Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, August 9, 2018

When Did You First Learn IRAC?

It's the start of a brand new academic year, and that means that first-year law students all across the nation are hearing for the first time about "IRAC" (the deductive formula for reminding us as law students to analyze legal problems by stating the issue, defining the rule, applying the facts at hand to the rule of law, and reaching a logical conclusion).

But, is IRAC really new to us as entering law students?

Well, the answer is plainly and firmly no.  

You see, as Professor José Roberto (Beto) Juárez Jr. explained during orientation at the University of Denver this past week, all of us have been doing IRAC since our toddler years. I mean all of us! That includes you and me!

Here's why...

As Professor Juárez elaborated, children know all about rules, how to interpret rules (usually narrowly), and how to apply them (also usually narrowly).  

That's because kids are faced - early on - with lots of rules imposed by adults, whether the adult is a teacher, a parent, or a youth leader. Adulthood is filled with rules (and with adults trying to get children to obey their adulthood rules). But, let's face facts.  As a child, rules have only one purpose in life; rules are meant to curb fun, to rob us of joy, to bar us from truly living.

Consequently, as a kid, we all learned - staring as early as toddlers - how to analyze rules for lots of factual and legal loopholes.  In short, we have been analyzing like "lawyers" from our earliest years using IRAC.

So, as you being to play, learn, and work with IRAC as a first-year law student, please don't forget this truth, namely, that you have been an IRAC-genuis for most of your life! (Scott Johns).

 

August 9, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

What I Wish I Knew As A 1L

I asked a few rising 2L and 3L students what they wish they knew as first year, first semester, law students and I received a slew of answers.  Not every answer is listed here and certainly, there is a lot more one could consider outside of the categories listed here.  The responses I received fall into some of the categories listed below and I limited categories to the six below. 

The Library Can Distract You. The library is typically thought of as a place where one goes to focus and study. In law school, the library can be a very distracting and social place. Some classmates want to talk to each other or you and you might want to have conversations to avoid reading or completing your tasks. Students who previously frequented the library and considered their visits productive might now find it to be the most distracting location to study. Give the library a try and see what happens, closely monitor your time and productivity. Simply clocking hours in the library does not equate with quality and fruitful study time. “I spent several hours, all semester long, in the library but when I consider the time I spent studying, it was minimal. I accomplished a lot more at home.” Student A

Attend Office Hours. Meeting with professors one-on-one can humanize the professors and cultivate the student-professor dynamics. Professors are human beings, really. This is a good time to ask pertinent questions and sort through difficult concepts early. Also, this interaction allows professors to get to know you which might become helpful in the future when they seek a teaching assistant or research assistant. This interaction can also be helpful if you need a letter of recommendation in the future but you must engage with professors to cultivate that relationship. “When I needed a reference, my professor was willing to write me one and remembered me because I was in office hours with at least one course related question every week.” Student B

You Can Sleep Before Midnight. Law students spend hours preparing for class and completing legal writing assignments, particularly in the beginning. Students often pull all-nighters to balance class preparation and completion of assignments. However, if you plan out your time and maximize the time you spend on various assignments and tasks, you can accomplish a lot. “I worked (which I was advised against), commuted to school from about an hour away, am married, and have three children but still managed to complete all of the requirements of my 1L curriculum. It is doable. It is all about time management, prioritizing, and temporary sacrifice.” Student C

Be Humble. Some students can be more confident than they should be particularly if they were high achieving students in a previous academic environment. It can also be difficult when your path in life was to make it to law school so you took the necessary classes, participated in pre-law programs, worked with lawyers and other members of the legal profession, and have family members with experience in the legal profession. All of the above and more are confidence building and present knowledge that other students might not have. You must keep in mind that everyone will have their own journey, path, and experience which might be different from yours. Just because another person’s experience does not fit the cookie cutter law school experience does not mean it is of any less value. “I had a lot of exposure to the legal profession, legal terminology, law school environment, etc. and I understood things quicker than it seemed others did but that was not enough when I saw my law school first semester grades. I should have approached things the way some of my classmates did and I could have learned from them but refused to. I wish that I was more open to the Academic Support Program and what other individuals in the law school environment had to say about preparing for exams. My attitude also isolated me from some of my classmates.” Student D

There Are Endless Opportunities. Some students often feel limited by their academic performance or perceived ability compared to other students. Students have the impression that there is only one trajectory to achieving a goal or developing a skill or to be a part of particular programs, co-curricular activities, and/or extracurricular activities. Everyone is not going to have the same opportunity to do the same things. There might be an alternative route to whatever you would like to do and/or accomplish but you may need to chat with someone, reach out to others, and be okay with alternatives. It is never the end of the world; therefore, you might just have to take a different path.

Invest In Your Well-being. Always ensure that you keep the friends you made outside of law school as they can keep you grounded and remind you of who you are and your values. They also provide a means of escaping law school. Schedule some fun on a weekly basis whether it is a movie, dinner, a walk, a run, or anything that makes you happy. This will keep you motivated and centered. Consider investing in a locker or a roller bag which will help with carrying your books around and save your back. Overall, simply pay attention to your body and your mental, physical, and emotional health. This will serve you well in the future.

This is a very exciting time for new students! Welcome to your new journey but remember to stay as true as you can to your authentic self. (Goldie Pritchard)

August 8, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Time to Reset

For Academic Support Professionals who oversee offices that operate year long, it can be very difficult to identify an ideal time to take a break or vacation. This is primarily due to the fact that we are constantly looking ahead to what comes next. We are planning the next program and preparing for the next event of the cycle. To somewhat illustrate this point, when bar preparation is over in July we intensify our preparation for orientation and fall programming (because we were simultaneously working on this during bar review) and in the fall we commence spring program planning which includes planning for students preparing for the February bar exam. At the height of spring semester, we start coaching students to ensure they graduate, work with those studying for the bar exam, and plan summer bar programming. This is just the tip of the iceberg and does not adequately capture the full picture. You have to live it to better understand, particularly when unpredictable incidents and issues surface. In the midst of it all, we have to be human beings and engage with family, friends, and community commitments.

Each year, as I assess my experience, I realize that I have never really had a break. The most consecutive days off I get is seven days at some point approximately a week after the July bar exam and prior to August Orientation. During that week, I continue to keep very busy. I respond to email messages about orientation, messages from recent bar takers, and communicate with teaching assistants. I have discovered that a plan to escape my environment tends to make the possibility of getting true rest more likely. Though it was a very sad situation, the elimination of the summer conditional admission program made my summer slightly more manageable and allowed me to direct most of my energy to one primary task. In retrospect, I cannot comprehend how I managed to accomplish all that I did during previous summers.

As a one-woman office providing academic support and bar preparation support services, I have to be present virtually or physically for most things. Over the years, in collaboration with my supervisors, I have made adjustments to cater to my health and well-being so I can provide optimal service to our students. I have also found it imperative to reset things and be comfortable making adjustments as need be. Here are some of the things I have found helpful:

(1) Take a day or a few hours off if necessary when extremely overwhelmed or exhausted. Leaving the building and unplugging for a short period of time can be rejuvenating and provide better perspective. You might not need it but understanding that this is an option and being okay with it is great.

(2) Take an occasional three-day weekend. This should be strategically planned maybe every 2 months particularly if you are uncomfortable with (1 above). This gives you something to look forward to as well as consumes some of your vacation days that you will lose anyway because you may never use them all. Furthermore, if you work odd hours (earlier and/or later than the workday schedule) and have quite a bit of weekend or evening programming, you can justify not coming in for a day.

(3) Recognize that the students will survive. Students are adults and even though they might “guilt trip” you because you were not present at a particular time of crisis, you know there are a number of resources available for them to use to solve their problems. Also, most things can be taken care of when you return to the office. By this approach, you are modeling good self-care which hopefully students can emulate. Also, the more rested you are, the better your performance.

Let’s all reset and gear-up for a wonderful 2018-1019 academic year. (Goldie Pritchard)

August 1, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

“Drop The Mic” On The Bar Exam

In a few short hours, the bar exam will be over for some Bar Takers throughout the United States while others still have an additional day to go. When you exit the room it is time to “drop the mic” on the bar exam.

image from media.giphy.com

For those who do not know what “drop the mic” means, here goes:

It is a way of making a memorable or noteworthy ending or defeating someone or something by literally or fictionally dropping a microphone at the end of the performance, talk, or presentation. I would add: “because you completed this exam so it’s over.”

If you did your utmost, put forth your best effort, managed your stress, freaked out yet gathered yourself, and completed the exam; nothing else remains to be said or done and there is nothing you can say or do.  All you can do is wait for the results.  You have no further control over the situation.  I know, easier said than done!

Concern that you failed, anger at yourself for forgetting to write something in an essay answer, upset about one or more questions you think you marked incorrectly, reliving bar preparation, beating yourself up, being overly worried about what others wrote, etc. What will such reflection do for you? While it is perfectly normal to have all these latent feelings, you may wish to ask yourself how do they benefit you. My advice is to face all of these emotions then take a break, rehabilitate your social life, and look ahead. Enjoy life until you are notified of the final results. Inevitably, you will panic again around the time results are to be posted but let’s take things one step at a time. (Goldie Pritchard)

July 25, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Final Weekend Bar Exam Preparations for Your Bar Exam!

Attention Bar Takers:

Here's a couple of short winning tips for your final weekend flight plan checks as you prepare for success on your bar exam next week! 

I. Focus on a Winning Attitude:

First, remind yourself right now why you can pass the bar exam...because, after all, you've been trained as an attorney.  

That's right.  Boldy recognize that out of all of the people in the world, you are one of the very few who have earned a law degree.  Yep...YOU'VE earned your law degree, having successfully demonstrated that YOU know how to solve legal problems.  That doesn't mean that you know it all (nor that you need to know it all for your bar exam).  But, you do know how to read and ponder and analyze and write and communicate as an attorney because you've been trained - for over the course of three years - to think and, more significantly, be an attorney.  

So, as Professor Chad Noreuil says, look forward to your bar exam next week as a "get-to" opportunity rather than a "got-to" threat. That's because this is YOUR moment to show YOUR state Supreme Court that YOU are professionally-trained attorney.

II.  Rehearsing Your Lines:

Second, keep your focus on positive learning throughout this weekend as you...

DANCE

&

TALK

&

VISUALIZE

&

ACT OUT

 &

REHEARSE

&

PRACTICE

YOUR BIG PICTURE RULES FOR YOUR BAR EXAM NEXT WEEK!

In other words, don't think of memorization as dry and dusty work.  

Rather, consider memorization as theatre work.  

Just like actors, carry your script (your study tool) with you in hand, personally by your side, ready to swing into your eyesight, as you walk through the major issues and rules for each subject. Move swiftly. Your goal on Saturday is to work through each subject in well under an hour or much less. Then, do the same for each subject on Sunday.

Here's a Tip - Less is More! 

Stick with talking, singing, or acting out only the big picture rules.  Don't dive deep.  In other words, just state the rule for burglary but don't practice the definitions for each of the elements.  Then, do it again...quicker.  On Sunday, grab those study tools and once again work through each subject - one at a time - with freedom and abandon to peek at your study tools.  

The Memory Power of Peeking!  

Too many people don't want to peek.  But here's the secret to memorization (based on the famous saying that a "peek is worth a thousand words").  

When we peek, we visually see where the rule is on our study tool and how it is organized and positioned.  As the learning scientists indicate, we tend to comprehend (a.k.a., remember) things better when we see them in text (whether in our set of notecards or outlines or posters) because the visual position of the words creates meaning for us.  And, memorization is just about creating memories with your study tools. So, be a memory creator this weekend. 

Finally, I would be remise if I didn't talk about Monday (also known as the "day before the exam").  

If you can't help yourself, feel free to review your study tools.  But, most certainly don't do any more practice problems.  And, definitely don't work on memorizing your study tools.  Just skim through them.

And, if at all possible, take the day off.  I mean the whole day.  From start to finish.  

Recognize that brainwork - just like exercise in preparation for a marathon - requires rest and relaxation time the day before a big event in order to rejuvenate and refresh.  

So, be extra kind to yourself, my dear doctor of jurisprudence, and splurge with some good old fashioned R&R.  And, good luck on your bar exam next week! (Scott Johns)

July 19, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

I'm a new fall 1L! How much should I get involved in extracurriculars during the fall semester?

Law students are the "cream of the crop" out of undergraduate, graduate, and employment situations. Typically they have been very involved in student or community organizations; often they have held multiple leadership positions at once. Many worked part-time or full-time during their studies. Some had additional family responsibilities while studying: elder care, child care, marriage.

In short law students are "doers" in their pre-law-school lives. They have juggled a variety of experiences while getting A and B grades in school. Often they tell me they "never had to study" to get those top grades. Many tell me that they studied under 20 hours per week; some tell me that they studied under 10 hours per week. They also tell me they wrote papers the night before and never studied more than a couple of days for tests. When academic pursuits come easily, it leaves lots of room for other pursuits.

Most law students enter law school with the impression that they can continue their high involvement in activities and still get the highest grades. However, a more cautious approach is probably the wiser approach - at least the first semester. Here are some of the reasons why over-involvement may be less than optimal:

  • The cohort in the first-year class is different than the past cohorts in most classes. Remember all of you are from the "cream of the crop," and consequently the outstanding level of intelligence and achievement of your new classmates is likely different from the past. Law students were accepted to law school because they excelled in their prior lives.
  • Law school is different than other educational experiences and will require new learning strategies and study skills for success. All first-year students find the fall semester an adjustment as they face different expectations for classes and exams.
  • The pace of learning is faster in law school because more material that is dense and complex is covered in a semester. On top of preparing for class, law students need to synthesize the material and practice application of that material to new fact scenarios to prepare for best exam performance.
  • Legal research and writing courses require lengthy projects using different analysis and writing skills than previously acquired. Even excellent writers previously have to retool their techniques because legal analysis is more precise and concise. A well-written legal writing project can take consistent work over several weeks with multiple drafts.

We want new law students to get involved in the life and organizations of the law school so they feel part of their new environment. However, here are some tips for entering law students to help them make wise selections regarding their level of involvement:

  • Attend any student organization fairs that your law school holds to find out more about the variety of student organizations: purposes, events, requirements for membership, time commitments.
  • Attend sessions that may explain community opportunities for your involvement: pro bono clinics, volunteer opportunities, service organizations, local bar organizations.
  • Consider any school requirements on your time as a law student: required pro bono hours, mandatory extended orientation meetings for first-year students, supplemental study group-tutoring sessions.
  • Consider your personal interests and career goals that may match student organizations or community opportunities: oil and gas law, criminal defense, immigration law, homeless populations, animal abuse, diversity.
  • Consider time commitments that you already have outside law school: elderly relatives nearby, spouse/partner, children, pets, religious services, national guard service.
  • Weigh all of these factors and look for balance in your commitments in all areas of your life; determine your priorities for your time - both academic and non-academic.
  • Become involved in one or two activities that are good matches for you; focus on being a member who regularly attends meetings, social events, and speakers. You will get to know other students (especially upper-division students with whom you have no classes), feel more connected to the law school community, and have several items for your resume. 
  • Possibly consider being on a committee for an organization, but probably avoid being a committee chair or an officer during your first semester. There will be plenty of time in future semesters to take on positions of leadership.
  • If you choose a "heavy-hitter" commitment such as Student Bar Association or class officer, be even more aware of not stretching yourself too thin your first semester.

Get involved in law school life, but make academics a major priority while you acclimate to the different demands of law school. (Amy Jarmon)

July 8, 2018 in Advice, Orientation, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

I Am Discouraged By Bar Preparation

“I am very discouraged by the process of preparing for the bar exam!” “I do not know if I can keep going, I work so hard but I have hit a plateau.” “I seem to regress rather than progress. I do not think I will be ready to take this exam. Maybe I am not supposed to be a lawyer.” These are some of the comments I hear from recent graduates as the bar exam approaches. It is not uncommon for recent graduates to experience these types of feelings, as long as they do not stay stuck in a rut.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term “discourage” as:

(1) “to deprive of courage or confidence: dishearten”

(2) “to hinder by disfavoring”

(3) “to dissuade or attempt to dissuade from doing something”

Bar preparation can be a challenge to the very courage recent graduates mustered up to face the bar exam as well as a huge blow to confidence. The challenges they encounter can dissuade them from progressing but the strength they have within, that brought them thus far will carry them through.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term “dishearten” as:

“to cause to lose hope, enthusiasm, or courage: to cause to lose spirit or morale”

This definition encapsulates all of the negative emotions felt but I would imagine that very few individuals, if any, are enthusiastic about sitting for the bar exam. I view my role as the bar support individual who reminds students of their hopes and aspirations coming to law school. I am here to encourage and remind them of the challenges they overcame, some of which were unique to them. I also attempt to remind them of the need to rest, consider their mental health, and necessity to take an occasional break.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term “courage” as:

“mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty”

Recent graduates typically lose sight of the fact that the mental strength they need to face this difficult task that is the bar exam is already within them. Courage does not mean that the task does not seem insurmountable or that you possess all of the confidence in the world. It simply means that you see the difficulty, are unsure of the possible result, stare it down, move forward, and see what happens. You are as prepared as you can be, you face the unknown but you know that your preparation will empower you to face and overcome various obstacles. You can do it! Remember, you do not need to ace the bar exam, you simply need to pass it.

Now please take a break on this 4th of July! (Goldie Pritchard)

July 4, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

I'm a new fall 1L! How will law school be different from past educational experiences?

Law school is different from most prior educational experiences because it is a professional school using different learning and testing experiences than what undergraduate and graduate education use. Students who treat law school just like undergraduate school are frequently disappointed in their first-semester results.

First-year students need to adapt to the new learning environment if they want to achieve the level of grades they have the potential for in their studies. Here are several ways that law school is different than past educational experiences and what those differences mean to the approach needed:

  • You are learning relevant skills for your career in each course. In prior education, we often had courses that had no future impact on our lives: general education courses, interesting but unrelated electives, majors that we did not intend to use after university. In law school, each course is providing you with one or more skills needed in the daily practice of law: analysis of case precedents and statutes; legal reasoning skills; analysis of both sides of a legal problem; precise/concise legal writing; policy arguments; judicial reasoning; procedural rules. The skills in each course build on the skills in previous courses and ultimately determine one's readiness to practice law upon graduation. In addition, much of the content from required courses is tested on the bar exam after graduation. Time spent in successful law school learning (as opposed to short-term studying) pays off in the future in major ways.
  • What you do in class each day is important, but is not what you need to do on the exams. Law school exams focus on applying the law that you have extrapolated from reading appellate cases/statutes for the topics and subtopics in the course. In class you look at cases/statutes to understand what the actual law is and why that is the law. You learn how to tear apart cases/statutes to understand the law, how courts analyze the law, and how lawyers argue the law. On exams you typically are asked to solve a new factual scenario by applying the law and analyzing the arguments for both sides of the dispute. You need to synthesize the law (make connections across the "black letter law": rules, variations of rules, exceptions to rules, policy arguments, etc.) for topics/subtopics and apply that deeper understanding of the law to the analysis. As a lawyer, you will read and analyze cases/statutes every day and then apply that law to construct arguments to solve your client's legal dispute.
  • Your professors expect you to prepare thoroughly for class and will not spoon feed you. Law students often tell me that prior professors told them exactly what to learn for the test so that they did not have to learn any material independently. They just copied down notes and memorized the material to regurgitate on the exam. In law school, professors expect you to not only read the cases carefully, but also understand how those cases fit together before you come to class. They will hit the highlights and make some connections (again that idea of "synthesis"), but will not tell you exactly what will be on the exams. You need to synthesize (again that word!) what you learn each class into the larger topic/subtopic and understand how to use the material to solve legal problems.
  • Memorization of the "black letter law" is essential, but only the beginning of your learning for exam success. Law students often think they just need to memorize the law to succeed academically. You must know the law well so that you can to spot the legal issues in dispute ("issue spotting") and accurately state the law that applies. However, you then need have the higher-learning skill of understanding that law (why it works the way it does; when variations or exceptions come into play; when policy arguments might be appropriate, etc.) to gain points on the exam. Application of the law to the new scenario facts and analysis of the legal arguments are major skills for exam success. Evaluating the arguments for both parties to state a conclusion is needed - but the application and analysis are where the big exam points typically are.  
  • Exams are typically comprehensive over all of the 15-week semester's material. Many law students relate that they never had a comprehensive exam before law school. They had four or five tests over a semester that covered pieces of the course, but never put the entire course together at one time. They did well on those partial exams because they could cram a limited universe of knowledge, dump it on the exam, and forget it afterwards. Because law school exams tend to cover all of the course material, law students need to review the material and practice applying it throughout the semester; there is too much material to cram everything at the end and have enough time for applying that material to practice questions before the exam.
  • Important study steps (outlines and practice questions) are needed beyond daily class preparation. It is very easy to get caught up in class preparation and not include other important study steps in your weekly schedule. Because synthesis, application, and analysis are critical to exam success, law students have to manage their time carefully to allow time for regular synthesis and regular application. Outlines flip your thinking from individual cases to concepts and inter-relationships within subtopics/topics that support analysis. Practice questions after review allow you to apply the law to varied fact scenarios and practice analysis and evaluation before the final exam.

You are not alone in trying to make these adaptations! You have a number of people who are there to help if you take advantage of the resources offered to you. However, you need to use the resources to gain the benefits.

Many professors will initially help students in class to see how to analyze cases and synthesize them into topics/subtopics. They may offer fact-scenario questions so that students can practice application and analysis. Professors are available to answer questions outside of class. The academic support/success professionals at your law school will offer workshops on a variety of study skills that lead to academic success. You can also request individual appointments with those ASP folks. Many law schools have upper-division teaching assistants/tutors to supplement your first-year classes. Many law schools also offer writing specialists or writing centers to assist you.

You can successfully adapt to the different law school educational experience by being aware of the differences and then seeking assistance as needed. (Amy Jarmon)

 

July 1, 2018 in Advice, Orientation, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Hot Tips for Cool Learning - Based on the Latest Empirical Research

It's sweltering in much of the USA.  And, the heat is only getting hotter for the many recent law school grads preparing for next month's bar exam.  

So, I thought I'd offer a few "hot" tips on how to enhance one's learning this summer based on a recently published study entitled:  "Smarter Law School Habits: An Empirical Analysis of Law Learning Strategies and Relationship with LGPA," by Jennifer Cooper, adjunct professor at Tulane University, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3004988

As detailed in the article statistically analyzing study tactics and learning, Professor Cooper found that two particular study strategies are positively correlated with law school grades.  

The first is elaboration, i.e, explaining confusing concepts to others.  So, be a talker this summer as you prepare for your bar exam.  In short, be a teacher...be your teacher!

The second is the use of practice questions to learn.  So, grab hold of every opportunity you have this summer to learn by doing.  Take every mock bar exam you can.  Work through every bar exam practice problem available.  Be tenacious in your practice.  Learn by doing!

Finally, as documented by Professor Cooper, beware of reading and re-reading.  It might make you feel like you are learning, but there is little learning going on...until you put down the book and start working on problems for yourself.  And, that particularly makes sense with the bar exam...because...the bar exam is testing the "practice of law" not the "theory behind the law."  

So, throughout this summer, focus less on reading and more on active learning - through lots and lots of practice problems and self-taught elaboration to explain the legal principles and concepts - as you prepare for success on your bar exam next month.  (Scott Johns).

 

June 28, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Exams - Studying, Exams - Theory, Learning Styles, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Checkpoints for the Fast-Approaching Bar Exam

      This one is for the “Bar Studiers”! The bar exam is a little less than a month away so it is time for soon-to-be “Bar Takers” to evaluate where they are with their bar preparation and how they feel about the fast-approaching exam. At this time, some “Bar Studiers” have completed a simulated Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) while others anticipate this experience in the near future. All “Bar Studiers” must consider what to do with the feedback from this simulated MBE and assess the overall experience. While “Bar Studiers” tend to focus on the overall score and where they stand in relation to others, it is equally important to assess issues such as: the environmental conditions under which they took the MBE, whether they completed each 100 question set in one sitting, whether they completed the simulated MBE under timed circumstances, whether they completed the simulated MBE at all, their ability to implement their approach to MBE questions and their overall plan of attack, how fatigued and focused they were throughout the practice, and how fatigued they were after the process, etc. are just a few things to consider. Self-evaluation in various areas mentioned above and beyond can be helpful to strategize for future performance when it counts.

      At this time, some “Bar Studiers” have completed a half or full day of essays and Multistate Performance Tests (MPTs). Here again, all must consider what to do with the feedback and assess the overall experience. Furthermore, “Bar Studiers” tend to focus on the overall score but it is just as important to assess other things namely, the environment where they completed the essays and MPTs, whether they completed them under time constraints, whether they completed them at all, their ability to implement their essay and MPT strategies, their ability to process the feedback and make adjustments, their ability to implement the feedback on future practice and the bar exam, their ability to assess what is realistically possible to complete within the time constraints, their organization, their ability to self- critique their answers, their ability to select new sub-topics to review, and how fatigued they were after completing the essays and MPTs particularly if they had a full day practice. These are just a few things to consider.

      This might also be a great time to assess proficiency and comfort level with the various subjects tested on the bar exam. Assess ability to recall distinctions between state and MBE topics if applicable. It is helpful to have a scale or category system and use that to determine how much time to spend reviewing and memorizing various areas of law. “Bar Studiers” should use their time efficiently rather than simply review information that they already know or have a significant level of mastery of. It is likely that what “Bar Studiers” avoid will be on their exam so why not face it now so they can succeed when it counts.

      Finally, “Bar Studiers” might want to take some steps to plan for the week of the bar exam and the weeks leading up to it. They should ensure that they include various wellness checkpoints so they are physically and as mentally prepared as one can be for the bar exam. “Bar Studiers” should pay attention to food intake, how much sleep they get, and how rested they are going into the exam. Associate with human beings but avoid those studying for the bar exam if it will be detrimental to a “Bar Studier’s” well-being but keep in mind that on exam day, it is inevitable that one will be around others and subjected to what they say or do so now is the time to determine how to cope. Plan a weekly lunch or dinner or simply some TV vegging time. Help you help yourself. (Goldie Pritchard)

June 27, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Maximizing the Financial Aid SAP Contract

Did you know that every student who is (a) receiving federal financial aid and (b) placed on academic probation must have a Satisfactory Academic Progress plan (or SAP) if they wish to continue receiving federal financial aid? 

Students must “meet the basic eligibility criteria, make satisfactory academic progress, and fill out the FAFSA form every year” to qualify for federal financial aid.  In order to make satisfactory academic progress, the student must “make good enough grades, and complete enough classes (credits, hours, etc.), to keep moving toward successfully completing [their] degree or certificate in a time period that’s acceptable to [the] school.”  To see one school’s policy click here.  If a student fails to meet certain academic benchmarks, then the student will likely have to enter into an academic success contract with their institution in order to maintain federal financial aid.

A typical SAP plan will detail the circumstances that caused the student to experience academic difficulty and the steps the students has taken (or will take) to ensure that they have the best chance for academic success moving forward.  Here’s a straightforward example: a student who qualified for testing accommodations all through their undergraduate education does not apply for testing accommodations as a first-year law student, and then the student performs poorly on their first-year exams, and is placed on academic probation.  That student's academic success plan would likely require the student to apply for testing accommodations before midterm examinations in the upcoming term. 

A few weeks ago—following a change in personnel and university policy—our law school had the occasion to revisit our policies and procedures associated with our SAP plans.  We quickly realized that we were not maximizing the opportunity presented before us.  The financial aid contract could be used as a vehicle to, um…, strong-arm the very bottom of the class into participating in several academic success programs.  Let me explain. 

I frequently recommend that probationers enroll in my 2L multistate performance test workshop course to not only get a jumpstart on bar preparation, but also to revisit some fundamental legal analysis and writing skills in a small enrollment class setting.  Under our Course Catalog, however, I cannot require it; students on academic probation are not required to, or prohibited from, enrolling in any particular courses.  But, students on probation are required to get my signature on their SAP contract in order to reinstate their federal financial aid.  With the administration’s blessing, I turned what was previously a “please sign this” interaction into a meaningful academic intervention.  (Incidentally, the literature suggests that the U.S. Department of Education actually intended to create meaningful academic interventions.)  Most recently, I met with several rising 2L students and each one voluntarily agreed, in writing, to my recommendations.  If the student did not like a particular recommendation (e,.g. enrolling in the performance test course), then I worked with the student to find a suitable alternative to build those same legal writing skills, (e.g. attending a set number of Writing Center workshops during the semester).     

Admittedly, a better long-term solution would be to adopt large-scale curriculum change and create permanent academic policies with regard to students who are placed on academic probation.  But, that type of change takes time, resources, and political campaigning.  In the meantime, I can use the financial aid forms as a mechanism to achieve many of my ASP-programmatic goals. 

(Kirsha Trychta)

June 27, 2018 in Advice, Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Follow Our Own Advice by Taking a Break

Bar prep is turning the corner into the last few weeks.  Most of us are telling our students to work hard, but also, make sure to take breaks.  When finals roll around, we encourage sleep, eating healthy, and resting enough to be mentally fresh for exams.  So, how many of you follow that advice throughout the year?

I completely understand the need to get everything done and help everyone.  There is always another great idea to implement or another student meeting to take.  We all have more to do than enough time in the day.  We could all do so much more with just a little more time.  However, the reality is we aren’t immune to exhaustion or sleep deprivation.  What affects our students during the bar and finals affects our ability to help students during those times.  Maximize your helping potential by also taking care of yourself.

I suggest my students schedule breaks both throughout the day and at least 1 full day during the weekend.  I would suggest the same to all of you.  Make sure that you take a mental break every hour.  Have a quality non-law related lunch at least 3 days a week.  Leave the office at a reasonable time to get home and recharge.  If your status allows, make sure to take at least a week off at some point during the year.  Every mental break makes a difference.

Most of you know this is necessary, but won't take the time due to feeling overwhelmed.  I understand.  I am not the best at breaks either.  I worked on this blog post multiple times late at night after my kids went to bed and after grading bar essays.  However, this is something the vast majority of us must get better at.  For our students, they finish law school in 3 years or bar prep in 10 weeks.  If this is our career, then we don’t have the easy to identify date for a break.  Cancun or the Rocky Mountains aren’t 10 weeks away.  Europe isn’t a goal to attain in 3 years.  As soon as 1 class finishes for us, the next one begins.  The next bar exam is right around the corner.  It is easy for us to ignore our own mental care.

Just like we tell our students, you will be your best when mentally fresh.  You can help more students with regular breaks and rest.  All of you are doing great work.  Keep the energy up to make a difference for many years.

(Steven Foster)

June 25, 2018 in Advice, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Inevitable Roller Coaster: Bar Review

As we slowly approach the one month mark for the bar exam, strange things begin to happen. Bar Studiers we did not realize were in town surface in the building with questions and concerns and Bar Studiers we have seen regularly seek more and more encouragement to intensify their bar exam preparation. Interactions with Bar Studiers is normal but what is out of the ordinary are some of the things they share with us believing they are the only ones experiencing them. Bar Studiers do not realize there are other students who also experience similar series of challenges and misadventures. It is as if the universe knows that the bar exam is looming and sets up a number of obstacles along their path to test resilience, persistence, and character. Bar Studiers may not always recognize they are up for the challenge and we are here to remind them of this fact, help them strategies, and get them to their seats on bar exam day with a sense that they can tackle this seemingly impossible, yet possible obstacle.

Below are a handful of issues that surfaced this year and in the past and some of the approaches we have used, depending on an individual Bar Studier’s unique circumstances and needs.

Health Plays Games

Last week and this week, I heard sneezes in the hallways and several Bar Studiers have been missing in action for a day or two. Some notified me that they will not be around as they know that I will inquire about their whereabouts. I parted with two boxes of Kleenex and a giant bottle of hand sanitizer was in significant use. I understand that allergies are in full swing and immune systems struggle to keep up with the pace many adopted to manage bar preparation. To put things in perspective, it is better to temporarily get sick now than on exam day. In response to panic about falling behind in bar review and feeling unprepared for the exam, we discuss how to rearrange schedules, move tasks around, and use small spurts of activity with scheduled rest. I prescribe sleep and okay short naps emphasizing the importance of sleep even though it seems impossible to have restful sleep due to constant thoughts about bar preparation. We insist that Bar Studiers see a doctor if need be and fill necessary prescriptions so as not to exasperated preexisting conditions and developed new ones.

If Bar Studiers are concerned about falling behind, we suggest low-intensity activities that allow them to complete tasks, go through flashcards on an app or physical cards, and memorize information. We discuss a plan for the next day so all they do is implemented with some room for adjustment. We try to find habits that can be implemented in the days and weeks to come so they are ready for the exam. We also explore worse case scenarios and how they will manage such situations on exam day. Of course, nothing is a guarantee but it is a start.

Life Happens

At a bar exam program presented several years ago, a speaker announced that everything that can go wrong will go wrong during bar review and everything you have ever wanted to do will become a possibility during bar review. She continued that bar review is only a few weeks and months out of your entire life and you will likely have the opportunity to experience many of the things you miss out on at some point in the future. Over the years, I note that Bar Studiers experience a range of life occurrences including: death in the family, breakups with significant others and spouses, issues with character and fitness on the bar application, car accidents, financial challenges (even with planning), lack of food, familial demands and expectations, emotional and physical impact of socio-political events, and much more. Life does not simply stop because you are studying for the bar exam. You will have both good days and not so good days and your reaction to and feelings about everything will be amplified.

You might waste a day or a half a day attending to real life situations and that is okay and necessary but it does not mean that you will be unable to complete your preparation for this exam. If however, life completely takes over and when you assess the situation you recognize that you are unable to sustain the pace and expectations of bar review then you might want to have a conversation with someone. You want to discuss alternatives or develop a new game plan to achieve your goals. Be open and honest with yourself and those helping you.

Fear Sets In

Obsession over percentile performance on the MBE and scores on the essays breeds fear and sometimes avoidance for many Bar Studiers. As Bar Studiers compare themselves to others through grading or communication with each other. Some academically strong Bar Studiers become disappointed and recoil. Others decide not to complete essays or MBEs until they have mastered the subject area. Each score becomes a determinative factor of whether they will pass or fail this exam. This is not necessarily true but it takes a lot to convince a student otherwise. I am always more concerned about those Bar Studiers who are left to their own devices than those who communicate these concerns and communicate their plans.

Here again, it is all about perspective. We like to use the experiences and advice of individuals who recently took the bar exam and were successful. We ask them what they did, how they did it, how they felt at various points of bar preparation, and I deem this more effective than anything else. I also try to put things in perspective by reminding Bar Studiers of what they should get from completing the practice, discuss the expectations of the exam with regard to time management, and remind them that exposure adds to the knowledge and confidence with which they approach the exam.

…But We Finish Strong

Bar Studiers, compete with yourself and no one else. Do your best and ensure that you reasonably do what you need to and can do so you have no regrets on exam day. You will not know everything, you will have a working knowledge of all subjects, and you have a plan for the more challenging areas. When you need a break, take a reasonable break and remain focused on the task ahead. Many before you went into the exam feeling just like you will feel and they came out on top; they passed the bar exam! Develop a plan for the days and weeks ahead. You have time to cater to your weaknesses and build strength. You can do this! (Goldie Pritchard)

June 20, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)

Pic

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)

DSCF4381

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)