Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Lowest in Years - The July 2018 MBE (and a Call to ASP Action!)

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), citing to Law.com and TaxProfBlog editor Dean Paul Caron, the national average score on the MBE multiple-choice portion of the July bar exam dropped to its lowest level in 34 years.  http://www.abajournal.com; https://www.law.com;  http://taxprof.typepad.com.  The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) reports that the July 2018 MBE average score was just 139.5, while for the July 1984 exam, Law.com reports that the MBE average score was likewise low at 139.21.  http://www.ncbex.org/newshttps://www.law.com.

In an article by Law.com, the President of the NCBE - Judith Gundersen - is quoted as saying that "they [this summer's lower MBE scores] are what would be expected given the number of applicants and LSAT 25th percentile means of the 2015 entering class." https://www.law.com. In other words, according to the NCBE, this summer's low score average is the result of law school admissions decisions based on the NCBE's appraisal of 25 percentile LSAT data for entering 2015 law students.

Nevertheless, despite the NCBE's claim, which was previously theorized by the NCBE back in 2015 (namely, that bar exam declines are related to LSAT declines), previous empirical research found a lack of empirical support for the NCBE's LSAT claim, albeit limited to one jurisdiction, one law school's population, and admittedly not updated to reflect this summer's bar exam results.  Testing the Testers

As an armchair statistician with a mathematics background, I am leery of one-size-fits-all empirical claims.  Life is complex and learning is nuanced.  Conceivably, there are many factors at play that might account for bar exam results in particular cases, with many factors not ascribable to pure mathematical calculus, such as the leaking roof in the middle of the first day of the Colorado bar exam.  http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/ceiling_leaks_pause_colorado_bar_exam.  

Here's just a few possible considerations:

• The increase to 25 experimental questions embedded within the set of 200 MBE multiple-choice questions (in comparison to previous test versions with only 10 experimental questions embedded).

• The addition of Federal Civil Procedure as a relatively recent MBE subject to the MBE's panoply of subjects tested.

• The apparent rising incidences of anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities found within law school populations and graduates.

• The economic barriers to securing bar exam testing accommodations despite longitudinal evidence of law school testing accommodations.

• The influence of social media, the internet age, and smart phones in impacting the learning environment.

• The difficulty in equating previous versions of bar exams with current versions of bar exams given changes in the exam instrument itself and the scope of subject matter tested.

• The relationship among experiential learning, doctrinal, and legal writing courses and bar exam outcomes.

• Etc....

Consequently, in my opinion, there's a great need (and a great opportunity) for law schools to collaborate with bar examiners to hypothesize, research, and evaluate what's really going on with the bar exam.  It might be the LSAT, as the NCBE claims.  But, most problems in life are much more complicated.  So, as a visual jumpstart to help law schools and bar examiners brainstorm possible solutions, here's a handy chart depicting the overall downward trend with respect to the past ten years of national MBE average scores.  (Scott Johns).

July National MBE Average Scores

September 20, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Exams - Theory, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The 1L "I am the only one who ..."

We are finishing our fourth week of classes for all students and the fifth week of Torts for 1L students (they started Torts during orientation week). Multiple 1L students have been in my office the last 2 weeks stressing over the amount of work and their struggles to comprehend the material. Many of them have been comparing themselves to "everyone else." They are convinced that they are the only ones who are confused, overwhelmed, sleep-deprived, and chips-and-coffee-fueled.

When I reassure them that they are not "the only ones" and that "everyone else" is not leaps and bounds ahead of them, I see a glimmer of hope. They are not yet convinced, but they are willing to take a deep breath and regroup. 

Each student's concerns are somewhat different. We unpack what is going on, and most often make future appointments to address specific topics (time management, learning preferences, reading/briefing, etc.). Here are some of the things we may discover with different students when we start to unpack the overwhelmed responses to the situation:

  • The student does not fully account for the newness of law school: a new language, a new way of thinking, a new way of questioning, a new way of writing, and a new professional experience.
  • The student has always been one of the brightest immediately in a new course and suddenly is not.
  • The student's prior education has not been very challenging and did not require much time and effort to get high grades.
  • The student believes that "fast is best." Finishing before everyone else has been the student's measure for success in learning. Suddenly the student is painfully slow.
  • The student has lost perspective of what is needed for a course and is overworking (capturing trivia, reading multiple study aids, reading string cites and note cases in full).
  • The student believes that everyone else is grasping the classes in less time, with less work, and at greater depth.
  • The student believes every classmate who brags s/he understood the 25-page assignment in 30 minutes or never studies evenings and weekends.
  • The student forgets that judicial opinions are not written for law students, that not all questions have right answers, and that edited opinions may skip paragraphs linking ideas.
  • The student is preparing for either case understanding or synthesis but not both so that some questions are always "from left field."

With each student's appointment, I am once again reminded of what it was like to be a fall semester 1L without an academic support professional to help. The good news is that they already know more than 5 weeks ago (if they just look back), they will know far more in another 5 weeks, and at the end of the 1L year they will be amazed at themselves. (Amy Jarmon)

 

 

 

September 16, 2018 in Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Excitement and Disappointment in the Same Day

Bar results began rolling in last week.  Oklahoma results posted on Friday.  Bar result day is both exciting and disappointing for me.  My emotions yo-yo from talking to thrilled students to discussing disappointment with unsuccessful alumni.  The personal stake we take in our students is what makes us successful, but it is also why we feel so much disappointment on an exciting day.

Nike has a famous Michael Jordan ad where he says “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”  Jordan is famous for being extra critical and focusing on what he missed.  He enjoyed his successes briefly, but he dwelled on defeat.  Nick Saban, Alabama football coach, is arguably the best college football coach in history.  When asked how long he would celebrate his recent National Championship, he said 1 day.  After that, he needed to start recruiting and preparing for the following year.  Neither person enjoyed their victories.

Anyone can make an easy argument to “be like Mike,” or get ready for the next bar the day after results.  February is only 5 ½ months away, and the bar does not wait for anyone.  However, dwelling on the disappointment robs both you and your students of the joy of their accomplishment.  Many students worked with us from the first day of school.  Other students struggled and sought our help 2L or 3L year.  Their excitement is worth celebrating.  Being a part of their accomplishment is important.  They will enjoy their celebration more with our excitement as well.  Celebrating the successes will also help fuel us to help more students clear their hurdle.  Celebrate with your students more than momentarily.

Celebrating does not take away the disappointment for the unsuccessful students.  We can learn from their experience and develop a plan to help them clear the hurdle as well.  Their pain is very real and has a significant impact on their future.  However, you can make a difference in their life by being ready to lift them up.  Lifting up someone else is difficult if we don’t have the emotional strength.  Celebrate successes to build strength to help those who need you even more now.

I completely understand the emotional difficulty revolving around bar results.  I have to work hard to not take students not passing as a personal failure.  It is easy to think about what we could have done different.  Suppress those thoughts to celebrate what you did correctly for the majority of students to pass.  You can then go back to the drawing board and be both an academic and emotional support for your re-takers.  Celebrate success!

(Steven Foster)

September 10, 2018 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 3, 2018

Benefits from a Day of College Football

My favorite season began last weekend.  Some people like one of the weather seasons, but my favorite season is college football season.  The pageantry, great food, and fanaticism permeates the air.  Last Saturday’s heat index rose above 100 degrees while hanging out with over 85,000 of my closest friends, but I couldn’t be more excited.  I get to experience that pure joy with my 2 sons, and we have a blast.  Similar experiences and joy are important for a successful law school career.

My love of college football didn’t start after law school.  I grew up rooting for my hometown team, which eventually became my alma mater.  I watched them consistently growing up and attended some games in college.  I wouldn’t miss watching a game.  When I got to law school, I made the decision to take off every Saturday to continue watching or attending games.  It was one of the best decisions I made for myself.

Law school is hard and busy, especially the first year.  The language isn’t the same as undergrad.  Readings take longer.  No one feels prepared, and many first year students feel behind almost immediately.  Many students have a tendency to work non-stop to make up for the perceived inadequacies.  Students will read something every day and not schedule down time.  LRW assignments start increasing, and by mid-October, many 1Ls start hating law school. 

Law school hatred is fueled by burn out and being overwhelmed.  Those feelings lead to less focus when reading, which then requires more time to complete the work.  Students will then take more breaks throughout the day, extending work late into the evening.  The extended work deprives them of relaxation each night.  Feeling behind causes some students to work 7 days a week, which then exacerbates the exhaustion.  The downward spiral unfortunately continues throughout the semester, and it causes many students to despise the law school experience. 

While law school is definitely hard, the experience can be much better with built in balance.  Work-life balance isn’t a fad, and balance isn’t a problem for “other people.”  Everyone needs time away from studying to stay both happy and productive when preparing.  Everyone is different.  I took almost every Saturday off during law school.  I made the choice that what I enjoyed would be a priority.  It made outlining on Sunday easier for me.  I had my break and could get back to work the next day.  I have students who spend every Sunday with their family.  Think about what is important for you.  Write it down.  Decide now what will help you enjoy life outside law school.

After deciding what is important, decide when you take time off to enjoy it.  Planning the time away now is important.  Everyone has difficulty taking time off when already overwhelmed.  Trying to come up with coping mechanisms while stressed is difficult, and trying to add in relaxation when overburdened is near impossible.  The time to plan your non-law activities is now.

While planning when to take time off, consider the impact when everything is scheduled.  Our 1L students have classes M-F.  Many students read the day before class.  On Friday, students go to class, but then tend to take the rest of the day easier.  They may look at a few extra problems or organize material from the week, but they don’t spend 4-5 hours on those tasks.  The day is still long, but not as productive as a normal day.  Those students then spend a significant portion of Sunday completing the reading for Monday, which is still exhausting.  For those students, 6 days a week are long and exhausting.  They also struggle to find time to complete outlines, practice problems, and LRW assignments.

A different plan may increase effectiveness and decrease stress.  I encourage students to spend Friday reading like a normal day.  Read the material for Monday.  The stress of required work on the weekend is gone.  Spend a day off either Saturday or Sunday.  On the other day, work on outlines, practice problems, and other study tools to prepare for finals.  I wouldn’t casually study on Sunday, but working for a couple hours, then taking a break is easier when class isn’t looming the next day.  Spending 5-6 hours on study tools provides a huge benefit for final exams.  Choosing what to study each day has an impact of how overwhelmed you feel.  This schedule benefits from a clear day off and a day focused on final exam study.

Peanuts, hot dogs, fresh air, and exuberance helped my mood throughout law school.  The break can help your mood as well.  Make time for your fun activities to not merely survive, but to thrive in law school.

(Steven Foster)

September 3, 2018 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 1, 2018

ABA Moves Law School Mental Health Day to October 10

Hat tip to Kirsha Trychta for the link to the ABA's announcement that the new date for Law School Mental Health Day will coincide with the World Health Organization's World/National Mental Health Day: ABA Mental Health Day. The write up headline indicates the correct new date of October 10th; the body of the information incorrectly still indicates the old March date. The link will take you to additional resources at the ABA and other organizations including a link to the David Nee Foundation.

September 1, 2018 in Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Overcoming Shyness in the Law School Setting

While many students are mildly uncomfortable with some of the speaking and social interaction involved in law school, for some students the discomfort can be almost paralyzing.  Extreme shyness can make law school seem a Herculean task.  Gripping, gut-wrenching social anxiety can result in students missing class, losing focus because of the fear of being called on, passing on opportunities to engage with professors after class or during office hours, or shutting themselves off from peer learning and networking.

It's not uncommon for a law student to confess to me that s/he is shy.  "Confess" is, indeed, the operative term, because the shy student invariably feels that the shyness is something shameful that should be hidden from others.  But having the courage to disclose something which feels like a defect can be in itself a monumental step towards overcoming the obstacles posed by the shyness.

While students with debilitating social anxiety may benefit from professional help from a licensed counselor, most students can mitigate the effects of shyness by self-help, following these principles:

  • Believe in yourself, in your own abilities and your own worth.
  • Recognize that overcoming shyness is a skill.
  • Experiment.
  • Reward yourself for your efforts rather than dwelling on how others react.

Believe in yourself.  We all have different gifts and natural abilities.  Others may be more fluent or quicker to understand in the classroom.  Rejoice for them.  But you have your own gifts that will make you a great lawyer.  Perhaps is is a gift for listening, or for simplifying, or for seeing patterns in a morass of details.  In addition to celebrating the gifts you already have, trust that you can develop new skills, even if they don't reach the level of perfection.  Invoke self-efficacy by believing that you can succeed in meeting the challenges posed by your shyness.  Corny as it may seem, write supportive notes on your mirror or state your aspirations every time you walk through a doorway.  Practice mindfulness or meditation to quiet your inner critic and strengthen your trust in the person you are.

Recognize that overcoming shyness is a skill.  All the skills you are developing in law school take practice to master, and overcoming shyness is no exception.  Recognize that performance is the measure of your success, not how you feel inside.  At the end of the semester, if you can ask a coherent question in class --maybe even with follow-up comments! -- you are succeeding, even if you still get butterflies in your stomach.

Experiment!  Experiment to find techniques that help you feel comfortable in speaking and social interaction.  Just like you may experiment with flow charts, flashcards, and mnemonics to discover how you best understand and remember legal rules, experiment with different techniques to combat your fear of speaking in front of others.  Here are some ideas:

  • Visualize yourself speaking clearly and confidently.
  • Adopt a confident physical posture like the "Wonder Woman pose." See https://jamesclear.com/body-language-how-to-be-confident for a discussion of the science behind this and to watch Professor Amy Cuddy's influential TED talk on how confident body language can boost confidence and success.
  • Take a deep, calming breath before you start speaking.
  • Before class, prepare your briefs to answer the question you anticipate the professor asking.
  • Write down questions as they come to you and then read them out, rather than trying to formulate a question and speak at the same time.
  • Enlist a supportive friend to help you practice in mock classroom settings.
  • At presentations or receptions, realize there are probably people who are even more uncomfortable than you.  Seek these people out, strive to put them at their ease, and ask questions to draw them out.
  • When others talk with you, believe that they are interested in you and in what you have to say.

Reward yourself for your efforts.  Set goals for steps you can take, and reward yourself based on what you do, not on whether others reacted as you hoped.  For example, "I will raise my hand at least once in every class this week to ask or answer a question."  If you raised your hand, count it as success even if the professor called on another student instead of you.  Likewise, "At this reception I will talk with one person I don't know."  If you introduce yourself and the other person grunts two works and moves over to the refreshment table, you were a success despite the other person's bad manners.  And celebrate your successes!  They merit a gold star on your mirror, some time with a mystery novel, a walk with the dog, or whatever you do to give yourself an "attaboy" or "attagirl."  (Nancy Luebbert)

 

 

 

August 29, 2018 in Advice, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Remedy for the Over-Driven Programmatic Life - Take 5 to Pause and Reflect!

Last week, I received some of the best advice ever about how to run an academic support program from one of my law school colleagues (as I ran around the campus in obvious haste - from office to office...and....email to email....and....meeting to meeting).  

Short and sweet, it went something like this:  

"Remember, there are no emergencies in academics."  

At first, I wasn't quite sure what I heard.  No emergencies?  Really?  Of course, with every rule comes an exception.  But, the principle holds true.  

There really are no (or at least very few and far between) emergencies in academics.  

With her words freshly choreographed in my mind (and now fortunately taking grip of my frantic heart), I took the first pause of a very long day thus far to take in and reflect on the truth of what she said.  

There are no emergencies in academics.  None.  Zilch.  Nada.  

That led me to an uplifting and engaging conversation with her, a conversation that broke through the feverish pace of my day to restore in my spirit a much needed sense of peace and perspective.

As we talked further, I realized that I had been living an emergency life.  It was only the beginning of a new academic year but I already felt like I was way behind on everything that I needed to do.  Then, it came to me.  

Living an emergency life is not really living at all.  

Indeed, it is no life at all.  That's because as human beings living is about breathing and listening and pondering and reflecting and interacting with others.  It means stepping back from the push of the daily grind and seemingly every-pressing minutiae of tasks to comprehend the big picture perspective.  That we only truly live in community with others.  That life is social.  That being human means realizing that none of us - particularly me - can do it all.

A few years back, I recall listening to a NASA engineer talking about the engineer's work back in the 1960's when assigned to the Apollo moon missions.  It was the space age.  As the engineer related, he was commuting from Orlando to Cape Kennedy Spaceport for the big launch of a moon rocket.  But, he was running late. So, he did what most of us do when we are running late, whether walking or biking or driving. He sped.  To his astonishment, a state trooper pulled him over for speeding.  In response to the question as to why all the haste, the engineer said simply that he was needed for the space launch later that very day.  The officer thought a moment and then just asked him one question: "Sir, if you crash in a fiery crash on your way to the space launch, will NASA still launch the moon rocket?  If so, I'll let you on your way."  The engineer couldn't lie.  His answer was brief: "NASA will launch."  You see, the engineer wasn't really needed after all.  So, the officer handed him a speeding  ticket.

Perhaps you are like me, moving from one emergency to another emergency, with my vocabulary littered with sayings such as "I need to do this today" or "I've got to do this now" or "The program won't work unless I get this done now."  Let me be frank, to myself and to you, the words "necessary" and "needed" are overplayed.  Few things are necessary or needed.  Indeed, as Professor Nancy Luebbert from the University of Idaho suggested in her blog yesterday, the really only needful thing is not to do a thing...but to rather be a person.  Now, that's something to treasure; a life well-lived with others - person to person and people to people.  More to the point with respect to the nature of this blog, that's the better way to live academic support.  So, make a great day of it by taking "5" to pause and reflect upon this truism:  There really are no emergencies in academics.  (Scott Johns).  

August 23, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Start Out Fall Semester Right with Wellness and Balance

It is very easy with the excitement and busyness of a new semester to develop some bad habits or lose some good ones. First-year students especially are likely to feel pulled in a million directions by the new experiences and expectations of law school. Not only do 1Ls need to learn new study strategies, but they often need to cope with a new city, first apartment, and increased responsibilities for daily chores. 2Ls and 3Ls may have gotten out of the study-life routine over the summer while they slid into a 9 to 5 summer clerkship routine of evenings and weekends off.

It does not take long for the workload to become a bit overwhelming, and for life-law-school balance to get out of whack. Students start burning the proverbial candle at both ends. Before long, late nights, junk food, and caffeine jitters seem unavoidable. A downward spiral begins: stress, fatigue, lack of motivation, sadness, and more.

By implementing some simple steps for wellness and study-life balance at the beginning of the semester, law students can avoid that overwhelmed feeling and the downward spiral. Consider these steps as "preventative medicine" for law students:

  • Set up a weekly routine with blocks of time marked off for study tasks for each course (class prep, outlines, review, practice questions, other assignments) as well as for life's tasks (laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, errands). If you are married or have children, life tasks may include family dinners, bedtime stories, and other tasks. By having repetitive blocks already scheduled to cover all of these tasks, you see where you will get things done.
  • Enter 7-8 hours of sleep per night into your schedule blocks. Proper sleep combats fatigue, stress, depression, and lack of motivation. Proper sleep increases focus, concentration, productivity, retention/recall, and mental agility.
  • Enter blocks into your schedule for meals. Proper nutrition combats fatigue, stress, depression, hypoglycemia, and more. Proper nutrition supports brain function. Planned meal times aid digestion and relaxation.
  • Enter blocks into your schedule for exercise. Exercise not only has physical benefits, but it does wonders for combating stress. You only need 30 minutes 5 times a week to get the boost.
  • Enter blocks into that weekly routine for "down time" when you have permission to relax fully because you have already completed the other tasks for the week in the scheduled blocks. Most law students want the most down time Friday and Saturday nights, but it varies with lifestyle. Knowing you will have time off provides greater motivation to get things done to enjoy guilt-free time off. Scheduled down time also allows spouses and children to plan fun activities with you.
  • Complete meal prep on the weekends as much as possible. You will save time during the week while avoiding the temptations of junk food. Cook a main entree that will last several nights in a crockpot. Cut up raw fruit and vegetables for healthy snacks during the week. Make sandwiches ahead in single-serve containers to grab and go. Portion out nuts, raisins, trail mix for energy snack packs.
  • Group errands together by location. Grocery shop when the store is less crowded. Spread laundry or cleaning over several different days or weeks (Saturday clothes laundry and Sunday sheets and towels laundry; dust one Saturday and vacuum the next Saturday).
  • Use a "to do" list to prioritize the tasks for the time blocks you have in your schedule for the day. The class prep for Contracts block translates to "read pages 28-41 and complete problems 5-7" on your daily list. You know exactly what tasks need completion and lower your stress as you cross tasks off your list.
  • Take small breaks throughout the day to practice relaxation, meditation, or mindfulness. These mini-breaks can rejuvenate your body and mind.

If you take control over these basic areas of your life, law school falls into place and allows you balance. You do not have to fall victim to the often-heard rant that "law school does not allow time for anything else." (Amy Jarmon)

 

August 19, 2018 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Can Older Non-Traditional Students Fit In? Absolutely!

Most of our law schools are seeing more non-traditional students arriving in our first-year classes. For many law schools, non-traditional students are still in a minority within the classroom when only a full-time program is available.

Those who are in their late 20's or early 30's tell me that they "feel different" and worry whether they have forgotten how to study and whether they will be accepted by those straight out of undergraduate education. And, because they have had jobs through which they were recognized for leadership and competence, they often state they feel a bit incompetent initially as they grapple with different law school study strategies. They may also have spouses and children to consider as they balance law school and life which makes their experience different from most younger students.

But even with these differences, many of the non-traditional students in these age groups will not "stand out" to their classmates as particularly older once they don the casual law student dress. They will blend pretty seamlessly into the whole. (And even when they show up with children in tow, many law students who are missing their own younger siblings, nieces, and nephews will delight at the chance to babysit while mom/dad goes to class or attends a meeting.)

The over-40 non-traditional students are the ones who most often have conversations with me about whether they will "fit in" and whether they will be "outsiders" among their much younger classmates. Today it is not unusual for law students to start in their 40's, 50's, or 60's after first careers. Most of them look older physically - they have earned those wrinkles or gray hairs. Even donning casual garb will not hide the fact that they are older. Their concerns about remembering how to study and feelings of initial incompetence are usually double or triple compared to their non-traditional colleagues in their 20's and 30's. After all, most of these older students have been out of a classroom for 20 years or more and were the supervisors and managers who "knew how to do it all" in past careers.

The good news is that older non-traditional students do fit in and are welcomed by members of their first-year class. Older non-traditional students often remark that "it is all about attitude." Here are some tips for transitioning from older non-traditional students with whom I have worked:

  • Make the first move to be friendly. Law students who are much younger may not know how to start the conversation because they see you as more accomplished and worldly.
  • Be humble about your accomplishments. You have garnered lots of accolades, titles, and professional recognition in your prior non-law life. Unless you are put on the spot with a pointed question, understatement is probably best initially to put others at ease.
  • Use your experience to be a role model for collegiality, not competition. Be supportive, encouraging, and helpful when you can. Ask for help when you need it. Let others know that you consider yourself one of their colleagues and value collegiality.
  • Participate in class with relevant examples from your experiences when those comments can add to the discussion or move the class forward. Be careful not to gratuitously tout your expeiences, however.
  • Volunteer in class when others do not, but do not become the "crutch" allowing your fellow students not to prepare because they know you will always be prepared. You may indeed know the answers most days, but they need to be challenged to participate as well.
  • Join law school organizations and participate in some of the events of your 1L class. You may have less free time because of family commitments, but devote some time to law school life outside the classroom.
  • Your main cadre of friends may be other older non-traditional students, but stay open to friendships with a variety of students. Law school organizations, study groups, and other opportunities will be available to expand your friendships.
  • Realize that, depending on your actual age, you may become a "big brother/sister, mom/dad" figure for some of your classmates. That is actually a compliment. Your experience and advice are being recognized. You may be just the mentor that someone younger needs.
  • Be yourself. If jeans and a T-shirt are not your style, dress as you are comfortable - even if it is dressier than your colleagues. If loud parties are not your thing, avoid them and join in at other times. If family outings are your relaxation, ask others to meet your family and join in the fun.
  • Be sensitive to your law school's etiquette. Some professors call everyone "Mr" and "Ms" and want to be addressed as "Professor" no matter the student's age category. Other professors use first names freely with older students (or all students). Let the professor/administrator indicate the desired form of address to avoid an unintentional faux pas.
  • Be patient with yourself as you master legal study. Do not compare yourself to "quick, young minds" or lament "I wish I did this years ago." You are learning a new language, a new way to think, a new way to write, and a new way to be tested. You are reviving academic skills that might be rusty and learning new study strategies.

Law school over-40 can be a wonderful ride. Many legal concepts link to your practical life experiences: apartment leases, real estate purchases, car loans, employment contracts, income tax returns, drafting wills, and more. You challenge yourself to new ways of seeing the world around you. You discover specialty legal areas and possible legal career paths you never knew existed. You have a break of sorts between careers. You meet classmates who will be life-long friends and professional colleagues. (Amy Jarmon)

August 12, 2018 in Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 4, 2018

New Study Disputes a Commonly Held Student Belief Regarding ADHD Drugs

It is a commonly held student belief among many non-ADHD undergraduate and graduate students that ADHD drugs will help them improve focus as well as their performance and neuro-cognition. Illegally obtained ADHD medications are used by non-ADHD students to get a competitive edge. Inside Higher Ed recently posted about a new study that suggests that this student myth about performance is inaccurate.

The pilot study was small and needs to be replicated. Increased focus and attention from the medications did not translate into better reading comprehension or fluency and actually negatively influenced working memory. Elevation of mood and physiological effects were what would be expected with these drugs. The hyperlink to the post (which includes a link to the study itself) is New Study. (Amy Jarmon)

August 4, 2018 in Disability Matters, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Sights & Sounds at the Bar Exam

Today is the Bar Exam.  Like many other academic support professors, I travel to the bar exam testing site with the graduates to lend logistical support and emotional support.  Much like the movie Groundhog Day, where I'm Bill Murray, the experience is novel to the applicants, but rather predictable for me.  This year, like prior years, I expect to see applicants: 

Smiling, both genuinely and veiled 

Crying

Laughing, sometimes involuntarily due to exhaustion

Hugging (lots of hugging!)

Pacing and tapping their feet nervously

Exercising (i.e. jumping jacks, sit-ups) in the hallway around 3:30 p.m.

Sharing Tums and Advil freely 

Forgetting their ID or admission ticket

Loosing their ID or admission ticket (So far, I've tracked down lost IDs in the parking lot, at a gas station in another state(!), inside the testing site, and in a hotel room.  Once, I even had a new ID printed at the DMV at 8:00 a.m. on the second day of the exam.)

Isolating themselves in every nook and cranny of the testing site during the registration and breaks

Carrying around plastic bags containing "authorized items"

Tossing book bags and lunch bags into a "secure" pile in the corner of the hotel lobby

Sporting lucky charm shirts and sweaters

and laser focused.

But, unlike Bill Murray's character in the movie, I don't want to wake up to a new day.  I love my bar exam Groundhog Day experience, year after year.  I'm thrilled to be a part of one of the most memorable days in a J.D. graduate's life.  Good luck everyone! (Kirsha Trychta)

July 24, 2018 in Bar Exams, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

When It’s Time To Say NO To The Bar Exam

      At this time, I see or hear from many panicked soon-to-be Bar Takers communicating their intent not to sit for the bar exam because they just do not feel prepared. It is unusual for me to have a conversation about skipping the bar exam with a soon-to-be Bar Taker I genuinely believe is unprepared or might not be able to manage the pressures of the bar exam. Usually, students who are so mentally paralyzed by the thought of sitting for the exam are not known to articulate their intent. Instead, they simply do not show for the exam, something I hear after the fact, or I notice once bar results are posted.

      Typically, individuals who have endured life, personal, financial, work, and/or health challenges throughout bar review are not the ones looking to postpone the bar exam. Based on my communications throughout bar review with persons in this category, I find that they have already wrestled with feelings of unpreparedness throughout the summer and they have continuously adjusted and readjusted their schedules to ensure bar review progress. When past soon-to-be Bar Takers have opted not to sit for the bar exam, it has occurred very early in the process, around the first few weeks of bar review. Whenever the option was exercised later in the bar review process, it was due to familial, personal, health-related, or other emergencies. As a rule of thumb, whenever the decision not to sit for the bar exam is made, we immediately and honestly consider individual situations, explore implications of the decision, and start to discuss a plan for moving forward.

      Experiencing acute levels of stress a week before the bar exam is a normal occurrence but when it becomes debilitating, then it is a critical challenge. Stress is an unavoidable aspect of the bar preparation process but it should motivate, not dominate. Recently, I observed that a larger number of soon-to-be Bar Takers have difficulty managing stress. Some who were able to navigate stress throughout law school are now experiencing difficulties preparing for the bar exam. The bar exam is a beast they are unable to tame and might need additional resources or medication to cope with the high levels of anxiety and its impact on their preparation. Addressing concerns early, if at all possible, can have a positive impact on managing stress and anxiety during bar preparation.

image from media.giphy.com

      If you are contemplating postponing the bar exam, there is no formula you can use to guarantee success on the bar exam.  I am well aware that there are percentages of bar review completion, percentages one should attain on the MBE, scores on the essays and MPTs that help set goals and gauge current performance but these are no guarantee.  Quality over quantity, self-awareness of individual needs and making adjustments, and a positive and forward-looking attitude are key.  It is also important to assess where you are and whether you covered all of the substantive material, whether you have an awareness (general knowledge and familiarity) or whether you understand (deeper knowledge and ability to explain and write) concepts and ideas.  Assess whether you completed a majority of the assigned essays, MPTs, and MBEs but more importantly ask whether you are driven by fear or do you really not know the information.  A more poignant question to ask is whether waiting longer, studying longer, and taking the exam later is the best option for you.  Develop a plan.

      In my experience, some students simply need more time to adjust to bar preparation, to the pace of bar review, to process the information, to dissect answers, and to revisit material. Some students just need more time to adjust to the whole idea of the bar exam and its implications on their lives.  These may be valid reasons that should not simply be used as an excuse.  Furthermore, over-studying and complacency are things an individual who postpones the bar exam needs to contemplate.  Be comfortable with your decision and move forward. (Goldie Pritchard)

July 18, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Follow Our Own Advice by Taking a Break

Bar prep is turning the corner into the last few weeks.  Most of us are telling our students to work hard, but also, make sure to take breaks.  When finals roll around, we encourage sleep, eating healthy, and resting enough to be mentally fresh for exams.  So, how many of you follow that advice throughout the year?

I completely understand the need to get everything done and help everyone.  There is always another great idea to implement or another student meeting to take.  We all have more to do than enough time in the day.  We could all do so much more with just a little more time.  However, the reality is we aren’t immune to exhaustion or sleep deprivation.  What affects our students during the bar and finals affects our ability to help students during those times.  Maximize your helping potential by also taking care of yourself.

I suggest my students schedule breaks both throughout the day and at least 1 full day during the weekend.  I would suggest the same to all of you.  Make sure that you take a mental break every hour.  Have a quality non-law related lunch at least 3 days a week.  Leave the office at a reasonable time to get home and recharge.  If your status allows, make sure to take at least a week off at some point during the year.  Every mental break makes a difference.

Most of you know this is necessary, but won't take the time due to feeling overwhelmed.  I understand.  I am not the best at breaks either.  I worked on this blog post multiple times late at night after my kids went to bed and after grading bar essays.  However, this is something the vast majority of us must get better at.  For our students, they finish law school in 3 years or bar prep in 10 weeks.  If this is our career, then we don’t have the easy to identify date for a break.  Cancun or the Rocky Mountains aren’t 10 weeks away.  Europe isn’t a goal to attain in 3 years.  As soon as 1 class finishes for us, the next one begins.  The next bar exam is right around the corner.  It is easy for us to ignore our own mental care.

Just like we tell our students, you will be your best when mentally fresh.  You can help more students with regular breaks and rest.  All of you are doing great work.  Keep the energy up to make a difference for many years.

(Steven Foster)

June 25, 2018 in Advice, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 18, 2018

Perspective for the MBE

Father’s Day week is awesome for many reasons.  I normally get to caddy a junior golf tournament with my son, spend time with family, and watch golf’s US Open.  We spend the majority of our time outside enjoying activities together.  This week is what summer is all about.

I love the US Open because it is normally the hardest golf tournament of the year.  They play courses with near impossible putting greens and impenetrable rough.  A little part of me enjoys watching the best players in the world struggle the same way I do on weekends.  As I prepared this post, I watched Rory McIlroy, who reached #1 in the world rankings a few years ago, hit a shot from the right rough to left rough 20 yards short of the green.  He then proceeded to hit his next shot only 10 yards out of the rough into a sand bunker.  I can absolutely relate. 

The US Open winner will have similar struggles, just not as many times as the rest of the field.  Most winners will say this tournament is all about perspective.  Par is a great score this week if everyone else is above par. 

Bar prep and completing MBE questions is a similar experience.  Missing question after question is like hitting from the rough, to more rough, and then the sand.  Mental exhaustion increases mistakes and leads to more stress.  Students hear they only need a certain percentage correct to pass, but most students aren’t near that percentage right now.  The struggle is brutal.  Bar prep requires the same grind as the hardest round of golf or any other endeavor.

For my students, and many others, the timing is increasing stress.  Yesterday was the halfway mark between graduation and the bar exam.  Time is flying by, but no one feels comfortable with the material.  New subjects are still presented.  Low scores and new material breaks spirits, and everyone needs high motivation to finish the rest of preparation.

The critical action right now is to find perspective.  Just like most of the golfers are hacking it around Shinnecock Hills Golf Club right now, the vast majority of students preparing for the bar exam are struggling right now.  Almost no one feels comfortable with the material.  Nearly no one is scoring great.  Also, you don’t have to score great now or ever.  You only need to get enough questions correct at the end of July to be above the pass line.

Many of you are halfway done with bar prep.  Celebrate that success.  Everyone has come a long way to this point.  Get perspective on where you should be right now.  I am not saying blindly keep going no matter what.  Always keep in touch with your bar prep specialist, but remember, everyone is a weekend hacker on MBE questions right now.  Keep hacking away with guidance to put yourself in a position for success.

(Steven Foster)

June 18, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

I'm a new fall 1L! What should I do this summer?

Congratulations to all of our readers who are entering law school this fall! We look forward to welcoming you into our law school families.

Studying the law is fascinating, but it can also be a challenge. However, don't spend your summer stressing out about the new path in front of you. Spend this summer enjoying your summer while still taking some proactive steps for law school.

New 1Ls often ask what they should do over the summer months to prepare for law school. Here are some thoughts on worthy pursuits:

  • Spend quality time with family and friends. Many law students attend law school away from home. For some law students, it will be the first time they are far away. Take time now to make positive connections with the people who matter to you and build memories that will sustain you in the busy months ahead. You will find that going home every weekend will most likely not happen during law school because of deadlines and workload. So enjoy your favorite people this summer while you have more flexibility.
  • Organize your arrival in your law school city for several days before orientation starts. Orientation Week at law school will be very busy. Unlike other educational experiences, assignments will be heavy in all courses from the first class. If possible move in to your new apartment 5-7 days ahead. That gives you time to unpack boxes, get cable/internet hooked up, explore your city, stock groceries, etc. Your entry into law school will be more relaxed if you have some settling-in time before you report for orientation.
  • Make careful reading for comprehension an every day habit. Spend the summer reading mysteries, romance novels, the classics, news articles, biographies - don't read legal tomes about torts, civil procedure, or contracts. (You will read more pages in law school than you have probably ever read in your life, so there is no reason to start reading law yet.) Our digital lives prompt us to skim and read superficially, but legal cases and documents are dense and will require careful reading for comprehension.  So make it a habit this summer of reading carefully. Read entire articles and books instead of headings and random paragraphs. Ask questions about what you are reading to check your comprehension. Look up vocabulary you do not know. Good reading habits will pay off.
  • Brush up on your grammar and punctuation rules. Communication is the bread and butter of lawyering. Law students are often surprised at how important grammar and punctuation are to legal writing. Litigation outcomes can be determined by the correct placement of a comma in a contract! A summer review of these rules can boost your confidence in your legal writing course this fall.
  • Write down the reasons you want to go to law school and become a lawyer. Be more reflective than just what you put in that personal essay for your application. It is not uncommon for law students to wonder at times during their legal studies why they went to law school and why they wanted to become a lawyer. Your list of reasons can be a morale booster if you get bogged down in reading cases, writing papers, and taking final exams and temporarily lose perspective.
  • Practice setting a schedule. Once law school starts, your time will need to be very structured to complete all the necessary study tasks. Most successful law students study some in the evenings and during the weekend as well as daytime hours Monday through Friday. You will become more adept at time management if you can get used to setting a routine schedule for your summer tasks: work,  family responsibilities, chores, errands, sleep, meals, exercise.
  • Recognize and manage the distractions in your life. Most of us procrastinate at least some of the time. Today's world offers us a myriad of distractions to encourage avoidance. Determine what your time wasters are and get them under control this summer, so you can better manage your time once you get to law school. Here are some common time wasters that law students have to conquer: electronic interruptions (email, social media, phone calls, texting, surfing the Internet), video games, TV marathons, naps, midweek partying.
  • Read one good book about succeeding in law school. Some suggestions are: Expert Learning for Law Students by Michael Hunter Schwartz; 1L of a Ride by Andrew J. McClurg; Succeeding in Law School by Herb N. Ramy; 1000 Days to the Bar by Dennis J. Tonsing. There are other good books written by academic success professionals and law professors, but these four are classics.

Having a restful summer and recharging your batteries will go a long way to being ready for law school. Enjoy the anticipation! Realize that you were admitted because your law school expects you to succeed in legal studies. Following these tips can help you ease into law school with confidence. (Amy Jarmon)

June 17, 2018 in Miscellany, Orientation, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Are C&F Mental Health Questions Still Too Broad?

In April, Virginia Public Radio aired a news story entitled "Law Students Challenge Need for Mental Health Question" on the character and fitness application.  The law students contend that the mental health questions on Virginia's character and fitness application have perversely incentivized law students to forego mental health treatment as a means of ensuring that they do not have to affirmatively disclose any mental health treatment on their character and fitness application.  (Read the full story here.)  

The law students' challenge comes in the wake of the American Bar Association's 2015 resolution to eliminate "any questions that ask about mental health history, diagnoses, or treatment and instead use questions that focus on conduct or behavior that impairs an applicant’s ability to practice law in a competent, ethical, and professional manner." 

Despite the ABA's recommendation, the Virginia character and fitness application asks three broad mental health related questions: 

  • Within the past five (5) years, have you exhibited any conduct or behavior that could call into question your ability to practice law in a competent, ethical, and professional manner?
  • Do you currently have any condition or impairment, including, but not limited to, (1) any related to substance or alcohol abuse, or (2) a mental, emotional, or nervous disorder or condition, which in any way affects your ability to perform any of the obligations and responsibilities of a practicing lawyer in a competent, ethical and professional manner? “Currently” means recently enough so that the condition could reasonably have an impact on your ability to function as a practicing lawyer.
  • Within the past five (5) years, have you ever raised the issue of consumption of drugs or alcohol or the issue of a mental, emotional, nervous or behavioral disorder/condition as a defense, mitigation, or explanation for your actions in the course of any of the following [proceedings...]?

If the applicant answers "yes" to any of these questions, they are then prompted to supply detailed supplemental information including dates and contact information for any treating physicians.  The applicant must also obtain a verification from the treating physician indicating that in the physician's opinion the applicant possesses the requisite character and fitness to practice law.  Notably, Virginia's application questions are almost identical to the National Conference of Bar Examiner's sample application

It appears that the first question aligns squarely with the ABA's resolution, but the other two questions go well beyond the narrow sphere recommended by the ABA.  It will be interesting to see how the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners (and, perhaps other jurisdictions who have adopted the same application) respond to the law students' challenge.  Stay tuned.  (Kirsha Trychta)

June 12, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Disability Matters, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A "Get-To" vs. "Got-To" Attitude as a Spring Board to Learning!

We're just about three weeks into bar prep.  The excitement of graduation seems so long ago.  We're back in the same 'ole schoolhouse setting, watching bar review lectures and working through hypothetical legal problems.  Sure seems like the same old pattern as law school.  But, it need not be.

But first, a bit of background...

In aviation, air traffic controllers will often query pilots about their altitude.  It's a bit of a hint from the controllers to the pilots that something might be amiss.  And, it almost sounds sort of polite:  "Easy-Go Airline Flight 100, Say Altitude."  

In response, the pilots make a quick check of the altimeter - the instrument that measures altitude (i.e, height of the airplane in the skies) to confirm that they are at proper altitude as assigned by air traffic control:  "Roger Denver Approach Control, Easy-Go Airline Flight 100, level at 15,000 feet."  

In between the two communications, however, you can bet that the pilots were quickly making some fast-footed adjustments to the aircraft's altitude to make sure that they would not be busted by the air traffic controllers.

That brings us back to the world of bar prep.  A quick "attitude check" might be similarly helpful for your learning.

You see, as Professor Chad Noreuil from Arizona State University puts it in his book entitled "The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam," it can be mighty helpful for your learning to have what I call an "attitude check."  In particular, as Professor Noreuil cites in his book, researchers have identified a positive relationship between an optimistic approach to learning and achievement in learning.  Consequently, Professor Noreuil counsels bar takers to take on a "get-to" attitude rather than a "have-to" attitude towards bar prep because a "get-to" attitude improves one's chances of succeeding on the bar exam.  That's what I refer to as a "get-to" versus a "got-to" attitude.

But how do you change your attitude from a "got-to" to a "get-to" attitude?  Well, here's a possible approach that might just help provide some perspective about the wonderful opportunity that you have to take the bar exam this summer.  You see, very few have that opportunity.  That's because the numbers are just stacked against most people.  They'll never get the chance that you have this summer.  

Here are the details.  According to the U.S. government, there are about 7.5 billion people worldwide, and the U.S. population is close to 330 million.  https://www.census.gov/popclock/   Out of that population, according to the ABA, there are about 35,000 law school JD graduates per year.  That's it.  https://www.americanbar.org/content/  And, because most states require a JD in order to to the bar exam, very few people get to take a bar exam, very few indeed.  

That brings me back to you.  As a JD grad preparing for the bar exam, you are one of the very few who get to take the bar exam.  So, take advantage of that opportunity this summer by approaching your bar exam studies as once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to "get-to" show your state supreme court all the wonderful things that you have learned about practicing law.  You've worked hard in law school for just such a season as this, so, to paraphrase a popular slogan, "Just do it...but do it with a get-to attitude this summer!  (Scott Johns).

 

June 7, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Is Learning Comfortable?

There's a line in the movie "The Greatest Showman" that goes something like this:  "Comfort is the enemy of progress."  

Attributed to PT Barnum, that got me thinking.  

I began to wonder if comfort might also be the enemy of learning, or at least perhaps a barrier to learning.

That's because learning is, frankly, uncomfortable.  And, it's uncomfortable because we learn from our own mistakes.  And, mistakes are, well, hard for us to accept because they show us that we are frail and have much to learn.

In my own case, I got to thinking that I might be trying to create such a "perfect" learning environment, so perfect, that I might be leaving my students with very little room for making mistakes.  In short, if that is the case, then there is very little left for my students to do, and if my students aren't doing, then they aren't making mistakes, and if they aren't making mistakes, then they really aren't learning at all.  My quest for perfect teaching might be crowding out learning.

Of course, it's important to inspire our students, to serve a role models of what it means to be learners, and to create optimal learning environments.  But, an optimal learning environment might just mean a lot less of them watching, listening, and observing me and a lot more of me watching, listening, and observing them.  That's really hard for me to do because, quite simply, I want to help them along, I want to speed the learning process along, and I want to make learning as simple as possible because I don't like to see my students be uncomfortable.

That's especially true in the bar prep world.  Much of bar prep is focused around talking heads featuring hours after hours of watching lectures hosted by prominent academics.  And, those lectures (and especially re-watching those lectures) can lull us into a false sense that we are learning.  In short, we can get mighty comfortable while watching lectures.  But, unfortunately, watching is not learning.  It might be an important and indeed necessary first step on the way to success on the bar exam, but, I daresay, no one passes the bar exam by watching others solve legal problems.  Instead, people pass the bar exam because of what they are doing after the bar review lectures.  And, that is really uncomfortable, especially in bar prep, because the stakes are so high and we make so many mistakes along the way.  In fact, because the questions are so difficult, it's hard to feel like we are learning when we are making so many mistakes.  

That's where we can come in as academic support professionals.  We can dispel the myth that learning comes "naturally." No it doesn't.  As I heard on a recent radio program, no one drifts into losing weight (or gaining strength or developing any new skill at all).  We have to be intentional.  We have to act purposefully.  So too with learning.  We don't become good at solving legal problems by osmosis, by watching lectures, by sitting on the sidelines observing others solve legal problems.  We become good at solving legal problems by solving legal problems (and lots of them).  And, I'm pretty sure that those wonderfully rehearsed bar review lectures didn't come out perfectly on the first cut.  In fact, take a look at any of the back scenes from any movie.  There are lots of outtakes that didn't make the cut.  But, without the outtakes, there wouldn't be a movie because, like learning, making a movie means making a lot of mistakes along the way.  So, as we support our students this summer as they prepare for their bar exams, let's give them room to learn.  Let's help them appreciate that none of us became experts by being experts.  Instead, we became good because we recognized that we weren't very good at all in the beginning but we keep at it, over and over, until we started to make progress, until we started to learn.  Of course, along the way, it didn't feel very comfortable.  But, because we know that learning is hard, humbling work...for all of us...it's okay to be uncomfortable.  So, this summer, let's help our students embrace the uncomfortableness of learning by being myth-busters, and, in the process breaking down the real barriers to learning, namely, believing that learning comes naturally for everyone but us.  (Scott Johns).

 

 

 

May 24, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Bar Preparation Tips from the Campaign Trail

What do a political candidate and a bar preppper have in common? Well, this past week, the answer is a lot!

On Tuesday, political candidates all around the country were vying for their respective party's nomination in the primary election. I attended an election results watch party where several of the candidates were successful in securing their nominations, allowing them to run on the party ticket in November. The feeling in the banquet room was a strange mix of having accomplished so much, yet having so far still to go. Each successful candidate worked hard for months to secure the primary nomination, besting other qualified candidates. So, Tuesday was surely a night for celebration. But, the excitement was quickly tempered for many by the realization that securing the primary nod is just the beginning. Each successful candidate now faces a grueling twenty-six week general election campaign schedule.

That odd sense of "unfinished accomplishments" was equally present a few days later at our law school graduation ceremony. While the students were thrilled to be receiving their diplomas on stage, most were also acutely aware that their work was not done. Rather, the hard work was just beginning. The graduates now face 10 weeks of (potentially grueling) bar preparation! Despite all that the students have accomplished during law school, most could only muster a qualified sense of achievement—contingent on the bar exam.

The parallel between political candidate and bar prepper got me thinking – perhaps the bar preppers could learn some study tips from the campaign trail. (The internet is replete with strategies and tips for managing a successful campaign. To remain party-neutral in this post, I’ve omitted citations to specific sources.) Here are a few campaign suggestions that are equally applicable to bar preppers:

Get on the ballot. Make sure that you’ve properly applied to sit for the bar exam in your desired jurisdiction. Also, don’t forget that if you move residences or start a new job between now and the date that you are sworn into the state bar, you’ll have to complete an update form. To access the correct update/amendment form, you can use this directory to lookup the contact information for the National Conference of Bar Examiners or a specific jurisdiction. Please be aware some jurisdictions require you to update both the NCBE and the specific jurisdiction directly.

Get to know your electorate. If you don’t already know exactly what is tested on the bar exam, now is the time to figure it out. You need to know what topics are tested, and how frequently each topic appears on the exam. For starters, most commercial bar preparation companies provide frequency charts and review this material during the first week of class. These detailed statistics will prove invaluable in July. See my Supermarket Sweep post for more details about how to maximize the usefulness of frequency charts.

Write your campaign plan. The commercial bar preparation courses give you a good time-management template, but be sure you’ve accounted for personal events (such as weddings or vacations) and personal preferences (such as watching the lecture videos in the morning or in the afternoon). According to most research, you want to aim for at least 600 hours of bar preparation studying. To help you track your hours, Download 600 Hours to Success, an interactive excel timesheet.

Gather a good team. You are going to need support. Talk with your friends and family about your expectations (and theirs) for the next 10 weeks. Is everyone on the same page? Are you expected to visit Great Aunt June? Who will do the grocery shopping and laundry? To start the discussion, I recommend writing a letter to your team members. For a good example, see the sample letter in “Pass the Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals” by Sara J. Berman. In addition to your friends and family, utilize the resources of your law school’s academic support or bar preparation center.

Prepare for long days. You will likely be working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, for the next 10 weeks. At first blush, you may be thinking: I worked 60 hours a week during law school, so what’s the big deal? The difference is what you did during those 60 hours. In law school, large sections of your day were planned and guided by professors. Plus the day was typically broken-up into varied chunks of class time, reading, clinic work, student organization events, co-curricular practices, and legal research/writing. During bar preparation, you alone are in charge of keeping everything on track, and the days can become repetitive and monotonous. In short, there is little variety and little oversight during bar preparation. Therefore, you need to create a detailed plan and rely on your team to keep you on track. (Re-read the tips above.)

If you follow these basic suggestions for navigating the campaign trail, you should be poised for bar exam success.

(Kirsha Trychta)

May 22, 2018 in Bar Exam Preparation, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Secret to a Great Weekend Get-Away!

I just had one of the best weekends of my life.  

But, before I get into the details, here's a bit of background about law school life in general.

As summarized by the Colorado Supreme Court, a 2016 survey of 3300 law students at 15 law schools indicated that law school life is, simply put, brutal to one's well-being.  

Here's the specifics:

  • 23 percent of surveyed law students reported mild to moderate anxiety with another 14 percent reporting severe anxiety
  • 17 percent of surveyed law students reported being depressed
  • 43 percent of surveyed law students reported binge drinking at least once in the previous two weeks 

http://coloradosupremecourt.com/Well-Being

In short, law school life can be really tough.  I know.  In my case, anxiety started to first take over my life...as a first-year law student in law school.  There's so much to think about, which I translate into "there's so much to worry about."  And, I was worried about everything, especially being called upon, in which, of course, I felt like I would finally be revealed as a fraud - an imposter not really belonging in law school.  Ever since I have realized how powerful our thoughts can be to our well-being.

That brings me to my recent weekend adventure...  

You see, it started just like any other weekend - busy.  In fact, extra busy.  So, busy that in my rush to wash my blue jeans, I forgot to check my pockets. Yep, my gleaming smartphone took a deep water plunge into the washing machine...for a good hour (my pants were really dirty).  The good news is that my phone was really clean now.  The great news...I actually felt relieved.  I felt free.  I no longer had this overarching, almost itching desire to constantly check my phone for messages, texts, and yes I'm old-fashioned, phone calls.  Simply put, my phone was dead.  Completely lifeless.  Just a bunch of fancy sparkling metal and glass that couldn't speak to me, write to me, talk with me, or respond to me.

At first, to be honest, that left me speechless.  But, oh what a weekend did I have! Or, to put it better, what a weekend did I experience!  

Why, I started to connect to real things, real people, real situations, real life.  And, in the course of connecting (or rather re-connecting), I started to feel less anxious.  I wasn't worried about constantly checking email.  It was almost gleeful.  

Now, I don't recommend washing your phone.  But, it was a lesson well-worth the price of admission.  Even now, with a replacement phone at hand, I try to leave it behind.  That's because the farther away my phone is from me, the better my own well-being.  

So, with finals almost finished (or nearly so), take a weekend get-away that will be, simply put, priceless.  Put that phone of yours away; bury it for the weekend; and go meet up with the world.

For more tips on developing well-being, please see the ABA's "Well-Being Took Kit for the Legal Profession," written by Anne Bradford, available at:  

 https://www.americanbar.org/well-beingkit  

For the entire article regarding the survey results of law students, please see David B. Jaffe, et. al, "Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being," available at:

 https://jle.aals.org/home/vol66/iss1/13/.  

(Scott Johns)

May 10, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)