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.
Monday, March 14, 2016
Are you a procrastinator? Do you know someone who is?
Most people procrastinate sometimes. And, some people procrastinate all of the time.
Some people only procrastinate in certain areas of their lives: just school, just chores, just financial decisions. Some people procrastinate in all areas of their lives: personal, academic, work-related, and more.
Most of my law students have at least occasional problems with procrastination. Some of them admit that procrastination has taken over every aspect of their lives. Often, students know they procrastinate and feel helpless to change their ways.
Procrastinating in law school can mean lower grades and increased stress. Procrastinating during bar exam study can mean a failure on the first attempt at the exam. Procrastinating in practice can mean tremendous stress, loss of reputation, or even disciplinary actions if it includes missed filing deadlines or lack of preparation for a trial.
Here are some things to keep in mind if procrastination is a problem for you:
Procrastination is learned behavior that can be unlearned with conscious effort and strategies.
A good habit, according to research, takes 21 days of consistent implementation to become natural.
Procrastination is really part of a "habit pair" - ending a bad habit and replacing it with a good habit. Thus, change may take longer.
By making changes in small increments over time, it is easier to curb procrastination than trying to "change everything at once."
Procrastinators may "fall off the wagon" and should not give up. Instead immediately start again on your strategies.
A time management routine that gets repeated at least in part every week can often help procrastinators to finish regular tasks at their regular times.
Curbing procrastination becomes more realistic if you become aware of your procrastination patterns:
- What aspects of your life do you procrastinate in? Examples: academics, employment, finances.
- How often do you procrastinate in these aspects of your life? Examples: daily, weekly, monthly, rarely, sometimes, frequently.
- What types of tasks trigger your procrastination? Examples: writing papers, studying for exams, project deadlines, balancing the checkbook, housecleaning.
- How do you '"act out" your procrastination? Examples: delay starting tasks, delay finishing tasks, refuse to follow instructions, stew about making a mistake, daydream, play video games.
- How do you justify to yourself that it is okay to procrastinate? Examples: too much to do, stupid assignment, work better under pressure, task is too hard.
- How do you justify your procrastination to others? Examples: brag about your finishing right before the deadline, tell team members they worry too much, pretend you got a better grade than you did.
- What emotional toll does procrastination take on you - or others? Examples: your increased stress, your guilt over bad habits, others get stressed out by your procrastination, others have to nag you on tasks.
- What other consequences does your procrastination have on you - or others? Examples: all-nighters before deadlines, lower grades than could have been achieved, run out of time to do everything, frustration of others during a group project, reputation for being unreliable, lost friends.
- Who do you trust to tell about your plan to stop procrastinating and ask to be an accountability partner to help you curb your procrastination? Examples: roommate, study group member, spouse.
Consider one aspect or task that you procrastinate on and choose one or two small strategies that you could implement to prevent procrastination. Here are some examples:
- Aspect: Lose track of deadlines for classes. Strategy: Use a hard copy daily planner to track all assignments and deadlines. (You can also use a phone calendar - but you have to actually look at it for it to be useful.)
- Aspect: Not good at prioritizing tasks so leave important ones until last. Strategy: Make a to-do-list that has tasks prioritized by most important, important, and least important.
- Aspect: Finish tasks right before the deadline. Strategy: Set a deadline two days earlier than the real deadline. Work to meet that new deadline. Use the extra time to edit or rewrite as needed.
- Aspect: Waste time with my electronic devices. Strategy: Install one of the apps that blocks Facebook, games, or other electronic distractions for set time periods.
- Aspect: Worry constantly about all sorts of things. Strategy: Schedule a worry time slot at the end of the day. Tell yourself when you start to worry that you have to wait until that time and must get back on task. (This sounds strange, but it works for many people.)
- Aspect: Spend hours on chores or cleaning to avoid other tasks. Strategy: Once a month schedule a serious chore/cleaning half-day. The rest of the month spot clean, pick up, and do only urgent chores.
There are many good books on procrastination and how to avoid it. Take control of your procrastination now - don't wait until tomorrow. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
The Section on Student Services had microagressions as the topic for its second panel at the January 2016 AALS Annual Meeting. In addition, one of the Hot Topic programs was on trigger warnings. (If you missed these sessions, AALS members can go to the AALS website and log in to view podcasts. On the members page, click events and conferences; go down to 2016 Annual Meeting which should take you to the program; click on podcasts at the top to get that viewing list.)
Both of these issues are much discussed currently in law schools. Here is an article discussing the issues from a broader higher education perspective in today's The Chronicle of Higher Education: Speaker-Beware. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, February 29, 2016
Below is a press release from Aaron Taylor, Director of LSSE, regarding the upcoming report release:
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Now is a good time to contact your professors to review any fall semester exams about which you had concerns. If you received a C+ grade or below in a course, you should definitely consider reviewing the exam.
- Many of the exam-taking skills for law school translate from one course to later courses even though the course material is very different.
- An exam review can highlight study strategies that were successful prior to the exam as well as indicate study strategies that need modification or abandonment.
- An exam review will allow you to track what you did well during the actual exam and want to continue doing on future exams.
- An exam review will allow you to track what you had problems with during the actual exam and want to improve on for future exams.
- Exam reviews for several courses may indicate patterns of success or error that you have repeated across exams.
- Here are two handouts that can assist you in what to look for when you do your exam reviews.The first handout is for fact-pattern essay (also relevant for the most part to short-answer): Download Patterns to Look for and Questions to Ask When Evaluating Fact The second handout is for multiple-choice questions (also relevant for the most part to true-false): Download Patterns to Look for and Questions to Ask When Evaluating Multiple These handouts suggest questions that can help you analyze your exam performance more thoroughly.
- Professors vary in how they complete exam reviews. Here are some variations that you may encounter: a) The professor may conduct exam reviews for students who email with a request, may have a sign-up sheet on the professor’s office door, or may announce some other mechanism. b)The professor may first schedule appointments with students with the lowest grades, then move to the next level of grades for appointments, and so forth. c)The professor may have the student review the exam individually (and possibly the grading rubric or sample exam answers) before meeting with the professor. d)The professor may instead have the student come for the meeting and review the exam together.
- Make sure that you take careful notes during your exam review so that you will know what areas you want to continue doing well and what areas you want to improve on for future exams.
- After your exam reviews, evaluate what you have found out. Look for any patterns across exams and courses. Make a plan for your future exam study and exam-taking.
- If you are unsure what strategies may help you for your specific problem areas, make an appointment to talk with the academic support professional at your law school.
All students can improve their grades by implementing new study strategies and new test-taking strategies. Take advantage of professor feedback to make informed decisions instead of just randomly trying new strategies. (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, January 17, 2016
For those of you who are new professionals in ASP/bar prep at your law schools, signing up for the ASP Listserv is done in the following manner. These instructions were sent to me by Stephen Sowle at Chicago Kent (he runs the listserv) in August 2015. If you run into problems after you have tried to subscribe, I would suggest that you contact him for assistance at email@example.com. (Amy Jarmon)
To sign up for the ASP listserv, follow these steps:
Address email to firstname.lastname@example.org
In the body of the message enter: subscribe ASP-L your_first_name your_last_name title school_name
your_first_name is your first name,
your_last_name is your last name
title and school_name are optional
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Hat tip to Paul Caron, our Law Professors Blog leader, for the ideal holiday gift suggestion. Read his blog post on Tax Prof Blog here: Last Minute Christmas Gift Idea for Faculty and Students.
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)