Monday, November 28, 2016
Sunday, November 27, 2016
One of my law students has told me about an app that she is using to stay focused while she is studying: Forest App. The app is free for Android phones (of course with ads) and modestly priced for others.
The app reminds me of Pomidoro (the tomato for those of you who visualize rather than have name recognition). You can choose the number of minutes that you want to stay focused: 10 minutes up to two hours.
If you avoid distractions for 30 minutes, your animated sapling begins growing into a tree right before your eyes. Platitudes such as "What you plant now you will harvest later" and "You are almost there" pop up at intervals. 10 - 25 minutes grows a bush.
Keep planting trees through 30-minute sessions of focusing to get a woodland, and eventually a forest. You can track your daily progress and view your woodland.
If you get distracted away from your tree, the sapling or tree dies - in fact if you tap "give up," the app will remind you that you will kill your cute little tree. Definitely a visualization of the cost of losing focus!
Like many of these apps you can cheat - walk away from task and let the timer run or go to another screen before returning to task, for example. But, as long as you care about being more productive and stay honest, it works as a good focus timer.
The press kit and some reviews of the app talk about how users can earn virtual credits/gold coins that will result in real trees being planted in deforested areas through a tie-in with WeForest. I earned 9 gold coins for a 25-minute session and 3 gold coins for 10 minutes. It apparently takes 2500 gold coins to plant a real tree
For those of us who are environmentally friendly, the real-tree incentive can help us stay on task, so the earth benefits from our study or work efforts. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
The Nominating Committee of the Balance in Legal Education Section of the AALS is requesting nominations for the following positions:
- Executive Committee Board Member
- Chair Elect
The Balance in Legal Education Section seeks to make law school a more humane experience and to better prepare law students to become effective and well-rounded practitioners. We strive for diversity in our membership and on the Executive Committee, wanting representation from all aspects of our community. We look for participation from our colleagues in private and public schools from different regions of the country. We also seek members with a variety of years and types of experience as well as diverse perspectives and backgrounds.
Participation as a member of the Executive Committee involves:
- Monthly (hour long) telephone meetings
- Work on a committee (averages 2-3 hours a month over the year)
- One in-person meeting at the Annual AALS meeting in January, and typically one social event at the AALS meeting as well
Beyond that, the Executive Committee seeks to facilitate flexible participation based on each member’s interest and availability. Our goal is to facilitate meaningful engagement that is also sensitive to the time commitments of our members. The term for a board member is typically three years, unless we are filling a vacant unexpired term. Members wishing to seek additional terms are easily accommodated.
If you are interested, please address the following questions:
- How would you describe your enthusiasm, energy, and time for work with the Section?
- Do you think you could commit to roughly 3 hours per month? (More or less?)
- How would your work for the Section add to, or complement, the work you are already doing?
- What committees might you be interested in serving on? (Work in addition to the meetings ebbs and flows, but takes approximately 2-3 hours per month on average)
o Scholarship – supporting and creating access to scholarship in this area and creating opportunities for new scholarship
o Nominations – recruiting nominees for the Board
o Section Program – planning each year’s program at the Annual AALS meeting
o Outreach – sharing information, newsletter, website, list serv, etc.
o Other Programming – planning other conferences and events, including bi-monthly topic open calls to discuss matters of interest
- Do you have a particular project or initiative that you would want to work on?
Please feel free to nominate yourself or others. Please note that AALS currently requires Executive Committee members to be a full-time faculty or professional staff member (with some teaching responsibilities) at an AALS member school.
To make a nomination, please send a one-paragraph description of interest to:
Kathy Hessler ‑ firstname.lastname@example.org by November 14, 2016.
Monday, November 7, 2016
Thank you to Emily L. Scivoletto at UCLA School of Law for providing the following information on NALSAP:
We would like to share some exciting news with you. An organization has recently been formed to serve as the professional home for those who work at law schools in student affairs. You can join now by clicking here.
The National Association of Law Student Affairs Professionals (NALSAP) was first imagined in January during the AALS meeting. We brainstormed about how helpful it would be to have a national organization solely dedicated to providing leadership, professional development, and resources for those who work in student affairs at law schools... Then in March 2016, we founded NALSAP, a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization.
The NALSAP vision is that this organization will bring together a broad array of professionals working in the field of law student affairs. Some of us have decades of experience and others are brand new to the field. We imagine a collaborative and collegial group, with an emphasis on providing practical tools for members.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Friday, November 4, 2016
I am bewildered by how some students approach their commercial bar prep class. After paying a chunk of money for the class, going through three years of law school, and staking their personal futures on the idea of being employed as a lawyer, some students still fail to do everything the class tells them to do, fail to listen to lectures, fail to attend live classes, and fail to take advantage of practice opportunities. Even if they do follow along with the class, they take advantage of the class's electronic features by running the lectures at 2 or 3 times speed or skipping sections.
For years, I've been trying to figure out the cause of this behavior, hoping that I could stop it. For some of them, I suppose there might be depressive burnout and life events and students who didn't really want to be lawyers in the first place, so maybe there's not much that can be done there. But for the rest of them who don't have an excuse like this, one would think that after all that time, money, and effort, that they'd be all over bar prep. However, more often than I would like, this isn't the case.
So what is going on? Ignoring the style of education most of our students receive in high school and college, I think a big part of the issue is the technological time we live in. Everything is easy, and instantaneous. On top of this, a large majority of students today grew up in a fairly consequence-free environment where everyone got a trophy and helicopter parents took care of their problems (as a side note, I never worry about college athletes, because they've already learned that not everything should be easy and that you can try "really, really" hard, but that's not going to guarantee you anything).
Basically, I think technology has taught all of us that things can and should be easy and we shouldn't worry too much about keeping things in our heads or the consequences of failing to do so. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, even though I am, in the recent assessment of a 7th Grade cheerleader, an "old, fat, bald guy." I have all my bills paid electronically. I know no one's actual phone number or email (they are all automatically stored on my devices). I don't have a map in my car and have only a weak understanding of the street names around here even after 5 years in Columbia. I can only imagine what I might have been like growing up with a lifetime of Googles and cell phones. The other day, I told my kids a story about desperately trying to find a certain club when we were trapped in downtown Houston after a Pixies show. By the look in their eyes, I could have been explaining to them how I witnessed the invention of fire. They couldn't figure out why I just didn't look it up on my phone. I had to explain that this was 1989.
If the problem is culture and technology, I suppose the question is what to do about it. As of now, legal educators and companies seem to be going with the "easy, 24-hours, fun flow" model that most of society operates on. There's games to help a student learn the law. There's online programs that help with briefing cases, spaced repetition, note-taking, keeping focus by locking a student out of fun websites, lectures on demand, etc., etc. However, bar pass rates continue to slip, so all of this ingenuity and personalized ease of use doesn't seem to be helping that much.
The easy-squeezy tech world genie is out of the bottle. The question is, would law students be better off if educators tried to fight against the current flow of technology, or would that simply wash students away? (Alex Ruskell)
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
There are several resources that can provide ASP and bar support professionals with assistance. For those of you who are new to ASP, here are some organizations and websites that you want to know about:
Professional organizations and other resources for ASP:
- Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Section on Academic Support: The upcoming annual meeting will be held January 3-7, 2017 in San Francisco. The annual meeting theme this year is "Why Law Matters." The sessions for our Section are scheduled: business meeting will be at 7:30 - 8:30 a.m. on Friday, January 6th with the program (Why Academic Support Matters) on the same date at 8:30 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. Wednesday, January 4th programs of interest include: The Section on Student Services program (Why Student Services Matters: Preparing Students for Leadership, Service, and Learning 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and The Section on Teaching Methods program (Teaching Methods - Using Technology to Unlock Engagement and Learning 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. The Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research program (Experiential Learning in Legal Writing Programs) is on Thursday, January 5th at 1:30 - 3:15 p.m. The Section on Balance in Legal Education program (Transformative Learning: Helping Students Discover Motivation, Values and Voice is on Friday, January 6th at 1:30 - 4:30 p.m. There are a number of Arc of Career, diversity, and legal education sessions that might also interest ASP'ers. The annual meeting information can be found at http://www.aals.org/am2017/.
- Association for Academic Support Educators (AASE): The upcoming conference will be held May 23 - 25 2017 at Texas A&M in Fort Worth. The AASE website is http://www.associationofacademicsupporteducators.org/.
- The ASP Listerv: The listserv membership is available to legal educators who are interested in ASP/bar topics. A recent post giving instructions to join the listserv is here.
- 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 for students. Student pages are available without registration. To see the additional ASP pages, you need to be employed currently at a law school in ASP/bar-related work and register. After you register on the site, please update the staff information for your law school to reflect current staff. The website is www.lawschoolasp.org.
Websites and listservs for ASP:
- American Bar Association: The Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will be of interest. 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.
- National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE): The organization that brings us the non-state portions of the bar exam. The website is www.ncbex.org.
Monday, October 31, 2016
Sometimes ASP'ers have to convince others regarding programmatic changes, added services, data collection, or other new ways of doing something. Maybe it is an initiative because of the ABA standards or other accrediting group for your law school's main university. Here is a recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education on managing curmudgeons; although it discusses faculty curmudgeons, the points are more generally applicable: Tips for Managing Curmudgeons.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Friday, October 21, 2016
At the University of South Carolina, we have a robust tutoring program. It's extremely well-attended and student evaluations are almost uniformly excellent (usually, the biggest complaint is that the tutoring sessions are late in the afternoon, which is somewhat unavoidable because of the First Year Schedule). I believe a large part of the program's success is that my most important hiring criteria is whether I believe a potential tutor can handle tutoring without my constant supervision.
Years ago, I attended a conference where a professor was talking about her tutoring program. In that school's set-up, all tutoring decisions, handouts, presentations, etc. were made by her. She said that she spent the majority of her time managing the tutors and warned us that if we wanted to start tutoring programs, we'd probably find ourselves in the same boat.
When I inherited the tutoring program at South Carolina, I thought about that presentation and worried I wouldn't be able to focus on my own workshops, individual meetings, bar prep, etc. if I had to spend all my time watching the tutors. Then I had an epiphany. I realized that if I hovered over them and made them do exactly what I told them to do, I'd have 18 "mini-mes" running around, which seemed fairly pointless.
I read somewhere that advertising doesn't work until you hear about something three different ways -- for example, a product advertised on television, in a newspaper, and then recommended by a friend. I think about the tutors the same way. A student may not truly understand something until they study it in several different ways and in several different formats (for example, professor, book, me, commercial outline, tutor).
I do have fairly regular group meetings with the tutors, sit in on their tutoring sessions now and then, give them materials and ideas they may choose to use, and speak with them over email or in my office, but I don't hover. I've trusted them, and so far, none of them have let me down.
The basic rules for tutoring are that the tutors are not to shadow teach or replicate what is done in the classroom. They must follow any and all directions given by the professors of the class they tutor for, send me weekly updates of what they are covering, keep roll, alert me to any students who seem really lost, and base the majority of their tutoring sessions on going over practice problems.
Giving the tutors freedom has led to some great work. The other day, I watched a tutor session with over 60 students (attendance is voluntary) where the tutor had them all break into groups to make-up hypos and then try to answer them for each other. The discussion was lively (for 4:30 on a Wednesday) and lightbulbs seemed to be going off everywhere. I didn't tell the tutor to do a session like this -- he came up with it on his own, and it was great.
That's not to say there haven't been minor points problems I've had to address. For example, one tutor had the unfortunate habit of cussing during his presentations without realizing he was doing it. Another had the habit of trying to ingratiate himself with the students by using jokes that started out with "I don't mean to offend anybody, but ..." He believed being an "equal opportunity offender" made it O.K., so I had to nip that in the bud. Another tutor made the offhand comment that a professor was "spunky," which the professor was pretty annoyed with once she heard about it. However, all in all, there haven't been any major issues where I have had to fire or reprimand a tutor.
I've also had a few minor problems from the students being tutored. Over the years, a few students, especially weaker ones, have wanted tutors to basically reteach them concepts outside of class or make outlines for them. Sometimes these students complain to me that the tutor isn't doing his or her job because they won't do these things. I simply point out the rules I've put in place for the tutors, and the complaint dies away.
I've been really proud of the tutoring program in this format, and I believe it's done a lot to help struggling students. (Alex Ruskell)
Friday, September 30, 2016
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Many ASPers have been involved with LSAC committees, workshops, and other aspects over the years. Below is an announcement regarding the sad news that LSAC's President, Dan Bernstine, has passed away.
I apologize if you have received this sad announcement more than once. It is with overwhelming sadness that I have the unfortunate task of telling you that Dan Bernstine, President of LSAC, has passed away at his home. As soon as we have more information about arrangements, we will communicate that information to you.
While our concern right now is with helping all of Dan's friends and colleagues to deal with his loss, I want to assure you that the Board and I have complete confidence in the senior management team that Dan built.
Please do not hesitate to contact me.
SUSAN L. KRINSKY
Chair, LSAC Board of Trustees
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Many of our law schools have exchange or L.L.M. foreign students enrolled in our courses. Our educational system (both undergraduate and legal) is very different from the educational backgrounds of many of these students. Adapting to the U.S. educational system is compounded by adapting to the U.S. legal system as well. It is not unusual for foreign students to tell me how very difficult the transition is for them.
I can empathize because I had to adjust to the British legal system and language when I cross-qualified as a solicitor for England and Wales - and I already spoke American English and came from a common law country! It was hard to think in two versions of English and make the mental switches to a very different common law legal system. Most of our foreign students are adjusting to an entirely different language and from civil law to common law!
A recent Inside Higher Education post addressed the participation in class aspect of the adjustment for foreign students. The post provides food for thought and practical tips as we try to help these students adjust to the very American emphasis on class participation. Read the post here: Helping Foreign Students Speak Up . (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, September 23, 2016
I have reached the age where I have a lot of "back in my day" thoughts. EDM makes my head hurt. Modern movies are terrible. I hate how connected people are with phones. I hate ball parks named after corporations. What was so wrong with the original pop tart that we had to fancy it up with the toaster strudel?
Law schools have had a few rough years in the popular press and imagination, and the struggles of law students seem to hit a blog or newspaper more or less every day. I read all of it. A criticism that bothers me is when someone says, "a law student who needs _____________ to be a lawyer shouldn't be a lawyer."
First, it's an easy, flip, and reductive statement. Second, the hubris of making such a flat declaration about someone else's talents or abilities based on one factor is stunning. Third, it's just another version of "back in my day," the implication being that the person making the statement became a lawyer (or entered some other profession) without that particular need.
Whenever a commentator questions certain things schools do to help law students, I think about "back in my day" and how I studied for the bar. I had to go all the way across Austin (on a mule, uphill both ways, in the snow, with an onion on my belt) and sit in a hot warehouse for several hours with a couple of hundred people and listen to live lectures. Although some of the lectures were O.K., many of the lectures were horrible from an easy-to-follow/easy-to-pay-attention/not-rather-be-eaten-by-rabid-weasels standpoint. One lecturer in particular had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of jokes involving America's Greatest Living Thespian Keanu Reeves. There is nothing wrong with jokes and I loved the original Point Break and My Own Private Idaho, but the jokes were not funny. It might have been a brilliant display of Kaufman-esque anti-humor, but I was too freaked out and tired by the looming bar exam to be more than put off by it.
Despite the Keanu jokes, without that forced structure of getting up, driving, and sitting there, I wonder how I would have done on the bar exam. Because of how brutal I found the entire thing, if I could have, I probably would have studied and watched lectures at Barton Springs pool. I'd probably have started every day at 11 and stopped at 5. Studying on Fridays would probably be out. I doubt I would have written out any practice questions or done any practice exams. I probably would have simply relied on my history of being very good at standardized exams to get me through.
When I actually sat for the exam, I had pneumonia and the woman sitting next to me cried the entire time (not because of my pneumonia). Without the enforced structure, I wonder if I would have passed under those circumstances. As it was, I had been forced to learn the bar material so well that I could have been on fire and still passed. However, I doubt I would have put myself in that position if I had been left to my own devices. I think I was "a law student who needs to be forced to sit in a warehouse and listen to Keanu jokes to be a lawyer" and, despite that need, I think I turned out to be a pretty good one.
I understand why some observers say that "a law student that needs _______ to be a lawyer shouldn't be a lawyer," but very few people can succeed in an endeavor without help. For 25-year-old me, I think I needed the help of that warehouse. For my students, it might be giving them extra help, handing them physical books, going over practice questions with them, etc., but I do not believe that needing a particular type of help is any kind of inherent disqualification to being a lawyer.
Monday, September 19, 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
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Much has been said about the positives of banning laptops in the classroom. Proponents of the ban position have pointed to studies that support handwriting over typing notes.
The Chronicle of Higher Education contained an article this week that does not buy in to the studies and takes a more moderate approach: No, Banning Laptops Is Not the Answer.
In that article is a link to a May blog post on The Tatooed Prof that also supports a different approach to classroom technology: Let's Ban the Classroom Technology Ban.
Saturday, September 10, 2016
If your copy of the September 2016 ABA Journal has landed in your mailbox, you may want to turn to pages 48-55 to read the article by Mark Hansen entitled "Bar Fight." The online article appears here.
In the same issue, you will find on page 67 a brief article written by Stephanie Francis Ward about the ABA's problems with the Department of Education. The online article appears here
In an article found in Inside Higher Education, an update on UNT and Ave Maria and accreditation is found here.
Friday, September 9, 2016
For my programs and the programs involving my tutors, I always hand out student surveys at the end. I imagine everyone does this. Usually, it's a nice lift to the spirits, with comments like "you rock!" or something funny like "more candy!" However, there are sometimes a few negative comments, and those negative comments always seem to revolve around the bedrock, yet admittedly boring topics of time management, note-taking, and case reading. These comments tend to say something along the lines of "we already know how to manage time!" or "we already know how to take notes!" I'm sure some of the students do know how to do these things (I hope so, anyway), but plenty of them do not, and plenty of them are going to be hurt by not knowing how to do them. Consequently, these comments don't end up being particularly useful.
However, I've been wondering if the real value in these types of student comments is not in evaluating my program, but in evaluating the students making them.
Since I am a one-person shop, I try to target my efforts at the students who are most in need of my services. At the beginning of the school year, I don't have a lot of information regarding which students may struggle. For the first semester at least, I depend on professor and tutor referrals and students voluntarily coming in for help.
From my experience, the top students attend everything, take advice, and never give negative comments, even if a topic is clearly something they've already mastered and even if they are probably bored silly. A lot of times, I'll look out at one of my voluntary lectures and see a wall of top students sitting in the front row, when they're not the ones I'm worried about at all.
We just did evaluations of the Orientation program, and the few complaints were about presentations on time management, note-taking, and reading and were the exact same "we already know how to do this!" That being said, I've already had several students come in asking for help in these areas. But I've been wondering about the ones that complained. Because the evaluations are anonymous, I do not know who they are, but will they be the ones in the bottom of the class? Will I be reaching out to them in the spring after a disastrous fall?
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
The AALS Balance Section’s next topic call features Alli Gerkman, Director of Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers, speaking about ETL’s ground-breaking report on the foundations that are necessary for new attorneys. The report - based on 24k+ respondents from 37 states and over 70 practice areas - shows that new lawyers are successful when they have a broad blend of legal skills, professional competencies, and most importantly, characteristics that comprise the "whole lawyer." Here are the details of our call.
AALS Balance Section Topic Call
Foundations for Practice: the Whole Lawyer and the Character Quotient Presented by Alli Gerkman, Director, Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers
October 6, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time
Call (712) 432-0850, access code 422626#
Our speaker Alli Gerkman will provide a brief overview of the report and how the findings were used in the summer session and orientation at Sturm College of Law. The call will then focus on the participants' comments, reactions, and questions, along the following topics: