Tuesday, September 6, 2016
The AALS Balance Section’s next topic call features Alli Gerkman, Director of Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers, speaking about ETL’s ground-breaking report on the foundations that are necessary for new attorneys. The report - based on 24k+ respondents from 37 states and over 70 practice areas - shows that new lawyers are successful when they have a broad blend of legal skills, professional competencies, and most importantly, characteristics that comprise the "whole lawyer." Here are the details of our call.
AALS Balance Section Topic Call
Foundations for Practice: the Whole Lawyer and the Character Quotient Presented by Alli Gerkman, Director, Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers
October 6, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time
Call (712) 432-0850, access code 422626#
Our speaker Alli Gerkman will provide a brief overview of the report and how the findings were used in the summer session and orientation at Sturm College of Law. The call will then focus on the participants' comments, reactions, and questions, along the following topics:
Monday, September 5, 2016
Best wishes to all of our colleagues and students as everyone enjoys a holiday from classes. How nice that it comes within a couple of weeks of the beginning of school so everyone can recharge a bit after a fast start-up! Say a fond farewell to summer and embrace the new semester wholeheartedly.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
The discussion of trigger warnings has continued in recent issues of The Chronicle of Higher Education because of recent events at the University of Chicago. This past week The Chronicle published a guide to trigger warnings that summarizes what has been going on at colleges and universities on this issue. The link is here: A Brief Guide to the Battle Over Trigger Warnings.
Friday, August 26, 2016
There's a new article in the ABA Journal called "Should Students Call Law Professors By Their First Names?" At the start of every school year, I wonder about this issue.
Generally, most people at the law school, from my colleagues to my students, call me "Alex." When I first started working in ASP, that's what I thought I should be called. I thought it made me more approachable and would make students more likely to accept or seek out my help. Also, it's how I think of myself, and when I was in college, I thought it was really cool that one of my professors went by "Mr." when he could have been "Professor" or "Doctor." To me, the gesture was egalitarian and punk rock, and it actually made me more receptive to what he had to say.
However, from time to time, one of my colleagues says I shouldn't go by "Alex" and that I'm being too low key and casual. As far as I know, my choice to be "Alex" hasn't led to destructive over-familiarity or lack of respect to myself or anyone else. I could see how it might, but every time I think about being more formal, I get an image of Dr. Evil complaining that he "didn't spend six years in evil medical school to be called 'mister,' thank you," which kind of derails the entire thing.
There's every possibility I'm wrong in the way I'm thinking about this name thing and whether "Alex" is more comfortable and effective than "Professor" or "Mister" of "Director." Although I said they could, a lot of students don't use my first name, and I couldn't say I was necessarily comfortable with using first names as a student. When I was graduating college, my favorite professor told me that I could call him "Kirk" now that I was a graduate. I couldn't get used to it, so I joked around that I would call him "Snake" (during a hike, we had decided that would be his biker name, if he was a biker). Twenty-something years later, I still call him "Snake." As far as I remember, I called only one law professor by his first name, and that was because we spent a lot of time working on a symposium together, and that's what he asked to be called. For my masters degrees, I called fiction writers and poets by their first names, but that was standard with everyone.
I'm sure I'll wonder about this next year. So far, I've never decided to change. Part of it is that I believe ASP serves a different purpose and has different strengths and weaknesses than your average law class, but part of it is that I think I'd ultimately be less useful to struggling students if I put in place some sort of formality I didn't feel comfortable with. In the immortal words of Popeye, "I yam what I yam," and possibly this is a good enough reason to go by "Alex" as any. (Alex Ruskell)
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
American Bar Association
Communications and Media Relations Division
Contact: Priscilla Totten
American Bar Association introduces premium memberships for law students
CHICAGO, Aug. 23, 2016 — Law students can now upgrade their free American Bar Association membership to Premium Membership to access exclusive benefits and savings.
Premium ABA members save $250 on BARBRI Bar Review; get $25 off West Academic case books and study guides; and receive a free legal ethics course outline from Quimbee.com (a $29 value).
“We’re excited to connect law students with the tools they need to succeed in law school, pass the bar and launch their legal careers,” ABA President Linda Klein said. “These benefits help alleviate some of the costs of law school education and joining the profession.”
Premium members are eligible for Law Student Division leadership opportunities and to compete in the Law Student Division’s four annual professional skills competitions. They will also have the opportunity to connect with lawyers and other ABA legal professionals for networking and resume review. Additionally, Premium members receive a free “ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC)” e-book and discounts on the print and annotated hard copies.
Premium Membership is only $25, and offers all of the benefits of Free Membership.
Free Membership includes five ABA Practice Specialty Groups (a $50 value); a three-month subscription to Quimbee.com (a $72 value); access to ABA Advantage Member Discounts; and a subscription to the Law Student Division’s “Student Lawyer” magazine.
All law students are eligible for Free Membership and can upgrade to Premium Membership at any time.
To join for free or upgrade to Premium Membership, visit abaforlawstudents.com.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.ambar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.
Friday, August 19, 2016
Whenever I lecture, I put together a PowerPoint of different pictures emphasizing one point or another I am trying to make. A few years ago, I put up a picture of a clown to go along with my statement that "No one you actually want to be friends with thinks you're a bozo if you mess up when you are called on in class. They're just happy they weren't the ones called on." After the lecture, a student came up and asked if it would be possible to add a "trigger warning" if I was going to put up any more clown pictures.
At first, I honestly thought the student was just messing with me and possibly trying to make some political statement about the validity of "trigger warnings" or something. I quickly realized he wasn't. Apparently, he was just really scared of clowns.
It would have been very easy for me to blow off the student's request or make some comment about living in the real world or toughening up if he expected to be a decent lawyer. I could completely understand someone thinking that I should have done exactly that and that there would have been some educational value in me doing so. I didn't have any more clown pictures on any of my other slides for the entire year, so it was basically a non-issue.
Still, I went back to my office without really saying much of anything and thought about it. At heart, I thought the idea of a "trigger warning" for clowns was goofy and probably devalued the entire idea of a warning for things or concepts that might actually be deserving of some kind of warning. But then I wondered why exactly I thought so? Was I simply being arrogant in thinking that a trigger warning for clowns was dumb? Was this an isolated weird case or the beginning of some slippery slope where I had to warn people about everything? If I didn't honor the request, why wasn't I honoring it? By honoring it, was I handing over power to the student that I shouldn't give him? Did I really have a good reason or was I simply choosing not to listen? Had I reached the age where I'm utterly convinced of the halcyon days of my own youth and thought that this generation should just freaking grow up and get off my lawn?
When I was in law school, my friend's wife was pregnant. All 130 of us in our section knew it because he talked about it constantly. Chris wore a beeper on his belt in case his wife went into labor while he was in class. One day in torts, after we'd spent about an hour talking about accidents at birth and fetal defects and what not, his beeper went off. None of us could believe that it had chosen to go off at that exact moment, including my professor, who suddenly looked a little green. Chris stood up, looked at the beeper, and merrily said, "Well, I hope my baby isn't born dead!" Then he bolted out of the room. The baby was fine, but for at least 24 hours I think my professor was worried he had somehow cursed her.
Once, I was giving a guest lecture on the law to about 200 high school students and one of the students asked me a question. To answer it, I came up with a hypothetical on the spot revolving around drunk driving and a car wreck. If I remember correctly, I used the phrase "guy gets drunk after football game, car plows into tree ..." As I'm talking, I notice some of the students start crying. A few get up and leave. A couple of teachers come over and begin to comfort people.
What I didn't know was that the week before my lecture the exact scenario had happened and a couple of students died. Once I figured out what was going on, I apologized, back-tracked, and apologized some more. But the lecture was done. They weren't able to hear me anymore. Remarkably, the evaluations they turned in for the talk were really positive, except for a few students who thought I "should have known" or "should have read the paper." I knew that I really hadn't done anything wrong, but I still wished it hadn't happened.
Basically, the clown thing reminded me of the car crash thing and Chris's baby thing, and for about two weeks I fell down a second-guessing spiral of everything I was doing. I had students read Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" (which is about a village stoning someone to death) simply because it was a classic story and I needed something short to gauge reading speed with. Should I change it to something a little less violent? I had them brief the "Ghostbuster" case and Mayo v. Satan and his Staff. Could this be offensive to the deeply religious? I used an example of a lifeguard and a child drowning to talk about negligence. Had any of my students lost someone to drowning? Should I come up with something else?
Ultimately, I calmed down and decided I didn't need to change anything, although I did get rid of the clown picture because it was pretty unnecessary, admittedly creepy, and it reminded me of Pennywise from Stephen King's "It."
Academic Support helps all students, many of them vulnerable. It has to be supportive and inclusive in a way that other parts of legal education probably don't need to be. That fact is actually one of the things I like most about it. I've turned the second-guessing into a habit, and if something sets off my radar, I either change it or ask a colleague if I'm being crazy. So far, I haven't changed anything and I've been told I'm being crazy several times, but I think I've become a more effective educator by at least asking myself the question.
Saturday, August 6, 2016
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Thursday, July 7, 2016
The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article in its July 1st issue that looked at the relationship between universities and their law schools now that many law schools are no longer the cash cows they once were. Implications for law school strategies toward applicant credentials, national rankings, class size, faculty and staff cuts, and university relations are very real. The ultimate impact on academic support's ability to serve students in this changing world is just one of many unknowns. The article is found here: here.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
I am sitting in a flat in London watching one of the Brexit wrap-up news shows. As someone who teaches EU Law and Comparative Law: The English Legal System, the referendum vote and aftermath have been fascinating.
I always encourage the students in my courses to "take off their U.S. spectacles" and try to understand the views and processes of other legal systems. Law students have certainly had an interesting year to watch in Europe with the migrant crisis, terrorist attacks, and Brexit.
For those who have not been following the happenings across the pond, let me do a quick summary of the action.
- As part of the party manifesto in the last General Election, the winning Conservative (Tory) Party promised to renegotiate the terms of the UK's membership in the European Union and to then hold a referendum on membership.
- In February, the renegotiated terms with the EU were finalized; the Prime Minister had negotiated new terms in several areas with disagreement in the UK as to the success of those negotiations.
- Within days of the renegotiated terms, the Prime Minister set the date for a referendum on whether to remain in the EU.
- The official campaign for remaining was named Britain Stronger in Europe - colloquially Remain; the official campaign for leaving was named Vote Leave - colloquially Leave.
- The pre-vote campaigns and debates leaned heavily on speculative promises on what Brexit would involve, mudslinging, name calling, and lying with statistics; UK citizens voiced frustration on not knowing what to believe.
- On June 23rd, UK citizens voted in a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union.
- The vote was in favor of leaving the EU - rounded 52% leave and 48% remain.
- London, Scotland, and Northern Island voted strongly for remain; England and Wales voted strongly for leave.
- Voters over 65 voted mainly to leave; 18-24 year-olds voted mainly to remain.
- Approximately 83% of older voters turned out while 35% of younger voters turned out.
- The main issues debated were the economy, immigration, and sovereignty.
- The Conservative (Tory) Party was split between Remain and Leave campaigners.
- The Labour Party was part of the Remain campaign; Labour voters mainly voted for leave.
- The Liberal Democrats Party stood for Remain, but was fairly quiet during the campaign.
- The UKIP Party focused mainly on national identity and immigration. (Note: there are three main parties and additional parties in the UK; UKIP is a right nationalist party.)
- The Remain campaign focused mainly on the economy; the Leave campaign focused mainly on national identity and immigration.
- David Cameron, the Prime Minister, will resign as soon as the Conservative (Tory) Party chooses a new leader at its September party conference. (Note: the electorate votes for the governing party and not the P.M. in the UK; so the 150,000 party faithful will determine the new P.M.)
- Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, is being attacked for his lack of leadership for the Remain campaign. Many of his shadow cabinet members have resigned, and there is a call for his resignation after a no-confidence vote among Labour MPs.
- There are calls for a General Election in the near future. (Note: the governing party determines when an election is held within its 5-year governing period.)
- Pro-EU Scotland is talking about a new referendum to leave the UK; and its First Minister has been meeting with EU leaders.
- The pound fell to its lowest level since 1985 on Friday and has stayed depressed.
- Shares fell steeply on Friday in all world markets - especially banking shares - and have not fully recovered.
- The Governor of the Bank of England and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have made statements to reassure the country of the economic stability of the UK.
- The Prime Minister met with EU leaders at an emergency meeting in Brussels; the other 27 Member States' leaders then met without him to discuss the 2-year UK withdrawal process required under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty as a result of the referendum.
- Some are predicting the disintegration of the EU because the exit of the UK will trigger exits of other Member States. (Note: there are 28 Member States including the UK.)
- Remain campaigners are pointing fingers; Leave campaigners are back-peddling on "promises" they made before the vote.
The UK firmly believes in the democratic process. The democratic process can be messy. At first glance, democracy seems to be causing pain within the UK for the short-term and possibly longer. Most say that 500+ years of parliamentary democracy show that the UK will survive this blip. Rule of law is firmly in place in the UK.
The business now is for the UK government to unify, determine the desired future for the UK, and begin negotiations with the EU for the withdrawal. The EU needs to get down to the business of negotiations that will be fair to the UK and to the EU and stabilize the EU.
Hopefully, these global happenings will give our law students food for thought about democracy, rule of law, leadership, and globalization. How the UK handles Brexit will provide additional lessons on democracy in the next months and years. The importance of democratic processes is front and center for all.
Now we, and our law students, get to watch our own example of democracy as the election process plays out. No matter what our political views, we need to understand our important roles in democracy as citizens and as lawyers who protect those democratic processes and the rule of law. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Does that voice in your head ever cause you to feel anxious or defeated? Negative self-talk is something that many people have to combat.
What do I mean by negative self-talk? It is when you think: "I have never been any good at math, so Income Tax is going to be impossible." OR "The bar exam is so hard to pass, there is no way I can pass on the first attempt." OR "Law school is so hard. I just can't do this." OR "What if I get the format wrong on this memo - I'll fail for sure."
Negative self-talk is destructive. It causes us anxiety, lack of motivation to try harder, and defeats us before we have a chance to prove what we can do. It underestimates our abilities and considers us unable to improve.
It is important to learn how to rebut negative self-talk and replace it with positive self-talk. When that negative voice in your head starts carping at you, you want to stop it in its tracks. After all, lawyers practice rebuttal on a regular basis in their jobs. It is time to learn to do it in your private realm.
So, when the voice tells you that you will be hopeless at Income Tax, think positively to rebut: "Income Tax may use numbers, but I mainly am learning steps to analyze the scenarios. I can follow the steps to succeed." OR "I may not like math, but that is what a calculator is for." OR "If I study hard, I can learn how to succeed in Income Tax as a subject."
What about the bar exam negative talk? Rebut it with the following types of thinking: "The bar exam is hard, but I can pass it on the first attempt if I don't psych myself out." OR "I know lots of people who pass on the first attempt because they worked hard each day and completed lots of practice questions; I can do this." OR "I have a study plan and am doing all the things I need to do, so I will pass on the first attempt."
The law school challenge: "I was accepted to law school because I am able to do this; I need to believe in myself." OR "I need to learn new strategies; the Office of Academic Support can help me." OR "I can do this; I just need to go talk to my professor about the questions I have rather than stay confused."
The memo format: "I need to stop worrying about the format, and go to the professor for guidance." OR "I need to refer back to my assignment instructions and re-read about the format required." OR "I need to view the Power Point slides from class again, so I get the right format."
You see the difference? You don't want to let discouragement become your mantra. Often you can take a more positive stance and even think of actions to resolve a situation.
Can you think of the negative things that you commonly tell yourself when you get discouraged, find something overly hard, are tired, or are feeling low? Take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. On the left column put the heading "Negative Self-Talk" and on the right column put the heading "Positive Self-Talk." Now list the negative things your voice in your head tells you in the left column. In the right column, write the rebuttal to that negative statement. In fact, write several rebuttals if they come to mind.
Next time you hear that negative self-talk, rebut it immediately. You may find a new negative self-talk phrase pops up or one that you forgot about. Write it on your list and add the rebuttal. As you practice rebuttal, your negative self-talk should become less frequent. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, May 20, 2016
Boing Boing is one of my favorite websites. When I was looking at it the other day, I stumbled across a mention of my last academic success book, A Weekly Guide to Being a Model Law Student, which was pretty cool (Amy Jarmon was kind enough to review the book on this site last November, and she said nice things about the illustrations in it, which, if you've ever looked at my cartoons, you know was an incredibly kind and generous thing to do). Boing Boing mentioned A Weekly Guide to talk about my favorite case of all time, Mayo v. Satan and His Staff, which I use to start off the book.
Then, I followed the link and saw that Weird Universe, another pop culture website, quoted the entire "academic-success-point-I-was-trying-to-make."
So, I am now keeping my fingers crossed for an inexplicable law school academic support shout-out in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or in a posthumous Prince song. In my dreams, I have hope that Prince left a song in his vault called "Law School Academic Support Professionals are 2Funky."
On the serious side, we're going to be using A Weekly Guide to Being a Model Law Student as the required text for our new 1L Orientation at South Carolina, and if you'd like to ask me any questions about it, I'll be at AASE next week.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Thursday, May 5, 2016
Hat tip to Scott Johns, University of Denver School of Law, for informing us about a Wall Street Journal article on grit which can be found here: The Virtue of Hard Things. The article talks about Angela Duckworth's research and her book, Grit. Duckworth developed the Grit Scale and found that grit often predicted success better than innate ability. Grit combines passion and perseverance. Duckworth has implemented the Hard Thing Rule in her own family: choosing and committing to one difficult activity that requires daily practice.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
The AALS Balance Section’s next topic call features Prof. Paula Manning, speaking about her excellent article "Understanding the Impact of Inadequate Feedback: A Means to Reduce Law Student Psychological Distress, Increase Motivation, and Improve Learning Outcomes."
Here are the details for the call. Please forward to your colleagues.
What: AALS Balance Section Topic Call
Presented by Prof. Paula Manning, Western State
College of Law
When: May 4, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time
Call-in #: (712) 432-0850, access code 422626#
Readings: "Understanding the Impact of Inadequate Feedback: A Means to Reduce Law Student Psychological Distress, Increase Motivation, and Improve Learning Outcomes."
Format: Presentation by our speaker, followed by discussion
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
It seems that the closer students get to crunch time and deadlines, the more problems, errors, and mishaps that occur. Here are some end-of-the semester laments students have told me over recent years:
- My laptop crashed, so I lost all of my briefs, class notes, and outlines.
- My laptop crashed during the exam, and IT could only retrieve part of the exam answers.
- My backpack was stolen with my completed assignment in it.
- I lost the thumb drive with my paper on it.
- We are puppy-sitting for my roommate's friend, and the puppy ate my outline.
- My three-year-old spilled my morning coffee over my final paper.
- The printer jammed and ate my paper.
- I was packing up my backpack to leave work and temporarily rested my research binder on top of the trash can. Then I left without it. The custodian threw the binder away.
- My neighborhood lost electricity during a storm, so I couldn't email my paper by the deadline.
- The copier store closed early, and I couldn't get my appellate brief bound.
- My professor didn't talk about those reading assignments in class, so I didn't study that material for the exam.
- I entered the appointment in my phone, but forgot to look at the calendar.
- The professor never reminded us about the required on-line workshop.
- I set my cell phone alarm for p.m. instead of a.m. by mistake and overslept.
- I didn't read the syllabus so I used the wrong format/missed the deadline/didn't know the assignment was graded.
Organization, planning, and time management are critical skills for lawyers. Setting earlier, artificial deadlines for tasks allows extra time in case of a mishap. Reading documents carefully and calendaring deadlines are essential steps. Computer back-up needs to be an automatic reflex. Care with details can save the day. We may not be able to avoid every mishap, but we can certainly narrow the odds with some thought. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, April 7, 2016
Many readers no doubt noted the recent news that George Mason University would rename its law school in honor of Justice Antonin Scalia. Social media quickly led the way in comments about the acronym that would result from the Antonin Scalia School of Law. The Chronicle of Higher Education has put out the word that the law school's name will have a new twist and now become the Antonin Scalia Law School. Having once upon a time been saddled with the official title of Director of Academic Support Services by university bureaucrats, I can empathize. My university determined that the official title would never be used, and I became unofficially Director of Academic Support. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
On behalf of AASE, I would like to announce the nomination and election procedures for the Executive Board for the upcoming year. Our bylaws mandate an electronic election completed by the first day of our national conference that is overseen by an election committee. For those of you who are fans of reading bylaws, they are attached below.
So, in accordance with the bylaws, we have set up the following process. Please go to the Membership page of the AASE website and follow the Nomination link which can be found here: http://www.associationofacademicsupporteducators.org/membership.html. To nominate someone, you must be an AASE Member. If you are unsure whether you are an AASE member, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You many nominate only one person for each position, but you can nominate the same person for more than one position. Self-nominations are allowed.
Nominations are due by April 22, 2016. All nominees confirmed by the election committee (Jamie Kleppetsch, Paula Manning, and myself – the members of the Executive Board who are not eligible to run for an office) will be forwarded to the Executive Board by May 1, 2016. We will then circulate an online ballot. Voting will be open for one week leading up to the national conference and will close on May 24, 2016, the end of the first day of the national conference.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, Jamie, or Paula.
- Elections. Any member of the Association in good standing, except an Emeritus Member, is eligible for elected office.
(A) Pursuant to Article VIII, the President of the Association shall each year appoint an Elections Committee. By April 1 of each year, the chair of the Elections Committee shall invite AASE members to nominate candidates for officer election.
(B) A nomination may be transmitted to the Elections Committee in any form, but, to be effective, it must be received by April 22. The Elections Committee shall determine whether each nominated person is eligible. The Elections Committee shall also contact each nominated person to determine whether each nominated person is willing to serve.
(C) By May 1 of each year, the Elections Committee shall forward to the Executive Committee a list of eligible persons who have been nominated and have confirmed their willingness to serve (the “nominees”) together with statements of interest submitted by the nominees.
(D) In accordance with Article IV(8), the Elections Committee shall schedule an electronic mail election to be completed no later than the first day of the annual meeting for that year.
(E) The Elections Committee, under the supervision of the President and the President Elect, shall oversee the counting of ballots and shall certify the results to the Secretary. Nominees receiving the largest number of votes shall be deemed elected whether or not they receive a majority of the votes cast. In the event of a tie vote, the Elections Committee shall schedule a runoff election between the nominees who received an equal number of votes on the first ballot. The Elections Committee shall provide seven days’ notice of any such runoff election.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Hat tip to James B. Levy (Nova Southeastern) of the Legal Skills Prof Blog for a post that mentioned a Harvard Business Review article on a study looking at grades and narcissism. The link to the Harvard Business Review article is here: Narcissistic Students Get Better Grades from Narcissistic Professors.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
The above title is from a February 5th posting Dean Richard Bales (Ohio Northern) on the Law Deans on Legal Education Blog. The post considers the Mount Saint Mary College's President's controversial remarks on struggling students and the pressure that law schools are under to increase bar pass rates. The link is here: Glocking Bunnies.