Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Resource for Students Studying for the MPT

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.

(Lisa Young)

February 16, 2012 in Bar Exam Preparation, Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Off topic but fun: The Legal Kiss

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) 

February 9, 2012 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Resource for Students Studying for the MBE

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)




November 15, 2011 in Bar Exam Preparation, Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A new resource: Learning outside the box

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) 

June 9, 2011 in Books, Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Suggested books for 1L law students

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)

May 21, 2011 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A resource for law students

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 SchoolProfessor 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)


May 10, 2011 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 4, 2011

International Journal of Wellbeing

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) 

February 4, 2011 in Books, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My book list, continued

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. 

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.

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.


April 7, 2010 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Suggestion: Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin

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)

March 30, 2010 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Brain Science for Lawyers

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)


October 12, 2009 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

New Resource on Mindfulness

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) 

October 8, 2009 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Article on Learning Disabilities: Dyslexia and Time

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) 

June 2, 2009 in Books, Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Gathering Peasants' Revolt

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)   

December 3, 2008 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Holiday Break Reading Recommendations

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)

December 2, 2008 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New "Essentials" Series from Aspen

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)

November 13, 2008 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bar Exam Success

Steven Friedland, a law professor at Elon School of Law, and Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, an attorney and investigative journalist who now works at the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, have written a recent Thomson/West publication entitled The Essential Rules for Bar Exam Success.  Although I have only had time to dip into several chapters, it is clear that the book contains a great deal of useful information for bar takers. 

Chapters 1 and 2 provide an introduction to bar study and the bar exam.  Chapter 3 covers common mistakes bar takers make, while Chapter 4 describes the qualities of successful bar takers.  Chapter 5 covers goals.  Chapter 6 focuses on several techniques.  Chapters 7 through 9 discuss critical reading, critical thinking, and critical writing.  Chapters 10 through 12 provide strategies for three weeks out, one week out, the day of the exam, and the aftermath.  Chapter 13 provides a workbook section for applying the studier's knowledge of the law.  (Amy Jarmon)


September 29, 2008 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Book on Honesty

A colleague forwarded a book review link to me today, and I thought the review might interest a number of us who work with ASP.  Although not strictly a title in our area, it is a new title that deals with honesty in the legal profession.  All of us are concerned with our students becoming ethical legal professionals, even if only as role models rather than teachers of a professional responsibility course.   

Steven Lubet has written The Importance of Being Honest: How Lying, Secrecy, and Hyposcrisy Collide with the Trust in Law.  The book contains short chapters that focus on stories of ethical dilemnas that face lawyers, clients, judges, and academics.  A final section compares doctor and lawyer ethics. Mark C. Miller reviewed the book recently at the following link: Book Review of Lubet Work on Honesty.  (Amy Jarmon)

August 13, 2008 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Washburn Law Journal of Interest

If you were a participant at the Humanizing Legal Education Symposium last fall, you should have received your copy of the symposium issue published by Washburn Law Journal (Volume 47, Number 2, Winter 2008).  In addition, you should have received a DVD of the presentations.

Michael Hunter Schwartz provided a wonderful conference.  We were all invigorated by the opportunity to hear insightful speakers, to learn new ways to humanize our own law schools' programs, and to meet others who believe in changing law schools.

If you would like to see the symposium issue of the Washburn Law Review on-line, go to Washburn Law Journal Humanizing Legal Education Symposium Issue.  If you want to request a print copy, you can contact the law review staff at (785) 670-1541.  Also, if you wish to obtain a copy of the DVD, you can contact Michael Hunter Schwartz at  (Amy Jarmon)

July 28, 2008 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Commercial Law Study Aids

Our students have a required commercial law course which includes both negotiable instruments (aka payment systems or commercial paper) and secured transactions.  This commercial law course is one of the hardest for law students, especially those without any business background.

Both course topics provide a range of study aids which are in hot demand.  A study aid that includes both topics is:

  • Secured Transactions and Payment Systems: Problems and Answers (Clarke and others, Aspen)

The study aids for negotiable instruments include:

  • Understanding Negotiable Instruments and Payment Systems (Lawrence, LexisNexis)
  • Examples and Explanations: Payment Systems (Brook, Aspen)
  • An Introduction to Payment Systems (Lawrence, Aspen)
  • Gilbert Law Summaries: Commercial Paper and Payment Law (Whaley, Thomson/BarBri)
  • Gilbert Law School Legends on Audio Cassette: Commercial Paper (Spak, Thomson/BarBri)
  • Sum and Substance Audio Casettes: Commercial Paper and Payment Law (Whaley, West Group)
  • Eamanuel Law Outlines: Payment Systems (Lawrence, Aspen)
  • Questions & Answers: Payment Systems (Maggs and Zinnecker, LexisNexis)

The study aids for secured transactions include:

  • Visualizing Secured Transactions (Bartell, LexisNexis)
  • Understanding Secured Transactions (Lawrence and others, LexisNexis)
  • Examples and Explanations: Secured Transactions (Brook, Aspen)
  • Gilbert Law Summaries: Secured Transactions (Whaley, Thomson/BarBri)
  • Black Letter Outlines: Secured Transactions (Rusch, Thomson/West)
  • Gilbert Law School Legends on Audio CD: Secured Transactions (Spak, Thomson/BarBri)
  • Questions & Answers: Secured Transactions (Markell and Zinnecker, LexisNexis)

Hopefully, students who are struggling with these topics can find study aids that assist their understanding among these selections.  (Amy Jarmon)

March 13, 2008 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Future Interest and Estates Study Aids

Our students have been going through a spate of midterm exams in Property recently.  Future interests, estates, and RAP are as perplexing for current students as they were to all of us in law school.  I thought it might be helpful to list some of the study aids that I stock in my library to help students in these areas:

  • A Student's Guide to Estates in Land and Future Intersts (Laurence and Minzner, LEXIS)
  • A Student's Guide to the Rule Against Perpetuities (Schwartz, LEXIS)
  • Estates in Land and Future Interests (Makdisi and Bogart, Aspen)
  • Workbook on Estates and Future Interests (Coletta, Thomson/West)
  • Estates in Land and Future Interests (Edwards, Aspen)
  • A Possessory Estates and Future Interests Primer (Wendel, Thomson/West)
  • Gilbert Law Summaries: Future Interests and Perpetuities (Dukeminier, Thomson/BarBri)
  • Gilbert Law School Legends on Audio CD (Carpenter, Thomson/BarBri)
  • Law in a Flash: Future Interests (Aspen/Emanuel)

When I was studying for the day-long conveyancing exam for the bar in England/Wales, I asked one of our residential conveyancing legal staff what book would be best for preparing for the future interests, estates, and RAP portion of the exam.  He blinked at me. In a surprised voice, he asked if Americans still learned all of those things.  When I told him that it was a regular part of every law school property course, he laughed and said that the U.K. abolished all of those intricacies in the 1840's!  (Amy Jarmon)

March 12, 2008 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)