Saturday, January 10, 2015
Interested in presenting, but do not know where to start? There are many great conferences in the coming year and you should share your insights, practices, and teaching methods with the ASP community at one of them. If you have never presented or feel like you need a fresh perspective to writing your proposal, I have included a few ideas to get you started:
- Carefully read the call for proposals and craft your proposal by using that as your template. If there are samples, even better. Use them as a guide, but add your unique viewpoints to set yours apart.
- Think about the audience that is attending the conference. What do they want to know? And, how would they like you to deliver it? Lecture, poster presentation, or interactive involvement.
- Be specific, but not too specific. Make a few broad statements and support them with a few specific examples. You do not want your proposal to be too amorphous, but you also do not want it to be too narrow. This flexibility will allow you to make changes between submitting the proposals and giving the presentation.
- Brainstorm ideas:
- Think about the best presentations that you have seen. Why were they meaningful to you? What did you take away from those presentations?
- Think about your year. What is something impressive that you accomplished in the classroom or within your school? What was your lightbulb moment? What was your biggest challenge in the classroom, with your co-workers, or with your students? How did you overcome those challenges? What was the best article your read, book you read, or class you attended? What did you learn? How did it change your teaching?
- Write ten things that are you really good at doing. Go!
- Write ten things that you wish you were really good at doing. Go!
- Look over recent listserve threads, blog posts, or news stories. Think about how you can add to the discussions or elaborate on the issues.
- Make a bold statement- something provocative, debatable, or controversial. Go boldly where no ASPer has gone before!
- Once you have brainstormed your ideas, draft the outcomes you expect. What do you want the participants to be able to do or do differently after they hear your presentation?
- Revise, edit, and redraft. Use spell check and have someone you trust read through your draft. This will help you appeal to a wider audience and will ensure that you do not have typos or confusing goals.
- Submit your proposal and do not get discouraged if it is not selected. It is not personal! There are typically many more submissions than available openings. The important thing is to keep trying if your proposal is not at first selected.
- If your proposal is selected- congratulations! Now, begin thinking about your presentation straightaway. Record your thoughts and start preparing while your ideas are still percolating.
I can’t wait to hear your presentation!
Lisa Bove Young
Friday, January 9, 2015
I have attended a few conferences this fall, and it has been wonderful to meet new ASPers. So many new ASPers have fantastic new ideas, new programs, and new skills. As program co-chair for this year's conference, I want to encourage professionals new to ASP to submit a proposal to AASE. We need you to talk about your new ideas! Don't worry that you are "too new"--"too new" is exactly the right time to present at AASE, a community of friends, colleagues, and helpers who want to see new professionals succeed. Don't worry that other people have already done what you are doing; we need people who will remind us of what it is like to start out in the field. And everyone approaches the same challenges in different ways, so chances are your methods will be new, and helpful, to members of our community. And don't worry that you can't commit to a presentation on your own; if you would like to present with a more experienced member of our community, we are happy to arrange a joint presentation--you don't even need to suggest your co-presenter!
The bottom line is that new ASPers are critical to our success as a community, the vitality of our organization, and we want YOU to add to this year's conference. Presentation proposals are due Jan 12, to email@example.com.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
AALS is about the begin, and here is my near-yearly reminder to network, network, network. The best part of AALS is the networking; network in ASP-specific sessions (which I encourage everyone to attend) as well as general networking at breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The amazing thing about our field is the spirit of giving between colleagues. We will share everything we have, and everything we know, with anyone who asks. Most of our current programs are built on the shoulders of the giants in our field (and I won't try to name them, because I'll miss someone). The most beneficial learning experiences come from working with peers at other schools, sharing programs and advice. And in this time of budget-cuts and right-sized enrollment trends, it's wonderful to be able to share anecdotes and stories with colleagues in the field.
No one believes me when I say I am painfully shy and socially awkward (maybe they believe the socially awkward part, but are too nice to tell me!) I know many of us struggle to get to know people we have never met before when we are attending big conferences. One of the great learning experiences of my career came from a serendipitous connection with Joanne Koren from Miami Law. It was my first year in ASP, and my first AALS, and I didn't know anyone. I met Joanne, and she mentioned she was looking for someone to tour the D.C. monuments with her. I said I would love to go, and it was one of the most memorable , wonderful AALS experiences. I have learned so much from Joanne over the years, but I would not have had the opportunity if I didn't take the leap and tour the monuments with someone I had just met.
Enjoy AALS, and network, network, network!
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
The semester is over and you've spent the last week either sleeping or catching up on everything you put off during exams. You've still got a few weeks until next semester starts so it is time to find a balance between rest and relaxation, and reenergizing so you can start the new year off right.
The first goal is to stay healthy:
- Drink plenty of water: we often eat when what our body really needs is hydration. Drink a glass of water the next time you feel sluggish or have the munchies. Odds are this will do the trick.
- Get moving: in addition to physical benefits, regular exercise gives you more energy, improves your mood and lowers stress.
Next, do something each day:
- Plan your day: even if you are on vacation, identify two or three things to accomplish each day. This prevents the stress of scrambling at the last minute.
- Use your brain: you don’t have to read legal tomes or memorize statutes but you should learn something new every day. Increasing your knowledge keeps you inspired and motivated.
- Reflect daily: end each day with a few minutes of reflection of what you’ve accomplished (not what you haven’t done).
Last, focus on what makes you happy:
- Express gratitude: identifying things you are grateful for promotes happiness and increases self-worth.
- Clean your desk/room: doing this might not make you happy but the end result will. A clean space allows you to focus on your work instead of the clutter.
- Indulge yourself: set aside time to indulge yourself (just a little) so that you don’t resent having to work or study.
Too much of any one thing is never good so use these next few weeks to find a balance. It will be both enjoyable and productive and you’ll have a good foundation for next semester.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Many schools have students who graduate in December. To help them transition from the whirlwind of finals, graduation, and holiday celebrations to bar prep, here are a few things for them to consider:
- Create a realistic, yet rigorous study schedule. Begin after graduation, but make space to savor the end of law school before jumping into your bar prep.
- Communicate your study plans. Make sure that your significant other, family, and co-workers know that your priority is passing the bar exam. They will be your support system through this journey and they need to understand what you will need to be successful. (Perhaps a meal delivered now and then, or help with childcare...)
- Use Spaced Repetition to study instead of focusing on only one subject at a time.
- Remember to stay healthy- exercise, eat well, and get a full night of sleep. This will increase your focus and efficiency.
- Ask for help! When you are feeling overwhelmed, or have a question about your performance or a particular area of law, ask someone. You can ask your bar review provider, a classmate, or your Academic Support for assistance.
- Find balance. You will always feel like you should be doing more- more studying, more MBE practice, more essay and PT writing, and more outlining. However, you also need to know when to say when.
- Give yourself mini-rewards for reaching your daily goals and bigger rewards for reaching your weekly goals.
- Keep a positive attitude and surround yourself with positive people. Believing in yourself is the key to your success!
Congratulations to all of the December law school graduates and best of luck getting started with your bar prep.
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Every year someone on the listserv asks for advice because they have been charged with creating a new ASP course. I remember the anxiety I felt when I had to design my first course. Kris Franklin's new book, Strategies and Techniques for Teaching Academic Success Courses, should fill this need. The book will be given away free during AALS.
I have read the book, and highly recommend it. Although I have been teaching in ASP for many years, it was an excellent refresher on what I should do doing and thinking about when I design (or redesign) a course.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
During law school, I took a class on environmental law and national parks that I was really into. I knew it frontwards, backwards, and sideways. When I took the exam, I finished an hour early and looked around at my fellow students who were still busily scribbling away (the era of Bluebooks had not left us yet). I checked my answers a few times and then just figured I had been really prepared for the exam. So, I turned in my exam and sat out in the hallway reading a Thomas Pynchon novel while I waited for my friends to get out.
When they finally left the exam room an hour later, everyone was going through the usual exam post-mortem, which I tried to ignore (I also believe in the credo of Fight Club stated below). Then someone said, "What did you write for question five?"
Question five? What question five? I had answered four questions. There was a fifth?
To this day, I really don't know what happened. Whether I somehow didn't turn over the test paper, or whether there was a printing mistake, I have no idea. I went to my professor, but he said the mistake was on me. I still did fine in the class, although question five was something along the lines of "Explain why you like squirrels," so I probably would've really crushed it if I actually noticed question five. But, except for waking up screaming every six months or so, I've largely forgotten about it.
Which is a roundabout way of saying I absolutely agree with the Fight Club idea of not talking about exams. And I also agree that once you take an exam you should put it behind you and let it go (at this point, if you have a daughter between the ages of five and 11, you probably read the last three words of that sentence in a soaring alto).
Almost everyone of my colleagues, from folks that graduated 40 years ago to folks who graduated five years ago, has a similar story. Clearly, things worked out. The important part is that if you do make a mistake on the exam or realize you answered a question wrong, you need to consciously throw it behind you. Dwelling on it now won't help you. Spending Christmas break beating yourself up over it won't help. And, more than likely, it is less of a disaster than you think (in that environmental law class, I still pulled a B +).
The important thing is to keep moving frontwards.
And let it go!
(If you now need to get Elsa out of your head, I suggest either "What Does the Fox Say" or "Call Me Maybe").
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
“The first rule of Fight Club is, ‘don’t talk about Fight Club.’ The second rule of Fight Club is, ‘don’t talk about Fight Club.’”
Brad Pitt uttered these words 15 years ago in the iconic movie Fight Club (a movie about a fight club). Even today when I ask my class, “What is the first rule of Fight Club?” every single guy responds, “Don’t talk about Fight Club.” You may wonder why I would ever ask such a question and the answer is, the same holds true for exams. Don’t talk about exams. Talking about exams is like asking a woman how much she weighs or asking anyone how much he or she makes. First, outside very specific situations (like your doctor’s office), there is absolutely no reason to ask these questions. Second, you wouldn’t ask your friends these questions because you know that no matter the response, someone walks away from the conversation feeling bad. Talking about the exams is exactly the same: there is no reason to talk about it and someone always walks away feeling bad. I’ve had students challenge me and ask, “what if you have to talk about an exam?” and “what if there really is a reason?” I throw it right back and say, “give me an example.” In all the years I've been doing this, I’ve yet to hear a legitimate reason to talk about exams. As you continue through exams, keep in mind the first rule of law school exams, “Don’t talk about exams.”
Monday, December 8, 2014
You have studied and prepared -- will continue to study and prepare -- for your end of term exams. You have outlined each subject and prepared exam checklists that contain the legal issues/rules, elements that yopu need to know to do well; you have reread and continue to reread your outlines; you have written practice exam essays; and you have done practice multiple-choice questions. Keep up that good work and maintain that momentum.
As you prepare for exam day(s), you can take one more step by taking a page from athletes preparing for competitions. Use visualization techniques to build or enhance confidence as you move into the exam period. Breathe deeply, close your eyes, visualize a large powerful animal, visualize yourself as that large powerful animal. Take that image of yourself with you into the exam room. On exam days, employ strong, erect, powerful posture -- posture that reflects confidence.
While there is no substitute for study and preparation for law school exams, you can sse the combination of preparation and visulaization techniques to build confidence as you approach exams. Visualize yourself as powerful; enter the examination room with erect, strong posture; picture yourself writing exams confidently.
(This post was inspired by a presentation at the New England Consortiium of Legal Writing Teachers Conference - September 2014 at Vermont Law School -- "The Sport of Lawyering: Using Visualization to Improve Performance," Julie St. John, Assistant Professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law)
Thursday, December 4, 2014
On the morning I had to take my very first law school exam, I woke up believing I had been struck blind. My eyes were sealed shut. I stumbled around my apartment, tripping over my roommates who lived on the floor (long story) and made my way to the bathroom. I got my eyes unstuck with hot water and a washcloth. It turned out I had pink eye -- which I have never had before or since.
By the time everything was sorted out, I had something like 20 minutes until my exam started. I hopped on my bike, flew down the hill, and made it to the exam just in time for everyone to scatter away from me as I sat down for the exam. I could barely see, but the exam turned out fine. I eventually went to student health who: 1) asked me how often I hung out with young children (I was 22 and single, so never); 2) told me not to smoke (I didn't); and 3) sent me home with eyedrops, a handout on safe sex, and a condom.
Based on that exam experience (and others, including a woman who cried next to me during the entire bar exam), I always tell my students to simply expect the worst when they are getting prepared for exams. Expect the exam room to be too cold, flooded with raw sewage, or infiltrated with wild dogs. Expect your car not to start, your dog to eat your textbook, and a marching band to tune up outside the exam room. Expect your computer to crash. Expect the power to go out. Expect weird questions on the exam.
And, if none of that happens, great.
But if something like that does, don't let it throw you. Too many students let monkeywrenches take out the whole engine.
After falling into a fountain, Peter Sellers, as Inspector Clouseau in the film A Shot in the Dark, says "It's all part of life's rich pageant" (strangely enough, a clip is not floating around the Internet). Along with being the title of the best R.E.M. record, it's a pretty good attitude to have regarding hiccups and problems during exam week.
Things are going to happen -- study enough and feel confident enough that you can simply roll with the punches.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Along with the opening of Disney's EPCOT center and the death of Leonid Brezhnev, 1982 is best remembered for the release of Conan the Barbarian, the "Citizen Kane" of barbarian movies.
As anyone with a love of barbarians can tell you, the best line in the movie is when Conan (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who surprisingly lost the Academy Award for Best Actor to Henry Fonda) tells the Mongol general what Conan thinks is best in life:
For law students, the next couple of weeks of studying for exams are likely to be pretty dreadful and keeping motivated is difficult.
To keep motivated, I suggest to my students that they post a picture that represents why they are in law school on their bathroom mirror -- whatever it may be. While it may be something noble like "helping others" or supporting their families, it might be something less attractive like having the coolest condo in Manhattan or, like Conan, "crushing their enemies." The fantastic writer Elizabeth McCracken once told me that "Revenge is a perfectly good motivation for writing." I quote that line all the time.
Importantly, whatever the reason is, that reason is personal, locked in the bathroom, and only has to have meaning to the person brushing his or her teeth every day in that mirror. It doesn't have to be edited, thought about, or worried over.
At this point in my life, the picture on the mirror would be my children. When I was 22 and a first year law student, it probably would have been trees and wolves.
Or a really bitchin' guitar.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Across the country law students are studying for semester exams. This is not the first blog post about staying healthy, managing time, and staying organized and motivated during exam prep. There is a reason for that. Law students tend to get distracted by what you are doing for exams that you forget to understand why you are studying for exams. It’s because you want to be a lawyer. Well, I’m a lawyer, too. Yes, I went to law school a long time ago and but exam prep hasn’t changed much. Law students still consume way too much caffeine, don’t shower or shave often enough, and stay up until the wee hours of the morning and then crash until noon. I don’t recommend doing any of these things. Law school is the bridge to the profession of law so treat it as such and start studying like a professional. Get up at 7-7:30, shower, eat breakfast, and be ready to study by 8-8:30. Put in 4 good hours in the morning (with a short break) and then take an hour for lunch. Not only do you need to feed your body but you need to give your brain a break and a chance to re-charge. After lunch, it’s time for another 4 focused hours of studying. It’s now 5-5:30 but you aren’t starving because you ate a decent breakfast and lunch. You take a 30-minute break (have a snack, get some fresh air), and are good for another 2 hours. Now it is 7-7:30 and you are hungry and tired. You’ve put in 10+ hours and it’s time to call it a day. You prepare and eat dinner and catch up on email and social media. Before going to bed, you review all you’ve accomplished and make a plan for the next day so when you get to your study spot you are ready to go and don’t have to waste time figuring out what to do. If this sounds too easy to be true, it’s not. It just requires you to stop thinking like an undergrad and start thinking like a lawyer.
Monday, November 24, 2014
For most people, the end of November means Thanksgiving and the holiday shopping season. It means family, food, and football. For law students, it means the start of exams. It is a time for writing papers, creating outlines, and studying. A lot of studying. For 1Ls especially, it can be stressful and quite overwhelming. This is the first set of exams they will take and success is not guaranteed.
I recently had breakfast with a group of 2Ls and as the conversation turned to exams, I asked them to share some advice: what do 1Ls need to know about law school exams? Here are their wise words:
- Make your own outline and start with 20 minute blocks to overcome beginner’s inertia.
- Focus on what is important, including the non-school aspects. Don’t let finals take over your life.
- Don’t mistake organizing for studying. You make the perfect outline and not know a thing on it.
- Know the terms of art and use them when answering questions.
- Many people study in different ways. Trust your methods. Don’t feel like you have to be white knuckle the whole finals period.
- Studying is key, but you need to know when to stop. If your outline is done (and it should be) stop the night before the final and do something else: anything else. Especially near the end of your finals, you need to give your brain a break.
- Don’t neglect relationships.
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Law school attracts extroverts and in many ways is designed for them. An astute law student must highlight their successes, be vocal participants in a Socratic classroom, and zealously advocate in order to thrive in the competitive law school environment. However, being an introvert does not mean that an individual cannot excel in law school or contribute meaningfully to the practice of law.
There is a great TED talk by Susan Cain, a lawyer turned writer, who explores introversion and the value of quiet. In this TED talk, she implores everyone to “stop the constant group work”, “unplug and get inside your own head”, and share your gifts with others. Part of her manifesto includes a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” How beautiful would it be for law school classrooms to honor the quiet introvert as much as the outspoken extrovert? Is it possible to encourage “gentle shaking” in a law school doctrinal classroom? Here are a few suggestions that will help introverts feel more comfortable speaking up and contributing in a sometimes intimidating law school classroom.
- Rethink participation during class and provide alternative means to have students engage with the material or with each other.
- See each student as an individual who expresses their ideas and knowledge in multiple and various ways.
- Have students sign up to be the expert for a particular class period or for a particular set of cases.
- Use think- pair-share prior to full classroom discussions about a topic, case, or set of problems.
- Distribute or post discussion questions with the reading assignment prior to class.
- Allow students to pass in class (within reason).
- Teach students how to brief cases and prepare for class discussions. This type of transparency will create more engaged students and lead to a more a dynamic discussion.
- Do not call on students too quickly. Let the question stew with the class and allow introverts more time to reflect and process.
- Consider a flipped classroom so that students feel more prepared to discuss and/or participate during class time.
- Use technology in the classroom. Technology is ubiquitous, and can be integrated it into the classroom to provide added layers of participation and engagement- especially for diverse learners.
- Create learning groups, which will help make a large law school classroom more accessible to introverts.
- Reflect on your own learning style and personality. How do they affect your teaching style and how is your delivery received by extroverts and introverts? How can alter your style to be more inclusive?
(Lisa Bove Young)
Monday, October 27, 2014
First year law students may be experiencing law school mid-term exams at this time of the semester. These exams bring with them stress – on the one hand – and opportunities for growth and learning – on the other hand.
Prepare for mid-term exams by completing, perfecting, and condensing outlines. Do practice questions to gain experience dealing with law school essays and with multiple-choice questions. Find questions by looking at what your law school may have on file, by asking your professors, or by looking at study aids that contain questions and corresponding answers. Write practice essays under conditions that mimic those of the actual mid-terms. Meet with study groups to discuss the answers; meet with professors to review your answers. Last – but not least – go back to your outlines to be certain that they contained the concepts needed to answer the practice questions.
After the mid-term, review the feedback given by the professor. If the professor distributes a model answer, outline the model answer – as you compare your answer to the model answer. Additionally, do an IRAC check of your essay to see whether you included the necessary components of a law school essay. Once you have an understanding of what went right and what went wrong, try to rewrite the essay – as a learning-by-practice experience. Meet with your professor to review your work and to make the most out of the learning opportunities that mid-term exams present.
Monday, October 6, 2014
Recent studies show that reading is good for us and that reading in print is, well, even better.
To quote a recent, ahem – online publication – “reading in print helps with comprehension.”
So, what do these studies mean for law students? Law students might consider the following:
- In your Legal Research and Writing class, print out the sources, e.g., the cases and statutes, that are relevant to your assignments and that you will use to write those memos.
- Print out your notes and outlines – if you have typed them. Put these materials in binders and read them from the printed page – not on the screen.
- Reconsider using textbooks in e-book format and favor print books.
- Build in time to read for relaxation – a print book, short story, or magazine – of course.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Multitasking is a way of life for those who’ve grown up in the digital era. You might be talking face-to-face with a friend but you are also texting or checking social media. Even those of us who grew up “b.c.” (before computers) now consider multitasking an essential skill. Why simply drive somewhere when you can drive and talk to someone on the phone? We are busy. We need to multitask. We are good at it. Well, we might not be as good as we think. Research shows that when people do several things at once, they do all of them worse than those who focus on one thing at a time. Multitaskers take longer to complete tasks, make more mistakes, and remember less. In addition, research into multitasking while learning shows that learners have gaps in knowledge, more shallow understanding of the material, and more difficulty transferring the learning to new contexts.
For many, multitasking has become such the norm that you don’t even think about it, you just do it. That’s the problem—you don’t think. However, take a minute to consider why you multitask. Is there an actual need for it? No. You do it because technology has made it possible, because you want to, because meetings/classes are boring, because you don’t want to wait. This is not to say that you shouldn’t watch tv while getting dressed in the morning. But do think twice before multitasking while preparing for and during class. You don’t need to check social media while reading cases. You don’t have to check fantasy football stats during class discussion. Although switching between these tasks may only add a time cost of less than a second, this adds up as you do it over and over again. Class requires focus and multitasking distracts your brain from fully engaging with the material.
The next time you go to class, put the phone on silent and put it away, turn off the internet or shut your lap top. Then focus on the professor and what is going on in the class. The first few minutes will be tough because your brain isn’t used to focusing on one task at a time. However, it won’t take long before your brain realizes it only has to do one thing. You will concentrate more deeply and learn so much more than your classmates who are busy tweeting how bored they are, checking fantasy football stats, and not picking up the exam tip the professor just gave. (KSK)
This idea for this post came from Sara Sampson, OSU Moritz College of Law’s Assistant Dean for Information Services. She made a short presentation on this topic at orientation and was so kind to share her notes and research. Thank you!
Monday, September 29, 2014
Time management and doctrinal classes can be challenging enough. However, when Legal Research and Writing assignments are thrown into the mix, your schedule can get even more challenging.
First, create a weekly schedule as a way to effectively manage your time. Start by penciling in your classes; then add work hours, if any, and regular appointments. Next block out study times for each class (4-5 hours for every hour that you are in class). Remember to add breaks -- every now and then. Do not try to study for hours on end -- without breaks of, say 10-15 minutes, after 60-90 minutes of study.
Next, look at your Legal Research and Writing Syllabus- note the deadlines for major writing assignments and work backward from those deadlines. When will you complete your draft? When will you outline the assignment? When will you finish the bulk of the required research? Add these tasks to your weekly schedule to maximize the likelihood that you will not be doing the bulk of the work the day before the assignment is due. Try to leave time to print out your draft and set it aside for a while (24 hours is a good goal) -- before your final proofread and edit.
If you stray from your weekly schedule once or twice, do not discard the schedule. Instead, try to get back on the schedule. Last - but not least - remember to include time for exercise and enjoyment.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
You don’t procrastinate. You perform better under pressure. This may be true but it is more likely how you justify putting things off. Admit it, just a few weeks ago you told yourself that you were going to stay on top of thing this semester. Law student: start outlining early and be prepared for every class. Professor: get the whole semester planned before classes begin, work on your article every week without fail. You would make no excuses. Then you got busy and more important things came up: moot court try-outs/practice, organizing an event for some organization (of which you are probably the president), your friend’s birthday (you only turn 23 once). Admit it, you procrastinate. Everyone procrastinates sometimes but it should not be the norm. Procrastination may be something you do (or avoid doing) but it should not define you. We procrastinate for many reasons: daunting task, fear of failure, too many options. Whatever the reason, procrastinating actually increases your stress and only puts off the inevitable. Now that you’ve admitted you procrastinate, it’s time to do something about it.
Begin with identifying why you avoid starting a task and address it: break a daunting project into smaller tasks, allow yourself to make a few mistakes along the way, list the cons of waiting until the last minute and the benefits of starting early. The hardest part is turning your aspirations into actions. Identify a positive attribute that describes you and use that to define your actions then pick a start date and hold yourself accountable (arrange to meet a classmate and work together, set up a meeting with your professor to ask questions or get feedback, block out the time on your calendar so you can’t fill it with other things). Take it one day at a time and take back the control. Don’t wait until tomorrow, stop procrastinating today. (KSK)
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Most of you are well within your first month of law school and may have had your first quiz or a writing assignment which may have made you question your decision to be in law school. It’s understandable but don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep in mind that if you already had all of the answers, then you wouldn’t be in law school. You are here to learn, so be open to letting others (your professors, administrators, upper class men) help you navigate this new path. Below are a few tips on navigating your new path.
1) I’m sure that many of you have been told that it’s important to be active readers in law school and not just passively read the cases. In case you’re still trying to figure out what that means, here are a few suggestions to help become an active reader. Read with a purpose. Know why you are reading a particular case and how it fits within the big picture. You may want to consult the table of contents or the course syllabus to figure out what topic or issue the case will address. Once you have an idea of what to look for in a case, you may consider referring to an outside source (a study aid) to gain some general knowledge about the term. As you read your cases, keep the issue at the forefront of your mind to anchor your thinking. Ask yourself as you read the case, what does this case tell me about this issue (the anchor)? Is the court explaining the issue? Is it dividing the issue into elements or explaining one of the elements? Try to figure out what the court is doing? Is it creating a new rule, rejecting an old rule or explaining or redefining an existing rule?
2) If you have an upcoming quiz or test, I would strongly suggest that you test your understanding of concepts you covered in class prior to taking the quiz. There are several ways to test your knowledge. For example, after you’ve read a series of cases on a particular rule, try to create your own hypothetical to explain how a rule or element is applied. Include a sentence or two on the relevant facts to aid in your explanation and note which facts trigger each issue or element. Also, you can use study aids such as Examples and Explanations to find practice questions on a discrete topic. The point is you should not enter any quiz, assessment, or exam without having tested your understanding of the material and without having completed at least one or two practice questions.
3) After you’ve taken a quiz or exam, you must review your exam. If you are not happy with the grade that you received, you must make an appointment to review your answers with your professors. Before going to your professor’s office, I would caution you to review your answers first. Otherwise, you run the risk of not getting the most out of your meeting. Review your notes and your outline and determine for yourself where the weak areas are or what you could have strengthened. Then take your assessment to your professor and ask for her opinion on your work.
4) Finally, another way to work on developing a deeper understanding of the material is to talk it out with others. If you are not a study group person, consider a study buddy. There is value in discussing difficult concepts with your colleagues. Your classmate may have picked up on something in the case that you missed or may be able to explain the rule to you in a way you hadn’t considered or vice versa. Also, you are more likely to notice gaps in your knowledge when you discuss cases and rules with your colleagues. Lastly, there is safety in numbers. If you and your study buddy or study group don’t understand a particular rule you can make an appointment with the professor together and support each other. You don’t have to go at it alone.
Happy studying! (LMV)
 For more tips on case reading and genral study advice see Ruta K. Stropus and Charlotte D. Taylor, Bridging the Gap Between College and Law School (Carolina Academic Press 2001)