Thursday, June 19, 2014

Answer the Question!

Many bar applicants are unsuccessful on the written portion of the bar exam because they fail to adequately answer the question(s) posed by the examiners.  However, telling our students to “answer the question” not only seems obvious, but can also feel patronizing.  To avoid this, I clarify how a student can ascertain what the examiners are really asking by following these steps.

Step 1. Read the call of the question to identify the subject, parties, and cause(s) of action.  If the call is narrowly crafted (i.e. Can Abel be found liable to Cain under a strict liability theory?), make sure that you are answering the specific direction within the call.  If the call is broadly drafted (i.e. Discuss the liabilities of the parties.), you will need to determine the central focus from the facts presented.

Step 2. Before moving forward, recall the key topics within the subject area being tested.  You should be able to visualize your checklist, flowchart, or outline for each topic area.  You may even want to quickly write your mnemonics on your scratch paper.

Step 3. Now, it is time to “actively read” the fact pattern.  What does “actively read” mean?  Use a pen/pencil/highlighter (depending on your state bar policies) to circle, underline, or annotate the facts as you read through them slowly.  Pay attention to numbers, quoted language, unusual FORMATTING, and repetition within the fact pattern.  These are structural and factual issue signals.  Pay close attention to these facts and use them liberally within your answer as you apply the law.  Reading slowly and carefully will help you to fully synthesize and find relevance for all of the facts.

Step 4. Use your scratch paper.  Yes, use the paper provided to sketch out your answer before you begin typing your response.  Do NOT rewrite the entire fact pattern or your entire outline.  Use your scratch paper to list the buzzwords and legally significant facts.  But, you may also want to write the call of the question on your scratch paper to ensure that you answer it.  These brief notes will help later with your IRAC.

Step 5. An important last step: reread the call of the question!  Make sure that your scratch paper notes and initial impressions align to the actual question being asked.  Now, you are ready to begin writing your answer.

Bar exam drafting committees are constructing fact patterns and questions to test various skills and abilities.  The ability to identify legal issues and determine the legally relevant facts are two such skills.  Knowing the law thoroughly will help you spot issues and will help you answer the question.  But, practice will help even more.

(Lisa Bove Young)

June 19, 2014 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Meditate to Melt Bar Exam Stress

Summer bar preparation is kicking into high gear.  The first week is a blur.  The second week is overwhelming.  The third week is a blur again.  Bar preparation is excruciating- physically, mentally, and emotionally.  One way to stay even and remain focused is to practice meditation.

Meditation can take on many forms.  However, mindfulness, attention to breathing, and intentional focus are necessary components.  First, try to create an environment where you can be quiet and free from distractions.  You do not need to redecorate or go to extremes.  Merely find a spot where you can feel relaxed for ten or twenty minutes per day without being interrupted.

Next, concentrate on your breathing.  Think about good air coming in to refresh and satiate your spirit; and, the bad “stressful” air being exhaled and released.  Attention to breath is essential to meditation.  If the only one thing that you accomplish is sitting with your breath for 10 minutes, you will still be in a better mental place.  Try to clear your mind and focus on your breathing and let everything else melt away.  Thousands of assignments, rule statements, MBE questions, and life stressors will try to infiltrate your thoughts.  Keep them out by concentrating on your breathing.  Let this time be just about your breathing. 

By making meditation a daily practice, the stress of bar review will slowly melt away…at least for a short part of your day.  Even though schedules are strained, adding a 10-20 minute daily meditation can help add a deeper level of peace and contentment.  So... turn off your phone and computer, find a soft spot to land, close your eyes, and breathe. 

(Lisa Bove Young)

June 12, 2014 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why Do Law Students Dislike Group Work?

Group work is essential to graduate programs in business. Group work is a staple of medical school. But law students baulk at the idea of group work. This is a problem that has baffled me for years. We hear more and more about collaborative work as the cornerstone of students learning, and the need to teach law students how to work collaboratively. But professors who do require group work find that law students resist, fight, and malign collaborative projects. Why do law students hate group work?

1) We teach them that their grade is only as good as the person next to them.

Competition for grades starts the minute law students realize they are graded on a curve. Students begin to fear their peers, because they perceive their peers as their enemies, not as collaborators. Students who fear and mistrust they classmates are not going to put in extra effort to work together. They w fear that anyone who knows what they know will use it against them, either in preparing for a final exam, for personally, to hurt them in the future. Fear and mistrust are not the building blocks of collaboration.

2) We haven't dealt with our "free rider" problem.

I have colleagues who assign group projects, and I always hear about the "free rider" who manages (scams) his or her way into a hard-working group, only to receive a (high) grade based on the work of others. The students mistrust the free rider, but other than tattle to the teacher, there is little the group can do about a free rider. I have seen teachers try to deal with the free rider problem by requiring peers to assign grades to their partners, but this often results in gaming. Entire groups can game the grading by agreeing ahead of time what grades they will give each other, or individuals can game the system by agreeing to a group grade, and later giving their partners lower-than-promised grades in order to boost their personal standing in the class (yes, our students know the "prisoner's dilemma"). The only way to deal with the free rider problem is to require law students to work together on many projects over a long period of time, so "free riders" have to fear their own reputation. However, collaborative projects are pretty rare in law school, so a "free rider" doesn't need to fear that they will be ostracized from other groups if they manipulate the system.

3) We have not taught them HOW to work collaboratively, and they fear what they do not understand.
I loved group work when I was getting my MA in education. Early in my program, we were taught how to collaborate. Our professors explained the expectations of the program; teachers must collaborate, so collaboration was a part of what we needed to learn in order to be successful classroom teachers. The professors were very clear about their personal expectations for the class. Any one person could be asked to explain all of the project, at any time, so no one could be a "free rider" without risking their grade. Probably the most important lesson imparted in my program was that we were all in this together. My MA program stressed that all of us are representing the Neag School of Education, and one person who is a failure as a teacher represents our entire program. No one wanted our program to be anything less than excellent, so we wanted to shine. We worked together because we saw ourselves as members of a team, not competitors.

(RCF)

June 11, 2014 in Advice, Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Volunteer This Summer

Don’t’ have a summer job?  Consider becoming a volunteer.  If possible, it is preferred to find a volunteer position with a non-profit or agency to gain legal experience.  Even a few hours a week can be beneficial  and provides much needed help to the sponsoring entity.  Have a goal in mind for the volunteer experience.  Improve your writing, practice research skills,  or observe other lawyers in action.  Take this opportunity to network.   Ask questions, and ask for feedback on your assignments.  Students can contact their Career Services Office or Pro Bono office to learn of opportunities in their market.  Students can make a big difference with a small investment of their time and talents. (Bonnie Stepleton)

June 10, 2014 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 26, 2014

One of Many Firsts…The First Day of Bar Prep

We have all experienced many firsts: our first day of school, first car, first date, first victory, first defeat, first kiss, first heartbreak, and first day of law school (maybe not in that order).  Today, you will experience another common first…the first day of bar review (cue Beethoven’s 5th). 

No matter which bar review course you are taking, the first day of bar review is overwhelming.  There are new books, new terms and acronyms, and so much new information.  To say that this first day of bar prep is overwhelming is truly an understatement.  Instead of going under-prepared and leaving in a catatonic state, here are a few suggestions to make this monumental first not only tolerable, but also productive and meaningful:

  • If you have received a box of books or binders, envelopes filled with paperwork, or links via email, open them and read them PRIOR to attending your first bar review class.
  • Start your bar review routine off right: Get a good night’s sleep before your first day, chose a wake-up time that will get you to your class with time to spare, and eat a nutritious breakfast. 
  • Be comfortable, but look presentable.  You do not want someone to think you raided Barry Manilow’s wardrobe.  
  • Pack energy boosting snacks: pick your protein (nuts, yogurt, cheese, hummus, freeze dried ice cream, hardboiled egg…).  You need to stay awake and feel energized. 
  • Bring a notebook to take notes and a hardcopy calendar or planner.  You do not need your computer.
  • Pray, meditate, practice yoga, or adopt another ritual that will help keep you centered.  You must find a way to stay motivated, focused, and positive.  Bar prep will wear on your psyche; thus, you must approach it with a clear plan and an open mind.

Above all, take your first day of bar prep seriously.  If you underestimate the importance of this first day, you may miss valuable information and set yourself on a path toward failure.  Instead, approach the first day in earnest.  Show up physically and mentally and set yourself up for bar exam success. 

LBY

May 26, 2014 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ignorance is Bliss

Some students have engaged in early bar preparation prior to law school graduation, while others have chosen to focus their efforts on other tasks during their last year of law school.  While I strongly advocate for the notion of “the earlier the better” for bar prep, many decide to live solely in the present and avoid the bar exam until it is imminent.  "Ignorance is bliss"after all. 

This sentiment brings to mind Thomas Gray’s poem Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, a personal  reflection on the bliss of youth and the worries and trials that lie ahead in adulthood.  Law school is by no means paradise, but it invokes “wild wit, invention ever-new” much more than preparing for the bar exam.  Unfortunately, preparing for the bar exam feels much more like "comfortless despair." 

Thus, I encourage students to take time now at the close of their legal education to reflect on their successes, their challenges, and the fun times that they had as a law student.  This provides closure to their law school experience and helps invigorate their ambition to succeed on the bar exam. And, since the "folly" of bar review will be upon them next week, I hope they have one last weekend of pure, unrestrained bliss.

LBY

May 23, 2014 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hand in Glove

The Atlantic reports on a recent study showing handwritten notes are more effective:

 

Taking Notes by Hand.

 

(Alex Ruskell)

May 12, 2014 in Advice, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rattled by the Rush

I usually abhor things like Upworthy and Buzzfeed, but I do like the message of this video by Alan Watts and the South Park folks:

Life as a Conclusion.

It points out that education trains us into thinking that a good and successful life means living it as a bone-rattling rush to some sort of electrifying conclusion that will once-and-for-all make us happy.  Law students, who by-and-large have been successful in doing what school tells them to do, are particularly susceptible to this sort of thing.  For myself, I went to law school wanting to save the squirrels and came out on the other side thinking that I had to go to big law or I was a total loser.

Although it might be hard to "dance" while learning the Rule Against Perpetuities, it's not a bad attitude for students (and their teachers) to develop.  (Alex Ruskell)

 

April 29, 2014 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Search and Destroy

As we get closer to finals, a lot of poor-performing students are struggling with outline and exam structure.  At South Carolina, the second semester for First Years is made up of Con Law, Civ Pro, and Property, and all three of these classes seem to cause certain students to "over-write."  For example, even more so than in their First Semester outlines, many students want to include all the minutiae of every case, so I have had at least a dozen students show up in my office saying something to the effect of "I have 120 pages on my outline done -- but I have a little more work to do."

A 120-page plus outline isn't going to help anyone, unless they are planning on clubbing someone with it.  One thing I have found really helpful for these students is to go over practice questions geared to the bar exam (BarBri, Kaplan, Finz, etc.).  These tend to be shorter than questions designed for doctrinal exams, and the idea that you can explain something like the rule for intermediate scrutiny or the Commerce Clause in three sentences is really helpful and mind-blowing.  I've seen a real improvement in students' answers, especially since many of these students' exam issues were running out of time, missing issues, or spending time talking about things that were not going to translate into points.

I've also been using the longer essay questions from Emanuel's Questions and Answers for First Year.  I don't know if this exactly counts as a self-serving plug since I wrote them, but I put them together specifically with this issue in mind.  They are nowhere near the most detailed questions in the world, but they are good if you have a student who just needs to get IRAC together.  I have a lot of these types of students -- who are bright, but write 16-page dissertations for a 20-minute question.  Most of our meetings tend to revolve around focus and getting to the point.

I've also been working with these students using "Shortish Questions from the Realm of Stuff You Will Be Asked" -- so, for example, I have a question about an ordinance limiting firefighters to male citizens between the ages of 20-45 and a question about the state putting the kibosh on an individual's contract with an out-of-state company.  This way, I can talk about breaking up the different levels of scrutiny and the four things that they will probably need to think about when the state messes with a private individual (commerce, contracts, privileges and immunities, due process).  The weakest students have all of this in a jumble of premises and exhortations of fairness, which will clearly sink them on exams if they don't get it cleared up.  (Alex Ruskell)

 

 

 

April 16, 2014 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pictures of Matchstick Men

 

 

Hplanes-e1380566428969-300x231

I'm a huge fan of Peter T. Wendel's illustration of the different "planes" of a case (from his book, Deconstructing Legal Analysis).  The idea that there are three discrete levels of thought and analysis involved in cases seems to be helpful and rather mind-blowing for many students.  I've also found it particularly helpful when I am trying to help students categorize and breakdown different rules and ideas (like breaking up the levels of scrutiny in a Con Law question, or splitting apart subject matter and personal jurisdiction on an essay).  So, I drew a picture.

I'm not sure if it exactly inspires confidence, but it gives students something to look at during a lecture besides me.

(Alex Ruskell) 

March 28, 2014 in Advice, Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Blank Generation

Many students have problems with outlining an answer before writing it on the exam.  When all you hear is typing fingers around you, taking the time to outline your answer might seem like a luxury you don't have time for.

Consequently, I have students make a short "attack" outline to use during the exam (if it is open book), and ask them to set up that outline in something of a fill-in-the-blank format.  

For example, the attack breakdown for adverse possession might look something like this:

Adverse Possesssion 

Hostile --

Exclusive --

Open and Notorious --

Continuous --

Actual --

On the exam, once the student recognizes that a question is asking about adverse possession, he or she can simply fill in the relevant facts on the attack outline and then write the exam answer.  Especially for the weakest students, who might have timing issues and tend to leave out elements and specific facts, such an attack outline can be invaluable.

(Alex Ruskell)

March 21, 2014 in Advice, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Post Bar Exam Blues

Now that the celebrations and champagne toasts have faded, bar examinees may feel lost, deflated, or generally lacking direction.  This state of mind is what I refer to as the "Post Bar Exam Blues."  As with other challenging life transitions, processing their bar exam experience will take time.  They have been on a roller coaster ride with extreme highs and lows for the last eight weeks.  Once the ride ends, it is hard to remember who you were before you got on.   

In order to best move through this period, I suggest that students first reflect on their experience.  Sharing their feelings with someone they trust can help them work through their fears, their doubts, and acknowledge the incredible accomplishment of getting through this test.  Writing out their feelings is also helpful.  Once they get these emotions out into the universe, it is easier for them to put the experience behind them and avoid replaying it over and over again in their mind.

Results generally take several months to be released.  Thus, once they have the opportunity to reflect on their experience, it is best to redirect them toward something positive and productive.  Second guessing their performance, or holding their breath until results are posted is fruitless.  Instead, having them create a list of current projects or ways to use their free time can help them see that there is life outside of bar review.  Also, jumping head first into a new job or a job search can help remind them why they wanted to become a lawyer.  Ultimately, getting them to understand that they are not defined by their MBE score will help them remedy their blues.

(lby)

March 6, 2014 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 7, 2014

The State I Am In

Although there have been several signs of the Apocalypse lately, including a snowball fight in my South Carolina front yard and the appearance of Prince in a sitcom with Zooey Deschanel, I have been operating under the assumption that the world will continue to turn. Consequently, I have spent most of the past few weeks meeting with students who did poorly in their first semester.

There are many, many studies showing the importance of self-evaluation. The first thing I have students in trouble do is fill out a 5-page form asking them to relive the past semester.  How many classes did they go to?  How much time each week do they spend reading?  When did they start outlines?  What were there grades in each class?  Better or worse than they thought?  Did they go to tutoring?  Did they come to my workshops?  Ever meet with me?  Ever meet with their professors?  

Once they take a hard look at what they did, we start making a plan of improvement.  Most of the time, the biggest self-reported issues are: 1.  Started outline too late,  2.  Spent too much time preparing for class (and no time preparing for exam), 3. Let Legal Writing get away from them, and  4. Never sought help.

When we've worked this out, I start helping them with outlines, scheduling, and we start with simple practice problems to get IRAC under control.  I also make sure they meet with their profs.

While meeting with all of these students may be disheartening (and involve a large investment in Kleenex products), this semester I've had the great pleasure of having many returning, Second, or Third year students swing by my office and tell me how much they've improved (several CALI awards, many at least one entire letter grade jumps).  So, I know this approach helps the vast majority of them.

Although, as always, there are the students I am extremely worried about.  As I write this, the car keys of one of my in-trouble first years continue to hang on a hook outside my office.  It has been three days since he left them here and I emailed him -- I haven't heard anything.  How is he getting home?  Is he looking for them?  Did he forget he owns a car?  Is he now living the movie "Badlands"?  Did he steal someone else's car with his best girl by his side fleeing from one safe house to another with Boss Hogg on his tail as he tries to swing back to Columbia in time for Civil Procedure at 8 am?

At any rate, the fact his keys are still sitting here does not inspire confidence.

(Alex Ruskell)

February 7, 2014 in Advice, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It's OK to Leave Law School

Hat tip to Jan M. Levine for reminding us about a Spring 2013 article in The Law Teacher.  The article that Professor Levine wrote is based on a letter from a former student who had left law school years before and wanted to share his thoughts with the perspective he had gained.  The issue of The Law Teacher can be found here with the article near the end of the issue: It's OK to Leave Law School.

January 29, 2014 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Tubthumping

Whenever I meet with students who have done poorly in the first semester, I tell them about the first English paper I turned in in college.  I had never gotten less than an A in anything in my life, I was the “English” guy for big state contests, I’d won several creative writing awards, and I really thought I wanted to major in English.  On my first paper, I got a C.  When I went to talk to the professor, a man who wore seersucker suits and looked like a cross between Mark Twain and Colonel Sanders, he said in his genteel Virginia-tidewater accent, “Is English your first language?  Your name is Russian.  Are you translating as you write?”  

The unfortunate thing was that he was genuinely curious and English is my first, and only, language.  

And the thing was, he was right.  The paper was too clever by half, full of elevated verbiage and ideas that got started but then petered out.  Split-infinitives were everywhere, the Oxford Comma had apparently decided to hop a bus to Cambridge, and the whole thing rested on a very faulty argument I'd cribbed from an R.E.M. song.  But, I took his advice and comments seriously, readjusted my writing process, and, in the words of my seventh grade science teacher, "Got back on the A-train."

I go on to tell my students that I bet most of their professors have a similar story somewhere back in their academic careers, so they should realize that 1) they’re not alone, 2) they can bounce back, and 3) this is an integral part of the learning experience that is often overlooked (as in, “Hell, I’m never taking Crim Law again!  Let’s toss that exam and never look at it!”).

I honestly believe hitting a roadbump can sometimes be the best thing that can happen to a student. It forces the student to reflect on their learning and forces them to get better.  If I had continued on my merry way without hitting that first bump I might still be scribing in bloviated sentences constructed entirely in the aether and intertwined with the thoughts and errs of beknighted folly -- or something.

So, I try to present a first semester failure as opportunity.  I ask them to go over their exams with their professors to see where they fell short, then I meet with them and we make a plan to fix those holes. 

And, happily, this year many, many second year students have been coming in to tell me about how they have been able to turn around their grades. While their egos may have been bruised, they have gained necessary insights into themselves and their education. And I know these insights will make them better lawyers. (Alex Ruskell)  

 

January 24, 2014 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Little Things Can Make a Big Difference: Extending Office Hours During Reading Week

Another small way we can show we are invested in our students success is to add more office hours before exams. So ASPer's do this without being told that it is a good practice. ASPer's can also gently encourage faculty to extend their office hours during reading week.

1) Extended office hours allow last-minute "A HA!" moments.

2) Extended office hours can prevent undue anxiety and meltdowns. Sometimes students just need last-minute reassurance that they are on the right path.

3) Extended office hours can prevent the email avalanche before the final.

4) Extended office hours can allow a student to bow out if they are not going to make it. (RCF)

November 24, 2013 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Importance of Waiting

Hat tip to Joanne Harvest Koren for sending this interesting article on the power of patience and how slowing down can lead to more productivity. The article is titled The Power of Patience: Teaching students the value of deceleration and immersive attention.  I especially like the idea that delays in formative assessment can be beneficial. The time a student spends waiting helps influence their experience and their knowledge.  Patience, while nostalgic, needs a comeback. 

(Lisa Young)

November 22, 2013 in Advice, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Time, Time, Time...

Sometimes, timing is everything.  Law students need to learn to use their time wisely to effectively manage the demands of law school while balancing jobs, families, and self-care.  Being at the right place at the right time makes a significant difference for law students who are networking for job opportunities and seeking support systems. Also, timing and pacing during a final exam (or the bar exam) can mean the difference between a passing grade and a failing one.  In this post, I have referenced song lyrics that incorporate the theme of time while relating them to the law school experience.

“If I could save time in a bottle…”  I know I may be dating myself with this one, but I had to begin with this classic line from Jim Croce’s hit love song “Time in a Bottle”.  Ask your students what they would do if they could save time in a bottle.  Are they making the most of each moment?  Are they being intentional with how they plan their schedules, spend their time, and balance their commitments?  We all want more time (especially law students), but instead of focusing on the lack of time we have, highlight ways to use time more efficiently and encourage your students to be present when free moments avail themselves.

“I’ve got too much time on my hands…”  This classic rock song by Styx was written as a reflection on the unemployment crisis in the 70’s.  The underlying theme in the lyrics rings true in many respects for today’s law students.  They are worried about their careers, finding a job, and performing well on exams.  They may not be able to tighten their focus when they actually do find that they have “time on their hands."  Time management does not always come naturally.  Providing students with tools and resources to help them manage their time will help them prioritize, use their free time wisely, and establish effective routines.

Similar to the melancholy quality of Styx’s lyrics, Otis Redding hits a few low notes when he croons about… “sitting on the dock of the bay…wasting time….”  Students sometimes sit and feel like they cannot catch a break.  Redding’s hit resonates with students who are feeling like they have left the life they knew only to find that law school is challenging, competitive, and sometimes disappointing.  When they feel like “nothing's gonna change”, we step in to give them hope.  Providing the tools for success to law students empowers them to make necessary changes to ensure their success.  Especially at the close of the semester, we need to recognize that law students are exhausted, overloaded, and feeling lost.   As Cyndi Lauper so aptly sings in “Time After Time”, when law students "are lost, they turn and they will find [us]", Academic Support Professionals.  We catch them and lift them back up.

After exams or a when facing a rough patch during the semester, students may need to turn to ASP for this lift or for help with creating a new plan for their upcoming semester.  If their study strategies or exam performance are subpar, they begin humming, “If I could turn back time” (with Cher’s iconic diva-ness echoing in their minds).  Reflecting on study habits, legal analysis skills, and exam performance are key components to succeeding in law school.  Everyone has moments in their past that they wish they could replay (or delete).  Using these moments as opportunities for growth instead of moments of failure, helps students see beyond their initial shock, shame, or disappointment. 

Like the Stones, we want our students to sing (and feel) that "time is on my side, yes it is...."  While this may not always be realistic, there are many ways to get closer to that dream.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Create sample study schedules for your students
  • Give them calendars and checklists to help them plan their time
  • Ask them to keep a journal that tracks how they use their time during a typical day or week and then ask them to reflect on their time management
  • Provide a time management workshop or webinar
  • Have them draft a to do list at the start of each day and evaluate their progress at the end of each day
  • Pair 1L students up with a 2L or 3L mentor to discuss how to effectively schedule their time
  • Challenge students to unplug for a block of time each day (This is a good one for all of us!)
  • Teach students the art of delegation
  • Encourage students to take time each day to recharge. 

By establishing routine time management practices, students will feel more balanced and be more productive.  Because as Pete Seeger so aptly wrote, there is "a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance."  We should all spend more time dancing.

(Lisa Young)

 

November 21, 2013 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Should I or should I not go home for Thanksgiving?

You are homesick.  Your little brother or dog misses you.  You love turkey and stuffing.  Your family expects you to participate in a 5-day round of traditional family events.  You want to go skiing for the week.  You live for Black Friday shopping.

But now you are having second thoughts about making the trek.  Can you afford to give up the uninterrupted study time?  Will you be able to get any studying done if you go home?  Can you go home for a few days but not all of the time? 

Be honest with yourself.  How prepared are you currently for your exams?  What tasks do you still have left to perform to do well on those exams?  Are your outlines in good shape?  Have you been reviewing regularly?  Have you completed lots of practice questions?  Do you have any papers or other assignments to complete?  The amount of work you have already finished to prepare for exams and the amount of work left are important factors to your decision.

Consider your family circumstances carefully.  Some students know that family members will understand the need to study and allow them to do so except for Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family.  Perhaps everyone else will be working much of the time except the actual holiday, and the house will bequiet for solid studying.  Other students know that family members will mean well but be visibly hurt if the student  does not join in all of the preparations and family fun.  In some cases, the family members would understand, but the student will have no will power and not study as planned.  Will the circumstances allow you to get work done?

Decide whether you can have your turkey and eat it too.  Depending on the travel time and expense, you may be able to go home for part of the break and stay in town to study for part of it.  Leave later in the week or return earlier so that the break is split into two parts.  This strategy works especially well if home is not a great distance away; but it can work even in Texas, where nothing is really close to anything else.  If you use the time before you leave efficiently, you can have some concentrated study time completed before your trip.  If you come back early, you can focus on exams after some fun.

Use the next 15 days for a big study push.  By making the most out of every day before the holiday, it is possible to accomplish a great deal of extra studying.  As a result, you will feel better about what studying is left to accomplish over the break. Get on top of all outlines.  Carve out time for exam studying from time you would normally waste.  Get the most results from your study time instead of passively spending time over the books.  Make a to do list for each course.  Cut out your 2-3 hour exercise at the gym.  Stop taking naps.  Turn off the TV.  Get off Facebook.  Use every minute so that you are pleased with your progress.   

Plan your studying before the break starts.  Whether you stay or leave, make a plan before the break.  You are more likely to meet your study goals if you have mapped out what you want to accomplish each day.  If you fly by the seat of your pants each morning, it is too easy to procrastinate and find something to do that is more attractive than studying.  Think about the day as having three parts: morning (8 a.m. to noon), afternoon (1 to 5 p.m.), and evening (6 to 10 p.m.).  Plan to study at least two of those parts whenever possible.  Map out which course and which tasks you will complete in each time block.

Use travel time for studying.  Whether you are driving or flying, you can get some studying done.  Consider listening to CDs from one of the substantive law series.  If travels are with a law school friend, quiz each other with flashcards or discuss practice questions during the trip.  Read through your outlines while on a layover in the airport.  If your travel time is productive, you will feel less stressed about study time.

Take Thanksgiving Day off if you can do so.  Unless you are desperate about your study situation, take off on the actual holiday.  At most, study for a few hours early in the morning or late at night while others are asleep.  But enjoy the festivities: a meal or football or the Macy's parade.  If you are home, be thankful for the day with family.  If you are at school, find some other studiers to spend part of the day with on a break from studying.  You will feel less resentful and unhappy if you have a holiday.  Work hard before and after the holiday so you do not have to feel guilty on the day itself.

Most of all be thankful for all of your blessings.  Being in law school is a privilege that most people will never have.  Even if it is hard work, you are blessed with a future profession that can have a positive impact on our world.  (Amy Jarmon)   

 

 

November 12, 2013 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Satellite of Love

Along with decorative gourds and tiny sociopaths demanding candy, the end of October brings an uptick in study group formation as we get closer to finals (I saw what looked like three new ones in the lobby on my way into work).

Several years ago, this annual rite resulted in some major kerfluffles, ados, and foofaraws -- so-and-so is cheating on one group with another, so-and-so doesn't do any work, s0-and-so always brings an enormous bag of potato chips, so-and-so's non-lawyer biker boyfriend enjoys attending -- and everyone ended up in my office for advice on how to work things out.

In response, I found an earlier posting from Amy Jarmon about the things study groups need to keep in mind, and I turned it into an actual contract, which I printed out and passed around to the First Year class.  

A few days later, I saw several completed and signed contracts sticking out of bookbags, books, and binders, and all the complaining stopped.  Since that time, I have mentioned the contract (repeatedly) and the concerns and complaints disappeared.

Many, many thanks to Amy, and below is the contract (Alex Ruskell) -- 

 

non in legendo sed in intelligendo legis consistent 

 

STUDY GROUP CONTRACT

1. New members will be added only if _____ members agree.

2. New members will not be added after _________ (a certain point in the semester).

3. A member may/may not belong to more than one study group as long as all members are informed of the decision to do so.

4. A member will not be “fired” unless: 

A. The group has talked with the person about problem behaviors (eg. argumentativeness, slacking on commitments, lateness, dominating the group discussions, etc.).    

B. The person has had ____ chances to improve on the problem behavior after discussion.

C. The group unanimously agrees that the member will be told to leave and as group discusses the decision with the member.

5. A member who decides to leave the study group must tell the other members that he or she intends to do so and not just “disappear.”

6. The study group will have a rotating facilitator who is responsible for setting the agenda and keeping the group on track each week.  The order will be: _________________, ___________________________, ______________________. 

7. The study group will meet ________ times per week at _______________________.

8. Study group members may/may not bring food -- certain types of food are banned:  ________________________.

9. Each member is to show respect for other members and their opinions. 

10. All materials developed by the study group together are not to be shared outside the group unless __________________of the members agree.

11. All matters discussed in the study group are to be confidential and are not to be used for “gossip.”  (The exception would be if the group is concerned about the physical or mental well-being of a member so that the appropriate action would be to talk to a dean, counselor, etc.)

12. Study aids purchased jointly should be equally available for use as a matter of courtesy.  If the group agrees to share study aids purchased by individuals, then rules may be needed.

                                                                                Signed: _______________________


October 31, 2013 in Advice, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)