Sunday, November 1, 2015
Have you read Alex Ruskell's new book, A Weekly Guide to Being a Model Law Student? If not, you will want to get a copy of this valuable resource for law students. The book was published this year by West Academic Publishing.
Alex is the Director of Academic Success and Bar Preparation at the University of South Carolina School of Law. He has held similar positions at Roger Williams University School of Law, Southern New England School of Law, and the University of Iowa College of Law. He received his law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and has degrees from Washington and Lee University, Harvard University, and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. In addition, Alex is a Contributing Editor for the Law School Academic Support Blog and serves as a member of the Executive Committee for the AALS Section on Academic Support.
First-year students are especially anxious about exactly what they should be doing. The book is laid out with suggestions for what the student should accomplish each week. For the first semester, the initial weeks include extensive information on the study skills for the week. Later weeks combine task checklists with highlights on a new study skill or more advanced discussion of a previously introduced skill. In these later weeks, exam skills are delineated in detail. For the second semester, the first week discussion focuses on evaluation of first semester and review of exams. The later weeks are checklists with some extra tips.
Alex has included a large number of practice questions with answers as an appendix to the volume. He has helpfully divided them into courses and topics with separate sections dependent on complexity: short, medium, and long questions.
For those of you familiar with Alex's law school comics that appear in this Blog, you will be pleased to know that each week starts with one of his drawings. I particularly liked the somewhat sad and perplexed Thanksgiving turkey given the time of the semester right now. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, September 28, 2015
Hat tip to James B. Levy of the Legal Skills Prof Blog for his September 25th post referencing his own SSRN article on teaching with classroom technology in law school and a forthcoming Australian book with a chapter on the myth of digital natives. His post can be found here: Legal Skills Prof Blog Post by James B. Levy. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, September 25, 2015
Saturday, August 15, 2015
I have listed several newer books that have come out in the last couple of years. Again, there are many more, but these books will be good ones for your bookshelf. (Amy Jarmon)
Law School Success:
- Paula A. Franzese, A Short & Happy Guide to Being a Law Student
- Alex Ruskell, A Weekly Guide to Being a Model Law Student
Specific Skills in Law School:
- Julie Schechter, Off the Charts Law Summaries: An All-in-One Graphic Outline of the 1L Law School Courses
- Alex Schimel, Law School Exams: A Guide to Better Grades
- Sara J. Berman, Pass the Bar Exam
Thursday, August 6, 2015
All of us in ASP are fortunate to have so many well-written and practical books available to us on law school success. Today's post focuses on the "Classics" written by ASP professionals and faculty. Again, there are many more titles that could be included among the Classics - this list is to get the new ASP'er started.
Law School Success:
- Michael Hunter Schwartz, Expert Learning for Law Students (with workbook)
- Ann L. Iijima, The Law Student's Pocket Mentor
- Andrew McClurg, 1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor's Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School
- Carolyn J. Nygren, Starting Off Right in Law School
- Herbert N. Ramy, Succeeding in Law School
- Ruta K. Stropus and Charlotte D. Taylor, Bridging the Gap between College and Law School: Strategies for Success
- Dennis J. Tonsing, 1000 Days to the Bar: But the Practice of Law Begins Now
Legal Reasoning and Analysis:
- Wilson Huhn, The Five Types of Legal Argument
- David S. Romantz and Kathleen Elliott Vinson, Legal Analysis: The Fundamental Skill
Specific Skills in Law School:
- Charles R. Calleros, Law School Exams: Preparing and Writing to Win
- Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus, Mastering the Law School Exam
- John C. Dernbach, Writing Essay Exams to Succeed in Law School
- Richard Michael Fischl and Jeremy Paul, Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams
- Barry Friedman and John C. P. Goldberg, Open Book: Succeeding on Exams from the First Day of Law School
- Ruth Ann McKinney, Reading Like a Lawyer: Time-Saving Strategies for Reading Law Like an Expert
- Charles H. Whitebread, The Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance in Law School: An Easy-To-Use, Step-By-Step Program for Achieving Great Grades!
These ASP Classics can fill the starter shelf for your professional library. Another post will focus on some of the newer publications. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, August 3, 2015
As a follow-up to my presentation at AASE this summer, I would like to announce that my new book, A Weekly Guide to Being a Model Law Student, has been published by West Academic Publishing.
A Weekly Guide to Being a Model Law Student gives law students weekly checklists explaining the skills necessary to successfully navigate their first year of law school. Each chapter provides a checklist of things to do that week, such as briefing cases, going over notes, outlining classes, or doing practice questions. When a new concept is introduced, this book clearly explains the concept and its purpose and provides examples. Instead of merely providing advice, this book lays out a detailed plan for students to follow. It also includes a bank of over 100 short, medium, and long practice questions in six first year subjects.
If you would like to request a complimentary print or digital copy of this title, please contact your West Academic Publishing Account Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-313-9378.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
If you have joined the academic support/bar preparation professional community for the first time, we welcome you to a rewarding career and wonderful group of colleagues. One thing that ASP is known for is collegiality. There are many experienced ASP'ers who will be happy to share ideas, materials, pitfalls to avoid, and much more. We hope that you will reach out to those of us in the ASP profession whenever we can assist you.
This post is the first in a series to help those who are new to ASP find resources, get settled in, and discover the professional community waiting to help them. Today's post lists some of these resources. The post is by no means exhaustive!
Professional organizations for ASP:
- Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Section on Academic Support: The upcoming annual meeting will be held January 6-10 , 2016 in New York City. The tentative schedule indicates that the Section's business meeting will be at 7 - 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 9th with the program (Raising the Bar) on the same date at 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.. An informal meal get-together is also usually scheduled. Our Section is co-sponsoring a program with the Section on Balance in Legal Education (Finding Your Voice in the Legal Academy) at 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. on Friday, January 8th. The Section on Teaching Methods also has a program on Friday. The Sections on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research and on Student Services are holding programs on Thursday, January 7th. The 2015-2016 Section on Academic Support Chair is Lisa Young at Seattle University School of Law (email@example.com). The AALS Section on Academic Support website is https://connect.aals.org/academicsupport.
- Association for Academic Support Educators (AASE): The upcoming conference will be held May 24 - 26 2016 at University of New York (CUNY) Law School on Long Island. The 2015-2016 President is at Pavel Wonsowicz at UCLA School of Law (firstname.lastname@example.org). The AASE website is http://www.associationofacademicsupporteducators.org/.
Websites and listservs for ASP:
- The ASP Listserv: The listserv membership is available to legal educators who interested in ASP/bar topics. To join the listserv, send an email to email@example.com. Subject line can be blank or say Subscribe ASP-L. In the body of the message type subscribe ASP-L your name title law school name. The listserv is a great place to ask questions of your colleagues, mention resources of interest, post workshops and conferences, and post job openings.
- The Law School Academic Support Blog: This blog is part of the Law Professor Blogs Network and will include postings of interest to ASP'ers, law students, and law faculty. Multiple postings are made each week on a variety of ASP/bar-related topics by the Editor and Contributing Editors. There is an archive function to search prior posts. Spotlight postings introduce new colleagues to the community and highlight colleagues' work. Job announcements are also posted. You can subscribe so that articles are directed to you inbox whenever postings occur. The Editor is Amy Jarmon at Texas Tech University School of Law (firstname.lastname@example.org). The website is http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/.
- The Law School Academic Success Project: This website is maintained by the AALS Section on Academic Support and receives ongoing funding from the Law School Admissions Council. The website includes sections for ASP'ers and students. Student pages are available without registration. To see the ASP pages, you need to be employed currently at a law school in ASP/bar-related work and register. After you register, please update the staff information for your law school to reflect current staff. There are a variety of resources on the site. The Committee Chairperson for the Website is O. J. Salinas at University of North Carolina School of Law (email@example.com). The website is lawschoolasp.org.
Other resources of interest:
- American Bar Association: The Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will be of interest. There are ABA publications, including the Student Lawyer which law students now can receive under the new free student division membership plan. The website for the Section is http://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education.html.
- Institute for Law Teaching and Learning: This consortium of law schools provides resources and conferences focused on best practices for legal education. The website is www.lawteaching.org.
- Law School Admissions Council (LSAC): LSAC has long been a champion of the academic support profession and diversity in the legal profession. For many years, LSAC sponsored workshops and conferences for ASP'ers. The website is www.lsac.org.
- Law School Success: Blog written by Susan Landrum at St. John's University School of Law. Website is http://lawschoolacademicsuccess.com/.
- National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE): The organization that brings us the bar exam. The website is www.ncbex.org.
Hopefully this "starter list" will help new ASP'ers to become familiar with some of the available resources. (Amy Jarmon)
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, October 16, 2014
There are several new books on the market for Academic Support Professionals and for law students. In a series of posts, I will review a few of those books and some of the tried and true ones that I often turn to when I am in need of some words of wisdom or professional guidance.
First, I am reviewing a book published last year by the American Bar Association, PASS THE BAR EXAM written by Professor Sara J. Berman. This book provides a step by step guide for individuals embarking on their journey to pass the bar examination. Not only does this book provide crucial details about the bar exam, it guides readers to understand who they are learners and thinkers. It offers interactive questions, quizzes, and exercises to increase thoughtful reflection and a deeper awareness of the motivational factors required for successful bar passage. One highlight for Professors and Academic Support Educators is that the Teacher’s Edition provides many useful tools that can be integrated into Bar Support Classes and Programs.
Professor Berman’s two decades of experience is illuminated in this text and the teacher’s manual. This resource can help make studying for the bar exam more manageable and less stressful. If you are thinking about starting a Bar Support Program at your law school, if you are a student seeking a framework for bar strategy and success, or a Professor who wants to integrate more bar support into your curriculum, this book is a great place to begin.
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)