Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Saturday, May 6, 2017

When You Hit a Wall

As exams unfold and the bar exam looms, I find that I have to remind students that they may hit a wall in their studying at some point. By that I mean, getting to a point when your brain cannot absorb one more rule, comprehend one more practice question, or focus on one more sentence. No amount of switching tasks, switching courses, or mental pep talks will budge that mental wall. It cannot be climbed over, gone around, or blasted through no matter what is tried.

So many students keep studying any way because they fear taking a break and walking away. Time is of the essence! But, the only result they will get is hitting their heads against that same wall. Frustration, stress, and anxiety all build as they soldier on.

Hitting a wall is a major stopping point - a 10-minute break or 10 jumping jacks will not budge it. Hitting a wall is our brain's way of saying, "STOP!!! There is no door in this wall for you to walk through. Go away and come back later after a big break."

The problem with this kind of major mental block is that a complete break is needed for the student to come back refreshed. One needs to find an environment or pastime that allows no thoughts about law school or law courses or law exams.

When I was in exam period or in bar studying and hit a wall, it did not help for me to sit in my apartment and read or watch a TV show. Those books and outlines were still over in the corner, worrying me. I was surprised that as a runner and swimmer that those pursuits also did not allow me a total break. I could still worry about law while I ran or swam.

So I chose two activities that meant I would completely relax, get away from the law, and let my brain recover for a couple of hours:

  • Going to a movie theater. Once the lights went down, I would become absorbed in the movie and forget all about law school. Comedies were especially good for those laugh endorphins. Besides, I adore popcorn.
  • Playing racquetball. That hard little blue ball really hurts if you do not stay focused on the game. Whacking that little ball also got rid of lots of frustration and stress.

Students need to consider what would absorb them to the point of total relaxation. One student told me recently that she would choose playing a difficult piece of music on the piano. Another student chose playing tennis. Another prior student was a woodworker and had to concentrate totally around circular saws.

Listen to your brain. When it is telling you that it cannot do any more, take that longer break. Let your brain recuperate from all the heavy lifting for a couple of hours. Then go back refreshed and begin again. The wall will have come tumbling down by then. (Amy Jarmon)


May 6, 2017 in Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Director of Bar Admissions Program at Western New England

Director of Bar Admission Programs

Western New England University School of Law is seeking candidates to become our Director of Bar Admission Programs.  This is a full time, year-round position.  The Director will continue our existing bar examination preparation program and design, administer, and oversee the Law School’s bar examination preparation efforts and activities, including, as appropriate, teaching classes (for-credit and/or non-credit), counseling and tutoring students on an individual and group basis, and developing/implementing/monitoring programs and services.

The Director will work with law students to help them prepare for success on the bar examination and will further develop the program that is currently in place and implement appropriate changes as needed to make it as effective as possible.  Aspects of this work include: developing strategies to assist all students (particularly students whose academic indicia are predictive of challenges in passing the bar); tracking the academic progress of students (particularly at-risk students) to insure that students are receiving necessary bar passage services; tracking students’ bar examination results to focus better the Law School’s efforts and to satisfy accreditation reporting; teaching a supplemental bar review program or for-credit courses; coordinating interactions with the Board of Bar Examiners in various states and with commercial bar exam providers; developing programs and services to encourage awareness of bar exam and bar admissions requirements; and working closely with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Enrollment Planning, the Director of Academic Support, the Academic Support and Bar Pass Committee and other members of the faculty and staff to help students achieve success on their bar exams. 

Qualifications: The successful candidate will have a J.D. degree from an A.B.A. approved law school, admission to at least one state bar achieved via successful completion of a bar examination, and experience in teaching in and administering bar exam preparation programs and courses.

Western New England University is a private, independent, coeducational institution founded in 1919. Located on an attractive 215-acre suburban campus in Springfield, Massachusetts, Western New England University serves 3,700 students, including 2,550 full-time undergraduate students. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs are offered through Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, and Pharmacy, and School of Law.

Application Process:  Applications should be received by June 2, 2017, although nominations and applications may be accepted until the position is filled.  This position has a start date of July 1, 2017.  All applications should include a letter of interest and résumé, together with the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least three references.  Applications should be mailed to: Donna Martin, Employment Associate, Human Resources, Western New England University, 1215 Wilbraham Road, Springfield, MA 01119.  Electronic submissions are encouraged and may be sent to

Western New England University is an Equal Opportunity Employer.  We welcome candidates whose background may contribute to the further diversification of our community.

May 5, 2017 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Rodney O. Fong

You may consider this entry and future ones “self-serving” but please stay tuned. When my ASP mentor recently left the profession, I thought it might be a splendid idea to highlight a few “veteran ASPers” while they are still active in the profession. After conversations with a few colleagues, I decided to start highlighting a few individuals I view as “veteran ASPers.” I encountered these highly experienced individuals at certain points of my ASP journey which began almost ten years ago. Each contributed to my success by helping me in small or significant ways and shared their wisdom, experience, and advice. I deemed it expedient to streamline questions rather than ask them anything and everything I could have possibly wanted to know. It is impossible to highlight everyone so I am starting with a select few, Rodney O. Fong being the first.

Rodney O. Fong is an awesome individual. I was first introduced to him by my former law school Dean who suggested that I contact him for advice, direction, and possible mentoring. He responded to my email message which was followed by a great phone conversation. I admire his commitment to diversity, student success on the bar exam, and desire to help new professionals. Please learn about him below. (Goldie Pritchard)


Q: Please indicate your full name, title and institution of employment.

Rodney O. Fong

Co-Director of Law+Plus and Bar+Plus Programs & Assistant Professor of Law 

University of San Francisco School of Law

Q: Please briefly describe your ASP work including length of time associated with it and what initially stimulated your interest.

I switched from practice to teaching because I love teaching and counseling people. Also, I found that practicing law limited on the number of people I could help, namely my clients.  But by training more people to become lawyers, I could indirectly help more clients in our communities.

My law school had a formal academic support program and I was a student in the program as well as a tutor during my last two years of school. I started teaching in 1990, focusing on academic support and, in 2005, I formally added bar preparation.

Q: Which aspect(s) of ASP work do you enjoy the most? What would you consider your greatest challenge thus far and how have you overcome the challenge?

I love the challenge of figuring out how to better prepare our students. First it was putting together workshops and lesson plans focusing on IRAC and study skills. Then I delved into education and learning theory exploring ways to teach students more effectively. Next, it was figuring out how generational differences affected our Gen X and Gen Y students and that continues today with unraveling the effects of helicopter parenting. More recently, I have been working on applying socio-psychological theories and creating reduction and intervention strategies.

My greatest challenge has been helping law schools transition from input measures, like LSAT and UGPA, to output measures, such as graduation rates, bar passage, and employment. Law schools are now being evaluated on how well we teach our students and what they are learning, hence the ABA requirements for establishing student learning outcomes and formative and summative assessments. Unfortunately, changing the law school culture has been slow and painful. But schools that have been able to fully integrated academic support into their teaching and learning culture tend to be more successful.

Q: What do you want your professional legacy to be?

I have two things that I am equally proud of. First, I am proud of all the students that I have been able to help become lawyers, especially those from underrepresented groups and first generation students. They are now in the profession assisting clients and making an impact on our communities. I am also proud of helping the students who decided not to become lawyers. Law school and practicing law is not for everyone. But if I was able to help someone in their decision to leave law school and still maintain their dignity and confidence, then that is a success. Many of these students go on to become successful in other fields.

The other thing I am proud of is helping a law school overcome low bar performance to retain its ABA accreditation. It was not a matter of tutoring a few students to pass the exam, but changing the culture and attitude of an entire institution. When the bar results started to improve, you could feel the change in attitude and confidence within the school and that is something I will never forget. To hear students proclaim that they want to do better than the class before them was amazing, especially when a couple of year before, they doubted if they could even pass the exam.

Q: What motivational advice or encouragement would you offer to new and/or mid-career ASPers or law students?

For my ASP colleagues – Changing institutional cultures, attitudes, and behaviors is a process that takes lots of time and patience. Also, timing is critical. An institution may not be ready for change. But when it is, you have to be ready and prepared to lead.

Q: Is there anything else you deem necessary to share (quote, encouragement, inspiration, visual, etc.…)?

My favorite quote during this time of law school uncertainty is a Chinese proverb: “Chaos – where brilliant dreams are born.”

May 3, 2017 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tick, Tock: Time Management During Exams

A common concern among students is how to manage their time during an exam. Many students remark that they were rushed on the final essay or had to randomly bubble the Scantron for the last five multiple-choice questions. Time got away from them, and they simply ran out of time to do a thorough job on every question.

Here are some hints to have better time management in a fact-pattern-essay exam:

  • Before you begin answering questions, look at the professor's suggestion on importance regarding each question.
  • If the professor indicates a time estimate to show importance, you know how long you should spend on the question to garner the most points and to move through the exam at the right pace. Use the time estimate given by the professor.
  • For time estimates, add all the time estimates to make sure the professor did not make a math mistake - the total should equal or be less than the total exam time.
  • If the professor does not give time suggestions but instead gives points to show importance, the point totals indicate the proportion of time for each question within the exam.
  • For points, divide the total points by the time for the exam to determine how many points you should accumulate in an hour - match the points per hour to the questions to show the pace you should move through the exam.
  • For either type of professor indication, make a time chart for each question with the following proportion given to tasks; your chart will have the starting and ending times for each task for each question:
  1. Spend 1/3 of the time for the question to read, analyze, and organize an answer - your answer will be less jumbled.
  2. Spend 2/3 of the time for the question to write the answer - follow your answer organization to make sure you discuss everything you saw.

Here are some hints to have better time management in an objective exam:

  • Let's say you have 100 questions to finish in 3 hours (1.8 minutes per question) - most students stop their time management here; not very helpful because it is extremely hard to know if you are spending too little time or too much time for a particular question, and you will get whiplash looking at your watch that often.
  • The reality is that some questions will take less than 1.8 minutes because you know the material well or they are easier, and some questions will take more than 1.8 minutes because they are harder or you are less sure of the material.
  • It is more helpful to set checkpoints for yourself to work at a consistent pace through the exam; the number of checkpoints you use will depend on your past experience with objective exams.
  1. If you tend to speed through objective questions and misread, pick by gut, make careless errors, or have other speed-demon errors, then you will want more checkpoints to slow you down for careful reading and proper analysis.
  2. If you tend to get bogged down, stew over answers, second-guess as you go along, add facts outside the question's four-corners, or have other slow-poke errors, then you will want more checkpoints to keep you moving through questions and not dawdle or spin your wheels.
  • Let's do a time chart for the example of 100 questions in 3 hours (with a starting time of 1 p.m. and ending time of 4 p.m.); a checkpoint every 30 minutes works for many people: 1:30 p.m.: 17 questions completed; 2:00 p.m.: 34 questions completed; 2:30 p.m.: 51 questions completed; 3:00 p.m.: 68 questions completed; 3:30 p.m.: 85 questions completed; 4:00 p.m.: 100 questions completed. (Do not worry about the 16.6 when you divide 100 by 6; pretend you are the IRS and round up to 17 so that you have fewer questions in the last 1/2-hour segment.)
  • Are you someone who needs more checkpoints for the same exam example? A checkpoint every 20 minutes would give you: 1:20 p.m.: 11 questions completed; 1:40 p.m.: 22 questions completed; 2:00 p.m.: 33 questions completed; 2:20 p.m.: 44 questions completed; 2:40 p.m.: 55 questions completed; 3:00 p.m.: 66 questions completed; 3:20 p.m.: 77 questions completed; 3:40 p.m.: 88 questions completed; 4:00 p.m.: 100 questions completed. (For the 11.1 when you divide 100 by 9, again pretend you are the IRS and round down to 11 questions with 12 questions for the final 20-minute segment.)
  • If you are someone who wants some time to go back and review your exam, deduct those minutes from the total exam time and spread the remaining time through your time chart in the correct proportions depending on essay or objective questions.

Some other tips about time management on exams:

  • Practice the time-charting steps when you doing your exam-worthy practice questions as you get closer to each final. If you are used to making time charts, you will be more adept at doing so in the exam itself.
  • Practice some questions under timed conditions as well; you become more comfortable with the pacing if you practice.
  • Remember that the goal is to finish the exam; keep moving through all of the questions according to your time chart.
  • Make sure that you still read the professor's exam instructions; a professor who says complete 3 of the 5 essay questions will only read 3 answers even if you ignored the instructions, time-charted well, and completed 5 essays.
  • Study the material for understanding and not just memorization; you will analyze more quickly if your understanding is deeper.
  • Open-book exams are a trap; you will not have time to look everything up, so your studying should be as strong as for a closed-book exam.
  • Complete lots of practice questions; you will analyze more quickly if you have had lots of practice with many fact scenarios before the exam.
  • If you reserve review time, be selective in what you go back to review; reviewing everything leads some students to second-guessing themselves and changing right answers.

The good news is that poor time management is an exam problem that can be remedied with smart strategies. Analyze your past time management problems and take action to correct them. (Amy Jarmon)




May 2, 2017 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Reminder: Registration for AASE National Conference Closes on Wednesday


5th Annual AASE National Conference

Texas A&M University School of Law

Fort Worth, Texas

 May 23-25, 2017


To register go to: You can update your AASE membership at the time of registration! 

Please make sure that you submit all payments at the time of registration.

For more information about directions to the law school visit:


May 1, 2017 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Assistant Director Position at American U

Assistant Director of Academic Excellence job posting here: Download Assistant Director of Academic Excellence (13862).

May 1, 2017 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Does Social Media Take Over Your Day?

Periodically I have discussions with law students about their struggles to cut back on or cut off entirely from the hold that social media has on their lives. They realize that they are spending inordinate amounts of time and damaging their productivity in law school. A post on Inside Higher Ed by a graduate student addresses this same issue and offers some insights on the difficulties and successes: Breaking Up With Social Media.  (Amy Jarmon)

April 30, 2017 in Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Whittier Closure and the Future of Legal Education

Inside Higher Ed posted an article this week on the Whittier closure and the future of legal education. The link is What Comes After Whittier Shutdown?.

April 29, 2017 in Miscellany, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Learning Does Not Necessarily = Understanding (That Can't Be True, Could It?)

"What I am going to tell you about is what we teach our physics students...It is my task to convince you to not turn away because you don't understand it.  You see my physics students don't understand it...That's because I don't understand it.  Nobody does."  

- Dr. Richard P. Feynman, QED:  The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Princeton :  1985)

 Recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics - 1965

Students and teachers, let me ask a question:  

Is it hard to learn, I mean really difficult, so much so that you aren't sure that you are getting it?  

I went through law school thinking that I didn't learn anything because I didn't understand anything.  And, it's true!  I didn't understand anything!  But, I did learn.  

So, here's the truth.  We don't have to understand it all to learn the law.  Rather, true learning comes through realizing that we don't understand it all; that we have lots of unanswered questions; that we are puzzled and perplexed beyond belief.  That's downright uncomfortable but that's learning for you!

However, that makes me worried, as a teacher, because I've started to think that I understand the law, that I understand legal analysis, that I understand how to carefully craft a persuasive legal argument.  

But no one really understands the law.  How could one?  

When I start to think that I understand the law, I end up making it all so simple that what I am teaching or studying or reviewing no longer has any correspondence at all to reality.  So, let's face the music.  That's a grave error because life is not simple (and the law is all about disputes among real actual complicated live people).

So, as you prepare for your finals (and teachers as you reflect on your teaching), do yourself a big favor and be comfortable with uncertainty.  Don't feel like you need to understand it all.  Rather, jump into the materials; they are full of suspense and conflicts with puzzles abounding in all directions.  And, that's a good thing because that's the life of the law.  So, feel free to be honest with yourself and say that you don't understand it all.  And, in the process, you'll have taken one mighty big step on the path to true learning!  (Scott Johns).



April 27, 2017 in Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Dream That Changed A Life

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman.

Graduation is always a very exciting time for me and an even more exciting time for the students but this year is a particularly bittersweet one for me. Why? Well, this 2017 graduation ushers in the official end of my role as Director of the Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP). Of course, I will continue to work with students in my capacity as an academic support professional but my interactions with this very unique group of students I had the pleasure of working with over the past eight years comes to an end. LEOP was the conditional admission program offered at the law college which allowed some prospective students to participate in a summer program with the understanding that an achievement of minimum competency would allow them to gain admission to the law college. My participation in this performance based admission program entailed reviewing applications, co-coordinating the program, spending six weeks in the summer with these students, and monitoring their law school careers and bar exam performance. I saw these students manage stress, contend with new tasks, seek out help, and build community. I am grateful that students felt comfortable enough to reveal their fears and concerns, seek advice, and share successes and challenges. I recognize that it is very rare to be a part of the various aspects of a law student’s growth as a person and a student.

Monday was the end of the year celebration for the graduates of LEOP but also the celebration of the end of LEOP. In attendance were professors, staff, students, and alums who were brought together by this program. Suddenly, the atmosphere at the celebration quickly and surprisingly became highly emotional. The lunch gathering highlighted student accomplishments, contributions to the law college, and reflection on their journeys. It was quite amazing to note the impact one can have on a student simply by engaging with the student and choosing certain words to communicate with them. Students watch us, hear us, and make judgments about us based on what we say and do.

I am certain that my colleagues who work with alternative or conditional admissions programs share my sentiments about the students I work with in LEOP. While I may not remember the minute details about each student, I do remember each face, name, and a piece of information each one shared with me. These students dreamed impossible dreams and step by step are making their dreams become reality. They faced tremendous “I can’t” circumstances but stared them in the face and overcame those challenges. These LEOP students are about to place “J.D.” behind their names like many others before them and embark on the journey to becoming lawyers.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman. Changing the world begins with changing your immediate universe. (Goldie Pritchard)

April 26, 2017 in Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Temporary Position at UC Irvine for Academic Skills Specialist

UC Irvine School of Law invites applications for the position of Academic Skills Specialist.  The primary function will be to assist in providing feedback to students on California bar exam essays and performance tests.  It is a temporary position from approximately mid-May through mid-July.  The duties of the position may completed remotely, but a background check must be  completed at a University of California campus.  For more information, please use the link below to access the full job description.

If you or someone you know may be interested in this position, please use the following link to access the application system:


April 25, 2017 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fighting Procrastination

Is procrastination nipping at your heels? Are you delaying because it all seems overwhelming? Here are some quotes about procrastination that may give you the inspiration to get started:

  • You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • The best way to get something done is to begin. - Author unknown
  • The only difference between success and failure is the ability to take action. - Alexnder Graham Bell
  • If and When were planted, and Nothing grew. - Proverb
  • Stop talking. Start walking. - L.M. Heroux
  • This one makes a net, this one stands and wishes. Would you like to make a bet which one gets the fishes? - Chinese rhyme
  • Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried. - Author unknown
  • Procrastination is like a credit card: it's a lot of fun until you get the bill. - Christopher Parker
  • You can eat an elephant one bite at a time. - Chinese proverb
  • To think too long about doing a thing often is its undoing. - Eva Young
  • Doing just a little bit during the time we have available puts you that much further ahead than if you took no action at all. - Byron Pulsifer
  • You cannot plow a field by turning it over in your mind. - Author unkown
  • I don't wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work. - Pearl S. Buck
  • The sooner work is begun, the sooner it is done. - Author unkown

Take a deep breath. Beginning is the hardest. Begin with an easy task, a tiny task, one page, one paragraph. Once you have begun, you are likely to find it possible to continue. (Amy Jarmon)

April 25, 2017 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Assistant Dean of Students Position at Touro

Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center

Assistant Dean for Student Services

Department:  Touro Law Center Office of Student Services

Status:   Full-time

Reports To:  Dean of the Law Center

FLSA:     Exempt

Supervises:  Administrative Assistant I  to the Office of Student Services, and Director of Student Services and Scholarship Aid




The Assistant Dean oversees all aspects of the Office of Student Services including, but not limited to, student advising and counseling, exam administration, student records (including Satisfactory Academic Progress reports and of application amendments and other admission-related documents), registration, student evaluations of faculty, ADA Compliance regarding students, and issues of student conduct and safety.  The Assistant Dean also facilitates communication between the students and the faculty and administration, collaborates closely with the Registrar, Admissions, Financial Aid, Bursar and Compliance offices, and has possible teaching opportunities.


  • Student Advising & Counseling: Be available to students seeking counsel and advice on issues including, but not limited to, disability, mental health, family/personal, stress, career and professional development, course selections and other academic issues. In addition to scheduled appointments, the Assistant Dean is expected to maintain availability for “walk-in” appointments to answer questions, solve problems address student concerns. Working closely with the other Associate and Assistant Deans and the Registrar, the Assistant Dean helps to identify students with academic concerns.
  • Exam Administration: Coordinate all aspects of Touro Law Center final examination administration, including scheduling of proctors, arranging for accommodations for students with disabilities and exam conflicts, and enforcing important exam-related student deadlines.
  • Student Organizations & Activities: Supervise and work with the Director of Student Services and Scholarship Aid who serves as the administrative liaison for all law student organizations, including the Student Bar Association.
  • Awards & Scholarships: Supervise and work with the Director of Student Services and Scholarship Aid, who collects and disseminates scholarship and fellowship information and other monetary opportunities for students (i.e., essay contests).
  • Organize and supervise first year orientation.
  • Assist the Director of the Honors Program with special enrichment programs for outstanding students.
  • Assist in implementation of web-based student services delivery systems. Monitor Office of Student Services social media outlets (i.e. blog, Facebook account, Twitter account.)
  • Coordinate with the Academic Dean about class scheduling and implementation of academic policies.
  • Enforce academic discipline (probation and dismissal) in coordination with the Associate Dean and the academic support faculty and other administrators. The Assistant Dean for Student Services serves as the Chief Academic Integrity Officer.
  • Serve on faculty and staff committees necessary for outreach and communication with students and student groups.
  • Supervise and train student services staff to assist with the duties and tasks above.
  • Complete any other necessary tasks and duties, not specifically listed above.


Education, Preparation, and Training

  • Juris Doctor


  • Computer skills: MS Word, MS Excel, Outlook Email

Preferred Qualifications

  • MS in Counseling
  • MBA or MS in Business or Higher Education

Physical Demands

  • None

Computer Skills

  • MS Word, MS Excel, Outlook Email


  • None

Application Procedure

Please send a cover letter and your resume to:  The subject line of your email should read:  Assistant Dean for Student Services. 

Touro College is committed to the principles of equal employment opportunity. Our practices and employment decisions regarding employment, hiring, assignment, promotion, compensation, and other terms and conditions of employment are not to be based on an employee's race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, disability, ancestry, military discharge status, sexual orientation, marital status, genetic predisposition, housing status, or any other protected status, in accordance with applicable law. Our policies are in conformance with Title IX, 1972 Education Amendments


April 24, 2017 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Stress Management for the Semester's End

Multiple students this past week have told me about their symptoms of stress. We are nearing the end of classes and entry into exams at our law school. Here are some tips that may help students manage stress better:

  • Put all exam dates/times, paper due dates, and other assignment due dates into a monthly planner so that you will not forget anything. If you are visual, use one of the whiteboard wall calendars at home. All those deadlines may look scary; but once you have nailed them down, you are ready to plan your priorities. You are gaining control!
  • Decide what environment is most stress-free and productive for your study. If the law library makes you crazy because of others' stress or interruptions, do not study there. If you fall asleep on your bed or spend hours playing video games at home, do not study there. Consider new options: other academic buildings on campus, a coffeehouse or fast-food restaurant at non-busy hours, the business center at your apartment, a friend's house while the friend is at work.
  • Avoid law students who want to moan and groan, complain about the work, make you feel insecure, etc. Their negative energy will drain you fast. Wish them good luck and walk away.
  • Surround yourself with law students who are focused, productive, positive, and calm. Their can-do attitude and positive energy will help you stay focused, productive, and calm.
  • Keep a running list for each course of any questions you have or areas of confusion. If a study aid or classmates cannot resolve the problem areas, take time each day to visit those professors to ask questions. You will be less anxious if you ask questions a few at a time, instead of storing them up for ten days.
  • Mix up study activities to help you stay engaged. If you zone out and become passive, you are more likely to stress about what you just read but do not remember. You may want to switch courses every couple hours so you do not overdose on one subject. Or you may prefer to mix up tasks for the same course: outline review, discussion with a classmate, flashcards, more review, some practice questions, etc.
  • Take planned breaks of 5-15 minutes every couple of hours. Your brain will keep filing information in the background while you take a walk outside, get a drink of water, etc.
  • Listen to your body for clues: hungry, thirsty, cold, backache, etc. Take the 10 minutes to get a snack, walk to the water fountain, get your sweater out of the car, or complete a few stretches. If you ignore the signals, you will not be as focused because of the niggling distraction.
  • Get enough sleep. Eat nutritious meals and exercise at least 150 minutes per week. Sounds counter-intuitive because you have too much to do in too little time? Your body and brain need rest and fuel to be productive in studying. Exercise is a great stress buster. You will need to have energy and focus when you walk into each exam.
  • Ask someone to be your cheerleader until exams are over. It may be a spouse, friend, or parent. Each day spend 5 minutes on the phone or in person with that cheerleader giving you a pep talk.
  • At the end of each day, write down 3 things you accomplished. Give yourself credit for those accomplishments. 
  • Think of two or three activities that you will do for fun after exams are over. Having some things to look forward to will help you stay motivated and positive.

You can do this! Just take it one minute, one hour, one day at a time. (Amy Jarmon)

April 23, 2017 in Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Top Ten Blog Post

Congratulations to Amy Jarmon for receiving a Top Ten Blog Post badge from the Texas State Bar's Texas Bar Today for her April 18th posting. The link to her post is here: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe.

April 22, 2017 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Instructor of Law Positions at St. Mary's

St. Mary’s University is excited to announce that we are continuing to grow our innovative Office of Law Success.  We have performed a comprehensive review of our program and are now in the process of expanding our course offerings and programs.  This approach includes new graded academic support courses, enhanced programming, and dramatically increased funding.

Most pertinently, we are significantly expanding our team of academic support professionals.  For the Fall 2017 semester, St. Mary’s is looking to hire multiple Instructors of Law Success.  These full-time teaching positions will provide formal instruction within a required legal skills program that is designed to stretch across the entire law school curriculum.  Additionally, Law Success Instructors will provide individual student advising, design and coordinate programming, and assist in curriculum development. 

The posting is available here:

St. Mary’s is located in beautiful San Antonio, Texas, and the School of Law is devoted to the success of its students and academic support team.  We are lucky to have a friendly, collaborative environment and the opportunity to expand and innovate in our field with the complete support of the faculty and administration. 

If you have any questions about the position, please feel free to reach out to Professor Zoe Niesel, Assistant Professor of Law and Director of Law Success, at, or at 210-436-3987.

April 21, 2017 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Final Exam Prep: Lessons from the Hudson River Crash – Pilot or Passenger?

Over the years, I’ve seen many students struggle in preparing for final exams, particularly with uncertainty about how best to prepare.

Without exception, that leads to a question.  In the past, how have you learned to solve problems?  And, without exception, students say that they learn to solve problems…by practicing problems (usually with lots of ups and downs, turbulence, and bumps and bruises).  That’s because we don’t learn how to solve problems by watching others solve problems.

And, that’s the rub about law school learning. 

Simply put, much of our law school experience has been us watching others solve problems (whether observing a professor run through a hypothetical problem, listening to a student in Socratic dialogue, reading and briefing cases, or even in the midst of preparing massive outlines as study tools).  Unfortunately, you are not tested on your case briefs, outlines or study tools.  Rather, you are tested on your abilities to solve legal problems. 

So, here’s the key.  Change your focus from passive learning into active learning by grabbing hold of lots of practice problems, sweating over them, stretching yourself through them, and exercising your “brain muscles” in tackling complex legal issues.  In short, take charge of your own learning by practicing lots of final exam problems. 

To help you visualize what active learning for final exams might look like, here’s a short video animation of the Hudson River airplane crash, spliced with the pilot and aircraft controller communications.  

First, as you watch the video, you’ll can see that all is calm.  It’s a great smooth takeoff.  The flight is well on its way to a far-away destination, and, then, suddenly, there’s flock of geese in the way.  That’s how I always feel when I practice exams. All is relatively peaceful and then I turn to the first question and it looks like I’ve just flown into a flock of geese with my engines flaming out as a result.  So, here’s lesson one – prepare for geese.  You will have problems that are difficult on your final exams.  But, you won’t learn how to tackle them until you start working through them first, well, right now, before you take your final exams.

Second, notice the pilot’s voice.  Is it calm or ruffled?  Yes, the engines have quit.  Yes, the plane is not flying to a far-away place anymore.  But, it is still an airplane. It still has wings and radios. It is still flying.  It’s just not going to Chicago or Phoenix or Los Angeles today. So, here’s lesson two – don’t ever give up, even in the midst of your exam prep and final exams.  Keep flying your airplane.  Keep working on learning by doing.

Third, as you continue to watch the video, you’ll start hearing lots of air traffic controllers trying their best to help the pilot make a successful return, first to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport and then to Teterboro Airport across the Hudson River in New Jersey.  The controllers are busily clearing runways and directing the pilot to turn to this heading and that course.  But, the pilot stays in control.  Finally, the controllers ask which runway the pilot would like to land on, and, instead, the pilot says – frankly and calmly – the Hudson River.  So, here’s lesson three – fly your own airplane.  Don’t let others control your destiny.  You’re the one that is taking the exam (not those that are giving you lots of advice).  And, only you know yourself.  So, make your own decisions.  Just like pilots do, practice solving legal problems through lots of "simulator flight" time.

Here's the secret about learning. You see, that wasn’t the first time that the pilot lost his engines in flight.  The pilot had experienced dual engine failure lots of times…in the simulator.  Yes, the pilot had read the horn books on how to land on a river, the cases of previous airplanes successfully ditching in the water, and the manuals on how to stay calm and collected in the midst of a flock of geese.  But, reading is not sufficient to learn how to fly an airplane.  That’s because no one learns to fly by reading about flying.  You learn to fly…by flying.  Similarly, you learn to solve legal problems…by solving legal problems.  So, get flying today as you prepare for your final exams tomorrow.  And, good luck on them all!   (Scott Johns).




April 20, 2017 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

So…I Passed The Bar Exam!

“I was just calling to let you know that I passed the bar exam…!” Immediately after hearing this news, I screamed with excitement. I am always overcome with joy whenever students tell me about their success on the bar exam but I am even more excited when it is a student who was previously unsuccessful on the bar exam. Repeat bar takers have a special place in my heart because they typically journey through lots of agony, sacrifices, and determination to achieve this goal.

The journey starts when students are notified and realize that they were unsuccessful on the bare exam. Many emotions accompany this news including embarrassment, sadness, frustration, anger, and disappointment to list a few. Those emotions are reawakened when students receive a message from me confirming the result, providing some direction, and offering support. Students respond by either ignoring the message or reaching out immediately. For those who respond, we discuss the current crisis, try to calm emotions, and strategize. We discuss how to interact with peers, professors, family, and friends who may ask about the bar exam. Some students choose to inform the world on social media while others prefer to remain secretive, managing questions as they arise. Whatever their preference, I always have an honest conversation with individual students.

Collectively, we devise specific strategies and draw up plans for studying, meeting challenges, and exploring fears associated with retaking the bar exam. Through an early start bar preparation program, students engage with substantive law, essays, and multiple choice. Students are typically unhappy at first but as we address how to efficiently use time, prioritize tasks, and address disappointment, students appear more at ease. Personally, I learn a great deal about students as individuals, how they handle success and defeat, keep perspective, and balance stress.

When bar review programs officially start, it is time for cheerleading and challenging. Students check-in on a weekly basis to debrief and discuss where they are mentally. Each week is a new experience which ranges from productive to challenging. There are weeks when students are on the verge of giving up and other weeks when everything that could go wrong does go wrong. My goal is to help redirect students but also encourage them to persist.

The victory, passing the bar exam, is great because it allows students to move on with their lives or start their professional lives. Their struggle with the bar exam is a part of their story but also an experience they can use to encourage and support others. My investment in them is worthwhile because they are changing their lives, their families’ lives, and their communities. Bar exam results are still trickling in but congratulations to those who successfully passed the February 2017 bar exam on their second try. (Goldie Pritchard)

April 19, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

What could this old nursery rhyme have to do with law school?

It reminds us to take one step at a time to accomplish a task.

Huh? Well, think about it this way . . . .

Most law students right now are madly juggling a long list of tasks for multiple projects. They are preparing for class each day. They are finishing assignments or papers. They are keeping up with outlines. They are reviewing for exams. They are completing practice questions. And, they are doing all of these things for multiple courses at the same time.

Many of them are feeling scattered and a bit frantic. They dart from task to task and feel exhausted at the end of the day. They are losing sleep, eating junk food, and feeling overwhelmed.

And, they lament that there is no time to get everything done.

So, just as in the nursery rhyme, it is time to get organized, have a plan, and take one step at a time. Here is an approach that helps many students get control of exam review:

  • For each exam course, list all topics with their subtopics that will be on the final exam. (Warning: The list will be long because it is subtopics, but they can be completed more quickly than whole topics.)
  • Focus on learning and understanding the subtopics. (You will want some later time for practice questions, but understanding has to come first.)
  • If you already understand any subtopics well enough that you could walk into the exam on those, highlight them on the list to show completion.
  • For the remaining subtopics that you have already covered in class, estimate how much time you need to understand that subtopic well enough to walk into the exam. (Estimates may be minutes or hours depending on the subtopic's difficulty.)
  • Total your subtopic estimates for the material already covered in class for each course. (You will complete estimates for additional subtopics as they are covered later in class.)
  • Now compare your estimate totals for each course. You might have 12 hours for one, 15 hours for another, 20 hours for a third, etc.
  • Your totals help you see proportionately how much time you should devote to each course to learn what you have already covered in the course.
  • Schedule blocks of time each week to complete exam review to make progress on your estimated totals.
  • There will be some subtopics that need little time and can be slipped in between classes, while you wait for dinner to cook, etc.
  • As you complete each subtopic, remember to highlight it as completed.
  • All progress is forward progress. Whatever you can get completed before the end of classes means less to learn during exam period.

What if you have a paper to write? You can make a similar list for specific tasks within larger categories: tasks for research, writing, editing, citations, grammar and punctuation, format OR by tasks for paper sections if you prefer.

Step back from the jumble that you feel your life represents right now. Organize small steps within the larger units. Then take it step by step: one, two . . . . (Amy Jarmon)

April 18, 2017 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Comparison Can Be A Downer

Eleanor Roosevelt stated, "Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Now is the time in the semester when many law students compare themselves to others in their classes and become discouraged.

  • Mary got the highest grade on the midterm, and I was below the median.
  • Bill aced the trial brief assignment, and mine was covered in comments.
  • Annie gave a brilliant answer in class, and I could not even formulate a basic answer.
  • Phil was amazing at the oral argument, and I fumbled every question.

And so it goes.

Why do law students make themselves miserable by comparisons?

  • They may still be stuck mentally in undergraduate grading where 100% was always the achievable grading standard.
  • They may be for the first time in a group of students who are as intelligent as they are - awesome, but scary.
  • They may be struggling with how much work is required in law school after years of higher grades for less effort.
  • They may base their self-worth on what others think of them instead of doing the best they can do.

Here's the thing to remember. You are you. You can only control yourself. You can only do the best work possible today under today's circumstances.

If today did not produce the results you wanted after doing your best, then let it go. Get up tomorrow and start again. Tomorrow you can implement strategies to improve your academics. You may not yet be where you want to be, but you can improve each day. You can reach your personal best.

Are you unsure how to improve on what you are doing? Visit the academic support professional at your law school and ask for assistance. Talk with your faculty member for help with a confusing topic. Ask a trusted classmate to discuss a case or a practice question with you.

Let's face it: law school is a fish bowl. You spend all day swimming in the same confined space with the same school of fish. It is too easy to focus on how well others are swimming. And, if the fish bowl has a couple of fish doing high dives off the lip of the bowl, it can be intimidating.

But rather than compare yourself to the other fish, practice your own strokes. Find a swim coach. There is still time to see improvement. (Amy Jarmon)


April 17, 2017 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)