March 27, 2013
Call for Proposals for AALS 2014 Balance in Legal Education SectionThe section on Balance in Legal Education is pleased to announce its program topic for the 2014 annual meeting of the American Association of Law Schools as "The Many Connections Between Well-Being and Professionalism in the Practice of Law." The focus of this topic will be how well-being contributes to, and may indeed be necessary for, the ethical, civil, and responsible practice of law. This topic naturally calls upon presenters to think about the intersection between the growing research in the field of law student and lawyer well-being and traditional law school subjects such as professional responsibility, as well as practice-oriented classes such as clinical courses, legal writing, and trial practice.
The Section is seeking a double session for this program consisting of two 90-minute parts. The first part would be devoted to more theoretical presentations on what the psychological and sociological literature tells us about how problems with well-being might affect the professional development of law students and the responsible practice of law. The second part would be devoted to presentations and demonstrations on how we can teach students to improve their well-being as part of an integrated approach to the development of a personally satisfying and ethically responsible professional identity.
The Balance in Legal Education section draws both its governing board and its general membership from all segments of the legal academic community, and believes that its program topic will be both interesting and relevant to many of you.
The list of speakers is currently only partially formulated, so we invite proposals for speakers, as well as papers from non-speakers. The Section has obtained a commitment from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review to publish papers relating to this program. If you have an interest in being considered as a panel member on this topic, or in submitting a paper for publication (or both), please contact me at your earliest opportunity, but in any event no later than April 30, 2013, at email@example.com. Your submission should include a brief description of the perspective that you would bring to the topic, whether you wish to be a member of the panel and/or prepare a paper for publication, and a copy of a current curriculum vitae. We encourage new as well as experienced teachers to submit proposals. We will give preference to presentation proposals that include interactive demonstrations of teaching methods and collaborative work with other program participants, and we are especially interested in how these issues can be addressed in large traditional classroom settings.
October 01, 2012
Times They are a Changin'
There has been a shift in focus at many law schools across the country due to the ever changing legal market, the downturn in the economy, and the push for reforms in legal education. When change takes place as a reaction to outside forces, it is not always done thoughtfully with a deliberate action plan. Reacting is limiting and may lead to unfavorable results. Responding, rather than reacting, will lead to changes that are logical, intentional, and will help create a positive momentum system wide.
How does this shift affect Academic Support Professionals and the services we provide students? A reaction to the change in our student body, whether it is their LSAT scores, the numbers of students enrolling, or their undergrad GPAs, could deplete academic support services to students if the services provided are not highly valued or acknowledged as a benefit. Funding for such programs may be transferred to areas in the law school that directly feed advancement in US News rankings or to other programs that shine a spotlight on the school.
However, I submit that when academic support services are viewed as integral parts of the law school curriculum, students benefit, law schools benefit, and the legal profession benefits. It is counter intuitive to think that support services for students can be reduced during these changing times; but, I know it is happening. I am lucky that my institution values academic support but I know that many other ASPers face a more troubling reality. Yet, students, more now than ever, need academic support professionals to guide them through their arduous law school experience.
If students are entering law school with lower UGPAs and LSATs, Academic Support Programs should be expanded to meet the needs of their student populations not minimized to fit shrinking budgets. While budget issues are a real concern, providing much needed academic support and graduating practice ready students are arguably more important. Academic Support Professionals are uniquely situated to guide students throughout their law school journey, especially non-traditional students or those with risk factors that may impede their success.
How should we as Academic Support Professionals respond to these changing times? I think we can all construct a lengthy list in our minds as to why the services we provide are essential to the educational growth of our students. However, I urge you to go one step further. Write down your list and share it with as many members of the faculty and administration at your law school as you can. In doing this, you have enlightened others (that have power and influence) as to the many ways in which you shape the law school community. You have also identified ways in which you can help respond to the ever-changing nature of legal education and the makeup of your student body.
Another response is to assess and evaluate your program. While many of us do this already, we could all benefit from taking some time to revisit the idea and determine whether we are reaching our desired outcomes. How is your program currently being assessed? What can you learn from the data that has been collected? Is there something else that should be included? Reflecting on what is working and what needs improvement will enhance the quality and efficiency of your program and will keep you directly engaged with carrying out its mission.
Lastly, a great way to respond to the changing nature of legal education is to get more involved in the discussion. Think about presenting a new or innovative teaching method or step up to present a work in progress. The more that we as a community can support each other and highlight the essential nature of our work, the more valuable we are individually to our respective law schools and collectively as a whole. Consider collaborating with others and finding ways to get involved. By responding, rather than reacting, to the changing times, we will make a positive impact on our law students and on our profession.
October 08, 2011
New Exam Skills Book
I just received a review copy of Barry Friedman and John CP Goldberg's Open Book, Succeeding on Exams from the First Day of Law School. While I have not had the chance to read the book closely, my first impression is that this is a book we will be seeing a lot in ASP. It is relatively short (180 pages) and uses cartoons and humor throughout. The structure of the book is clear; I can flip to the table of contents to find chapters on specific topics (IRACing, outlining, etc) without having to search. It starts with an introduction on how to use the book, which is especially useful, since most students do not know how to use exam skills books.
There are many good ASP books out there, but I think this one will get added to the pile I use and recommend to students. (RCF)
February 07, 2011
Writing and Running
This is a call to everyone in ASP who has something to say, but is afraid to write. Most of us don't need to write for our job. However, if you don't write, it's almost impossible to move past "staff" status. There aren't as many writing mentors in ASP as there are doctrinal folks who can help junior faculty while they are writing. So I am writing about my writing process to let new ASPer's know that it is not them; writing is tough. But it's worth it.
I have been working on a major writing project for the last couple of months. I finally finished this weekend; I had to do the bulk of the writing on days off and weekends because my workload was too heavy to allow much writing 9-5. Finishing a writing project is both a relief and filled with anxiety. It is incredibly satisfying to be done, but then comes the intense worry that it's not good enough, a citation is missing, or that I forgot a topic essential to the discussion. One of the reasons I don't write as much as I should (outside of this blog) is due to the anxiety it provokes when I finish. Unless I have a deadline, I will never stop second-guessing my work.
Writing is a lot like running. I am a long-time distance runner (almost 20 years!). Even for the best writers, it's sometimes a grind. In both writing and running, it's hardest when you are out-of-shape. We generally don't think of needing to be "in shape" to write, but writing makes writing easier and more fluid. This does feel a little unfair, because when you most need to feel good about writing (or running) is when you are getting back after a long break. But that is when it is hardest and most painful.
For nearly two months I resorted to exhaustive, probably unnecessary, research because writing was too painful. I could not get more than a paragraph or two on a page, and I knew I needed 10,000-15,000 words. It seemed insurmountable because I had not written that much in years. I knew I could do it, but I could not remember how I did it, what my process was, what I did in terms of a timeline. But after two months, I found that my one-two paragraphs while researching out came to about 3000 words, and suddenly I had about 20% of the project done. And it didn't seem like I could never do it. When I would come back to running after taking time off due to illness or injury, it would seem like I could never get over the 1-3 mile range. And then, after a couple of months, I could hit 5 miles without stopping. And at five miles, a half marathon doesn't seem so unreasonable after all.
The second hardest time is when you get writer's block, or in running, when you plateau. This usually happens when you have been at it for a while. You become acclimated to the process and you stop responding. Nothing you do seems to make it better. This tends to happen at the worst possible time; when you need to get a project finished, but your mind is empty, or when you are training for a major race, and your legs don't want to cooperate. The experts say beware of overtraining, but work through it. It will break. This was were I was at about two weeks ago. I desperately needed to get past the 5000 word mark, but everything I wrote was terrible. None of it fit with the theme. I couldn't transition between topics. Every word was painful. But I knew I had two weeks, so I worked through it, and it did come together. But during that period, I probably erased more than I wrote. Through erasing and rethinking, I came out with a much stronger theme.
The last painful period for me is finishing up. As I said at the start, I never want to finish because I am afraid it's not good enough or dreadfully flawed. The easiest way for me to get over this is to send it out to be proofread. As soon as I hit "send" I think of five topics I needed to cover but forgot while I was writing. I would never remember what I needed to add if I didn't hit send. The anxiety of someone else reading my work, and finding it lacking, produces the adrenaline to put it all together. Quite honestly, what I send out to be proofread usually is lacking. It's not my best work, and it's not even very good work. In running, this is usually the period when I need training partners to keep going. I am in a pretty bad state about two-three weeks before a race, and I need companions to keep me going. I will not walk unless injured, so even when I hate running, I keep going because I am too proud to be the person who slows down the group.
In that last rush of adrenaline, I can usually knock out a substantial portion of the paper. The fear won't go away until it's published. In this way writing is still like running...you cross the finish line, and you immediately start planning your next race. In my case, I wrote three pages of a law review article while finishing my last work. Writing and researching made me realize how much more there is to say on the topic. So I started with just a heading. Then I jotted some notes about where I wanted to go with the topic. The I took a break from the major project and put in several more topic headings. There was no fear, no anxiety, as there is when I start writing after a long break. It was smooth. (RCF)
December 13, 2008
A question for those interested in publishing
At the NECASP meeting, it was mentioned that the Legal Writing listserv also functions as a place for scholars to bounce ideas around about things they would like to publish, questions about publishing, and general advice on writing as scholars. For a variety of reasons, that has not happened within Academic Support/Success.
Is there interest in creating a TWEN site (or something similar to a TWEN site) where people who want to publish on ASP topics can go to as a resource as well as a place to get advice from peers? I volunteer as the point person for creating such a site if there is enough interest. I know the (invaluable, wonderful) Mike Schwartz has mentored several of us through our first published pieces, and I have heard from a handful of other people that Mike is currently mentoring as they prepare their first pieces. The site could be a place for us to share ideas, but also share our accumulated knowledge.
Types of questions from newbie writers:
Where should I publish an article about ASP? Are there options outside of the Journal of Legal Education?
What is the best software for citations? How expensive is the software? Should I be able to get it from my school's IT office?
Although I have checked Westlaw/LexisNexis, and Googled, the topic I am interested in writing about, does anyone know of sources that I may have missed?
I am doing empirical research, but I need a few more schools as controls for my study. Does anyone know of a good school to contact? Who at the school should I contact for permission?
If you are interested, email me and I will get started if there is enough interest.
April 22, 2006
Publish an Article or Announcement in "The Learning Curve"
Here is an opportunity to publish an article directed at the ASP community. Natt Gantt is looking for submissions for the spring edition of "The Learning Curve," the newsletter of the AALS Section on Academic Support.
He is looking for articles both on research projects in the ASP community and on insights from those practicing in the ASP field. He also welcomes announcements that would be of interest to ASP folks.
Natt would like submissions by May 1 but can be somewhat flexible on the submission date. For a look at articles and essays published in earlier editions of the newsletter, click on "The Learning Curve." (dbw)