Thursday, February 8, 2018
Here's great research news that you can bank on, whether you are an ASP professional or a law student!
In brief, just having one academic course with individualized feedback corresponds to an increase of about a third of a letter grade. So, if you are a law student, make sure that you take advantage of your law school's resources - both in-class and out-of-class - to get individual feedback (and lots of it) each and every week. And, if you are an ASP professional, what a great opportunity to encourage law students to learn by doing.
Not quite convinced...
Check out the research details in the article entitled "The Impact of Individualized Feedback on Law School Performance" by Daniel Schwarcz and Dion Farganis at: Impact of Individualized Feedback
In the interim, here's a snapshot from the article's abstract:
"...[S]tudents in sections that have previously or concurrently had a professor who provides individualized feedback consistently outperform students in sections that have not received any such feedback. The effect is both statistically significant and hardly trivial in magnitude, approaching about 1/3 of a grade increment after controlling for students’ LSAT scores, undergraduate GPA, gender, race, and country of birth. This effect corresponds to a 3.7 point increase in students’ LSAT scores in our model. Additionally, the positive impact of feedback is stronger among students whose combined LSAT score and undergraduate GPA falls below the median at the University of Minnesota Law School."
So, get a power boost on your academic performance by getting lots of feedback throughout the semester about your learning. As the research suggests, you'll be glad you did! (Scott Johns).
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Lately, I have met with students with a variety of concerns about overall academic performance last semester. Many are assessing whether or not newly implemented strategies and approaches will benefit them during the spring semester final exam period. With the middle of the semester fast approaching, some students are already expressing regret regarding their academic performance and exam preparation thus far.
I have heard the word “regret” tossed around so many times lately. In exploring what students perceive “regret” to mean for them, I have discovered that it has different connotations for each student. For many of these students simply articulating their concerns and developing an action plan they can quickly implement has proven positive. Below are a few ways we (the students and I) have participated in addressing various student concerns:
Energy directed toward thoughts about steps one has failed to take, where the semester is going, or fears about failure is misdirected. That energy is better used when specific tasks are identified and implemented to yield expected results.
Students often panic when they see what others are doing or the work product that others have generated when they have nothing to show for the time that has now elapsed. Seeing what others do should be motivating rather than demoralizing. Furthermore, personal life issues, financial concerns, career concerns, summer opportunities, graduation, and the bar exam are some of the thoughts that consume time and prevent students from concentrating on more pressings tasks at hand. While all are valid concerns and considerations, they do not have to be simultaneously contemplated. Instead, they need to be prioritized.
Generate a Game Plan
Of course, this sounds very obvious but when I sit down with a student and really probe what a student’s plan is to address academic, life, and career concerns, often the student has nothing concrete to share. They have ideas and general plans but no timelines, deadlines, processes for setting realistic goals, systems for attaining goals, assessment mechanisms, and alternative options. All of which will help redirect energy and eliminate distractions because they have a process for addressing concerns which helps limit distractions and their energy is focused on implementation as they realize how much time they do have to accomplish goals.
Revisit Problem and Plan
Simply having a plan and implementing it is insufficient. Revisiting initial concerns to assess whether a plan addresses various elements is very important. A game plan may be effective for certain aspects but not for others. Simply adopting someone else’s plan may prove ineffective for one student, while requiring little or significant adjustment to suit another. Assessment keeps students on tasks, allows them to recognize successes, and encourages them to move forward. Being open and willing to make adjustments is necessary as well.
A positive attitude and positive expectations go a long way. Of course, life is filled with unexpected events which can affect one’s positivity meter but a good attitude goes a long way.
Stepping outside of one’s comfort zone is always difficult but it challenges you with something you are not familiar or accustomed to and that challenge allows you to discover your potential. Trying approaches and strategies which might seem outrageous to you might yield positive results. Also, if you are simply repeating and doing what has not served you in the past, how are you ever to yield positive and different results?
Regret is simply regret unless you do something about it particularly when you still have lots of time to make significant changes that can yield positive results. Nothing is final until it is final and nothing is over until it is over. You still have ample time to turn things around. (Goldie Pritchard)
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Grit: a noun, meaning courage and resolve; strength of character.
Numerous law review articles and research studies have discussed the importance of "grit" in law school success. But grit isn't unique to academia; rather grit is essential for success in virtually any intense, high-stakes environment, including the Master Sommelier's exam and the Olympics. Don't believe me? Watch SOMM and WINNING to see just what I mean. These two documentary movies (both currently available on Netflix) highlight the importance of grit, and help remind law students that:
1. You typically learn more from your failures than you do from your successes.
2. Getting back up and trying again, especially when you're exhausted, is essential.
3. You should strive for perfection, so that if you fall a bit short, you'll still be successful.
4. You should want to succeed for yourself, not to please someone else; internal motivation is key.
SOMM "takes the viewer on a humorous, emotional and illuminating look into a mysterious world—the Court of Master Sommeliers and the massively intimidating Master Sommelier Exam. The Court of Master Sommeliers is one of the world's most prestigious, secretive, and exclusive organizations. Since its inception almost 40 years ago, less than 200 candidates have reached the exalted Master level. The exam covers literally every nuance of the world of wine, spirits and cigars. Those who have passed have put at risk their personal lives, their well-being, and often their sanity to pull it off. Shrouded in secrecy, access to the Court Of Master Sommeliers has always been strictly regulated, and cameras have never been allowed anywhere near the exam, until now."
SOMM puts the effort needed to pass the bar exam into crisp perspective. Law students will undoubtedly identify with one, or several, of the study strategies employed by the sommelier hopefuls. Students may also appreciate the various outsiders' viewpoints offered by each test-taker's significant other.
WINNING is one film about "five legendary athletes. The compelling and inspiring story of the journeys of tennis champion Martina Navratilova, golf great Jack Nicklaus, Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci, track and field star Edwin Moses, and Dutch Paralympian Esther Vergeer. Through candid interviews and footage of their most exciting championship moments, WINNING reveals their dreams, challenges and triumphs and explores why some athletes achieve greatness."
WINNING highlights how impactful external pressures to succeed can be on one's psyche. Those who succeeded in the athletic arena did so because they personally wanted to win. Viewers takeaway a real appreciation for the concept that a genuine desire to prove to yourself that you can achieve your own goals will motivate you to wake-up early and stay late each day. In addition, WINNING teaches the importance of striving for perfection while also maintaining realistic goals and expectations. Students of the law, just like Olympians, are benefitted when they remain vigilant about identifying their personal weaknesses and looking for ways to improve upon those skills. (Kirsha Trychta)
Monday, February 5, 2018
The ad posted on Friday, February 2nd was incorrectly posted as being for NYU. The link is Download Asst Dean for Academic Success Position Description(1).
While I don’t consider myself old, I am starting to tell stories about “the good ole’ days.” Days where I was taught to ride a bike by being pushed down the street and then my uncle let go. I crashed, got up, probably cried about not wanting to continue, and then was forced to get back on for the next attempt. My mom recalls that she was taught to swim by being thrown in a lake and told to swim back to survive. Those are terrible parenting strategies (and probably exaggerations), but I do find myself telling my kids “we don’t say I can’t in this house” right before a huge meltdown struggle. A key message was to overcome obstacles.
Now is the time in both bar prep and the semester where I see students psychologically disadvantaging themselves with the wrong perspective. Bar takers are struggling with recent simulated MBE results. My last semester 3Ls are struggling through their MBE homework. The pain of multiple choice is high right now. Many students will shy away from more work that illustrates they are not doing well.
Despite the current despair, my hope is everyone possesses a get back on the bike attitude, even if they are wailing. Unfortunately, I am concerned we (including myself) are not teaching perseverance as well at all levels of education. I fear our students aren't getting back on the bike due to their perspective of their own ability.
Students constantly receive messages from society, law school, and peers about their ability. If students don’t receive instruction on how to overcome those obstacles before law school, schools should start overtly teaching how to overcome very real obstacles. Some law schools’ demographics include students who constantly receive messages that they are not good at certain types of questions. Research is clear that girls at young ages are as capable, if not better, at math than boys. As kids grow up, societal messages and images tell young women they are not good at math. This results, along with many other factors, with less women in STEM fields. Many of our students experience the same phenomenon. Schools with lower credentials have a student body who were told by the LSAT that they aren’t good at multiple choice tests, and many of those students were subsequently told by some law schools, through rejection letters, that they weren’t good enough on multiple choice tests to attend. Limited options to unranked law schools sends messages of inferiority before students are even in chairs.
Students of historically marginalized groups attending those schools face even greater challenges. Stereotype threat, not seeing many peers like themselves, and discovering statistics about group performance sends additional messages of limited chances of success. The explosion of easily accessible information through social media and the internet only exacerbates this problem.
My anecdotal perspective is that some students receiving these messages are ill-equipped to navigate the negative environment, which in many ways is not students’ fault. Between helicopter parenting and YMCA sports (only half-joking), some law students haven't faced real challenges or losing before law school. They haven't been exposed to the need for a Growth Mindset. I always talk about improvement and the goal is to get better, but anecdotally, I have heard more students say they aren’t good at multiple choice questions over the last few years. I try to tell students about a growth mindset, but I don’t think it registers to them that saying they are bad at a certain type of question is a form of the fixed mindset. The confirmation of certain classes from law school make overcoming this idea difficult.
Overcoming failures is critical to success in law school, the bar exam, and the practice of law. Not only do we need students to acquire persistence for success now, we are doing a disservice to them if we let them practice law without the ability to handle defeat. I am committing to be more overt about my messaging on improvement and growth mindset. I specifically tell students the statement “I am bad at multiple choice questions” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and hurts their scores. I plan to continually talk about the obstacles in practice and how to learn to handle them now. I will show them how they improve and how improvement is the goal. I want my students to enter the profession with the ability to continue to advocate for their client in spite of continuously losing motions. Hopefully those skills will help them be more professional lawyers.
Sunday, February 4, 2018
A post on The Legal Skills Blog mentions Scott Johns' latest research article exploring whether there is any relationship between externships and bar passage. Scott Johns is at University of Denver and serves as one of our Contributing Editors. You can read the post and abstract here .
Saturday, February 3, 2018
Texas Bar Today has recognized Kirsha Trychta's post on January 23rd as a Top 10 Post. Here is the link to her post in case you missed it: Proving You Are Ready to Go from the Exam Room to the Courtroom.
Friday, February 2, 2018
The complete job announcement and description can be found here: Download Asst Dean for Academic Success Position Description(1).
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Annually, between the end of January and early February, I manage two groups of students with different concerns and stressors. The first group is comprised of recent graduates who plan to sit for the February bar exam and the second group includes current 3Ls completing their bar applications and gearing up for the end of the law school journey. Of course, I work with several students who do not neatly fit into these two groups but at this time, these are the students who require my immediate attention.
The Bar is in Sight
As February approaches, recent graduates appear completely panicked. February means the bar exam is fast approaching and students have a few weeks before they sit for the exam, the event they have anticipated since completing law school.
Some grads are questioning whether or not they should have started studying earlier, doubting their ability to recall information studied thus far and pessimistic about passing the bar exam. This group of individuals regularly calls or emails me in the mist of any meltdown, primarily sharing their concerns about dropping scores on practice MBE questions, inability to answer essay questions on subject areas they once felt comfortable with and fear that time is rapidly running out. In response, we collectively strategize how to purposefully use the remaining weeks and days. In addition to reassuring them and giving them permission to feel all of the emotions, they might possibly feel, I encourage them to get back to work.
Other graduates simply call or email for a last-minute pep talk and a few words of encouragement. I find it quite easy to do so as these graduates are practically ready to face the final stretch.
Another group of individuals that usually starts to engage with me at this time is those I never met throughout their law school careers or those who disappeared for extended periods of time. Typically, my final advice to these students is: “Take some deep breaths, keep your eye on the ultimate goal, get some rest, and keep working. You can do this!”
Bar Exam Avoidance
For current 3Ls slated to graduate at the end of this semester, the concerns are a little different and mostly relate to the unknown. For a few students, bar application deadlines have passed so they have already experienced the range of emotions that accompany that experience. For many others, application deadlines loom and the reality of the demands associated with completing a bar application is overwhelming. The Boundless time they once thought they had, is now very limited. Fitting application tasks into daily and weekly class and work schedules is tedious. I usually seize this opportunity to remind them of the routine messages they received from me each and every semester and prior to summer break encouraging students to read the bar application instructions, survey the application, and start compiling vital information such as addresses, employment history, and supporting documentation. Those who did not heed the advice articulate regret about not initiating the process sooner and some even acknowledge that they just could not face the process; therefore, delayed it until the very last minute.
It would not be me if I did not inquire about why they avoided starting early. I find that their responses vary. For some students, revisiting residential history and work history awakens familial history that they have shelved or tried to forget about. For others, revisiting financial debts and obligations awakens stressors that they once set aside. It is amazing how what appears to be a very simple process such as answering a number of questions, producing documentation, and completing tasks can lead one to revisit a significant part of one’s life history with a critical eye. While this is regarded by some students as a very emotional process, for others it is a mere formality. Although we see students and regularly interact with them, often we are unaware of the multiplicity of adversities and challenges they overcame just to make it to law school and/or to get to this point, the precipice of completing their law school journey. (Goldie Pritchard)
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Each spring semester, I lead a structured study group primarily focusing on Constitutional Law. For the last few years, I’ve started the semester off with the same “standing” exercise with students, and it’s been a big hit. I begin by drawing a pictograph on the whiteboard consisting of three big empty rectangles, side-by-side. I then challenge the students to fill-in the chart with concepts from their standing chapter in a way that makes sense, graphically.
I encourage them to start by identifying the three main concepts from the standing material. After a few minutes, the students come up with their list: standing (generally), ripeness, and mootness. If they get stuck, I encourage them to look at their book’s Table of Contents for hints. I then ask them to place each concept in chronological order. If I have enough dry erase markers, I’ll write the ripeness material in red, since no case that is deemed unripe will get before the court. I put the standing material in green indicating that those who have standing are cleared to argue their case before the court, and reserve yellow for the more nuanced category of mootness.
Next, I ask them to identify the test from the casebook that is associated with each principle. This could obviously differ depending on the casebook, but, in my experience, most constitutional law books stick to the same main cases. I sometimes will write the case name under the principle, but no more. I don’t write the specific test on the board, but instead give the students time to review and edit the test in their notes or to add the test if it is missing from their notes.
Finally, I draw an arrow going from “mootness” to “standing,” and ask them what the arrow represents. After a few guesses, I give them a hint if they need it; I tell them to think about the abortion cases that they read. Eventually someone figures it out, and we have a conversation about the concept that some legal issues are “capable of repetition, yet evading review” which means that although the issue is technically moot, the party may be deemed to have standing anyway.
I end the exercise by reminding the students that the picture is an overly-simplified version of some very complex constitutional concepts, and that in order to be successful on the exam, they are going to need to continue to build upon what we started in the review session.
The entire exercise usually takes about 20-30 minutes, leaving enough time in a single review session to also complete a few pre-selected practice multiple-choice questions that focus on the standing principles to help solidify their newly-organized standing rules. (Kirsha Trychta)
Monday, January 29, 2018
Academic Support is a great community with how we all share ideas and try to pick each other up. The outpouring of support is invaluable, but I have to admit it sometimes makes me feel like I lack enough knowledge to help students. I hear about all the great new ideas at AASE that others are trying based on research and books read about cutting edge neuroscience research. I listen amazed at great new ideas, and I wonder where everyone finds time to both read the research and formulate ideas. My typical day races through my head with teaching, student appointments, committee meetings, and class preparation followed by images of evenings and weekends filled with coaching youth sports, which is much more fun than reading learning science. Extra time didn't seem to exist in my schedule.
Professional development is critical to progress for both me and my students. I recently discovered a way to continually develop daily without missing my other obligations. Since I don’t listen to much music, I decided to listen to new literature while commuting to work. I live in a suburb of OKC, so my drive is about 20-30 minutes each way. Many of you have much longer commutes, which is an even bigger opportunity to grow. Audiobook apps are abundant, s0 I spent a few days looking through the options like audible and audiobooks.com. This was a new commitment for me, so free apps were the most appealing. I decided to try the free OverDrive app. OverDrive is connected to library systems across the country. It allows users with a library card to check out audiobooks from local libraries. They may not have every audiobook, but depending on the library, the selection is pretty good.
Downloading the app was the first step. The next step was to create a habit of listening. My library checks out books for 2 weeks before deleting them from the app. Committing to 20-30 minutes would be necessary to make it through the book. I constantly tell students getting better requires little decisions and discipline each day. Practice exam writing for 30 minutes a day or adding in small substantive reviews throughout the week make a difference. I needed to take my own advice. Turning off ESPN radio and committing to professional development would be difficult, but I decided to listen to at least 1 book.
OverDrive made a huge impact on my development. I started last October, and I am still listening to new books. While reading an entire book during a busy day may seem daunting, listening to a book for 20-30 minutes while driving home isn’t difficult. Since October, I listened to Grit, How We Learn, Make It Stick, Eureka Factor, Learned Optimism, and some of Chazown. For general business leadership tips, I listen to Craig Groeschel’s Leadership podcast. It is specific to leading a business (he leads one of the largest church organizations in the nation), but many of the tips are helpful in leading students. I am on the waitlist for Power of Habit. I hope to listen to it this semester.
Professional development is hard to fit into our schedule, especially since many times, immediate benefits don’t flow from reading new research. However, students are engaging new technology at a rapid pace. We have to stay ahead on new information to help our students succeed, which is worth the 20-30 minutes driving home. Not only that, you may be the presenter with great ideas at future conferences from the small amount of time spent each day.
Sunday, January 28, 2018
Please welcome Steven Foster, Director of Academic Achievement and Instructor of Law (Oklahoma City University School of Law) as a Contributing Editor for the Law School Academic Support Blog. Many of you will recognize Steven from his involvement with SWCASP and AASE.
His law school's website provides a faculty profile for him:
"Professor Foster joined the law school in December 2008. His specialty is preparing students to take the bar exam, including skill building for both the essay and multiple choice sections. Professor Foster also manages the Academic Achievement department. Academic Achievement provides programs throughout students’ tenure to improve success in the classroom, on the bar exam, and in each students’ profession. The first year includes Foundational Skills Workshops, Student Led Reviews and individual tutoring. Academic Achievement’s offerings transition to bar preparation by the third year. Professor Foster offers the Conquer the Bar lecture series, which discusses all the subjects on the Multistate Bar Exam. He also teaches Advanced Bar Studies focusing on developing specific skills necessary to achieve passing scores on bar exam essay questions. Students are permitted to take Advanced Bar Studies in his/her last semester.
Prior to joining the law school, Professor Foster was an associate at Fenton, Fenton, Smith, Reneau, and Moon where he practiced insurance defense. His main focus was products liability, but he defended numerous other tort actions. Professor Foster graduated summa cum laude from Oklahoma City University School of Law where he received CALI Excellence for the Future Awards for the top grade in 17 classes; won 1st place overall team, 2nd place brief, and 3rd place individual oralist at the National Native American Law Student moot court competition; obtained the Judge Dwain Box Memorial Award for Outstanding Appellate Advocate; was awarded the American Bankruptcy Institute’s Medal of Excellence; and received the School of Law’s Outstanding Graduate Award for Most Likely to Succeed."
Steven will begin posting on the Blog this week. We look forward to his sharing insights on ASP and bar prep with us! (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Join your ASP colleagues on Friday, March 9, 2018 at UNT Dallas College of Law for a one-day conference focused on innovative ideas for supporting the current generation of law students. The conference theme is "Assisting the Modern Law Student: Academic Support in Changing Times."
The conference will kick off on Thursday evening with a welcome dinner at 6:30 p.m. at Wild Salsa, sponsored by BarBri. A block of rooms has been reserved at the Hampton Inn and Suites at 1700 Commerce Street, directly across from the street from the conference. Rooms can be reserved using the link included in the registration form. The tentative schedule for Friday, March 9 is below.
8:45 a.m. Registration and Breakfast at UNT Dallas College of Law
9:00 a.m. Scrapbooking for 1Ls: A Hands-On Approach to Legal Synthesis with Preyal Shah and Jessica Haseltine, UNT Dallas College of Law
10:00 a.m. Emerging Adults with Rebecca Flanagan, University of Massachusetts School of Law
11:00 a.m. Helicopter Professors with Emily Grant, Washburn University School of Law
12:00 p.m. Lunch at UNT Dallas College of Law
1:00 p.m. For Technical Assistance, Please Press 9 with Kirsha Trychta, West Virginia University College of Law
2:00 p.m. Law Success after Year One: Using a Mandatory Skills Curriculum to Tackle Bar Passage Rates with Zoe Niesel and Mike Barry, St. Mary’s University School of Law
Friday, January 26, 2018
The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning invites proposals for conference workshops addressing the many ways that law teachers are utilizing technology in their classrooms across the curriculum. With the rising demands for teachers who are educated on active learning techniques and with technology changing so rapidly, this topic has taken on increased urgency in recent years. The Institute is interested in proposals that deal with all types of technology, and the technology demonstrated should be focused on helping students learn actively in areas such as legal theory and knowledge, practice skills, and guided reflection, etc. Accordingly, we welcome proposals for workshops on incorporating technology in the classrooms of doctrinal, clinical, externship, writing, seminar, hybrid, and interdisciplinary courses.
The Institute invites proposals for 60-minute workshops consistent with a broad interpretation of the conference theme. The workshops can address the use of technology in first-year courses, upper-level courses, required courses, electives, or academic support roles. Each workshop should include materials that participants can use during the workshop and when they return to their campuses. Presenters should model effective teaching methods by actively engaging the workshop participants. The Institute Co-Directors are glad to work with anyone who would like advice on designing their presentations to be interactive.
To be considered for the conference, proposals should be one page (maximum), single-spaced, and include the following information:
- The title of the workshop;
- The name, address, telephone number, and email address of the presenter(s); and
- A summary of the contents of the workshop, including its goals and methods.
The Institute must receive proposals by February 15, 2018. Submit proposals via email to Professor Sandra Simpson, Co-Director, Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The conference is self-supporting. The conference fee for participants is $450, which includes materials, meals during the conference (two breakfasts and two lunches), and a welcome reception on Monday evening, June 18, 2018. The conference fee for presenters is $350. The conference workshops will take place all day on Tuesday, June 19, and until the early afternoon on Wednesday, June 20. Gonzaga University School of Law is hosting a welcome reception on the evening of June 18, 2018, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Barrister Winery, located in the downtown area.
Presenters and participants must cover their own travel and accommodation expenses. Local hotel accommodations and additional information can be viewed here: Download Call for Proposals Gonzaga Summer 2018. (Kirsha Trychta)
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
This is the third week of classes and usually a time when many of my 3L students start thinking about the bar exam because they have either submitted bar applications, are working to complete applications, or have received materials from bar review vendors to start studying early for the bar exam. In response to articulated concerns of students I work with on a regular basis, particularly last year’s group, I decided to use this opportunity to build a bar support community among students. This is in addition to addressing fundamental questions related to bar applications and early bar study from the general population of students.
Last year we had a small group of dedicated 3Ls driven by the fear of the bar exam and who planned to sit for the exam in several different states. We had a few “real talk” segments to address fears about the bar exam, why students fail the bar exam, financial concerns during bar review and immediately after, and law school debt. This was also the opportunity to visit or revisit some of the skills and content addressed in the voluntary bar preparation course offered by the institution that not every student enrolled in. This was also a timely opportunity for me to form and solidify a better acquaintance with my students. We talked about home life and its impact on bar preparation, how students manage stress, and the financial challenges students face. These discussions allowed me to direct students to resources I was aware of or at least alert the students to other resources I heard of later. They also identified individual support system(s) for use throughout the bar study process. As a result, students checked-in with one another, encouraged each other, went to each other in moments of panic and sent encouraging messages to each other each day of the bar exam.
This year, with added work responsibilities and being the sole person responsible for academic support and bar support, I thought it impossible to offer the program again this year. However, students know how to get me on board. Several of the students who were part of the group last year and passed the bar exam appealed to me by phone and email to offer the program again this year to current students. Additionally, they encouraged current students to approach me about repeating it. Peppered with questions, I found room in my schedule and decided to repeat it this year only if a certain number of students signed-up. The threshold was met and I have a new set of students this semester.
We had our first meeting and even though it will be added work to my heavy schedule, I am equally very excited and optimistic about working with this new group of students. I have already learned so much about them individually and about their families. They are an enthusiastic group and I look forward to their growth and success on the bar exam. It is my ardent opinion that we must support our students holistically as they prepare for this high stakes test that is the bar exam. Although we cannot address all challenges students experience; we can help them through some challenges which might put them in a better mental state to prepare for and sit for the bar exam. (Goldie Pritchard)
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
As you review your fall semester exams and set goals for the spring semester, ask yourself: Does my exam look like the work of someone who should be given a license to practice law? When you graduate, you are likely to accept a position with either a plaintiff’s firm, prosecutor’s office, a defense firm, or the court. And, you may find yourself switching from one side to the other throughout your legal career. Therefore, you have to convince your professor that you are capable of handling the legal matter from any chair in the courtroom. The good news is that a well-constructed IRAC answer does just that!
The Rules Section
Q. Where do the jurors learn all of the legal rules and instructions during a trial?
A. From the judge, especially during the final jury instructions.
You have to show the professor that you know and understand the rules of law associated with the litigation. At a real trial, it will be your job as the judge to properly instruct the jury as to the law. Similarly, if you are one of the litigants, then you must protect your client’s interests by ensuring that the judge properly carries out his or her duty. Therefore, both the judge and the litigants need to be well-versed on the legal standard. Show the professor that you know the rules that are related to the specific dispute. Just as a Judge wouldn’t burden a jury with unnecessary rules that don’t relate to the instant case, you too, should be selective in the rules offered to your professor. Include enough rules to help the jury/professor understand the legal standard, while omitting any unnecessary or irrelevant bits of information.
The Application Section
Q. Where do the jurors get all of their facts during a trial?
A. From the witnesses who testify and the exhibits offered into evidence during the litigation.
Q. Whose job is it to tie everything together, i.e. convince the jury that the facts offered at trial actually amount to a crime or tort or breach of contract, under the law as explained by the judge?
A. From the lawyer representing the injured party.
This section shows the professor that you can argue on behalf of your client. The professor essentially gives you a trial transcript when they draft a fact pattern or hypothetical for the exam. It is your job, as the attorney, to dissect that transcript, identifying each piece of helpful (or hurtful) testimony. Then you must compile all of those facts into a thorough and thoughtful argument on behalf of your client, making sure to discuss each of the legal factors or elements important to your case. Just like all good attorneys, you will likely spend more time discussing the hotly disputed elements, while quickly dispensing with the more obvious ones.
Would you ever stand up in a jury trial and say “Clearly the defendant intended to kill the victim,” and then simply sit back down? Of course not! So, don’t make that type of conclusory argument on an exam either. Instead, take the professor step-by-step through each fact or witnesses or piece of documentary evidence that supports your argument, just like you would during a real trial.
If you follow these litigation techniques when you draft your spring exam answers, you’re bound to get a verdict in your favor! (Kirsha Trychta)
Monday, January 22, 2018
Ever had a law student who fails courses because of time spent video gaming? I have seen it occur.
The BBC Future article discussed in today's other post mentions WHO's classification of video gaming as though it is finalized. Here is a post in Inside Higher Ed explaining more about the proposed classification and the controversy around it: here. (Amy Jarmon)
BBC Future is running a series of articles this month on social media and the pros and cons of its use. Today's posting looks at concerns over possible "social media addiction" and the difficulties with defining it. More studies are needed. The link is here. (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, January 21, 2018
We are finishing our second week of classes. As part of the start up, I have been meeting one-one-one with probation students. We will have weekly appointments during the semester to assess strengths and problems, implement strategies, and monitor progress. The first appointments with students always give me a great deal of insight into their mindsets on success.
Here are some of the characteristics of the students on probation who are ready to succeed this semester:
- They arrive on time or ahead of time for their appointments.
- They take out a pen and paper or laptop to take notes during the meeting without prompting from me.
- When asked to fill out an information sheet, they can list fall courses/professors/grades and their spring courses/professors without having to look them up.
- They have reflected on last semester's grades and study strategies and can articulate some ideas for improvement.
- They ask questions throughout our discussion to clarify points or inquire about areas we will cover this semester.
- They have started the exam review process with emails to some of their fall professors before seeing me.
- They use a daily planner or electronic calendar to record assignments and the date/time of our next meeting.
And then there are students on probation who do not seem ready to succeed yet (fortunately a small group). Hopefully that will change after grade shock/anger/angst has passed.
- They have not scheduled an appointment with me before the end of the second week of classes as required by the law school
- They "no show" the first appointment or arrive late to the appointment.
- They come to the appointment without anything - no pen and paper, no laptop, no knapsack, nothing.
- When asked to fill out an information sheet, they do not follow clear instructions or cannot remember the information to complete a section.
- They have not given any thought to the last semester's grades beyond "if I had been in the easy section" or "Professor X's exam was too hard" or "I wouldn't have been on probation if I just got a D+ in Y course instead of a D" or other answers that are basically non-reflection.
- They scowl, slouch in their chairs, sigh deeply in boredom, or exhibit other signs of frustration and animosity for having to meet.
- They make no notes on assigned tasks or the date/time for the next meeting.
Past semesters reassure me that the second group of students will come around. It may be several weeks before they are ready to take advantage of new strategies, but they come around at least 95% of the time. Unfortunately, if it takes too long to do so, they will have lost valuable time.
But I live in hope. (Amy Jarmon)