Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Survivor Advice: Words from Successful Bar Takers

Yearly, I ask former students who successfully passed the bar exam to share last minute advice with bar exam studiers gearing-up to sit for the bar exam. I look to individuals who have recently successfully passed the bar exam because I know that at this point, my current bar studiers “listen to me but do not hear me.” I know however that they will “listen to” and “hear” individuals who are closer to the bar exam experience than me. This is a great opportunity for me to seek out alums who are excited to share advice because they know I value their opinions and will share their opinions with others. Alums also add tidbits about their own challenges and triumphs throughout this preparatory process. Below are a few of the suggestions from my alums that a bar exam taker can implement at their own risk.

Pause from studying

“Stop studying by 12(noon) the day before the exam. 3 PM max. There is nothing that you can cram into your head past 3 PM the day before the bar exam.”

“Get your full hours sleep the night before the bar exam.”

“You should not be cramming the evening before day 2 either… light review only.”

Know your surroundings

“Get to know the area where the bar exam is scheduled to be taken, if you have time, so you’ll know where you need to be and about how long it’s going to take to get there”

Eat

“Eat a good breakfast that day.”

“Eat! But don’t eat too heavy for lunch- a good salad will do.  We don’t want to be sleepy during the test.”

“You can’t do your best tired and hungry.”

Don’t forget

“Ear plugs… [Writing day] can be pretty noisy with everyone typing.”

Overall strategy

“Trust your instincts! Do not second-guess yourself.  Move on if you’re unsure and come back to it later.  Don’t waste time!”

“I started with the question I felt I knew well- it helped to build my confidence as I progressed to more challenging questions.  What I couldn’t remember eventually came back to me (weird lol).”

“Sometimes you have to warm up to the exam.  Meaning, if you are not sure about on the first essay topic, move on and start with one you know.  For me, I got better and more confident as I answered more essays.  So, do not get stumped on the first essay if you are not sure about it.”

“[After each session], don’t discuss your responses with anyone.”

“Monitor your fluid intake before and during the exam or you might make several trips to the bathroom…Please stay hydrated of course.”

MBE strategy

“For questions you are not sure about, eliminate the choices you know are wrong and then come back later and choose between the close calls- or choose one and put a star next to it and come back later to review.”

“If you are unsure about a question, make your best guess and keep moving.  This is to ensure that you have a response that can be graded and you are not losing time or points.  The correct answer might come to you later on in the exam or you might have made the correct guess.”

Regroup & focus

“If you mess up or something happens, take 30 seconds to be upset, and then move on. (My first essay was deleted by [the exam software] and I had to redo it within the time between essays.  I started to cry but realized crying was taking too much time.)”

“Relax- nothing good happens when you are nervous.”

 “Don’t panic.  However, if you do panic- stop, take 5 seconds to recompose and get your bearings and get back to the task.”

“… Trust yourself and be confident.  You got this!”

See the light at the end of the tunnel

“Smile because that terrible summer will be over in about 16 hours!”

“Be confident! You made it through undergrad, LSAT, Law School, exams, etc.….”

“Pray, and don’t panic.  You know what you know.”

In sum, everyone has an opinion and advice but your voice and your needs should be paramount.  You know what you need, you studied hard, and you know how to take tests.  You can do it! Cheers! (Goldie Pritchard)

 

July 19, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Some Thoughts on the NYT article "The Lawyer, The Addict"

The New York Times recently published “The Lawyer, The Addict”—a very compelling article about a tragic event. The story describes the death of an influential Silicon Valley attorney. The interplay between (1) addiction, stress, and mental health and (2) law school and the legal profession is referenced in an honest and, for many, eye-opening manner. The article has rightfully generated much discussion on the Internet, including a fascinating conversation on my colleague Rachel Gurvich’s Twitter feed. If you are looking for further insight about the article from a variety of faculty, practitioners, and students, I encourage you to check out Rachel's Twitter feed (@RachelGurvich). Much of the conversation can be found here.

There are many interesting points one can focus on from the NYT article. Perhaps, I’ll explore some other points in the future in the blog. For now, I’ll focus today’s blog on two points: (1) Larry Krieger’s work on subjective well-being; and (2) how hard it is for students to acknowledge that they may be suffering from a problem.

  1. Larry Krieger’s Work on Subjective Well-Being.

The NYT article interviewed Professor Larry Krieger and referenced his work "What Makes Lawyers Happy". As many of you know, Krieger’s work was an empirical study on “attorney emotional health” and “subjective well-being.” Part of Krieger’s findings and recommendations focused on shifting the definition of “success” for law students away from extrinsic rewards, like grades, journals, and high-paying jobs to more personal and intrinsic values and motivations.

I remember Larry Krieger's work was one of the first things that Ruth McKinney discussed with me when I arrived at UNC.  Since her retirement, we have tried to continue to incorporate the message of Krieger’s work into our pre-orientation program for incoming 1Ls.  We try to remind our students to remember the intrinsic reasons why they decided to come to law school—particularly during those times when they may feel overwhelmed, defeated, or unworthy. We also try to remind our students that “success” can mean many different things to different people and that there are many ways to “succeed” in law school. We often talk about these topics while disclosing some of our personal struggles and experiences from law school. This personal disclosure often helps build a foundation where we are better able to assist with the problem discussed in part two below.

  1. Acknowledging a Problem is often a Problem.

For those of us who work closely with students, the article’s story on how law school and the legal profession can change you—physically and mentally—is not a surprising tale. We know that the combination of stress, anxiety, and the competition for external rewards can create a very challenging and intimidating environment for our students. The environment can feel crushing and insurmountable when you add difficult finances, family issues, health concerns, implicit bias, or stereotype threat to the mix.

It is not uncommon for academic success folks to work with students who are facing some significant non-academic issues that impact their academic performance. But, these non-academic issues are often not easily identifiable. Let’s try to remember that it is often difficult for our students to acknowledge to themselves that they may be going through a very problematic time. Like anyone, they have pride. They have all been successful undergrads or had elite careers prior to law school. They don’t want to think of themselves as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student.

Since our students don’t want to think of themselves as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student, they will likely hesitate before seeking help because they don’t want others to see them as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student (and the mental health questions on the bar exam applications don't help either, but that's a topic for another day [if you are interested, my former colleague, Katie Rose Guest Pryal has a great piece here]).

Disclosing some personal vulnerability to someone else is an added challenge to an already stressful time in our students' lives.  Think about it: if it’s hard for you to acknowledge some potential weakness or flaw to yourself, do you think it will be easier for you to acknowledge that weakness or flaw to someone else? Now think about that someone else as a law professor or administrator. I know; it’s pretty scary. That’s why we, as academic support professionals (and others who work closely with law students), should try to practice good active listening skills and remain nonjudgmental, empathetic, and encouraging when we work with our students. It’s a difficult job. But, we are lucky to be able to do it. (OJ Salinas)

July 17, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, News, Orientation, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Anxiety and Doubt Don’t Equal Failure

We are just a few weeks away from the bar exam. And for many students studying for the bar, that means questions. No. I don’t mean the hundreds, if not thousands, of MBE questions that the students have taken and, perhaps, retaken. And I don’t mean questions on any practice exams. I mean questions running through our students’ heads: questions of doubt, commitment, and normalcy.

Most students studying for the bar have had to live in somewhat of a “Bar Exam Prep Bubble” for the last few months. They celebrated law school graduation in May. But, it wasn’t really a full-on celebration because they knew there was still something more to do. It’s something huge and overwhelming. And it’s something that dictates one’s true entrance into the legal profession.

The bar exam is huge and overwhelming and, in many respects, it does dictate one’s true entrance into the legal profession. This monumental exam has a way of playing mind games with our students—especially at this point in the bar prep season.

Second guessing GIF

We are at a point in the bar prep season where students will start second-guessing themselves. Will I pass? Have I really done all that I should have done over the last few months? What if I freak out and can’t remember anything? Why have I put myself through this?

Despite all the work that our students have put into preparing for the exam, they will think they still have more work to do. Despite the objective results that their bar companies provide to them of their performance so far in the bar prep season, they will wonder and worry about how well they will perform on the ‘big day(s).’

As we prepare ourselves for the last few weeks of bar prep season, let’s remember that anxiety and doubt are normal for this big event. But, they don’t equal failure. Anxiety and doubt don’t mean that our students are unable to succeed. And they don’t mean that our students have not put in the necessary work to succeed.

Doubt picture

If we get an anxious and doubting student in our offices, let’s remember our anxieties and doubts about our bar exams. Let’s remember how we may have felt overwhelmed with the amount of material. And let’s remember that we, and every other licensed attorney out there, passed the exam.

The bar exam is challenging. But, it is doable. We are all proof that it is doable. With the right frame of mind and support from family, friends, and ASP professionals, we were all able to overcome the mind games. Our students can, too. (OJ Salinas)

July 10, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 7, 2017

What should I be doing before I begin law school in August?

The summer is speeding along. Many of our incoming first-year students have now had a few weeks of rest from the undergraduate academic slog, have settled into summer jobs, and are thinking about their upcoming start in law school. These pre-1Ls are wondering what they should be doing to prepare for law school. Here are some thoughts for their next 5-6 weeks:

  • Practice critical reading every day. There will be prodigious amounts of reading in law school. By reading regularly throughout the summer, students can prepare themselves for that constant reading. Summer reading does not need to include any legal books or other laborious material, but it should be reading to understand rather than mere scanning of text. Ask questions about what you read. Summarize the key points as you read. Read a variety of things to strengthen your reading "muscles."
  • Practice critical thinking every day. Lawyers are trained to look at both sides of an issue, to ask questions about material, and to delve beyond the surface. During the summer, critically think about the news stories you read/watch, the content you find on the Internet, the logic of what you hear/say. For example, listening to news programs with entirely different points of view will help you look at both sides of a story. (By the way, critical thinking is not the same as arguing or debating with everyone.)
  • Get into a healthy exercise routine: walking, swimming, running, yoga, gym workouts. You want your body to be at its best when you start school. And you want to have an exercise routine that you can practice in moderation during the semester. 
  • Spend time with your family and friends. You will be very busy during law school. It will not be possible to go home every weekend and keep up with your studies. Spend quality time now with those who are important to you.
  • Make a list of the reasons you are studying law and what you want to accomplish after law school with your degree. The list can come in handy during the semester to remind you of your goals when you are tired of reading cases, memorizing black letter law, and completing practice questions. Staying motivated will be important.
  • Get excited about law school. The study of law is challenging, but also exhilarating. You will be surrounded by bright people who will encourage you to be at your intellectual best. You will learn concepts, policies, and intricacies that you never knew existed. You will stretch yourself mentally unlike in any other experience. You will look back at the end of your first year with astonishment at how much you learned and accomplished in just 10 months.

Best wishes for the remainder of summer! Soak up some sun. Laugh and have fun. Look forward to a new adventure. (Amy Jarmon)

July 7, 2017 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pick One: Sorting Through Excessive Supplemental Bar Exam Study Resources

The intense anxiety created by the bar preparation process leads bar exam studiers to take on habits and processes that they have often avoided in the past and that they know do not benefit them. The overflow of advice, particularly from peers who have recently sat for the bar exam, is a “must-do” for bar exam studiers whether the advice provided serves the bar exam studier or not. All advice might be great advice, independently, but the question is whether implementing all advice simultaneously is helpful.

Bar exam studiers develop anxiety simply by seeing their bar review schedules and materials and that anxiety becomes stronger as they complete assignments and at times fall behind. Anxiety further intensifies as bar exam studiers accumulate resources suggested by others. They become overwhelmed by the volume of resources at their disposal and question when and how they will use resources to maximize their potential for success on the bar exam.

My advice to bar exam studiers is to supplement bar review by selecting one or two supplemental bar review resources that cater to skill weaknesses. When I say this, bar exam studiers look at me perplexed by the suggestion that I would expect them to selective about available resources. If you have researched, selected, and paid for a bar review program then you should use all aspects of the program. Moreover, the bar review program should be adequate enough to prepare you for all aspects of the bar exam. However, if multiple choice questions are a challenge, then it might be helpful to determine why it is a challenge and consider using supplemental materials to build strength. The same applies to essays and performance tests. If access to additional practice questions for various components of the bar exam is limited then supplemental resources can be helpful and should be used solely for that purpose. If bar exam studiers are seeking alternative delivery modes of substantive law then supplemental materials are helpful. If memorization and recall are challenges and the bar exam studier is seeking mechanisms to compartmentalize, manage, recall, and/or memorize information then supplemental resources might be helpful as well. Bar exam studiers should always have a basic idea of what they need, why they need it, and how they will use supplemental materials. This is fundamental. Overall, bar exam studiers might need specific components of a supplemental resource, all aspects of a supplemental resource, or might not need it at all because what they seek is already contained in their bar review materials.

Time is very precious so bar exam studiers should ask themselves if they will actually have time to use what they spent money on, their bar review program and/or supplemental resources. (Goldie Pritchard)

June 21, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I’M Behind, It’s Over: Bar Prep Panic

A lot of what I heard last week was: “I fell behind in my bar studies so I spend all of my time trying to catch-up only to fall even further behind.” It is not uncommon for bar studiers to fall behind at some point during bar study. Studiers get tired, take longer to complete tasks, or encounter difficult/unfamiliar topics. How a person manages such situations may determine whether or not that person succeeds in catching-up or endures added stress throughout the remainder of the study period. Below are a few things one may wish to consider if ever in such a predicament.

1. Consolidate it and Write it. Create a gigantic to-do list (because everything seems impossible during bar review) by jotting down on a sheet of paper everything you have failed to complete. It is easy to feel overwhelmed thinking about all of the things you have not completed or seeing assignments listed under multiple days in various locations. Assignments and to-dos may appear more abundant than they actually are; therefore, it is helpful to collect everything in one place.

2. Prioritize it. Determine how and where to allocate and prioritize most of your time and energy. Create and label 2 columns: "critical" and "not-so-critical." In the critical column include tasks such as reviewing substantive law which is foundational to all other assignments and tasks. Consider the “80/20 rule” (in moderation of course) so you maximize your use of time to yield the most productive result and not waste time on tasks that are not benefiting you given time constraints. Determine when, in the remaining days, you can insert the not-so-critical tasks to ultimately complete all tasks without compromising future tasks. It is not advisable to spend all the remaining time catching-up. Instead, focus on what is currently due and gradually insert past due tasks in the remaining weeks so all tasks are complete by the end of bar review.

3. The Process. Keep your eye on the prize, passing the bar exam, but develop process oriented goals - steps that it will lead you to succeed on the bar exam. Often time, focus is placed on passing the bar exam which may appear impossible and overwhelming rather than considering individual steps and taking them on one at a time. Be cognizant that some of your steps might be very different from other bar studiers. You may have to warm up to sitting down for 100 Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) questions in 3 hours while others might require be able to do this fairly quickly. Knowing this about yourself, you may wish to initiate and implement frequent and consistent steps to achieve the ultimate goal. Being strategic and process focused will provide you with momentum, help you quickly develop good habits, and allow you to chip away at seemingly impossible tasks.

4. Start With Application. It is a given that substantive law is covered in lecture or some other method so we can check that off the list. For some bar studiers, completing a small number of MBE questions or an essay prior to lecture might be helpful to assess what they know, don’t know, or are familiar with. Also, their strengths and weaknesses in directing focus as they engage with the material. First instinct is to learn all the material completely and in depth prior to ever looking at a question although most programs encourage students to dive-in early. It might be helpful to redirect focus and time on things one needs to learn rather than things one already knows; and the only way to know what falls in what category is to practice. Do not focus on every minute detail and unique aspects of concepts but rather on what is needed to answer a typical question on the topic.

5. Select an Implementation Day. If you have tasks that are critical and require significant concentration such as completing a timed mock exam, clear your calendar off for a day to complete the task or tasks, schedule a study marathon. Set specific time limits for completing each task to ensure your productivity otherwise you may not get very far and may be faced with the adage: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” For your implementation day, find a place where you cannot be disturbed. This might require going to another town to avoid running into people you know, find a distraction free zone. It is important to note that while your implementation day might allow you to catch up, you are sacrificing a study day or day of rest and you will be exhausted at the end of this process. Furthermore, you will likely sacrifice depth of learning for breath of coverage. Plan a reward following the implementation day so you have something to look forward to as you are working because you will be exhausted. (Goldie Pritchard)

June 14, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Kill Some Of the Noise: Listen To Your Bar Prep Voice

While we are still in the early stages of bar preparation, around this time, bar studiers tend to hit the panic button. The realization that we are in the month of June is overwhelming because the bar exam is in July which does not seem very far away. Bar studiers fail to recognize that they are only about three weeks into bar review and although it is June, they still have time until the bar exam comes knocking at the door. They also fail to realize that even if they had a year to study for the bar exam, they would not feel prepared when exam day arrives for this is the nature of bar preparation.

Recently, I have spent quite some time quailing fears and concerns associated with the perceived lack of time. A primary concern I have heard voiced is an excessive focus on what other Bar Studies are doing and completing rather than focus on individual progress, accomplishments, and milestones. Let us consider fictional bar studiers Whitley and Denise. Simply because Whitley BarStudier uses flashcards she purchased and swears by their effectiveness in helping her master the information and efficiency in covering volumes of materials does not necessarily mean that Denise BarStudier should do the same or would generate similar results. Particularly if Denise tried flashcards at various points in law school and failed to yield significant results. If Denise examined Whitley’s flashcards and was still skeptical about their effectiveness, yet purchased them anyway, isn’t that counter intuitive? Each time Denise attempts to use the cards, she is filled with anxiety because she is unable to absorb the material and is reminded that she does not comprehend the material. Denise knows for a fact that checklist outlines and self-created and handwritten outlines work best for her memorization, recall, and learning of rules and key buzzwords. So then, why doesn’t Denise do what she knows works for her? Why would she go against everything that worked for her and do something that has proven to be ineffective? These are questions I often ask bar studiers. While it is great to be aware of available resources, their availability does not always mean they are right for you. Why work against your process and waist time, knowing that you may eventually have to revert to what you know to be effective? Simply because the masses said it helped them pass the bar exam does not mean that adopting the same approach will yield the desired result.

Another primary concern is passively doing and checking things off the “bar study to do list.” Let us consider fictional bar studier Dwayne. Dwayne BarStudier is very attentive to what professors and recent bar passers have told him about preparing for the bar exam. The key piece of advice he has received is to strictly follow the bar review schedule and he is guaranteed to pass the bar exam. Dwayne is doing just that but gets sick over failing to complete some assignments and therefore stays up all night to complete them. He monitors his daily and weekly progress in completing his bar review program and is for the most part on task. However, Dwayne is unable to answer questions about basic elements and requirements for simple concepts and has significant difficulty issue spotting or starting an essay randomly selected from subjects recently covered in his bar review program. Dwayne is also unable to give a good broad overview or synopsis of major topics in any subject area thus far. He has not thought about what this means as he is simply following his bar review program. He may wish to think about what he is doing, be self-regulated about his process and not simply “do-to-do.” Why shouldn’t Dwayne reflect on the tasks he is completing and the justification for completing them? Why shouldn’t Dwayne assess his performance in individual subject areas and individual types of tasks? Why shouldn’t Dwayne ask himself whether he is expanding his knowledge, storing information in his memory, and able to access that information when needed? Completing all the tasks may or may not be beneficial to Dwayne but he is unable to determine this if he simply completes his assignments without reflecting or truly critiquing his progress.

The best news that I can deliver to bar studiers is that we are still early in the process so there is room to make mistakes, adjustments, and to be confident adopting and sticking to systems that work for each individual as they study for the bar exam (Goldie Pritchard).

June 7, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bar Review Learning: What Happens in Lectures--Ought Never To Stay in Lectures!

In contrast to the promotional tourism slogan of a famous gambling city in Nevada, what happens in bar review lectures...ought never stay in lectures.  

Here's what I mean.  Too often what we learn during bar review lectures is never really put to the immediate test.  Rather than diving into practice essay and MBE multiple-choice problems that very day of a bar review lecture, we often tend to whittle away precious time by reviewing our lecture notes, re-reading bar review outlines, or, worst yet, re-watching lecture videos (because we are worried that we didn't catch every fine point made during the course of a four-hour bar review lecture).  In short, we continue to stay in the lectures by staying in a passive "lecture-like" mindset.  

However, that's not the way to learn to prepare for the bar exam because the bar examiners don't ask us to recite bar review lectures or demonstrate that we memorized our lecture notes.  Rather, the bar examiners demand that we show that that we can engage in active problem-solving.  So, if you are preparing for the bar exam this summer, get activated; get moving; get going by tackling lots of bar exam problems right after you complete each bar review lecture.  You become the master rather than watching others demonstrate mastery in solving bar exam problems.  It will be challenging.  That's because learning is incredibly difficult.  It takes all of our heart and mind.  It means making lots of messy mistakes.  It requires being comfortable with ourselves in realizing that it is not natural to know how to do things.  In short, it takes lots of work and perspiration in straining and stretching ourselves to tackle things that we couldn't previously do.  That's why we call it learning.  

So, instead of spending most of bar prep watching others solve legal problems, get into the action, the real action of learning, by breathing life into the bar review lectures as you work step-by-step through lots of bar exam essay and MBE multiple-choice problems.  Although it will feel mightily uncomfortable, you'll be mighty glad you did when you take your bar exam because you'll be ready to demonstrate to the bar examiners that you are an expert legal problem-solver, "bar none."  (Scott Johns).

June 1, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Jendayi D. Saada

Thank you for reading the May Veteran ASP Spotlight series! There are a few pending requests so you might see a few more spotlights but the Veteran ASP Spotlight will officially return next year. If you have beloved Veteran ASPers who were not featured this year, then kindly send me their names. A heartfelt thank you to all of the ASP Veterans who shared experiences and wisdom! My hope is that ASPers are reminded of why they do this work and re-energized for bar season and the new academic year. Please note that other members of the ASP community will also be featured here in the near future.

Today’s featured spotlight is Jendayi Saada. I met Jendayi at my first ever National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) Academic Support Conference when I was three months into the start of my ASP career. We both coincidentally sign-up for the same restaurant and our group walked, talked, and laughed that night. At that conference, I also met several other colleagues but Jendayi and I both realized that we had ties to Michigan. Jendayi has a wealth of knowledge, is always open to learn, and is deeply committed to the success of the students she works with. To reiterate what I have said before, when I grow up, I want to be as amazing as she is (Goldie Pritchard).

Saada Profile-1419

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

Jendayi D. Saada

Assistant Dean of Academic and Bar Readiness and Assistant Professor

La Verne College of Law

 

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

I began in ASP in 2004 as an instructor at Nova Southeastern University. As an instructor, I helped create a multiyear academic support and a post-graduation bar preparation program. Since 2009 I have developed ASP and Bar Preparation programs at three additional law schools in Florida, Arizona, and California. My teaching areas have included both skills and doctrine.

I have always had a passion for teaching and have taught in various fields for about 34 years. I fell into legal education because I was moving from Michigan to Florida. I had closed my law practice to chase the sun. I was just looking for a job until I could pass the FL Bar Exam and go back to practicing. I was hired at Nova and that was that.

 

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 aspect of ASP I like the most is working with students to help them realize their dreams of becoming an attorney. I especially enjoy working with those students who, due to their race, ethnicity, disability, gender, first generation status, etc., question whether the dream is possible for them, and watching the transformation that occurs when they succeed.

My greatest challenge by far is the stubborn refusal of the faculties and administrators in legal education, to recognize the value that academic support and the professionals who are committed to student success.

 

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

Students’ metamorphosis into amazing lawyers 

 

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

Let your moral compass be your guide and your passion, the engine that drives you to your destination. Don’t stop for hitchhikers!

 

Q: Is there anything else you deem necessary to share (quote, encouragement, inspiration, visual, etc.…)?

Keep learning, pushing, growing.

May 31, 2017 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Amy L. Jarmon

Amy Jarmon is among other things, Editor of the Law School Academic Support Blog. I cannot recall the circumstances surrounding my first encounter with Amy but she is a staple of the ASP community. I have seen her at practically every ASP conference I have attended and often see her name associated with various ASP committees and programs. I have enjoyed serving on committees with her and appreciate the wealth of knowledge she has to offer. I am thankful for her willingness to help whenever I have a question or reach out for assistance or advice. I am also grateful to her for my opportunity to join the Law School Academic Support Blog family. I am a little unconventional with my posts but she has put up with me all year long. I am glad to showcase Amy because she was not featured in the highlight of the Law School Academic Support Blog editors. Finally, it is coincidental that she is spotlighted the week of the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) annual conference in Texas. She has been spotted at the AASE conference so you can meet her in person. (Goldie Pritchard)

AmyJ

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

Amy L. Jarmon

Assistant Dean for Academic Success Programs and Lecturer

Texas Tech University School of Law

 

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

My initial interest in ASP work came from two sources. First, my previous career was in student affairs with undergraduates where I worked for many years in a bridge position between academic affairs and student affairs. Second, my Ed.D. and J.D. degrees with my teaching and law practice experiences allowed me to fit naturally into helping law students succeed academically and prepare for practice.     

I have been involved in ASP work at law schools for over 15 years. Thirteen of those years have been here at Texas Tech; previously I was at University of Akron School of Law.

 

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?

I most enjoy working one-on-one with students. It is a joy to help students improve their study strategies and life skills and to see them reach their true academic potential in law school.

Greatest challenge: Many students want to do well in law school, but come into this environment with weaknesses in critical reading, thinking, and writing and in efficient, effective study strategies. Many prior educational experiences only asked them to memorize information rather than to grapple with understanding or applying that information.

Overcoming the challenge: Flexibility within a plan is important. I start with assessment and then use a repertoire of strategies to address succeeding in law school while gaining life skills for legal practice. Although I know the strategies that work for most law students, I always keep an open mind. I modify, discard, and brainstorm with each individual student to find out what works for that person. I regularly learn new “mental connections,” strategies, resources, and more as I work with students; those new ideas or techniques become tools to help future students. 

 

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

For students: I want my legacy to be that I cared about students individually and was there to encourage and support them. I believe in their personal worth whether or not they flourish in law school or ultimately decide to practice law after graduation.

For colleagues: I want my legacy to be that I was a colleague who shared my knowledge and experiences freely to better the ASP profession and to support colleagues.

 

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

New ASP’ers: Reach out to others in the ASP profession for assistance. Unlike some professions, this one thrives on sharing ideas, materials, and advice. ASP’ers have a tradition of giving a hand-up to newcomers. Also, remember that you cannot implement everything overnight. Decide a small number of priorities to tackle first, and then shamelessly ask others for Power Points, syllabi, handouts, and more.

Mid-career ASP’ers: Beware of burnout! Most ASP’ers are “givers” and easily become over-involved, over-utilized by their law schools, and overtime-prone. If you are not careful, you will be overwhelmed. Remember to pace yourself, to say “no” or “not now” sometimes, and to set aside time away from the office to relax and revive.

Law students: Realize there are a zillion strategies that your ASP professional can show you for conquering law school. It is okay if you do not know how to do something, feel overwhelmed at times, or are unsure how to fix things. The important thing is that you commit to learning how to improve and ask for assistance early and often.  

 

Q: Is there anything else you deem necessary to share (quote, encouragement, inspiration, visual, etc.…)?

During my ASP career, I have been blessed with many opportunities. However, during challenges, I depend on my faith to get me through those dark times. I always remind myself that the most important words of praise to hear at some future date are: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

 

May 24, 2017 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Louis Schulze, Jr

Louis should be excited because he is featured here twice in two weeks (once for his scholarship here and now)! I first met Louis at one of the conferences I attended early on in my ASP career. He led a discussion surrounding an article he had written and at the time, was seeking feedback. The discussion included comments and questions about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). I also had an opportunity to work with Louis briefly during my tenure as chair of the programming committee for the Academic Support Section of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). Louis was reliable, kind, and very helpful. I seem to always remember positive words and feedback sent in my direction from anyone far and near, and Louis is one of those whose feedback was very kind and therefore remembered (Goldie Pritchard).

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

Louis Schulze

Assistant Dean and Professor of Academic Support

Florida International University College 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 the academic support field for about ten years, starting at New England Law | Boston for seven years and a bit over three years here at FIU Law. I started teaching in the legal writing field and found myself wanting to do more for students who underperformed. It frustrated me that many of these students weren’t struggling due to a lack of diligence or intelligence but because they had less training in critical thinking or effective learning skills. Because that lack of training seemed correlated with socio-economic status, I was particularly motivated to do what I could to help level the playing field to promote students’ success.

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?

Anyone who has seen me teach knows that I act like a fool in the classroom. I try to bring an energy that connotes genuine enthusiasm for the material. (This isn’t in any way fabricated; I’m a complete law nerd. If they sold trading cards of SCOTUS justices, I’d be one of those people who gets the whole set, including COA, etc.)

I try to keep things fairly light in the classroom and then all of a sudden get really intense, pushing the students to do more and give better answers. Because the levity precedes the intensity, students seem more comfortable when I push them harder – they know it’s coming from the right place.

Also, personally and professionally, I get immense joy from fostering students’ success. My favorite time of year is when grades come out and I hear from my students who got through the first year despite incredible odds. It’s always an awkward moment for my colleagues in my corridor when I start bellowing the chorus of “We Are the Champions” at the top of my lungs because I heard that a student made it above a 2.00 or passed the bar. But, because being in ASP means being half professor, half coach, we have the best of both worlds and, IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), the best job in the legal academy.

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

That I made it through my whole career without anyone noticing that I’m a completely unqualified rube. (Ooops).

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

IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), one can serve students best by maintaining a balance between being emotionally invested in their success while at the same time remaining objective. Having a professor demonstrate a genuine personal investment in a student’s success can actually have a far more powerful impact on that student than I ever realized. On the other hand, for some students the best advice might be an austere and somewhat shocking message that is both difficult to give and difficult to receive. Academic support professors need to be empowered to give both types of advice based upon the needs of the particular student. If a law school does not provide that sort of empowerment, the academic support will be less effective.

Q: Is there anything else you deem necessary to share (quote, encouragement, inspiration, visual, etc.…)?

Bart

May 17, 2017 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Part II: Learning & Justice: An Academic Achievement Necessity!

In a previous blog, I wrote about the question of justice, namely, that learning the law without learning to think about what is the right thing to do is, in short, to be learning aimlessly, to be learning without sprit, to be selling our students short.  It is an empty vain experience.  What Does Justice Have to Do with Learning the Law? Everything!

And, as a consequence of our (my) failure to so often talk about principles of justice throughout our (my) classes, we are often creating a toxically-damaging learning environment because our students came to law school not to just memorize cases but to learn to do justice.   Thus, without actively incorporating discussions of justice within our courses, our students JUSTIFIABLY feel like justice has very little to do with why they came to law school in the first place.  No wonder they struggle so often to feel like they fit in.  They don't.  

But, it's not because they don't fit in law school.  Rather, its because we don't fit in law school because we are so often not getting at the real root of the purpose of our legal education, namely, righting and healing and restoring relationships in a broken fragile world.  As a consequence, we should not be surprised when our students are not jazzed about our intricate discussions and hyperactive hypotheticals that are so often devoid of heartfelt life yearings.  

So, that brings me to a suggestion on how to incorporate principles of justice within the study of law.

First, be bold.  Name it.  Let your students know that justice is difficult, its edgy, its often amiss.

Second, provide a framework.

As a tool, it might be helpful to explore possible ways to think about what the right thing to do might be.  As set out by Dr. Michael J. Sandel in his wonderful book entitled "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?," there are three major principles that we might look towards for guidance as to justice: (1) the welfare principle; (2) the freedom principle; and, (3) the virtue principle.  http://justiceharvard.org/justice-whats-the-right-thing-to-do/  Please note:  If you happen upon Amazon, you can browse the first chapter of his book to brilliantly capture the scope of the three approaches.  If not, here's my own simplistic version:

Justice

1.  The Welfare Principle might also be called the "Mostest-for-the-Greatest" principle (or, as philosophers call it, the utilitarian principle).  In brief, the right thing to do according to this principle is what would bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number in society.  We often see this play out in constitutional litigation concerning something like the "undue burden" test in dormant commerce clause cases.  It's a balancing test.  We balance the burden on interstate commerce against the benefit to local state interests in order to see which might maximize the greatest good or utility or benefit.  In another context, we see this principle called to duty - so to speak -  in tort law concerning what a reasonably prudent person might due under similar circumstances.  Finally, this principle is often discussed in the course of environmental litigation as to the benefits of environment regulation versus the societal costs.

2.  The Freedom Principle seems to be widely adored but rarely advocated, at least in my survey of government litigation concerning constitutional rights issues.  We might label this as the "Absolutist" principle, namely, that certain rights are absolutely off-limits from government coercion or usurpation or abolition.  Think of freedom speech or freedom of religion.  But, as we quickly learn in constitutional law, the First Amendment freedom of speech can be heavily regulated by the government provided the government provides a sufficiently "good" reason.  For example, when the government silences a particular subject, it generally must meet strict scrutiny analysis by demonstrating that the restriction is necessary to achieve a compelling government interest.  So much for absolute protection!  Thus, we most often see the freedom principle give way to other perhaps competing arguments as to justice, often based on the welfare principle or the virtue principle.

3.  So, that brings us to the Virtue Principle.  We might call this the "Honor" principle.  Think of the marriage cases.  The issue in the marriage cases, at its roots, centered upon what sorts of marital relationships ought to be honored, with the court holding that the purpose of marriage is fundamentally about society honoring committed loving relationships among consenting people.  In contrast to the arguments of many states, marriage is not fundamentally about children.  Thus, the court, seeing that states honored opposite sex marriages but not same sex marriages, reasoned that all marriages regardless of gender must be honored the same because gender is irrelevant to the issue of loving relationships.  In other words, the right thing to do is to honor consistently all marital relationships that share the same fundamental marital characteristics.  In short, the court found that it was unfair to honor only opposite sex marriage but not other marriages because the failure to do so is dishonorable and not virtuous.  Justice requires giving honor to what is deserving honor.

Now, as we see from many of the cases covered throughout law school, the courts are often bouncing haphazardly among these various conceptions of justice (and more) without saying what they are doing.  Shame on them!  That's where these principles of justice can come in mighty handily in law school classes.  Let's get them out in the open!  It's not that these principles will necessarily determine what is the right outcome in a particular case.  But, arguments about these principles are what is at root in most cases.  And, as complex people with many attachments and predispositions, we will start to see that we often favor one principle of justice at the expense of another (which is to say at the expense of others).  So, just reflecting on these principles with our students can help our students better understand and appreciate how they can participate - as future attorneys - in helping to make society a little bit more just for the next generation.  And, that's a great thing to learn in law school!  (Scott Johns).

 

May 11, 2017 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Barbara McFarland

I was introduced to Barbara McFarland at my very first Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting, several years ago. Barbara was very kind and welcoming to this new ASP professional. Also, she offered much assistance when I sought best practices and other materials for a new course for students who are considered “at risk” after the first semester of law school. I modified and used some components of the materials she shared which ideally complemented the course I teach. Barbara is very humble in sharing her accomplishments and contributions to academic support so I would urge you to read her biography on her law school website (Goldie Pritchard).

Barb

(Barbara McFarland is pictured here, far right)

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

Barbara B. McFarland

Director of the Office of Student Success Initiatives & Assistant Professor

Northern Kentucky University, Salmon P. Chase College of Law

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

I started doing academic support work 20 years ago (or maybe more) as an overload while teaching legal research and writing at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. I came to Chase in 2006 to continue that combination of positions, but in 2007 the Dean moved me into a full-time position in academic support. A year or two later, he added bar support to my duties.

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?

While I am fairly proficient at programming for students from the top to the bottom of the class, the thing I think I do best is to convince students that they CAN do the work in law school, pass the bar exam, and competently practice law. The biggest challenge in being a one-person office responsible for as many as 500 students in the building is finding time to accomplish the important tasks that keep getting bumped back behind the urgent tasks. I have NOT overcome that challenge, unfortunately.

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

My former students are my legacy, especially the ones that might not have graduated from law school or passed the bar without some support and guidance.

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

If one student per year sends an email or stops by to tell you thank you for what you do, hang on to that positive message; it will get you through another academic year!

Q: Is there anything else you deem necessary to share (quote, encouragement, inspiration, visual, etc.…)?

While I do not believe that everyone admitted to law school will or should succeed, I do believe that we—the law schools—owe every admitted student the opportunity to do his or her best work.

May 10, 2017 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Rodney O. Fong

You may consider this entry and future ones “self-serving” but please stay tuned. When my ASP mentor recently left the profession, I thought it might be a splendid idea to highlight a few “veteran ASPers” while they are still active in the profession. After conversations with a few colleagues, I decided to start highlighting a few individuals I view as “veteran ASPers.” I encountered these highly experienced individuals at certain points of my ASP journey which began almost ten years ago. Each contributed to my success by helping me in small or significant ways and shared their wisdom, experience, and advice. I deemed it expedient to streamline questions rather than ask them anything and everything I could have possibly wanted to know. It is impossible to highlight everyone so I am starting with a select few, Rodney O. Fong being the first.

Rodney O. Fong is an awesome individual. I was first introduced to him by my former law school Dean who suggested that I contact him for advice, direction, and possible mentoring. He responded to my email message which was followed by a great phone conversation. I admire his commitment to diversity, student success on the bar exam, and desire to help new professionals. Please learn about him below. (Goldie Pritchard)

Fong

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

Rodney O. Fong

Co-Director of Law+Plus and Bar+Plus Programs & Assistant Professor of Law 

University of San Francisco School of Law

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

I switched from practice to teaching because I love teaching and counseling people. Also, I found that practicing law limited on the number of people I could help, namely my clients.  But by training more people to become lawyers, I could indirectly help more clients in our communities.

My law school had a formal academic support program and I was a student in the program as well as a tutor during my last two years of school. I started teaching in 1990, focusing on academic support and, in 2005, I formally added bar preparation.

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?

I love the challenge of figuring out how to better prepare our students. First it was putting together workshops and lesson plans focusing on IRAC and study skills. Then I delved into education and learning theory exploring ways to teach students more effectively. Next, it was figuring out how generational differences affected our Gen X and Gen Y students and that continues today with unraveling the effects of helicopter parenting. More recently, I have been working on applying socio-psychological theories and creating reduction and intervention strategies.

My greatest challenge has been helping law schools transition from input measures, like LSAT and UGPA, to output measures, such as graduation rates, bar passage, and employment. Law schools are now being evaluated on how well we teach our students and what they are learning, hence the ABA requirements for establishing student learning outcomes and formative and summative assessments. Unfortunately, changing the law school culture has been slow and painful. But schools that have been able to fully integrated academic support into their teaching and learning culture tend to be more successful.

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

I have two things that I am equally proud of. First, I am proud of all the students that I have been able to help become lawyers, especially those from underrepresented groups and first generation students. They are now in the profession assisting clients and making an impact on our communities. I am also proud of helping the students who decided not to become lawyers. Law school and practicing law is not for everyone. But if I was able to help someone in their decision to leave law school and still maintain their dignity and confidence, then that is a success. Many of these students go on to become successful in other fields.

The other thing I am proud of is helping a law school overcome low bar performance to retain its ABA accreditation. It was not a matter of tutoring a few students to pass the exam, but changing the culture and attitude of an entire institution. When the bar results started to improve, you could feel the change in attitude and confidence within the school and that is something I will never forget. To hear students proclaim that they want to do better than the class before them was amazing, especially when a couple of year before, they doubted if they could even pass the exam.

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

For my ASP colleagues – Changing institutional cultures, attitudes, and behaviors is a process that takes lots of time and patience. Also, timing is critical. An institution may not be ready for change. But when it is, you have to be ready and prepared to lead.

Q: Is there anything else you deem necessary to share (quote, encouragement, inspiration, visual, etc.…)?

My favorite quote during this time of law school uncertainty is a Chinese proverb: “Chaos – where brilliant dreams are born.”

May 3, 2017 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Are you a practicing attorney who wants to switch to ASP/bar work?

Practicing attorneys who want to switch to law school positions often contact those of us who have ASP/bar experience to get advice on making the transition. Requests for information are particularly prevalent in spring and summer when turnover is high and so many positions are advertised. Here are some tips for attorneys considering the switch:

  • Read through all of the ads posted even if they are not for law schools or parts of the country where you want to be. You will see trends in position descriptions, required/preferred skills, duties, departmental structures, reporting lines, and other typical characteristics for the jobs. This broader view of ASP/bar work provides you with comparison information as you focus on specific ads.
  • Write variations of your cover letter and resume that match the specific law schools and ad requirements to make yourself more marketable. A one-size-fits-all approach may overlook your major selling points for a particular position. Make sure your cover letter matches the emphases in the ad so your resume gets a review. Remember that for some positions, your first "cut" is at the university's human resources level instead of at the law school!
  • Take time for a serious consideration of your strengths and weaknesses for the types of positions you want to apply for at law schools. List your specific qualifications and experiences that match the trends you see across job ads; this is your strengths/pros list. Next list specific qualifications and experiences that you lack for the trends you see across job ads; this is your weaknesses/cons list.
  • On your strengths/pros list: add characteristics that you may have initially overlooked in the ads; continue to add your own qualifications/experiences initially forgotten.
  • On your weaknesses/cons list: add strategies for filling these gaps as quickly as possible. Here are some strategies you might consider:
  1. read multiple sources in the ASP/bar field (Carolina Academic Press has a wonderful catalog of books to choose from; West Academic, Wolters-Kluwer, and Lexis are other publication sources)
  2. regularly read the Law School Academic Support Blog and read archived articles from the last year where relevant to your gaps
  3. consider informational interviewing by phone or in person with some ASP/bar folks at law schools where you are not applying for positions: your alma mater; law schools in your current location; law schools where colleagues have connections
  4. inform yourself through web resources about ABA standards, LSAC law school admissions data, NCBE bar data, etc.
  • Salary information is not typically given in ads for ASP/bar support positions. Ads will normally say that salary is dependent on qualifications. At some universities, you can view an online position that will give a position grade/level - the corresponding HR/payroll pages may show the salary ranges by grade/level. However, in many cases, there will be no readily available information. On-line salary comparison calculators can give you a ballpark for what salary in a new geographic location would align with your current salary.
  • There is a great deal of movement by ASP/bar professionals among law schools as people gain more experience and move to other law schools for promotions etc. You may need to find an entry-level position and later move up in your school's hierarchy or change schools once you have specific ASP/bar experience.
  • Realize that there may be other types of law school positions that may be suited to your specific interests, qualifications, and experiences: doctrinal faculty, legal writing and research faculty, clinical faculty, career services, development, admissions, student life, special events coordinator, etc.

April 15, 2017 in Advice, Job Descriptions, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The "TOC" Outline: It's All About Catching Up With Old Friends!

Feeling crunched for time to make a course outline.  Well, here's a tip to give you a jump-start if you've happened to wait until now to start making your outlines in preparation for final exams.

  1. Make a copy of the casebook table of contents (TOC) (and super-size it on 11 x 14 paper if you like to make hand-written outlines).
  2. If you are a hand-writer, then grab a pen and get ready to roll.
  3. If you are a typist or you like to make flashcards or flowcharts, then grab your preferred tool and list out the chapter subjects and the sections, giving your work lots of "breathing room" to input the cases and materials from the chapters.
  4. Brainstorm a short "sound-bite" for each case, one by one, and input that "blurb" into your outline.  Note:  Trust yourself!  Your blurb can just be a phrase or one sentence (two at the max).  That's because there's a learning concept called "useful forgetfulness."  The process of deciding what to put down (i.e., boiling the case or article down to its essence without re-writing verbatim your class notes or case briefs) leads to much deeper memory because, by volitionally choosing NOT to put everything down on paper, you are using your own brainpower to personally analyze what is really important about the case or article to you.  In other words, this is where learning happens...because...you've taken the time to distill it in your own words!
  5. Keep on adding in the short blurbs and, before you know, you've built a TOC outline.

One final note.  As I go back to review my class notes and cases to write my case blurbs, I try to skim for just the big concepts, i.e., as though I'm just trying to "catch up with old friends."  In other words, I'm just trying to get reacquainted, so to speak.  

Not sure what a case blur looks like?  Well, here's a sample:

Fisher v. Carousel (lunch buffet plate snatched from NASA mathematician's hand by restaurant work):  tortious battery includes contact either through direct physical touching or through touching an object intimately connected to a person because the purpose of battery is to protect human dignity from forceful violations that impact our minds and invade our wills.

In sum, as you can see from the example, I list the case name, I identify a few material facts, and then I re-write the holding of the case in my own words...with a slight twist...because I add the word "because" to explain the court's rationale.  And, there you have it:  a hand-dandy TOC outline!  (Scott Johns).

 

 

 

 

April 13, 2017 in Advice, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Countdown to Graduation

Our semester comes to a close in about a week and exams are looming. Many 3L students are suddenly hit with the reality that these are their final days of law school. They constantly remind me of how many weeks, days, hours, and seconds remain until they graduate. For some students, the initial excitement associated with graduating felt at the beginning of the semester or academic year has now morphed into fear of facing the actuality of graduating and “adulting.” The sheer reality of wrapping up an academic career, forever for most, is quite intimidating. Some of the conversations many of my 3Ls are having revolve around:

  • Fears of not finding a job
  • Fears of failing on a job
  •  Financially sustaining themselves
  • Fears of not passing the bar exam
  • Intimidation about the bar review process
  • Ensuring that they actually do graduate
  • Concerns about entertaining friends and family coming for graduation

Throughout the school year and specifically this last semester, I have tried to engage students in conversations about preparing for the Bar exam. Many of the questions were answered through speakers and presentations, in electronic bar related materials made available to students, or through various emails throughout their law school career. But it is only now that several students appear concerned about the Bar exam and want to discuss it. This comes as no surprise to me and although it happens each year, my principle concern is always to ensure that students are given the necessary information or are directed to where they need to go for the information. (Goldie Pritchard)

 

April 12, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

"The Little Things Matter...If You Want to Change the World:" So Says Admiral McRaven

It's gone "viral."  Apparently it's the most watched graduation speech...ever.  That's great news for our world because the subject was about changing the world for the better.  So, here's the kicker, according to graduation speaker Admiral William McRaven (now chancellor at the University of Texas), it starts in the morning.  

That' right.  Start in the morning...with making your bed.  You see, according to McRaven, it's the little things that matter because the little things add up to bigger things, and the bigger things add up to big things, and the big things, well, add up to great things (at least that's my paraphrase of his speech). So, when you make your bed in the morning, you've already taken one mighty little step to taking charge over the issues that you are about to confront that day.  In short, even before you've reached school, you've demonstrated a success.  And, success begets success.  

That's particularly important in the study (and in the practice) of law.  I heard a speaker today say that the issue with lawyers is that lawyers overthink.  That made me think, of course, because I am a lawyer.  I overthink everything.  And, in my overthinking, I tend not to get moving because I don't know where to start.  So, instead of concrete positive action in trying to change the world, I'm often stalled in my thoughts, which leads to worry.  In short, I'm stymied, perplexed, and overstressed.  But, it doesn't have to be that way, according to Adm. McRaven.  If I just start each day with tackling a simple problem, I'll see progress.  And, as I start to make progress, I start to feel more confident, to believe in myself, in tackling even more problems on the way to changing the world.

Let's bring this back to the classroom.  In the study of law, we are so often afraid to "make our bed."  What do I mean by that?  Well, we spend way too much time overthinking the cases in our reading for classes that we never start using the cases to practice solving legal problems.  We stay in bed.  We hide under the covers.  We don't move into the morning by working through hypotheticals, testing ourselves, seeing if we can figure out how to solve legal problems.

So, here's my suggestion:  

Just start working on the little problems, the short hypotheticals. It doesn't have to be big gnarly essay questions.  In fact, start small.  But, start.  Grab pen and paper along with your notes and take a stab at solving a practice problem.  That will lead to solving bigger practice problems, which will increase your confidence to solve even more difficult problems.  And then, before you know it, you'll be witnessing your own graduation...as a brand new problem-solving lawyer...and well-prepared to change the world for the better too!  (Scott Johns)

P.S. Here's a video clip from part of the University of Texas speech: Step 1: If You Want to Change the World...

April 6, 2017 in Advice, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Be Confident

This is the week our students’ appellate briefs are due therefore I assumed that they would be unprepared for the directed study group meeting scheduled for this week. Instead of cancelling the meeting, I developed several activities with the materials students had covered thus far in their doctrinal course. The students were engaged and appeared to enjoy the activities. We highlighted areas they were unfamiliar with, areas they needed to work on, and areas of strength. Students worked in groups and one of the groups was composed of mostly male students and one female student. The female student held her own but one situation gave me pause. Her group was consulting before they buzzed in their answer. I heard her say the correct answer but her male counterparts disagreed and tried to persuade her otherwise. The group spokesperson stated the answer the majority agreed on but it was an incorrect answer. When they realized she had the correct answer, they were dumbfounded. I told the male students: “you should have listened to her” and I saw her smile. I was glad to validate her “correct” contribution and thought about the experiences of other female students.

At times, the law school environment can be a challenging place for female students for a variety of reasons including the fact that their abilities are sometimes underestimated and undervalued. This can reduce confidence in even the most confident person. There are several articles, studies, and news reports on the topic. However, I found an eight minute TEDx Talk which illustrates some of the challenges females face and how they can help themselves and other females find “The Confidence Factor.” Here is the link to “The Confidence Factor” by Carol Sankar.

Sankar suggests three things all women must do enact their confidence factor, challenging them to students, particularly female students:

1. Know the power of negotiation. If you know your worth before you leave the house; you now have the power of negotiate. Know your worth.

2. Seek a balance of support and mentorship. Support is the praise and comfort but not the facts. Mentorship is when people tell us the truth regardless of how we feel about what we hear; someone with the courage to push us and tell us the truth.

3. Your inner circle. Create an inner circle which includes one who likes you, one who can’t stand you, one who will tell the truth, and one who will tell you a lie. Also consider individuals not known to you. (Goldie Pritchard)

April 5, 2017 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Teaching Law: What's Justice Have to Do With Law (and Learning)?

Recently while teaching asylum law, we took some time in class to talk about justice.  How do we know what is the right thing to do?  What standard(s) should we use to decide whether a case result is just or not?  I was just about to recap our discussion when a student asked, poignantly, "What does Justice have to do with the Law?"

In brief, the student commented that very few classes ever even talk about justice, and, the student also asked me directly if I have ever even talked about justice as a litigator before the court.  Those were great questions.  And, the student got me thinking...deeply...because if what we are doing is not just, then we should be doing something else.  And, if we are not talking about justice, then, let's be frank, we are not engaging with our students in heart-felt learning because they came to law school - not to be mechanics robotically applying the law - but to make the world better, to make the world more just, in short, to restore and right and mend relationships.

As I reflected on my student's questions, I started to realize that implicit in much discourse concerning the outcome of cases are principles that manifest themselves in real impact on real people.  So, my first step was to refocus on teaching about the people (and not just the mechanical facts, issues, holdings, and rationales).  I try to find out what happened to the litigants.  I sometimes call the attorneys that litigated the case.  In short, I try to bring life to the cases that we read.  Second, I try to keep my eye out for opportunities to talk about whether the decisions in the cases that we study are just (and why or why not).  I try to make it explicit.  Third, as we talk about representing people, I bring up opportunities to appeal to courts by using principles of justice.  

So, that brings me back to learning.  It seems like many law students are just plain tired, primarily it seems to me, because we have taught them that the law is lifeless.  We've stripped the cases of all humanity.  We talk about cases as if they are just impersonal scripts, and, in the process, our students begin to feel like the lawyer's job is just to keep the machine going.  That they are a cog in a process that lacks life.  That law school is not a place to learn about how to make the world better but rather just a place that keeps the world going, faltering along, without improvement, growth, or hope.  Our students start to think that justice has very little to do with the law.  

Perhaps that is true.  But, it need not be so.  That's because in a common law system the law grows out of relationships and arguments presented by real people to real people to resolve real disputes based on real appeals to the heart.  So, as we teach our students, I need to help them empower themselves to speak boldly and think deeply about what the right thing to do is (and why).   And, when I do that, my students start to sit up straight, they take notice, they start pondering, thinking, and, of course, learning...because they realize that they do have something to say, something that is important, something that might actually someday make a powerful impact in the lives of others when incorporated into the common law.  In fact, our world needs their voices - all of their voices in order to realize justice for all.  

If you're looking for a place to learn how to incorporate justice into your teaching, here's a great source.  Professor Michael Sandel has a free web platform that focus on teaching justice with much of the discussion based on the law and litigation. And, in the process, you'll see a masterful teacher helping his students develop into learners.  http://justiceharvard.org/justicecourse/   (Scott Johns).

March 30, 2017 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)