Wednesday, September 11, 2013
The following letter is from Louis Schultze, Section Chair:
Dear academic support colleagues:
I write today to share some details about the Section on Academic Support’s events at the upcoming AALS Annual Meeting. Our numerous committees have done an outstanding job planning a great program, and I’m very pleased to let you know that AALS has been very accommodating in
meeting our schedule requests. All of our events occur in the brief window from Friday evening to early Saturday afternoon, so those who can only attend the annual meeting for a short time can do so easily. Also, our Section Program time does not conflict with the program times of other sections
typically frequented by our members (i.e. Student Services, Legal Writing, Balance, Teaching Methods, etc.).
I hope you all will take a moment at the annual meeting to join me in thanking our committee members for their diligent work. In the meantime, the schedule of events is as follows:
1. Section on Academic Support Business Meeting:
Friday, January 3, 2014, 6:30pm.
2. Informal/ Unofficial Dinner Gathering:
Friday, January 3, 2014, 7:30pm. More information to follow.
3. Section on Academic Support Program: “Early
Intervention for At-Risk Students.” Saturday, January 4, 2014,
In light of shrinking budgets, smaller applicant pools, and media criticism of legal education, how can law schools proactively address the potential influx of at-risk students? What does “at-risk” really mean? Are law schools responsible for ensuring that students succeed once they are admitted? Should law schools even admit at-risk students? This panel will address these questions and provide helpful insights to benefit faculty, administrators, and institutions. Specifically, panelists will discuss programs and methods for supporting at-risk students, the important issue of “stereotype threat,” at-risk students and bar passage, and a unique empirical method of predicting academic success.
Joanne Harvest Koren and Alex Schimel
(Univ. of Miami): “At Risk” of What? Definitional Issues in Law
School Academic Intervention
Chelsea Baldwin (Oklahoma City
Univ.): Intervention Without
Jamie Kleppetsch (John Marshall Law
School): Providing “At-Risk” Students with the Skills Necessary to be
Successful on the Bar
Allison Martin (Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law) and Kevin Rand (Indiana University – Purdue
Univ. Indianapolis): Early Identification & Intervention: Is There
“Hope” for At-Risk Students?
4. Informal/ Unofficial Lunch Gathering:
Saturday, January 4, 2014, 12:30pm-2:00pm. More information to follow.
Section Chair, AALS Section on Academic Support
(Professor of Law & Director of Academic Support, New England Law, Boston)
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Bar Results are released at different times in each jurisdiction. This summer, Washington State administered the Uniform Bar Exam for the first time. In addition to many changes to the exam format, the results release date is changing as well. The bar exam results in WA are being released earlier- one month earlier! It is time to prepare for the results.
Grads often go into hibernation right after the bar exam. They are busy getting their lives back, traveling, getting married, and catching up on their sleep. As they begin to establish new routines distance grows between the bar exam and their current existence. Eventually, they are able to move beyond thinking about their performance on the bar exam.
However, as soon as talk of the impending results begins to surface (likely through Facebook), grads are jolted back to that uncomfortable state of limbo. During the weeks before the release of results, I start receiving emails, phone calls, and visits from grads who are calling on me for support or to ask questions about the delivery of their results. While I did everything possible to help them pass the bar exam, I now have no control over the fate of their results. I find myself in a purgatory of sorts. I, like our grads, am waiting with baited breath for the results.
With less than a week before the release of bar results, I offer these suggestions to grads who are feeling anxious.
- The bar exam is only a test. I know this is easy for me to say when I have already passed the exam. But, this test is only a snapshot in a lifetime filled with many rewarding and joyous occasions.
- The bar exam does not define who you are. (As stated above, the bar is only a test.) Your intelligence and character are not judged by a standardized test taken over a two day period. You have a lifetime to create memories, build a career, and show the world who you are.
- Focus on the things that matter most in your life. Having gratitude for the many wonderful gifts you enjoy in your life can turn a fretful time into one of reflection and personal growth. Sit down and make a list of what matters to you most and use that list to stay centered through the days (and hours) leading up to the release of your bar results.
- Make a plan for when you receive your results. Do you want to be with your friends or loved ones? Or, would you rather receive your results by yourself? Either way, you should make a plan so you can be prepared when the results are released. If your results are not favorable, you should have a support system in place to help you process your disappointment and lift your spirits. If you pass, you will want someone with you to celebrate. I hope all of you will be celebrating!
Sunday, September 8, 2013
On behalf of Joyce Herleth, Chair of the Awards Committee for the Academic Support Section of AALS:
The Awards Committee for the AALS Section on Academic
Support is soliciting nominations for our section award. The Association
of American Law Schools Section on Academic Support’s Award will be presented
at the January 2014 AALS meeting and will be awarded to an outstanding member
of the ASP community. Please review the eligibility and criteria
information below and send nominations directly to Awards Committee Chair, Joyce
Savio Herleth via email email@example.com.
The deadline to submit nominations is October 1, 2013 at 5pm PDT.
For a nomination to be considered, it must include (at a minimum) a one to two
paragraph explanation of why the nominee is deserving of the award. Only
AALS ASP Section members may make nominations, but all those within the ASP
community may be nominated. Membership in the section is free and can be
processed within minutes at AALS Section Membership. For detailed
instructions on how to become a member, please view this page: https://memberaccess.aals.org/eWeb/DynamicPage.aspx?Site=AALS&WebKey=87e3b982-657e-4a7c-be71-33605903d797.
Eligibility and Criteria for Selection. The
eligible nominees for the Award will be Section members and any other
individuals who have made significant or long-term contributions to the
development of the field of law student academic support. All legal
educators, regardless of the nature or longevity of their appointment or position,
who have at some point in their careers worked part-time or full-time in
academic support are eligible for the Award. The Award will be granted to
recognize those who have made such contributions through any combination of the
following activities: assumption of leadership roles in the ASP
community; support to and mentoring of colleagues; service to institutions,
including but not limited to schools, the ASP Section, and to other
organizations; expansion of legal opportunities to traditionally underserved
segments of society; teaching and presenting; and scholarship, both traditional
Law schools, institutions, or organizations cannot receive
an award. Prior year or current year Section officers are excluded from
being selected as an award winner.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
Also joining us as a new Contributing Editor is Bonnie Stepleton from the University of New Mexico School of Law.
Bonnie graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1987. She served as a law clerk in the New Mexico Supreme Court followed by private practice in the areas of mental health and disabilities law, personal injury and workers’ compensation. She has been at the University of New Mexico School of Law since 2004, and is Assistant Dean for Student Services. She teaches Bar Strategies Seminar, Interviewing Counseling and Negotiation and coaches in the Mediation class. She is a member of the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE).
We look forward to having Bonnie as one of the editors and reading her viewpoints from student services as well as academic success.
Friday, September 6, 2013
Two weeks ago we held our Student Services Fair and on behalf of the Bar Studies Program I was invited to participate. The first floor of the law school was lined with rows of tables nicely dressed with red and black covers (our school colors of course). Eager, newly minted 1Ls meandered through the crowd stopping to secure swag and informational handouts from the myriad of vendors and student services teams.
As students approach my table labeled with a “Bar Studies Program” placard, their starry-eye gaze quickly faded. Some completely ignored me and continued to walk past the table to quickly grab a stainless steel water bottle with attached carabiner (because law school is a lot like mountaineering but I will save that for another post). However, a few brave souls stopped to ask a question or flip through the books and brochures that I had on display.
From the fearless few, the most frequent question asked was, “I do not have to think about the bar exam yet, right?” Even though this sounded more like a statement than a question, I ventured to answer. While I did not want to completely terrify them, especially before classes even started, I also wanted to seize this opportunity. Thus, I proceeded cautiously.
From my point of view, bar preparation begins on the first day of orientation (possibly even earlier). Therefore, hopefully without scaring them to death, I discussed a few ideas regarding the bar exam that they should consider as they embark on their legal education. I have highlighted a few here.
Bar Examination Considerations for 1Ls:
- Think about where you want to practice law: It may seem too early to consider where you want to establish yourself as an attorney, but 1Ls should at least consider where they would like to live and practice as they begin their legal education journey.
- Find out jurisdictional requirements: Once you have chosen the jurisdiction in which you would like to practice or narrowed down the jurisdictions, it is a good idea to learn about the licensing requirements in that jurisdiction.
- Pro Bono Requirements: States may begin to require pro bono service for bar applicants. For example, New York State recently adopted a pro bono service requirement. Other states may soon follow suit...stay tuned. Either way, volunteering your time by doing pro bono work is win- win.
- Register with the bar association: Some states require law student registration or require a first year law student’s exam to be completed. For example, California requires CA law students to register with the State Bar within 90 days after beginning law school.
- Build the foundation for bar review: Keep in mind that everything you learn in your first year of law school will be tested on the bar exam. Most students just try to stay afloat long enough to get through their 1L exams. However, I encourage students to think about how to study, how to prepare for exams, and, most importantly, how to store information into their long term memory. The legal concepts and doctrines that they learn during their first year will be more readily accessible to them during bar prep if they have a solid understanding of them during their 1L year.
- Learn about the bar review course offerings: Once students have determined where they plan to practice, they can learn about the bar review course offerings in that jurisdiction. Registering for a bar review course during 1L year will allow students to take advantage of their law school programs such as lectures, exam review materials, and interactive software programs. Additionally, students will typically save money if they register for a bar review course during their first year.
- Plan financially for the bar exam: Create a budget for yourself during law school that reserves funds for your bar review expenses. In your expense calculations, make sure you include your bar review course fee, your bar exam application fees, MPRE registration fees, hotel and transportation fees during the administration of the bar exam, and living expenses while studying for the bar exam.
In essence, 1Ls, it is never too soon to prepare for the bar.
We would like you to meet our second new Contributing Editor, Myra Orlen from Western New England University School of Law. The following information is from the WNEU web pages:
After graduation from law school, Professor Orlen served as the Law Clerk for the Honorable Alexander O. Bryner, Chief Judge of the Alaska Court of Appeals, and later served a clerkship in the Superior Court of Massachusetts. After her clerkships, she worked as a Staff Attorney for the University of Massachusetts Student Legal Services Office in Amherst and as an Associate in a Northampton, MA, law firm. Professor Orlen has taught in the law program since 1995.
It is exciting to have Myra join us, and we look forward to her contributions to the blog. Her legal writing and academic success experience will benefit all of us.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
We have several new Contributing Editors for the Law School Academic Support Blog. We will be introducing them to you in upcoming spotlight posts.
Alex Ruskell is the Director of Academic Success and Bar Preparation at the University of South Carolina School of Law. He has held similar positions at Roger Williams University School of Law, Southern New England School of Law, and the University of Iowa College of Law. He received his law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and has degrees from Washington and Lee University, Harvard University, and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. In a review of his wife's memoir, Fumbling, The National Catholic Reporter noted "Alex is a saint. Seriously." The poster in his picture is hung in his office and is his daughter's (Mary Frances) made-up superhero which was designed by a friend for her.
We look forward to forthcoming posts from Alex! Welcome to the editorial staff.
Friday, August 30, 2013
Hat tip to Paul Caron of the Tax Professor Blog for his post on Mark Edmundson's book, Why Teach?
The link to the post is: http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2013/08/why.html
Sunday, August 25, 2013
I run a study group program in which 2L's and 3L's lead study groups for first-year students. Assisting me is a "senior study group leader" who visits the groups (because I am a professor, I do not visit the groups for fear of disrupting the dynamics). The senior leader observes quietly, and meets later with the group leader to discuss what the group leader thought went well and what he would like to have improved. I always tell my senior leader to spend the first three weeks popping into the groups and waiting until she "catches the study group leader doing something right." She then jots a note or dashes off a quick email to the leader telling him what he was doing effectively and why she thought it so effective.
I used the approach when I was a secondary school administrator working on staff development. The effect was amazing. I quickly became perceived as a supportive coach rather than a critic, and therefore a welcome visitor to the classroom. Within a short three weeks, I could meet with the instructor and simply ask what the instructor thought went well and what might have gone better. The instructor would nail both questions with uncanny accuracy 99.9% of the time. We would then brainstorm how to capitalize on the successes and improve the weaknesses. Most of the time, the instructor discovered both answers with little or no prompting from me.
We would do well to use a similar approach in our individual meetings with students. Perhaps we should always first try to catch our students "doing something right" and tell them why it is "right" -- i.e., consistent with what we know are effective learning strategies. Then we can ask the student what she thinks may not be working as well as she would like. A little guided reflection will probably yield not only an accurate assessment but a predictably useful solution as well, generated not by us alone, but by the student herself in partnership with us. She will own the solution and will be more likely to implement it. A little follow up may be all that is needed after that.
Friday, August 23, 2013
This week all the students came back to school; it's wonderful. I am teaching Property for the first time, to evening students. Teaching a 1L course for the first time is nerve-wracking, although I have eight years experience teaching at the law school level, and five years teaching doctrinal courses. I had prepared all summer. I had retreated to my father's distraction-free vacation house in Vermont to cram for four days before the start of the semester, just in case there was something I missed during my summer-long preparation. I didn't feel ready (I never do), but I knew I had done everything I could to prepare for this course.
Yesterday was my first Property class. I had planned for an interactive class, exploring the origins of Property law and the theories behind the development of Property. I planned to use a series of images to show how legal positivism effected our understanding of property as a government-regulated set of rights and duties. And then...the projector did not work. A call to IT later, I learned that it started overheating earlier in the day, and it could not be fixed for class. I had 2 minutes, and I had to re-work my lesson plan, removing the discussion and the use of images.
Teaching snafus happen, usually at the least opportune time. It was my first class, at a new school, with new students. Yet the class was a success. It was not as good as my original lesson plan, but the students didn't know what they were missing. The students were excited to have a class that focused on discussion.
New teachers see veteran teachers with their class, but they rarely see the snafus that are a normal part of the teaching process. There is no magic to avoiding teaching snafus. I over-prepare for class, because I live in terror of losing my memory and having nothing to say to students. Although I wanted to use images to illustrate complex theoretical concepts, I knew the material well enough to teach it in myriad ways. Other veteran teachers prepare just enough, and trust the teacher-student interaction, fueled by intellectual curiosity, to carry them through any mishaps.
Trust your students. They want to learn. Even when a topic is new to you, you have more experience than your students. You have have enough material to impart the lessons they need.
New teachers...snafus will happen. (RCF)
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Students often ask how to determine which concepts in a case should end up as part of the case brief’s reasoning section. Because judges do not simply ramble in their opinions, every sentence is an important part of the reasoning that drives the opinion. Therefore, what should students capture in their case briefs?
The answer lies in one of the key purposes of briefing cases: identifying the legal principles and the logical steps that will be necessary for resolving similar issues on an exam. In other words, students should learn to brief cases the way lawyers brief them – to draw out the analytical templates courts use when addressing particular issues. In doing so, students will not only begin preparing themselves for their exams, they will accomplish the most important purpose of briefing cases: training themselves to think like lawyers and judges.
They should focus the reasoning portion of their briefs on the future. They should ask themselves which concepts will be useful to them when they are answering an exam question; those are the ones they want to capture and later put into an outline that will guide their analyses on the exams.
Below is a list of the types of concepts students should watch for, not only in the cases but also in class discussions. In fact, if they print off this list and keep it next to them when they are in class and when they are reading and briefing for class, they may find it easier to separate the important concepts from the background and case-specific concepts that will not likely drive a future analysis.
WHAT SHOULD YOU BE GETTING FROM READINGS AND CLASS DISCUSSIONS?
Key themes running through the course
Accurately stated rules
Precise understanding of the logic underlying the rules, tests, definitions, and their
corollaries and exceptions
Key policy aims underlying each rule, etc.
Essential steps in the logic of applying each rule, etc.
Critical similarities and differences among rules, among tests, etc.
Critical attributes of facts that satisfy or do not satisfy the rules, definitions, etc.
Archetypal fact patterns that implicate each rule
i.e., what dynamics are always present when a particular rule is implicated?
E.g., transferred intent in battery: one person always propels something toward another and hits a third person instead. The means could be throwing, driving, mailing, pushing, or any of a thousand other means. The dynamics always boil down to the same thing.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
The following announcement was posted on the Balance in Legal Education listserv by Mike Schwartz and may be of interest to many ASP'ers who also teach other classes:
Please save the date for the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning's Summer Conference hosted by Northwestern University School of Law, "What the Best Law Teachers Do," June 25 - 27, 2014, in Chicago.
Published by Harvard University Press and currently sweeping the legal blogs, What the Best Law Teachers Do introduces readers to twenty-six professors from law schools across the United States, featuring close-to-the ground accounts of exceptional educators in action. Join us to
interact with these instructors and learn more about their passion and creativity in the classroom and beyond.
Confirmed presenters at this conference include Rory Bahadur (Washburn University School of Law), Cary Bricker (University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law), Roberto Corrada, (University of Denver, Sturm College of Law), Meredith Duncan (University of Houston Law Center), Paula
Franzese (Seton Hall University School of Law), Heather Gerken (Yale Law School), Nancy Knauer (Temple University, James E. Beasely School of Law), Andy Leipold (University of Illinois College
of Law), Julie Nice (University of San Francisco School of Law), Ruthann Robson (CUNY School of Law), Tina Stark (retired, formerly Boston University School of Law), and Andy Taslitz (American University Washington College of Law).
The co-authors of What the Best Law Teachers Do, Sophie Sparrow, Gerry Hess, and Michael Hunter Schwartz, will provide a framework for the presentations and a global sense of the takeaway lessons from their study.
Presenters teach a wide variety of courses across the curriculum including administrative law, civil procedure, clinics, constitutional law, criminal law, criminal procedure, election law, family law,
labor law, legal writing, pretrial advocacy, professional responsibility, property, sexuality and the law, torts, transactional drafting, and trial
Please mark your calendars for June 2014.
Michael Hunter Schwartz | Dean and Professor of Law UALR
William H. Bowen School of Law
(o) 501.324.9450 | (f) 501.324.9433
twitter.com/deanmhschwartz | ualr.edu/law firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Friday, August 16, 2013
We are wrapping up orientation here at UMass, and here are some thoughts about what can go right and wrong during orientation:
1) Orientation is the time to set the tone for law school.
Orientation sets the tone, and too often, the tone is "let's scare you out of your wits." It's hard to come back from that. Let them know it's hard work, but you are their for them, and they can succeed. If students start the year feeling like their faculty and administration are unapproachable, they will not approach. I know some crotchety professors think that is a good idea--they are wrong. If a student can't talk to you before a small issue becomes a major catastrophe, you will be dealing with that major catastrophe for a long time.
2) Orientation is not the time to practice "hide the ball" with new students.
Most law schools have a practice class during orientation (ours is tonight). Too many times, I have seen professors try to prove how clever they are by starting with "hide the ball." It's a very bad idea. "Hide the ball" is a bad idea, but it's a very bad idea during orientation because the students have no context. They have no idea that "hide the ball" is a method of teaching word clarification, examining ambiguity, or eliciting student opinions. It's a technique that alienates and confuses students when they already feel overwhelmed.
3) They don't need to know everything right now...so follow up!
I am guilty of the belief that I need to teach them everything up to outlining in orientation. But too much information too soon just confuses new students. They need the essentials; how to read, how to brief, and where to go for more information. Save the advanced lessons for workshops later in the semester. This also saves you a major headache; if you overwhelm students during orientation, you will just need to re-teach the lessons at a later date anyway.
4) Orientation should be a whole-school event.
Orientation should not be an ASP-and-legal writing affair; the whole school should be a part of orientation. Let students meet the amazing night staff in the library. Introduce them to the maintenance staff who will save them when they lock themselves out of the building, their car, or get trapped in an elevator or bathroom. Let them meet ALL the professors; show them that the entire school is behind their success.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
As someone who has tried no less than ten times to subscribe to the ASP listserv before I finally got enrolled, I wanted to pass on this advice:
1) Send your email to: owner-ASP-L@chicagokent.kentlaw.edu
2) Subject line should be:
Subscribe ASP-L [your name]
3) Body should include:
This worked for me, and it is different from advice previously posted on the ASP blog...hopefully it will help other people struggling with the listserv! The Chicago Kent listserv information is here: http://www.kentlaw.iit.edu/current-students/information-technology/policies/mailing-lists
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Most law schools will hold orientation for new first-year students within the next couple of weeks. It is an exciting time - and a bit scary. Here is my top ten list of things 1L students should think about and do before arriving for the first day of law school:
- Move in a few days ahead of time to get unpacked and settled. You will feel less hassled if your apartment is ready, you have explored your new city, and you have taken care of cable, Internet, and errands before orientation begins.
- Take care of as many school-related tasks as you can beforehand: parking permit, school e-mail account, immunizations, payment of bills, and other items. Most law schools have ways for you to accomplish many tasks on-line ahead of your arrival.
- Make a list of the reasons why you want to go to law school and to be a lawyer. When you get tired during the semester, the list will remind you why all of the hard work is worth it.
- Make a list of the personal attributes that you have and the values that you hold dear. These things make you unique and worthwhile as a person. When you get overwhelmed and begin to wonder who you are, the list will ground you and remind you that you are still that unique and valuable person.
- Consider what you want to say to introduce yourself to the myriad of new people you will meet. Everyone who is a new first-year student is outstanding, so bragging and bravado will probably be less successful than you may think. You want to come across confident and genuine. Also think about the different audiences that you will be meeting: fellow 1L students; upper-division students; professors; decanal staff.
- Spend time with your family and friends now. You are going to enter a very busy phase in your life. You will not have the same amount of leisure time as you have been used to previously. Fill your last summer days with quality time spent with others.
- Participate in your favorite activities before you leave home. Go to the movies; play pool with friends; go hiking or camping; spend the evenings salsa dancing; read fluff novels. You can have regular down time in law school if you manage your time well. However, some activities may need to be saved for special occasions or vacations rather than being weekly events.
- Prepare your mind set for new experiences, different challenges, and the need to adopt new strategies. Law school will require new study methods, present new ways of writing, and require acceptance of "it depends" analysis. You will be less stressed if you can remain flexible and open to new ideas and methods. Most law students feel uncertain initially until they gain more expertise in this new environment.
- Get in touch with your spiritual side. Whatever your belief system is, you will feel less alone and overwhelmed if you are not carrying the weight of the world all by yourself.
- Get plenty of sleep and establish a routine now. For your brain to work well, you need at least 7-8 hours of sleep at regular times each night. Start going to bed and getting up now to match what your class schedule will be. If you do not know your classes yet, aim for 11 p.m. bed time and 7 a.m. wake up.
Safe travels to your new law school. Best wishes for your semester. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
This will be a short post today; I just want to alert readers to an New York Times article about the difficulties facing law students with mental health issues and the bar exam. I think the article brings up a lot of issues we need to think about in ASP and as a profession.
I don't know if I completely agree with the author. I have worked with many, many students with mental health issues and disabilities over my nine years in legal academia. I do believe most law students with mental health issues should be allowed to practice (if they meet all the other qualifications for the bar). I think the question posed on many character and fitness evaluations discourages law students from receiving the mental health assistance they need, and I think the question should be removed. I am troubled by the tiny, tiny minority of students (I can count them on one hand) who do not have their issues under control, and then threaten to sue under the ADA when their "deeds" (to use the same term as the author) lead to their removal from law school. Their "deeds" are a function of their mental illness, and they argue they should be allowed to continue because they are being persecuted based on the label, not the deed. The threat to sue stops law schools from acting in the best interest of the student and their peers. The threat stops some law schools from notifying the bar that the student may need assistance before they are fit to practice. This tiny minority of students use their diagnosis as a defense and a weapon. It is unfair that a fraction of law students with mental health issues cause disproportionate harm, but the bar needs to consider the threat lawyers can pose to the public.
I know that I will receive a number of angry comments because of this post. However, I am not discussing the students who have their issues under control, and I do think that the vast majority of students have their issues under control; I think we need a better way to help and support students with mental illness. I am questioning a blanket ban on inquiries stemming from mental health issues.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Summer is the season that non-bar prep ASPer's decide they are going to get caught up on everything. However, that is rarely the case. Although it can feel like eternity to be stuck in an office when the sun is shining and the beach is beckoning (especially for those of us in New England and the Midwest, where the sun only shines 5-6 months a year), the reality is that the summer flies by. UMass begins orientation next week. Classes start for all students in two weeks. My to-do list is still very long, and I have little time to finish everything that needs to get done. Despite the pit in my stomach when I look at my list, I know everything will get completed. Here are some tips for wrapping up the summer:
1) Make a two-column list:
In the first column, lists everything that has a concrete due date. In the second column, list all the amorphous, ambitious projects that have no end-date. Start with the projects that have a concrete deadline that is coming up soon, things like a lesson plan for orientation, or finishing a syllabus. At the end of the day, take 20-30 minutes to analyze your date-less projects; are these projects that need to be done? Are these projects actually many mini-projects, that can be tackled by task, over time?
2) If you have big projects on your list, break them down into manageable components:
I read some great advice in an Inc. magazine article; whenever you have a major goal that you can't seem to reach, work backwards. Break down everything that needs to get done, then group the tasks into categories. When you check off a category, you will feel a special excitement--you can see that you are getting closer to your goal.
3) Minimize distractions:
Don't multi-task. You just get a lot of things half-completed, usually poorly. If you need to compulsively read the news (me) or compulsively check email (many people), try one of the free software programs that de-activates you from the internet for a period of time (see Freedom, http://macfreedom.com/). This article gives basic information on ten other programs that help you focus on one project at a time http://99u.com/articles/6969/10-online-tools-for-better-attention-focus.
4) Schedule your projects, and move meetings around to accommodate project completion (not the other way around):
There is an excellent TED talk that discusses why meetings are a waste of time (see here: http://www.ted.com/talks/jason_fried_why_work_doesn_t_happen_at_work.html). Alas, I also find they are a necessary evil. But I find that when I put meetings first, and task-completion second, I never get anything accomplished, but I have acquired a new to-do list from all the meetings I've attended. When you really need to get things done, it's best to switch priorities. I schedule tasks into my calendar, and all meetings have to be scheduled around the tasks.
5) Schedule your email:
In nine years working in academia, if there is no constant refrain, it's that email is a massive time-suck. I've read a thousand different suggestions for minimizing that time-suck, from only reading email three time a day, to answering all emails immediately, first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. None of these worked for me. However, I learned to stop using email as an excuse. I let people know when I will be answering emails immediately, and when they should expect a wait before they receive a response. What I have found is that people respond quite well when I let them know ahead of time that I am in a busy period and they may have to wait for a response. Students, who are known for becoming angry when professors don't respond to their emails immediately, have been amongst the most understanding when I have let them know they may need to wait for a response. Students become angry when they feel like they are being ignored. If you let them know what is on your plate, and promise them a response within a certain time-frame, 95% of them will be great about the delay. When I know I have to get things accomplished, I set an auto-reply on my email that tells people what I am doing and when they should expect to hear from me (usually within two weeks). I also add a message that lets them know who they should contact in case of emergency.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Many new ASP professors are in the midst of choosing books for their growing ASP library, or a text to help them teach an ASP course. The choices are amazing; there are hundreds of good ASP books out there. In the past, Amy, Dan and I have reviewed ASP books. There are now so many, and so many coming out soon, that it is impossible to keep up with them all. So for people new to ASP, I am going to tell you what I am teaching with this year, and why I chose these three books. This list is personal and somewhat idiosyncratic; there are, easily, ten other books I could have chosen that are as good as the books I chose for this semester.
For orientation: RuthAnn McKinney's Reading Like a Lawyer
Writing is thinking. Before a student can write well, they need to understand what they are reading. I chose Reading Like a Lawyer because it starts with the most fundamental skill, essential to success in all classes: reading cases, efficiently and thoroughly. I will be using Reading Like a Lawyer for the first several weeks of our required introductory skills class for incoming students after we start the book during orientation. Another good book if you want to start with a skill-building book during orientation is Plain English for Lawyers.
For our OneL (introductory skills) class: Barry Friedman and John Goldberg's Open Book
Open Book is one of the newer ASP books. I chose this book for the second 2/3rds of our required introductory skills class, OneL. I chose this book because it is relatively short, straightforward, and it gives stellar advice on exam prep and exam-taking skills. I wanted a short(er) book for the second part of the course because students are going to overwhelmed by reading and studying for exams, and OneL is a p/f course. If I chose a longer book, I doubt students would read before class. However, it was a tough call between Open Book, John Dernbach's Writing Essay Exams to Succeed (Not Just Survive), and the late Charles Whitebread's The Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance in Law School. However, if I was not starting with Reading Like a Lawyer in OneL, I would have seriously considered Herb Ramy's Succeeding in Law School, Charles Calleros' Law School Exams, or Susan Darrow Kleinhaus' Mastering the Law School Exam.
As a (required) supplemental to my Property course: Jeremy Paul and Michael Fischl's Getting to Maybe
I am teaching Property to third-semester, part-time evening students. Getting to Maybe is, in my experience, the very best book out there for teaching advanced exam skills. I would NOT recommend Getting to Maybe during the first semester of law school; students must have some experience with law school exams before this book can be helpful. I have a second caveat; ideally, this book should be taught, not just recommended, which is why I make it required reading for my Property class. I am embedding the lessons from the book into my lesson plans on doctrinal material. This book should be taught instead of recommended because it teaches advanced skills and dismisses foundational skills that are essential to success. I always cringe when I read the pages that dismiss IRAC; IRAC is an essential skill, and it is misunderstood by the authors. Students who are struggling with basic exam skills misunderstand the dismissal of IRAC; they take it to mean IRAC is useless. Students cannot discuss “forks in the facts” if they don’t understand they need to start with an issue statement, and a broad statement of the rule at issue. However, when the lessons from this book are discussed, given context, and explained, students gain a more nuanced, thorough understanding of exam writing. Despite my caveats, this is the best book on the market for advanced exam skills.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
After a 2 month absence, I am back on the blog, and a huge thank you to Amy for covering for me while I was moving!
One of the things I noticed as I was perusing past posts is the number of ASP positions that have opened up recently. Several schools will be hiring new people in the coming months, and here are my preliminary, abbreviated thoughts on starting in a new position in ASP:
1) Figure out the reporting structure:
You need to know who you will report to, and if that is a different person from the one that writes your evaluation. In past positions, I have reported to the head of legal writing, the assistant dean for academic affairs, the dean of students, and the dean of the law school. You need to know if the person who gives you assignments also writes your evaluation.
2) When you know who you report to, make sure you know what their priorities are:
It's great to hit the ground running, but it's not so helpful if you come with a stellar plan for 1L ASP when your supervisor really wants you to focus on bar prep, 2L remediation, or intro to law/orientation programs. Before you start planning, you need to figure out where you should be spending the bulk of your time and energy.
3) Know the evaluation structure:
At some schools, this is anything but transparent. Know who is evaluating you, and how you will be evaluated. Ask a lot of questions if evaluations are a black box of opacity--opacity is not always a bad thing. I've worked at a school where evaluations were never talked about with supervisors; if there was a problem, they let me know early so I could fix the issue and move on. At that school, evaluations were not the time to discuss performance--performance was an ongoing topic of discussion, because growth was an ongoing project. I've been at (one) other school were opacity was a terrible thing; evaluations were subjective and designed to humiliate, so everyone knew who was "boss" at the law school. The evaluation structure was whatever the evaluator wanted to use, from any period of time.
4) Know what your admin. assistant/secretary can and cannot do for you:
Your admin will be your lifesaver or your worst enemy; try, try, try not to make your admin your worst enemy. Ask colleagues what your admin can and cannot do for you. Some law schools have one faculty secretary, and that person is overworked, yelled at, and stressed out all the time--do not make their life harder than it already is. Other law schools have several admins, and you are expected to delegate many tasks to them. But you cannot assume the latter; ask your colleagues.
5) Know where to get lunch, and if people lunch together (or, get to know the social culture):
The social culture of a school is critical; if you misread the social culture, it can damn you professionally. The social culture at UMass is wonderful--relaxed, and collegial. Uconn-Storrs (distinct from the law school) had a much more formal social culture, but one that was incredibly welcoming, warm and genuine. Uconn-Storrs has a very unique culture; everyone lunches together, everyday, at noon, in a conference room. Few law schools do this, but it was fantastic. I learned the informal rules of the office that way; I learned who to ask for what, when; and I learned how I could help people. One of the things I will miss most about UConn is lunching with colleagues everyday.
I am sure I will have much more to add about starting at a new school. But for now, I need to get back to writing a new syllabus and reading for my upcoming Property class. (RCF)