Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Power of Dreams Plus Encouragement

Texas Tech School of Law has had a partnership for seven years now with the Law and Justice Magnet Program at one of the local high schools that has predominately minority student enrollment.  Recently I had lunch with the LJMP instructor.  We are both passionate about the partnership and were discussing plans for next semester.

We started the partnership for several reasons.  First, it allows us to support the high school's efforts in increasing student awareness of legal issues and potential careers in law.  Second, it provides us with an avenue to encourage students to stay in school, continue on to college, and enter professional education after college.  Third, it provides opportunities and role models for students who have dreams to reach beyond their backgrounds and become success stories for their families.

Some of the aspects of the program are:

  • Upper-division law students who are selected as Dean's Community Teaching Fellows to assist at the high school in the LJMP courses.  These DCTFs mentor individual students, participate in the classroom experiences, and help coach the mock trial team for the Texas high school competition.
  • Mini-classes for senior students in which we discuss fact patterns and cases as well as legal research.  The Legal Practice professors provided us with 1L legal memorandum packets that we modified for high school use.  The law librarians assist with the legal research component.
  • VIP attendance at a variety of law school events.  For example, the students have attended lectures with Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, and Stephen Breyer.  They have attended hearings in front of the Texas Seventh Court of Appeals.  In several cases, the students have had the honor of being photographed with our guests.
  • Donated items for the LJMP library of study aids that cover civil and criminal topics in their courses. 

Will all of the students end up at Texas Tech School of Law?  Will all of them become lawyers some day?  No.  But that is okay. 

We definitely want to see the diversity of the legal profession increase and some of these students will become lawyers.  They may not attend Tech Law, but the legal profession will benefit.  

However, if all of these high school students become successful citizens and reach their dreams, we will also have succeeded.  Whether they become police officers, forensic scientists, lawyers, doctors, small business owners, nurses, teachers, or meet other career goals, they will have followed their dreams. 

Most importantly, they will have known that we believed in them and their futures.  They will have had our encouragement and support.  (Amy Jarmon)

 

November 7, 2012 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Want Halloween to Continue a Little Longer?

If Halloween is one of your favorite times of year, you will want to look at a new publication entitled Halloween Law by my colleague at Texas Tech School of Law, Victoria "Vickie" Sutton.  The book discusses cases dealing with a number of 1L courses as well as advanced courses: oil and gas, intellectual property, military law, legal ethics, and others.  These cases show our students that you can have fun learning the law.  The chapters include final exams with answer explanations for those who would not want students to have too much fun while studying law!  The book is a quick, fun read with some very interesting case facts.  Enjoy the read - sorry the candy ran out last night.  (Amy Jarmon)   

November 1, 2012 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

ZZZZZZZZZZ

Sleep is essential.  Most law students short themselves on enough sleep.  Rather than allowing them to get more done, less sleep actually decreases their learning.

Here are sleep facts:

  1. If a person gets less than 7 hours of sleep consistently, the medical diagnosis is chronic sleep deprivation.
  2. The average person needs 7-8 hours of sleep per night to function optimally.
  3. Some people need more than 8 hours of sleep for medical reasons or other circumstances.
  4. The body and brain work best with a consistent sleep routine - going to bed (Sunday through Thursday nights) and getting up (Monday through Friday mornings) at the same time.
  5. On the weekends, you can vary the sleep schedule 2-2 1/2 hours without whacking out your body clock for the rest of the week (go to bed at 1 a.m. instead of 11 p.m. and get up at 9:30 a.m. instead of 7:00 a.m., for example).
  6. Having a consistent sleep schedule will cause you to get sleepy as bedtime approaches and to wake up a few minutes before the alarm goes off.
  7. The average person needs 3 hours to complete a full sleep cycle.
  8. If you wake up with less than 90 minutes before your alarm will go off, you are probably better to get up than go back to sleep because your sleep cycle was interrupted at an inopportune point and result in grogginess if you go back to sleep.
  9. Sleep inducers before bed: warm milk, a lavendar bubble bath, at least 1/2 hour of wind down time.
  10. Sleep inducers once in bed: a dark room, a quiet room, lack of electronic gadgets in the bedroom (television, computer, etc.).
  11. Sleep inhibitors: alcohol, caffeine, a large meal near bedtime, exercise too close to bedtime, electronic stimulation right before bed (television, computer, etc.).
  12. Realize that if you wake up during the night that it is not unusual to take 15 minutes to fall back to sleep - do not stare at the digital alarm clock waiting to go back to sleep.
  13. If you wake up during the night with worries that you will forget something, keep a pad and pen on the nightstand and capture your thoughts - it will be easier to go back to sleep.
  14. If you toss and turn for a long period and cannot get back to sleep, get up and go to another room and read something boring before you try to go back to bed.
  15. A consistent sleep routine will eliminate the need for excessive napping.
  16. Power napping of 5-30 minutes can refresh some people.
  17. Naps of more than 20-30 minutes actually make you more groggy.
  18. Sufficient sleep has the following benefits:
  • Increased focus when studying.
  • Increased retention of material.
  • Greater productivity within the time spent studying.
  • Decreased irritability and stress.
  • Weight loss.

Getting the proper number of ZZZZ's is very important.  Do not skimp here if you want to be alert, focused, and learning-ready.  (Amy Jarmon) 

October 28, 2012 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The 3L Blahs

Have you noticed your 3L students struggling a bit?  They stop to chat and tell me that they are lacking motivation, have the blahs, cannot focus, or other descriptions of their malaise when it comes to law school.

For some, it is that they are focusing on their job hunt and have taken their focus off courses.  For some, it is a focus on December graduation and chomping at the bit to be done.  For some it is a focus on taking the bar in February before their final spring semester is over and thinking about bar review now.  For many it is just being sick and tired of law school with this semester and another one left to go.

For many of our 3L students, the third year seems like more of the same.  The study tasks are just like the first two years.  Unless they have elective courses that really grab their attention and introduce them to or re-immerse them in an area of law that they have a passion for, the courses seem uninspiring. 

Some exceptions to the 3L boredom problem are our externship and clinic students.  They seem to be energized by the change of pace they have during the semester.  Other exceptions are those students who are in Trial Advocacy or other practice-oriented classroom experiences.  Students who have traditional classes with even some component that breaks the mold (one drafting assignment, one client interaction, etc.) also seem more engaged in those classes.

What can 3L students with the blahs do to increase their motivation and focus if they do not have any of these types of classroom experiences?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Employ more active study techniques.  Ask questions while reading.  Read aloud instead of silently.  Discuss cases and concepts with others.  Switch up the facts and consider how the court would have responded to that new fact situation.  Answer all of the questions at the ends of cases even if not required. 
  • Imagine that the client in the case had walked into one's own office with the legal problem.  What questions would be asked of the client?  What additional arguments could have been made by each side that were not made?  What would be the strengths and weaknesses of those arguments?  Are there any policy considerations?  What ethical problems could have surfaced in the situation?    
  • Consider after each class how the information could be used in practice.  Create hypothetical scenarios to delve into how the basics learned in the course would relate to a variety of legal situations.
  • Discuss those hypotheticals with classmates.  If you are uncertain how the concepts would work in the scenario, talk with the professor about the scenario.  
  • Volunteer for pro bono opportunities to see the law in action instead of feeling on the sidelines. 
  • Find part-time legal work in the community - even if it is an unpaid internship - to increase one's interaction with lawyers and involvement in the practice of law.
  • Remind oneself of one's original goals for coming to law school and how courses will help one in passing the bar and practicing after graduation.

Even when 3L students feel that they just want to be done with their degrees, they still have the ultimate goal of becoming the best possible attorneys.  Each bit of knowledge, each fact-scenario analysis, each probing question can lead to that goal - even when one is tempted to consider all of it just same old-same old. 

Hang in there and take one day at a time.  Learn as much as you can because for most future attorneys this will be the last time that they have the luxury to focus on learning.  (Amy Jarmon)  

  

 

   

 

October 24, 2012 in Miscellany, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Part II: The power of accountability for students

Some of my students struggle with getting their work done in a timely manner.  They succumb to electronic distractions: cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail.  They take 2 - 3 hour naps.  They allow a 2-hour reading assignment to bleed over into 3 hours.  They wander around the law school chatting with friends. 

Setting up accountability mechanisms works well for many of these students.  They lack  self-discipline, but can meet expectations when someone else is going to monitor what they do.  Some examples of accountability strategies are:

  • Students with major papers to write can set up a series of deadlines when they will confer with their professors or turn in certain work (if the professor is willing): topic discussion; outline of initial research; initial bibliography; first drafts of each paper section.
  • Probation students meet weekly with me and know that I will ask about their reading and briefing, outlining, writing progress, and reviewing for exams each time I see them.  Having to be accountable keeps most of them on track.
  • Married students post their study schedules on the refrigerator at home so that their spouses know when they should be studying rather than watching television.  They give their spouses permission to monitor their time and hold them accountable if they are not adhering to the schedule.   
  • A law student will ask a classmate to help them stick to a study schedule.  The student gives the classmate permission to call them to account if they are wandering around chatting, taking too many breaks, or avoiding an assignment. 
  • A law student agrees to meet another law student at the library for several hours of individual study so that the appointment is incentive to show up and study instead of doing other things.
  • A law student joins a study group that has a weekly agenda of review topics and practice questions  that each member agrees to complete individually before the study group meets.
  • A student calls a significant other or parent every evening and gives that person permission to ask what they accomplished that day in studying.
  • A student uses one of the on-line time management programs to monitor use of time so that it is readily apparent how much time was used for studying versus breaks and other tasks.

Most students do not want to disappoint others even though they regularly disappoint themselves on study tasks.  If accountability provides the initial way for a student to break bad habits regarding starting or completing study tasks, then the law student should  take advantage of the willingness of others to help them stay on track.  In time, studying will hopefully become a matter of self-discipline.  All of them will need self-discipline in practice!  (Amy Jarmon) 

September 16, 2012 in Miscellany, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Part I: The power of accountability as an ASP'er

Accountability can help all of us stay on track with the tasks we need to accomplish.  When we know we are answering to someone else, we are more likely to work consistently on meeting an obligation.  A real deadline keeps us focused. 

The problem, I find, is when the project has no deadline or no one is expecting to see the finished product or no one else is invested in the project.  If the task is merely something that I want to do as opposed to something that I need to do, the accountability seems missing.  It is much easier to procrastinate, to pay attention to things right in front of me, and to delay the task.  For me, these tasks become orphan tasks that are disconnected from the remainder of my work.

When I discover an orphaned task, the first thing I determine is whether I still think the task is one that should be completed:

  • I remind myself of the objective/goal that I had when I originally decided the task should be added to my project list. 
  • If the objective/goal is still valid, I use that to as an incentive.  In looking at my other projects, I determine where the orphaned task should be in priority.  
  • If a task is no longer important or no longer possible, I decide to let it go.  Timing, budget, my energy level, or a resolved problem may all be factored in when I release the orphaned task.

When I realize that I have a task orphan that is valid but I still keep putting it on the back burner, I try to find ways to make myself accountable.  Which strategy I choose will depend a great deal on the particular task, but here are some things that I try:

  • I break the larger task into small steps that are then assigned to time blocks on my calendar during the next two weeks so that my calendar holds me accountable to get started..
  • I discuss the task with a colleague so that someone else now knows that it is on my agenda.
  • Once I make some progress, I talk to a colleague about my progress and what I want to accomplish next.
  • I set a deadline date for showing the results to a colleague - or several deadline dates if I am going to have stages for completion.

Most tasks I can stay motivated and work on consistently.  However, I know that orphan tasks are a different breed.  By recognizing my need for accountability, I am able to get unstuck and complete the task that has been stranded on the corner of my desk for far too long.  (Amy Jarmon) 

September 12, 2012 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The 20 Top Questions 1Ls Are Asking

Here are the most common questions that I have been getting from my first-year students during the opening weeks of the semester:

  1. Will it always take me so long to read and brief cases?
  2. What is the best way to remember all of the legal terms and definitions?
  3. How do I choose the critical facts from the many facts that are in the case?
  4. Why is it that my issue statement does not match the issue my professor wanted?
  5. Why is it that some professors do not seem to care much about procedure?
  6. What is the difference between a holding and a judgment/disposition?
  7. What do they mean when they talk about policy?
  8. Why do we read such old cases that are not even still good law?
  9. Do I need to know all this history and background stuff for the exam?
  10. What are these outlines that everyone is talking about all the time?
  11. Can I just use someone else's outline rather make my own?
  12. When do I need to start outlining for a course?
  13. How do I find time to outline when I barely have enough time to read and brief cases?
  14. What is an IRAC and how do we learn to do it?
  15. When should I start doing practice questions and how do I find them?
  16. How do I decide what study aids to use for a course?
  17. Why do we have to do legal research and writing when we already have enough to do with our other courses?
  18. Will I be able to have some down time when I do not have to study?
  19. When am I going to take naps?
  20. When am I going to watch my favorite television shows?

As you can see, the questions have covered the waterfront.  I'll spend several upcoming posts answering some of these questions.  (Amy Jarmon)

 

September 5, 2012 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Beloit Mindset List

Thank you to John Edwards at Drake for reminding us that it is the time of year for the Mindset List. 

Beloit College has published its latest list which explores the world view of entering college freshmen (Class of 2016).  I have included a link to it here for all of you who want to know what to expect in four years:

Beloit Mindset 2016

For those of you who want to refresh yourselves on what the Beloit Mindset List said about the Class of 2012 who just graduated from college and is now represents many of our new 1L class, the link for the list is here:

Beloit Mindset 2012 Graduates New 1L Students

And if you want to remind yourself about our 2L and 3L students or our non-traditional students, you can browse the lists for respective years at the main page:

Beloit Mindset By Year

I am always a bit surprised at some of the items on the list while others make me chuckle.  Those references that we all use in class become more outdated each year.  (Amy Jarmon)

August 23, 2012 in Learning Styles, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Essential Life Skills for Law Students

All of us in academic success teach students the strategies that they need to perform the traditional legal study skills more efficiently and effectively: reading cases, briefing cases, outlining course material, fact-pattern-essay exam taking, multiple-choice exam taking, successful study groups, etc. 

All of us also know that we teach our students essential life skills.  However, our students do not always consider how very important those life skills are.  They instead become focused only on grades in law school.  They do not contemplate how life skills that apply to success in law school also apply to being better attorneys, friends, spouses, parents, and citizens. 

Here are some of the life skills that I think we teach our law students to help them in everything they will do.  The list is not in a particular order, and I am sure all of us could add to it.

  • Time management
  • Project management
  • Stress management
  • Preferences for learning
  • Effective memory strategies
  • Curbing procrastination tendencies
  • Life-work balance
  • Clarification of personal and professional goals
  • Problem solving - academic and non-academic
  • Evaluating strategies, options, and techniques
  • Facing difficulties (and even failure) and moving forward
  • Celebrating improvement and overcoming obstacles.
  • The balance between relying on oneself and asking for help.

I want my students to succeed academically.  But I especially want them to succeed as valuable human beings.  (Amy Jarmon)

 

August 21, 2012 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Get your feet wet sometimes, even if you shouldn't

My feet are wet. In fact, my jeans are wet all the way up above my knees. I have been standing in the surf of the Atlantic Ocean watching lightning off in the distance. 

I called my wife while I stood there. She isn't here, but she should've been. I had to come to a conference to speak, and we thought we should not spend the money it would take for her to come down with me. 

You see, we just spent a couple of weeks in the Colorado Rockies on vacation. We figured that we should be a little more careful with our money after that trip, so we thought it better that she not join me this time, given how expensive flights to Florida from Kansas are. 

It sounded wise and responsible at the time. She was originally going to come with me because our 35th anniversary takes place while I am in Florida. We had thought it would be romantic to spend it together on the beach, even if I had to take some time out to attend sessions and present a talk. 

But money considerations won out, and she stayed home. We decided to celebrate our anniversary when I return. 

Sometimes wisdom is not all that wise. Looking out over the ocean as it crashed against my feet, I realized that my wife should have been standing next to me, whether we could afford it or not. I called her from the surf and asked her to get on a plane tomorrow and fly down here –whether we could afford it or not. 

Flights and other arrangements may not work out on such short notice. I wish I had gotten my feet wet three weeks ago and arranged for her to come with me. 

I don't tell you this story to say that you should waste money. You know the saying by now, no doubt, "Live like a lawyer while you are in law school, and you will live like a law student when you get out." 

On the other hand, when you look back at your life, you will realize that some things just mattered more than good money management. Or maybe, good money management includes making stupid decisions for wise reasons sometimes.  

I don't really know. But after 35 years of raising kids, dealing with life, and falling asleep in each others arms, we should not have worried about the cost of a plane ticket on the eve of our anniversary. 

Sometimes, you ought to get your feet wet when the opportunity arises, rather than stay dry and in miss something important.  (Dan Weddle) 

July 30, 2012 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Getting ready for a new academic year

I am surprised every summer when August 1st comes around.  The summer looks so long and full of possibilities right after graduation.  However, it always ends too quickly for everything I would like to accomplish in my grandest dreams.

There are some things, however, that I try to complete each summer to prepare for the next semester as well as recharge my batteries.

Here are some of the things that I find help me most to "get my house in order" and approach the upcoming academic year with enthusiasm:

  • I critique the handouts and Power Point slides that I use for student workshops to see what changes need to be made.  Often during the academic year, I have thought of new examples to use, new ways of explaining information, or gained insights from my students.  By revamping my materials regularly, I am able to offer better information and get excited about the new techniques that I can pass on to students in the coming months.
  • I revamp my four-week course for our Summer Entry Program.  It is easy to get lulled into doing things exactly the same each year because the program works so well with our current format.  However, by challenging myself to find better ways of teaching the material and by incorporating suggestions from last summer, I keep myself and the material fresh.  The changes may be small tweaks in many places and major rethinks in a few spots, but they all focus on giving 100% to the students.
  • I review publishers' catalogs and order library books for our study aids/academic success library to get the newest editions or series within my budget allotment.  It is always exciting to see what new volumes my ASP colleagues have published! 
  • I critique administrative tasks to find ways to be more efficient and effective.  For tasks where I interface with other offices, I brainstorm better ways that we can communicate.  For my own tasks, I review my calendar for the last year to make notes about when I should schedule certain tasks during the coming year and changes that I need to make.
  • I sort through my e-mail archives and delete e-mails that are not needed any longer.  If I have time, I also sort through my Word files to delete outdated or unwanted items that have been overlooked.   
  • I catch up on some professional reading.  During the summer, I try to read at least one book related to legal education, academic success, or education theory.  I also work my way through a stack of articles that I have collected throughout the year but never had time to read.
  • I pull out my folder of thank you notes and e-mails from students and read through them.  This task allows me to remember why I do what I do and encourages me to continue to impact student lives for the better.  It reminds me to focus on being a blessing to my students in small as well as large ways.

By the time Orientation begins, I am ready for a new crop of 1Ls and our returning students.  My housekeeping for ASP is done, and I am ready to start the cycle all over again.  (Amy Jarmon) 

July 29, 2012 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ten Tips for Rising 2L and 3L Students

Some of the returning students always ask my advice on what they can do to get ready for their academics and improve their grades for the coming year.  Here are my suggestions - some of the items can be done this summer; others can be completed in the first few weeks:

  • Sit down and evaluate your study habits from the previous year.  Look at each aspect of law school: reading and briefing, note-taking in class, outlining, reviewing for exams, memorizing the law, taking fact-pattern-essay exams, taking multiple-choice exams, completing papers or projects.  What were your strengths in studying and why?  What were your weaknesses in studying and why? 
  • Decide which study habits to continue and which study habits to change.  Meet with the academic success staff at your school if you need help with this evaluation of your studying or with brainstorming new strategies.
  • If you have specific skill weaknesses, read a book about that skill to improve your understanding.  Here are a few examples: Reading Like a Lawyer by Ruth Ann McKinney; The Five Types of Legal Argumentby Wilson Huhn; The Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance in Law Schoolby Charles H. Whitebread.  You can find a number of excellent books through Carolina Academic Press and other publishers.
  • Start regimens now that are healthy and sensible.  Get on a routine sleep schedule of 7-8 hours per night.  Exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes to an hour.  Eat healthy meals.  Do not let these routines disappear during the semester. 
  • If at all possible, relax for at least one week prior to the beginning of classes.  You want to begin the semester with fully recharged batteries.  
  • Time yourself in each course for the entire first week to see how long it takes you to prepare for class (read, brief, complete problem sets).  Then pick the longest block of time for each course and use that to set up your class preparation schedule.  
  • Schedule also regular time for other tasks each week: outlines, review of outlines, practice questions, research, writing, study group, and more. 
  • Read your course syllabi very carefully.  Many professors include information that can help you get the best grades in the course: learning objectives, study aid recommendations, websites and other resources, study tips, and more.
  • During the first month of school, review all exams from last semester for which you received a C+ or lower grade.  By getting feedback from your professors on what you did well and what needs improvement, you can make the appropriate changes as you do practice questions for your next set of exams.
  • If you were disappointed in your performance in a paper class last semester, ask the professor for tips on how you could improve your research and writing.  Then use the feedback to improve on your papers this year.

Second and third years are somewhat easier because students have learned the basic skills needed for success in law school.  However, both years bring new responsibilities with part-time work and student organizations.  Time management and organization are going to be two key areas to work on to attain your best grades.  (Amy Jarmon)  

July 27, 2012 in Miscellany, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Additional Items on the Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset

Hat tip to Jennifer Romig at Emory University for a link on the LRW Prof listserv for an article on using fixed-mindset feedback versus growth-mindset feedback with students who are struggling.  The summary on several studies dealing with undergraduate math students can be found here: Be Careful When Comforting Struggling Students.

Also a hat tip to Myra Orlen at Western New England for information on an article about Dweck's work and how the mindsets apply to law student assessment:

"Carrie Sperling, Arizona State College of Law, has co-authored an article entitled "Fixing Students' Fixed Mindsets: Paving the Way for Meaningful Assessment." The article draws upon Carol Dweck's work and places that work directly in the law school context."

For more information about Carrie: Carrie Sperling.  For an abstract and download version of her article: Fixing Students' Fixed Mindsets

I have found Dweck's concepts helpful in working with my students.  These extra resources are useful to anyone interested in learning more about the mindsets.  (Amy Jarmon)

May 17, 2012 in Learning Styles, Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 30, 2012

TED-Ed as a Teaching Tool

Many of you are probably already aware of the TED education video/flipped lessons website.  If not, you want to check it out.  An article in today's Chronicle of Higher Education talks about TED and a link to the website is here: TED-Ed .  Although the lessons that are already on the website are not particularly useful for law, the ability to flip You Tube videos and make lessons is potentially useful.  (Amy Jarmon) 

April 30, 2012 in Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Are you looking for a first job in ASP?

As is the case every year at this time, postings for ASP jobs are beginning to proliferate.  Some of the openings are brand new positions; some of the openings result from retirements, moves to other law schools, or changes in career focus. 

If you are applying for ASP jobs for the first time, I would like to make some observations that may be helpful to you as you approach your job search.  Whether you are a recent law graduate, an attorney leaving practice, or an academic changing paths, there are some things that you need to know.

ASP positions vary greatly throughout the law school landscape.  They run the gamut of part-time to full-time, tenure-track to administrative, ASP alone to ASP with bar prep and/or writing centers, one-person offices to multi-layered staffing, entry-level positions to experience-required positions.  The positions might report to Academic Affairs or to Student Affairs or to a faculty committee.

The salaries for ASP positions will reflect that law school landscape as well.  Unfortunately, unlike our colleagues in legal writing, we are rarely privy to the salary range from the job ad that is provided.  The wide range of salaries in ASP work makes it especially hard to know whether a position for which you are applying is even realistic for your salary requirements.  If you are looking at positions in diverse geographical areas, your search is complicated even more with cost-of-living considerations.  Add differences in state and local tax rates, benefits packages, and real-estate markets to your list of considerations.

Your status as an ASP'er will also vary.  At some law schools, you will be an equal with faculty because of your tenure-track status.  At other law schools, you may be treated like a faculty member in many ways except the formal ones: promotion, retention, tenure, and voting rights.  And at other law schools, you will be treated as a staff member of lesser status.

The ASP program components will vary depending on the school as well: individual sessions, workshops, formal classes, and more.  The students who will receive services may be at-risk, probation, or all students.  There may be services for students in all three years, a focus on 1Ls, or special segments of your program designed for different populations in each year.

At some law schools, you will be encouraged to publish and teach outside the confines of ASP.  Other schools will see you as purely an ASP person and confine your classroom involvement to those areas of expertise - no matter your actual additional practice expertise.  Some law schools will not allow you to have a classroom presence at all.

You will serve on law school (and maybe even university-wide) committees in one situation. You may have service opportunities for your law school in the wider community even (for example, with a pipeline partnership with the local school district).   Another law school may not require your service at all for anything because only faculty and higher-level administrators are on committees.

At some law schools you will have a carved-in-stone-never-to-vary budget line for your program.  At other places you will justify your budget line anew each year, but have a budget line that you know ahead of time for the year.  At other law schools you will have to go hat in hand for every dollar you need throughout the year.  In some situations, you will be a miracle worker creating programs without resources.

Your facilities might include spaces for multiple staff, classrooms, conference rooms, library space, and other dedicated spaces at many schools.  At other schools, you will have an office space alone that doubles as your space for other duties if you are a part-timer.

Professional development and travel funds will be budgeted for you at some law schools.  Other law schools will have you apply on a case-by-case basis for approval.  Yet other schools will place you at the bottom of the queue for such funding. 

In other words, "it depends" is the mantra for what an ASP position entails.  Each position will have a different experience for you as an ASP'er.  You want to read job ads carefully.  Investigate the parameters of ASP at the specific law school.  Determine where you will fit in professionally.  Determine what the resources are available for the position.  Determine what avenues there will be for your professional growth.  In short, do not make assumptions or take anything for granted because of what you are familiar with at your alma mater or in a friend's ASP program.

ASP work is terrific.  It is rewarding and vital.  However, it is also hard work.  The extras of professional development and service often come out of your overtime hours.  You will not get rich.  There may be detractors if your status is not equal to faculty.  But the incentive is that you will make a huge difference in students' lives.  (Amy Jarmon)       

April 29, 2012 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Is law school right for you?

I have had a number of appointments lately with students who wanted to talk about the pros and cons of staying in law school.  Some of them were disappointed with their grades.  Some had outside family, medical, or financial issues that were weighing on their minds.

If you are asking yourself whether or not law school is right for you, here are some things to consider:

  • Why did you originally want to attend law school?  Are those reasons still as important to you?   Reminding yourself of why you originally enrolled can help to refocus your thinking about law school. 
  • Were your reasons tied to internal or external motivations?  You may well have a mix of motivations.  However, when the going gets tough and doubts arise, internal motivations are often more deeply supportive of your chosen path.  (Internal motivation examples: I want to help immigrant families with legal problems.  I loved working as a paralegal before law school.  External motivation examples: My parents told me I should be a lawyer.  I got turned down for medical school.). 
  • Have you changed your mind about what you want to do with a law degree?  Some students have doubts because they decide they don't like the original type of law they thought they wanted to practice.  That is okay - law includes a multitude of different legal specialties.  Some students decide they don't want to work in BigLaw.  That is okay - there are many different practice experiences: different sized firms, government work, non-profit agencies, public service.  Some students decide that they do not want to practice at all.  That is okay - there are a number of alternative careers for law graduates.  Explore practice areas and career options with your career services office.  Talk to professors and other lawyers about their careers and areas of expertise.  If you decide that another graduate degree or work experience matches your career goals better than a law degree, that is the decision you need to make   
  • Do you enjoy cases, legal concepts, and legal analysis?  If you enjoy the daily study of law, that may be a positive indicator to remain.  However, if you hate what you are doing, you may be happier in another field of study.  Note that enjoying the law is not the same statement as enjoying law school
  • Do you enjoy being in law school most days?  Law school is not an easy environment for many reasons.  If you are miserable every day, then that is not healthy for you.  However, if most of the time you deal positively with the workload and environment and keep your perspective, then you may decide that the issues you have with law school can be handled.  Most law schools have academic support professionals who can help you learn ways to study smarter rather than harder and to manage your time well.  They can also refer you to other professionals who can help you evaluate any remaining issues. 
  • Are there family or medical or other priorities that mean you need to leave law school right now?  All law students have responsibilities and circumstances that are outside the law school.  If those priorities need your focus right now to the exclusion of law school, then you need to do what is necessary to meet those obligations.  Consider the best way to meet any personal responsibilities within the options your law school provides. 
  • What are the options that you have at your law school?  You may be able to take a leave of absence, go to part-time status, or have other options at your school.  If you decide to leave at this point, make sure you follow proper procedures.  If you have financial aid, make sure you understand the ramifications of your choice.  If you can keep your options open (for example, a leave of absence), do so. 
  • Who are the people who can help you with your decision?  Talk to faculty, deans, your academic advisor, parents, mentors.  Do not try to make the decision by yourself.  Find objective people who can help you see the pros and cons.  Get as much information as possible from your law school's administration before making a decision.  Consider what you will do next if you decide to leave law school - better to have a game plan if at all possible.

Law school may be the very best match for your goals and circumstances.  However, law school may be a good match later, but the timing is off now.  Finally, if law school is not a good match for you, there is no shame in choosing a different path and walking away from this choice.  (Amy Jarmon) 

February 5, 2012 in Advice, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hope and Higher Grades

Hat tip to the Legal Writing Prof Blog for the following link to a recent article on research about law students and hope. 

Go to The National Law Journal to read the article summarizing research published in the Journal of Research in Personality and previously reported in the Duquesne Law ReviewAllison Martin, a clinical professor at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, is one of the researchers.  (Amy Jarmon)

January 13, 2012 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Remember the AALS Academic Support One-Day Conference!

The AALS One-Day Workshop will be held on Saturday, January 7, 2012 in Washington, DC during the Annual Meeting.   The day’s title is: “Got ASP?  Leveraging Academic Support Principles and Programs to Meet Strategic Institutional Goals.” The event will run from 8:45 AM – 5:00 PM and includes many speakers, moderators, and dynamic presentations.

AALS will hold a Luncheon that day, with a  fee of $65.  At the lunch, Darby Dickerson, Dean of Texas Tech University School of Law, will introduce Stephen Zack, ABA President.   He will address the importance of diversity to legal education and the legal profession and why providing practical skills training in law school benefits the profession and greater community.  I encourage you to attend the presentations and the lunch – it should be a terrific day.

The Section on Academic Support will hold its Business Meeting from 5:00 PM – 5:15 PM in the same room following the One-day Workshop.

In lieu of the full day program and lunch on Saturday, the Section on AS will not be holding a breakfast or a Section program.

You may register for the One-Day Workshop and the luncheon by using the registration materials in your Annual Meeting program booklet or by going online to the AALS website.   (The AALS Workshop appears on pages 80 – 83 of the booklet). Please note that when registering online for both the One-Day Workshop and the Luncheon, you may receive a prompt asking if you should override the conflicting events.  The answer is “yes.”

Thanks for your support and anticipated participation.

The Planning Committee for the 2012 Annual Meeting Workshop on Academic Support:

Darby Dickerson, Chair, Texas Tech University School of Law Robin Boyle, St. John’s University School of Law Paula Lustbader, Seattle University School of Law Russell McClain, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

 

Along with AALS Officers:

Susan Westerberg Prager, Executive Director, CEO Jane La Barbera, Managing Director Mary Cullen, Meetings Manager

 

December 29, 2011 in Meetings, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays

All of us at the Law School Academic Support Blog wish you and yours wonderful holidays.  We hope that you will have a great 2012.

We look forward to seeing many of you at AALS for the Academic Support Section program and business meeting. 

Safe travels!  We will begin posting again after the holidays and conference (if not before).

December 23, 2011 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Generosity of Spirit

It is the time of year when various student organizations run additional projects to help other people.  In the last few weeks, there have been collections of warm coats for the homeless, non-perishable food for those without enough in their pantries, care package items for our soldiers, gifts for Salvation Army Angel Tree, and more. 

I know that our law students are not alone in these types of efforts.  Law student organizations throughout our nation have undertaken similar efforts and many more acts of kindness.  Even with the upcoming stress of exams, law students remember the needs of those in their communities.

I think it is a tribute to our students that they care - not only at this time of year but throughout the academic year - to make the lives of others better.  Whether it is through donations, fund-raisers, in-kind giving, pro bono clinics, or other ways, law students have a positive impact in the community.

It is a shame that these future lawyers do not always get the credit that they deserve for their generosity of spirit.  It is also a shame that countless practicing lawyers who also give back to their communities in so many ways do not get recognized.  The next time someone tells you a lawyer joke, tell them about a contribution made by a law student or a lawyer to make the world a better place.

Thank you to all of the future lawyers and current lawyers who make a difference each and every day for our communities.  (Amy Jarmon) 

December 6, 2011 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)