Monday, August 4, 2014
Recent graduates, who have just taken the bar exam; students about to return to law school; and students about to enter law school have more in common than you think. Sure they are all heading toward legal careers. But in addition to the obvious, all of them may find themselves with time on their hands. All can benefit by reading good books. Recent bar takers can get to books that they had little or no time for in the recent past. Returning and new students can read for pleasure in the time remaining before the start of the fall semester. To quote one of my legal writing colleagues, "a good way to improve one's writing is to read good writing."
Taking my own advice and, once again, relying on my blogging son, I've turned to a book that he suggested: The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande. Gawande, a surgeon, begins with the premise that failures can stem from either lack of knowledge or ineptitude. Gawande then addresses the use of checklists – in multiple disciplines – to manage extraordinary amounts of knowledge and expertise.
Checklists help to ensure that any task is done completely. For example, law students preparing to submit a writing assignment can use checklists as they edit the assignment. Additionally, as law students prepare for exams, they can use their course outlines, to prepare checklist for addressing the legal issues that may be tested in each course.
Similarly, both newly admitted and experienced attorneys can develop and use checklists in a variety of contexts. For example, transactional attorney can use checklists – tailored to any transaction – to ensure that they fully perform all necessary tasks.
Friday, August 30, 2013
Hat tip to Paul Caron of the Tax Professor Blog for his post on Mark Edmundson's book, Why Teach?
The link to the post is: http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2013/08/why.html
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Many new ASP professors are in the midst of choosing books for their growing ASP library, or a text to help them teach an ASP course. The choices are amazing; there are hundreds of good ASP books out there. In the past, Amy, Dan and I have reviewed ASP books. There are now so many, and so many coming out soon, that it is impossible to keep up with them all. So for people new to ASP, I am going to tell you what I am teaching with this year, and why I chose these three books. This list is personal and somewhat idiosyncratic; there are, easily, ten other books I could have chosen that are as good as the books I chose for this semester.
For orientation: RuthAnn McKinney's Reading Like a Lawyer
Writing is thinking. Before a student can write well, they need to understand what they are reading. I chose Reading Like a Lawyer because it starts with the most fundamental skill, essential to success in all classes: reading cases, efficiently and thoroughly. I will be using Reading Like a Lawyer for the first several weeks of our required introductory skills class for incoming students after we start the book during orientation. Another good book if you want to start with a skill-building book during orientation is Plain English for Lawyers.
For our OneL (introductory skills) class: Barry Friedman and John Goldberg's Open Book
Open Book is one of the newer ASP books. I chose this book for the second 2/3rds of our required introductory skills class, OneL. I chose this book because it is relatively short, straightforward, and it gives stellar advice on exam prep and exam-taking skills. I wanted a short(er) book for the second part of the course because students are going to overwhelmed by reading and studying for exams, and OneL is a p/f course. If I chose a longer book, I doubt students would read before class. However, it was a tough call between Open Book, John Dernbach's Writing Essay Exams to Succeed (Not Just Survive), and the late Charles Whitebread's The Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance in Law School. However, if I was not starting with Reading Like a Lawyer in OneL, I would have seriously considered Herb Ramy's Succeeding in Law School, Charles Calleros' Law School Exams, or Susan Darrow Kleinhaus' Mastering the Law School Exam.
As a (required) supplemental to my Property course: Jeremy Paul and Michael Fischl's Getting to Maybe
I am teaching Property to third-semester, part-time evening students. Getting to Maybe is, in my experience, the very best book out there for teaching advanced exam skills. I would NOT recommend Getting to Maybe during the first semester of law school; students must have some experience with law school exams before this book can be helpful. I have a second caveat; ideally, this book should be taught, not just recommended, which is why I make it required reading for my Property class. I am embedding the lessons from the book into my lesson plans on doctrinal material. This book should be taught instead of recommended because it teaches advanced skills and dismisses foundational skills that are essential to success. I always cringe when I read the pages that dismiss IRAC; IRAC is an essential skill, and it is misunderstood by the authors. Students who are struggling with basic exam skills misunderstand the dismissal of IRAC; they take it to mean IRAC is useless. Students cannot discuss “forks in the facts” if they don’t understand they need to start with an issue statement, and a broad statement of the rule at issue. However, when the lessons from this book are discussed, given context, and explained, students gain a more nuanced, thorough understanding of exam writing. Despite my caveats, this is the best book on the market for advanced exam skills.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Many of us have recommended Ruth Ann McKinney's book, Reading Like a Lawyer: Time-Saving Strategies for Reading Law Like an Expert, to our students over the past seven years. If you have not taken a look at the second edition of the book, I would encourage you to do so.
Ruth Ann has added a chapter which has very interesting observations about dealing with technology in our reading of law on a screen. In addition to referencing studies about reading on-line, she also gives practical tips for the three new literacy skills needed: mastering technology, making wise choices about what to read and how deeply to read, and managing one's energy.
Ruth Ann McKinney is a Clinical Professor of Law Emeritus at UNC School of Law. For many years before her retirement, Ruth Ann was a mainstay and inspiration to our ASP community. We are all so glad that she is still active through her writing and listserv comments. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Carol Dweck is a psychologist who has done extensive research on how mindset influences our risk-taking, learning, and success in life. Her research defines two types of mindset: fixed-mindset and growth-mindset. Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, looks at how these two groups differ in academics, business, sports, and relationships. She also looks at how parents, teachers, and coaches influence mindset.
The fixed-mindset individuals believe that one is endowed with certain abilities that cannot be changed. Activities then become "tests" of their intelligence and ability. Challenges are often avoided because one may be "shown up." Hard work is only needed for those who are not talented. Failure is devastating; fixed-mindset people may blame others or make excuses for failure because to do otherwise would mean a reflection on one's abilities.
The growth-mindset person, on the other hand, believes that one can improve on one's ability. Activities become opportunities to learn and develop. Challenges are often embraced because one has a chance to gain new expertise. Failure merely means that one has to work harder and learn from one's mistakes.
Dweck makes interesting observations about the damage that the "you are special" environment has caused millenials. By focusing on intelligence, natural ability, and talent, parents and teachers have encouraged young people to become fixed-mindset individuals who are less able to cope with constructive criticism, feel that they should get praise for any effort rather than true hard work, and give up when they do not achieve automatic success.
The encouraging thing about Dweck's research is that fixed-mindset individuals can become growth-mindest indiviuals. In fact, Dweck was initially a fixed-mindset person before she began her research and became aware of the benefits of the growth-mindset. She talks about how to change mindset in the last chapter in the book.
If you think about what we do every day as academic support professionals, we focus on the growth-mindset. Whether we work with students who are on probation or students who want to improve on test-taking skills, we help students learn strategies that improve their grades. With probation students, we encourage them to change in positve ways rather than get stuck in a negative mindframe because of poor grades. We help them to see themselves as valuable people with the ability to work hard for success. We treat them as more than just test scores that are equivalent to success or failure.
As I have read Dweck's book, certain things about my students' reactions to law school have really clicked for me. I think I knew those things before in a different context, but now I have a new perspective to understand each student better. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, February 16, 2012
As many of us know, the best way to prepare for an exam is to first know the exam and the skills it will test. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare for the Multistate Performance Test allows for greater success on this portion of the bar exam. For this blog post, I am reviewing Perform Your Best on the Bar Exam Performance Test (MPT) by Mary Campbell Gallagher.
The Multistate Performance Test is a closed universe legal writing problem that tests essential lawyering skills in a timed session. The National Conference of Bar Examiners drafts two MPTs each bar administration. Jurisdictions select whether they want to include one or two MPTs on their bar or whether they prefer to include a state written MPT on their bar exam. Over 35 jurisdictions currently include the MPT as a component of their bar exam. Therefore, this MPT resource is relevant to many ASPer's, law school students, and recent law grads.
In Perform Your Best on the Bar Exam Performance Test, Mary Campbell Gallagher sets out a "Four Part Perform You Best MPT System". This system is laid out in an easy to follow step-by-step approach with detailed directions and benchmark timing guidelines for each step. Since applicants only have 90 minutes to complete each MPT task, efficient time management is essential. These timing guides are right on the mark and will help ensure that students begin their MPT study routine with these important time limits in mind.
In addition to the time saving system for organizing and drafting MPTs, Dr. Gallagher has also included several sample MPT Tasks with analysis, sample answers, and her MPT Matrix. By having several different MPT tasks to practice, applicants will feel more prepared for what the examiners decide to include on their upcoming bar exam. Reading and understanding various task memos will also allow applicants to easily adjust their approach, tone, and format.
Practicing MPTs, creating a system for approaching each type of task, and self assessing individual strengths and weaknesses are beneficial tools for MPT preparation. This book is useful for students in early bar prep during law school or as a supplement to their bar prep materials during their bar review period. I encourage you to check it out and to recommend it to students that may need extra help with the MPT.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I cannot resist mentioning a new book by one of my colleagues at Texas Tech School of Law. The book shows our students that law can be entertaining at the same time it is serious business. Vickie Sutton has written a book looking at the legal aspects of a kiss throughout history: The Legal Kiss. The book reviews have intrigued me enough that the book has been added to my "must read" list. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Keith Elkin, Dean of Students at Dickinson School of Law - Penn State Law, has published a book through Wolters Kluwer on studying for the MBE. The book is titled MBE: Beginning Your Campaign to Pass the Bar Exam and was published in the summer.
Keith teaches Fundamental Skills for the Bar Examination at his law school and has based the book on his experiences with his students. His goal in the course and with the book is to prepare students for their commercial bar review courses by providing them with practical ways to study and learn for the bar exam. Thus, the book is an early preparation tool to be used in law school bar preparation courses or by students who need additional learning techniques to be successful.
His approach is focused especially on the bar-takers who will struggle in their bar preparation: poor performance in law school, previously failing the bar, foreign lawyers, and others. He explains the several steps in his approach to preparation and provides the reader with many exercises to learn how to implement his strategies. Using the methods in his course and book has increased his "at risk" students' bar passage rate significantly.
Chapter 1 of the book is an introduction to the bar exam. In Chapter 2, the author looks at the broad lens concept as a framework for identifying the fundamental legal issues and the applicable legal rules for questions. Chapters 3 and 4 look at the narrow lens framework of actively reading fact patterns, asking questions during that reading, and answering those questions raised. Chapter 5 demonstrates how to learn through wrong answers: identifying the mistakes, the reasons for the mistakes, and the right answers. A quick wrap-up of tips is provided in Chapter 6.
If you have not yet seen Keith's book, I would suggest that you take a look at it. This MBE resource may be valuable to you for a bar preparation course syllabus and for your students in their early bar preparation. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Leah Christensen, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, has recently published a book entitled, Learning Outside the Box: A Handbook for Law Students Who Learn Differently. The book covers specific strategies for law students with learning disabilities, reading disabilities, ADHD, Asperger's, or other learning differences. The author notes in her introduction that other law students can also benefit from the strategies. I just received my copy in the mail today and am looking forward to learning additional ways that I can help my students who learn differently. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, May 21, 2011
I would suggest the following books written by academic success professionals or law professors. These books can be very helpful in understanding what law school will be like and how to succeed academically and personally.
Read one or two of these books before you arrive for your first semester. When you come to the point in the semester where you need a skill (examples: reading and briefing cases, outlines and graphics, exams), re-read that chapter because it will remind you of techniques when you most need them. Finally, re-read the books after your first semester to review the information and implement strategies and techniques that you missed or did not fully understand the importance of previously.
Andrew J. McClurg, 1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor's Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School, Thomson West, 2009.
Ruth Ann McKinney, Reading Like a Lawyer: Time-Saving Strategies for Reading Law Like an Expert, Carolina Academic Press, 2005.
Herbert N. Ramy, Succeeding in Law School, Carolina Academic Press, Second Edition, 2010.
Michael Hunter Schwartz, Expert Learning for Law Students (workbook available also), Carolina Academic Press, Second Edition, 2008.
Ruta K. Stropus and Charlotte D. Taylor, Bridging the Gap between College and Law School: Strategies for Success, Carolina Academic Press, Second Edition, 2009.
Dennis J. Tonsing, 1000 Days to the Bar: But the Practice of Law Begins Now!, William S. Hein & Co., Second Edition, 2010.
These are only a few of the books by academic success professionals or law professors. There are a number of others from which you can select. Have a productive summer reading! (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
A new batch of 1L students is being admitted for the fall. They are eager to learn how to manage law school. Law students are finishing their 1L year and are wondering what they can do to improve next year's grades.
Both of these sets of students should read Andrew J. McClurg's 1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor's Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School. Professor McClurg gives a lot of sound advice in his book. He includes in it comments from his own 1L students and from legal writing professors. He makes reference throughout the book to research studies and other sources.
In addition to the expected chapters on law school study skills and exam-taking, Professor McClurg also includes chapters on planning before law school starts, law student worries, law student types, well-being, extracurricular activities, and study aids. The book is written in a readable style and packed with good information for law students.
It is obvious why I recommend the book to entering 1L students. Why do I recommend it to those completing 1L year? The reason is that they can use their new perspective on law school to gain from the strategies that they did not use during 1L year but realize would be helpful in future law school courses. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, February 4, 2011
Stephanie West Allen's Idealawg has noted the new International Journal for Wellbeing in a recent posting. The posting includes an article table of contents and a link to the journal. Check out the link to Idealawg and to find out more about this new free, on-line resource. You can register at the journal's website to receive new issues or to submit content for review. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
After my post of Geoff Colvin's Talent is Overrated, I received emails asking for non-ASP-specific book suggestions. I am a voracious reader. I will be giving this much more thought over the next couple of months, but these are some of the books that are on my reading list (meaning I already own them, but have not yet finished them) or books that I have finished, and jump out at me when I think of great non-ASP books:
(I am including links for a couple of them...they are not links to the book, but links on information from the books that is specifically relevant to ASPer's)
Drive:The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink: Just starting this one. For those of us who work with students who have lost their motivation, this is a synthesis of the best psych research on how to rekindle love of learning. And a great way to reinforce the importance of Larry Kreiger and Ken Sheldon's work on law students to colleagues.
What Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain: Read this a couple of years ago. A fabulous, non-discipline-specific study of what popular, and more importantly, effective teachers do so their students learn and stay excited by learning.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: Covers similar territory as Talent is Overrated, but Malcolm Gladwell is fun to read. This is the beach-book that feels more like mind candy than education.
The Lucifer Effect by Phillip Zimbardo: Read it. Loved it. An account of theStanford Prison Experiment in 1971, where ordinary students inflicted torture upon their peers in an experiment by Stanford professor Phil Zimbardo. A great introduction to situational psychology (we are not good or evil, but deeply and profoundly influenced by the situations we are in). Will really help you think about how the structure of law school, and ASP, can produce unexpected and sometimes toxic results. http://www.lucifereffect.com/index.html
SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner: Includes information on fabulous work being done on what creates great achievement. General-purpose smartness is essential, but deliberate practice is key. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/07/magazine/07wwln_freak.html
Sway:The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori and Rom Brafman: Haven't started this yet, but it is on my bookshelf. All of us have students every year who make us want to bang our head into a wall. They know what to do. You know they can do it. But they continue to make bad, self-destructive choices. We see the same bad, irrational choices every year, yet just can't seem to root them out of the student body, not matter how many programs you run to change behavior. I am hoping this book will provide me with a better understanding of why students make some of the frustrating choices that leave me scratching my head.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
I am in the middle of the book Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin; I think it's an excellent book for ASPer's, students, and other law professors. I will probably using this book as part of my class for freshman in college next fall. If I could require it for incoming law students or an ASP course, I would.
Amy and I write extensively in this blog and give presentations on the things lower-ranked and at-risk students do and don't do compared to their more academically successful peers. Much of what we find academically successful students do is researched and discussed in the book. Experts have better memories than novices in their field of expertise. Memory is a learned skill. The research on memory is particularly fascinating because it implies that memory is built on understanding the task and giving it context; we tell law students it's about understanding, not memorizing, and struggling students frequently disagree with us. However, the research is saying we are both correct. If law students don't understand, they can't memorize the essential, foundational concepts that in turn build deeper understanding necessary for success on exams. All struggling students are seeing is that their classmates who understand the material have foundational concepts committed to memory, and they blame their struggles on memory, not a lack of understanding. Understanding builds context, which aids in memory. Law school is a spiral curriculum, where concepts build and interact with each other, and if students can't get their foot on the first step, they can never climb higher.
Deliberate practice, distinguished from hard work, is another key idea I think law students need to understand. We in ASP always hear from struggling students that they are working as hard as they can, and we find that their hard work is not the type that produces learning. Helping students see that number of study hours alone does not help them understand the material is one of our first hurdles as ASPer's. The next step, learning what type of study produces understanding of the material, is known as deliberate practice. Where I find this book to be helpful is that it shows law students it's not just law school; they type of practice they need is relevant to any field where they want to succeed. I think it takes some of the vitriol out of their law school experience. (RCF)
Monday, October 12, 2009
David A. Sousa is an educator, author and consultant who has written seven books applying brain research to different groups of learners. I just finished reading his ABA book titled How Brain Science Can Make You a Better Lawyer. Although the book is geared towards lawyers making presentations (especially litigators, though law professors are mentioned), it has useful information for all of us. The first chapter focuses on information about how the brain works. The second chapter discusses using one's brain in the workplace setting. Chapter Three looks at brain research that can be applied in practice. The final chapter delineates a framework to use. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, October 8, 2009
A new book that I cannot wait to read just landed on my desk. Scott Rogers has written Mindfulness for Law Students: Using the Power of Mindful Awareness to Achieve Balance and Success in Law School. The book has many exercises and resource lists within its pages. Scott Rogers is the founder and director of the Institute for Mindfulness Studies. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
For those of you interested in articles dealing with learning disabilities, you will want to read the article by Suzanne Rowe in the most recent volume of the Journal for the Legal Writing Institute Volume 15, Issue 1. The article is entitled Learning Disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act: The Conundrum of Dyslexia and Time. Suzanne is an Associate Professor and Director of Legal Research and Writing at Unviersity of Oregon School of Law. Thank you to the Legal Writing Prof Blog for the link. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Because of our concerns about minority enrollment and innovation/creativity in legal education, a new book should be an interesting read for ASP professionals. The book is titled The Gathering Peasants' Revolt in American Legal Education and is written by two Massachusetts School of Law Andover faculty: Dean Lawrence Velvel and Assistant Professor Kurt Olson. The publisher is Doukathsan Press.
Sherwood Ross, the media consultant for the law school, reports in a press release that the book challenges the ABA in a number of areas (including the two mentioned above) regarding how its policies affect legal education. According to Ross, seven deans from ABA-accredited law schools are quoted in the book on how specific ABA policies are detrimental to legal education. The press release quotes the authors as saying that "all missions but the one approved by the ABA" are stifled. Massachusetts School of Law Andover is currently not accredited by the ABA.
Thanks to Terence Cook, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Recruitment, here at Tech Law for the press release. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Exams are here at many schools, and they are starting shortly at schools were they have not started already. The very short post-exam period is sometimes marked by drive-by students running past the ASP office on the way to a plane, train, or automobile taking them home for the holidays. This is a great opportunity to recommend books to read over the holiday break. Students now know what to expect from law school, but they may not have put all the pieces together yet.
Before I jump into my recommendations, I stress what things students shouldn't read:
1) Random blogs by other law students. They will just make them feel anxious about their grades, and overstress the importance of grades during the first year.
2) Anything content-related. They need to rest, and I rarely hear of students who found content-based reading helpful during the semester. Your brain can't be "on" all the time.
The most important thing students can do over break is enjoy themselves and reconnect with the reasons they chose law school.
And then I move on to my recommendation. First and foremost, holiday break is the time to read Getting to Maybe by Fischel and Paul. It uses too much content as examples to read before or during first semester. By second semester, students are ready for the material, and understand the technical law school terms-of-art that are used throughout the book. This book is the roadmap to "A" exams at most schools and in most classes.
My recommendation to students who will likely to be in the top half of the class is Charles Calleros Law School Exams: Preparing and Writing to Win. It is a bigger picture book, and it may be too abstract for students who are struggling with the basics. But for an analysis of the thinking and logic skills necessary for exams, it is excellent.
My recommendation for students who still don't seem to get the basic organization or structure of exam writing is Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus Mastering the Law School Exam. There are many of these students who tend to crawl out of the woodwork too late in the semester for an ASP professional to provide the intensive help they need. Suzanne's book is an excellent guide to breaking down the essential parts of a great exam answer for students who may need explicit instruction in the nuts-and-bolts of law school exams. These are the students you know you will see once grades come in, and this book gives them a foundation for your work with them in the spring.
And for students who are taking the bar exam in July...they need to get Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz Pass the Bar! as soon as possible. The book is best used at the start of the 3L year, but it is perhaps most helpful, if not essential, to students who need checklists and timelines in order to get paperwork in on time. (RCF)
Thursday, November 13, 2008
One of my faculty colleagues, Professor Jennifer Bard, recently told me about a new volume from Aspen Publishers titled, Essentials: Torts. As a Torts professor, she has found this study aid helpful for some of her students because it explains the material in a narrative format that puts it in words with context rather than being a mere outline. She has several reserve copies in the library for her students to access.
In checking out this volume, I discovered that the same series currently has a Civil Procedure volume. Other volumes will be available throughout 2008 and 2009 in a number of subjects. I have added the current volumes to my purchasing list. If you would like more information on this new series, you can find it at Essentials Series from Aspen Publishers. (Amy Jarmon)