Friday, August 4, 2017
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. If you run into problems after you have tried to subscribe following the instructions, I would suggest that you contact Stephen Sowle (he runs the listserv) 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
Monday, July 31, 2017
I wrote in last week’s post of my trip to the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) conference in Minnesota. The conference theme focused on diversity and inclusion, which we know will also be the focus of our upcoming Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) conference in October.
My colleague, Alexa Chew, and I lead a discussion at ALWD on ways to make law schools more welcoming for everyone. We spoke about our experiences participating on our Diversity and Inclusion Task Force at UNC Law. We spoke about how allowing students to share their stories and listening to their stories can create more awareness and understanding of the diversity and inclusion problems that may be wounding your law school.
Alexa and I wrote a blog post in advance of our ALWD presentation in Jennifer Romig’s Listen Like a Lawyer blog. We wrote that most of us working at law schools want a more diverse and inclusive environment. However, many folks working in our law schools are often unaware of what our students are experiencing during their law school tenure. So, schools get into a situation where they are trying to fix or work on a "problem" that they have not identified or know little about--or worse, that they may be inadvertently contributing to.
Alexa and I provided a few suggestions that could help more folks “get in the know.” The suggestions are relatively simple and inexpensive, but they may still have a huge impact on how students feel when they walk through the doors of your law schools. I suspect many of you in the ASP world are likely already doing many of the suggestions quite well! Keep it up!!! And encourage others in your law school to follow your lead!
Sunday, July 30, 2017
Many of our law students are immersed in legal work this summer. The variety of their experiences will be as wide as the universe of legal work. Some will be buried in library research and memo writing. Some will be drafting documents. Some will be busy with intake interviews. Some will be compiling trial notebooks. And everything in between will align with someone's summer job.
It is not unusual for a rising 2L to exclaim, "Now I understand Civil Procedure!" It is the aha moment when what seemed to just be dry cases and procedural mumbo-jumbo becomes alive in a real case with a real client. All the innovative books based on real cases and role plays during 1L year were just not the same as the real thing.
The aha moment can happen with any course material and at whatever point the student is in the study of law. Life is breathed into the concepts now applied in a summer clerking experience. The client scenarios they deal with can enrich their understanding: formerly compartmentalized concepts become interrelated; separate courses become integrated through a series of case issues; procedural steps take on significance within litigation; strategic pros and cons develop as a case unfolds.
Ideally we hope that the summer experience will not only solidify prior learning, but will also trigger more active learning in future semesters. After a taste of practice, law students can enhance their learning by asking how the material would be used with clients, how the material relates to other material, how procedures affect outcomes, what analysis would each party use, and more. If future courses become relevant in their minds to working with clients, then they go beyond dusty words on pages and requirements for graduation.
Many law students this summer will also realize at a gut level for the first time how much responsibility they owe in their work to a real person. What they and the lawyers on a case say and do directly impacts someone's life. Professionalism takes on an entirely new dimension when one deals with a client and not a mere hypothetical. It can be a very sobering realization.
Hopefully students return to their studies with new motivation to be the best lawyers they can be. Courses and skill sets are no longer just for grades. Those courses and skills are essential to being a competent and professional lawyer. Their clients will depend on how diligently they approached their legal studies as the foundation for their career. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Many ASP and bar prep professionals are tired right now. They are either finishing up summer programs that they run or have just surfaced from the long run up to the bar exam. No doubt they are feeling done in.
So here are some suggestions as you catch your breath:
- If possible, squeeze in a holiday. Whether it is a long weekend or a week or two, it is time to recharge.
- List five fun things you will do before the 1Ls arrive and the new semester starts. Then schedule them on your calendar so they actually happen.
- List three accomplishments this past year of which you can be proud. Enjoy the feeling of a job well done.
- List three things that you want to learn about this coming year to make you better at your job.
- List two new programs or ideas that you want to try this coming year.
- List one professional person in ASP/bar prep, at your law school, or in your legal community you would like to get to know better this year.
Now, go relax and revive before it gets hectic again. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
The short period after the bar exam ends, but before Orientation begins is a good time for a much needed recharge. If you are responsible for bar preparation at your school, then you are likely exhausted right now—and for good reason. I work at a school with roughly 100 graduating students. Between January and today (day 1 of the bar exam), those 100 students resulted in:
- 500+ bar exam related emails;
- 28 bar preparation classes;
- 360ish practice essays;
- 1 Bar Examiner’s presentation;
- 49 individual student appointments;
- 7 spring semester faculty lectures;
- 4 summer workshops, and
- countless drop-ins and phone calls.
I suspect that most bar support professors' schedules look quite similar. Needless to say, we have all earned a break. Much like our students plan post-bar exam adventures, we too should plan time to relax. Take a trip, finish that novel, spend a few computer free days on the couch with a furry friend, or—as in my case—go to a conference on the beach in Florida.
After the mental batteries are recharged, use the remaining time to eliminate a potential long-term stressor before the school year begins. Start by identifying one specific thing that sucks up more time or energy than it should during the school year. Then devise a plan to fix it. The time spent now removing the annoyance will pay dividends indefinitely into the future.
For example, I used to complain about how much time it would take to establish a mutually convenient time to meet a student or a colleague … all the back-and-forth emailing. So, last summer I committed a whole day to eliminating this one problem. I started my quest like any good scholar: by watching a You Tube video. I learned how to make my Outlook calendar visible, in real time, to anyone. After a few simple key strokes, I successfully published my very own calendar webpage. I then posted a hyperlink to the webpage calendar on my TWEN page, in all my course syllabi, and in my formal email signature line. I also drafted a special second “signature” in Outlook that read: “You can view my calendar here. Just let me know what day/time works for you.” Between the widely available calendar links and the quick-insert response language, I rarely engage in the tedious scheduling-based-email-exchange anymore. This one simple fix not only saved me time during the year, but also reduced my inbox clutter.
When I get back from my conference in a few days, I plan to find a way to reliably track long-term bar passage data that does not involve a bunch of Excel spreadsheets, a filing cabinet stuffed full of state bar examiners’ letters, random LinkedIn searches, and a pot of coffee. If anyone has any suggestions, please send me an email. I’d love to hear it! (Kirsha Trychta)
Monday, July 17, 2017
The New York Times recently published “The Lawyer, The Addict”—a very compelling article about a tragic event. The story describes the death of an influential Silicon Valley attorney. The interplay between (1) addiction, stress, and mental health and (2) law school and the legal profession is referenced in an honest and, for many, eye-opening manner. The article has rightfully generated much discussion on the Internet, including a fascinating conversation on my colleague Rachel Gurvich’s Twitter feed. If you are looking for further insight about the article from a variety of faculty, practitioners, and students, I encourage you to check out Rachel's Twitter feed (@RachelGurvich). Much of the conversation can be found here.
There are many interesting points one can focus on from the NYT article. Perhaps, I’ll explore some other points in the future in the blog. For now, I’ll focus today’s blog on two points: (1) Larry Krieger’s work on subjective well-being; and (2) how hard it is for students to acknowledge that they may be suffering from a problem.
- Larry Krieger’s Work on Subjective Well-Being.
The NYT article interviewed Professor Larry Krieger and referenced his work "What Makes Lawyers Happy". As many of you know, Krieger’s work was an empirical study on “attorney emotional health” and “subjective well-being.” Part of Krieger’s findings and recommendations focused on shifting the definition of “success” for law students away from extrinsic rewards, like grades, journals, and high-paying jobs to more personal and intrinsic values and motivations.
I remember Larry Krieger's work was one of the first things that Ruth McKinney discussed with me when I arrived at UNC. Since her retirement, we have tried to continue to incorporate the message of Krieger’s work into our pre-orientation program for incoming 1Ls. We try to remind our students to remember the intrinsic reasons why they decided to come to law school—particularly during those times when they may feel overwhelmed, defeated, or unworthy. We also try to remind our students that “success” can mean many different things to different people and that there are many ways to “succeed” in law school. We often talk about these topics while disclosing some of our personal struggles and experiences from law school. This personal disclosure often helps build a foundation where we are better able to assist with the problem discussed in part two below.
- Acknowledging a Problem is often a Problem.
For those of us who work closely with students, the article’s story on how law school and the legal profession can change you—physically and mentally—is not a surprising tale. We know that the combination of stress, anxiety, and the competition for external rewards can create a very challenging and intimidating environment for our students. The environment can feel crushing and insurmountable when you add difficult finances, family issues, health concerns, implicit bias, or stereotype threat to the mix.
It is not uncommon for academic success folks to work with students who are facing some significant non-academic issues that impact their academic performance. But, these non-academic issues are often not easily identifiable. Let’s try to remember that it is often difficult for our students to acknowledge to themselves that they may be going through a very problematic time. Like anyone, they have pride. They have all been successful undergrads or had elite careers prior to law school. They don’t want to think of themselves as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student.
Since our students don’t want to think of themselves as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student, they will likely hesitate before seeking help because they don’t want others to see them as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student (and the mental health questions on the bar exam applications don't help either, but that's a topic for another day [if you are interested, my former colleague, Katie Rose Guest Pryal has a great piece here]).
Disclosing some personal vulnerability to someone else is an added challenge to an already stressful time in our students' lives. Think about it: if it’s hard for you to acknowledge some potential weakness or flaw to yourself, do you think it will be easier for you to acknowledge that weakness or flaw to someone else? Now think about that someone else as a law professor or administrator. I know; it’s pretty scary. That’s why we, as academic support professionals (and others who work closely with law students), should try to practice good active listening skills and remain nonjudgmental, empathetic, and encouraging when we work with our students. It’s a difficult job. But, we are lucky to be able to do it. (OJ Salinas)
Sunday, July 16, 2017
Please excuse the delay in some postings. I have been travelling in the UK and ran into technical glitches. I think they are sorted perhaps and will catch up on some requested posts at the end of the week if all goes well. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, July 15, 2017
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Excuse a somewhat off-topic post. Just before the fourth of July, I visited Lincoln in the United Kingdom. At the castle, the Magna Carta was on exhibit. Of course, as the person who teaches Comparative Law: The English Legal System at my law school, I had to see the exhibition.
As most of you know, the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta was in 2015. For those of you a bit rusty on your English history, here is a thumbnail sketch. The landowning barons were angry at King John because he was throwing them in jail for no reason, taxing them for his wars continuously, and denying their rights as freemen. After joining together against the king, the barons forced him to sign the Magna Carta to put limits on the king's powers and reassert the rights of freemen. (Note that freemen did not include John and Jane Public; it was all about the rights of the powerful landed class.)
There are four remaining copies of the document. Four? Copies had to be made for the king, the barons, some officials, and every bishop's city throughout the land. The Magna Carta had to be meticulously copied onto parchment by monks so that it could be couriered to all regions of the kingdom to provide notice of the agreement. In fact that copying would have taken weeks or longer to accomplish.
It turns out that King John reneged on the agreement three weeks after he signed, so all of the copies may have never been delivered. However, Lincoln Cathedral had received its copy. After John's death (within the year as I recall), his young son reaffirmed the agreement, upon the encouragement of his close advisors, to appease the barons. Thus, began the limitations on monarchical powers that came to a head (pun intended) with the execution of Charles I.
Ultimately the American colonies refused to be taxed without representation and fought for freedom. Our own documents of founding reflect the earlier struggles for the rights of freemen. Hopefully in the aftermath of the July 4th holiday, we remember the importance of the rule of law in protecting those rights. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, July 8, 2017
Do you have time to do housekeeping in your office? By that I mean culling out old files, deleting old emails, donating old editions of books to the library, throwing out old notes no longer needed, etc.
I would love to say that I regularly do all of these things - but that would be a bald-faced lie. Instead, I settle for spurts of housekeeping fit into the projects, student appointments, and more. Semester break and summer are my most productive times for housekeeping.
My most consistent housekeeping was email. I emptied my trash and send files several times a week. At least once a month I tried to clean out my inbox and my article feeds and some of the archived files. Certain archived files could be pared at the end of each semester. (My how easy it is for archive files to proliferate like bunny rabbits.)
Then I got a new computer (three cheers!) and later my software was upgraded twice (three cheers?). In the process of these changes, my archive with all of its folders mysteriously triplicated; and within each separate archive file folder, the individual email copied itself 3-6 times. No amount of work with IT has found an easy fix.
Why not just delete two archives and keep one, you ask? Every file needs to be carefully looked at because none of the triplicated archives are entirely identical. And there is thus far no pattern that I can discern to speed up the process of eliminating emails and files. What had been a bit of a headache for housekeeping has become a nightmare.
So, I have turned to other housekeeping that allows for more visible progress. I recently cleared out about 3 feet from a file cabinet by chucking duplicates, notes no longer needed, and consolidating files. Progress! Only about 8 more feet of files to go through in my next go round!
I delivered a book cart of various international law and ASP volumes to the law library to add to the collection or recycle as they saw fit. Then I unpacked newer international law volumes for my courses into the empty space. I am eyeing a hardback journal series as the most likely victim for the next go round.
Right before school starts I will turn to the thrice yearly cleaning of the stacks on my desk that are reference: ABA journals, publisher catalogs, notes from seminars, etc. I'll begin the school year with a sense of accomplishment - at least in some areas. Hope your housekeeping goes well this summer! (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, June 29, 2017
We are all familiar with the issues of law student debt and the stress caused by financial burdens. Inside Higher Education provided a short post last week (found here) that referred to a National Bureau of Economic Research report on marriage differences for female lawyers with high student debt from law school. The abstract of the NBER report is found here.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Hello! I just accepted an invitation to contribute to this blog and this is my first post. In the future I hope to post on a wide range of topics, representing the varied duties common to academic support professors. But, for this debut post, I want to echo Betsy Six’s suggestion during the closing remarks at AASE to send a kudos email (my words, not hers) to a colleague. Did someone really impress you with their presentation? Did you have a conversation with a colleague in the hallway that changed the way you think about academic support? If so, let them—and their boss—know about it. Don’t worry; it’s not too late. Ask Emily Post. Don’t know what to say? Try putting your own spin on this template:
Dear Dean [X],
I write to tell you what a nice job [name] did on [his/her] presentation entitled “[title]” at the Association of Academic Support Educators Conference in Fort Worth, Texas in May. [Name’s] presentation was innovative, insightful, and engaging. The presentation laid out several concrete [descriptive noun] ideas which attendees (like myself) could implement at their own institutions. Kudos to [name], and to you and your institution for supporting [his/her] work. [Name] is a great asset to the academic support professors’ community!
In closing, just let me say congratulations to everyone who organized, presented at, and attended the annual AASE Conference! (Kirsha Trychta)
Monday, June 26, 2017
Hello, everyone. I am excited to join the Law School Academic Support Blog as a Contributing Editor! I have enjoyed keeping up with the Blog entries over the years, and I look forward to adding my take to this wonderful ASP resource.
We work in a diverse profession, and we carry many responsibilities. I hope to use the Blog as an opportunity for us to share our insight and experiences. If there are any particular topics or ideas you would like for me to explore in the Blog, feel free to email me at email@example.com. You can also Tweet me @ojsalinas (#lawschoolASP).
I have had the pleasure of meeting many of you at our various ASP conferences. If our ASP paths have not crossed yet, I hope they do soon! (OJ Salinas)
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Law students often comment about how stressed they are, how little sleep they get, how they survive on pizza and energy drinks, how they never have time to exercise, and more. It is easy for them during the academic year to become overwhelmed and forget to take care of themselves.
The summer is a perfect time to focus on getting healthy before the next academic year. By setting good wellness routines during the summer months, students are more likely to continue those routines once school starts. Here are some tips for the summer to prepare to be a healthy law student this coming year:
Set up and maintain a routine sleep schedule. Medical research shows that sleep is one of the most important prerequisites for your brain to be focused and productive!
- Research shows that we need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If you get less than that amount consistently, you will be chronically sleep-deprived.
- Sunday night through Friday morning should have the same routine - same time to bed and same time getting up.
- Research shows that a set sleep routine has more benefits than getting the same hours of sleep per night, but at varying times for bed and rising.
- Varying the sleep routine 2 hours or less during the weekend makes it easier to get back on the weekly routine on Sunday night.
- Obesity and chronic health problems are linked to lack of sleep. So use some preventative medicine by getting your ZZZZZs!
- Naps do not substitute for a good sleep routine and may actually disrupt your sleep schedule.
Exercise is one of the best stress reducers available to us. You do not have to become obsessed with exercise to benefit from it!
- Research shows that we need 150 minutes of exercise each week to get the benefits. That is just five 30-minute sessions!
- Exercise does not have to be a rigorous gym workout - walking is also good.
- Pick an exercise routine that suits your interests and lifestyle.
- An exercise routine with set days, times, and activities helps you remember to make time for your exercise plan.
- Exercising with a friend can often increase accountability to stick to the routine and make exercise more fun.
Nutrition is another key to brain and body health. Your brain needs fuel for all the heavy legal thinking you do!
- Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables this summer while they are plentiful.
- Limit your intake of sugar, salt, and caffeine to benefit your health.
- Stay hydrated and drink water regularly throughout the day.
- Limit your caffeine intake and especially watch those energy drinks which can have negative health effects.
Build positive activities into your week to balance work or study.
- Spend time with family and friends during the summer months - especially if you go to law school in another town or state away from them.
- Learn to take short breaks every 90 minutes during periods of focused tasks to allow your brain to re-focus and your body to de-stress.
- Practice mindfulness techniques to become more aware of the present. Many apps and websites exist to teach you simple techniques that can improve focus.
- Become more aware of tasks, body positions, situations, etc. that cause you to tense up and stress. Learn to avoid or manage those items and events more effectively.
When you walk through the law school doors in August, do not abandon your routines that focus on wellness. With time management techniques and effective study strategies, you can continue your wellness efforts throughout law school semesters. If you need assistance to find that balance in your life, contact your law school's academic support professionals for help in managing your life-study schedule. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Friday, June 16, 2017
A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education lauded the importance of trying things we are bad at, practicing, and becoming better. Carol Dweck's growth mindset concept, a concept known to many ASPish readers, is mentioned in the article. The article is found here: The Importance of Being Bad at Something.
Monday, June 12, 2017
Hello Academic Support Professors:
Even though we just concluded the conference in Fort Worth, the AASE executive committee is already looking to identify possible conference venues for 2019. To identify the pool of possibilities, we are asking for your help. If you have an interest in hosting the AASE annual conference at your school in May 2019, please let us know.
This is a formal request for proposals. The deadline to submit proposals is August 1, 2017. Interested academic support professors should let us know the answers to the following questions:
- Do you have large room capacity–i.e., the ability to have as many as 175 people meeting together in a single room–for plenary sessions? (The room must be available in late May, which may rule out schools that already have made commitments for other conferences or for bar review lectures.)
- Are there smaller rooms available for breakout sessions?
- What are the general technical features (e.g., projectors/audio/wifi) in the building?
- How easily can your school be accessed from airports and other public transportation?
- Have you ever hosted a conference before (local, regional, or national)? Please identify the conference(s) you hosted. (Prior hosting experience is not required.)
- Have you spoken with your school’s Dean or anyone else whose approval would be necessary for your school to host the conference? If so, please identify their response.
Note that while hosting the conference requires no out-of-pocket financial costs for the host school, the school will need to provide space and manpower for the event, and one academic support professional from the school will serve on the AASE Executive Board for two years.
Please respond directly to Betsy Six, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks in advance for responding!
The AASE Executive Committee
Betsy Six, President
Friday, June 9, 2017
Over on Paul Caron's Tax Prof Blog is a posting regarding a Wall Street Journal article on law school deans pushing for a lower pass score and a new study that indicates lawyers with lower scores are more likely to face discipline and disbarment. You can read the Tax Prof Blog posting here.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Monday, June 5, 2017
Louis Sirico has had a recent post on the Legal Skills Prof Blog about a former law student whose vision problem caused reading difficulties. The happy ending includes a correct diagnosis years later and a new type of corrective glasses. The post can be found here.