Thursday, January 14, 2016
Kudos to the Program Committee for a terrific program on Saturday at AALS. If you were unable to attend Raising the Bar, the presentations were excellent. Danielle Bifulci Kocal (Pace U) was the Moderator (and Program Committee Chair). Paula Manning (Western State U), Deborah J. Merritt (Ohio State U), and Kerriann Stout (Pace U) were the speakers. AALS made audio recordings of all of the sessions; these will be made available to member schools. If you need the presenters handouts, you can email Danielle (email@example.com) for those.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Associate Director for Student Affairs Position at Indiana U - Robert H. McKinney School of Law - January 22nd deadline
Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law seeks applicants for the Associate Director for Student Affairs. The successful candidate will report to the Assistant Dean for Students Affairs and design, manage, and implement an academic support program including bar support for law students.
DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILIITES: The Associate Director will develop programs, advise and tutor students with special focus on students facing academic challenges, collaborate with faculty, develop an assessment model to measure the effectiveness of academic support, collect and analyze data, and draft reports concerning program outcomes. In addition, the Associate Director will manage the administrative aspects of the Dean’s Tutorial Society, including educational outreach, academic support initiatives and related programming.
REQUIRED: J.D. from an accredited institution, plus at least one year of post-law school professional experience.
The successful candidate should possess excellent oral, written and interpersonal communication skills; excellent leadership skills; unimpeachable integrity and trustworthiness; mature judgment in handling sensitive and confidential information; must have a keen sensitivity to human relations, with a high degree of empathy and approachability; demonstrated ability to work independently with little supervision; knowledge of legal theory and understanding of academic support best practices, strong law school academic record, proficiency in Microsoft Office applications required. Must have cultural competency in working with a diverse population.
PREFERRED: Three or more years of post-law school experience, especially teaching, advising, and tutoring in higher education or related experience. Bar admission in any state.
Applicants can apply directly online by January 22, 2016 at: https://iujobs.peopleadmin.com/postings/19394.
4th Annual Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Workshop
ASP Through the Years: Building a Program to Reach Students Throughout Law School at University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law in Little Rock, Arkansas
The Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals will host a one day workshop focused on reaching all our student populations. ASP Departments are expected to help the entire law school population, but most schools don’t have the resources for the support expected. Law Schools still evaluate on first-year retention and bar passage rates, so ASP Departments must reach as many students as possible with limited resources. Building a cohesive program for the first two years of law school is critical. This year’s workshop will include programs to help students succeed through their first two years. We will also discuss methods to improve diversity attendance and performance.
Bowen is located in the heart of Little Rock, Arkansas’ capital city, within a five-minute drive of state and federal courthouses, as well as some of Arkansas’ largest law firms and corporations. Little Rock’s vibrant legal community provides our students and alumni many opportunities for professional engagement and public service. With a metropolitan population of almost 700,000, Little Rock features the best in art and cuisine, right alongside the beauty of the Natural State. This will be a great place to visit in early March.
Registration is open to anyone interested in academic support. There is no registration fee. If you are interested in attending, you can register through google docs here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1lIJ0E1d56gs9Rut0Kh-YgSSBqYSQgLEXxCWjfmVueEI/viewform?usp=send_form Registration will be accepted through February 26th.
A block of rooms has been reserved at the Holiday Inn Presidential, 600 Interstate 30, Little Rock, AR 72202. This hotel is located a couple of blocks from the law school and there is free shuttle to the airport. We negotiated a rate of $99.00 per night for King or Double. Please be advised that this block will release and the price will expire on February 11, 2016. You can book your room by phone by calling (866) 900-7625 and referencing “UALR Law School Group Rate” and the dates of the event.
Dinner for anyone arriving early at Next Level Events at Union Station
9-9:50 – Expanding Your Reach by Training and Supervising Upper Division Students to Help 1Ls – Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz from UALR School of Law
10-10:50 – Using Formative Assessment to Help Doctrinal Professors and Improve ASP Programming – Steven Foster from Oklahoma City University School of Law
11-11:50 – Bridging the Gap Between 2L Year and Bar Preparation – panel including Jendayi Saada from La Verne College of Law and Jennifer Carr from UNLV School of Law
12-12:50 – Lunch
1-1:50 – Reaching Diverse Populations to Improve Attendance at Events – Russell McClain from Maryland School of Law
2-2:50 – Creating Programs to Improve Performance of Diverse Students – Jack Manhire from Texas A&M School of Law
2:50-3 – Closing Remarks
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:
Steven Foster (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Director of Academic Achievement at Oklahoma City University
Erik Malmberg (email@example.com)
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at UALR William H. Bowen School of Law
Saturday, January 9, 2016
POSITION TITLE: Assistant Director of Academic Support
REPORTS TO: Director, Academic Support
DEPARTMENT: Academic Support/Law School
CLASSIFICATION: Professional Staff
Under the direction of the Director of the Academic Support Program, performs a variety of professional and counseling tasks. This position has responsibility for assisting in scheduling, monitoring and evaluating comprehensive programs and materials for first year law students and counseling for first year law students.
CHARACTERISTIC DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:
Duties may include, but are not limited to the following:
• Monitor, evaluate and revise academic support programs conducted by Student Instructors; coordinate meeting times and rooms for academic support programs and events; assist in preparing materials and performs set-up tasks for the programs and events.
• Responsible for communicating information about the nature, schedule, and location of academic support programs and events to relevant groups.
• Assists in counseling students in academic difficulty.
• Develop and implement methods for collecting, tracking, and analyzing data for evaluation of student participation.
• Prepare individual student evaluation profiles for students in academic difficulty.
• Assists in the presentation of active learning workshops to students.
• Assist in recruiting, scheduling interviews, hiring and training of student instructors.
• Oversee the collection, organization, storage and retrieval of student instructor materials.
• Serve on University committees as requested.
• Comply with University and departmental safety rules and regulations.
• Perform related duties as assigned by immediate supervisor.
Incumbent performs routine assignments alone, following established practices. Supervisor will advise incumbent when work is not up to par and take appropriate steps for resolution within established procedures.
Supervises the work of Student Instructors and acts as an alternate supervisor to approve hours of student instructors.
Requires knowledge of office management and supervision, budget preparation and monitoring, and skills necessary to succeed in law school and on the bar exam. Familiarity with statistical analysis is a plus.
Requires the ability to develop, implement, and efficiently organize and carry out administrative policy and procedures in support of law school academic support programs. Counseling skills to assist students in developing academic and non-analytical skills necessary to succeed in law school. Excellent writing and oral communication skills. Proficiency with computers needed including, but not exclusive of programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, TWEN, and statistical programs.
Requires a Juris Doctor Degree and previous professional or administrative experience in an institution of higher learning or business or law office environment. Prior teaching or counseling experience is helpful. Demonstrated ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with staff, faculty, students and the public. Membership in a state bar. Florida State Bar preferred, but not required.
Submit a letter of interest, a detailed resume listing qualifications and experience and a cover letter with a description of their qualifications and experience based on the qualifications listed in the job bulletin.
Salary competitive with those at similarly situated institutions.
Friday, January 8, 2016
Thursday, January 7, 2016
Director, Academic Success; Law School - 998251
Reporting to the Assistant Dean for Academic Services and collaborating with other faculty and staff, the Academic Success Director assists students and graduates as they prepare for the bar exam, both as they progress through law school and after they graduate. Additionally, they will run established academic success programs and initiatives within the law school. In coordination with the Assistant Dean for Academic Services and other relevant faculty and staff the Academic Success Director develops, implements, and coordinates school-wide initiatives to improve bar passage, including a credit-bearing courses, workshops, and individual meetings with students, graduates, and faculty. Additionally, the Director tutors and provides academic counseling for at-risk students.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Hat tip to Patti Desrochers at Touro for forwarding a link to a podcast featuring Lillian Spiess (Assistant Director of Academic Development) and Stephanie Juliano (Assistant Director of the Writing Center) discussing Study Tips and Tricks for Being Successful During Finals with their Dean, Patricia Salkin. The link is here: Touro Law Podcast on Exam Success.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
AALS is being held in New York City from Wednesday, January 6th through Sunday, January 10th. The co-headquarters hotels are the New York Times Square Hotel and the Hilton Midtown Hotel.
The Section on Academic Support business meeting is scheduled for 7:00 - 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 9th and includes the election of officers/board members and sign-ups for committees. The Section on Academic Support program, Raising the Bar, will also be on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Thursday, January 7th sessions will include those for the Section on Student Services and the Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research. On Friday, January 8th, there will be a session for the Section on Balance in Legal Education. There are a number of other sessions throughout the meeting that will interest ASP/Bar folks.
Hope to see you there!
Monday, January 4, 2016
2016 Annual Conference
May 24 – 26: Long Island City, New York
City University of New York (CUNY) Law School
Call for Proposals
The 2016 Conference of the Association of Academic Support Educators will bring together colleagues interested in legal education and academic support. In this collegial and collaborative environment, colleagues will have a chance to meet, reconnect, and share ideas about pedagogy, scholarship, and professional growth.
The program committee welcomes proposals on any subject relating to legal education and academic support. Please read and conform to the Proposal Requirements (below).
Please craft your proposal carefully. The program committee will look for proposals that describe the presentation and its goals in detail. Our assumption is that a clear and detailed proposal today will lead to a stronger presentation. An example of a proposal is available below.
The committee seeks various presentations and topics, including but not limited to presentations that address:
• diversity and inclusion (particularly programs that focus on sustaining women and minorities in legal careers);
• teaching ideas for new and veteran teachers;
• professional growth;
• hot topics in legal education;
• creativity in law teaching and learning;
• teaching methods;
• analytical and academic competencies necessary for success in law school, on the bar, and in practice;
• educational psychology;
• assisting students with learning disabilities;
• the role and status of Academic Support Professionals in the legal academy; and
• intersections between academic support, legal writing and doctrinal teaching.
Presentations may be in any form the presenter finds effective. Although the committee does seek to accommodate all presenters with their selection for presentation format and timing, the committee may occasionally ask presenters to change the format or timing of a presentation to fit the needs of a comprehensive and diverse program.
Please indicate your target audience in your proposal. For example: newbies, bar prep, large schools, etc.
The following is a description of the different types of presentations:
An interactive workshop is a presentation with audience participation throughout. A proposal for an interactive workshop should discuss what you plan to do to make the presentation interactive.
Examples include: pair and share, break-out group discussions, use of demonstrative aids that involve the audience, or other audience participation. Note that providing handouts, although very beneficial for attendees, does not on its own make the presentation interactive.
If you submit a proposal with more than one presenter for your session, your proposal should include the name, e-mail address, and school for each presenter. In determining how many presenters to include in your proposal, please make sure that each person will have sufficient time to fully discuss his or her topic. Because most presentations will last only 45 minutes, we recommend no more than 2 to 3 presenters.
Lesson in a Box
A lesson in a box presentation is a session devoted to the presentation of a lesson on a single topic. Such sessions should include all of the information and materials necessary for attendees to leave the session prepared to deliver the lesson on their own.
Moderated Group Discussion
Moderated Group Discussions are more informal presentations that feature group conversation and interaction. The committee encourages presentations that will foster dialogue among conference attendees. These sessions are particularly well suited for hot topics.
Short Format Presentations
A 15-minute presentation that can be presented in a format similar to the interactive workshop that includes audience participation such as pair and share, break-out group discussions, use of demonstrative aids that involve the audience, or other audience participation. These are opportunities for new ideas or emerging professionals to present ideas that have not been presented on before.
Please provide a short summary of your presentation for the conference brochure. The summary should not exceed 250 words and should accurately reflect the subject of the presentation.
As part of your proposal we ask that you explain whether your presentation requires projection, internet access, audio, or other technology and the degree to which each is necessary to your presentation. We ask that proposals identify any technology needs at this early point so that we can be prepared well in advance of the conference to provide accessibility.
The committee expects that nearly all presentations will be assigned a 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 1 hour time slot. Proposals should indicate the time needed for the presentation. Please also address how the presentation can be adapted if you are allotted a shorter amount of time. However, we recognize that a few presentations are better served with more time. If you are interested in a 75-minute time slot, your proposal should clearly explain why 75 minutes is necessary.
Proposals must be submitted to no later than January 15, 2016. Late submissions will not be accepted.
All individuals submitting a proposal will be notified about the status of their proposal on or before February 15, 2016.
Multiple Proposals and the “One-Presentation Rule”
You may submit a maximum of two proposals, and you need not rank your proposals in order of preference. If you are selected for more than one presentation or panel, you will be given the opportunity to select the one presentation or panel in which you would like to participate, as each person is limited to one presentation or panel.
Although the committee welcomes proposals on any topic of interest to academic support faculty, a proposal will not be accepted if it appears to be a means to market a textbook or other for-pay product. AASE does not accept proposals from any commercial vendors. Any commercial vendor interested in promoting their materials may do so as a sponsor of the conference. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to request information on becoming a sponsor.
If you have any questions, please contact the Program Committee at: email@example.com.
Proposal for AASE 2014 Annual Summer Conference
Title: Building Positive Classroom Environments
Presenter Contact Information: Cai Leonard, Law School, 2 Main Street, Springfield, ST 98765. T: 112- 356-7890 firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Session: Interactive Workshop
Audience: Newbies & moderate experience level; all school sizes
Goals of the session. By the end of this workshop participants will:
• Be able to explain the value of positive interpersonal environments in helping students learn;
• Be able to identify methods for building positive interpersonal classroom environments; and
• Be able to engage their own students in exercises that help build positive classroom environments.
Background. Creating a positive learning environment is one of the components critical to successful learning (e.g. Bransford et. al, How People Learn 25; Goleman, Social Intelligence 268-76; Hess & Friedland, Techniques for Teaching Law 326-27). Emotional intelligence and neuroscience studies show that we learn better when we are challenged, supported, respected, and engaged. Too much stress impedes learning; lack of challenge does the same. This workshop focuses on how to create a positive learning environment for law students.
Workshop methodology. Participants will be actively involved in different techniques that affect classroom dynamics. Participants will engage in:
Discussing ideas in pairs
Looking at visuals
Listening & reflecting
Discussing ideas with the whole group
Practicing with a small group
Participants will first examine the environments that have been conducive to their own learning, and exchange their ideas with a partner. This will be followed by a short, whole group discussion about the value of creating positive affect — and the value of engaging others in talking about it. Participants will then be given scenarios about classroom behaviors and asked to consider the following kinds of questions:
What could the professor have done at the beginning of the course to increase the positive interpersonal engagement?
What are the likely consequences of negative classroom interactions?
What small steps can professors take to improve the classroom environment?
Participants will be given an overview of how positive and negative interpersonal dynamics and environments affect student learning. They will then discuss things they have noticed within their classes and ways to improve classroom dynamics. Depending on participants’ teaching areas, participants may engage in small group discussions about questions relating to doctrinal areas, upper level vs. first year courses, skills courses, or clinical courses.
Throughout the workshop, I will share my own experiences and give examples of what I have found effective in my classes, others’ classes, and I will answer participants’ questions.
Materials. Outline of the workshop, scenarios regarding different kinds of classroom environments, questions for participants to respond to, specific techniques professors can use to create positive environments, and short list of resources.
Technology Required: Access to PowerPoint would be very helpful, although the session could be modified to be done without it.
Brochure Summary: We have all witnessed our students struggle in their classes due to too much stress. This workshop focuses on how to create a positive learning environment for law students. Through group discussion and partner work, participants will learn how to build positive interpersonal classroom environments.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Hat tip to Paul Caron, our Law Professors Blog leader, for the ideal holiday gift suggestion. Read his blog post on Tax Prof Blog here: Last Minute Christmas Gift Idea for Faculty and Students.
Monday, December 21, 2015
Report from the New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Conference December 7, 2015
Kudos to the Executive Board of NECASP for putting together a terrific slate of presentations for its December 2015 conference. The morning sessions focused on “Innovative Strategies to Prepare our Changing Students for the Bar Exam”:
First, Camesha Little presented on Texas A & M Law School’s holistic bar exam program. The program objectives include managing anxiety, maintaining study schedules, and identifying outside issues. The program brings in folks from outside the ASP program, including alumni, faculty, the legal writing center, campus administration, and community partners.
Next, Leah Plunkett presented on the University of New Hampshire Law School’s relatively new use of a required preliminary bar exam to assess students' substantive knowledge of selected first year courses in connection with bar readiness. The presentation focused on how UNH is exploring the role and value of the preliminary Bar Exam. Though required, students’ scores on the preliminary bar exam are neither made part of their transcripts nor factored into their GPA’s.
In the last morning session, Sabrina DeFabritiis of Suffolk University School of Law presented on her pre-graduation course designed to prepare students before they prepare for the bar exam
The afternoon sessions provided a series of varied an informative presentations:
Elizabeth Bloom of New England Law School presented on designing courses that propel student learning outcomes to make learning happen. Professor Bloom’s presentation was very timely in light of the ABA’s shift in focus from teaching to learning and from curriculum to outcomes.
Chelsea Baldwin, of the Appalachian School of Law presented on her current work aimed at creating a framework for interacting with students and arriving at solutions to problems. Professor Baldwin’s presentation was entitled: TREATS Affects Performance – Six Categories of Intervention for At-Risk Law Students
Antonette Barilla of Elon University School of Law, presented on “Promoting Self-Awareness in Legal Education.” Her presentation drew on the work of Michael Hunter Schwartz, Barry Zimmerman, Jason Palmer, and others. She focused on common attributes of the millennials who inhabit our classrooms and strategies that can promote self-awareness and learning in the classroom.
James McGrath, of Texas A & M Law School spoke on “Integrating Effective Cognitive Learning Techniques into First Year Doctrinal Topics – Torts.” Professor McGrath drew on works such as Making it Stick, Peter Brown, et. al., and How We Learn, Benedict Carey. Professor McGrath discussed his implementation of “spaced practice” in his Torts syllabus to promote long-term learning.
(Myra G. Orlen)
Saturday, December 19, 2015
In case you missed the recent email from the AALS Section on Balance in Legal Education, there are special activities planned for the NYC annual meeting. These activities are a great idea, and kudos to the Balance Section for implementing this series. Below is the information provided by Nathalie Martin in that email:
Hello balance members!
I am excited to announce that we have a total of six meditation teachers offering their services during the group activities planned for our contemplative space at AALS. Thanks so much to all those teachers. There is also a little yoga.
The AALS brochure will tell you where the space is, and hopefully many or most of you can swing by for one of these groups sessions. The room is available for quiet individual contemplation at all other times.
The group times and classes are as follows:
Thursday Jan 7
8:00-8:30 am, Guided mindfulness meditation: Richard Rueben
9:00-10:00 am, Chair yoga: Nathalie Martin
12:00-1:00 pm, Chair yoga: Nathalie Martin
2:30 to 3:00pm, Guided mindfulness meditation: Shari Motro
5:00-5:30 pm, Guided mindfulness meditation: Rebecca Simon
Friday Jan 8
8:00-8:30 am, Guided mindfulness meditation: Charity Scott
9:00-10:00 am, Chair yoga: Nathalie Martin
12:00-1:00 pm, Chair yoga: Nathalie Martin
2:30-3:00 pm, Guided mindfulness meditation: Shari Motro
5:00-5:30 pm, Guided mindfulness meditation: Valena Beety
Saturday Jan 9
8:00-8:30 am, Guided mindfulness meditation: Charity Scott
2:30-3:00 pm, Guided mindfulness meditation: Rhonda Magee
5:00-5:30 pm, Guided mindfulness meditation: TBA
Thanks so much to all who can come and participate with us.
Friday, December 18, 2015
JOB TITLE: Associate Director of Bar Preparation
DEPARTMENT: Academic Success & Bar Preparation
RPORTS TO: Director of Bar Preparation
POSITION SUPERVISES: Work Study Students
POSITION STATUS: Full-time, Exempt
GENERAL SUMMARY: Reporting to the Director of Bar Preparation the Associate Director of Bar Preparation (“Associate Director”) is responsible for helping coordinate and supervise academic success and bar support programs for students at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, with an emphasis on bar preparation. The Associate Director will provide assistance with and will monitor learning outcomes, academic performance, academic support activities to all grade levels, and will participate in all other student retention activities. The successful candidate will also help support law school students and graduates as they prepare for their bar examinations, including by teaching Academic Success and bar-related courses and by coordinating post-graduation bar support programming.
ESSENTIAL DUTIES & RESPONSIBLITIES:
• Work collaboratively with faculty, the Director of Bar Preparation, the Assistant Dean of Academic Success & Bar Preparation, and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs to assess and address the current needs for programming and support.
• Participate in the presentation of academic success program activities beginning with the new student orientation program.
• Work collaboratively to tailor current programming and curriculum to meet the needs of students participating in the Intensive Curriculum.
• Provide administrative, research and design support to the Assistant Dean of Academic Success & Bar Preparation and the Director of Bar Preparation.
• Provide administrative support to the Academic Success & Bar Preparation Program.
• Work collaboratively to provide support to bar candidates.
• Provide support and academic advice and counseling to recent graduates.
• Collaborate to design, develop, and implement the Continuing Bar Program and the Commercial Bar Support Program.
• Work with the Director of Bar Preparation and others in the department in the design of a comprehensive workshop series on topics related to the bar exam.
• Help to track and report information regarding bar passage and programming assessments.
• Enforce campus policies regarding commercial bar preparation access to Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
• Participate in committees as assigned by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
• Represent the law school at and participate in outside conferences and other events organized for and/or by bar preparation or academic support professionals.
• Teach courses that provide academic support and skill development as well as bar preparation-focused courses as needed.
KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS & ABILITIES:
• Required: J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school and a proven record of academic achievement during law school.
• Required: Admission to a state bar in the United States, preferably California.
• Minimum of 3 years of experience practicing law or delivering writing or other instruction in an academic institution or law firm.
• Experience with academic support and bar preparation.
• Experience with curriculum design, including an understanding of educational learning theory, best practices in teaching pedagogy, and individual learning styles.
• Prior academic tutoring or experience in an academic success program.
• Familiarity with online technology.
• Able to sit or stand, type, read or write for extended periods of time.
• Able to handle high level of stress in a useful, constructive manner.
• Able to lift/carry materials and publications up to 20 pounds.
• Able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without accommodation.
• 40 or more hours per week, Monday through Friday, as well as on weekends and in evenings, as needed.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Mark Beese, President of Leadership for Lawyers, has an interesting article in the December 2015 online issue of Law Practice Today. He discusses briefly Carol Dweck's mindset theory as well as Learn or Die by Edward Hess. His article lists some ways that law firms can encourage learning. The link to the article is here: The Law Firm as a Learning Organization. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Our guest post today is by Louis N. Schulze, Jr., Assistant Dean and Professor of Academic Support at Florida International University College of Law. He served on the faculty of Suffolk University Law School (2004-07) and New England Law | Boston (2007-14), earning tenure at the latter in 2012. He is a former Chair of the AALS Section on Academic Support.
Outsourcing Academic Support is a Problematic Proposition
I have been intrigued recently by the discussion occurring on the Academic Support listserv. One member of our community posted a request for information about whether, and to what extent, schools partner with and/ or outsource bar preparation and academic support to bar prep companies. Some schools have dabbled with partnering, and other schools report full-scale immersion. What I took from all of these reports (and my own discussions) was that bar prep companies seek not only to have a hand in for-credit bar prep courses but also in the area of traditional academic support. This troubles me.
I write to express my belief that the wholesale outsourcing of academic support to bar prep companies, though perhaps an attractive proposition for some deans, is a questionable one when viewed through the lens of assessing what is best for our students, our institutions, and the legal profession.
I. Some Preliminary Matters.
First, I think a dichotomy exists between bar prep companies’ role in curricular bar preparation during law school and bar prep companies’ role in academic support during law school. Unsurprisingly, bar prep companies are quite good at bar prep. For reasons explained infra, I believe that bar prep companies are less able to meet the unique goals of academic support.
Part of my thesis relies on this distinction; while I am somewhat more optimistic about partnering with bar prep companies for curricular bar preparation during law school, I am far less sanguine about the increased presence of bar preparation companies in the area of academic support. I think this dichotomy is a crucial one for deans and academic support professionals to digest, as there is a material difference between these two realms.
Second, I think a distinction exists between “partnering” with a bar prep company and the “wholesale outsourcing” of courses or programs. Unlike the bar prep/ academic support dichotomy I posit above, I see this distinction more as a spectrum than a binary choice. The lightest form of “partnering” would likely be adopting a bar prep company’s materials and questions in a course, while the opposite end of the spectrum (the “wholesale outsourcing”) would entail having a bar prep company fully teach and administer some facet of a law school’s offerings.
In my view, as a law school’s choices increase from “partnering” towards “wholesale outsourcing,” those choices become more questionable. While there are no doubt many acceptable points along the spectrum, law schools ought to think carefully about crossing the threshold between partnering and outsourcing, especially in the area of academic support.
II. My Arguments.
My thesis is that law schools should not outsource academic support, per se, to bar prep companies. I am less concerned about partnering/ outsourcing law school bar prep courses. I am even only mildly concerned about partnering with bar companies in the area of academic support. But what I fear is that bar prep companies, in the name of diversifying product lines and increasing profits, will seek to dominate not only the bar prep market and the law school bar prep course market, but also the field of academic support. In my view, such a result would do more harm than good to our students.
But why is this so?
1. First, one-on-one academic support is the most effective academic support, but it is not the most cost-efficient. Anyone who teaches law school academic support has had the experience of watching a student’s eyes light up as they have the big “ah ha!” moment. Some call this “the law school click.” It occurs when a student suddenly makes multiple connections, all at once, and realizes exactly what her professors are getting at – why we use cases to teach law; why creating outlines is important; why we test the way we do; why one must “argue both sides”; why all these methods make students better lawyers.
Usually, this moment occurs in an office with both student and ASP professor huddled over a desk, reviewing an exam, a paper, or some other work product. This moment is usually preceded by other less fruitful in-person moments, but the point is that the “ah ha” moment is one that happens over time and in a one-on-one setting. While it’s true that our ASP classes facilitate these moments, and give the framework and coursework for the moments of enlightenment, I’ve found that the “ah ha” moments happen in-person.
This is much less likely to happen if academic support is provided by bar prep companies. Why? Bar prep companies are corporations, and as such they owe fiduciary duties to their investors. They do not owe fiduciary duties to the students they are teaching. As a result, if they can cut costs by reducing costly endeavors they can and must do so. The first item on the chopping-block would be the costly method of one-on-one, individualized meetings.
2. Academic support is not one size fits all, but one size fits all is cost-efficient. Each law school’s academic support methods differ significantly from the methods of others. This has a lot to do with the differences in administrations, faculties, students, and missions of each law school. Applying the methods of one school to that of another would be ineffective because academic support must be tailored to the environment of the law school. An approach to the contrary waters down the effectiveness of the program, plain and simple.
But, one size fits all is cost-efficient. If a corporation could fashion an academic support program that could be installed as-is into multiple law schools, such a program would increase the profit margin of the endeavor. By contrast, tailoring an academic support program to the unique needs of individual schools (let alone students) would be cost-inefficient. Changing aspects of the curriculum to account for differences in faculties, students, and other stakeholders would require person-hours, and person-hours come with a price tag. As a result, because bar prep companies are corporations, and corporations have a fiduciary duty to the bottom line, academic support would likely become one size fits all.
3. There are many purposes for academic support, but bar passage is the ultimate purpose of any bar prep company. Law schools provide academic support for myriad reasons: to decrease dismissal rates; to support students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds; to humanize the law school environment; to communicate performance expectations more expressly; to increase bar passage rates; and to make students better lawyers. Each institution may emphasize these purposes differently, but at the very least each of these is likely on the table in terms of justifying expenditures for academic support.
But, the purpose of a bar prep company is solely to promote bar passage. While this purpose might coincide with some of the other purposes, it likely subordinates them to a “lesser” status. Moreover, setting bar passage as the sole or primary purpose of academic support could actually be antithetical to the other goals. For instance, one could argue that to increase bar passage rates, a law school should actually increase its dismissal rates. That way, only the strongest students “count” in terms of bar passage rate. An academic support program focused solely on bar passage, therefore, might spend little time on saving 1Ls and all of its time on those who managed to get through. Although this approach might increase a school’s bar passage rate, it would utterly fly in the face of schools’ duties to the students they admit.
4. Successful academic support relies heavily on an ASP faculty’s engagement with other faculty. If academic support is outsourced to bar prep companies, whose employees would not be embedded in the institution full-time (under the proposal with which I am familiar), the academic support program would lack the crucial element of connection to the institution’s faculty.
This point relates to “buy-in,” and a successful academic support program must have it from both faculty and students. Students buy in to an academic support program if they know that there is a regular and positive collaboration between their doctrinal faculty (who will grade their work) and their academic support faculty. Meanwhile, doctrinal faculty buy in to an academic support program when they know, among other things, that the academic support faculty will help students with more than just passing the bar and that the academic support faculty will not re-teach the doctrine or teach in a way that conflicts with their course. Because a cost-efficient bar prep company academic support provider must pop around between multiple law schools, neither students nor faculty can be assured that the support program will embody the type of multi-stakeholder synergy necessary for success.
5. Another crucial element of successful academic support is knowledge of one's students’ strengths and weaknesses and providing counseling that helps enhance the former and mitigate the latter. This happens over time and requires a great deal of relationship building. The level of trust required to develop these relationships seems unlikely to exist if the academic support provider is not imbedded within the institution.
This point relates to the murky intersection of academic support and counseling. While ASP faculty are (mostly) not trained psychological counselors, a great deal of our most effective work occurs on the personal level. An outsourced academic support program might be able to determine that a student is weak on essays, but a true academic support professional will know WHY the student developed this weakness and how to help work the student toward mastering the problem – both on the academic and personal level. An outsourced academic support program simply will not have time to work on this holistic (but critical) endeavor. In short, an outsourced program teaches students; a true academic support program teaches people.
6. Subtle conflicts of interest. ASP faculty are often called upon to be unofficial advocates for the student body. Because we know our constituency so well, we provide robust input in institutional conversations that could impact students. Because we have certain employment protections (and this is just one reason why ASP professionals should be eligible to earn tenure and long-term contracts), we can advocate for students in ways that outside contractors cannot. Because bar prep companies will likely have their own pecuniary interests in mind, they likely will not advocate for students in the same way as ASP faculty.
For instance, many ASP professionals serve on their law school’s Academic Review Committee or provide data to those committees when they decide whether to readmit dismissed students. Student petitions for readmission often paint the rosiest picture for the students’ readmission, while grades and LSAT scores provide only a limited picture of a student’s potential. ASP professionals who have worked closely with the dismissed students can provide information that paints a clearer and more objective picture of whether a school should take a chance on readmitting dismissed students.
Outsourced academic support programs cannot possibly provide that level of objectivity and nuance. First, it is doubtful that an Academic Review Committee would permit an outside contractor ever to serve on such a committee. But even if the committee accepted data and observations from such a source, how could the committee ever trust that the information is objective when the outside contractor has a vested interest in ensuring that no “borderline” student ever sits for the bar and possibly harm the school’s bar passage rate? Why would an outside contractor ever take such a chance when their future contractual relations rely on bar passage? As a result, law schools lose an opportunity for clearer information about their students when they outsource academic support.
Law schools should not outsource academic support to commercial bar prep companies, a proposal that at least one company is marketing. At many schools, in-house academic support programs provide a genuine and effective source for student support. Partnering with such companies in the area of academic support and even outsourcing curricular bar prep courses might be reasonable, but the wholesale abrogation of a law school’s fiduciary duty to prepare its students for success is deeply problematic. Should law schools follow this slippery slope, they slide one step closer to outsourcing clinical, legal writing, and even doctrinal teaching.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Many of our students have completed all of their exams. Some are relaxed, happy, laughing, and looking forward to a 5 1/2-week break from school. Others are glad the exams are over, but now are anxious about the long wait for grades. Some are anxious because they want to be the people who get the As instead of the B+s or Bs. But more students are concerned about "the great middle" or about the low end of the grading spectrum. These students perhaps found one or more exams particularly difficult or were unable to complete an exam because of time management.
Whatever the situation, spending the entire semester break stressing about grades is counter-productive. The exams are over. No amount of anxiety is going to change the outcomes. And at most law schools, grades will not be due until after the holidays, so there is no quick remedy to the wait.
Here are some general thoughts on exams that may help our law student readers while waiting for grades to be posted:
- An exam tests the student on one set of questions, on one day, and during one testing time period. A student's grade may not reflect the depth of understanding across an entire course or how that day/time period was a bit "off" for the student.
- Avoid beating yourself up about specifics of an exam. Whether you are annoyed that you missed several issues, ran out of time, or misstated a rule, realize that you did the best you could under the time constraints and on the questions asked.
- Ignore what other students' said after the exam. Some will claim it was easy or that they aced it in order to make others nervous. Some will have written about issues that were not on the exam despite their certainty that you missed an important issue. Drama comes with the territory; do not let it increase your stress.
- Remember that law school exams are not of the undergraduate variety where 95 - 100% is an A grade. Law school exams are difficult, and it is not uncommon for the A grades to go to students who received 70 - 75% of the possible points.
- Obviously you want to manage your time well enough to finish an exam whenever possible. However, some professors write exams that take more time to complete than the time allotted. Why? Sometimes they misjudge what students can finish in the allotted time (after all, they are experts on the material). Sometimes they purposely write a longer exam than the allotted time because it makes it easier for the students who really understood the material to stand out in their application of the concepts. Remember that you may not be alone in not completing the entire exam.
- A bad grade on an exam is one event in a longer academic career in law school. Assuming your law school program is around 90 credits, you might have 20 - 30 exams over that time. One course is just a small portion of that academic career.
It is very important that you keep your perspective about your value as a law student and a person:
- You are not the sum total of your grades. Whether your grades are high, average, or low, you are so much more than those letters. You are the same bright and talented person as when you walked across the law school threshold for the first time.
- You are part of a group of very intelligent people, so your competition for grades may be different than in your past experiences. You may have to work harder or study differently to meet the challenges of being in a very bright cohort of law students. Take time to evaluate your study habits and exam-taking strategies. Note what worked and what needs improvement during the next semester.
- Do not underestimate your worth if you receive lower grades than you expected. You can improve your grades by implementing new study and exam-taking strategies. The academic support professionals at your law school can assist you in learning those strategies.
- But also do not overestimate your brilliance if you did well; students learn from their studying and exam-taking errors and often improve the next semester - especially first-year students. So do not become complacent about your success and slack off while others will be making changes to improve their grades.
- If you decide that law school is not for you, that is okay. However, make that decision based on pursuing another career passion rather than on emotion over grades. If you love the law and realize that different strategies will improve your learning, then law school may still be for you. But if you know you really want to be an artist, get an MBA, open your own business, or attend nursing school, then go after your dream. Law school is not for everyone.
- Should your grades end up so weak that you are not allowed to continue in law school, you are not a failure. You did not do well in law school, but that does not equate with being a bad person or a failure in life. I know a number of people who left law school for academic reasons and enjoyed successful careers in other fields. They found their niches; it just was not a good match in law.
Fill your wait time for grades productively. Spend time with family and friends. Pet a dog. Laugh with a child. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or charity event to refocus on life's values. Catch up on sleep and exercise. Enjoy some home cooking. Value what you may have missed while immersed in legal studies. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, December 14, 2015
Several more articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education follow up on the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Scalia's controversial remark, and thoughts on the case: Supreme Court Laments How Little It Really Knows About Race-Conscious Admissions; A Closer Look at a Comment by Justice Scalia; 'This Case Shouldn't Be Here' .
Thursday, December 10, 2015
CALL FOR NOMINATIONS FOR OFFICERS AND BOARD MEMBERS FOR THE AALS SECTION ON ACADEMIC SUPPORT
At the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) in New York City, the Section on Academic Support will have its business meeting on Saturday, January 9 at 7:00 a.m. (Room TBA). A principal agenda item will be the election for positions on the Executive Committee.
The Nomination Committee is now accepting nominations for positions to be elected at the 2016 meeting. The four elected Board Members serve staggered two-year terms, with two members being elected in odd-numbered years, and two being elected in even-numbered years. The four Board Members, together with the Chairperson, the Chairperson-Elect, the Immediate Past Chair, the Secretary, and the Treasurer, constitute the Executive Committee of the Section. The Executive Committee is the key policy-making body of the Section, and acts on behalf of the section in the interval between annual meetings. Because some vacancies have occurred unexpectedly in the Executive Committee for next year, Lisa Young (Seattle) will continue as Chair and Corie Rosen Felder (University of Colorado) will rotate from Treasurer to Chair-Elect in order to maintain continuity within the Executive Committee.
Positions to be filled: The officer positions which are vacant for the current election include Secretary and Treasurer. Two Board Members will be elected also, and the Board terms will expire January 2018.
The Secretary and Treasurer would be asked to serve as a Chair or Co-Chair of a committee during the position. For continuity purposes, the Secretary and Treasurer positions are recommended for rotation into other officer slots in the coming years. The Secretary rotates to Chair-Elect and then to Chair. The Treasurer rotates to Secretary, then Chair-Elect, and then Chair.
Board Members would be asked to serve as members of at least one committee during their positions.
Who May Be Nominated: Persons nominated must be faculty or professional staff at AALS-member law schools (link to AALS-member-school list: http://www.aals.org/member-schools/) and also be members of the AALS Section on Academic Support. The nominated person does not have to be present at this year’s AALS Annual Meeting, but would be expected to attend AALS in the future.
Who May Submit a Nomination: You may nominate yourself or any other eligible candidate at a AALS member school.
Contents of Nomination: Nominations must be in writing and include:
1) the candidate's name;
2) the candidate's title, institutional affiliation, and business address;
3) the candidate's home/business telephone numbers and e-mail address; and
4) the candidate's professional role at his/her institution and connection with law school academic support.
5) If you nominate someone other than yourself, please indicate whether you have obtained the nominee's permission.
Deadline: Nominations must be received by midnight on Tuesday December 15, 2015.
Where to send Nominations: Send nominations to Amy Jarmon, Assistant Dean for Academic Success Programs (Texas Tech) at email@example.com (email submissions are preferred) or to Dr. Amy L. Jarmon, Assistant Dean for Academic Success Programs, Texas Tech University School of Law, 1802 Hartford Avenue, Lubbock, TX 79409-0004.
The process after nominations close: After the nominations close, the Nomination Committee will ask each nominee to express his/her interest in serving on the Executive Committee, will review the nominations, and will recommend a slate of candidates at the business meeting. In addition, under the bylaws, nominations will be taken from the floor during the business meeting.
Section on Academic Support Nomination Committee
Amy Jarmon (Chair), Texas Tech University
Jamie Kleppetsch, John Marshall Law School
Kris Franklin, New York Law School