Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Every year, I am aware of the stress that bar studiers experience the week before the bar exam but I continue to be surprised by its various forms of manifestation. Some bar studiers are so fearful of the exam ahead that they consider sitting for the bar exam at a later date, some anticipate everything that could possibly go wrong, while others simply doubt their ability to pass after all the time and work they have invested. It is perfectly normal to have concerns and be nervous about the bar exam but when they ignore progress they have already made throughout the bar review process and when self-doubt, fear of failure, and a defeatist attitude dominate then momentum and progress made thus far could hinder the last few days of bar exam preparation. It is heartbreaking to be aware of the obstacles a bar studier has overcome to get to this point in bar preparation then see every bit of confidence they built up seemingly disappear. Worse of all is when the bar studier who served as the support system for other bar studiers breaks down. Fear is contagious and particularly when those who have relied on the strength of another become overwhelmed and scared when that person is overcome by fear and doubt.
If we are what we think then we must derive words that manifest our intentions and hopes. Even if we do not completely believe all that we say, we can at least state a desire we might like to see manifested and propel ourselves into making it a reality. Similarly, a change in attitude and a positive outlook on a situation may well become reality. I encourage bar studiers to have a few positive affirmations they can read out loud, say to themselves, or say with others. I ask them to think about something other than: “I will pass the bar exam.” I ask them to be specific with their choice of words to counter negative thoughts.
Below are some of the affirmations bar takers have shared with me over the years. Each is unique to individual bar taker’s state of mind and concern.
“I am capable of passing the bar exam because I have done everything necessary and in my power to ensure that result”
“I have been given endless talents which I can utilize to tackle unanticipated subjects on my essays and tasks on the MPT”
“I have a process for tackling MBE questions and when I panic, I will go back to my process”
“I have prepared for whatever comes my way (proctor failing to give 5-minute warning, others getting sick, others discussing issues I did not identify, etc..) on each exam day”
“I will stay away from people who create additional stress until the bar exam is over in order to surround myself with positivity”
“When I panic about my surroundings on exam day, I will remember that I have done this before (completed 200 MBEs in 6 hours) in bar review and get into my zone”
“I am capable, I made it through law school and can make it through this exam”
“I was very focused in my preparation for the bar exam so I am prepared”
“I will turn my nervous feelings into productive and positive energy to maximize my performance on this exam”
“I know most of what I need to know and what I don’t know I have a strategy for”
“Every day I got better at the tasks and will be my best on bar exam days”
“Passing the bar exam is not ACING the bar exam, it is achieving the passing score and I can do that. I reject the spirit of perfectionism”
“I succeed even in stressful situations”
“Today I release my fears and open my mind to new possibilities”
“Whatever I need to learn always comes my way at just the right moment”
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Some (or perhaps, most) law students get tired of reading judicial opinions every single day. I have found that giving students the option to listen to audio files or watch movies in lieu of reading a case helps to create some variety and spices up the learning process. For example, last week my Criminal Procedure students had the option to watch the 1980 movie “Gideon’s Trumpet” or read Gideon v. Wainwright and the corresponding notes in the textbook. I included both the audio and textbook options expressly on the syllabus. About half the class opted to watch the movie while the other half read the case; importantly, the whole class was able to engage in the discussion. Similarly, next week students will have the option to read the portion of the textbook discussing jury selection or to listen to More Perfect’s “Object Anyway” podcast.
Even if you don’t teach a substantive law course, the audio files can be helpful to aid any student who is struggling to connect with the written material. Earlier this semester a high-performing first-year student stopped by my office concerned that she had lost her fall semester spark. In the fall semester, she was excited about law school and thus enthused to work hard. Her hard work paid off, earning her very high grades in December. But, when she returned in January, she just couldn’t connect with the cases and material like she had done before. The spring semester courses of Constitutional Law and Property weren’t peaking her curiosity the way the fall semester courses of Criminal Law and Torts had. After chatting with her for a few minutes, I could tell that she needed a new way to engage with the material. I suggested some legal podcasts, especially ones that would give her the story behind the litigation. She needed to be able to relate to the parties on a more personal level, and I thought a well told story about the litigants could help. After just a few podcasts, she has already reported that Con Law has become more interesting to her now that she’s “getting to know” the justices’ personalities and she enjoys learning what happened to the litigants before and after the lawsuit.
If you’re interested in introducing an audio option to one of your courses or academic support arsenal, consider:
Oyez “is a multimedia archive devoted to making the Supreme Court of the United States accessible to everyone. It is a complete and authoritative source for all of the Court’s audio since the installation of a recording system in October 1955. Oyez offers transcript-synchronized and searchable audio, plain-English case summaries, illustrated decision information, and full text Supreme Court opinions. Oyez also provides detailed information on every justice throughout the Court’s history and offers a panoramic tour of the Supreme Court building, including the chambers of several justices.”
According to More Perfect’s creators “Supreme Court decisions shape everything from marriage and money to public safety and sex. We know these are very important decisions we should all pay attention to – but they often feel untouchable and even unknowable. Radiolab's first ever spin-off series, More Perfect, connects you to the decisions made inside the court's hallowed halls, and explains what those rulings mean for "we the people" who exist far from the bench. More Perfect bypasses the wonkiness and tells stories behind some of the court’s biggest rulings.”
Legal Talk Network is a podcast network for legal professionals with hosts from well-known organizations and brands in the legal community. Over 20 different active podcasts cover important legal news and developments, including access to justice, law school, industry events, legal technology, and the future of law. The most relevant podcast within the network is the ABA Law Student Podcast, which covers issues that affect law students and recent grads.
In addition, Learn Out Loud offers numerous legal podcasts and audio files for free download. (Kirsha Trychta)
Monday, February 19, 2018
Bar preparation is in the stretch run. Everyone is turning the corner and trying to finish strong. The goal is to keep up the pace for another week to maximize points on the exam. Understanding the law is important, but the bar exam is as much a test of mental freshness as it is knowledge of the law. Make sure to plan for the next week to be as fresh as possible walking into the exam.
Unfortunately, for a certain percentage of the population, every point matters. I see a decent amount of scores within only a handful of MBE questions of the pass line each administration. Every choice makes a difference. Intentionally make choices for the next week that set you up for success.
Cramming all night, studying while tired, and getting hungry while practicing can all affect performance on an exam. Studying during the wrong time of day or studying while tired decreases cognitive function. The best advice is to get on the same schedule as the bar exam. If you haven’t already, start studying at least 30-45 minutes prior to when the exam will start. You don’t want your brain to start working on essay 2 or 3. Get all the points possible from the start.
Start eating and resting during the same times as the exam. Bodies tend to get on cycles. People like eating near the same time every day. Think about the day that you eat just a few minutes later than normal. Stomachs start to rumble and are distracting. On one of the most important tests in your career, don’t let your stomach get in the way of answering questions correct. Get your body ready for the normal eating cycle. For example, Oklahoma’s essay section starts at 8. Students receive 4 essays with 2 hours to complete them. At the end of 2 hours, there is a break. A similar schedule proceeds throughout the day, with a lunch break in the middle. I tell students to be mentally ready to study by 7:30, eat any quick snack around 10:05, be ready for lunch around 12:15, have another snack at 3:35, and they will finish around 5:45.
Be ready for exam day is important. However, anything that could go wrong, may go wrong on exam day. If you get hungry all of a sudden, be ready with whatever your bar examiners allow in the room. Oklahoma’s essay day schedule is nothing like the MBE schedule, so students adapt a little on day 2 with snacks during the exam. Having a backup plan is always helpful.
The bar exam will be as much a test of mental endurance as it will be knowledge of the law. The best way to be mentally ready for the endeavor is to specifically plan how the day will go and start building study days to mirror exam day. Preparing nearly every detail will put you in the best position for success. Good luck on the exam!
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Please find the PDF job announcement here: Download Job Ad - Assistant Dean of Academic Achievement.
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Planning and preparing can be necessary and useful – within reason. However, we sometimes use them as avoidance mechanisms for our difficult study tasks.
Here are some examples law students have shared where they used planning and preparing to avoid working on a more difficult task:
- Cleaning the house because they cannot study until their environment is spotless.
- Organizing everything in their study area until everything is perfect for studying: pencils and pens lined up in a row, bookshelves alphabetized, papers for several semesters hole-punched and filed in binders.
- Continuing to research after everything found just repeats prior sources because “there just might be something else out there.”
- Making “to-do” lists that run on for pages and cover the entire semester to stall doing today’s immediate tasks.
- Daydreaming extensively about writing the best paper the professor has ever seen without actually researching for or writing that paper.
You want to plan and prepare. But you want to keep those tasks realistic and not let them become procrastination methods. Here are some tips for more realistic planning and preparing:
- Set time limits on planning and preparation steps rather than having them be open-ended.
- Limit daily “to-do” lists to a maximum of 10 tasks.
- Prioritize your daily “to-do” list into categories (very important, important, least important) and complete tasks in the order of importance.
- Block off specific times in your weekly schedule to do non-law-school items (chores, errands, grocery shopping, laundry, etc.) so they do not interrupt more important study tasks throughout the week.
- Ask yourself two questions for each task:
- Is this the wisest use of my time right now?
- If so, am I completing the task in a way to get the most effective results in the least amount of time?
If over-planning or over-preparing are difficulties for you, make an appointment with the academic success professionals at your law school to learn more strategies to use your time and efforts wisely. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, February 16, 2018
From Sandra L. Simpson, Co-Director of ILTL:
- Spring: We now have the registration information up for the Spring conference at Texas A&M. You can register for this conference at http://lawteaching.org/conferences/ . As a reminder, this conference is for adjunct professors and new professors. Truth be told, though, we could all use to brush up on our “Teaching Law by Design” skills. Thus, even if you aren’t an adjunct or aren’t a new professor, consider the conference. Included in this exciting conference is a great opportunity (on a first-come, first-serve basis) to have one-on-one time with retired Professor (and teaching guru) Gerry Hess. There is a box to check on the registration form if you are interested in such a session. Further, participants will receive a copy of the now famous teaching book by Michael Hunter-Schwartz, Sophie Sparrow, and Gerry Hess, titled “Teaching Law by Design.” This is a one day conference on April 28th.
- Summer: The summer conference is covering the use of technology in the classroom. This conference is in Spokane at Gonzaga University School of Law on June 18-20th. The deadline for proposals has been extended to March 2, 2018.
Summer: ILTL is still accepting proposals for the summer conference covering the use of technology in the classroom. The deadline is extended to March 2, so get us those proposals! If you know someone at your school who is really good with technology or is doing something unique with technology, encourage them to send in an proposal. The link is http://lawteaching.org/conferences/ which has the formal call for proposal. This conference is in Spokane at Gonzaga University School of Law on June 18-20th.
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Are your students struggling with reading comprehension difficulties?
Well, it might be just related to something quite surprising...the ever-increasing emphasis in on-line reading over paper-based reading.
You see, according to educational researchers in Norway, even controlling for learning differences in student populations, on-line readers statistically underperform in comparison to paper-based readers (as ascertained by test results concerning reading comprehension). Anne Mangen, et al, "Reading Linear Texts on Paper Versus Computer Screen: Effects on Reading Comprehension," International Journal of Educational Research, 58:61-68 (2013), available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com
According the article, at least based on my own reading of the article, there are several possible reasons for the disparate tests results between on-line readers versus paper-based readers such as:
First, on-line reading often requires scrolling, which seems to negatively impact spatial orientation of the text because it disrupts our abilities to mentally represent and recall the material.
Second (and closely related), on-line reading lacks the visual certainty of knowing where to re-locate material that one is struggling with because on-line text is fluid (with different parts of the text never occurring preciously on the same page of the screen) in comparison to paper-based texts (in which we often visually recall a certain passage from its spatial position, for example, in the upper-left hand-side of the page in the text book). In other words, paper-based readers might perform better in comparison to on-line readers because paper-based readers can more easily reconstruct a mental image, leading to more efficient recall during assessment of the material previously read. Those same clues are often lacking in on-line text presentations.
Third, on-line reading seems to impair our overall metacognition abilities (our abilities to monitor and assess our own learning) because on-line reading tends to be perceived by us -- at the outset -- as a familiar way to glean information quickly (and almost effortlessly). In contrast, paper-based reading tends to be perceived by us -- from the get-go -- as requiring much more effort on our part in order to make sense of the text, which by implication suggests that paper-based reading pushes us to better monitor whether and to what extent we are learning through our reading as we move back and forth through the text. In other words, in on-line reading, we tend to overestimate our reading abilities.
If the article's conclusions are true, then that leads us to wonder whether, the next time we see one of our students struggling with reading cases, dissecting statutes, or analyzing multiple-choice or essay problems, perhaps we should first ask about their reading. Are they primarily reading using on-line text or paper-based text? The answer to the question might just lead to a memorable breakthrough in one's success in law school.
That leads me to one final thought.
I wrote this blog trying, as best I could, to read the Norwegian article online. So, please take what I've written as a grain of salt...because...I might have well have overestimated my own metacognition of the research findings.
In fact, writing this blog has been mighty hard work on my end because it's required near-endless multi-tasking as I switched screen shots between the article and the blog. In short, I very well might have demonstrated the merit of this research based on my own, perhaps mistaken, paraphrases of the research findings. I'll let you be the judge. Just make sure you print out the article before you read it! Oh, and if you're not sure if you can recall how to read old-fashioned paper text, here's a funny video clip that'll serve as reminder: https://www.youtube.com/medevialreadinghelpdesk (Scott Johns).
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
The bar exam is slightly less than two weeks away and as academic support professionals, we can feel it even though it is business as usual in the law school.
One way we are reminded that the bar exam is approaching is through hearing from bar study mentors and bar support individuals. Some mentors are discovering that their mentees failed to take full advantage of resources and support available to them in preparation for the bar exam. Most likely, they are concerned about their mentees’ ability or simply excited about progress and wish to check-in. Whatever the cause, it is always great to hear from supportive individuals who have rallied around bar takers. These individuals usually serve as secret weapons, giving bar taker the extra boost of confidence necessary to bring them closer to passing the exam.
Another way we are reminded that the bar exam is fast approaching is through countless expressions of fear and panic from bar studiers through phone calls and email messages seeking advice on how to improve essays, Multistate Bar Exam questions, and Multistate Performance Tests. Bar studiers are also simply seeking last-minute advice and pep talks as they take the final preparatory steps for the bar exam.
Most students in the law school building appear unaware that the bar exam is this month, let alone a few days away. They are mainly focused on their day to day activities and academic endeavors. Students who are aware that the February bar exam is upon us are either currently completing their bar exam applications or students with friends who are former classmates who will sit for the February bar exam. Current 3Ls who anticipate taking the July 2018 bar exam have some familiarity with fears and challenges bar studiers experience and are therefore attempting to minimize those concerns, ask more questions, and strategize for their bar exam.
The fear of being unsuccessful on the bar exam is equally a motivating force and a source of stress. Lately, 3L students are alluding to having nightmares and awaking in a panic consumed with thoughts about the bar exam. In my opinion, it is too early to exhibit these emotions. I advise them that although the bar exam is a high stakes test as employment, opportunities, and livelihood are all at stake; nevertheless, many other students before them have successfully survived the journey and made it to the other side. I am confident they can too.
All the very best to all the students taking the bar exam this February! You can do it! To the current 3Ls, you still have time. (Goldie Pritchard)
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
The National Black Law Student Association (NBLSA) was "formed to articulate and promote the needs and goals of Black law students to effectuate change in the legal community." Founded in 1968 at the New York University Law School, NBLSA can trace its roots back to Algernon Johnson (“AJ”) Cooper--the former mayor of Prichard, Alabama--who sought "to increase the number of culturally responsible Black and minority attorneys who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community." Now in its 50th year, NBLSA has grown to one the largest student-run organizations in the country.
Although NBLSA has made huge progress in advancing its mission, African Americans still remain underrepresented in the legal community. Today, African Americans account for approximately 13% of our nation's population. Yet, according to the American Bar Association, less than 10% of law students and just 5% of the nation's licensed attorneys are African Americans. Hopefully, with a continued emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and cultural competencies both in legal education and the legal employment field, we can begin to close the representation gap. (Kirsha Trychta)
Monday, February 12, 2018
5 weeks down in the semester, which is about 1/3 of class time. Now is a great time for a progress check in each course. A progress check should analyze both whether the study schedule is working and whether you know the substance so far. Here are some quick questions/activities to consider:
- Do I have an updated outline for each of my courses?
- Have I briefed every case?
- Was I ready for class discussion each day?
- Am I consistently under-prepared for a particular class?
- What additional activities do I need to accomplish (ie - more practice with feedback)?
- What do I need to change now to get more done?
Substantive Knowledge: (complete these activities without looking at your outline, notes, etc.)
- Try to write down the major topics or headings for each course on separate sheets of paper.
- After writing down the major headings, try to write down the smaller issues within each heading.
- Try to write down the rules and exceptions for each of the issues.
- Ask yourself what is the most confusing part of the course. What is the hardest concept to understand? Try to find an answer from your notes, classmates, professor, or supplement for confusing concepts.
- Looking at the handwritten flowchart or outline, try to think of facts that are required to test each of the issues.
- Try to orally recite your outline for each course.
Progress checks throughout the semester are critical. Changing study habits later in the semester or trying to figure out doctrine from months before is difficult. The goal is to self-assess now to remedy any problems long before exams. This is a good time to start writing answers to short hypos and asking professors for feedback. Keep analyzing progress to continually improve.
Friday, February 9, 2018
The University of California, Hastings College of the Law was founded in 1878 as the law department of the University of California and was the first law school in California. Over the years, it has built a legacy and reputation of being a preeminent institution comprised of renowned faculty committed to the study of legal theory and research, preparing students for careers in the judicial system, public service, and industry.
The College is redefining legal education through an experiential, interdisciplinary, and international approach to the law. By integrating rigorous academics with hands-on practice, the College is preparing its graduates to tackle modern legal challenges.
Academic & Professional Success Specialist for the Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP)
Classification: Level 3 / Class Code 1717 / Exempt / Full-Time / Benefited
Hiring Salary Range: $70,000-$75,000 annually (commensurate with qualifications)
Under the direction and supervision of the Assistant Dean for Academic & Professional Success (ADAPS) and the Director of the Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP), the Academic & Professional Success Specialist for LEOP (“LEOP APS Specialist”) will implement LEOP-specific academic support programming, provide 1:1 academic support to individual students, supervise student workers, and collect and analyze program data. The position is thus a combination of program administration and direct student tutoring.
This is a one-year contract position.
Typical duties and responsibilities consist of, but are not limited to, the following:
- Assist in the design, development and implementation of new and existing academic skills and bar passage support programs and workshops targeted at LEOP students.
- Assist in hiring, training and supervising student workers employed as LEOP Tutors, who conduct weekly study groups to help LEOP 1L students to develop effective study skills and to learn how to approach law school exams.
- Coordinate the weekly LEOP Tutor-led study groups.
- Coordinate and administer periodic 1L practice exam sessions.
- Work with faculty teaching the courses for which a LEOP Tutor is assigned to develop appropriate hypothetical problems, practice exams, and rubrics to use for providing individualized feedback.
- Provide 1:1 academic counseling and support to LEOP students.
- Assist with assessment of LEOP’s academic and bar passage support programs, including collecting and analyzing program data.
EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE
- Juris Doctor Degree from an ABA-accredited law school;
- Experience working with non-traditional students who have experienced significant obstacles—educational, economic, social, or physical—that have restricted access to academic opportunities and resources;
- Active membership in the California State Bar;
- Prior teaching, tutoring, and/or academic program administration preferred.
KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS & ABILITIES.
- Strong legal writing, research, and analysis skills;
- Strong organizational skills for tracking data and program materials;
- Demonstrated ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with faculty, alumni, staff, students, the public, and bar associations through responsive communications, pro bono activities, and professional presentations;
- Must be available to attend occasional evening and/or weekend events.
Health and Welfare Benefits
- Comprehensive medical, dental and vision insurance coverage
- Flexible Spending Accounts for transportation-related, healthcare and dependent care expenses
- Employee Assistance Program
For your Financial Future
- Life Insurance
- Disability Insurance
- Legal Insurance
- University of California Retirement Plan (defined benefit)
- Deferred Compensation Plans/Pre-tax Retirement Savings Programs
For your Work/Life Balance
- Fourteen paid holidays per year
- Generous vacation and sick leave
- Commuter Benefits Program
THE HIRING PROCESS
To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to Academic & Professional Success Program Coordinator Katharine Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Failure to provide the required information shall immediately disqualify an applicant from employment consideration.
Please Note: **This position has been designated as “sensitive” and requires a pre-employment background check.
Federal law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities. Please contact Human Resources if you require a reasonable accommodation to apply for a job. Examples of reasonable accommodation include making a change to the application process, providing documents in an alternate format, using a sign language interpreter, or using specialized equipment.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Applicants who meet the position requirements will be competitively evaluated to identify the individuals whose breadth and depth of experience and education most closely relate to the stated requirements and the needs of the College. Depending on the quality and number of the applications received, only the better qualified applicants may be contacted for an interview. The position is open until filled.
UC Hastings College of the Law is an equal opportunity employer. UC Hastings strives to provide a diverse and inclusive educational environment that fosters cultural awareness, mutual understanding and respect. UC Hastings College of the Law is interested in candidates who will contribute to diversity and equal opportunity in higher education through their teaching. Qualified women and members of underrepresented minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply.
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).