Sunday, April 16, 2017
The Chronicle of Higher Education recently included a series of articles for faculty on how to use their summers and how to make time to research or write. Obviously, most of us in ASP/bar prep work are on 12-month contracts, so summers are not totally free, dead periods. However, many of us (with the exception of bar support) have some quieter periods that could be used productively for the tasks we long to have time for during the academic semesters. One of the articles included tips from a series of scholars and might be helpful to ASPers who want to make time to research and write or to complete other projects: Making Time for Research and Writing. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, April 15, 2017
Practicing attorneys who want to switch to law school positions often contact those of us who have ASP/bar experience to get advice on making the transition. Requests for information are particularly prevalent in spring and summer when turnover is high and so many positions are advertised. Here are some tips for attorneys considering the switch:
- Read through all of the ads posted even if they are not for law schools or parts of the country where you want to be. You will see trends in position descriptions, required/preferred skills, duties, departmental structures, reporting lines, and other typical characteristics for the jobs. This broader view of ASP/bar work provides you with comparison information as you focus on specific ads.
- Write variations of your cover letter and resume that match the specific law schools and ad requirements to make yourself more marketable. A one-size-fits-all approach may overlook your major selling points for a particular position. Make sure your cover letter matches the emphases in the ad so your resume gets a review. Remember that for some positions, your first "cut" is at the university's human resources level instead of at the law school!
- Take time for a serious consideration of your strengths and weaknesses for the types of positions you want to apply for at law schools. List your specific qualifications and experiences that match the trends you see across job ads; this is your strengths/pros list. Next list specific qualifications and experiences that you lack for the trends you see across job ads; this is your weaknesses/cons list.
- On your strengths/pros list: add characteristics that you may have initially overlooked in the ads; continue to add your own qualifications/experiences initially forgotten.
- On your weaknesses/cons list: add strategies for filling these gaps as quickly as possible. Here are some strategies you might consider:
- read multiple sources in the ASP/bar field (Carolina Academic Press has a wonderful catalog of books to choose from; West Academic, Wolters-Kluwer, and Lexis are other publication sources)
- regularly read the Law School Academic Support Blog and read archived articles from the last year where relevant to your gaps
- consider informational interviewing by phone or in person with some ASP/bar folks at law schools where you are not applying for positions: your alma mater; law schools in your current location; law schools where colleagues have connections
- inform yourself through web resources about ABA standards, LSAC law school admissions data, NCBE bar data, etc.
- Salary information is not typically given in ads for ASP/bar support positions. Ads will normally say that salary is dependent on qualifications. At some universities, you can view an online position that will give a position grade/level - the corresponding HR/payroll pages may show the salary ranges by grade/level. However, in many cases, there will be no readily available information. On-line salary comparison calculators can give you a ballpark for what salary in a new geographic location would align with your current salary.
- There is a great deal of movement by ASP/bar professionals among law schools as people gain more experience and move to other law schools for promotions etc. You may need to find an entry-level position and later move up in your school's hierarchy or change schools once you have specific ASP/bar experience.
- Realize that there may be other types of law school positions that may be suited to your specific interests, qualifications, and experiences: doctrinal faculty, legal writing and research faculty, clinical faculty, career services, development, admissions, student life, special events coordinator, etc.
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Feeling crunched for time to make a course outline. Well, here's a tip to give you a jump-start if you've happened to wait until now to start making your outlines in preparation for final exams.
- Make a copy of the casebook table of contents (TOC) (and super-size it on 11 x 14 paper if you like to make hand-written outlines).
- If you are a hand-writer, then grab a pen and get ready to roll.
- If you are a typist or you like to make flashcards or flowcharts, then grab your preferred tool and list out the chapter subjects and the sections, giving your work lots of "breathing room" to input the cases and materials from the chapters.
- Brainstorm a short "sound-bite" for each case, one by one, and input that "blurb" into your outline. Note: Trust yourself! Your blurb can just be a phrase or one sentence (two at the max). That's because there's a learning concept called "useful forgetfulness." The process of deciding what to put down (i.e., boiling the case or article down to its essence without re-writing verbatim your class notes or case briefs) leads to much deeper memory because, by volitionally choosing NOT to put everything down on paper, you are using your own brainpower to personally analyze what is really important about the case or article to you. In other words, this is where learning happens...because...you've taken the time to distill it in your own words!
- Keep on adding in the short blurbs and, before you know, you've built a TOC outline.
One final note. As I go back to review my class notes and cases to write my case blurbs, I try to skim for just the big concepts, i.e., as though I'm just trying to "catch up with old friends." In other words, I'm just trying to get reacquainted, so to speak.
Not sure what a case blur looks like? Well, here's a sample:
Fisher v. Carousel (lunch buffet plate snatched from NASA mathematician's hand by restaurant work): tortious battery includes contact either through direct physical touching or through touching an object intimately connected to a person because the purpose of battery is to protect human dignity from forceful violations that impact our minds and invade our wills.
In sum, as you can see from the example, I list the case name, I identify a few material facts, and then I re-write the holding of the case in my own words...with a slight twist...because I add the word "because" to explain the court's rationale. And, there you have it: a hand-dandy TOC outline! (Scott Johns).
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Our semester comes to a close in about a week and exams are looming. Many 3L students are suddenly hit with the reality that these are their final days of law school. They constantly remind me of how many weeks, days, hours, and seconds remain until they graduate. For some students, the initial excitement associated with graduating felt at the beginning of the semester or academic year has now morphed into fear of facing the actuality of graduating and “adulting.” The sheer reality of wrapping up an academic career, forever for most, is quite intimidating. Some of the conversations many of my 3Ls are having revolve around:
- Fears of not finding a job
- Fears of failing on a job
- Financially sustaining themselves
- Fears of not passing the bar exam
- Intimidation about the bar review process
- Ensuring that they actually do graduate
- Concerns about entertaining friends and family coming for graduation
Throughout the school year and specifically this last semester, I have tried to engage students in conversations about preparing for the Bar exam. Many of the questions were answered through speakers and presentations, in electronic bar related materials made available to students, or through various emails throughout their law school career. But it is only now that several students appear concerned about the Bar exam and want to discuss it. This comes as no surprise to me and although it happens each year, my principle concern is always to ensure that students are given the necessary information or are directed to where they need to go for the information. (Goldie Pritchard)
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
We have some solutions for all of you who have not booked your hotel rooms yet. Camesha has worked tirelessly all day to get the Hilton to open up some more rooms. They were only willing to open up 5 more rooms under the AASE block on Monday. Those rooms are open now for reservations. Apparently there is another conference going on in Fort Worth the same week. This is a new group utilizing the Fort Worth area and our hosts were not able to anticipate their presence.
We also have another hotel option for you. You can stay at the Sheraton Forth Worth Downtown for the same rate. You can book at this link:
Texas A&M Law School (OR copy and paste the following link into a web browser)
https://www.starwoodmeeting.com/events/start.action?id=1704113828&key=F1BB938. I recommend pasting the link if you have any problems. I just tried it to make sure it works.
Please feel free to contact me or Camesha if you have questions or issues. We are so excited to see all of you next month in Texas!! Please make sure you are registering for the conference and nominating officers on the AASE website www.associationofacademicsupporteducators.org.
Have a wonderful evening!
Assistant Professor & Associate Director
Academic Achievement Program
The John Marshall Law School
315 S Plymouth Ct
Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 427-2737 x448
Direct: (312) 987-1448
Academic Achievement Program
If you wish to apply for a need-based, travel scholarship for the AASE conference, the information is here: Download NATIONAL CONFERENCE TRAVEL SCHOLARSHIP.2017.
Monday, April 10, 2017
The inaugural AASE Diversity Conference, entitled Fulfilling Promises: Providing Effective Academic and Bar Exam Support to Diverse Students, will be held October 12-13 at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, MD.
The deadline for proposal submissions is on April 28th. The call for proposals can be found here: Download DIVERSITY Call for Proposals 2017.
UCLA School of Law is seeking a new Lecturer in Law who will be responsible for teaching core courses required for graduate law students who have a foreign law degrees (LL.M. degree candidates) to sit for the California, New York, or other state bar exams and for creating and implementing co-curricular programs for these students. This is a full-time, nine-month, academic, non-tenure track appointment. The salary and level of appointment will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. The appointment will be effective July 1, 2017.
For more information, please see: https://recruit.apo.ucla.edu/apply/JPF02877
The 2017 conference will be at Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth, TX. Links to the conference information are:
Note that hotel reservations must be made by April 22nd to get the conference rate of $179.
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Thank you to Kandace J. Kukas, Assistant Dean & Director of Bar Admission Programs at Western New England University School of Law, for providing us with a write-up regarding this recent New York event:
Fifteenth Successful Conference in the Books!
The New York Academic Support Workshop celebrated its fifteenth year at New York Law School on Friday, March 31, 2017. With more than 25 attendees from New York, New England and the East Coast, the one-day conference re-energized ASP professionals for the end of year and bar exam stress, as well as creating thoughtful discussion of how to more effectively and efficiently reach our students.
Hosts Kris Franklin of New York Law School and Linda Feldman of Brooklyn Law School set up a robust agenda consisting of insightful conversations, activities and sharing. One of the day’s highlights was the “Improvising Your Way to Good Legal Analysis” session led by Victoria Eastus of New York Law School. All participants formed a circle and learned how improv can help break the ice with our students as well as show the students they already know how to implement legal analysis. Our everyday living requires analysis, when shifted to the legal arena the connections proved to be quite powerful and generated quite a buzz in the room!
Additional “take-aways” from the day included a recognition that a flipped class may have some draw backs for students who learn differently, project management is a crucial part of legal work and we can guide our students through creative means to understanding task management, and none of us likes homework; especially ASP Professionals! In addition, we discussed and shared experiences creating an Academic Support Program, helping the students with doctrine comprehension using creative methods, and the components necessary to writing well; rules, doctrine, issues and facts. Finally, we shared our time management techniques, with students and ourselves; we are pulled in many directions as are our students, we can use ourselves as guides and examples of superior time management.
Most importantly we shared support and comradery! It is crucial that every now and then we reach out beyond our school’s walls and remember there are a number of brilliant people across the country working very hard to ensure student success in law school and beyond. These friendships and the support felt in the room are some of the reasons I am honored to be in academic support!
Saturday, April 8, 2017
Hat tip to Steve Black, my colleague here at Texas Tech School of Law, for telling me about Ankiweb to make flashcards. You can build flashcards on your computer and share them with your other devices. The link to the website is Ankiweb. (The phone app is also available through the Google Play Store for Android phones.) (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, April 6, 2017
It's gone "viral." Apparently it's the most watched graduation speech...ever. That's great news for our world because the subject was about changing the world for the better. So, here's the kicker, according to graduation speaker Admiral William McRaven (now chancellor at the University of Texas), it starts in the morning.
That' right. Start in the morning...with making your bed. You see, according to McRaven, it's the little things that matter because the little things add up to bigger things, and the bigger things add up to big things, and the big things, well, add up to great things (at least that's my paraphrase of his speech). So, when you make your bed in the morning, you've already taken one mighty little step to taking charge over the issues that you are about to confront that day. In short, even before you've reached school, you've demonstrated a success. And, success begets success.
That's particularly important in the study (and in the practice) of law. I heard a speaker today say that the issue with lawyers is that lawyers overthink. That made me think, of course, because I am a lawyer. I overthink everything. And, in my overthinking, I tend not to get moving because I don't know where to start. So, instead of concrete positive action in trying to change the world, I'm often stalled in my thoughts, which leads to worry. In short, I'm stymied, perplexed, and overstressed. But, it doesn't have to be that way, according to Adm. McRaven. If I just start each day with tackling a simple problem, I'll see progress. And, as I start to make progress, I start to feel more confident, to believe in myself, in tackling even more problems on the way to changing the world.
Let's bring this back to the classroom. In the study of law, we are so often afraid to "make our bed." What do I mean by that? Well, we spend way too much time overthinking the cases in our reading for classes that we never start using the cases to practice solving legal problems. We stay in bed. We hide under the covers. We don't move into the morning by working through hypotheticals, testing ourselves, seeing if we can figure out how to solve legal problems.
So, here's my suggestion:
Just start working on the little problems, the short hypotheticals. It doesn't have to be big gnarly essay questions. In fact, start small. But, start. Grab pen and paper along with your notes and take a stab at solving a practice problem. That will lead to solving bigger practice problems, which will increase your confidence to solve even more difficult problems. And then, before you know it, you'll be witnessing your own graduation...as a brand new problem-solving lawyer...and well-prepared to change the world for the better too! (Scott Johns)
P.S. Here's a video clip from part of the University of Texas speech: Step 1: If You Want to Change the World...
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
This is the week our students’ appellate briefs are due therefore I assumed that they would be unprepared for the directed study group meeting scheduled for this week. Instead of cancelling the meeting, I developed several activities with the materials students had covered thus far in their doctrinal course. The students were engaged and appeared to enjoy the activities. We highlighted areas they were unfamiliar with, areas they needed to work on, and areas of strength. Students worked in groups and one of the groups was composed of mostly male students and one female student. The female student held her own but one situation gave me pause. Her group was consulting before they buzzed in their answer. I heard her say the correct answer but her male counterparts disagreed and tried to persuade her otherwise. The group spokesperson stated the answer the majority agreed on but it was an incorrect answer. When they realized she had the correct answer, they were dumbfounded. I told the male students: “you should have listened to her” and I saw her smile. I was glad to validate her “correct” contribution and thought about the experiences of other female students.
At times, the law school environment can be a challenging place for female students for a variety of reasons including the fact that their abilities are sometimes underestimated and undervalued. This can reduce confidence in even the most confident person. There are several articles, studies, and news reports on the topic. However, I found an eight minute TEDx Talk which illustrates some of the challenges females face and how they can help themselves and other females find “The Confidence Factor.” Here is the link to “The Confidence Factor” by Carol Sankar.
Sankar suggests three things all women must do enact their confidence factor, challenging them to students, particularly female students:
1. Know the power of negotiation. If you know your worth before you leave the house; you now have the power of negotiate. Know your worth.
2. Seek a balance of support and mentorship. Support is the praise and comfort but not the facts. Mentorship is when people tell us the truth regardless of how we feel about what we hear; someone with the courage to push us and tell us the truth.
3. Your inner circle. Create an inner circle which includes one who likes you, one who can’t stand you, one who will tell the truth, and one who will tell you a lie. Also consider individuals not known to you. (Goldie Pritchard)
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
I was talking to a colleague about a student who turned in a mediocre paper for a class. Because of some gaps in the syllabus information, the student was able to get full credit although the paper was not really up to the professor's expectations. The professor had no choice but to give credit and fix the syllabus for the next time around. The loophole benefited the student on that occasion.
Let's face it, students often find the loopholes in syllabi, discipline codes, academic regulations, and more. Administrators and faculty regularly clean up the language or add the details to fill in the gaps to avoid future problems. The students get the benefit of the loopholes for the time being. I understand the necessity of that ongoing process.
But what if the loophole situation is not a "one off" for the student? Unfortunately, I have met some law students who spend their three years constantly looking for loopholes rather than pushing themselves to achieve their best work. Such students repeatedly look for ways to get out of work, to get by with minimal effort, and to "pull one over" on their professors. They often have tremendous academic potential, but prefer to coast rather than excel. For these students, "lookout for loopholes" becomes a lifestyle.
Will these students become lawyers who do minimal work on behalf of clients? Will they try to take shortcuts at every turn? Will they expect to "pull one over" on opposing counsel, the jury, or the judge? Perhaps they will be different in the "real world of practice" because law school was just a game to them. However, I am concerned what has been a lifestyle in law school will jeopardize their professionalism in practice. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, April 3, 2017
Just posted Director of Academic and Professional Excellence (APEx) position at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. This is Northwestern's proactive professional and academic counseling position. The full job description, posting, and application can be found here. The job ID is 30731. A summary of responsibilities is as follows:
The Director, Academic & Professional Excellence is responsible for curating and directing all academic excellence programming, counseling students on their academic preparation and success, and supporting the Associate Dean of Student Services as needed. This includes planning, coordination, project management, internal and external networking, conflict management, and teamwork within Student Services as outlined in the duties described below.
- Implementation of all academic excellence programming in Summer, Fall, and Spring, and incorporating student and faculty feedback to most effectively, efficiently, and successfully meet the needs of Northwestern Law students. These offerings include the Summer Law Preparatory Program, Acclimating to Law School, Case Briefing, Outlining, Exam Writing, and Post-Exam Learning, as well as other periodic presentations.
- Advise and counsel individual students on academic progress and performance, personal issues, educational decisions, and any other academic issues and objectives.
- Solicit, select, and supervise APEx Advisors (second and third year law students) who will support Director and counsel law students.
- Coordinate related events with other Student Services Directors, including but not limited to orientation, journal selection, award selection, graduation, and others.
- Collaborate in program and policy development for Student Services.
- Form network alliances with key internal department partners and external partners.
- Support Student Services and take on other assignments as delegated by the Associate Dean of Student Services.
- Performs other duties as assigned.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Appalachian School of Law is seeking a Director of Academic Support and Bar Prep and Professor of Law. This tenure track position includes teaching 1L and upper division academic support courses, and directing the bar prep program. Salary and benefits are competitive and commensurate with experience, as is the professorial rank. If interested, please forward CV to Acting Dean Sandra McGlothin (email@example.com). Additional information is below.
Base Pay Band (not including summer stipends or professional development):
$70,000 to $79,999
To coordinate and supervise the Academic Support and Bar Prep Program at Appalachian School of Law (ASL).
ASL is seeking to appoint a Director of Academic Support & Bar Prep Program (ASP) to begin on August 1, 2017.
To work collaboratively with all the faculty to support ASL’s students academically and in preparation for their bar examinations; to teach Legal Strategies I in the fall and Legal Strategies II in the spring to first-year students (ASL’s academic-support courses); to help teach ASL’s Intro to Law Orientation for first-year students; to meet individually with first-year and second-year students who are at-risk academically and other students if requested or if recommended by a professor; to host academic support and bar prep workshops; to monitor learning outcomes; to evaluate data concerning student performance; to support students in their preparation for their bar examinations, including post-graduate support; and to track and report information regarding bar passage and assessments.
A JD from an ABA accredited law school; admission to the practice of law from at least one state bar; and at least three years of experience in law school academic support or teaching.
Five to ten years of experience working in a higher-education setting in the areas of teaching, academic assistance, academic counseling or similar administrative, teaching, or practice experience; excellent written and verbal communication skills; and the ability to work effectively with a wide range of constituents within the diverse law school community, including students served by the ASP, faculty, and administrators.
Law School Description:
ASL is located in the scenic, mountainous region of southwestern Virginia. All aspects of ASL’s academic program—from the structured curriculum and the required summer externship to the community service commitment—are designed to respond to the unique needs and opportunities of a law school in this region.
The search committee will begin reviewing applications immediately and will continue to review applications until the position is filled.
Special Instructions to Applicants:
Candidates should submit a letter of interest, resume, and names of three references with e-mail addresses and telephone numbers to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Appalachian School of Law
Assistant Professor & Director of Academic Support & Bar Prep
1. The position advertised: _X_ a. is a tenure-track appointment. ___ b. may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years. ___ c. may lead only to successive short-term contracts of one to four years. (Full Time Position) ___ d. has an upper-limit on the number of years a teacher may be appointed. ___ e. is part of a fellowship program for one or two years. ___ f. is a part-time appointment, or a year-to-year adjunct appointment. (One-Year Visitorship only)
___ g. is for at will employment.
- The professor hired: _X_ a. will be permitted to vote on all matters at faculty meetings.
___ b. will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings on matters except those pertaining to hiring, tenure, and promotion. ___ c. will not be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.
3.The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range checked below. (A base salary does not include stipends for coaching moot court teams, teaching other courses, or teaching in summer school; a base salary does not include conference travel or other professional development funds.) ___ over $120,000 ___ $110,000 - $119,999 ___ $100,000 - $109,999 ___ $90,000 - $99,999 ___ $80,000 - $89,999 _X_ $70,000 - $79,999 ___ $60,000 - $69,999 ___ $50,000 - $59,999 ___ $40, 000-49,999 ___ this is a part-time appointment paying less than $30,000 ___ this is an adjunct appointment paying less than $10,000
- The person hired will have the title of:
___ a. Associate Dean (including Dean of Students).
_X_ b. Director.
_X_ c. Professor (tenure track).
___ d. Professor (clinical tenure track or its equivalent).
___ e. Professor (neither tenure track nor clinical tenure track).
___ f. no title.
- Job responsibilities include:
_X_ a. working with students whose predicators (LSAT and University GPA) suggest they will struggle to excel in law school.
_X_ b. working with students who performed relatively poorly on their law school examinations or other assessments.
_X_ c. working with diverse students.
_X_ d. managing orientation.
_X_ e. teaching ASP-related classes (case briefing, synthesis, analysis, etc.).
_X_ f. teaching bar-exam related classes.
_X_ g. working with students on an individual basis.
_X_ h. teaching other law school courses (If desired and subject to curricular needs).
- The person hired will be present in the office and work regularly during the summer months (June – August).
_X_ a. Yes.
___ b. No.
- The person hired is required to publish, in some form, in order to maintain employment.
_X_ a. Yes.
___ b. No.
This institution is an AA/EEO employer and does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national and ethnic origin, age, veteran status or political affiliation.
Saturday, April 1, 2017
Law students may be making some foolish study decisions as they realize their exams are only 4-6 weeks away. Now is the time when the rumor mill generates some study tips that on the surface may sound time-saving, but in reality are very foolish.
Here are some of the rumors that are passed around and the explanation why the study tip is harmful:
- The rumor: Stop preparing for class and just focus on exam study. The harm if followed: Minimal class preparation is a sure way to miss the nuances in class discussion. You will not know what is or is not important without context from preparation. You will not know what the professor is skipping because you were expected to have learned and understood those points during your preparation. The new material will also be on the exam. Why act like it is not a priority? Be efficient and effective in your class preparation, but do not jettison it.
- The rumor: Take all of your remaining class absences so that you have more study time. The harm if followed: Professors will make comments about the exam content and format during the last weeks. Do you want to depend on another law student passing on that inside scoop? For some courses, the last weeks of material pull the entire course together. Some professors test the last part of the semester more heavily because of the very important topics covered at the end.
- The rumor: Have your study group divide up topics for the course so that each person focuses on one or two topics and then teaches the others what they need to know. The harm if followed: All this accomplishes is your being personally ready only for the exam questions on the topics you were assigned. You will know the gist of the other topics, but not have deep understanding of the material others have covered for you. Would you want a emergency room doctor who thoroughly understood broken bones, but only listened to others explain the gist of cardiac arrest?
- The rumor: Spend your time doing practice questions in a study group with everyone chipping in on the possible issues and answers. The harm if followed: Study groups can be helpful for discussing practice questions after you have done them on your own: reading, analyzing, organizing an answer, and writing an answer. Group think without individual work does not tell you whether you would have spotted all issues, you would have thoroughly understood the analysis, and you would have written a solid exam answer. The group will not be with you in the exam to help you think through the questions.
- The rumor: Spend as little time as possible on your 1L writing assignments because your doctrinal courses count for more credit hours. The harm if followed: A high grade in your lower-credit 1L research and writing course is still a high grade! It helps your GPA. Employers pay a great deal of attention to the legal research and writing grades. Employers realize you may have to gain some background on bankruptcy or environmental law; they expect you to know how to research and write already. You will depend on good research and writing skills every day as a lawyer.
If what the rumor mill is suggesting seems too easy, it probably is not good advice. Unsure about what you are hearing? Talk with the academic support professional at your law school to get good advice that will be based on efficient and effective study strategies that will get you more results. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Recently while teaching asylum law, we took some time in class to talk about justice. How do we know what is the right thing to do? What standard(s) should we use to decide whether a case result is just or not? I was just about to recap our discussion when a student asked, poignantly, "What does Justice have to do with the Law?"
In brief, the student commented that very few classes ever even talk about justice, and, the student also asked me directly if I have ever even talked about justice as a litigator before the court. Those were great questions. And, the student got me thinking...deeply...because if what we are doing is not just, then we should be doing something else. And, if we are not talking about justice, then, let's be frank, we are not engaging with our students in heart-felt learning because they came to law school - not to be mechanics robotically applying the law - but to make the world better, to make the world more just, in short, to restore and right and mend relationships.
As I reflected on my student's questions, I started to realize that implicit in much discourse concerning the outcome of cases are principles that manifest themselves in real impact on real people. So, my first step was to refocus on teaching about the people (and not just the mechanical facts, issues, holdings, and rationales). I try to find out what happened to the litigants. I sometimes call the attorneys that litigated the case. In short, I try to bring life to the cases that we read. Second, I try to keep my eye out for opportunities to talk about whether the decisions in the cases that we study are just (and why or why not). I try to make it explicit. Third, as we talk about representing people, I bring up opportunities to appeal to courts by using principles of justice.
So, that brings me back to learning. It seems like many law students are just plain tired, primarily it seems to me, because we have taught them that the law is lifeless. We've stripped the cases of all humanity. We talk about cases as if they are just impersonal scripts, and, in the process, our students begin to feel like the lawyer's job is just to keep the machine going. That they are a cog in a process that lacks life. That law school is not a place to learn about how to make the world better but rather just a place that keeps the world going, faltering along, without improvement, growth, or hope. Our students start to think that justice has very little to do with the law.
Perhaps that is true. But, it need not be so. That's because in a common law system the law grows out of relationships and arguments presented by real people to real people to resolve real disputes based on real appeals to the heart. So, as we teach our students, I need to help them empower themselves to speak boldly and think deeply about what the right thing to do is (and why). And, when I do that, my students start to sit up straight, they take notice, they start pondering, thinking, and, of course, learning...because they realize that they do have something to say, something that is important, something that might actually someday make a powerful impact in the lives of others when incorporated into the common law. In fact, our world needs their voices - all of their voices in order to realize justice for all.
If you're looking for a place to learn how to incorporate justice into your teaching, here's a great source. Professor Michael Sandel has a free web platform that focus on teaching justice with much of the discussion based on the law and litigation. And, in the process, you'll see a masterful teacher helping his students develop into learners. http://justiceharvard.org/justicecourse/ (Scott Johns).
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Yesterday, as I was leaving the supply room, heading towards the floor where my office is located, I overheard a conversation that stopped me in my tracks. I saw a student filling her water bottle as a professor approached her. The professor communicated how impressed she was with the student’s performance on an assignment, emphasized positive aspects of the assignment, touted the student’s abilities, and praised her for thinking outside the box. I was drawn to this exchange by an unmistakable display of enthusiasm which radiated on the student’s face. Although this student has excelled academically, she appeared excited, amazed, and touched by the professor’s positive words. The student indicated to the professor and me that this encounter made her day. As it is rare to witness positive affirmations in the law school environment, a few kind and genuine words can create a jolt of confidence that can carry students a long way.
Merriam-Webster defines affirmation as: “a positive assertion.” I understand that the word affirmation comes from the Latin “affirmare” which means “to make steady, strengthen.” Words are very powerful. When we verbally affirm another’s dreams and ambitions, we are instantly empowering them with a deep sense of reassurance that our wishful words will become reality. Law school can shake a student’s confidence regardless of how self-assured that student is. A law school community should always encourage and help strengthen students by reminding them of their aspirations and goals.
I find that affirmations are a way of helping students rewire their brains, thus creating a positive and supportive environment that helps with their overall well-being and academic improvement. I do not provide students with affirmations on a regular basis but whenever I do, I am genuine and strive to ensure I communicate positives that support and strengthen students when it appears they need it. Then I empower them to do what they need to do next. Some of the words I share include reminding students that they "possess the qualities necessary to be successful otherwise they would not be here at the law school"; they "have the ability to conquer challenges as their potential for success is infinite given the challenges they have already overcome to be here"; and "each obstacle in their way is carving their path towards greatness." Words are powerful, have impact, and can strengthen students by helping them believe in their potential to manifest their dreams. (Goldie Pritchard)