaches; commencement marks the end of their legal education and the beginning of their professional careers. As students, they worked hard for almost three years as they assumed leadership roles, were members of student organizations, worked with various legal entities, participated in legal clinics and a number of co-curricular and extracurricular activities, and have almost completed the requirements for graduation. These students are simply tired! Completing and submitting bar applications seemed to mark the end but they are quickly reminded that they still have final exams ahead. Gearing up for commencement by ordering graduation regalia, notifying family and friends, and planning graduation celebrations are exciting activities that seem to serve only as a distraction from the inevitable, exams. I try to remind students that “their journeys are not over until they are over,” they still need to pass classes to obtain their degree. They probably do not want to return to the same institution after walking across the stage at commencement or self-sabotage by failing to complete one of the requirements necessary to sit for most bar exams, completion of a law degree. This reality check appears to provide temporary motivation for some.

2Ls

For this group of students, 2Ls, the thrill of the first semester of the second year of law school has disappeared. They began the academic year excited and motivated because they got to select their course schedule and participate in all of the activities they hoped for in law school. Many probably overcommitted themselves to a variety of extracurricular and co-curricular activities they ambitiously thought they could simultaneously undertake. They were initially motivated by the excitement and energy earned from study abroad, externship, legal work, and courses completed over the summer. New extra-curricular and co-curricular activities that motivated them now appear routine and in retrospect, many realize that they overcommitted themselves. At this point, 2Ls are desperately trying to re-energize in order to finish the semester strong. Those who already have summer opportunities lined-up seem less motivated. My reality check to this group is: “you did it to yourself, you committed to these activities so you need to finish your commitments.” 

1Ls

These students are simply in shock that legal writing is officially over or will be over within a matter of days.  They have spent so much time with their appellate briefs and it was a major aspect of their second semester.  A task that seemed impossible at first manifested in the completion of the appellate brief, oral argument, and the legal writing course.  Many tell me that for the first time in months, they happily and restfully took naps or slept for a full eight hours. Many are also excited to devote their complete attention to preparing for final exams.  Some students whom I have not seen in a while are suddenly appearing in my office to discuss final exams.  The realization that the end of the first year of law school is in sight seems overwhelming. My reality check to this group is: “you have a lot of work to do because you somewhat disengaged from your doctrinal classes and now have limited time to get on track so plan wisely and maximize the time you have remaining.”  (Goldie Pritchard)

April 11, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 9, 2018

Understanding How to Create and Modify Habits

Routines are critical for me to get anything done in a day. I wake up at the same time every morning. I hit snooze 1 time, read my daily devotional after the next alarm, then start my shower routine. I turn the coffee pot on at the same time, grab breakfast, and have “shoe race” with my kids before driving them to school on the same route. The days I follow a solid routine at work with to-do lists, I am more focused and accomplish more. Sound familiar?

My routine and habits help me get through law school and overcome struggles. I knew what I planned to accomplish and finished my tasks even when life was difficult. I tell students every semester that having a routine makes doing additional MBE questions in face of failure, navigating life circumstances, and accomplishing anything else much easier, especially when confronting obstacles during studying. However, I didn’t know much about the research on habit formation until recently. The research could help all of us working with students.

I started listening to The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg recently while driving, and so far, I love the book. It is a great combination of explaining habit research and providing anecdotal stories of how the research worked in particular situations ranging from large corporations to individuals. I plan to purchase a desk copy to highlight and take notes.

Law students could benefit from the research. The early parts of the book discuss creating and modifying habits. People have cues and rewards for situations, and changing the routine or response to the cue while still receiving the reward helps habit formation or modification. I am already thinking about how I can teach specific responses to certain cues to help 1Ls build habits for law school and reinforce the habits right before the bar exam. Individual meetings may be the best way to inculcate routines, but I am also thinking about how I could integrate the information into my classes.

The section I am listening to right now is about willpower. Research indicates people can increase willpower, and small gains in willpower in one area of life can spillover to other areas. The willpower discussion overlaps with Angela Duckworth’s Grit research. The book indicates willpower can be built with pre-programmed responses to challenging circumstances, which creates routines. Starbucks receives high customer service reviews because they developed training programs for routine responses. Employees use a specific tactic when rude or angry customers come to the counter. Even if an employee is tired, upset, or life is going poorly, the pre-programmed response provides the willpower to help the customer in spite of the rudeness. Response routines can drastically improve willpower.

Students need pre-programmed responses to challenges. Many of us encounter students who dislike professor feedback on assignments, perform poorly on oral questions, or fail another set of MBE questions. Telling students to overcome the obstacle and not worry about the performance may be true but probably not specific enough to help. Helping students determine a clear roadmap for the response is what will help the next time. When faring poorly on the MBE, help them come up with a routine, which could include decompression, analysis, positive response, and another set of questions. We all know it is easy to continue when everything is going well. Responses planned before challenging events are more likely to help overcome those events. Just as lawyers do, plan for the worst.

I can’t wait to finish the book. I encourage everyone to listen or read it if you get a chance.

(Steven Foster)

April 9, 2018 in Advice, Books, Exams - Theory, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Quick Classroom Exercise to Jazz Up Student Learning!

Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of attending the Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference. Being exhausted from grading numerous writing assignments into the wee hours of the morning, Prof. Katherine Lyons and Prof. Aimee Dudovitz (Loyola Law School - Los Angeles) caught my attention with the title of their talk: "Integrating Quick Classroom Exercises that Connect Doctrine and Skills and Still Allow You (and Your Students) to Sleep at Night."  

Frankly, this was a presentation that spoke directly to me.  It was medicine for my tired heart and my hurried mind.  I needed sleep (and lots of it)!

My favorite tip was what I'll paraphrase as the "one-moment question."  

Just pop on the screen a one-moment research question and ask your students to get to work researching, drafting, and writing a quick 5-10 minute email answer.  That's right. Start with researching.  As the professors made clear, don't let them blurt out an answer.  Instead, make them work.  Tell them to start looking on the internet, digging into the legal research engines for their answers.  Then, based on their own research discoveries, direct your students to write out short emails to provide you with precise answers to that particular question.  Once submitted, now you can open up the classroom for a well-researched and informed conversation about the answer to the one-moment question. And, because the answers are super-short, it shouldn't take much time to at least make a mark or two on each answer as follow-up feedback.

As an example, Professors Lyons and Dudovitz suggested that one might ask - in the midst of a civil procedure class discussing the propriety of "tag" jurisdiction for instance - whether a plaintiff could properly serve a corporate defendant by serving the summons and complaint on an out-of-state corporate officer just passing through the local airport of the plaintiff's forum state.  As a tip, the professors suggested that you pick out a question that has a bright-line answer based on jurisdictional precedent (and one that can be easily researched).  And, as they suggested, as a bonus have the students keep track of their research trails in arriving at their answers.

That got me thinking.  In my own teaching this semester, perhaps I should ask my students - in the midst of  our studies of constitutional law - whether a state such as Colorado could hypothetically prohibit out-of-state residents from being licensed as Colorado attorneys and, if not, why not.  To confess, I'm pretty sure about the answer but not exactly certain of the reason. But, I think it has to do with the Article IV Privileges and Immunities Clause.  So, I better take heed of the professors' advice and start researching for myself.  In the process, I think that I might just become a better learner (and teacher too)!  (Scott Johns).

March 29, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Mid-Course Learning Opportunity!

It's not too late, at all.  

With most law students facing final exams in a month or so, this is the perfect time for your law students to reflect on their learning...with the goal of making concrete beneficial improvements right now, i.e., with plenty of time to prepare for their final exams.

There are many such self-evaluation learning techniques, but I especially like the questions that adjunct professor Lori Reynolds (Asst. Dean of Graduate Legal Studies at the Univ. of Denver) asks each of her students because the questions are open-ended, allowing students to reflect, interact, and communicate about their own learning with their teacher.  

In fact, just prior to spring break, I asked these questions of my own law students, and I am taking stock of their responses by making changes where needed in my own content and instructional methods too.  You see, learning is a team effort, so it is important to get concrete information from all of your team members (your students) to identify what is helping your students learning, what might be hindering their learning, and what goals have yet to be achieved for the course thus far.  

In my own course this semester, there were two questions that tended to be most valuable.  First, with respect to what might be most hindering learning, I received a number of responses questioning the value of the "think-pair-share" method as a tool to help activate meaningful classroom engagement.  Based on those responses, I am hard at work doing research and re-evaluating my own use of "think-pair-share" to confirm whether in fact the method is an effective learning tool for my classrooms this term.  

The final question also seemed to provide valuable information about my students' learning, namely, in asking them what they might do differently to improve their overall course grade.  To paraphrase their general responses, most students acknowledged that: "It's time to put some more elbow grease into my learning because learning takes curious, engaging, and enterprising hard work on my part."  I was glad to see so many take ownership over their learning.

But, as a word of caution, I was quite afraid to ask these questions.  You see, I have 123 students; that means that I was bound to receive news that I just didn't want to hear because, frankly, I like to be liked.  But, my job as a teacher is not to be liked but to be good at what I have been hired to do. That's my responsibility to my students.  It's my obligation to them.  So, rather than fretting and worrying about what my students might say, I found out.  Yes, some of the comments were a bit painful for me to read.  But, read them I did.  And, more importantly, I stepped back to take them to heart to see whether there might be things that I ought to change to improve my students' learning for the remainder of the semester.  

Looking back, I'm mighty glad I asked because it's already helping me to become a better teacher to my students this semester, while I still have time to make a positive difference in the learning.  So, feel free to use these questions with your students this semester.  (Scott Johns).

Photo of Evaluation

 

March 22, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Strive for Progress, Not Perfection, and Remember the Victories

      “Strive for Progress, Not Perfection” is the text on my laptop. Whenever I present a workshop or go before students using my laptop that is what they see. I selected this phrase because so many students are consumed with perfection at everything they do that they often lose sight of progress made. They forget about those obstacles they overcame which are fundamental to their knowledge base and ability. They are no longer novices because they have some experience. It is all about perspective.

      Perfection may seem like a worthy goal to work towards or even try to achieve but in reality, it sometimes does more harm than good. Perfection is often an unattainable goal that can halt progress. Perfection for law students often means receiving “A” grades in all courses, achieving a perfect GPA, and involvement in coveted extracurricular activities. Whenever one or more of these is not achieved, students are left feeling less than adequate and feeling as though they do not belong in this environment. They focus on their mistakes and challenges which highlight negativity. In reality, very few students achieve the perfection they yearn. Not striving for perfection as a goal means that students can endeavor to improve their competencies and abilities, better themselves, become more effective and efficient with each task, and so much more.

      Currently, several of my students have the “end of semester blues” as they grapple with project and paper deadlines, looming exams, and fear of not finding summer opportunities. This is usually when students express to me their overwhelming frustrations which may be summed up by one or more of the following statements:

“I have been told NO multiple times, I don’t know if I can fill out another application!”

“It appears that there is simply not enough time to complete everything I have to complete!”

“I am tired of having to work ten times harder than others and still fail to get opportunities that others seem to easily have access to with lesser credentials!”

“I feel like the environment is rejecting everything I care about right now. How do I realign my passions with what I am learning and doing?”

“I am rethinking whether I can make a difference.”

      It is my opinion that mistakes are the best way to learn, improve, or progress and it is imperative that students make mistakes and experience some challenges. Mistakes and challenges are necessary for learning, as well as building courage, perseverance, and problem-solving skills. In life, mistakes will happen and challenges will occur. It is the memory of each challenge and mistake that reminds the student of what they have overcome and their ability to prevail. It is my ardent belief that if students can honestly attempt their very best at whatever they do, then at the end, they will feel fulfilled even if they have not fully achieved what they perceive as success.

      It is important to repackage perfectionism. Perfectionism should be seen as incremental progress rather than a single ultimate goal. There is so much joy that comes with celebrating each achievement regardless of how small or big. Commit to honestly performing your best, slowly edging your life closer and closer to where you want to be. Celebrate each and every success, failure, challenge, and mistake along the way. You may sometimes fall but as long as you get up after each negative experience and keep trying, you will make progress. (Goldie Pritchard)

image from media.giphy.com

March 21, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Academic Advising Worksheets

Many of us are intimately familiar with ABA Standard 309(b), which requires a law school to "provide academic support designed to afford students a reasonable opportunity to complete the program of legal education, graduate, and become members of the legal profession."  But, today, I'd like to focus on subsection "(a)."  Standard 309(a) states that a "law school shall provide academic advising for students that communicates effectively the school’s academic standards and graduation requirements, and that provides guidance on course selection."

Typically, first-year students have little (or no) say in what courses they will take.  Upper-level students, on the other hand, have many different--and sometimes competing--options available to them.  The vast number of different course combinations can be overwhelming to even the most organized law students.  Here are a few tips to help rising 2Ls and 3Ls register for upper-level courses.

Step one: check the law school's website or academic handbook for advising information.  Virtually every law school's website boasts an academic advising section.  For example, the University of California at Irvine's academic advising website offers some good suggestions for course selection:

  • Take the classes that interest you the most.
  • Take classes from professors you would like to study with, even if the subject matter is not one you think will appeal to you. There are practice fields you have not considered that will actually capture your interest.
  • Take classes from professors you enjoyed and whose teaching style matches your learning style.
  • Take classes that will give you a strong foundation in the practice field you intend to enter.
  • Take a class in an area of law that interests you, even if you never intend to practice in that field.
  • Takes classes with a mix of different methods of evaluation (e.g., exams, papers, in-class exercises).
  • Take a mix of skills and doctrinal courses.
  • Take a broad range of classes. Life is unpredictable. You may discover you do not enjoy the work you do, or business in your practice area may dry up. Choose courses that will expose you to various methodological approaches to the law and that prepare you to be a well-rounded lawyer able to take advantage of opportunities as they appear.

NYU Law's website echoes these same recommendations.  You may also want to consult Professor Jarmon's 2013 "Academic Advising and Registration" blogpost for some additional helpful tips.

Step two: make a list of all the academic requirements needed for graduation.  Check for specific course requirements, minimum/maximum credit limitations both at the semester level and cumulatively, writing or seminar requirements, and concentration requirements.  Put all of that information on a single sheet of paper.   You are welcome to Download Graduation Requirements Checklist that I use at my school and then make adjustments to the document to reflect your school's requirements. 

Step three: create a two-year plan.  Frequently, elective courses are offered during either the fall semester or the spring semester, but not both.  And, some specialty elective courses are only taught once every two years, meaning students will only have one opportunity during their upper-level to enroll in the course. Therefore, it is critical to know when, and how often a course will be offered.  Once you know which courses are offered when, chart them out.  It may feel like a complicated LSAT logic game (e.g. you can't take Wealth Transfers the same semester you that take Family Law), but it's worth the effort.  Again, you are invited to Download 3-Year Course Sequence Planning Worksheet to get the process started.

Step four: take draft versions of your worksheets to your academic advisor and academic support professor for approval.  Once you get the thumbs-up from your academic advisor about the mechanics, turn your attention to the bigger picture - goal setting.  For more information on what that conversation should look like, read Professor Jarmon's 2015 blogpost entitled "The Missing Piece: Academic Advising."  Finally, stop by your Academic Support Professor's Office for some deeper insights.  They are always full of helpful information, especially as it relates to your current academic achievement and future academic goals.  After all, there is a reason that ABA Standard 309 includes academic advising in part (a) and academic support in part (b) of the same rule!  (Kirsha Trychta)

March 20, 2018 in Advice, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Re-Discover Your Why for Success

Have you ever completed a task you didn’t want to do?  Of course you have.  We all do.  Think about how you felt during the process.  Were you encouraged about the accomplishment or were you just ready for it to be over?  Did the feeling depend on your ultimate end goal?  Grit researcher Dr. Angela Duckworth would suggest passion for the ultimate end goal makes a huge difference in perseverance and success.

Headlines and quick recitations of research indicate grit is a common denominator of successful people.  Individuals, especially stressed and busy law students, can make assumptions about what grit entails based on a common understanding.  Many people, myself included, heard small pieces of information and assumed grit meant hard work and perseverance in face of all obstacles.  However, Dr. Duckworth suggests grit contains more than the common understanding.  She argues perseverance is a major component, but perseverance combined with passion is critical for long-term grittiness.

Dr. Duckworth’s research into passion with perseverance resonates with me.  I love playing golf.  I am not uniquely good at golf, but I continue to play.  After the glory of DST, I can go to the driving range once a week after my kids go to bed.  I set goals and continually try to improve.  However, I only improve about 1 shot a year on average, but I keep working hard on the process.  Contrast golf with my low desire for running.  Running is a great activity, but I tend to get bored and winded.  Some OCU faculty and staff form relay teams to participate in the Oklahoma City Bombing Run to Remember in April.  I participated last year and trained just enough to make it through the 5k leg.  My desire to complete a run associated with the largest tragedy in my community keep me training and helped me complete the race.  After April, I didn’t run again until November to start training for a 10k leg this year because I didn't have a larger reason to overcome my lack of desire to run.  Even now, training is hard.  My body hurts, so I keep making excuses to not follow my regimen.  My desire is low, so I will not put in as much effort as I should.  I also predict I won’t keep running after April again.  Most of my running gains will be lost by next year.

Passion is a critical ingredient to get through law school.  At orientation, I make first-year students write down why he/she wants to be an attorney.  I tell them halfway through the semester they should read their why statement again.  Any time they are stressed or finding classes difficult, I suggest going back to the why statement.  Passion and the why can provide enough motivation to continue through struggles.  No one will like every assignment.  No one will like every class.  Re-reading the reason for attending was to help unrepresented groups or provide a better life for family can be enough to complete the assignment in a way to learn the material to retain it for success on finals and the bar exam.  Combining the why with perseverance can help overcome many of law school's challenges.

Learn how to tap into passion now because it will be critical in the practice of law.  No one will like every deposition, client, case, discovery request, or contract.  Trudging through it without passion won’t provide the best advocacy or work product, and that is not the grit that leads to success.  Finding your passion for the end goal and persevering is what leads to long-term success.

(Steven Foster)

March 19, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 5, 2018

Spring Break! Time to . . . Prepare for Finals!

The sun is breaking through the clouds.  Rain and thunderstorms picked up the last couple weeks.  Ice is melting away, and temperatures are steadily rising.  Spring is right around the corner, which also means Spring Break for most schools will be in the next few weeks.  Plan to have fun, relax, and spend time preparing for finals to maximize the effectiveness of Spring Break.

For most students, spring break starts on a Saturday and finishes the following Sunday.  9 glorious days not being in class.  9 amazing opportunities to get mentally fresh and ready for the stretch run into final exams.  Plan your Spring Break now to utilize all the time effectively.

My suggestion is to spend 4 of the days doing non-law school fun activities.  4 days not thinking about classes, outlines, or exams.  Play golf, watch bad movies, catch up on TV shows, watch an entire new series on Netflix, exercise, hang out with friends, or whatever will provide energy to make it through May.  Rest and recharge is key.

The other 5 days, assuming a normal 5 class schedule, are preparation for final exams.  My suggestion is to devote 1 day to each class.  Spend the morning catching up on the outline.  Make sure it is as up-to-date as reasonably possible.  Spend 1-2 hours on practice questions in the afternoon.  Outlining and practicing will begin critical finals preparation.

Spend the evenings of those 5 days having fun and getting ready for summer.  A couple of those evenings, do nothing.  More resting and relaxing.  Spend 1 of the evenings updating your legal resume.  Spend another evening deciding which employers you want to contact for potential summer internships.  Lastly, don’t forget to spend at least 1 evening reading for the first day of class after Spring Break. 

Planning now can make Spring Break both fun and effective.  Take time to enjoy life.  Recharging will have a huge impact on studying in April.  Catching up on outlines and practicing now provides more focused time in late April to understand the nuances of each subject.  Success requires a good plan.

(Steven Foster)

March 5, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)