Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hello and Kudos!

Hello! I just accepted an invitation to contribute to this blog and this is my first post. In the future I hope to post on a wide range of topics, representing the varied duties common to academic support professors. But, for this debut post, I want to echo Betsy Six’s suggestion during the closing remarks at AASE to send a kudos email (my words, not hers) to a colleague. Did someone really impress you with their presentation? Did you have a conversation with a colleague in the hallway that changed the way you think about academic support? If so, let them—and their boss—know about it. Don’t worry; it’s not too late. Ask Emily Post. Don’t know what to say? Try putting your own spin on this template:

Dear Dean [X],

I write to tell you what a nice job [name] did on [his/her] presentation entitled “[title]” at the Association of Academic Support Educators Conference in Fort Worth, Texas in May. [Name’s] presentation was innovative, insightful, and engaging. The presentation laid out several concrete [descriptive noun] ideas which attendees (like myself) could implement at their own institutions. Kudos to [name], and to you and your institution for supporting [his/her] work. [Name] is a great asset to the academic support professors’ community!

In closing, just let me say congratulations to everyone who organized, presented at, and attended the annual AASE Conference! (Kirsha Trychta)

June 27, 2017 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Meetings, Miscellany, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Jendayi D. Saada

Thank you for reading the May Veteran ASP Spotlight series! There are a few pending requests so you might see a few more spotlights but the Veteran ASP Spotlight will officially return next year. If you have beloved Veteran ASPers who were not featured this year, then kindly send me their names. A heartfelt thank you to all of the ASP Veterans who shared experiences and wisdom! My hope is that ASPers are reminded of why they do this work and re-energized for bar season and the new academic year. Please note that other members of the ASP community will also be featured here in the near future.

Today’s featured spotlight is Jendayi Saada. I met Jendayi at my first ever National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) Academic Support Conference when I was three months into the start of my ASP career. We both coincidentally sign-up for the same restaurant and our group walked, talked, and laughed that night. At that conference, I also met several other colleagues but Jendayi and I both realized that we had ties to Michigan. Jendayi has a wealth of knowledge, is always open to learn, and is deeply committed to the success of the students she works with. To reiterate what I have said before, when I grow up, I want to be as amazing as she is (Goldie Pritchard).

Saada Profile-1419

Q: Please indicate your full name, title and institution of employment. 

Jendayi D. Saada

Assistant Dean of Academic and Bar Readiness and Assistant Professor

La Verne College of Law

 

Q: Please briefly describe your ASP work including length of time associated with it and what initially stimulated your interest.

I began in ASP in 2004 as an instructor at Nova Southeastern University. As an instructor, I helped create a multiyear academic support and a post-graduation bar preparation program. Since 2009 I have developed ASP and Bar Preparation programs at three additional law schools in Florida, Arizona, and California. My teaching areas have included both skills and doctrine.

I have always had a passion for teaching and have taught in various fields for about 34 years. I fell into legal education because I was moving from Michigan to Florida. I had closed my law practice to chase the sun. I was just looking for a job until I could pass the FL Bar Exam and go back to practicing. I was hired at Nova and that was that.

 

Q: Which aspect(s) of ASP work do you enjoy the most?  What would you consider your greatest challenge thus far and how have you overcome the challenge?

The aspect of ASP I like the most is working with students to help them realize their dreams of becoming an attorney. I especially enjoy working with those students who, due to their race, ethnicity, disability, gender, first generation status, etc., question whether the dream is possible for them, and watching the transformation that occurs when they succeed.

My greatest challenge by far is the stubborn refusal of the faculties and administrators in legal education, to recognize the value that academic support and the professionals who are committed to student success.

 

Q: What do you want your professional legacy to be?

Students’ metamorphosis into amazing lawyers 

 

Q: What motivational advice or encouragement would you offer to new and/or mid-career ASPers or law students?

Let your moral compass be your guide and your passion, the engine that drives you to your destination. Don’t stop for hitchhikers!

 

Q: Is there anything else you deem necessary to share (quote, encouragement, inspiration, visual, etc.…)?

Keep learning, pushing, growing.

May 31, 2017 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Amy L. Jarmon

Amy Jarmon is among other things, Editor of the Law School Academic Support Blog. I cannot recall the circumstances surrounding my first encounter with Amy but she is a staple of the ASP community. I have seen her at practically every ASP conference I have attended and often see her name associated with various ASP committees and programs. I have enjoyed serving on committees with her and appreciate the wealth of knowledge she has to offer. I am thankful for her willingness to help whenever I have a question or reach out for assistance or advice. I am also grateful to her for my opportunity to join the Law School Academic Support Blog family. I am a little unconventional with my posts but she has put up with me all year long. I am glad to showcase Amy because she was not featured in the highlight of the Law School Academic Support Blog editors. Finally, it is coincidental that she is spotlighted the week of the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) annual conference in Texas. She has been spotted at the AASE conference so you can meet her in person. (Goldie Pritchard)

AmyJ

Q: Please indicate your full name, title and institution of employment. 

Amy L. Jarmon

Assistant Dean for Academic Success Programs and Lecturer

Texas Tech University School of Law

 

Q: Please briefly describe your ASP work including length of time associated with it and what initially stimulated your interest.

My initial interest in ASP work came from two sources. First, my previous career was in student affairs with undergraduates where I worked for many years in a bridge position between academic affairs and student affairs. Second, my Ed.D. and J.D. degrees with my teaching and law practice experiences allowed me to fit naturally into helping law students succeed academically and prepare for practice.     

I have been involved in ASP work at law schools for over 15 years. Thirteen of those years have been here at Texas Tech; previously I was at University of Akron School of Law.

 

Q: Which aspect(s) of ASP work do you enjoy the most?  What would you consider your greatest challenge thus far and how have you overcome the challenge?

I most enjoy working one-on-one with students. It is a joy to help students improve their study strategies and life skills and to see them reach their true academic potential in law school.

Greatest challenge: Many students want to do well in law school, but come into this environment with weaknesses in critical reading, thinking, and writing and in efficient, effective study strategies. Many prior educational experiences only asked them to memorize information rather than to grapple with understanding or applying that information.

Overcoming the challenge: Flexibility within a plan is important. I start with assessment and then use a repertoire of strategies to address succeeding in law school while gaining life skills for legal practice. Although I know the strategies that work for most law students, I always keep an open mind. I modify, discard, and brainstorm with each individual student to find out what works for that person. I regularly learn new “mental connections,” strategies, resources, and more as I work with students; those new ideas or techniques become tools to help future students. 

 

Q: What do you want your professional legacy to be?

For students: I want my legacy to be that I cared about students individually and was there to encourage and support them. I believe in their personal worth whether or not they flourish in law school or ultimately decide to practice law after graduation.

For colleagues: I want my legacy to be that I was a colleague who shared my knowledge and experiences freely to better the ASP profession and to support colleagues.

 

Q: What motivational advice or encouragement would you offer to new and/or mid-career ASPers or law students?

New ASP’ers: Reach out to others in the ASP profession for assistance. Unlike some professions, this one thrives on sharing ideas, materials, and advice. ASP’ers have a tradition of giving a hand-up to newcomers. Also, remember that you cannot implement everything overnight. Decide a small number of priorities to tackle first, and then shamelessly ask others for Power Points, syllabi, handouts, and more.

Mid-career ASP’ers: Beware of burnout! Most ASP’ers are “givers” and easily become over-involved, over-utilized by their law schools, and overtime-prone. If you are not careful, you will be overwhelmed. Remember to pace yourself, to say “no” or “not now” sometimes, and to set aside time away from the office to relax and revive.

Law students: Realize there are a zillion strategies that your ASP professional can show you for conquering law school. It is okay if you do not know how to do something, feel overwhelmed at times, or are unsure how to fix things. The important thing is that you commit to learning how to improve and ask for assistance early and often.  

 

Q: Is there anything else you deem necessary to share (quote, encouragement, inspiration, visual, etc.…)?

During my ASP career, I have been blessed with many opportunities. However, during challenges, I depend on my faith to get me through those dark times. I always remind myself that the most important words of praise to hear at some future date are: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

 

May 24, 2017 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Louis Schulze, Jr

Louis should be excited because he is featured here twice in two weeks (once for his scholarship here and now)! I first met Louis at one of the conferences I attended early on in my ASP career. He led a discussion surrounding an article he had written and at the time, was seeking feedback. The discussion included comments and questions about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). I also had an opportunity to work with Louis briefly during my tenure as chair of the programming committee for the Academic Support Section of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). Louis was reliable, kind, and very helpful. I seem to always remember positive words and feedback sent in my direction from anyone far and near, and Louis is one of those whose feedback was very kind and therefore remembered (Goldie Pritchard).

Q: Please indicate your full name, title and institution of employment.

Louis Schulze

Assistant Dean and Professor of Academic Support

Florida International University College of Law

Q: Please briefly describe your ASP work including length of time associated with it and what initially stimulated your interest.

I’ve been in the academic support field for about ten years, starting at New England Law | Boston for seven years and a bit over three years here at FIU Law. I started teaching in the legal writing field and found myself wanting to do more for students who underperformed. It frustrated me that many of these students weren’t struggling due to a lack of diligence or intelligence but because they had less training in critical thinking or effective learning skills. Because that lack of training seemed correlated with socio-economic status, I was particularly motivated to do what I could to help level the playing field to promote students’ success.

Q: Which aspect(s) of ASP work do you enjoy the most? What would you consider your greatest challenge thus far and how have you overcome the challenge?

Anyone who has seen me teach knows that I act like a fool in the classroom. I try to bring an energy that connotes genuine enthusiasm for the material. (This isn’t in any way fabricated; I’m a complete law nerd. If they sold trading cards of SCOTUS justices, I’d be one of those people who gets the whole set, including COA, etc.)

I try to keep things fairly light in the classroom and then all of a sudden get really intense, pushing the students to do more and give better answers. Because the levity precedes the intensity, students seem more comfortable when I push them harder – they know it’s coming from the right place.

Also, personally and professionally, I get immense joy from fostering students’ success. My favorite time of year is when grades come out and I hear from my students who got through the first year despite incredible odds. It’s always an awkward moment for my colleagues in my corridor when I start bellowing the chorus of “We Are the Champions” at the top of my lungs because I heard that a student made it above a 2.00 or passed the bar. But, because being in ASP means being half professor, half coach, we have the best of both worlds and, IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), the best job in the legal academy.

Q: What do you want your professional legacy to be?

That I made it through my whole career without anyone noticing that I’m a completely unqualified rube. (Ooops).

Q: What motivational advice or encouragement would you offer to new and/or mid-career ASPers or law students?

IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), one can serve students best by maintaining a balance between being emotionally invested in their success while at the same time remaining objective. Having a professor demonstrate a genuine personal investment in a student’s success can actually have a far more powerful impact on that student than I ever realized. On the other hand, for some students the best advice might be an austere and somewhat shocking message that is both difficult to give and difficult to receive. Academic support professors need to be empowered to give both types of advice based upon the needs of the particular student. If a law school does not provide that sort of empowerment, the academic support will be less effective.

Q: Is there anything else you deem necessary to share (quote, encouragement, inspiration, visual, etc.…)?

Bart

May 17, 2017 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Part II: Learning & Justice: An Academic Achievement Necessity!

In a previous blog, I wrote about the question of justice, namely, that learning the law without learning to think about what is the right thing to do is, in short, to be learning aimlessly, to be learning without sprit, to be selling our students short.  It is an empty vain experience.  What Does Justice Have to Do with Learning the Law? Everything!

And, as a consequence of our (my) failure to so often talk about principles of justice throughout our (my) classes, we are often creating a toxically-damaging learning environment because our students came to law school not to just memorize cases but to learn to do justice.   Thus, without actively incorporating discussions of justice within our courses, our students JUSTIFIABLY feel like justice has very little to do with why they came to law school in the first place.  No wonder they struggle so often to feel like they fit in.  They don't.  

But, it's not because they don't fit in law school.  Rather, its because we don't fit in law school because we are so often not getting at the real root of the purpose of our legal education, namely, righting and healing and restoring relationships in a broken fragile world.  As a consequence, we should not be surprised when our students are not jazzed about our intricate discussions and hyperactive hypotheticals that are so often devoid of heartfelt life yearings.  

So, that brings me to a suggestion on how to incorporate principles of justice within the study of law.

First, be bold.  Name it.  Let your students know that justice is difficult, its edgy, its often amiss.

Second, provide a framework.

As a tool, it might be helpful to explore possible ways to think about what the right thing to do might be.  As set out by Dr. Michael J. Sandel in his wonderful book entitled "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?," there are three major principles that we might look towards for guidance as to justice: (1) the welfare principle; (2) the freedom principle; and, (3) the virtue principle.  http://justiceharvard.org/justice-whats-the-right-thing-to-do/  Please note:  If you happen upon Amazon, you can browse the first chapter of his book to brilliantly capture the scope of the three approaches.  If not, here's my own simplistic version:

Justice

1.  The Welfare Principle might also be called the "Mostest-for-the-Greatest" principle (or, as philosophers call it, the utilitarian principle).  In brief, the right thing to do according to this principle is what would bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number in society.  We often see this play out in constitutional litigation concerning something like the "undue burden" test in dormant commerce clause cases.  It's a balancing test.  We balance the burden on interstate commerce against the benefit to local state interests in order to see which might maximize the greatest good or utility or benefit.  In another context, we see this principle called to duty - so to speak -  in tort law concerning what a reasonably prudent person might due under similar circumstances.  Finally, this principle is often discussed in the course of environmental litigation as to the benefits of environment regulation versus the societal costs.

2.  The Freedom Principle seems to be widely adored but rarely advocated, at least in my survey of government litigation concerning constitutional rights issues.  We might label this as the "Absolutist" principle, namely, that certain rights are absolutely off-limits from government coercion or usurpation or abolition.  Think of freedom speech or freedom of religion.  But, as we quickly learn in constitutional law, the First Amendment freedom of speech can be heavily regulated by the government provided the government provides a sufficiently "good" reason.  For example, when the government silences a particular subject, it generally must meet strict scrutiny analysis by demonstrating that the restriction is necessary to achieve a compelling government interest.  So much for absolute protection!  Thus, we most often see the freedom principle give way to other perhaps competing arguments as to justice, often based on the welfare principle or the virtue principle.

3.  So, that brings us to the Virtue Principle.  We might call this the "Honor" principle.  Think of the marriage cases.  The issue in the marriage cases, at its roots, centered upon what sorts of marital relationships ought to be honored, with the court holding that the purpose of marriage is fundamentally about society honoring committed loving relationships among consenting people.  In contrast to the arguments of many states, marriage is not fundamentally about children.  Thus, the court, seeing that states honored opposite sex marriages but not same sex marriages, reasoned that all marriages regardless of gender must be honored the same because gender is irrelevant to the issue of loving relationships.  In other words, the right thing to do is to honor consistently all marital relationships that share the same fundamental marital characteristics.  In short, the court found that it was unfair to honor only opposite sex marriage but not other marriages because the failure to do so is dishonorable and not virtuous.  Justice requires giving honor to what is deserving honor.

Now, as we see from many of the cases covered throughout law school, the courts are often bouncing haphazardly among these various conceptions of justice (and more) without saying what they are doing.  Shame on them!  That's where these principles of justice can come in mighty handily in law school classes.  Let's get them out in the open!  It's not that these principles will necessarily determine what is the right outcome in a particular case.  But, arguments about these principles are what is at root in most cases.  And, as complex people with many attachments and predispositions, we will start to see that we often favor one principle of justice at the expense of another (which is to say at the expense of others).  So, just reflecting on these principles with our students can help our students better understand and appreciate how they can participate - as future attorneys - in helping to make society a little bit more just for the next generation.  And, that's a great thing to learn in law school!  (Scott Johns).

 

May 11, 2017 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Rodney O. Fong

You may consider this entry and future ones “self-serving” but please stay tuned. When my ASP mentor recently left the profession, I thought it might be a splendid idea to highlight a few “veteran ASPers” while they are still active in the profession. After conversations with a few colleagues, I decided to start highlighting a few individuals I view as “veteran ASPers.” I encountered these highly experienced individuals at certain points of my ASP journey which began almost ten years ago. Each contributed to my success by helping me in small or significant ways and shared their wisdom, experience, and advice. I deemed it expedient to streamline questions rather than ask them anything and everything I could have possibly wanted to know. It is impossible to highlight everyone so I am starting with a select few, Rodney O. Fong being the first.

Rodney O. Fong is an awesome individual. I was first introduced to him by my former law school Dean who suggested that I contact him for advice, direction, and possible mentoring. He responded to my email message which was followed by a great phone conversation. I admire his commitment to diversity, student success on the bar exam, and desire to help new professionals. Please learn about him below. (Goldie Pritchard)

Fong

Q: Please indicate your full name, title and institution of employment.

Rodney O. Fong

Co-Director of Law+Plus and Bar+Plus Programs & Assistant Professor of Law 

University of San Francisco School of Law

Q: Please briefly describe your ASP work including length of time associated with it and what initially stimulated your interest.

I switched from practice to teaching because I love teaching and counseling people. Also, I found that practicing law limited on the number of people I could help, namely my clients.  But by training more people to become lawyers, I could indirectly help more clients in our communities.

My law school had a formal academic support program and I was a student in the program as well as a tutor during my last two years of school. I started teaching in 1990, focusing on academic support and, in 2005, I formally added bar preparation.

Q: Which aspect(s) of ASP work do you enjoy the most? What would you consider your greatest challenge thus far and how have you overcome the challenge?

I love the challenge of figuring out how to better prepare our students. First it was putting together workshops and lesson plans focusing on IRAC and study skills. Then I delved into education and learning theory exploring ways to teach students more effectively. Next, it was figuring out how generational differences affected our Gen X and Gen Y students and that continues today with unraveling the effects of helicopter parenting. More recently, I have been working on applying socio-psychological theories and creating reduction and intervention strategies.

My greatest challenge has been helping law schools transition from input measures, like LSAT and UGPA, to output measures, such as graduation rates, bar passage, and employment. Law schools are now being evaluated on how well we teach our students and what they are learning, hence the ABA requirements for establishing student learning outcomes and formative and summative assessments. Unfortunately, changing the law school culture has been slow and painful. But schools that have been able to fully integrated academic support into their teaching and learning culture tend to be more successful.

Q: What do you want your professional legacy to be?

I have two things that I am equally proud of. First, I am proud of all the students that I have been able to help become lawyers, especially those from underrepresented groups and first generation students. They are now in the profession assisting clients and making an impact on our communities. I am also proud of helping the students who decided not to become lawyers. Law school and practicing law is not for everyone. But if I was able to help someone in their decision to leave law school and still maintain their dignity and confidence, then that is a success. Many of these students go on to become successful in other fields.

The other thing I am proud of is helping a law school overcome low bar performance to retain its ABA accreditation. It was not a matter of tutoring a few students to pass the exam, but changing the culture and attitude of an entire institution. When the bar results started to improve, you could feel the change in attitude and confidence within the school and that is something I will never forget. To hear students proclaim that they want to do better than the class before them was amazing, especially when a couple of year before, they doubted if they could even pass the exam.

Q: What motivational advice or encouragement would you offer to new and/or mid-career ASPers or law students?

For my ASP colleagues – Changing institutional cultures, attitudes, and behaviors is a process that takes lots of time and patience. Also, timing is critical. An institution may not be ready for change. But when it is, you have to be ready and prepared to lead.

Q: Is there anything else you deem necessary to share (quote, encouragement, inspiration, visual, etc.…)?

My favorite quote during this time of law school uncertainty is a Chinese proverb: “Chaos – where brilliant dreams are born.”

May 3, 2017 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Dream That Changed A Life

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman.

Graduation is always a very exciting time for me and an even more exciting time for the students but this year is a particularly bittersweet one for me. Why? Well, this 2017 graduation ushers in the official end of my role as Director of the Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP). Of course, I will continue to work with students in my capacity as an academic support professional but my interactions with this very unique group of students I had the pleasure of working with over the past eight years comes to an end. LEOP was the conditional admission program offered at the law college which allowed some prospective students to participate in a summer program with the understanding that an achievement of minimum competency would allow them to gain admission to the law college. My participation in this performance based admission program entailed reviewing applications, co-coordinating the program, spending six weeks in the summer with these students, and monitoring their law school careers and bar exam performance. I saw these students manage stress, contend with new tasks, seek out help, and build community. I am grateful that students felt comfortable enough to reveal their fears and concerns, seek advice, and share successes and challenges. I recognize that it is very rare to be a part of the various aspects of a law student’s growth as a person and a student.

Monday was the end of the year celebration for the graduates of LEOP but also the celebration of the end of LEOP. In attendance were professors, staff, students, and alums who were brought together by this program. Suddenly, the atmosphere at the celebration quickly and surprisingly became highly emotional. The lunch gathering highlighted student accomplishments, contributions to the law college, and reflection on their journeys. It was quite amazing to note the impact one can have on a student simply by engaging with the student and choosing certain words to communicate with them. Students watch us, hear us, and make judgments about us based on what we say and do.

I am certain that my colleagues who work with alternative or conditional admissions programs share my sentiments about the students I work with in LEOP. While I may not remember the minute details about each student, I do remember each face, name, and a piece of information each one shared with me. These students dreamed impossible dreams and step by step are making their dreams become reality. They faced tremendous “I can’t” circumstances but stared them in the face and overcame those challenges. These LEOP students are about to place “J.D.” behind their names like many others before them and embark on the journey to becoming lawyers.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman. Changing the world begins with changing your immediate universe. (Goldie Pritchard)

April 26, 2017 in Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Final Exam Prep: Lessons from the Hudson River Crash – Pilot or Passenger?

Over the years, I’ve seen many students struggle in preparing for final exams, particularly with uncertainty about how best to prepare.

Without exception, that leads to a question.  In the past, how have you learned to solve problems?  And, without exception, students say that they learn to solve problems…by practicing problems (usually with lots of ups and downs, turbulence, and bumps and bruises).  That’s because we don’t learn how to solve problems by watching others solve problems.

And, that’s the rub about law school learning. 

Simply put, much of our law school experience has been us watching others solve problems (whether observing a professor run through a hypothetical problem, listening to a student in Socratic dialogue, reading and briefing cases, or even in the midst of preparing massive outlines as study tools).  Unfortunately, you are not tested on your case briefs, outlines or study tools.  Rather, you are tested on your abilities to solve legal problems. 

So, here’s the key.  Change your focus from passive learning into active learning by grabbing hold of lots of practice problems, sweating over them, stretching yourself through them, and exercising your “brain muscles” in tackling complex legal issues.  In short, take charge of your own learning by practicing lots of final exam problems. 

To help you visualize what active learning for final exams might look like, here’s a short video animation of the Hudson River airplane crash, spliced with the pilot and aircraft controller communications.  

First, as you watch the video, you’ll can see that all is calm.  It’s a great smooth takeoff.  The flight is well on its way to a far-away destination, and, then, suddenly, there’s flock of geese in the way.  That’s how I always feel when I practice exams. All is relatively peaceful and then I turn to the first question and it looks like I’ve just flown into a flock of geese with my engines flaming out as a result.  So, here’s lesson one – prepare for geese.  You will have problems that are difficult on your final exams.  But, you won’t learn how to tackle them until you start working through them first, well, right now, before you take your final exams.

Second, notice the pilot’s voice.  Is it calm or ruffled?  Yes, the engines have quit.  Yes, the plane is not flying to a far-away place anymore.  But, it is still an airplane. It still has wings and radios. It is still flying.  It’s just not going to Chicago or Phoenix or Los Angeles today. So, here’s lesson two – don’t ever give up, even in the midst of your exam prep and final exams.  Keep flying your airplane.  Keep working on learning by doing.

Third, as you continue to watch the video, you’ll start hearing lots of air traffic controllers trying their best to help the pilot make a successful return, first to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport and then to Teterboro Airport across the Hudson River in New Jersey.  The controllers are busily clearing runways and directing the pilot to turn to this heading and that course.  But, the pilot stays in control.  Finally, the controllers ask which runway the pilot would like to land on, and, instead, the pilot says – frankly and calmly – the Hudson River.  So, here’s lesson three – fly your own airplane.  Don’t let others control your destiny.  You’re the one that is taking the exam (not those that are giving you lots of advice).  And, only you know yourself.  So, make your own decisions.  Just like pilots do, practice solving legal problems through lots of "simulator flight" time.

Here's the secret about learning. You see, that wasn’t the first time that the pilot lost his engines in flight.  The pilot had experienced dual engine failure lots of times…in the simulator.  Yes, the pilot had read the horn books on how to land on a river, the cases of previous airplanes successfully ditching in the water, and the manuals on how to stay calm and collected in the midst of a flock of geese.  But, reading is not sufficient to learn how to fly an airplane.  That’s because no one learns to fly by reading about flying.  You learn to fly…by flying.  Similarly, you learn to solve legal problems…by solving legal problems.  So, get flying today as you prepare for your final exams tomorrow.  And, good luck on them all!   (Scott Johns).

 

 

 

April 20, 2017 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

What could this old nursery rhyme have to do with law school?

It reminds us to take one step at a time to accomplish a task.

Huh? Well, think about it this way . . . .

Most law students right now are madly juggling a long list of tasks for multiple projects. They are preparing for class each day. They are finishing assignments or papers. They are keeping up with outlines. They are reviewing for exams. They are completing practice questions. And, they are doing all of these things for multiple courses at the same time.

Many of them are feeling scattered and a bit frantic. They dart from task to task and feel exhausted at the end of the day. They are losing sleep, eating junk food, and feeling overwhelmed.

And, they lament that there is no time to get everything done.

So, just as in the nursery rhyme, it is time to get organized, have a plan, and take one step at a time. Here is an approach that helps many students get control of exam review:

  • For each exam course, list all topics with their subtopics that will be on the final exam. (Warning: The list will be long because it is subtopics, but they can be completed more quickly than whole topics.)
  • Focus on learning and understanding the subtopics. (You will want some later time for practice questions, but understanding has to come first.)
  • If you already understand any subtopics well enough that you could walk into the exam on those, highlight them on the list to show completion.
  • For the remaining subtopics that you have already covered in class, estimate how much time you need to understand that subtopic well enough to walk into the exam. (Estimates may be minutes or hours depending on the subtopic's difficulty.)
  • Total your subtopic estimates for the material already covered in class for each course. (You will complete estimates for additional subtopics as they are covered later in class.)
  • Now compare your estimate totals for each course. You might have 12 hours for one, 15 hours for another, 20 hours for a third, etc.
  • Your totals help you see proportionately how much time you should devote to each course to learn what you have already covered in the course.
  • Schedule blocks of time each week to complete exam review to make progress on your estimated totals.
  • There will be some subtopics that need little time and can be slipped in between classes, while you wait for dinner to cook, etc.
  • As you complete each subtopic, remember to highlight it as completed.
  • All progress is forward progress. Whatever you can get completed before the end of classes means less to learn during exam period.

What if you have a paper to write? You can make a similar list for specific tasks within larger categories: tasks for research, writing, editing, citations, grammar and punctuation, format OR by tasks for paper sections if you prefer.

Step back from the jumble that you feel your life represents right now. Organize small steps within the larger units. Then take it step by step: one, two . . . . (Amy Jarmon)

April 18, 2017 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Comparison Can Be A Downer

Eleanor Roosevelt stated, "Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Now is the time in the semester when many law students compare themselves to others in their classes and become discouraged.

  • Mary got the highest grade on the midterm, and I was below the median.
  • Bill aced the trial brief assignment, and mine was covered in comments.
  • Annie gave a brilliant answer in class, and I could not even formulate a basic answer.
  • Phil was amazing at the oral argument, and I fumbled every question.

And so it goes.

Why do law students make themselves miserable by comparisons?

  • They may still be stuck mentally in undergraduate grading where 100% was always the achievable grading standard.
  • They may be for the first time in a group of students who are as intelligent as they are - awesome, but scary.
  • They may be struggling with how much work is required in law school after years of higher grades for less effort.
  • They may base their self-worth on what others think of them instead of doing the best they can do.

Here's the thing to remember. You are you. You can only control yourself. You can only do the best work possible today under today's circumstances.

If today did not produce the results you wanted after doing your best, then let it go. Get up tomorrow and start again. Tomorrow you can implement strategies to improve your academics. You may not yet be where you want to be, but you can improve each day. You can reach your personal best.

Are you unsure how to improve on what you are doing? Visit the academic support professional at your law school and ask for assistance. Talk with your faculty member for help with a confusing topic. Ask a trusted classmate to discuss a case or a practice question with you.

Let's face it: law school is a fish bowl. You spend all day swimming in the same confined space with the same school of fish. It is too easy to focus on how well others are swimming. And, if the fish bowl has a couple of fish doing high dives off the lip of the bowl, it can be intimidating.

But rather than compare yourself to the other fish, practice your own strokes. Find a swim coach. There is still time to see improvement. (Amy Jarmon)

 

April 17, 2017 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Be Confident

This is the week our students’ appellate briefs are due therefore I assumed that they would be unprepared for the directed study group meeting scheduled for this week. Instead of cancelling the meeting, I developed several activities with the materials students had covered thus far in their doctrinal course. The students were engaged and appeared to enjoy the activities. We highlighted areas they were unfamiliar with, areas they needed to work on, and areas of strength. Students worked in groups and one of the groups was composed of mostly male students and one female student. The female student held her own but one situation gave me pause. Her group was consulting before they buzzed in their answer. I heard her say the correct answer but her male counterparts disagreed and tried to persuade her otherwise. The group spokesperson stated the answer the majority agreed on but it was an incorrect answer. When they realized she had the correct answer, they were dumbfounded. I told the male students: “you should have listened to her” and I saw her smile. I was glad to validate her “correct” contribution and thought about the experiences of other female students.

At times, the law school environment can be a challenging place for female students for a variety of reasons including the fact that their abilities are sometimes underestimated and undervalued. This can reduce confidence in even the most confident person. There are several articles, studies, and news reports on the topic. However, I found an eight minute TEDx Talk which illustrates some of the challenges females face and how they can help themselves and other females find “The Confidence Factor.” Here is the link to “The Confidence Factor” by Carol Sankar.

Sankar suggests three things all women must do enact their confidence factor, challenging them to students, particularly female students:

1. Know the power of negotiation. If you know your worth before you leave the house; you now have the power of negotiate. Know your worth.

2. Seek a balance of support and mentorship. Support is the praise and comfort but not the facts. Mentorship is when people tell us the truth regardless of how we feel about what we hear; someone with the courage to push us and tell us the truth.

3. Your inner circle. Create an inner circle which includes one who likes you, one who can’t stand you, one who will tell the truth, and one who will tell you a lie. Also consider individuals not known to you. (Goldie Pritchard)

April 5, 2017 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Teaching Law: What's Justice Have to Do With Law (and Learning)?

Recently while teaching asylum law, we took some time in class to talk about justice.  How do we know what is the right thing to do?  What standard(s) should we use to decide whether a case result is just or not?  I was just about to recap our discussion when a student asked, poignantly, "What does Justice have to do with the Law?"

In brief, the student commented that very few classes ever even talk about justice, and, the student also asked me directly if I have ever even talked about justice as a litigator before the court.  Those were great questions.  And, the student got me thinking...deeply...because if what we are doing is not just, then we should be doing something else.  And, if we are not talking about justice, then, let's be frank, we are not engaging with our students in heart-felt learning because they came to law school - not to be mechanics robotically applying the law - but to make the world better, to make the world more just, in short, to restore and right and mend relationships.

As I reflected on my student's questions, I started to realize that implicit in much discourse concerning the outcome of cases are principles that manifest themselves in real impact on real people.  So, my first step was to refocus on teaching about the people (and not just the mechanical facts, issues, holdings, and rationales).  I try to find out what happened to the litigants.  I sometimes call the attorneys that litigated the case.  In short, I try to bring life to the cases that we read.  Second, I try to keep my eye out for opportunities to talk about whether the decisions in the cases that we study are just (and why or why not).  I try to make it explicit.  Third, as we talk about representing people, I bring up opportunities to appeal to courts by using principles of justice.  

So, that brings me back to learning.  It seems like many law students are just plain tired, primarily it seems to me, because we have taught them that the law is lifeless.  We've stripped the cases of all humanity.  We talk about cases as if they are just impersonal scripts, and, in the process, our students begin to feel like the lawyer's job is just to keep the machine going.  That they are a cog in a process that lacks life.  That law school is not a place to learn about how to make the world better but rather just a place that keeps the world going, faltering along, without improvement, growth, or hope.  Our students start to think that justice has very little to do with the law.  

Perhaps that is true.  But, it need not be so.  That's because in a common law system the law grows out of relationships and arguments presented by real people to real people to resolve real disputes based on real appeals to the heart.  So, as we teach our students, I need to help them empower themselves to speak boldly and think deeply about what the right thing to do is (and why).   And, when I do that, my students start to sit up straight, they take notice, they start pondering, thinking, and, of course, learning...because they realize that they do have something to say, something that is important, something that might actually someday make a powerful impact in the lives of others when incorporated into the common law.  In fact, our world needs their voices - all of their voices in order to realize justice for all.  

If you're looking for a place to learn how to incorporate justice into your teaching, here's a great source.  Professor Michael Sandel has a free web platform that focus on teaching justice with much of the discussion based on the law and litigation. And, in the process, you'll see a masterful teacher helping his students develop into learners.  http://justiceharvard.org/justicecourse/   (Scott Johns).

March 30, 2017 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Impact of Words

Yesterday, as I was leaving the supply room, heading towards the floor where my office is located, I overheard a conversation that stopped me in my tracks. I saw a student filling her water bottle as a professor approached her. The professor communicated how impressed she was with the student’s performance on an assignment, emphasized positive aspects of the assignment, touted the student’s abilities, and praised her for thinking outside the box. I was drawn to this exchange by an unmistakable display of enthusiasm which radiated on the student’s face. Although this student has excelled academically, she appeared excited, amazed, and touched by the professor’s positive words. The student indicated to the professor and me that this encounter made her day. As it is rare to witness positive affirmations in the law school environment, a few kind and genuine words can create a jolt of confidence that can carry students a long way.

Merriam-Webster defines affirmation as: “a positive assertion.” I understand that the word affirmation comes from the Latin “affirmare” which means “to make steady, strengthen.” Words are very powerful. When we verbally affirm another’s dreams and ambitions, we are instantly empowering them with a deep sense of reassurance that our wishful words will become reality. Law school can shake a student’s confidence regardless of how self-assured that student is. A law school community should always encourage and help strengthen students by reminding them of their aspirations and goals.

I find that affirmations are a way of helping students rewire their brains, thus creating a positive and supportive environment that helps with their overall well-being and academic improvement. I do not provide students with affirmations on a regular basis but whenever I do, I am genuine and strive to ensure I communicate positives that support and strengthen students when it appears they need it. Then I empower them to do what they need to do next. Some of the words I share include reminding students that they "possess the qualities necessary to be successful otherwise they would not be here at the law school"; they "have the ability to conquer challenges as their potential for success is infinite given the challenges they have already overcome to be here"; and "each obstacle in their way is carving their path towards greatness."  Words are powerful, have impact, and can strengthen students by helping them believe in their potential to manifest their dreams. (Goldie Pritchard)

March 29, 2017 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

It Takes a Village

“It takes a village” or “it takes a village to raise a child” are sayings that we often hear. The origins of these sayings are unclear and there is much dispute about the origins. It is primarily thought that these sayings originate from an African proverb which states: “it takes a village to raise a child.” Some also believe the saying has Native American roots. Here, my discussion is centered on the relevance of these sayings in relation to the work of Academic Support professionals. In this context, I am highlighting the collective social responsibility our law school community shares for one another and particularly for the students we serve. We all have a concern for the morale and overall well-being of the community.

In our law school communities, there are individuals, visible and invisible, who contribute to the daily and overall functioning of our institutions. These individuals can, and often do, have a profound impact on students, providing them with support in a variety of ways. The individuals I am referring to are the administrative assistants, custodial and janitorial staff, librarians, teaching assistants, and general clerical or other support staff. These individuals interact with students in different ways than students do with faculty and administrators, probably because students view them as “regular and average” individuals rather than individuals in positions of authority. I have found that students often share more personal information with these individuals because they have regular interactions with them. As students typically stick to study spaces, they are more likely to run into a teaching assistant or a custodian. Also, students might communicate their stresses and fears as they drop-off or pick-up materials from administrative assistants. The best aspect of these interactions is that most of these visible and invisible individuals are familiar with campus and community resources because they are a part of both of those communities. Through their relationships with communities, they are often able to provide students with moral support, words of encouragement, and a piece of familial nurturing, something rarely found in the law school environment and something certain ethnic and cultural groups desire.

Why then are these individuals mentioned above an asset to Academic Support professionals? They are an asset because they not only provide valuable insights into the habits, culture, and concerns of students, but also alert Academic Support professionals to things they might want to implement. By interacting with the lady at the welcome desk, I was urged to become a notary to provide a free service to students who could not afford to pay to have bar application documents notarized. By speaking with a custodian, I learned about a student who slept on campus during the final exam period for fear of missing early morning exams, thus enabling us to find alternate options for the student. By overhearing a conversation between a student and a teaching assistant, I learned that some students were unable to afford food therefore a colleague and I jointly developed creative ways to inform students about the food bank on campus.

The best part of all of this is that interactions are mutually beneficial: students find the support they need and the visible and invisible members of our community share the enthusiasm of having students who look like them or hail from similar backgrounds attend a professional school and work towards becoming a lawyer.

It is noteworthy to mention here that regardless of a law student’s family name or place of origin, career growth or development, each student's academic success and degree completion metaphorically "belongs to the entire law school community." And for those of us who grew up in rural areas in Africa or as members of certain ethnic and cultural groups, ingrained in our experiences is the idea that we all share in our successes, achievements, and challenges. (Goldie Pritchard)

March 22, 2017 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Success: It's a Matter of Perspective!

It's the middle of the academic semester for most of us.  

That often means midterm exams or filling out bar exam applications or working on that summer job hunt.  In the midst of so much to do with so much competition for achieving success, it's easy to feel out of place.  To be overwhelmed.  To sense that I don't really belong in law school or that I can't succeed.

When that sort of self-doubt starts in, it's time to step back and gain perspective about who you are, your strengths, your character, and your purpose.  You see, too often I am comparing myself against the wrong benchmark (others!), and, in doing so, I'm trying to be someone who I am not.  And, that's mighty stressful because it is awful hard (i.e., impossible) to be someone else!  So, instead of trying to measure success based on what others are doing, step back and get some perspective about who you are.

Not quite sure about how to get some perspective?

Well, there's a great video clip that illustrates the point quite well.  It involves a boy struggling to hit a baseball.  When it seems that all is lost, that he just can't manage to connect the baseball bat to the ball, he takes a pause...and...in that moment of pause...he realizes something brilliantly radiant about what he is good at. So, if you happen to feel like you are not quite hitting the mark in law school, take a moment to enjoy this short video clip. I promise, it will warm your heart and bring a smile to your face. And, in the process of taking a pause, you'll be reminded of a great truth -- that success is a matter of perspective (and not at all a matter of competition).  http://www.values.com/optimism

(Scott Johns).

March 9, 2017 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Spring Break Shenanigans

It is spring break at my law school and it is very quiet. Most of the students have left for the break but a few remain. Some students are anticipating getting ahead in their academic work, working on legal writing assignments, or hoping to improve overall academic performance by starting to prepare for exams early. Other students continue to maintain their individual meetings with my office so I continue to interact with students. Although it is spring break, I find myself with much to do such as: (1) planning for the remainder of the semester, (2) planning for a part of the summer, (3) checking-in with students who recently sat for the bar exam, and also (4) getting some rest.  Additionally, I try to take a day or two off from work to laze around or simply take care of household responsibilities because I know that I will have to wait until July for the next lull.

Spring break is typically a time when I am able to make “small talk” with my colleagues when I take breaks away from my desk. It is also a time when I can leave the building for lunch because attempting to leave the building when school is in session is a challenge due to back to back meetings throughout the day. Even when I am able to leave the building for lunch, I encounter difficulties finding a parking space upon my return because parking is also a challenge. Today, in recognition of International Women’s Day, I had lunch with a female colleague I have been trying to meet-up with for several months. Happy International Women’s Day to all Academic Support Professionals who self-identify as female! (Goldie Pritchard)

March 8, 2017 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A West Texas Perspective on What Matters

We have passed the midpoint in classes now at my law school. This coming week is our Spring Break. A number of students have told me that they have paper drafts, midterms, presentations, or other projects due the week after Spring Break. Now that we are on the downward slope of the semester, more and more students are looking stressed.

I live in West Texas. It is a semi-arid, agricultural area - noticeable once you get beyond the city limits with all the non-indigenous trees and green lawns. When the cotton is not planted and covering the fields, the South Plains can look pretty stark. Flying over this region now will confront you with almost a lunar landscape effect: irrigation circles in the unplanted fields, a land-grant grid, canyons, and scrawny mesquite trees and brush.

And March winds. Lots and lots of winds. And dust blown up by those winds on some days. And enormous tumbleweeds blocking my driveway (my garage off a paved alley skirts a mesquite pasture).

And today, smoke from the wildfires approximately two hours to our north. I live on the southwest edge of town. When I left for work, the smell of smoke was slight in my house, but hit me as soon as I opened the garage door. The sky was an odd gray; the sun was orange behind the smoke. As I drove into campus (a 15-minute drive northeast), the smell of smoke became much stronger. The sun was now a strange yellow with blurred edges.

My thoughts turned to the folks farther north. To the first responders fighting the wildfires. To the farmers and cattlemen concerned about their land and herds. To the small towns that are potentially in the way if the winds kick up more and shift the wrong way.

In short, the stress and anxiety of law school are manageable in light of what could be happening in our lives. It is often hard in the fish-bowl environment of law school to remember the cares of the world outside our doors - our very insular academic world.

I hope my students regained their perspectives today. There are stress situations that are unpredictable and life-threatening. Law school stress may be self-imposed and can often be successfully managed with scheduling, curbing procrastination, and seeking help from many resources. Law school is tough. But life can be tougher. (Amy Jarmon) 

 

March 7, 2017 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

You Are Not An Island

Microaggression. Merriam Webster initially noted this word as “a term to watch” but added this word to the dictionary in February 2017. Microaggression as defined by Merriam Webster is “a comment or action that is subtly and often unintentionally hostile or demeaning to a member of a minority or marginalized group.”

How do we, academic support professionals, support our students who deal with microaggressions and aggressions that impact their ability to focus on academic work and impact their academic performance? I pose this question not because I have an answer but because this is a question I have asked myself lately.

It is quite difficult to be mentally present, engage with doctrinal content, and focus on tasks at hand while being concerned about what covert or overt actions will occur next or be directed towards you. The idea that one might have to contend with a racial or ethnic land mine at any time in a law school classroom or hallway is very daunting. A microaggressive comment from a professor during exam review can be devastating particularly when we encourage students to meet with professors to review exams and obtain feedback. There are a few articles addressing the impact of microaggressions on the recipient which highlight serious psychological effects.

Oftentimes, just reminding students of why they are in law school and encouraging them to not give up on a future legal career while having honest discussions about how they will manage these situations is usually a starting point. I spend time encouraging students to view these encounters as strengthening their abilities to deal with difficult situations while making them realize they are not alone. We discuss their feelings, anticipated accomplishments and consequences of each situation, and management of similar situations. I fundamentally view this process as an unwritten part of my job mainly because I am a person of color who was once a student of color. Silencing the loud voices of negativity when a student already has a few layers of self-doubt, and awakening and reminding students of the infinite reach of their abilities to view the world as a better place can be a struggle and long term process.

Racial Battle Fatigue (RBF). A term coined by William Smith in the Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity and Society (2008) is “a theory attributed to the psychological attrition that People of Color experience from the daily battle of deflecting racialized insults, stereotypes, and discrimination.”i “RBF is the cumulative effect of being “on guard” and having to finesse responses to insults, both subtle and covert.”ii

How do we, academic support professionals, support our students who have been microaggressed when we are managing our own instances of microaggressions and aggressions but also contending with Racial Battle Fatigue? I pose this question because I am curious about how other academic support professionals manage such situations.

To make a very long story short, I had a week filled with incidents that would fit the classic definition of microaggressions and some I would characterize as aggressions coming from various aspects of life in the span of five days. I was anxious and somewhat distracted, which is out of character for me, unfocused, and unhappy but tried to be positive but all efforts failed. I faced each situation, responding in various ways I deemed appropriate, sought the support of my circle of trust, and moved on. I usually do a good job not showing my frustrations. In retrospect, I did not realize how much these encounters impacted me.

Something amazing happened the following week; I found joy, passion, and energy because of the students. I received a number of kind notes, nice words, positive feedback about programs and presentations, and other expressions of appreciation. For someone who is accustomed to problem-solving, affirming students, acknowledging wrong doings, validating feelings, empowering students, and checking-in to ensure that all is well, I did not quite know what to do with myself. It was like the universe suddenly said: “everything is great; this is just a step in your journey.”

I often believe that I am on an island even though there are so many people that surround me. No one knows the many battles fought and won within the confines of the four walls of my office, on the island. What often keeps me going are moments when students make comments to me such as; your words or actions made a difference and changed my outlook when I was on the precipice of giving up and filled with tears. This brings back memories of individuals who did the same for me during moments of immense pressure and self-doubt. (Goldie Pritchard)

iRacial Battle Fatigue’ Is Real: Victims of Racial Microaggressions Are Stressed Like Soldiers in War

iiChristopher Dorner and Racial Battle Fatigue

March 1, 2017 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Matter of The Heart: Moving Forward in the Midst of the Bar Exam Wait

It’s a great time for you - as this week’s bar takers - to reflect, appreciate, and take pride in your herculean work in accomplishing law school and tackling the bar exam.

Let's be direct!  Bravo! Magnificent! Heroic!  Those are just some of the words that come to mind…words that you should be rightly speaking to yourself…because…they are true of you to the core!

But, for most of us right now, we just don’t quite feel super-human about the bar exam. Such accolades of self-talk are, frankly, just difficult to do. Rather, most of us just feel relief – plain and simple relief – that the bar exam is finally over and we have somehow survived.  

That’s because very few of us, upon completion of the bar exam, feel like we have passed the bar exam. Most of us just don’t know.   So now, the long “waiting” period begins with results not due out for most of us for a number of months.

So, here’s the conundrum about the “waiting” period:

Lot’s of well-meaning people will tell you that you have nothing to worry about; that they are sure that you passed the bar exam; and that the bar exam wasn’t that hard…really.

Really? Not that hard?

Really? You know that I passed?

Really? There’s nothing for me to worry about?

Let me give you a concrete real life example. Like you, I took the bar exam. And, like most of you, I had no idea at all whether I passed the bar exam. I was just so glad that it was finally over.

But all of my friends, my legal employer (a judge), my former law professors, and my family kept telling me that I had absolutely nothing to be worried about; that I passed the bar exam; that I worked hard; that they knew that I could do it.

But, they didn’t know something secret about my bar exam. They didn’t know about my lunch on the first day of the bar exam.

At the risk of revealing a closely held secret, my first day of the bar exam actually started out on the right foot, so to speak. I was on time for the exam. In fact, I got to the convention center early enough that I got a prime parking spot. Moreover, in preparation for my next big break (lunch), I had already cased out the nearest handy-dandy fast food restaurants for grabbing a quick bite to eat before the afternoon portion of the bar exam so that I would not miss the start of the afternoon session of the bar exam.

So, when lunch came, I was so excited to eat that I went straight to Burger King. I really wanted that “crown,” perhaps because I really didn’t understand many of the essay problems from the morning exam. But as I approached Burger King, the line was far out of the door. Impossibly out of the door. And, it didn’t get any better at McDonalds next door. I then faced the same conundrum at Wendy’s and then at Taco Bell.

Finally, I had to face up to cold hard facts.  I could either eat lunch or I could take the afternoon portion of the bar exam. But, I couldn’t do both. The lines were just too long. So, I was about to give up - as I had exhausted all of the local fast food outlets surrounding the convention center - when I luckily caught a glimpse of a possible solution to both lunch and making it back to the bar exam in time for the afternoon session – a liquor store.  There was no line. Not a soul. I had the place to myself. So, I ran into the liquor store to grab my bar exam lunch: two Snicker’s bars. With plenty of time to now spare, I then leisurely made my way back to the bar exam on time for the start of the afternoon session.

But, here’s the rub:

All of my friends and family members (and even the judge that I was clerking for throughout the waiting period) were adamant that I had passed the bar exam. They just knew it! But, they didn’t know that I ate lunch at the liquor store.

So when several months later the bar results were publicly available on the Internet, I went to work for my judge wondering what the judge might do when the truth came out – that I didn’t pass the bar exam because I didn’t pack a lunch to eat at the bar exam.

To be honest, I was completely stick to my stomach. But, I was stuck; I was at work and everyone believed in me. Then, later that morning while still at work computer, the results came out. My heart raced, but my name just didn’t seem to be listed at all. No Scott Johns. And then, I realized that my official attorney name begins with William. I was looking at the wrong section of the Johns and Johnsons. My name was there! I had passed!   I never told the judge my secret about my “snicker bar” lunch. I was just plain relieved that the bar exam “wait” was finally over.

That’s the problem with all of the helpful advice from our friends, employers, law professors, and family members during this waiting period. For all of us (or at least most of us), there was something unusual that happened during our bar exam. It didn’t seem to go perfectly. Quite frankly, we just don’t know if we indeed passed the bar exam.

So, here’s a suggestion for your time right now with your friends, employers, law professors, and family members.

1.  First, just let them know how you are feeling. Be open and frank. Share your thoughts with them along with your hopes and fears.

2.  Second, give them a hearty thank you for all of their enriching support, encouragement, and steadfast faithfulness that they have shared with you as walked your way through law school and through this week’s bar exam. Perhaps send them a personal notecard. Or, make a quick phone call of thanks. Or send a snap chat of thankful appreciation.  Regardless of your particular method of communication, reach out to let them know out of the bottom of your heart that their support has been invaluable to you. That’s a great way to spend your time as you wait - over the course of the next several months - for the bar exam results.

3.  Finally, celebrate yourself, your  achievement, and your true grit....by taking time out - right now - to appreciate the momentous accomplishment of undertaking a legal education, graduating from law school, and tackling your bar exam.  You've done something great, and, more importantly, something mightily significant.  (Scott Johns).

February 23, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Wall of Inspiration

For first-time bar takers and repeat bar takers, this is the week they have prepared for the past two months. This preparatory period was particularly demanding for me as students responded to my advice and used the ASP office extensively. Between November and February, students from coast to coast engaged with me through emails and phone conversations. I heard the devastation of poor performance on mock exams and practice questions and read about the fear of failure and saw it spread to other bar takers. Current students expressed concern for bar takers and asked whether their former classmates were in touch with me. The most challenging aspect of this bar preparatory period was coaching students to manage the roller coaster of inevitable emotions. For some students, the “real talk” discussions to address frustrations, implosions, and physical tolls were insufficient. I had to find a creative way to re-energize bar takers.

Something I have always wanted to do but never had the opportunity to do came to mind. I always wanted to highlight the achievements of former students, mostly to inspire current students but I saw an opportunity to encourage my February bar takers as well. I contacted a select yet diverse group of alums who I believe would influence current students and requested pictures for display. With their permission, I would post pictures on a wall in my office and use them to motivate current students. Of course, not everyone responded but those who did were quite elated about the idea of sharing their pictures with others. This project provided me with the opportunity to speak with former students, some of whom I met for the first time almost eight years ago.

Today, about two thirds of my display board is filled with pictures from commencement and swearing-in ceremonies. So far, every day has been a wonderful walk down memory lane. I remember each student’s struggles and successes, laughter and excitement. I remember serious conversations we have had, new and unique things they taught me, and fears and concerns they harbored. I witnessed these students achieve their dreams.

For my February bar takers, I shared with them a photo of my wall with an inspirational message and it was a hit. I encouraged them to visualize their own successes and remember what they have already accomplished including the struggles of law school and all they overcame to make it to commencement. For my current students, when they come into my office, there are many unfamiliar faces, yet a few recognizable faces posted on my wall. This wall of pictures has been a great conversation starter particularly about the things students look forward to accomplishing. Reflection is imperative to rejuvenation. Every now and then, I look up at my wall and smile.

Congratulations to the February 2017 bar takers, you survived! Here’s to plenty of rest before your next endeavor. (Goldie Pritchard)

February 22, 2017 in Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)