Monday, February 23, 2015
The Legal Skills Prof Blog recently posted this reference to a short piece on acronyms. I agree that acronyms and other abbreviations can cause confusion, ruin the flow of an essay, and cause the reader frustration. The article suggests a few useful guidelines on when to use them and when to avoid them. I have even had one bar examiner tell me to instruct students that their bar exam essays should not read like a text message. In an acronym, twitter/text, abbreviation heavy culture, this is a good reminder. Thus, I advise my students that when they are in doubt, they should write it out.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Assistant Dean of Law Student Affairs
St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas, seeks an Assistant Dean of Law Student Affairs. The position reports to the Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs. The Assistant Dean of Law Student Affairs is a senior administrator of the Law School whose primary responsibilities focus on the academic, intellectual, psychological, and personal aspects of student life at the law school. This position will be responsible for managing all aspects of student life in the law school, including promoting student engagement in law school life, supervising law student activities and organizations, developing new organizations that promote service and professionalism, coordinating professional and social opportunities to engage law students in university life and to encourage law students to develop and maintain a professional manner and demeanor. The Assistant Dean must also have a commitment to leadership in a Catholic and Marianist institution, which fosters quality education in a family spirit; to pursue service, justice and peace and prepare for adaptation and change, while encouraging each person in their own way in their formation in faith.
Applications can be found at http://stmarytx.applicantpro.com/jobs/. Along with the employment application please submit (1) letter of application addressing interest in position, (2) curriculum vita, (3) official graduate transcript confirming the Juris Doctor degree, (4) three letters of reference. For further inquiries, please contact Victoria Mather, Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs at email@example.com. Review of applications will begin on February 9, 2015 through March 10, 2015.
Friday, February 20, 2015
To paraphrase the late, great Romantic poet Joey Ramone, "technology did a job on me, now I am a real sickie …"
A very nice and very lost old woman with a pie showed up on my doorstep at 8 p.m. last night. Unfortunately, the pie was meant for the occupants of another house on a nearby street. She asked me where the street was, and, as I considered the ethics of grabbing the pie and slamming my door, I gave her some vague directions. Mainly, I pointed and said, "It's kinda over there." In my mind, I was picturing the street that was one street over and perpendicular to my front door. The old woman disappeared into the night. I went inside and ate two Entenmann's chocolate donuts (the rich man's Hostess!) and watched my son play either a freeform jazz version of "Baba O'Reilly" or "Hot Cross Buns" on his clarinet.
The next morning on the way to school, I realized the street the old woman was looking for was actually the street behind my house. I have lived here for three years, and I know of the existence of the street, that friends of mine live on it, and that it is somewhere in my neighborhood, but I was wrong about where it actually sat.
Now, I may simply be a clueless bozo, and I realize that any success I have ever had was because of my staggering good looks, but I started wondering about why I didn't actually have my neighborhood (or city for that matter) mapped out in my head by street names. I can get anyone anywhere in Columbia as long as I am driving, but if someone asks me to explain HOW to drive somewhere, I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it.
Street names seem like a basic piece of information I should know -- clearly, they represent the physical structure of the world around me and are meant to provide points for my memory to grab onto -- but I don't know them.
In the past couple of years, I have had more than one conversation with a law student where I have asked, "And who is your professor for ….." More times than I would've thought, they actually didn't know the professor's name. At first, I found this completely mind-boggling, and then I started thinking about my problem with streets.
The thing is, with GPS and Googlemaps and my phone I have no reason to learn street names, and that technology has basically made me stop paying attention so I never learn them.
I think the same thing has happened with our students, but over a longer period, and without a B.T. ("Before Tech") Era where they had to rely on their own memory to get places or know things. Tech has made a lot of memorization absolutely unnecessary. During the old days, for many classes, at the end of the day I probably didn't HAVE to know my professors' names -- I knew where the class was, I knew the class hour, and I was studying the material so I could handle myself if called on -- but, because I was used to having to memorize things like streets and state capitals, my brain naturally picked up the professor's name and threw it in Ye Olde Memory Hole.
With the amazing amount of computing power sitting in all of our pockets, memorization is pretty much as dead as disco. If I want to know a state capital or how many hits Ted Williams had, I can immediately look it up on my phone. For the digital natives we are currently teaching, they had a schooling where it was basically unnecessary to ever memorize anything. I think in many ways their brains are not used to having to memorize and "know" things to be able to use the information, so many of them don't naturally grab pieces of information by default.
So, when I have a student in trouble, I counsel them to memorize law the old fashioned way -- by memorizing their outline, putting it aside, and then writing it out, by hand, on a yellow legal pad. I'm not a big fan of turning them to online types of techniques, like apps or sites with flashcards or what not. As much as I can, I want to get the computer out of it, because I feel like that caused the problem in the first place.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
In a lot of respects, Legal Writers have struggled with (and sometimes overcome) the professional challenges many ASPers face. Professor Ralph Brill brings some of these to light in his response to a University's President's Frank Look at Law Schools. Professor Brill's response also briefly touches on the disparate impact to women when Legal Writing, and I submit ASP, is undervalued. Similarly, Professor Flanagan highlighted sexism in a blog post early this year. It is hard to believe that these are issues we are still grappling with in 2015.
Monday, February 16, 2015
Law students spend hours and hours studying. A 60 hour week is the norm. The law school study standard is 3 hours of prep for every hour of class. This means actual study time, not time spent in the library. You may think you are productive but are you? Of those 4 hours you spent in the library last night, how much of that time was spent on actual studying? One way to measure it is to track your “billable hours.” Make note of the time you start studying and use the timer on your phone to track how long you are on task. Stop the timer every time you stop studying. Even if it’s just a few seconds, stop the timer. How many times did you stop to read a text, send a text, check twitter feed or facebook updates, talk to someone, get up and stretch, re-organize your materials? This adds up and you are probably not as productive as you think. Once you realize how much time you waste, use the timer to keep you focused. If you plan on studying for 3 hours, you know that reading and responding to a text means stopping the timer and 3 hours can turn into 4 or 5. Would you rather spend that time at your desk or in the library, or would you rather spend it doing something you enjoy? The choice is yours. (KSK)
Monday, February 9, 2015
Monday, February 2, 2015
Saturday, January 31, 2015
This is my very short list of tips for ASPer's looking to publish in the February 2015 cycle. I also put this out on the listserv (thank you Courtney Lee for starting the thread!)
As someone who just went through this process for the first time in August, these are my lessons-learned:
1) Let it go. Don't sit on your work. It will never be perfect.
2) Make sure you have a beautifully drafted cover letter, a perfect, typo-free abstract, and the best (not perfect) version of your paper when you are ready to send on to ExpressO and Scholastica. Check, double-check, and triple-check that the attached version is NOT the one with editing mark-ups (it's difficult to turn off editing mark-ups on a Mac).
3) It's all about the marketing. Don't be afraid to reach out to law reviews, explaining to them why your article is a perfect fit for their journal. Make your case.
4) Once you have a contract in hand, make sure you retain the rights to post on SSRN and Digital Commons.
Monday, January 26, 2015
If you reside in the northeast, you are probably preparing to be snowed in. After you have safely made your way home and loaded up on batteries, flaslights, candles, food, and water, what next? The storm can provide an opportunity to catch up, and get ahead in, your spring semester courses.
Bring your casebooks home, so you can catch up on reading and briefing cases. If your case briefs and class notes are on your computer, print them out. If you have hard copies, you will be able to correct briefs and clean up class notes-- even if you lose power. Additionally, you can then use those printed materials to get started on outlines.
You may have a legal writing project underway, or you may be about to start one. Print a hard copy of the assignment to avoid losing the opportunity to work on the asignment if you lose electricity. If you have begun to do research for the asignment, print out the cases and secondary materials to create a case file. Use the printed materials to make headway on the assignment during Storm Juno.
Above all, stay safe as you ride out the storm. But do not lose the opportunity to take advantage of the snowdays that come as a result of the storm.
Friday, January 23, 2015
Law school is a challenging endeavor. The LSAT, application process, and transition to law school are hurdles that arise before students are even asked to write their first legal memo, participate in their first round of Socratic torture, or face the fierce competition exhibited by their new peer group. These are daily challenges for new law students. Why then would I suggest that they (and we) seek out more challenges?
When we are challenged, we sometimes feel deflated or weaker. We are out of our comfort zone; we are troubled, worried, stressed; and we are overwhelmed. This does not seem like a state of mind to encourage. However, I firmly believe that it is when are challenged, that we are able to grow, transcend our self-doubts, and establish mechanisms to better prepare for future challenges. Unfortunately, challenges, obstacles, naysayers, and competitors exist. They exist in law school, in life; and, they certainly exist in legal practice. Therefore, we need to face them head-on and become better at overcoming them.
The more often we are challenged, the more empowered we become. Thus, take on an extra project, or register for an intensive course on a complex topic, run a race or climb a peak, participate in moot court, apply for a competitive job, or do something really scary (caveat: do not break the law, remember to wear safety glasses, and always read the fine print).
Undoubtedly, there will be failures, mistakes, and defeats; but, the learning and self-growth is an incredible silver lining. Whether success is elusive or easily achieved, the experience builds resilience and a new level of self-confidence. As the FM dial frequently reminds us, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Being in ASP is unlike most any other position in a law school. First, there is usually only one ASP professional at the school, and if you’re really lucky, two. Second, most ASP professionals are administrators, program directors, and have teaching responsibilities. Summers are not slow with plenty of time to write. Summers are full of bar prep, classes, programming, and planning for the next academic year. ASP professionals work with students for three years and get to share in growth and success. It is a wonderful position but it can be a bit lonely, especially when you have questions or need a little support of your own. You can’t just walk down the hall to all the other folks who do what you do because, there isn’t anyone. The listserv and this blog are great sources of support and inspiration but so is attending the AASE conference. Hundreds of ASPer’s from all over the country converge in one place, and if you’ve ever attended you know what a magical few days it is. Yes, you get some great ideas, but more importantly it is an opportunity to recharge and get in-person support from your peers. I love technology but there is something about actual contact that cannot be replaced. You deserve it. You need it. Find a way to attend this year’s AASE conference. (KSK)
Monday, January 19, 2015
If you are a first year law student - especially - it is important to take stock of your law school learning and progress. Regardless of the results of your fall exams, there is much to be learned from your exam results.
* Get copies of your exams -- all of them -- to the extent that your law school permits. Review your exams carefully.
* Ask yourself how your best essay answers differ from the essays that you are less pleased with.
* If your professors have made rubrics or sample/model answers available make good use of those resources.
- outline the model or sample answer & look to see how it compares with your own.
- does the model or sample answer use the IRAC structure?
- does your answer follow the IRAC structure, using IRAC is a good way to ensure that you include the necessary components of legal analysis, such as the rule and use of the exam facts?
- what points of law or analysis are noted in the rubric or sample/model answer -- but not in your answer?
- did your course outlines contain the information needed to do well on the exams? If not, learn from this experience as you prepare outlines for the spring courses.
* Make appointments to meet with your porfessors -- even for courses that ended in December. Meeting with your professors helps you to learn from the exam experience. But be prepared for those meetings by thoroughly reviewing your exams - before the meetings.
Saturday, January 17, 2015
ASP conferences and presentations frequently extol the virtues of group work. Books and articles suggest that group work would enhance legal education, make students better prepared for law practice, and make law school less isolating. Business schools rely on group projects. Despite the evidence, law schools hew to the familiar, and few 1L courses include group work, although some upper-division seminar and clinical courses include group exercises. For women, there may be some benefit to this arrangement.
Women are subject to the "secretary effect," where they are the secretary, the recorder, or the stenographer in group projects. The spit-balling, the creative thinking, and the leadership roles are taken by the men of the group. Women are expected to play supporting roles, while men take the lead, when they work in groups. This arrangement extends into adulthood.
I never liked group work, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed law school. In group projects, I felt like my contributions were never valued, I did more work than other members of the group, and I was stuck in ill-fitting roles where I could not demonstrate my competance. On the rare occasion I had to work in a group during law school, I sought out all-female groups, where I knew I would feel more comfortable.
Professionally, I see the same pattern. ASP is dominated by women, who rarely rise to leadership roles outside of our small community. ASP is designed to support students, but is frequently expected to support the (predominately) male tenured and tenure-track faculty. ASP, as a field, keeps the students in school, helps them achieve career success through bar support, yet rarely receives the credit for helping law schools meet accreditation standards. In ASP, we are still the unsung secretaries, the essential member of the group who is undervalued and overlooked.
Group Projects and the Secretary Effect
Friday, January 16, 2015
I was speaking with one of my students, a 3L, about her preparation for the bar exam this summer. She mentioned that she did not take several bar tested subjects, but that she felt prepared for the core courses except for Contracts. I asked her what happened in Contracts. She said she loved her Professor; she participated in class, studied hard and understood the material, but got a C on the final both semesters. I then asked her what happened when she reviewed her exam. She replied that she did not review her exam. I asked her what her Professor said when she met with him to discuss her performance. To my dismay, she said that she did not meet with him. Why? She said she was too scared to meet with him. While I know this happens with scary Professor Kingsfield types, her Professor does not fit that description. I explained that even if she was a bit nervous about meeting with him, she should have made the effort.
After we take an exam, we have a good idea about how we performed. If, for some reason, our actual performance does not align with our perceived performance, it is best determine why this discrepancy exists. This student is now in her last semester of law school and approaching her bar review without knowing whether she truly understands Contracts. Was it merely an organizational error on her final? Did she manage her time poorly? Did she miss an essential issue? Or, did she have fundamental problems with her conceptual knowledge of contract law?
In retrospect, she realized that she should have faced her fears and made an appointment to discuss her final exam with her Professor. But, we cannot live in the past. I suggested that she make an appointment now with her 1L Contracts Professor. He may not remember her, he most certainly will not remember her final exam, and he may not be able to give her a ton of feedback. However, he might be able to provide some insights into her grade. For instance, there are likely some common trends that appear in exams that he gives a C grade. Also, he may be able to offer insights about how he grades verses what will be tested and graded on the bar exam. And, lastly, even if he does not offer much information about her particular performance, she will feel more empowered by the experience. By facing her fear and being self-motivated to ascertain why Contracts eluded her, she will be more confident moving forward with her last semester and her bar prep and will likely stop letting this moment in her past affect how she feels in the present.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Every year at the beginning of the second semester, I send out the same email to the first years. It seems to help. So, if you are a student who has stumbled across this blog, you might appreciate this story. I bet most of your professors have a similar one (and, like me, turned out better for going through it):
"By now, the grades have started to roll in, and you may be less than happy with how things are turning out.
In all honesty, the best thing that ever happened to me during my schooling was after I turned in my first English paper in college. I had never gotten less than an A in anything in my life, I was the “English” guy for the Academic Decathlon Team, I’d won several creative writing contests, and I wanted to major in English. On my first paper, I got a C.
When I went to talk to the professor, a man who wore seersucker suits and looked like a cross between Mark Twain and Colonel Sanders, he said in his genteel Virginia-tidewater accent, “Is English your first language? Your name is Russian. Are you translating as you write?”
The unfortunate thing was that he was genuinely curious and English is my first, and only, language.
As painful as it was at the time, I truly believe that that C made me a better student — I learned from my mistakes, buckled down, and did a lot better in school than I probably would have had I never experienced that setback."
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
3rd Annual Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Workshop
March 6th, 2015
Assessing Students and Programs to Develop
a Targeted Approach to Academic Support
Texas A&M’s School of Law
in Ft. Worth, Texas
The Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals will host a one day workshop focused on targeting our efforts for maximum efficiency. Decreased enrollment created a budget crunch for most schools. Decreased budgets can disproportionately fall on ASP shoulders, but we are still expected to provide the same level of support. We must be efficient to provide a high level of service with the decreased resources. To maximize efficiency, we need to assess where to utilize resources and whether our programs are making an impact. This year’s workshop will include programs to help us assess which students need our help from pre-matriculation through the bar exam. We will also discuss ways to determine whether our programs are working and more efficient ways to deliver our services.
Registration is open to anyone interested in academic support. There is no registration fee. If you are interested in attending, please fill out the attached form and return to: Camesha Little, Assistant Director of Academic Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Forms will be accepted through February 27th.
A block of rooms has been reserved at the Sheraton Ft. Worth Hotel and Spa, 1701 Commerce St., Ft. Worth, TX 76102. This hotel is located right across from the law school. We negotiated a rate of $139.00 per night. Please be advised that this block will release and the price will expire on February 20, 2015. You can book your room online at https://www.starwoodmeeting.com/StarGroupsWeb/res?id=1409306215&key=216B6F3F, or by phone by calling (800) 325-3535 and referencing Southwest Consortium of Academic Support Professionals.
6:30 – Dinner for anyone arriving early.
9-9:50 – Assessing Students before they enter – Marta Miller, Director of Academic Achievement at Texas A&M School of Law
10-10:50 – How to use LSSSE Data in ASP – Dr. Evan Parker, Director of Analytics at Lawyer Metrics
11-11:50 – Developing a targeted class to improve academic performance – John Murphy, Associate Professor of Law at Texas A&M School of Law
12-12:50 – Lunch
1-1:50 – Assessing the effectiveness of Voluntary ASP Programs – Rebecca Flanagan, Assistant Professor of Law, Director of Academic Skills Program at UMass School of Law
2-2:50 – Determining who is at-risk for Bar Struggles and creating a program to improve success – Jamie Kleppetsch, Assistant Professor, Associate Director, Academic Achievement Program at The John Marshall Law School
2:50-3 – Closing Remarks
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:
Steven Foster (email@example.com)
Director of Academic Achievement at Oklahoma City University
Marta Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Director of Academic Support at Texas A&M School of Law
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Winter Break is over and the semester has begun. Regardless of whether you have your fall semester grades, it’s important to start the new semester with the right approach: optimistic, determined, and with an open mind. The last one is the toughest because it means having an open mind about yourself and ability to grow and change. When a friend experiences a set-back we are quick to encourage but when it comes to ourselves, we aren’t very forgiving. This semester, try doing for yourself what you do for others. Instead of giving up because something is too hard, accept that success will take some time and effort. Don’t think you can’t make your situation any better because you can improve if you keep trying. See mistakes as something to learn from; and before you settle, ask yourself if this is really the best you can do. Think back to something that didn’t come easy to you (learning to swim, ride a bike, drive a car). What if you quit instead of persevering? You certainly wouldn’t be where you are today. Keep your head up, keep working hard, and keep that mind open. (KSK)
Monday, January 12, 2015
When it comes to legal writing, "if you cannot say it, it does not exist."
While attending the 2015 meeting of the American Association of Law Schools, I had the opportunity to attend the Blackwell Reception. The Blackwell Reception is put on by the Legal Writing Institute and the Association of Legal Writing Directors.
At the 2015 Blackwell Reception, these organizations presented two awards:
The Golden Pen Award went to the Honorable Michael Ponsor, Judge for the United States District court for the Western District of Massachusetts.
So, finally -- the significance of the title of this blog post: "If you cannot say it, it does not exist." Judge Ponsor made this statement as he accepted his award and, not surprisingly, received much applause from the roomful of legal writing professors. Judge Ponsor's statement goes well beyond the confines of legal research and writing classes.
Even if this bloger did not do double duty in both Academic Support and Legal Writing and even if this blogger did not work at a law school in Western Massachusetts (where Judge Ponsor is a welcome and respected speaker) his statement would be worthy of this blog. The statement applies to every aspect of a law student's journey toward success in law school and in law practice. As law professors, law students, or lawyers, if we cannot explain or articulate our analysis, that analysis does not exist. I have already used Judge Ponsor's statement -- in the first class of my upper level course.
Have a great Spring Semester!