Thursday, August 28, 2014

What I learned this summer…

The summer was a whirlwind.  Prepping students for the bar exam means that you are constantly on call and required to be positive and upbeat even when you are not necessarily feeling that way.  It is truly exhausting.  I learned that while I am generally a positive and energetic person, I too need down time.  After the bar was wrapped up and I organized the tornado of papers that took over my office, I took a break and unplugged.

We often read about how media is overtaking our lives and that we should encourage our students and children to unplug and go outside.  I am often the one preaching such advice.  It was not until I made a conscious choice to unplug and schedule my out of office email reply message that I realized I too have been swallowed by the digital age. 

Thus, for most of one week, I did not check email, social media, or my cell phone.  It was so liberating…once I got used to it.  I learned that I spend a lot of time plugged in, which can be distracting and time consuming.  This semester, I encourage everyone to carve out time weekly, or even daily, where you schedule time to unplug.  We need to practice what we preach and we need to be more mindful of how we use our time.  So, as you are gearing up for the semester and planning your calendar, think about including a block of time where you move away from technology, unplug, and learn something new about yourself.    

Lisa Bove Young

August 28, 2014 in Advice, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Academic Success Counselor Position at Valparaiso

Job Description

Valparaiso University Law School invites applicants for the position of Academic Success Counselor.

Valparaiso University Law School is located in northwest Indiana and is part of a residential community with excellent public schools and other resources.  It is approximately ten miles from Lake Michigan and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as well as one hour from downtown Chicago.

The law school is an integral part of Valparaiso University, a Lutheran affiliated institution founded in 1859 and known for its outstanding liberal arts education and professional programs.  For more information about Valparaiso University Law School, see

Valparaiso University is looking for an Academic Success Counselor.  The duties of the position include, but are not limited to, teaching academic study skills to currently enrolled Valparaiso University law students, counseling students on academic and bar exam success skills and attorney licensing requirements, and advising graduates studying for the bar examination.

Responsibilities Include:

  • Assists in counseling and advising new students, students on academic probation, students "at risk", and any other student seeking to improve academic performance and/or other academic issues including course scheduling, social influences, etc.  Assist students in developing individualized learning plans and monitor progress throughout the semester.
  • Tracks the academic progress of "at-risk" and academic probation students through detailed note taking.
  • Designs lesson plans and present workshops, tutorials, and programs on topics such as analytical skills, learning styles, time management skills, case briefing, note taking, outlining, exam preparation, and exam taking.  Evaluate the success of these programs through student evaluations and other means.
  • In conjunction with the Directors of Academic Success, directs the Dean's Fellow's program.  Recruits, trains, and supervises the Dean's fellows.  Evaluates the success of the program through student evaluations and other means.
  • Assists students in reviewing answers to practice exams and provides advice regarding exam strategy, including bar exam essays and strategies.
  • Assists the Directors in maintaining the Academic Success website.
  • Assist in bar exam coaching.
  • Perform all other duties assigned by the Directors of Academic Success.

Successful applicants will demonstrate a commitment to cultural diversity and the ability to work with individuals or groups from diverse backgrounds.

Employment at Valparaiso University will require a criminal background check.

To be considered for this position you must upload:

  • Cover letter
  • Resume
  • List of 3 professional references
  • Answer all the application questions

Please address cover letter to:

Deondra Devitt, Assitant Director, Human Resource Generalist, Valparaiso University, School of Law, Valparaiso, IN 46383

Required Skills

  • Excellent verbal, written, and interpersonal communication skills
  • Ability to establish and maintain positive working relationships with faculty, staff, law school affiliates and guests
  • Ability to use initiative and independent judgment withing established policy and procedural guidelines
  • Ability to handle and keep confidential a variety of different student questions and concerns

Required Experience

  • J.D. degree from an ABA accredited law school with a strong academic record is required
  • 1 to 3 years of legal experience is preferred
  • At least one (1) year of academic experience in either law school teaching, counseling, or bar exam tutoring is preferred
  • Must be a member of a state bar who has successfully completed a bar examination
  • Strong academic and professional qualifications, as well as a demonstrated interest in teaching students with diverse backgrounds

Job Location

Valparaiso, Indiana, United States

Position Type



August 27, 2014 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Tutors are important members of the ASP team.  Anecdotally, I know that law students often will seek advice from a classmate before they will come to an “official” in administration.  This is true for academic coaching as well.

• Tutors have the advantage of being students themselves.  Some will have taken the course they are tutoring, from the instructor they are working for.  Tutors are in a position to know the professor’s teaching style, their focus and their exam style.  They will have a good handle on the workload for that course and, hopefully, will be enthusiastic about the doctrinal subject they are tutoring.

• If possible, work with the tutors at your school and help them become ASPish.  Tutors should understand that they can be really effective if they utilize some of the tools Academic Support Professionals use every day. 

• First, encourage tutors to think about their students’ learning styles.  An online tool for students to use which is easy and quick is the VARK.  Once tutors understand that students have different learning styles, ask tutors to use different teaching modes to teach to these styles.  PowerPoint and Prezi are good for visual learners.  Auditory learners benefit from a clear and organized lecture style.  Think pair share exercises are excellent teaching tools which add an active learning component into the session.

• Tutors should not merely give students the “answer.” Tutors should encourage students to be self-regulated learners.  Michael Hunter Schwartz’s book, Expert Learning for Law Students is an excellent resource to take students step by step through this process.

 • Tutors are in a position to give meaningful feedback to students.  It is especially important for first year students to know that the process of law school manageable and could even be enjoyable.  Constructive and positive feedback from tutors will help them succeed. (Bonnie Stepleton)

August 26, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Get Organized -- from the beginning

When you start anything new – it is good to get organized.  Starting school off right is beneficial – whether you are the teacher or the student.  Law students should identify a study spot and equip it with space for casebooks; study aids; and office or school supplies, such as paper, pens, markers, etc.   When you use the study space, keep it organized.  If everything that you will need has a “spot,” you will be more effective when you use the study space. So, keep the space organized by returning items that you use to their spots as you finish tasks.

Get a good calendar.  Review your course syllabi to create monthly, weekly, and daily schedules.  Note major deadlines and be prepared to work backwards from those deadlines. Mark all deadlines and exam dates on your calendar as they become known to you.  For example, your student records office or registrar may have posted your final exam schedule and your Legal Research and Writing Course syllabus likely includes due dates for major writing assignments. 

Create a weekly schedule.  Begin by penciling in class times and any regular appointments.  Next, block in study time for each class.  At the outset your weekly schedule should include times to do course reading, times to review reading notes and case briefs before class, and times to review class notes.  Review reading notes and case briefs before class and review class notes within twenty-four hours of taking them.  Note that recently published studies indicate that taking notes in longhand promotes learning more than typing your notes on a laptop.

Last, but certainly not least, your weekly schedule should include some “down time.”  Get weekly exercise; eat well; and enjoy the law school ride!

(Myra Orlen)

August 25, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jr. Faculty Scholarship Exchange--Oct. 17, 2014

August 18, 2014

Dear colleagues:

As the summer wanes and we move into the fall semester, the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth School of Law wishes to invite you to our Second Annual Junior Faculty Scholarship Exchange. This is an opportunity for junior faculty in the New England region to gather together to discuss works in progress, finished papers, research interests, and to network with peers from other institutions. Our hope is to provide a local forum for legal scholars to develop their ideas and scholarship with input and constructive criticism from fellow law teachers. This event is especially aimed at faculty with seven, or fewer, years of law teaching experience.

We are hosting this conference at the UMass Club, located in the heart of Boston’s financial district, on the 33rd floor of 225 Franklin Street. The venue is close to South Station, and the red and orange lines of the MBTA, several parking garages and local hotels. A hot buffet lunch, with morning and afternoon snack services will be provided. For directions, see:

Please consider joining us for this event by marking your calendar for Friday, October 17th, 2014, from 10 to 4. Seating will be limited. To register for the Junior Faculty Scholarship Exchange, send me an email at Kindly include a short abstract of the work you wish to share with our group. We will confirm your registration for the event. Once we achieve capacity, we will need to decline further registrations . As this event is being underwritten by the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth School of Law there is no registration fee. Attendees will need to assume responsibility for their personal travel or lodging expenses.

Feel free to forward this invitation to a junior faculty member that you believe may be interested.  If this is information that you would prefer not to receive, please let us know and we will take you off of our list. If you have any immediate questions or concerns please call us at (509)985-1121, and ask to speak with Emma or me. Thank you.


Spencer E. Clough

Associate Dean/Director of the Law Library

The University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth School of Law


August 23, 2014 in Current Affairs, Meetings, Miscellany, News, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Post Bar Exam Reflection: Gratitude

Directly after the bar exam, winter or summer, I am exhausted.  I feel like I have been studying for eight weeks and like I took the bar exam myself- twice.  However, I did not study all summer; nor did I take the bar exam this summer (maybe next year).  But, I, like many of you, was in overdrive helping all of my students prepare for the most challenging exam of their life.

In reflecting on this summer’s bar review, I realize that I learned so much from my students.  I also realize how much they appreciate me and the work that I do.  I worked closely with a few groups of students.  About one week before the bar exam one of the groups surprised me with a homemade lunch that included flowers and gifts and cookies and cards and gratitude and love.  And another group that same week gave me an amazing flower arrangement with notes of gratitude.

Now, we have all received cards and maybe a bottle of wine or chocolates, but these moments were different.  These students brought these gifts to me right before the bar exam, not after.  They were busy studying, preoccupied with readying their bags for their nights away, and trying to keep their anxiety in check; but, they took the time to thank me in these heartfelt ways. 

I cannot express how much these “gifts” moved me.  Yes, the lunch was delicious and the flowers were lovely.  But, that was not what made my heart sing.  It was the sincerity in their gifts.  These gifts embodied gratitude and thoughtfulness.  I could see their gratitude in their eyes. I will never forget their eyes.  I feel blessed to be able to do the work that I do and moments like these make the 24/7 on call, utter exhaustion, and stress of the bar exam all worth it.

On Giving

You give but little when you give of your possessions.

It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. Kahlil Gibran


Lisa Bove Young

August 21, 2014 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Learning Curve Call for Submissions

Dear colleagues, 

The Learning Curve is the official publication of the AALS Section on Academic Support.  It is published twice yearly, once in the summer and once in the winter.  As shared in the summer issue last month (also attached again here), the Editors are considering articles for the upcoming winter issue.  We are particularly interested in submissions surrounding the new issue’s themes of incorporating experiential learning into programs and meeting the needs of law students in the "new normal."  Are you doing something innovative in your classroom that helps motivate a new generation of law students?  Do you have a fresh take on technology or what it means to be "ASPish" in these changing times?  Do you have proven exercises and assessment tools from which your colleagues might benefit?   

Please send your submission as an attached Word document to by no later than October 1, 2014.  (Please do not send inquiries to the Gmail account, as it is not regularly monitored.)  Articles should be 500 to 2,000 words in length.  If light references are appropriate, please include them in a references list at the end of your manuscript, as opposed to using footnotes.  (For examples, please see the attached issue.)  

We encourage both new and seasoned ASP (and ASP-friendly) professionals to submit their work.  Please ensure that your articles are applicable to our wide readership. Principles that apply broadly — i.e., to all teaching or support program environments — are especially welcome.  While we always want to be supportive of your work, we discourage articles that focus on advertising for an individual school’s program.

We wish you all the best as you begin a new academic year, and we look forward to reading your work and learning from you!

--The Learning Curve Editors 

Courtney Lee, Pacific McGeorge (Executive Editor) 

Lisa Young, Seattle (Associate Editor) 

Jeremiah Ho, UMass Dartmouth (Assistant Editor) 


August 20, 2014 in Publishing, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Welcome to Law School!

Welcome to law school!


Welcome to law school, we’re glad you’re here! Many of you will be hearing this statement over and over again during the next few weeks, and may have various thoughts as to why so many people keep saying the same thing.  Are they truly glad I’m here?  Is this some sort of veiled greeting that masks the torture that waits?  Will they still be happy to see me if I ask a “dumb” question?  All good questions that any cautious soon to be lawyer would ask when entering into foreign territory.   Let me hopefully assuage your fears by responding to those questions.

            Yes, we are truly glad that you are at your respective law school.  When many people are making the choice not to embark on this particular career path, you have decided to follow your passion to serve others and make this society better through the law.  We are glad that you will continue to enrich the legal bar with your soon to be acquired legal skills.    Does some form of torture await?  Well, I wouldn’t call it torture but more of an intensive training program where you are mentally challenged (sometimes physically too) in order to build a sharp, curious and critical thinking mind.   It’s somewhat analogous to running a marathon (so I’m told)  the preparation is grueling and at times you may want to quit, but when the time comes to actually run the 26 miles you are ready and crossing the finish line will be the best thing in the world.  A victory like no other; much like law school graduation or passing the bar exam.   Will they still like you if you ask a “dumb” question?   Everyone who enters law school as a student does so not having practiced law before, so no question is a dumb question.  You are here to learn and professors will be very happy if you ask questions.   In fact, one of the ways that your professors get to know you is by your questions and comments.   Ask questions in class and in office hours.  Let them know that you are paying attention and that you are curious; let them know who you are.  Think of your professors as your trainers for the marathon.  They are there to give you guidance, knowledge and encouragement as you train.  However, they can’t give you what you need if you don’t ask questions and let them know what you need to succeed. 

So, welcome to law school, I’m glad you decided to join the profession!   I really mean it. (LMV)

August 19, 2014 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Getting comfortable being uncomfortable – good for teachers as well as students

Orientation for incoming 1L’s starts today!  ASP’ers are prepped to welcome students to law school: introductory lessons are prepared; workshops are scheduled resource rooms are stocked with study aids. 

What else can we do?  As we prepare to, and work with, students embarking on the new challenges that are integral to law school, why not experience new challenges?  The answer:  Paint Night, anyone?  A perfect activity the week before orientation was to  go to the local participatory arts organization and try to create a reproduction of Van Gogh’s Seascape at Saintes-Maries.  With brush in hand, mix a palette of colors from only four tubes of paint and try to recreate Van Gogh’s depth and movement – in two hours.

While paint night does not present the same pressures as those experienced by entering (and returning) law students, it did afford the opportunity to experience the unfamiliar and to try to complete a task under time constraints.  Happy first day of school!

(Myra Orlen)

August 18, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Law School Action Comics #5


(Alex Ruskell)

August 17, 2014 in Advice, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Importance of Attitude for Law School Success

As the beginning of another school year approaches, I have been thinking about how a law student's success is so closely tied to the attitudes of the student.  Here are some of my thoughts after observing law students through working in ASP and teaching elective courses.

Attitudes for success:

  • Confidence in one's ability to adapt and learn is positive.  It is a new educational frontier when 1Ls arrive.  With flexibility and willingness to learn, most 1Ls will gain the new strategies for legal education success.
  • Openness to constructive criticism coupled with hard work will turn around many of the typical 1L errors in critical analysis and writing (whether exam answer or memorandum).
  • Willingness to seek help in a proactive way will overcome many obstacles.  Students who use resources in a timely manner can ameliorate problems before they become intractable - whether the help is from professors, librarians, academic success professionals, deans, or other resources.
  • Respect for others at all levels within the law school community will engender respectful treatment in return.  Much of the tension and competitiveness of law school can be lessened when everyone in the environment remains respectful.  Faculty, administrators, staff, and students are all integral to that environment being present.
  • Kindness improves one's outlook about law school and engenders helpfulness rather than hostility.  A student who values collegiality will lend notes to an ill classmate, explain a concept to a struggling student, and share a kind word with a classmate faced with a crisis.
  • Passion for a desired professional goal will often provide motivation when the going gets tough.  Examples are: I volunteered with abused children and want to represent children in need of protection.  I want to be part of helping families immigrating to the U.S.    As a former park ranger, I want to practice environmental law.

Attitudes detrimental to success:

  • Arrogance about one's superiority in comparison to others skews reality.  1Ls who arrive resting on their laurels and smug about how special they are often figure out the differences in law school too late in the semester to achieve their academic potential.
  • Refusal to take responsibility for one's learning and understanding will lead to lower grades.  Students who earn grades below their academic potential are often focused on what the professor, writing specialist, academic success professional, or [fill in the blank] should have done for them.  They avoid recognizing and correcting the things they chose not to do to help themselves.
  • Perfectionism creates unrealistic expectations that lead to exhaustion.  Students who desire to be perfect will be overwhelmed by the amount of work.  They often have trouble starting or finishing tasks in a timely manner because of their standards.
  • Expected mediocrity can result from self-defeating comparisons to other law students.  Students who begin to view themselves as not as good as others will often settle for lower grades.  Examples are: I guess I am just a C student.  Everyone else is so much smarter than I am.   I'll never get an A grade.
  • Immaturity leads to lack of effort and frivolous time management that result in bad grades.  These students overlook that law school is a professional school and stay stuck in undergraduate behaviors.  Playing every evening and weekend, drinking oneself into a stupor, and focusing on socializing lead to poor academic decisions.
  • Apathy can result when law school has no personal meaning to the student.  Examples are:  I came to law school because I did not know what else to do.  All males in my family have been attorneys for the last five generations - it was expected that I be a lawyer.

Attitudes color students' ability to adapt to law school, to handle the stress, to seek help, and to reach their full academic potential.  Positive attitudes need to be nurtured.  Negative attitudes need to be addressed to minimize harmful results.  Attitudes will affect whether students just survive or thrive.  (Amy Jarmon)


August 16, 2014 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Can Your Students Cursive?

I was surprised several years ago when I discovered that many of my law students can only print.  They are unable to write in cursive (or longhand as some of us also remember it being called).  Some explained that their elementary/middle/high schools had never taught them cursive writing at all.  Others stated that they had learned it at some point but had little experience writing in cursive now.

In catching up on some back The Chronicle of Higher Education articles, I came across an article by Valerie Hotchkiss about the implications of another non-cursive generation and what the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign is doing to combat the loss of cursive: Cursive Is an Endangered Species.  (Amy Jarmon)

August 15, 2014 in Miscellany, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Job Opening: Director of Bar Support at UMass Law


Director of Bar Support

Job Description:

SUMMARY PURPOSE OF POSITION: The Director of Bar Success will work with the Director of Academic Success, as well as faculty and staff, including the Director of Graduate Academic Resources and Legal Writing Center, to assist students and graduates as they prepare for the bar exam, both as they progress through Law School and after they graduate.   Develops, coordinates, and implements school-wide initiatives to improve bar passage, including joint workshops and courses, and meetings with students, graduates, Academic Success professionals and faculty.


  • Implements, evaluates, and enhances existing bar-preparation services.
  • Improves and expands existing programs, including:  providing a clearinghouse of bar preparation, collaborating with commercial bar preparation companies to assist students with their bar preparation efforts, working with ASP staff to coordinate a mentor program to provide individual mentors to graduates preparing for the bar, tracking at-risk students’ preparation for the bar exam and performance on the exam, and providing resources for repeat bar exam takers.
  • Helps individual students and graduates develop and execute customized study plans and strategies for
  • passing the bar exam.
  • Creates individual student plans of study after one-on-one meetings with all 2L, 3L, and 4L students.
  • Individual student and graduate counseling and mentoring.
  • Provides advice on course selection.
  • Provides general assistance about bar application completion.
  • Meets regularly with students and graduates who are preparing for the bar exam and reviews sample bar exam essays. and provides analysis and feedback to help them improve their writing skills.
  • Instruction in workshops and for-credit course.
  • Coordinates instruction and assessments for or teaches for-credit bar preparation course and provides feedback on student work product.
  • Analyzes bar exam results (including statistical analysis) and provides regular reports concerning results.
  • Provides bar-related information to faculty members regarding topics tested and recent bar exam questions in the faculty member’s area of teaching and encourages and supports faculty development with respect to the bar exam.
  • Develops web page and other communications describing bar support program and services.
  • Stays abreast of bar exam developments in Massachusetts and nationally and of developments in the delivery of bar support by law schools.
  • Regularly attends and develops relationships at regional and national bar support professionals meetings, with efforts to develop leadership role.
  • Perform other duties as assigned.




EXPERIENCE:Previous (one to three years) experience teaching law students.

OTHER: Evening and weekend work will be required.  Travel may be required.


  • Strong interpersonal, organization, analytical and public speaking skills.
  • Ability develop and manage higher educational programs
  • Knowledge of academic programs pertaining to law school students.
  • Knowledge of educational theories and learning styles/disabilities.
  • Knowledge of and ability to perform research and statistical analysis.
  • Ability to work independently and be a self-starter, demonstrated initiative.
  • Able to relate to students, faculty, University personnel, and external constituents.
  • Demonstrated creativity.
  • Ability to follow-through.


Masters in Education (or related degree)

Bar support work at a Law School

Proven success in raising bar pass rate at a law school

Experience working with the Massachusetts bar exam

Previous experience directing a bar exam program either in a law school or for a commercial provider

About University of Massachusetts Dartmouth:

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth distinguishes itself as a vibrant public university actively engaged in personalized teaching and innovative research, and acting as an intellectual catalyst for regional and global economic, social, and cultural development.

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

UMass Dartmouth is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity, Title IX Employer.

August 14, 2014 in Job Descriptions, Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Foundation Concepts

Summer is winding down and the fall semester starts in a few weeks, which means it’s time for everyone to offer advice on law school success.  Here’s my two cents on how to start the semester off right: understand, organize, analyze. That’s it. Seems simple, right? Of course there is a catch. You will be reading court decisions and reading a case is not like reading fiction or textbooks. It goes beyond understanding the material. A case is just a piece of a much larger puzzle. To put that puzzle together you start with understanding the words within the case but then you must understand the case as a whole and how it fits into the larger organizational scheme. Finally, you must analyze that information under different fact scenarios to predict outcomes and resolve client issues.  It won’t be easy at first and you will make mistakes, but the concepts are foundational and it won’t be long before understanding, organizing, and analyzing becomes a part of your internal thinking process. 


August 13, 2014 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Please Read This Article About the Bar Exam And Mental Health

A very important article for everyone involved in bar support. I am so happy this is on Slate, not just a lawyer's forum. Please read this. Please.

The Worst Part of the Bar Exam: It’s time to drop mental health questions.

By and


Last week, all across the country, tens of thousands of law school graduates endured an agonizing rite of passage: the bar examination.

As if sitting for two or three full days in a large room full of stressing, sweating, swearing candidates weren’t bad enough, at least 40 percent of these candidates were also struggling with another challenge: gaining admission to the profession despite having a psychiatric disability.

In fact, even though the Americans With Disabilities Act has been the law of the land for 24 years, most state bar examiners—agencies that serve under each state’s highest court—still ask bar applicants about their mental health histories. It would be illegal for an employer to do so, but the state can. And it does. Adding to the stress, the state does not then tell the applicants how the information they provide will affect their chances of obtaining licenses to practice law.

The questions aren’t just about conduct that might impair a person’s ability to practice law, such as refusing to seek treatment for psychotic episodes. Instead, the agencies ask about a wide range of medical history. They ask (we offer just a few examples) whether you have ever “had out-patient treatment, for ... major depressive disorder” (Wyoming) or “Within the past five (5) years, have you been diagnosed with or have you been treated for any of the following: ... bipolar disorder or manic depressive mood disorder, major depression ... or any other condition which significantly impaired your behavior, judgment, understanding ... or ability to function in school, work, or other important life activities?” (Colorado). Most states have similar inquiries on their questionnaires for bar applicants; the standard form provided by the National Conference of Bar Examiners includes them, too.

Remember that these soon-to-be-lawyers have already proved themselves more than capable of enduring the intellectual and occupational rigor of law school—and succeeding.

But despite your success, if you are a law student and you answer in the affirmative to having been treated for depression, for example, in many (if not most) states, you must provide the state access to your medical records and the names of all of your doctors. As you might imagine, this is a very invasive and alienating process for students with disabilities.

This policy is, at the very least, deeply humiliating.

Here’s the stark reality of being a law student who has ever—and we emphasize ever—received mental health treatment. These law school students can choose privacy, in which case the $150,000 to $200,000 they have likely just spent on law school is wasted (and nondischargeable in bankruptcy). If they do not respond to these mental health questions, they can never acquire a license to practice law, or at least they are barred from practice until the state bar examiners do the right thing and drop the questions from their applications. (Lying is not an option because law students learn from their very first day of legal studies that the profession holds them to a duty of candor. If they ever lie about anything, they're told, the bar will find out, and they might lose their license to practice.)

Or the law students can choose to answer invasive questions and disclose highly personal information. They can decide to allow the bar examiners to break the law that these candidates will swear to uphold. They can choose to subject themselves to potential discrimination of the highest form, revealing their private medical history to senior members of the profession in the state where they will soon be practicing law.

This policy is, at the very least, deeply humiliating.

There are a number of risks inherent in requiring law students to disclose their medical histories to the faceless boards of law examiners. There is the risk that exposing themselves to strangers will heighten their mental health symptoms, making those with anxiety disorders more anxious (“I might not be admitted to the bar!”) and those with depression more depressed (“I must not be cut out to help people with their legal problems.”) There is the risk that, in a state like Texas, which requires students to begin their bar application during the first year of law school, students with psychiatric disabilities will choose to forgo legal studies to avoid the danger of disclosing their private information to a large group of strangers.

The most dangerous risk of all is that law students with psychiatric disabilities will avoid treatment out of fear of having to report it to the bar examiners and consequently being denied a license to practice law.

This risk highlights the most striking problem with these “fitness” questions: They target students who have sought treatment—an exercise of good judgment—and punish them for it.

There is good news. The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division recently stated formally that the mental health questions on bar fitness applications violate the Americans With Disabilities Act. The DOJ declared that these mental fitness questions use “stereotypes and assumptions about the disabilities and are not necessary to assess applicants’ fitness to practice,” encouraging states to focus on conduct rather than mental health status. The DOJ’s declaration is not enforceable on the states, but it is a clarion call.

Lawyers serve society by helping people with problems. Any number of a lawyer’s clients may themselves have psychiatric disabilities. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, for example, between half and three-quarters of American prison inmates have mental health issues. Common sense dictates that lawyers who can empathize may be of particular help to these clients.

Top Comment

I fully admit that I purposefully avoided seeing a therapist for probable depression while in law school because I knew I would have to disclose my mental health records when applying for the bar.  More...

-not quite learned hand

208 Comments Join In

Is there a way to protect clients from lawyers whose psychiatric disabilities make them truly incompetent to practice law? Certainly. Were a lawyer to experience a psychotic episode that incapacitated her, for example, the state bar might then step in. But there is simply no basis for screening fully functioning bar applicants for some hidden danger that most probably will never emerge, especially in this high-achieving population.

It is time for the legal profession to stop stigmatizing bar applicants for their disabilities and for exercising good self-care.


Lisa T. McElroy is an associate professor of law at the Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law. Follow her on Twitter.


Katie Rose Guest Pryal is a clinical associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill. Follow her on Twitter.


August 12, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Lessons Learned: When ASPer's Write for Law Reviews

I just had my first article accepted (yeah!) and while it is still fresh in my mind, I figure I would give some advice about publishing. I felt like I was lost in the woods; while most law professors worked on a law review in law school, have mentors and peers with vast publishing experience, and/or spent time as a VAP, I did not. I have wonderful, amazing mentors in Judith Wegner, RuthAnn McKinney, and Kris Franklin, but I did not have the day-to-day, hands-on contact with mentors that many doctrinal professors have when they are writing (all three women living several hundred miles from me). This is not because I don't have wonderful people at my school; it's that I was so busy with ASP, that I did not have much time to interact and chat about writing with my UMass colleagues. I know many people in ASP have the same experience.

1) Find some good, highly critical scholars who will review your article. God bless Judith Wegner and Kris Franklin, who read and commented extensively on my article. Don't be sensitive. Look for critical reviewers who will tell you exactly where the article has issues. As my dean says, "when you are in the weeds," it's very difficult to spot big-picture problems with your argument.

Also, find some really strong grammarians to proofread your article. It's amazing what you can miss when you have read your article everyday, for 45 days, 15 hours each day.

2) Go to LWI or AALS sessions on publishing. I attended Katherine Vukadin's session at LWI, and it was invaluable. If you can get your hands on her handout from LWI, do it! I used her suggestions as a guide when I wrote my abstract and cover letter, and her marketing advice was 100%, spot-on perfect (in fact, I think I am getting publishing in one of my first choice law reviews because I sent a marketing letter directly to the editors).

3) Do NOT switch computers between finishing your draft and submitting. If you have a perfect, proofread, spell-checked, and double-checked article ready to submit, submit it from that computer. And be absolutely, 100% certain that you are either submitting via PDF, or you have turned off comments and highlighting (if they are not turned off, you can save a "clean" copy, yet attach a copy with highlights and comments.) Be very, very careful submitting via Expresso and Scholastica. You can't recall a submission (because you submitted the wrong version, found an error, etc.) unless you plan on withdrawing and paying again.Trust me, these issues caused me huge headaches.

4) Let it go. Let it go. Let it go. Yes, it could always be better. Yes, you could spend more time on it. But sometimes, you just need to let it go.

5) If you are writing a pedagogy piece, find some trusted advisers to help you choose a placement. I went with a specialty journal that focuses on my topic (BYU Journal of Education and Law) despite having offers from some very well-ranked general law reviews. I knew that my audience was different from the audience for most law review articles, so I chose a placement that would draw readers and scholars interested in legal education.

Lastly, if you are like me, and terrified of Bluebooking, (because I did not have law review experience from law school) BE NOT AFRAID. Seriously, Bluebooking is about 1/10th as difficult as a law professor than it was when you were a law student. Once I got the hang of it (and it did take a week or so of correcting, and correcting again) it was not difficult, just tedious. I would advise against using a student research assistant to do your Bluebooking if you are afraid to do it yourself. You need to have the confidence to check your article before you submit, and you can't do that if you are relying, completely, on the skill and knowledge of a student worker.

And good luck! I hope to see many more ASPer's writing and publishing. (RCF)







August 9, 2014 in Advice, Publishing, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Final Farewell to Summer

Next week is orientation week (really less than a week) at our law school.  This week I have been grading legal memoranda for our intensive co-taught course that ended on August 1st. Is it really time to start another academic year!  Where did the time go?

On May 1st the summer seemed to stretch out before me in a luxorious shimmer . . . . 

But then I had to grade exams and 30-page advanced writing papers for my spring European Law course. 

Then it was off to Indy for an awesome AASE conference (well, after a day-long delay for bad weather in Houston). 

I turned around long enough to do laundry and flew out East to help my elderly father and attend a family reunion. 

A couple more days for finalizing projects at work, laundry, and paying bills before flying to the UK for research for my two comparative law courses and lecturing at a week-long CLE seminar. 

I flew into Houston on July 4th (welcomed with an overnight stay courtesy of United Airlines because of flight delays and more bad weather).  Up early to fly into Lubbock for a few hours in my office before the evening's welcome dinner for our Summer Entry Program Introduction to Legal Studies students.

Four weeks teaching in SEP filled up July (great group of students who worked really hard).

And that brings me to grading this week and Orientation next week.  I plan to fit in some recharging of my batteries this weekend as my grading winds down into next week.

It will be nice to see fresh, new faces with the arrival of our 1L students.  Equally enjoyable will be greeting the 2L and 3L students as they trickle back for the start of classes on August 18th.

Farewell Summer.  Hello 2014-2015 Academic Year.  Hope your summer, whether hectic or relaxed, was a good one! (Amy Jarmon)


August 8, 2014 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Get comfortable being uncomfortable. This is my mantra for law school, the bar exam, the practice of law. There are always unknown factors and more than one right answer. You have to do your best to be prepared for anything but it still might not be enough. Certainty, absolutes, and complete control are not common. When asked a question, most lawyers answer with, “It depends…” Studying for the bar exam is a real test in getting comfortable being uncomfortable. You struggle to learn a massive amount of material yet are tested on only a fraction of it, and your score depends on how well others do. It’s a nerve-wracking process. I talk to my students about what it takes and how they will feel but I also experience it with them. Each summer during bar prep I do something that makes me uncomfortable. This year I decided to run. Every day. For the entire bar prep period and through the bar exam (66 days). Yes, I’m a runner but I hadn’t been consistent and was definitely not in peak condition. I had never run this many consecutive days and I kept making excuses to not do this challenge. I was a little scared that I would fail, which is exactly why I had to do it.  Before I started I set some ground rules for myself: each week I would take a max of 2 “rest” days (under 2 miles) and do at least 1 challenging run (high mileage, hills, etc.). I would also go public (facebook) so I couldn’t make excuses. Then I started running. I started out cautious because I was afraid I’d get worn out. I realized that was wimpy and kicked it up a notch. I added cross-training two days a week to build up strength. And I kept running. By the end, I ran almost 200 miles in 4 states, lost a few pounds, and got some killer tan lines. I also learned a lot about myself and what it means to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Of all the challenges I have done, this is the one that most connected me to what my students are going through. Here are just a few take-aways:

(1)   If you don’t take a break every now and then, you’ll get worn out and crash.

(2)   There is rarely a good reason not to run but there are a lot of excuses.

(3)   If you don’t have a plan you’ll find yourself running at 9:30pm and again at 6:30am the next day.

(4)   A bad run is still a run and you will benefit from it.

(5)   You must believe in yourself but don’t underestimate the importance of friends and family.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s what it’s all about.


August 6, 2014 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Orientation and Professional Identity Formation

Orientation is a time of exuberance and great excitement. It is the first step in a three year journey which will take students on a roller coaster ride of hard work, emotion, exhaustion, confusion, hope and discovery. Orientation presents an opportunity to help students understand that law school is more than just learning the law.  Students should seek to obtain a whole range of skills. As described in Best Practices for Legal Education, “Rogelio Lasso concluded that good lawyers possess four competencies:  1.  Knowledge which includes technical and general knowledge.  This competency involves the cognitive and analytical skills that have been the principal focus of legal education since the advent of law schools.  2.  Skill which includes two types of lawyering skills:  ‘those needed to obtain and process information and those which enable the lawyer to transform existing situations into those that are preferred.’  3.  Perspective which is the ability to consider the historical, political, ethical and moral aspects of a legal problem and its possible solutions.  4.  Personal attributes which refers to qualities of character that pertain to the way lawyers go about their professional activities and relate to others.” Rogelio Lasso, From the Paper Chase to the Digital Chase: Technology and the Challenge of Teaching 21st Century Law Students, 43 Santa Clara L. Rev. 1, 12-13 (2002).  Invite your new students to be active participants in their education.  Have them think carefully about the classes they choose.  Encourage them to participate in extracurricular activities to enhance their learning and to obtain skills not taught in the classroom.  Urge them to develop relationships with their classmates and to take risks.  Most of all, make students aware of the “Third Apprenticeship” as described in the Carnegie Foundation report.  “The third apprenticeship, which we call the ethical-social apprenticeship, introduces students to the purposes and attitudes that are guided by the values for which the professional community is responsible…” Best Practices for Legal Education, p. 62.  Helping students to develop the competencies to effectively represent clients includes developing behaviors and integrity in situations.  Ask them to be mindful of their conduct in their interactions inside as well as outside of law school.  Tell them you expect them to display civility, honesty, integrity, character, fairness, competence, ethical conduct, public service and respect for the rule of law, the courts, clients, other lawyers, witnesses and unrepresented clients.  As adopted by the New Mexico Commission on Professionalism, 2000.  Law schools can have a lasting impact on legal education right now by taking these simple steps. (Bonnie Stepleton)

August 5, 2014 in Orientation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 4, 2014

more in common than you think . . ..

Recent graduates, who have just taken the bar exam; students about to return to law school; and students about to enter law school have more in common than you think.  Sure they are all heading toward legal careers.  But in addition to the obvious, all of them may find themselves with time on their hands.  All can benefit by reading good books. Recent bar takers can get to books that they had little or no time for in the recent past.  Returning and new students can read for pleasure in the time remaining before the start of the fall semester.  To quote one of my legal writing colleagues, "a good way to improve one's writing is to read good writing."  

Taking my own advice and, once again, relying on my blogging son, I've turned to a book that he suggested: The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande.  Gawande, a surgeon, begins with the premise that failures can stem from either lack of knowledge or ineptitude.  Gawande then addresses the use of checklists – in multiple disciplines – to manage extraordinary amounts of knowledge and expertise.   

Checklists help to ensure that any task is done completely.  For example, law students preparing to submit a writing assignment can use checklists as they edit the assignment.  Additionally, as law students prepare for exams, they can use their course outlines, to prepare checklist for addressing the legal issues that may be tested in each course.  

Similarly, both newly admitted and experienced attorneys can develop and use checklists in a variety of contexts.  For example, transactional attorney can use checklists – tailored to any transaction – to ensure that they fully perform all necessary tasks. 

(Myra Orlen)

August 4, 2014 in Advice, Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)