Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, July 24, 2017

ALWD Intro and Bar Exam Encouragement

This last week, I attended and participated in a diversity and inclusion conference hosted by the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The three-day conference was engaging and timely. And it included a thought provoking and informative plenary presentation on stereotype threat and implicit bias by fellow-ASPer, Russell McClain. Having seen Russell present before at various ASP conferences, I knew he would be a charming and enlightening presenter—and he certainly was! Congratulations, Russell! I know the ALWD attendees were impressed by your interactive presentation, and I am sure many of them will be reaching out to you in the future for additional ways to address stereotype threat and implicit bias.

I plan to write some more about the ALWD conference and its theme “Acknowledging Lines: Talking About What Unites and Divides Us” at a later date. But, for now, I wanted to spend a little time talking about what is likely on the minds of most academic success professionals and all the recent law school graduates—the bar exam.

Exam takers: We all know you have been working hard, and we believe in you. The next few days will be beyond tough and tiring. But, you have trained your mind and body for it.

Yes. You will likely second-guess yourself. Yes. You will likely face questions that you might not feel good about. But, you are also going to see and work with a lot of information that you do understand and have encountered many times during your bar preparation. Trust yourself. Read the questions carefully. Organize your essays. And don’t let those few questions that you might not know the answers to bring you down. You don’t need to get that A+ to pass. If you spend too much time focusing on the information that you don’t know or can’t remember, you may not leave yourself enough time or energy to show the bar graders what you do know. And you do know. A lot.

A few more things . . . remember to breathe and it’ll be over soon.

We look forward to welcoming you into the profession. (OJ Salinas)

Good Luck (2)

 

July 24, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Meetings, News, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Survivor Advice: Words from Successful Bar Takers

Yearly, I ask former students who successfully passed the bar exam to share last minute advice with bar exam studiers gearing-up to sit for the bar exam. I look to individuals who have recently successfully passed the bar exam because I know that at this point, my current bar studiers “listen to me but do not hear me.” I know however that they will “listen to” and “hear” individuals who are closer to the bar exam experience than me. This is a great opportunity for me to seek out alums who are excited to share advice because they know I value their opinions and will share their opinions with others. Alums also add tidbits about their own challenges and triumphs throughout this preparatory process. Below are a few of the suggestions from my alums that a bar exam taker can implement at their own risk.

Pause from studying

“Stop studying by 12(noon) the day before the exam. 3 PM max. There is nothing that you can cram into your head past 3 PM the day before the bar exam.”

“Get your full hours sleep the night before the bar exam.”

“You should not be cramming the evening before day 2 either… light review only.”

Know your surroundings

“Get to know the area where the bar exam is scheduled to be taken, if you have time, so you’ll know where you need to be and about how long it’s going to take to get there”

Eat

“Eat a good breakfast that day.”

“Eat! But don’t eat too heavy for lunch- a good salad will do.  We don’t want to be sleepy during the test.”

“You can’t do your best tired and hungry.”

Don’t forget

“Ear plugs… [Writing day] can be pretty noisy with everyone typing.”

Overall strategy

“Trust your instincts! Do not second-guess yourself.  Move on if you’re unsure and come back to it later.  Don’t waste time!”

“I started with the question I felt I knew well- it helped to build my confidence as I progressed to more challenging questions.  What I couldn’t remember eventually came back to me (weird lol).”

“Sometimes you have to warm up to the exam.  Meaning, if you are not sure about on the first essay topic, move on and start with one you know.  For me, I got better and more confident as I answered more essays.  So, do not get stumped on the first essay if you are not sure about it.”

“[After each session], don’t discuss your responses with anyone.”

“Monitor your fluid intake before and during the exam or you might make several trips to the bathroom…Please stay hydrated of course.”

MBE strategy

“For questions you are not sure about, eliminate the choices you know are wrong and then come back later and choose between the close calls- or choose one and put a star next to it and come back later to review.”

“If you are unsure about a question, make your best guess and keep moving.  This is to ensure that you have a response that can be graded and you are not losing time or points.  The correct answer might come to you later on in the exam or you might have made the correct guess.”

Regroup & focus

“If you mess up or something happens, take 30 seconds to be upset, and then move on. (My first essay was deleted by [the exam software] and I had to redo it within the time between essays.  I started to cry but realized crying was taking too much time.)”

“Relax- nothing good happens when you are nervous.”

 “Don’t panic.  However, if you do panic- stop, take 5 seconds to recompose and get your bearings and get back to the task.”

“… Trust yourself and be confident.  You got this!”

See the light at the end of the tunnel

“Smile because that terrible summer will be over in about 16 hours!”

“Be confident! You made it through undergrad, LSAT, Law School, exams, etc.….”

“Pray, and don’t panic.  You know what you know.”

In sum, everyone has an opinion and advice but your voice and your needs should be paramount.  You know what you need, you studied hard, and you know how to take tests.  You can do it! Cheers! (Goldie Pritchard)

 

July 19, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

ILTL Cultural Competency Takeaways, 2 of 2

This blog post is the second in a two-part series detailing my takeaways from the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning’s “Teaching Cultural Competency and Other Professional Skills” conference which was held in Little Rock, Arkansas on July 7-8, 2017.  For part one of the series, click here.

Professor Andrew Henderson from the University of Canberra in Australia discussed “The Importance of Teaching Self-Evaluation and Reflection in Law School,” especially in an ethics course.  One study revealed that when presented with an ethical dilemma, law students tend to resolve the dilemma consistent with their personal beliefs and without regard for the professional rule of conduct.  The students answered the same question the same way before taking an ethics course, while taking the course, and after successfully completing the course.  In other words, professional responsibility courses do little to teach ethical judgment makings skills.  Knowing this, Professor Henderson sought to design a course that would reframe the discussion entirely  He required students to identify their internal motivations, such as what makes them get up in the morning, what keeps them awake at night, why do they want to be a lawyer.  He then used the students’ responses as a means to jumpstart a conversation and to identify the intersection between the students’ self-identified motivations and the ethical rules.  He reported that students have become more engaged in the ethics course and that the student responses have also helped to provide more targeted academic advising and job placement advice.  At the end of the discussion, a few attendees discussed how a similar exercise could be added to the start of the 1L year to assist academic support professors in providing more tailored advice to at risk students.

Henderson 3

Professor Benjamin Madison of Regent University School of Law and his colleagues developed a course to “Help[] Millennials Develop Self-Reflection.” The mandatory 1L class focuses on the development of problem solving skills, emotional intelligence, responsibility, and “other” ABA mandated skills.  To begin, students get to request a specific faculty coach.  The school makes every effort, but does not guarantee, to match students with their top choice.  Next, students meet with their designated faculty coach to complete an intake self-assessment or “roadmap.”  After the student self-assesses him/herself, the student is assessed on those same skills by two of their peers.  Professor Madison has already noted several trends at his school.  First, 1L students frequently rate themselves quite high (i.e. mastery level) despite having little to no professional development training, and students rate their peers even higher.  Essentially students “don’t know what they don’t know.”  This phenomenon is commonly referred to as the Kruger-Dunning effect in psychological circles.  Second, students gravitate toward those peers who unequivocally support them, rather than peers who challenge them and hold them accountable.  Lastly, students are more concerned about obtaining meaningful employment than making a sufficient income, which is especially intriguing when you consider internal motivation as a component of self-refection.  (As an aside, their research concluded that the primary professional goal for 1L students is to pass the bar exam – whew!).  Professor Madison said that if other schools are interested in adopting a similar program, they should reach out to the St. Thomas School of Law Holloran Center, which “continues to focus on its mission to help the next generation form professional identifies with a moral core of responsibility and strive to others.”

Madison 3

Professor Christine Church of Western Michigan University’s Thomas M. Cooley Law School Immerses Students in Lawyering Skills.  Her nine credit program is centered on all-day classes that simulate a law practice environment.  During the 14-week semester, four distinct four-person law firms handle three cases: (1) a custody battle requiring intense interviewing, counseling, and negotiation skills, (2) a personal injury suit involving pretrial litigation skills, and (3) a DUI criminal trial.  The clients are actually other law students who are completing a 1-credit directed study, relying on the principles discussed in the book “Through the Client’s Eyes” for guidance.  The “attorneys” within each firm exchange documents throughout the week using Google Docs and then meet on Saturdays to engage in simulation exercises.  Professor Church commented that the unique course schedule—which is ABA Standard 310 compliant—has helped students to develop the stamina needed to study for the bar exam and actually practice law on a daily basis.  The program now has a waitlist; students love it!  She concluded the session by sharing a plethora of fact patterns, grading rubrics, and syllabi to assist participants in establishing their own litigation skills immersion program.

Church 3

After Professor Church’s session, I enjoyed a tasty Greek salad lunch. In my view, a good indicator of the quality of a conference is the quality of the breaks.  ILTL did not disappoint.  Not only was the host school welcoming and attentive, but all the attendees were more than willing to offer helpful suggestions at every turn—well beyond the theme of the conference.  Many thanks to those who shared teaching tips, performance review and tenure advice, and general support to this junior faculty member.  And, let me extend a special shout out to one colleague’s pet squirrel!

Before I wrap-up, let me share the most bizarre tidbit I heard while in Little Rock.  One professor explained that one of her students genuinely believes that some version of the following conversation occurs routinely at her law school—Professor A to Professor B: “When Mary comes to your office to discuss her exam, tell her that her poor grade is due to an underdeveloped rule block.  And, when you meet with John, tell him that he needs to work on his application.  That’s what we’re all going with this semester.”  The student came to this epiphany after every single one of her professors targeted the same exact exam skill for improvement. Feel free to insert the emoji of your choice here.

I wish I could tell you about all the concurrent sessions, but unfortunately my J.K. Rowling approved Time-Turner is not TSA approved.  I heard chatter in the hallway suggesting that I missed several good sessions, but as author Ashim Shanker has noted, “freedom brings with it the burden of choice and of its consequences.”  For those who are interested in learning more about the other sessions or about the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning’s larger mission, checkout the Institute’s webpage.  (Kirsha Trychta)

July 18, 2017 in Meetings, Program Evaluation, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Some Thoughts on the NYT article "The Lawyer, The Addict"

The New York Times recently published “The Lawyer, The Addict”—a very compelling article about a tragic event. The story describes the death of an influential Silicon Valley attorney. The interplay between (1) addiction, stress, and mental health and (2) law school and the legal profession is referenced in an honest and, for many, eye-opening manner. The article has rightfully generated much discussion on the Internet, including a fascinating conversation on my colleague Rachel Gurvich’s Twitter feed. If you are looking for further insight about the article from a variety of faculty, practitioners, and students, I encourage you to check out Rachel's Twitter feed (@RachelGurvich). Much of the conversation can be found here.

There are many interesting points one can focus on from the NYT article. Perhaps, I’ll explore some other points in the future in the blog. For now, I’ll focus today’s blog on two points: (1) Larry Krieger’s work on subjective well-being; and (2) how hard it is for students to acknowledge that they may be suffering from a problem.

  1. Larry Krieger’s Work on Subjective Well-Being.

The NYT article interviewed Professor Larry Krieger and referenced his work "What Makes Lawyers Happy". As many of you know, Krieger’s work was an empirical study on “attorney emotional health” and “subjective well-being.” Part of Krieger’s findings and recommendations focused on shifting the definition of “success” for law students away from extrinsic rewards, like grades, journals, and high-paying jobs to more personal and intrinsic values and motivations.

I remember Larry Krieger's work was one of the first things that Ruth McKinney discussed with me when I arrived at UNC.  Since her retirement, we have tried to continue to incorporate the message of Krieger’s work into our pre-orientation program for incoming 1Ls.  We try to remind our students to remember the intrinsic reasons why they decided to come to law school—particularly during those times when they may feel overwhelmed, defeated, or unworthy. We also try to remind our students that “success” can mean many different things to different people and that there are many ways to “succeed” in law school. We often talk about these topics while disclosing some of our personal struggles and experiences from law school. This personal disclosure often helps build a foundation where we are better able to assist with the problem discussed in part two below.

  1. Acknowledging a Problem is often a Problem.

For those of us who work closely with students, the article’s story on how law school and the legal profession can change you—physically and mentally—is not a surprising tale. We know that the combination of stress, anxiety, and the competition for external rewards can create a very challenging and intimidating environment for our students. The environment can feel crushing and insurmountable when you add difficult finances, family issues, health concerns, implicit bias, or stereotype threat to the mix.

It is not uncommon for academic success folks to work with students who are facing some significant non-academic issues that impact their academic performance. But, these non-academic issues are often not easily identifiable. Let’s try to remember that it is often difficult for our students to acknowledge to themselves that they may be going through a very problematic time. Like anyone, they have pride. They have all been successful undergrads or had elite careers prior to law school. They don’t want to think of themselves as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student.

Since our students don’t want to think of themselves as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student, they will likely hesitate before seeking help because they don’t want others to see them as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student (and the mental health questions on the bar exam applications don't help either, but that's a topic for another day [if you are interested, my former colleague, Katie Rose Guest Pryal has a great piece here]).

Disclosing some personal vulnerability to someone else is an added challenge to an already stressful time in our students' lives.  Think about it: if it’s hard for you to acknowledge some potential weakness or flaw to yourself, do you think it will be easier for you to acknowledge that weakness or flaw to someone else? Now think about that someone else as a law professor or administrator. I know; it’s pretty scary. That’s why we, as academic support professionals (and others who work closely with law students), should try to practice good active listening skills and remain nonjudgmental, empathetic, and encouraging when we work with our students. It’s a difficult job. But, we are lucky to be able to do it. (OJ Salinas)

July 17, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, News, Orientation, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Delay due to technical difficulties

Hello, Readers,

Please excuse the delay in some postings. I have been travelling in the UK and ran into technical glitches. I think they are sorted perhaps and will catch up on some requested posts at the end of the week if all goes well. (Amy Jarmon)

July 16, 2017 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Trychta Earns a Texas Bar Today Top 10 Award

Texas Top Ten BadgeTexas Bar Today selected Kirsha Trychta's July 4th post entitled Supermarket Sweep for inclusion on its weekly list of the top 10 blog posts.  Congratulations, Kirsha!

 

 

July 15, 2017 in About This Blog, Miscellany, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bar Review Visuals: Take A Look at These Colorful Law Cartoons!

With a big hat tip to one of our bar takers this summer, here's a website -- The Visual Law Library -- that has some cool colorful cartoons to help brighten up your daily memorization studies.

http://www.legaltechdesign.com/visualawlibrary/2014/11/23/pure-notice-system-land-ownership-disputes/

On the website, cartoonist and attorney Margaret Hagan has created cartoons for the following subjects that are tested on most bar exams:  Civil Procedure, Con Law, Contracts, Corporations, Criminal Law, Evidence, Family Law, Property Law, and Torts.  

It's a rich resource to allow you to "see" some of the major rules in a colorful way.  So, feel free to take a break by scoping out a few cartoons that might help you better remember some of the major rules for upcoming bar exam.  (Scott Johns).

 

July 13, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Game Plan: Last Minute Bar Preparation

July is in full swing, the bar exam is fast approaching, and panic has set in yet again for some bar exam studiers. Others are ready to face the beast that is the bar exam so they can become "human beings" again. What do you do with the time you have remaining to maximize your preparation? Below are a few last minute suggestions from former bar exam studiers.

Last Two Weeks

Create a plan; make a schedule for the days leading up to the exam. What, specifically, are you going to do on each day? What materials do you need to put together for test days? What materials are not permitted in the exam room? Plan to be awake and study during the times you need to be awake and alert on exam day. Consider whether you need to regulate your fluid intake. Adopt a plan and stick to it.

Inspirational Music, Movies, or Videos

Music, movies, or videos that “pick you up” or “pump you up” can motivate you to dig up that last bit of energy you know is within you when you feel depleted. These can also create a positive mindset about your ability to tackle the exam or to reenergize after perceived poor performance. You can create a playlist leading up to the exam, for each morning of the exam, or after the exam. Alex Ruskell, one of our former contributors, wrote an entry last year with musical selections for various tastes. Click here: Get Pumped for the Bar Exam! 

Practice Run

As a bar exam studier, you want to mentally prepare for the exam ahead and the best way to do this is to mimic the circumstances surrounding the bar exam. Practicing on the days and at the time of your exam a week before your bar exam is ideal. You may have only practiced one session (3 hours) of essays, performance tests, or MBE. You may have practiced a full day (6 hours) of MBE or a writing day practice but you may not have done it in the same sequence as the bar exam. The goal of this exercise is to see how you maintain your stamina, how you engage with the material at the times you need to, and how you manage two or three days of consecutive testing. It will likely be an exhausting process so plan to be unable to do anything else each night. The focus of this exercise is not on assessing whether you will pass the exam based on your performance. Bar exam studiers focus on the score rather than on time management, energy, and the like. Adrenaline keeps you going on exam day but you are fighting fatigue from the past few months and you want to train your brain to engage when you need it to. This is also an opportunity to practice following the policies of your testing center and jurisdiction. 

Cheering Squad

Create a list of individuals who will cheer you on at various points and support you in different ways. Ensure that you have a mix of individuals who understand the bar exam process and some who are completely removed. You can have a call schedule or ask them to check-in with you on various days and at various times. There are some individuals who are great at getting you pumped up for a day of testing and others to whom you can confide all of your fears prior to or after the exam. There are also individuals who can run errands for you, cook for you, bring you lunch in between test sessions and keep your company. It is vital to consider what you need and the people who can cater to those needs in the days to come.

All the very best July 2017 bar takers! (Goldie Pritchard)

July 12, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

ILTL Cultural Competency Takeaways, 1 of 2

I attended the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning’s “Teaching Cultural Competency and Other Professional Skills” conference on July 7-8, 2017 at the William H. Bowen School of Law in Little Rock, Arkansas.  The conference opened with a quick sticky dot poll of the attendees.  The dots revealed that while most professors felt comfortable teaching skills like trial practice, negotiations, and document drafting, only a few were confident in their ability to teach cultural competencies in the classroom.  In an attempt to ameliorate this (real or perceived) deficiency, the approximately fifty attendees—a surprisingly even mix of doctrinal, clinical, legal writing, and academic support professors—worked collaboratively for two days to develop a portfolio of concrete exercises to satisfy ABA Standard 302.  What follows are some of my major takeaways:

The first suggestion was to “[Bring] Marginalized Populations into the [Legal Writing] Classroom.” Elon Law Professors Thomas Noble, Patricia Perkins, and Catherine Wasson explained how they each drafted a legal writing factual scenario involving a potentially unsympathetic and culturally diverse plaintiff: an Egyptian immigrant, a convicted felon, and a mentally ill survivalist, respectively.  These plaintiffs’ legal claims were then further complicated by the intentional inclusion of gender neutral names, ethnic sounding names, ambiguous facts, and words with strong connotations (think: “fetus” versus “the child”).  These professors crafted case files that not only required students to learn the mechanics of legal writing, but also forced students to confront their biases in a thoughtful and controlled way.  Occasionally students made unwarranted assumptions which allowed the class to discuss the importance of understanding cultural sensitivity and implicit bias.  Other students wanted to “help” by taking action contrary to the client’s expressed desires creating a great opportunity to talk about the ethical complexities of being a counselor-at-law.  The presenters reported that many students came to realize that there might not always be a “right” answer, especially when dealing with legal issues that intersect with human dignity and diverse cultural norms. 

  Elon Profs

Next we discussed the importance of “Building [a] Student[’s] Capacity for Self-Evaluation” with the use of a robust “soft skills” rubric.  Before the presenters shared their rubric, Professors Lauren Onkeles-Klein and Robert Dinerstein used Mentimeter’s in-class polling software to highlight that professors view self-assessment as an opportunity for student “reflection,” but students view self-assessment exercises as “painful busywork”—regardless of whether the assessment process occurs in a doctrinal class, legal writing course, or the clinical setting.  The question then became: how do we shift student mindset about self-assessment?  Their response was to create a rubric that establishes expectations early and often, introduces a common language around measuring skill, and reframes the connection between self-assessment and grades.  Professor Dinerstein discussed the rubric’s evolution from a one-page outline to an unwieldy 15+ page document, before he finally settled on a streamlined 10-page student self-assessment form, which borrows heavily from assessments commonly used in medical residency training.  Throughout the academic year, supervising professors repeatedly remind students that the goal is “competence” not “mastery” during law school.  The current form also highlights long-term patterns within the individual student’s self-assessment, clarifies conflicts between student partners, and frequently invites a dialogue about the importance of teamwork in a law firm setting.  The presenters reported that students do, in fact, get better at self-assessment over time through the interactive and frequent assessment process.  Anyone interested in reviewing, or possibly adopting, the presenters’ rubric handouts are invited to reach out to the authors directly for permission.  (Sorry about the sideways picture below; I am still learning the blog-posting ropes.) 

  American Profs

After a delicious taco lunch break, we went back to work “Grow[ing] Future Lawyers in the Image of ABA Standard 302…”.   Three professors from West Michigan University’s Thomas M. Cooley Law School explained how they successfully embedded the same acquaintance rape fact pattern in all three years of law school. In Professor Tonya Krause-Phelan’s 1L criminal law course students learned the elements of rape before conducting an in class jury trial. In Professor Victoria Vuletich’s 2L evidence course students reexamined their 1L trial with fresh eyes, having now learned the Rape Shield Laws. Then, as a 3L in the public defender’s clinic, Professor Tracey Brame set aside time to talk about the unique cultural sensitivities required to competently represent a defendant or victim in a sexual assault case.  Reusing the same factual scenario in each year enabled the same students to see the same story from a variety of different legal angles.  In addition to reusing the same hypothetical, the three professors created a long-term structure of evolving course rules to better reflect the students’ growth from year-to-year.  During the first year, Professor “K-P” drafted and enforced detailed courses rules, with no input from the students.  She was careful, however, to relate the classroom rules to the real practice of law, such as why it is critical to be able to take handwritten notes.  Then in the second year, the students were allowed to establish the classroom rules, including the sanctions for rule violation. For example, students opted to impose a “must bring treats” penalty to anyone who was late to class without good cause.  Then in the final year, the same cohort had to compare and contrast the rule-following required in 1L year with the rule making privileges of 2L year.

Cooley Profs

CUNY School of Law Professors Deborah Zalesne and David Nadvorney offered suggestions on how to help “underprepared law students” acquire the “other” skills mentioned in ABA Standard 302(d).  Session attendees read a few pages of a Contracts case and quickly identified legal terms that could be troublesome for any first-year student.  The presenters then pointed out numerous non-legal terms (e.g. “paradigm” or “doctrine”) which also have the potential to hinder an underprepared student.  To combat this problem in their own classrooms, the presenters have made a conscious effort to introduce a new concept in the students’ first language, before layering on the more professional vocabulary.  Avoiding the lawyer dominant language at the outset enables students to focus on the larger legal framework (i.e. to think big) without getting bogged down in the line-by-line details of the case.  Then they systematically work through the case with the students, helping them to understand each line and each new term.  The presenters also stressed the importance of being sensitive to students’ wrong answers.  In short, taking the time to mentor these students at the start will allow the students to make larger long-term gains during the semester.

  CUNY Profs

I attended several other sessions. I’ll give you the details of those sessions in part two of this two-part series.  Coming soon!

(Kirsha Trychta)

July 11, 2017 in Meetings, Program Evaluation, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Anxiety and Doubt Don’t Equal Failure

We are just a few weeks away from the bar exam. And for many students studying for the bar, that means questions. No. I don’t mean the hundreds, if not thousands, of MBE questions that the students have taken and, perhaps, retaken. And I don’t mean questions on any practice exams. I mean questions running through our students’ heads: questions of doubt, commitment, and normalcy.

Most students studying for the bar have had to live in somewhat of a “Bar Exam Prep Bubble” for the last few months. They celebrated law school graduation in May. But, it wasn’t really a full-on celebration because they knew there was still something more to do. It’s something huge and overwhelming. And it’s something that dictates one’s true entrance into the legal profession.

The bar exam is huge and overwhelming and, in many respects, it does dictate one’s true entrance into the legal profession. This monumental exam has a way of playing mind games with our students—especially at this point in the bar prep season.

Second guessing GIF

We are at a point in the bar prep season where students will start second-guessing themselves. Will I pass? Have I really done all that I should have done over the last few months? What if I freak out and can’t remember anything? Why have I put myself through this?

Despite all the work that our students have put into preparing for the exam, they will think they still have more work to do. Despite the objective results that their bar companies provide to them of their performance so far in the bar prep season, they will wonder and worry about how well they will perform on the ‘big day(s).’

As we prepare ourselves for the last few weeks of bar prep season, let’s remember that anxiety and doubt are normal for this big event. But, they don’t equal failure. Anxiety and doubt don’t mean that our students are unable to succeed. And they don’t mean that our students have not put in the necessary work to succeed.

Doubt picture

If we get an anxious and doubting student in our offices, let’s remember our anxieties and doubts about our bar exams. Let’s remember how we may have felt overwhelmed with the amount of material. And let’s remember that we, and every other licensed attorney out there, passed the exam.

The bar exam is challenging. But, it is doable. We are all proof that it is doable. With the right frame of mind and support from family, friends, and ASP professionals, we were all able to overcome the mind games. Our students can, too. (OJ Salinas)

July 10, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Magna Carta and Freedom

Excuse a somewhat off-topic post. Just before the fourth of July, I visited Lincoln in the United Kingdom. At the castle, the Magna Carta was on exhibit. Of course, as the person who teaches Comparative Law: The English Legal System at my law school, I had to see the exhibition.

As most of you know, the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta was in 2015. For those of you a bit rusty on your English history, here is a thumbnail sketch. The landowning barons were angry at King John because he was throwing them in jail for no reason, taxing them for his wars continuously, and denying their rights as freemen. After joining together against the king, the barons forced him to sign the Magna Carta to put limits on the king's powers and reassert the rights of freemen. (Note that freemen did not include John and Jane Public; it was all about the rights of the powerful landed class.)

There are four remaining copies of the document. Four? Copies had to be made for the king, the barons, some officials, and every bishop's city throughout the land. The Magna Carta had to be meticulously copied onto parchment by monks so that it could be couriered to all regions of the kingdom to provide notice of the agreement. In fact that copying would have taken weeks or longer to accomplish.

It turns out that King John reneged on the agreement three weeks after he signed, so all of the copies may have never been delivered. However, Lincoln Cathedral had received its copy. After John's death (within the year as I recall), his young son reaffirmed the agreement, upon the encouragement of his close advisors, to appease the barons. Thus, began the limitations on monarchical powers that came to a head (pun intended) with the execution of Charles I.

Ultimately the American colonies refused to be taxed without representation and fought for freedom. Our own documents of founding reflect the earlier struggles for the rights of freemen. Hopefully in the aftermath of the July 4th holiday, we remember the importance of the rule of law in protecting those rights. (Amy Jarmon) 

 

 

 

July 9, 2017 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Housekeeping

Do you have time to do housekeeping in your office? By that I mean culling out old files, deleting old emails, donating old editions of books to the library, throwing out old notes no longer needed, etc.

I would love to say that I regularly do all of these things - but that would be a bald-faced lie. Instead, I settle for spurts of housekeeping fit into the projects, student appointments, and more. Semester break and summer are my most productive times for housekeeping.

My most consistent housekeeping was email. I emptied my trash and send files several times a week. At least once a month I tried to clean out my inbox and my article feeds and some of the archived files. Certain archived files could be pared at the end of each semester. (My how easy it is for archive files to proliferate like bunny rabbits.)

Then I got a new computer (three cheers!) and later my software was upgraded twice (three cheers?). In the process of these changes, my archive with all of its folders mysteriously triplicated; and within each separate archive file folder, the individual email copied itself 3-6 times. No amount of work with IT has found an easy fix.

Why not just delete two archives and keep one, you ask? Every file needs to be carefully looked at because none of the triplicated archives are entirely identical. And there is thus far no pattern that I can discern to speed up the process of eliminating emails and files. What had been a bit of a headache for housekeeping has become a nightmare.

So, I have turned to other housekeeping that allows for more visible progress. I recently cleared out about 3 feet from a file cabinet by chucking duplicates, notes no longer needed, and consolidating files. Progress! Only about 8 more feet of files to go through in my next go round!

I delivered a book cart of various international law and ASP volumes to the law library to add to the collection or recycle as they saw fit. Then I unpacked newer international law volumes for my courses into the empty space. I am eyeing a hardback journal series as the most likely victim for the next go round.

Right before school starts I will turn to the thrice yearly cleaning of the stacks on my desk that are reference: ABA journals, publisher catalogs, notes from seminars, etc. I'll begin the school year with a sense of accomplishment - at least in some areas. Hope your housekeeping goes well this summer! (Amy Jarmon) 

 

July 8, 2017 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 7, 2017

What should I be doing before I begin law school in August?

The summer is speeding along. Many of our incoming first-year students have now had a few weeks of rest from the undergraduate academic slog, have settled into summer jobs, and are thinking about their upcoming start in law school. These pre-1Ls are wondering what they should be doing to prepare for law school. Here are some thoughts for their next 5-6 weeks:

  • Practice critical reading every day. There will be prodigious amounts of reading in law school. By reading regularly throughout the summer, students can prepare themselves for that constant reading. Summer reading does not need to include any legal books or other laborious material, but it should be reading to understand rather than mere scanning of text. Ask questions about what you read. Summarize the key points as you read. Read a variety of things to strengthen your reading "muscles."
  • Practice critical thinking every day. Lawyers are trained to look at both sides of an issue, to ask questions about material, and to delve beyond the surface. During the summer, critically think about the news stories you read/watch, the content you find on the Internet, the logic of what you hear/say. For example, listening to news programs with entirely different points of view will help you look at both sides of a story. (By the way, critical thinking is not the same as arguing or debating with everyone.)
  • Get into a healthy exercise routine: walking, swimming, running, yoga, gym workouts. You want your body to be at its best when you start school. And you want to have an exercise routine that you can practice in moderation during the semester. 
  • Spend time with your family and friends. You will be very busy during law school. It will not be possible to go home every weekend and keep up with your studies. Spend quality time now with those who are important to you.
  • Make a list of the reasons you are studying law and what you want to accomplish after law school with your degree. The list can come in handy during the semester to remind you of your goals when you are tired of reading cases, memorizing black letter law, and completing practice questions. Staying motivated will be important.
  • Get excited about law school. The study of law is challenging, but also exhilarating. You will be surrounded by bright people who will encourage you to be at your intellectual best. You will learn concepts, policies, and intricacies that you never knew existed. You will stretch yourself mentally unlike in any other experience. You will look back at the end of your first year with astonishment at how much you learned and accomplished in just 10 months.

Best wishes for the remainder of summer! Soak up some sun. Laugh and have fun. Look forward to a new adventure. (Amy Jarmon)

July 7, 2017 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Music to the Ears? And to Calm Your Heart Too!

Straight from a recent law graduate and licensed attorney Sarah Myers, here's some exciting news that you can "sing" about as you prepare for your bar exam this summer.  But first, a bit of background....

Ms. Myers serves as the clinical director of the Colorado Lawyer's Assistance Program, a confidential program for law students and practitioners alike implemented by the Colorado Supreme Court.  As the clinical director, Ms. Myers successful passed the bar exam in February 2016, holds a master's degree in somatic counseling education, and is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed addiction counselor.  

In other words, Ms. Myers knows all about the stress and strains of life, particularly in relationship to the study of law and preparing for the bar exam.  

So, Ms. Myers put together a very handy survey of the research on the surprising benefits of music -- benefits that you can put to good use this summer as you prepare for the bar exam.  

http://coloradolap.Surprising-Benefits-of-Music.pdf

To cut to the chase, here's key language from Ms. Myer's summary:  

"Research shows that the many benefits of listening to music, playing an instrument, dancing, or singing include:

  1. Improved visual & verbal skills;

  2. Increased endorphins that improve mood;

  3. Improved cardiovascular system, including strengthening the heart, decreasing blood

    pressure, and reducing pulse rates;

  4. Better sleep patterns and more restful sleep;

  5. Boosted immune system and reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol;

  6. Reduction in anxiety and overall stress;

  7. Improved sound-processing ability, improved hearing.

  8. Increased levels of oxytocin, resulting in reduced pain and improved mood;

  9. Improved memory across lifespan; and

  10.  Increased serotonin levels that reduce depression."

So, take heart and lift up your voices, your instruments, and your heels and start singing, humming, whistling, jamming, and just overall having fun making music.  And, the best music to make is that which is made with others.  So, why not get a group jam session going, especially this week, to help you start getting the benefits of music within your life.  And, if you just can't help yourself by taking a singing break, don't worry.  You can always just make up a song or two for some of your most difficult bar exam rules.  That way you'll reduce your stress and learn something valuable too!   (Scott Johns)

July 6, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Opportunity Mindset: The Opportunity to…

We often find individuals thanking others for the opportunity to do this or that but does it mean anything for a person who will sit for the bar exam in a few weeks? Maybe or maybe not. Current bar exam studiers are focused on the tasks at hand and rarely consider that they were of the few selected to attend law school and that they completed their degrees while some others were academically dismissed or otherwise forced to end their law school journey. All of the bar exam studiers' hard work, perseverance, efforts, and abilities granted them “the opportunity” to sit for the bar exam.

This blog entry was inspired by a small cohort of recent graduates who are serving as support for one another during this bar exam preparation period. I have worked with these students most of their law school career but this bar exam study period was very revealing about their character. I understand that one member of the cohort shared a bar meditation book with each member of the group, one makes motivational videos, and they collectively support each other with regular check-ins and sharing resources. This may not be unique as cohorts of friends typically do the same. What stood out for me was what a member of this cohort said to another. She said that it was “an opportunity” to sit for the bar exam so they should all treat it as such and not squander any opportunity to put forth their best effort. This “opportunity mindset” helps motivate some. An awareness and recognition of basic things that we have taken for granted create that opportunity mindset. If you are able to move and are of sound mind (just to list a few), you are able to accomplish quite a bit in a shorter amount of time to succeed in your bar studies than someone who does not possess those abilities. Even through her own struggles and challenges; this bar exam studier was able to recognize her opportunity to achieve her dream and has used it to encourage others.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “opportunity” as:

1. “a favorable juncture of circumstances”

2. “a good chance for advancement or progress”

I like both definitions for different reasons. In the first, I see all conditions being right leading to positive possibilities for success. For bar exam studiers, it simply means that everything they achieved thus far, led them to this point in time which allows them to sit for the bar exam. They would have never been afforded the opportunity to sit for the bar exam had every requirement not been met. In the second definition, given everything they have accomplished thus far, there are positive odds on their side for this next endeavor. Current bar exam studiers have good odds of successfully passing the bar exam.

As Academic Support professionals, it is our job to remind students of their achievements and ability. Defeatist attitudes and perceived inability to complete all tasks and to be successful on the bar exam are inevitable during bar study. Bar exam studiers forget all of the challenges they have overcome since May and are focused on the immediate feedback, the number (the number of MBEs and Essays they have completed and more importantly their scores on each). The number has different significance for each bar exam studier; it might show progress, achievement, or probability of success. While some are not meeting all their goals, bar exam studiers may have improved their speed and are getting more answers correct. The real question is how close are they to the target goal of putting themselves in a position to pass the bar exam on the first try and whether there is enough time to reach that goal?

The 4 min inspirational video found here aligns well with some of what was discussed above. Be excited about the opportunity bar exam studiers! (Goldie Pritchard)

July 5, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Supermarket Sweep

Do you remember the game show “Supermarket Sweep”? (If not, click here for a short video.) The concept was simple: contestants had a short period of time to spend as much money as possible in a grocery store. The team with the highest total at the cash register won. Although the contestants were permitted to navigate the aisles in any manner they wished, the winning teams all tended to follow a predictable pattern to success. To win, contestants had to (1) pick-up numerous big ticket items, (2) grab a few specialty items, and (3) use their time efficiently. 

Bar studiers can follow a similar strategy for success in July. 

  1. Big Ticket Items

Whole hams, check. Super-sized tubs of condiments, check. Putting the “heavy lifting” items in the game show cart typically resulted in a good total at the cash register—but maybe not enough to win. Rather the contestants needed these big ticket items just to stay competitive. Likewise, bar studiers have to master certain subtopics, if they want to be competitive on game day. What’s the bar exam equivalent of a half-dozen fifty-pound bags of dog food? Answer: civil procedure jurisdiction, individual constitutional rights, contract formation, criminal homicide, evidentiary relevance, hearsay, and tortious negligence. According to the NCBE’s Subject Matter Outline, these big ticket items account for roughly one-quarter of the 200 MBE questions. Therefore, bar studiers are wise to pick-up these topics before moving on to the more nuanced specialty items. 

  1. Specialty Items

If you watched the video link, you might have asked yourself: “Why is everyone buying bottles of Lysol cleaner?” After all, Lysol retails for less than $10.00. Well, on that particular episode, Lysol was a specialty bonus item—an item that could result in a larger than expected payoff at the cash register (provided the contestant could find the small bottle in the vast store).  The bar exam is full of specialty items too.  Bar studiers must identify select, discrete subrules and exceptions that they can master very quickly, resulting in a positive return-on-investment.  A bar studier is not going to be able to acquire every  unique subrule or exception. Rather the bar studier must be strategic about spotting those particular rules that they can “put in their shopping cart” with just a small amount of targeted effort. For example, spending an hour to learn the difference between spousal immunity and confidential marital communication is time well spent. Conversely, spending three days spinning your wheels on that same question is not. After all, the clock is ticking. 

  1. Time Management

With only a few minutes to shop, contestants must use their time wisely. Similarly, bar studiers have to maximize their study time in July. Developing a detailed plan of attack for July tends to be the step most bar studiers skip; bar studiers mistakenly believe that all study hours are created equal. To ensure maximum time efficiency, bar studiers should use the results of their midterm exam to develop a day-by-day plan of attack for July. Bar studiers should start by deciding which topics will be tackled each day by identifying which topics will result in the biggest gains. A solid plan will surely include sufficient time to acquire any big tickets items that are not already in the bar studier’s cart and also include time to not only identify, but also learn select specialty rules. The plan should also incorporate a mix of non-negotiable language (“No matter what, I am going to …”) and some contingencies (“If time permits, I will…” or “I need X or Y, but would love both.”). I’ve attached a Download Calendar - Bar Exam July 2017 to help the bar studier start crafting his/her individualized plan for success. Once the plan is complete, the only thing left to do is execute with game-show-winning precision.

P.S. Happy Fourth of July! (Kirsha Trychta)

July 4, 2017 in Bar Exam Preparation, Study Tips - General, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Perseverance, Plans, and Passing the Bar Exam

   Pier pic


We are less than a month away from the bar exam. Law graduates throughout the country have been working long hours trying to digest a huge amount of information. They try to stay focused and positive so that they can overcome this enormous hurdle that is only offered twice a year. But what happens when unexpected life events happen that impact a student’s focus and positivity? What happens when our students face a rough patch of water as they are sailing through their bar preparation?

I was on a vacation with my family in the Outer Banks of North Carolina a few weeks ago. After six years of living in North Carolina, we still had not made it out to this beautiful and most Eastern part of the state. The beaches, food, and lighthouses were all great. Here's a pic of one of the lighthouses:

Lighthouse pic with OJ

So, we were at a seafood restaurant getting ready to drive back to Chapel Hill after a wonderful time in the Outer Banks. I was about to pay our bill when I got a short and unexpected text message. A close family member had been in a car accident.

Many of us have likely received similar messages. You feel like you should do something, but you are so far away that you cannot do much. So, you try calling family members. But, no one answers. The text message did not include much detail. So, you call again. You text. And you wait. And the anxiety and the unknown take over until someone responds to your text or answers your phone call. And you hope so mightily that the response or phone call is a positive one.

Fortunately, despite a pretty scary car accident, no one was seriously hurt. My family member, who took the brunt of the accident, was able to thankfully walk away. Thoughts start circulating through your head. Soreness and bruises will subside. Vehicles can be repaired or replaced. Life is precious.

Things soon began to settle down as best they could. But, as many folks have likely experienced, it was difficult not to think about how things could have been worse. This got me thinking about what our students experience if a similar, or even worse, unexpected life event happens while they are preparing for the bar exam. How do we help them? Can we help them?

The answers to these questions are difficult, and they should be. Law school and passing the bar exam are large parts of our students’ lives. But, they are not the only parts of our students’ lives. How a student deals with an unexpected life event obviously depends on what this life event is. It may also depend on what type of support system this student has in place or can put into place. It may also depend on how much time a student has left to prepare—physically and mentally—for the exam, and whether or not the student wishes to try to persevere through this life event or wait until the next test date for the bar exam.

As academic success professionals, we know that we are likely part of the support system for our students. We know that we can offer a listening ear to our students and refer our students to additional resources when needed. Our listening ears are particularly helpful and appreciated during difficult times for our students. Sometimes, just talking about a challenge can be therapeutic and provide some assistance. We can also try to empathize and understand what our students may be going through. And we can, in a nonjudgmental way, try to have honest conversations with our students about their goals, bar preparation, and ability to maintain focus and some positivity.

Bar prep companies often place some extra time in their planning calendars for our students. But, this extra time may or may not be enough for our students. Are they on schedule with the suggested bar preparation calendar? How are their practice results so far? Can they afford another several months before they are licensed attorneys? How are they simply feeling right now? And how do they think they will be feeling in a week or two?  

These are all questions that we might have with any of our students. These questions become even more significant for students who have experienced some unexpected life event. I lost some focus and positivity during that short time that I was unable to find out what was happening with my family member. As we enter the last stretch of bar preparation, let’s try to remember that unexpected life events often happen, and we may need to be there to help our students plan and persevere. (OJ Salinas)

July 3, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Director of Academic Success Position at U Mass

Director of Academic Success University of Massachusetts School of Law 

The University of Massachusetts School of Law is seeking a Director of Academic Success. The Director collaborates in the design, direction, and implementation of all aspects of the Law School’s Academic Success program. The Director promotes law student retention with remedial programming and academic counseling and collaborates with Deans and Faculty to ensure students' successful completion of law school and bar exam passage.  

UMass Law offers a robust Academic Success program designed to assist all students from orientation through bar passage. The program involves three full-time faculty and staff members (the Director of Teaching and Learning Methods, the Director of Academic Success, and the Director of Bar Success), a required first-year academic success course, a peer-tutoring program, and a spacious, centrally-located Law Learning Center.  

For the complete position description and qualifications please go to http://www.umassd.edu/hr/employmentopportunities/

To apply please submit a letter of interest, current resume and the contact information for three professional references to http://www.umassd.edu/hr/employmentopportunities/

The review of applications will begin July 12, 2017 and continue until the position is filled.  

UMass Law is committed to recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty and student body and encourages applications from members of underrepresented groups who will add diversity to the Law School Community.  

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth employees and applicants for employment are protected by federal laws, Presidential Executive Orders, and state and local laws designed to protect employees and job applicants from discrimination on the bases of race, religion, color, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age, disability, family medical history or genetic information, military service, veteran status or other non-merit based factors. 

The University of Massachusetts reserves the right to conduct background checks on potential employees.

July 1, 2017 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 30, 2017

University of Oklahoma ASP/Bar Support Position

The University of Oklahoma College of Law is seeking a full-time academic and bar support professional.  The duties include teaching a bar preparation class to 3Ls, assisting in the early identification of at-risk students; meeting regularly with students who are at-risk or on academic probation to track their progress, and tutoring students on study and exam taking skills while providing substantive support where needed.  A full listing of the position may be found at: https://ou.taleo.net/careersection/2/jobdetail.ftl?job=171931&tz=GMT-05%3A00.

June 30, 2017 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Learning by Living: July 4th Fireworks!

With just under a month to go for many bar takers (and after numerous weeks of intensive studying), let's face the facts:  

We are plain downright exhausted.  And, we should be.  But, given what seems like the insurmountable pressures to learn so much material for the bar exam, it just seems like we can't let up with our daily grinding regiment of bar studies.  There's no time for a day off.  There's too much to learn.

However, let me offer you a way to "let up" so that you can feel mighty good about taking a real day off.  A whole day.  A day of rest and relaxation to boot.  In fact, please feel free to live it up.  And, there's no better time to take a day off from your studies than on a national day of celebration - this upcoming July 4th holiday.  

Here's why...  

I find that Independence Day is one of the best days of the year to see bar exam problems in living color.  

For example...

That box of fireworks bought at a big top tent stand.  That was procured through negotiation by you (or one of your friends) of a UCC contract for the sale of goods (and the seller most certainly had a secured transaction agreement in order to bring the goods to sale to your area).

That box of fireworks that didn't work as advertised.  Well, that might just blossom into a breach of contracts claim or even a tort claim for misrepresentation.

That box of fireworks that were lit off in the city limits.  In most cities, that's a strict liability crime, plain and simple.

You see, even when we take a day off from studies, we live in a world of bar exam problems.  In fact, we are surrounded by bar exam problems because the bar exam tests legal situations that are constantly arising among us.  So, it's a good thing to get our heads of the books occasionally to see what's happening around.

That means that you can completely feel free to relax and celebrate on this upcoming national holiday.  Take the day off - the whole day off!  Go have some fun!  Celebrate...because even while taking a day off you will still be learning lots about the law from just living in the world.  You can't help yourself but to see legal problems everywhere...because...you have be trained as a professional problem-solving attorney.  

So, rest assured that in the midsts of your celebrations you'll be learning helpful legal principles that you can bank on preparation for success on your upcoming bar exam. And, as a bonus, you'll get some mighty needed rest to recharge your heart and mind too!  So, enjoy your day off; you've earned it!  (Scott Johns).

June 29, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)