Thursday, December 17, 2015
Mark Beese, President of Leadership for Lawyers, has an interesting article in the December 2015 online issue of Law Practice Today. He discusses briefly Carol Dweck's mindset theory as well as Learn or Die by Edward Hess. His article lists some ways that law firms can encourage learning. The link to the article is here: The Law Firm as a Learning Organization. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Our guest post today is by Louis N. Schulze, Jr., Assistant Dean and Professor of Academic Support at Florida International University College of Law. He served on the faculty of Suffolk University Law School (2004-07) and New England Law | Boston (2007-14), earning tenure at the latter in 2012. He is a former Chair of the AALS Section on Academic Support.
Outsourcing Academic Support is a Problematic Proposition
I have been intrigued recently by the discussion occurring on the Academic Support listserv. One member of our community posted a request for information about whether, and to what extent, schools partner with and/ or outsource bar preparation and academic support to bar prep companies. Some schools have dabbled with partnering, and other schools report full-scale immersion. What I took from all of these reports (and my own discussions) was that bar prep companies seek not only to have a hand in for-credit bar prep courses but also in the area of traditional academic support. This troubles me.
I write to express my belief that the wholesale outsourcing of academic support to bar prep companies, though perhaps an attractive proposition for some deans, is a questionable one when viewed through the lens of assessing what is best for our students, our institutions, and the legal profession.
I. Some Preliminary Matters.
First, I think a dichotomy exists between bar prep companies’ role in curricular bar preparation during law school and bar prep companies’ role in academic support during law school. Unsurprisingly, bar prep companies are quite good at bar prep. For reasons explained infra, I believe that bar prep companies are less able to meet the unique goals of academic support.
Part of my thesis relies on this distinction; while I am somewhat more optimistic about partnering with bar prep companies for curricular bar preparation during law school, I am far less sanguine about the increased presence of bar preparation companies in the area of academic support. I think this dichotomy is a crucial one for deans and academic support professionals to digest, as there is a material difference between these two realms.
Second, I think a distinction exists between “partnering” with a bar prep company and the “wholesale outsourcing” of courses or programs. Unlike the bar prep/ academic support dichotomy I posit above, I see this distinction more as a spectrum than a binary choice. The lightest form of “partnering” would likely be adopting a bar prep company’s materials and questions in a course, while the opposite end of the spectrum (the “wholesale outsourcing”) would entail having a bar prep company fully teach and administer some facet of a law school’s offerings.
In my view, as a law school’s choices increase from “partnering” towards “wholesale outsourcing,” those choices become more questionable. While there are no doubt many acceptable points along the spectrum, law schools ought to think carefully about crossing the threshold between partnering and outsourcing, especially in the area of academic support.
II. My Arguments.
My thesis is that law schools should not outsource academic support, per se, to bar prep companies. I am less concerned about partnering/ outsourcing law school bar prep courses. I am even only mildly concerned about partnering with bar companies in the area of academic support. But what I fear is that bar prep companies, in the name of diversifying product lines and increasing profits, will seek to dominate not only the bar prep market and the law school bar prep course market, but also the field of academic support. In my view, such a result would do more harm than good to our students.
But why is this so?
1. First, one-on-one academic support is the most effective academic support, but it is not the most cost-efficient. Anyone who teaches law school academic support has had the experience of watching a student’s eyes light up as they have the big “ah ha!” moment. Some call this “the law school click.” It occurs when a student suddenly makes multiple connections, all at once, and realizes exactly what her professors are getting at – why we use cases to teach law; why creating outlines is important; why we test the way we do; why one must “argue both sides”; why all these methods make students better lawyers.
Usually, this moment occurs in an office with both student and ASP professor huddled over a desk, reviewing an exam, a paper, or some other work product. This moment is usually preceded by other less fruitful in-person moments, but the point is that the “ah ha” moment is one that happens over time and in a one-on-one setting. While it’s true that our ASP classes facilitate these moments, and give the framework and coursework for the moments of enlightenment, I’ve found that the “ah ha” moments happen in-person.
This is much less likely to happen if academic support is provided by bar prep companies. Why? Bar prep companies are corporations, and as such they owe fiduciary duties to their investors. They do not owe fiduciary duties to the students they are teaching. As a result, if they can cut costs by reducing costly endeavors they can and must do so. The first item on the chopping-block would be the costly method of one-on-one, individualized meetings.
2. Academic support is not one size fits all, but one size fits all is cost-efficient. Each law school’s academic support methods differ significantly from the methods of others. This has a lot to do with the differences in administrations, faculties, students, and missions of each law school. Applying the methods of one school to that of another would be ineffective because academic support must be tailored to the environment of the law school. An approach to the contrary waters down the effectiveness of the program, plain and simple.
But, one size fits all is cost-efficient. If a corporation could fashion an academic support program that could be installed as-is into multiple law schools, such a program would increase the profit margin of the endeavor. By contrast, tailoring an academic support program to the unique needs of individual schools (let alone students) would be cost-inefficient. Changing aspects of the curriculum to account for differences in faculties, students, and other stakeholders would require person-hours, and person-hours come with a price tag. As a result, because bar prep companies are corporations, and corporations have a fiduciary duty to the bottom line, academic support would likely become one size fits all.
3. There are many purposes for academic support, but bar passage is the ultimate purpose of any bar prep company. Law schools provide academic support for myriad reasons: to decrease dismissal rates; to support students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds; to humanize the law school environment; to communicate performance expectations more expressly; to increase bar passage rates; and to make students better lawyers. Each institution may emphasize these purposes differently, but at the very least each of these is likely on the table in terms of justifying expenditures for academic support.
But, the purpose of a bar prep company is solely to promote bar passage. While this purpose might coincide with some of the other purposes, it likely subordinates them to a “lesser” status. Moreover, setting bar passage as the sole or primary purpose of academic support could actually be antithetical to the other goals. For instance, one could argue that to increase bar passage rates, a law school should actually increase its dismissal rates. That way, only the strongest students “count” in terms of bar passage rate. An academic support program focused solely on bar passage, therefore, might spend little time on saving 1Ls and all of its time on those who managed to get through. Although this approach might increase a school’s bar passage rate, it would utterly fly in the face of schools’ duties to the students they admit.
4. Successful academic support relies heavily on an ASP faculty’s engagement with other faculty. If academic support is outsourced to bar prep companies, whose employees would not be embedded in the institution full-time (under the proposal with which I am familiar), the academic support program would lack the crucial element of connection to the institution’s faculty.
This point relates to “buy-in,” and a successful academic support program must have it from both faculty and students. Students buy in to an academic support program if they know that there is a regular and positive collaboration between their doctrinal faculty (who will grade their work) and their academic support faculty. Meanwhile, doctrinal faculty buy in to an academic support program when they know, among other things, that the academic support faculty will help students with more than just passing the bar and that the academic support faculty will not re-teach the doctrine or teach in a way that conflicts with their course. Because a cost-efficient bar prep company academic support provider must pop around between multiple law schools, neither students nor faculty can be assured that the support program will embody the type of multi-stakeholder synergy necessary for success.
5. Another crucial element of successful academic support is knowledge of one's students’ strengths and weaknesses and providing counseling that helps enhance the former and mitigate the latter. This happens over time and requires a great deal of relationship building. The level of trust required to develop these relationships seems unlikely to exist if the academic support provider is not imbedded within the institution.
This point relates to the murky intersection of academic support and counseling. While ASP faculty are (mostly) not trained psychological counselors, a great deal of our most effective work occurs on the personal level. An outsourced academic support program might be able to determine that a student is weak on essays, but a true academic support professional will know WHY the student developed this weakness and how to help work the student toward mastering the problem – both on the academic and personal level. An outsourced academic support program simply will not have time to work on this holistic (but critical) endeavor. In short, an outsourced program teaches students; a true academic support program teaches people.
6. Subtle conflicts of interest. ASP faculty are often called upon to be unofficial advocates for the student body. Because we know our constituency so well, we provide robust input in institutional conversations that could impact students. Because we have certain employment protections (and this is just one reason why ASP professionals should be eligible to earn tenure and long-term contracts), we can advocate for students in ways that outside contractors cannot. Because bar prep companies will likely have their own pecuniary interests in mind, they likely will not advocate for students in the same way as ASP faculty.
For instance, many ASP professionals serve on their law school’s Academic Review Committee or provide data to those committees when they decide whether to readmit dismissed students. Student petitions for readmission often paint the rosiest picture for the students’ readmission, while grades and LSAT scores provide only a limited picture of a student’s potential. ASP professionals who have worked closely with the dismissed students can provide information that paints a clearer and more objective picture of whether a school should take a chance on readmitting dismissed students.
Outsourced academic support programs cannot possibly provide that level of objectivity and nuance. First, it is doubtful that an Academic Review Committee would permit an outside contractor ever to serve on such a committee. But even if the committee accepted data and observations from such a source, how could the committee ever trust that the information is objective when the outside contractor has a vested interest in ensuring that no “borderline” student ever sits for the bar and possibly harm the school’s bar passage rate? Why would an outside contractor ever take such a chance when their future contractual relations rely on bar passage? As a result, law schools lose an opportunity for clearer information about their students when they outsource academic support.
Law schools should not outsource academic support to commercial bar prep companies, a proposal that at least one company is marketing. At many schools, in-house academic support programs provide a genuine and effective source for student support. Partnering with such companies in the area of academic support and even outsourcing curricular bar prep courses might be reasonable, but the wholesale abrogation of a law school’s fiduciary duty to prepare its students for success is deeply problematic. Should law schools follow this slippery slope, they slide one step closer to outsourcing clinical, legal writing, and even doctrinal teaching.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Many of our students have completed all of their exams. Some are relaxed, happy, laughing, and looking forward to a 5 1/2-week break from school. Others are glad the exams are over, but now are anxious about the long wait for grades. Some are anxious because they want to be the people who get the As instead of the B+s or Bs. But more students are concerned about "the great middle" or about the low end of the grading spectrum. These students perhaps found one or more exams particularly difficult or were unable to complete an exam because of time management.
Whatever the situation, spending the entire semester break stressing about grades is counter-productive. The exams are over. No amount of anxiety is going to change the outcomes. And at most law schools, grades will not be due until after the holidays, so there is no quick remedy to the wait.
Here are some general thoughts on exams that may help our law student readers while waiting for grades to be posted:
- An exam tests the student on one set of questions, on one day, and during one testing time period. A student's grade may not reflect the depth of understanding across an entire course or how that day/time period was a bit "off" for the student.
- Avoid beating yourself up about specifics of an exam. Whether you are annoyed that you missed several issues, ran out of time, or misstated a rule, realize that you did the best you could under the time constraints and on the questions asked.
- Ignore what other students' said after the exam. Some will claim it was easy or that they aced it in order to make others nervous. Some will have written about issues that were not on the exam despite their certainty that you missed an important issue. Drama comes with the territory; do not let it increase your stress.
- Remember that law school exams are not of the undergraduate variety where 95 - 100% is an A grade. Law school exams are difficult, and it is not uncommon for the A grades to go to students who received 70 - 75% of the possible points.
- Obviously you want to manage your time well enough to finish an exam whenever possible. However, some professors write exams that take more time to complete than the time allotted. Why? Sometimes they misjudge what students can finish in the allotted time (after all, they are experts on the material). Sometimes they purposely write a longer exam than the allotted time because it makes it easier for the students who really understood the material to stand out in their application of the concepts. Remember that you may not be alone in not completing the entire exam.
- A bad grade on an exam is one event in a longer academic career in law school. Assuming your law school program is around 90 credits, you might have 20 - 30 exams over that time. One course is just a small portion of that academic career.
It is very important that you keep your perspective about your value as a law student and a person:
- You are not the sum total of your grades. Whether your grades are high, average, or low, you are so much more than those letters. You are the same bright and talented person as when you walked across the law school threshold for the first time.
- You are part of a group of very intelligent people, so your competition for grades may be different than in your past experiences. You may have to work harder or study differently to meet the challenges of being in a very bright cohort of law students. Take time to evaluate your study habits and exam-taking strategies. Note what worked and what needs improvement during the next semester.
- Do not underestimate your worth if you receive lower grades than you expected. You can improve your grades by implementing new study and exam-taking strategies. The academic support professionals at your law school can assist you in learning those strategies.
- But also do not overestimate your brilliance if you did well; students learn from their studying and exam-taking errors and often improve the next semester - especially first-year students. So do not become complacent about your success and slack off while others will be making changes to improve their grades.
- If you decide that law school is not for you, that is okay. However, make that decision based on pursuing another career passion rather than on emotion over grades. If you love the law and realize that different strategies will improve your learning, then law school may still be for you. But if you know you really want to be an artist, get an MBA, open your own business, or attend nursing school, then go after your dream. Law school is not for everyone.
- Should your grades end up so weak that you are not allowed to continue in law school, you are not a failure. You did not do well in law school, but that does not equate with being a bad person or a failure in life. I know a number of people who left law school for academic reasons and enjoyed successful careers in other fields. They found their niches; it just was not a good match in law.
Fill your wait time for grades productively. Spend time with family and friends. Pet a dog. Laugh with a child. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or charity event to refocus on life's values. Catch up on sleep and exercise. Enjoy some home cooking. Value what you may have missed while immersed in legal studies. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
CALL FOR NOMINATIONS FOR OFFICERS AND BOARD MEMBERS FOR THE AALS SECTION ON ACADEMIC SUPPORT
At the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) in New York City, the Section on Academic Support will have its business meeting on Saturday, January 9 at 7:00 a.m. (Room TBA). A principal agenda item will be the election for positions on the Executive Committee.
The Nomination Committee is now accepting nominations for positions to be elected at the 2016 meeting. The four elected Board Members serve staggered two-year terms, with two members being elected in odd-numbered years, and two being elected in even-numbered years. The four Board Members, together with the Chairperson, the Chairperson-Elect, the Immediate Past Chair, the Secretary, and the Treasurer, constitute the Executive Committee of the Section. The Executive Committee is the key policy-making body of the Section, and acts on behalf of the section in the interval between annual meetings. Because some vacancies have occurred unexpectedly in the Executive Committee for next year, Lisa Young (Seattle) will continue as Chair and Corie Rosen Felder (University of Colorado) will rotate from Treasurer to Chair-Elect in order to maintain continuity within the Executive Committee.
Positions to be filled: The officer positions which are vacant for the current election include Secretary and Treasurer. Two Board Members will be elected also, and the Board terms will expire January 2018.
The Secretary and Treasurer would be asked to serve as a Chair or Co-Chair of a committee during the position. For continuity purposes, the Secretary and Treasurer positions are recommended for rotation into other officer slots in the coming years. The Secretary rotates to Chair-Elect and then to Chair. The Treasurer rotates to Secretary, then Chair-Elect, and then Chair.
Board Members would be asked to serve as members of at least one committee during their positions.
Who May Be Nominated: Persons nominated must be faculty or professional staff at AALS-member law schools (link to AALS-member-school list: http://www.aals.org/member-schools/) and also be members of the AALS Section on Academic Support. The nominated person does not have to be present at this year’s AALS Annual Meeting, but would be expected to attend AALS in the future.
Who May Submit a Nomination: You may nominate yourself or any other eligible candidate at a AALS member school.
Contents of Nomination: Nominations must be in writing and include:
1)the candidate's name;
2) the candidate's title, institutional affiliation, and business address;
3) the candidate's home/business telephone numbers and e-mail address; and
4) the candidate's professional role at his/her institution and connection with law school academic support.
5)If you nominate someone other than yourself, please indicate whether you have obtained the nominee's permission.
Deadline: Nominations must be received by midnight on Tuesday December 15, 2015.
Where to send Nominations: Send nominations to Amy Jarmon, Assistant Dean for Academic Success Programs (Texas Tech) at firstname.lastname@example.org (email submissions are preferred) or to Dr. Amy L. Jarmon, Assistant Dean for Academic Success Programs, Texas Tech University School of Law, 1802 Hartford Avenue, Lubbock, TX 79409-0004.
The process after nominations close: After the nominations close, the Nomination Committee will ask each nominee to express his/her interest in serving on the Executive Committee, will review the nominations, and will recommend a slate of candidates at the business meeting. In addition, under the bylaws, nominations will be taken from the floor during the business meeting.
Section on Academic Support Programs Nomination Committee
Amy Jarmon (Chair), Texas Tech University
Jamie Kleppetsch, John Marshall Law School
Kris Franklin, New York Law School
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Monday, November 23, 2015
One of our readers (I won't use the name since the reader may prefer to be anonymous) asked about how to handle out-of-town, non-law-school/non-lawyer visitors who arrive for Thanksgiving despite one's best efforts to explain that visitors are not a plus during this crunch time for study. You are not alone in your problem!
The truth is that people who have not gone to law school have no idea what it is like - no matter how often we try to explain it. Often they assume that law students are exaggerating the study importance because they remember a carefree undergraduate, a graduate student in a degree program that was far less taxing, or a co-worker who was not obligated to study in non-work hours.
If you cannot diplomatically tell them no, then here are some suggestions:
The days before and after Thanksgiving Day:
- If possible, book them into a nice B&B or hotel rather than have them in your home. But, I assume this may not be possible.
- Stay firm on a study schedule and tell them you will only be available to visit with them during certain hours (you choose the hours). You need to stick to this schedule no matter the whining or tears. Ignore the guilt.
- If they are staying with you and willing to leave your home so you can study in peace, arm them with a map and a list of local events/attractions and send them on their way each day. If you can afford it, gift them with tickets to events/the movies/a concert, etc.
- If you cannot be ruler of your own domain, head for the public library, apartment complex business office, student union building on campus, or coffeehouse each morning and stay there until the time you have agreed to spend with them. Leave them lunch fixings to ease your guilt.
- Let them go shopping, watch football, and partake of other pastimes without you participating. Remind them that if they want your undivided attention during the hours you set each day, they have to let you study the remaining hours.
- Get up earlier or stay up later than your guests to spend additional time studying.
- Let's face it, you need some down time. So I would make Thanksgiving Day the most flexible day to spend with visitors.
- If you make a reservation at a restaurant for the turkey dinner or pick it up already prepared from a local grocery store/restaurant, you can save heaps of time in preparation and maybe get some extra study time in.
- While your visitors watch the parade or football or lay comatose on the couch, you may be able to study.
Good luck on juggling non-law visitors. It is not the easiest crowd to deal with when finals are looming ahead. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
The Chronicle of Higher Education had an article yesterday on the issue of campus hunger. You can read the article here: How Many College Students Are Going Hungry?
We need to consider how many of our law students may face the same issue. Not all students have family or friends who can help financially. It is not unusual for a law student to comment on loan money running out before the semester runs out.
Students comment that they go to a lunch speaker to get the free food provided - but until reading a similar comment in this article, I had not thought about that comment perhaps meaning more than just liking Chipolte, Jimmy John's, or some other cuisine on offer. (I seem to have suppressed my own memories of subsisting on toast, hot tea, and canned broth at the end of tough financial months.)
Most universities have free financial advice for students, including budgeting, but the advice may be too late in the problem to help. Although we can refer students to financial aid, the re-packaging rules often mean that nothing can be done for them. University accounting rules may prohibit emergency loan programs. There are local food pantries in many communities - or local churches that provide food boxes. Some students may qualify for food stamps.
If students do not let us know the problem, we will be unable to make appropriate referrals. It is not easy to admit you have no food or the money to buy it. And learning is difficult when you are worried about your next meal - or rent - or gas - or prescription - or, well you get the idea. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, October 30, 2015
Here are suggestions from law students on some of the software/apps they like:
For flashcards/spaced repetition:
- Flashcardlet (a variation of Quizlet)
- Flashcard Machine
For visual organizers:
For to do lists:
For blocking distractions:
- Cold Turkey
Do you have favorite apps for law school, time management, avoiding procrastination, or organizing your life? Add a comment to this post with your suggestions. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Friday, September 11, 2015
All of us in academic support and bar prep offer a variety of resources to our students. At times it is discouraging that fewer students than we hoped took advantage of a particular service that was offered.
But wait. Do we need 100% participation for an event or resource to have a positive impact? Sure, it is great if we can have mandatory programs. But few of us have that luxury for all students and usually have only a portion of our students who are required to attend.
Some students will complain that they are adults and argue against mandatory events. They would argue it is their choice to decide what to attend, what to access on-line, what to pick up as a hard-copy packet, or what to hit the delete button on. Until their grades flip them into a narrow mandatory category of at risk/probation, these students want to decide independently on their academic actions - not just whether to use ASP or bar prep resources but whether they will read for class or go to see a professor for assistance.
Mandatory versus voluntary is an on-going question because the students who most need to use resources often are the ones who do not use them. We all have students on probation who comment that they wish they had used resources the prior semester/year/years. The reasons why they did not use resources run the gamut: thought they were doing fine; thought everyone else needed the help but not them; did not like the day/time the workshop was held; forgot about the resources; had boyfriend/girlfriend/family/medical/work/other issues; could not find the office; did not want anyone to know they were struggling; were just lazy.
ASP'ers offer a variety of resources and formats to provide services in ways that might appeal to different learners and student needs. Below are just of few of the common options we offer:
- Voluntary summer programs
- Mandatory summer programs
- On-line summer programs
- Live workshops
- Videoed workshops
- For-credit courses - voluntary or mandatory
- Non-credit courses - voluntary or mandatory
- Writing across the curriculum with an ASP component
- Mandatory study groups
- Voluntary study groups
- Upper-division teaching assistants/teaching fellows/tutors
- Facebook information
- Twitter information
- Internet and intranet web pages
- Email study tips
- Official law school announcements
- Stand-alone ASP/bar prep workshops
- Workshops with student organization co-sponsors
- Workshops with bar review company co-sponsors
- Electronic packets of topical information
- Hard copy packets of topical information
- PowerPoint slide shows
- Formats with exercises, pair-and-share, and more
- Student panels on topics
- Faculty panels on topics
- Links to Internet resources
- And more
Boosting attendance? Food bribes work well until the budgets are cut (or students complain about too much pizza). Door prizes work well until the swag becomes same old-same old. And so forth.
So, here is the reality. 100% is not the only measure that matters. Having a positive impact for the students who choose a particular format/resource is legitimate. By providing options for a variety of consumers, we reach students where they are and when they want to partake.
My survey last spring on academic success resources reminded me that there are more students using resources each day than I may realize. There are a lot of "silent consumers" out there who use digital/hard copy packets and intranet/email resources; they just are not as visible as those who want appointments or attend workshops. The survey registered their appreciation for academic success services. It was a good reminder that options are important. The impact on each individual student through less visible methods was just as important an impact. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Hat tip to my Texas Tech Law colleague, Natalie Tarenko, for forwarding the link for a WSJ article about understanding procrastination. You can find the article here: To Stop Procrastinating, Start by Understanding the Emotions Involved. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Sunday, August 9, 2015
Others have often said it best and offered wisdom to help us gain perspective. (Amy Jarmon)
- I did not make sense of one single word spoken today. - Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (in a letter to his father after his first day in law school)
- Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous. - Confucius
- Learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought with ardor and attended to with diligence. - Abigail Adams
- "Learn" is an active verb. - Dennis Tonsing
- Borrowed brains have no value. - Yiddish proverb
- To know the law is not merely to understand the words, but as well their force and effect. - Justinian
- If you can't say it clearly, you don't understand it. - John Searle
- Writing is thinking made visible. - Joe Kimble
- Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you sow. - Robert Louis Stevenson
- You'll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind. - Irish proverb
- It's not the time you put in, but what you put in the time. - Burg's Philosophy
- Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff that life is made of. - Benjamin Franklin
- The two offices of memory are collection and distribution. - Samuel Johnson
- Repetition is the mother of learning. - Russian proverb
- If you study to remember, you will forget; but, if you study to understand, you will remember. - Unknown
- You can eat an elephant one bite at a time. - Chinese proverb
- To succeed, we must first believe that we can. - Michael Korda
- To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. - Joseph Chilton Pearce
- Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. - Dennis Waitley
- A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he begins to blame somebody else. - John Burroughs
- The leading rule for a lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today. - Abraham Lincoln
- What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. - Pericles
- Be the change you wish to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi
Friday, August 7, 2015
Across our nation, new 1Ls are concluding their preparations for the start of school. By the end of August, almost every new 1L will have crossed the threshold of a law school to begin the journey to a J.D. In these last days, there are a number of things that these 1Ls-to-be can do as final preparations:
- Read your emails and announcements from your law school every day. Read them carefully. You will be responsible for any instructions, first-day assignments, and other announcements that your law school sends out.
- Complete as many law school tasks and details as early as possible. Stay on top of instructions from your law school about computer access, email addresses, parking decals, billing accounts, and more. By completing as many steps on-line or on-campus before the first day, you can avoid a lot of last-minute hassles.
- Get moved in and unpacked as soon as possible. You need to hit the ground running from the first day of your orientation. By settling into your new space beforehand, you will have time to focus on law school instead of waiting for the cable guy, searching through boxes for necessities, and wasting time shopping for room decor.
- Complete a dry-run. At least the weekend before orientation starts, decide the best route to school by driving the options, check out where the correct parking lot is, give yourself another tour of your law school building, and scope out the neighborhood surrounding your law school for restaurants and other services. You will be more comfortable if you are familiar with the terrain.
- Prepare your elevator speech. You will be asked to introduce yourself a thousand times. Be able to do it in a minute or less. Avoid bragging, boasting, and self-adulation. You are now one in the impressive echelon of high achievers who enter law school. Stay confident, but be humble.
- Realize that you begin your professional career the first day you enter law school. Your classmates are your future professional colleagues. How you act and how you treat others during law school will determine your reputation as a lawyer for those classmates. Negative character traits and behaviors in law school can haunt you for years to come. Consider how you want to be remembered in the future.
- Spend some quality time with family and friends. Have fun with the significant people in your life in these last weeks. Law school will keep you very busy. Most full-time law students need to study 50 - 55 hours per week to get their best grades and gain an in-depth legal foundation for the bar exam and legal practice.
- Start a good sleep routine. Proper sleep will give your brain cells the boost they need. The study of law is heavy lifting. If you get 7 - 8 hours of sleep each night, you will be more alert, absorb information more quickly, be more productive with your time, and retain more information. And research tells us that a nice bonus of sleep is that you are less likely to gain weight compared to the sleep-deprived.
All of us in legal education look forward to your arrival at our law schools. Enjoy the last part of your summer as you prepare to become a 1L. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, July 30, 2015
If you have joined the academic support/bar preparation professional community for the first time, we welcome you to a rewarding career and wonderful group of colleagues. One thing that ASP is known for is collegiality. There are many experienced ASP'ers who will be happy to share ideas, materials, pitfalls to avoid, and much more. We hope that you will reach out to those of us in the ASP profession whenever we can assist you.
This post is the first in a series to help those who are new to ASP find resources, get settled in, and discover the professional community waiting to help them. Today's post lists some of these resources. The post is by no means exhaustive!
Professional organizations for ASP:
- Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Section on Academic Support: The upcoming annual meeting will be held January 6-10 , 2016 in New York City. The tentative schedule indicates that the Section's business meeting will be at 7 - 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 9th with the program (Raising the Bar) on the same date at 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.. An informal meal get-together is also usually scheduled. Our Section is co-sponsoring a program with the Section on Balance in Legal Education (Finding Your Voice in the Legal Academy) at 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. on Friday, January 8th. The Section on Teaching Methods also has a program on Friday. The Sections on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research and on Student Services are holding programs on Thursday, January 7th. The 2015-2016 Section on Academic Support Chair is Lisa Young at Seattle University School of Law (email@example.com). The AALS Section on Academic Support website is https://connect.aals.org/academicsupport.
- Association for Academic Support Educators (AASE): The upcoming conference will be held May 24 - 26 2016 at University of New York (CUNY) Law School on Long Island. The 2015-2016 President is at Pavel Wonsowicz at UCLA School of Law (firstname.lastname@example.org). The AASE website is http://www.associationofacademicsupporteducators.org/.
Websites and listservs for ASP:
- The ASP Listserv: The listserv membership is available to legal educators who interested in ASP/bar topics. To join the listserv, send an email to email@example.com. Subject line can be blank or say Subscribe ASP-L. In the body of the message type subscribe ASP-L your name title law school name. The listserv is a great place to ask questions of your colleagues, mention resources of interest, post workshops and conferences, and post job openings.
- The Law School Academic Support Blog: This blog is part of the Law Professor Blogs Network and will include postings of interest to ASP'ers, law students, and law faculty. Multiple postings are made each week on a variety of ASP/bar-related topics by the Editor and Contributing Editors. There is an archive function to search prior posts. Spotlight postings introduce new colleagues to the community and highlight colleagues' work. Job announcements are also posted. You can subscribe so that articles are directed to you inbox whenever postings occur. The Editor is Amy Jarmon at Texas Tech University School of Law (firstname.lastname@example.org). The website is http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/.
- The Law School Academic Success Project: This website is maintained by the AALS Section on Academic Support and receives ongoing funding from the Law School Admissions Council. The website includes sections for ASP'ers and students. Student pages are available without registration. To see the ASP pages, you need to be employed currently at a law school in ASP/bar-related work and register. After you register, please update the staff information for your law school to reflect current staff. There are a variety of resources on the site. The Committee Chairperson for the Website is O. J. Salinas at University of North Carolina School of Law (email@example.com). The website is lawschoolasp.org.
Other resources of interest:
- American Bar Association: The Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will be of interest. There are ABA publications, including the Student Lawyer which law students now can receive under the new free student division membership plan. The website for the Section is http://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education.html.
- Institute for Law Teaching and Learning: This consortium of law schools provides resources and conferences focused on best practices for legal education. The website is www.lawteaching.org.
- Law School Admissions Council (LSAC): LSAC has long been a champion of the academic support profession and diversity in the legal profession. For many years, LSAC sponsored workshops and conferences for ASP'ers. The website is www.lsac.org.
- Law School Success: Blog written by Susan Landrum at St. John's University School of Law. Website is http://lawschoolacademicsuccess.com/.
- National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE): The organization that brings us the bar exam. The website is www.ncbex.org.
Hopefully this "starter list" will help new ASP'ers to become familiar with some of the available resources. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Many of our students have always been the top of the heap in public education and later college and graduate education. In law school, they find themselves with a group of colleagues who are equally bright and equally successful. Add to that the differences in the law classroom, new forms of analysis and writing, and the most common one-grade-per-course testing method. The result is that some first-semester students can get overwhelmed pretty quickly if they have not spent some reflection time before arriving at law school..
Preparing for your first semester (and reminding yourself if you are an upper-division law student) is essential to your well-being. The preparation you need to do is to spend some time thinking about you and your choices.
Take out a sheet of paper and divide it into columns: values, abilities, areas for improvement, resources.
In the values column, list things that you value about yourself, life, and others. Include values also that caused you to choose law as a profession. Your values will keep you centered as you study the law. There will be people's opinions, case outcomes, methods of legal analysis, etc. that may not mesh with your values. When confronted with those different views, you have a better chance of evaluating those other perspective while staying grounded in your own values if you already know what you value and why those values are important to you.
In the abilities column, list the things that you know you are talented at in all areas of your life - academic, relationships, spiritual, hobbies, etc. Do not expect perfection in yourself or pretend to be perfect. Make an honest appraisal of what you do well. You will want to build on those abilities while you adapt to the study of law and interact with colleagues who may seem to "get it" faster than you do. Education is about developing our abilities further and meeting any challenges with adaptability. Recognize you talent base that will be your starting point and foundation.
In the room for improvement column, list the things that you know you can do better if you allow yourself to increase your knowledge and skills and take constructive criticism. Your abilities may overlap on this list, but it may also indicate improvement for other aspects. For example, you may write well for traditional writing but need to learn how to write legally; you may need to improve your listening skills rather than automatically debating everything; you may work quickly but need to slow down to catch details; you may be a procrastinator and need to use your time more effectively. Law school will challenge you to improve on what you can already do, learn new ways of doing things, and stretch yourself academically and personally.
In the fourth column, list the resources in your life that help you when you become unsure of yourself or discouraged. These resources are family and friends who are your cheerleaders, mentors you go to for advice, the religious mentors for your spiritual beliefs, positive lifestyle choices (sleep, nutrition, exercise), and other positive resources that help you tackle problems and relieve stress and anxiety. Then add to your list the resources that your law school has available for you when you have questions and concerns: professors with office hours, perhaps 1L teaching assistants, the office of academic support programs, librarians, student affairs staff, available counselors, and more. By adding your resources to the list, you are reminded that you are not in law school without support. You are not going it alone.
Keep your list handy throughout your three years. Add, modify, and delete items as appropriate over time. You will grow as a person, a student, a citizen, and a professional lawyer during the three years. Be ready to embrace experiences and become the very best new lawyer you can be for your clients when you graduate. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Please welcome Cyrah Khan as Associate Director of Academic Support at Seattle University School of Law where she assumed ASP duties this winter. She grew up in New York and became interested in education during high school when she started tutoring at-risk kids in NYC public schools. After moving to Seattle to pursue a Criminal Justice degree at Seattle University, she attended Seattle University School of Law and started doing work in education equity and access to education. She has worked for the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights and the ACLU Education Equity Program. Most recently, she clerked at Division Two of the Washington Court of Appeals. While clerking she earned her Master's Degree in Education with a focus on differentiated instruction and program assessment.
Please welcome Cyrah to ASP!
Saturday, May 23, 2015
When I worked with undergraduates in my first career in higher education, I was heavily involved with academic advising for ten years. In fact, my doctoral dissertation was on an academic advising topic. As a result, I have always been interested in academic advising for law students. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, the lack of academic advising for law students.
Many of the students with whom I have worked on other ASP'ish topics approach me for academic advising as well. This past year, my editor for the ABA's magazine, Student Lawyer, had me focus many of my articles on topics within the purview of academic advising.
By academic advising, I do not mean the mechanics of registration or the specific academic regulations. Instead I am referring to advice to law students on aspects that help them apply the mechanics and regulations to meet their academic and career goals and optimize their success. Academic advising goes beyond the procedures, policies, and printed words to consider the individual student as a learner.
For example, a graduation audit to see how an upper-division student is progressing on the requirements for graduation is very important. (I know because I once had co-duties with the Registrar for the graduation audit at a law school.) But the audit is about regulations and mechanics rather than which courses would be the best selections in the ensuing semesters for academic and career goals and learning.
Law schools tend to provide lots of assistance with and information on the mechanics of registration and the academic regulations. There are law schools that undertake true academic advising for special groups: dual-degree students; students in specialized certificate programs, clinic students, or others. But for the majority of law students, academic advising is a hit-or-miss or non-existent experience.
At many law schools academic advising is fragmented. Academic decanal staff, registrar staff, academic support staff, and others may all be involved in some tasks. But a coordinated academic advising program is often non-existent or not effectively implemented among the varied efforts.
Consequently, many students depend on the upper-division student grapevine for their main academic advising. They may get a bit of advice here or there from an approachable faculty member. However, they are more likely to ask faculty members for advice if they know specific career plans that mesh with that faculty member's field of expertise: I want to go JAG; I want to practice oil & gas; I want to be an in-house lawyer. Career services may assist with hot job opportunities and suggested courses that mesh with those specialties in the marketplace.
But putting together a curriculum with all of the relevant nuances for anindividual is very different from this hodgepodge of sources. Academic advising needs the human interaction element of thoughtful communications about academic goals, career goals, short-term and long-term goals, course combinations, academic strengths and weaknesses, learning and cognitive processing styles, individual circumstances outside law school, and much more.
Law schools try to put together options that might help, but often miss the mark. Expensive software is available that will do the graduation audit function and allow students to play with course scenarios, but it is not academic advising. Academic advising handbooks (whether for faculty or students or both) are helpful if they have value added beyond regulations and mechanics, but these tools still miss the interaction if stand alone documents. Making every faculty member advise a certain number of assigned law students is often unhelpful because of individual faculty being overloaded with other duties, untrained, or disinterested. Mandatory advising once or twice a year with an assigned, willing, and trained academic adviser is a start on interaction; but even this option can become merely an "inoculation" process rather than an ongoing dialogue.
With the increasing number of law students who have lower admission credentials, the need for individual academic advising is more critical now than ever. Increasing numbers of non-traditional and first-generation law students also increase the pressure for academic advising. One positive of smaller entering class numbers is that with fewer law students there is greater opportunity to implement individual discussions for true academic advising. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, May 15, 2015
Congratulations on finishing your academic year! Now you have the summer stretching before you. Here are some thoughts on how to get the most from your summer:
- If at all possible, take some time to decompress before you plunge into a job, summer school, or other obligations. You need some time to relax after your academic year.
- Reconnect with family and friends over the summer months. Socialize with the people you are close to and spend some quality time enjoying their company. They have missed you.
- Laugh aloud as much as possible. Do silly things with your younger siblings or nieces/nephews or children; share the joy of childhood with them. Hang out with friends and family members who see the positive and funny side of things. Let your pet's antics delight you.
- Take up a new hobby or return to an old one. Fill your spare time with things you love but told yourself you did not have time for during the academic year. Then decide how you can carve out some time for your favorite outlet once the school year begins.
- Spend some time volunteering. If you help those who are less fortunate than you, it reorients your perspective and helps you realize that law school is a privilege even if it is hard work.
- Get back into a healthy routine this summer. If you are like most law students, you have become sleep-deprived, junk-food-sustained, and exercise-avoiding. Return to healthy habits so that you become your personal best this summer. Then continue your routine when the semester begins.
- Evaluate your year. What legal or academic skills did you learn this year? What legal or academic skills do you want to improve during next year? What resources at your law school can assist you with those improvements? Make some plans for those improvements.
- Make some non-academic plans for next year. What are your extracurricular goals for the next academic year: student organizations, pro bono work, part-time job, resume building, pursuit of career opportunities? What are your personal goals: stress management, curbing procrastination, better health, spiritual growth, strengthening friendships? What are some positive steps you can take next year to meet those goals.
- Take some time at the end of the summer to recharge your batteries before you return to the classroom in the fall. You want to be refreshed when you return to campus to start another semester.
Have safe and happy summers. We look forward to your return in August. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Have you ever noticed when you are working with students that some law students seem to encounter more than their fair share of life's hardships? The student with academic difficulties is often the same person with financial issues, marital or family issues, personal health issues, and more. It seems for some of my law students that life difficulties come in more than the commonly espoused three in a row.
It often occurs to me that these students persevere against huge odds that would confound most people. The fact that these students with so many obstacles graduate, pass the bar, and become lawyers is really a tribute to their courage. They may not have the highest grade point averages, but they are heads above the crowd in backbone.
Unfortunately, students in the midst of life's obstacles often struggle through them without seeking support. They may not know that assistance exists. They may misjudge the collateral damage to their academics. Or they may let pride get in their way.
Each law school varies in its policies and procedures, but I encourage law students to ask for help when they are dealing with issues that interfere with their academic focus. At least find out your options so that you can make informed decisions.
Some possible resources for students are:
- Meetings with the academic support professional to help with more efficient and effective study skills and time management decisions while the student is juggling the personal circumstances.
- Meetings with an academic or student affairs staff member in the law school to support the student and provide advice on options and referrals.
- Appointments at the university's counseling center for an objective listener during the stressful circumstances that the student is facing.
- Appointments with the university's student health services to provide medical attention and referrals to outside doctors as appropriate.
- Discussion of academic procedures that allow students to postpone exams or papers, take an incomplete grade for additional time to complete coursework, take a course underload for a semester, file a leave of absence for a semester or year, or other options.
Students do not have to handle life's obstacles on their own. As ASP'ers we need to be as familiar as possible with the policies and procedures of our law schools and to make referrals to other law school or university staff and services as appropriate. (Amy Jarmon)