February 26, 2010
Do you have the spring semester blahs?
Our part of Texas has had an abnormal winter. In my 6 years here, I do not remember so much bitter cold, sleet, and snow. I have had to use my snow shovel more than I ever remember. (At least I own one compliments of years in Ohio and Central Virginia.) Every time it gets nice (like yesterday at 70 degrees), the weather switches again. The cold front is moving in and "rain or wintry mix" is predicted.
Those of you in typical snow country have been snowed under more than usual. Those of you who have not seen snow in at least a decade have seen snow also. As if the weather were not bad enough, students and staff are at home with flu, colds, and other ailments.
Even during better winters, students always seem to have the blahs during January, February, and the beginning of March. After all, there isn't any of the excitement that accompanies fall semester with its "new start" and optimism. Spring semester is more of the same. Add shorter daylight. Add 1L professors moving more quickly through harder material than in the fall semester. Add 3L students who no longer care and just count the days. Add the stress of too many student organization responsibilities. Add the stress of a less than stellar job market.
It is no wonder that students have a lack of motivation. Exam period is getting closer. But, Spring Break does not seem close enough. Here are some hints for staying focused despite rampant blahs:
- Take one day at a time. Groaning that the break is too distant or that exams are coming up focuses somewhere outside today's realm of possibility. You can control what happens today.
- Large tasks often encourage lethargy. Break the task into small pieces. Forty pages of Payment Systems reading becomes eight blocks of five pages. A trial brief becomes a list of small research, writing, and editing tasks.
- Add more rewards into your schedule for staying on task. By having something to look forward to, you can convince yourself it is okay to work. Choose rewards with meaning for you personally (a bubble bath, a 1/2-hour sitcom, a longer lunch) and match them to the difficulty of the task (bigger rewards for bigger accomplishments).
- Find an accountability partner. Keep each other on track by asking one another if the tasks for the day were accomplished. If you have to "report in" to someone else, you are more likely to stop procrastinating.
- Avoid those people who turn grouchy with winter. Some folks are like hibernating bears awakened too early and really angry about it. They can color your view of life. Everyone is allowed to groan a bit, but it gets old fast if it is endless.
- Get some exercise. It doesn't have to be skiing or ice hockey. If you hate the cold, bundle up and go to a warm swimming pool or indoor running circuit. It is easy to let the weather make us all sedentary lumps.
Students usually brighten up once daylight starts to get longer and hints of spring turn into the real thing. The trick is staying focused until that happens. (Amy Jarmon)
January 28, 2010
Dealing with the unexpected
I have spent the last month talking with students whose grades were not good after last semester. In many cases, something unexpected happened to the student during the fall semester. That unexpected happening threw the student into a tailspin that meant that law school was not the student's focus.
The circumstances vary greatly. A close friend or family member may have been killed in a car accident. A parent may have been diagnosed with cancer. A long-term relationship may have ended in acrimony. A student may have become homeless. The student became very ill. Money may have run out. The list could include many other circumstances as well.
One can easily understand how these events could derail a student's attempts at studying. My concern is that the student often tells no one what is going on and "toughs it out" rather than seek assistance. Some students react in this way because the event is embarrassing or highly personal. Some students choose this path because they have always been able to overcome obstacles on their own. Some students are from cultural backgrounds that discourage one from talking about family or personal matters. Others are so overcome by the circumstances that they just do not know where to turn for help.
Unfortunately, most of these students had options that they could have considered. Most law schools have a variety of policies, procedures, and people to help students cope with adversity. After the fact, it is impossible to salvage a semester. However, at the time of the incident/tragedy, the law school may have been able to assist.
In hopes of helping law students seek help rather than go it alone, I am offering some suggestions should the unexpected occur this semester. Each law school will differ on the services and assistance available, but a law student coping with the unexpected should consider the following:
- Many law schools have policies and procedures that offer a variety of academic options. The timing in the semester may determine which options apply. Possibilities include: leave of absence, withdrawal from school, withdrawal from one or more courses to reduce the student's course load, delayed exams, paper or project extensions, incomplete grades, in progress grades.
- Many law schools have staff members whose duties specifically include working with students who have unexpected events suddenly impede their academics. Even if the student initially contacts the "wrong" person, these persons will be able to refer the student to the correct office. Staff members with these duties likely include: the associate dean for academics, the associate dean for student affairs/dean of students, or the academic support staff members.
- Choosing among options may require financial aid advice because of implications for loans, scholarships, or grants. Some law schools have a financial aid counselor specifically for law students. Law schools may instead use the university financial aid office on main campus for advising students about how options will affect their financial circumstances (and any deadlines that may affect financial aid).
- If the circumstance is purely financial, the financial aid officer may also be able to document the situation for re-packaging the student's aid for eligibility for more dollars. Emergency loan procedures at the law school may provide for quick loan dollars to cover car repairs, the deposit on a new apartment, or other smaller amounts needed to correct a problem.
- The law school may have information on local housing to assist a student who suddenly is without a place to live. Private parties may contact the law school with information on rooms or houses for rent. Law schools may also have "roommate wanted" listings or a bulletin board system for posting housing opportunities. Universities connected with the law school may have "off-campus housing" offices that can assist.
- Student health or counseling services may be included within student's fees to provide access to these professionals. These services may well be available at law schools connected to universities.
In short, there are ways to get help in a crisis. I encourage law students to let someone in the law school administration know what is going on so that services and options can be explored. (Amy Jarmon)
November 17, 2009
Time savers for home and school
Now that we are approaching the final crunch before exams, I try to help my law students find ways that they can save time on some of their tasks at school and at home.
Here are some hints that seem to ease the stress because of greater efficiency and effectiveness on school tasks:
- Read actively now for learning rather than highlighting material to learn later.
- Review regularly so that you do not need to relearn as much.
- Review your readings/briefs before you go into class.
- Review your class notes within 24 hours for better understanding. Condense them in anticipation of outlining later.
- Review your outline cover to cover regularly in addition to any specific topics you are learning.
- Should you study at school, another academic building, a coffeehouse, or at home to avoid distractions?
- Should you study one subject for a longer period (2-4 hours) or switch among subjects to keep focused?
- Should you cut back on hours at your job to make studying a priority?
- Should you lessen the time you spend on e-mailing, instant messaging, texting, and talking on the phone?
Here are some hints that seem to ease the stress because of greater efficiency and effectiveness on home tasks:
- Minimize your time spent on cleaning by scheduling a major cleaning session now and then picking up and spot cleaning only through the end of exams.
- Plan your errands so that you have scheduled blocks of time twice a week; place errands in the same part of town in the same time block.
- Run your errands in "off peak" times whenever possible to avoid lines. Since many stores stay open late or 24 hours, you do not have to shop at the same time as most people.
- Stock up on food supplies that have a long shelf life to avoid multiple grocery trips later.
- Buy "family size" portions of prepared foods even if you live alone so that you will have multiple meals taken care of at once. Freeze unused portions for later if you desire more variety within a week's menu.
- Complete as much food prep as possible on the weekend for the entire week. Cut up fresh fruit or vegetables to be portioned out over the week. Cook multiple servings of a recipe in the crock-pot to use during the week without extra food prep (or to freeze and thaw for greater variety later). Make sandwiches ahead for several days.
- Trade off child care with other law students so that each law school student can have blocks of uninterrupted time for study.
- Talk to family and friends about how important this period in the semester is to your success. Ask for them to help you have concentrated periods of study until exams are over.
By taking control over daily tasks that are not high priority, law students can minimize their stress and focus more on their study priorities. Saving even 1/2 hour per day means 3 1/2 extra hours per week to study for exams. (Amy Jarmon)
November 06, 2009
Beware perfectionism in law school
I know lots of law students who are perfectionists. In all prior learning experiences, they have been able to cope with this characteristic because the workload was not mammoth and the competition for grades was usually moderate.
If you think about it, American society pushes bright students to be perfect. We get into college by getting A grades. We get into law school by getting A grades. And, we are expected to get those grades while juggling lots of leadership positions and organization/team memberships. In fact, we are encouraged also to get jobs on top.
Having to be perfect, however, is very stressful. Why? Because it is impossible. No matter the prior accolades, there is always the lurking worry that one might not be perfect the next time. One can never relax as a perfectionist. Perfectionists tend to be unforgiving of their non-perfection: 95 is a failure; a missed response in class is an embarrassment of mammoth proportions; wrinkled jeans are shameful.
Some perfectionists have trouble beginning projects because of possible failure. If one will not be able to write the perfect paper within the time period or with the instructions given, then why even begin? And, if one delays, then an explanation for "failure" could be that one could have written the perfect paper if there had been more time.
Some perfectionists have trouble finishing projects. It is hard for them to read and brief efficiently (because every detail must be understood before moving to the next case), finish their research and move on to writing (because there may be one more case out there somewhere), or finalize a paper (because it needs one more rewrite to be perfect). If a perfectionist is also a very high-scoring sensing (detail) learner, the perfectionism may be exacerbated by that learning preference.
The stress of being perfect is often accompanied by physical or emotional difficulties. Stomach problems, headaches, insomnia, irritability, and depression are just a few examples. The toll on self can be devastating.
Perfectionists may also create tension in their work or family environments because of their expectations. In a sense, the focus is on what is wrong rather than what is right. A perfectionist may make an irritated remark to a group member who turned in the project with one typo. A minor error by a professor becomes a major crisis resulting in unforgiving criticism of that person. The apartment must be spotless at all times, and roommates beware of any transgressions.
Perfectionists can moderate the characteristic. Here are some suggestions:
- reorient expectations from being perfect to doing the best one can do each day
- become aware of what situations trigger perfectionism and decide on strategies to moderate one's behaviors in those situations
- set realistic time limits for projects and work within those time limits
- make realistic daily "to do" lists and keep long-term "to do" items on a monthly list to be transferred when appropriate to the daily list
- avoid being consumed by one task (perhaps a memo) to the exclusion of other necessary tasks
- spread work out over the semester to lower stress and allow longer periods for studying for exams or completing an assignment
- focus on feedback to improve a grade rather than focusing on the "failure" of meeting one's expectation for a better grade
- do not place unrealistic expectations or criticism on others because of your own perfectionism
- practice forgiveness for yourself and others when "perfect" is not achieved.
For those whose perfectionism is deeply entrenched and cannot be conquered with vigilance, consider working with a counselor at your campus counseling center. You will not be the only one who has sought help for the problem! Conquering perfectionism in law school will not only make you a happier law student; it will make you a happier practitioner as well. (Amy Jarmon)
October 14, 2009
When life gets in the way
Some students seem to be "magnets" for life's problems. The same student gets ill, has problems with a significant other, has a car that dies, has a delayed financial aid grant/loan, has a family member in the hospital, and has a puppy that gets sick. Obviously, these students may have their attention diverted from their academics as life's problems accumulate.
During my eighteen years working with students with academic issues, I have noticed that academic issues rarely come along without some life issues attached. However, not all students with multiple disruptions suffer as drastically in their academic performance. I have spent some time trying to determine reasons why some students juggle all of their life problems and academics better than others.
Here are some thoughts why certain students cope better than others. The items on the list are not in any specific order. The students who still succeed academically seem to have several of the following characteristics:
- They manage their time well. They schedule time to study within the parameters of other things going on in their lives. They are more efficient and effective with the time they have available. As much as possible, they stay on top of reading, outlining, and studying despite the exigencies they are facing. They get notes from classmates for days they were sick. They organize rides with friends until a new car is obtained. They take flashcards to drill with while in the vet's waiting room. They read ahead in anticipation of going home for dad's upcoming surgery.
- They utilize the resources available to them. They schedule appointments with the student health services or counseling center as appropriate. They are proactive about talking to the deans about possible options at their law school: medical withdrawal, dropping to an underload, leave of absence, re-scheduling final exams, incomplete or in-progress grades, etc.
- They explain their problems to their professors without using them as excuses. They are forthright with the information and explain what they are and are not able to do. They may well ask for appropriate extensions, patience with their non-preparedness for class, or schedule extra meetings with the professor to compensate for missed classes. But they do not use the exigencies as excuses for not having to do the work or doing mediocre work in expectation of a sympathy grade.
- They remember that law school is an important priority even though not the only priority. They realize they must focus on studying as well as handle the emotional fallout of life. They do not become consumed by life to the extent of ignoring law school. They set aside time each day to deal with life and time to study as well. If they become unable to handle both priorities they talk with the deans about their options. (Sometimes they have to make the difficult decision to withdraw and come back when life is under control and they can accomplish what they need to do academically.)
- They maintain their perspective during difficulties. They do not let an emergency or disruption send them into a tailspin. They differentiate between molehills and mountains. They count their blessings during hard times. They practice staying calm during crises. They often have a spiritual core that keeps them centered rather than feeling that they must shoulder the world alone.
- They are able to set boundaries on demands in their lives. They limit the amount of time that others can "control" their lives. They do not let others interrupt their lives constantly with demands that are non-urgent or unreasonable. They can differentiate between urgent, important, and unimportant. Examples: they will run routine errands for their grandmother once or twice a week rather than whenever they get a call; they return telephone calls or e-mails during study time on a priority basis rather than on mere occurrence; they meet their obligationis academically rather than let a friend consume hours talking about her boyfriend woes.
- They focus on living their own lives rather than other peoples' lives. They realize that the only life they can control is their own. They realize their own limits as to how they can help others. Ultimately, they recognize that they cannot save their parents' marriage, prevent their little brother from dating the wrong girl, or prevent their best friend from drinking too much. They make referrals to skilled professionals, listen as appropriate, and show love to those whom they love. But they do not take on the responsibility of solving everyone else's problems.
It is hard to juggle law school demands during normal circumstances. When life throws multiple problems into the mix, it takes courage and hard work to balance everything and make wise decisions. Students who reach out for help from deans, professors, academic support professionals, and the many other resources available to them are more likely to navigate the problems and law school without academic disaster. (Amy Jarmon)
October 13, 2009
Anxiety over being called on in class
I vividly remember the first time I was called on in law school. It was Contracts class. I was well-prepared. I opened my mouth to respond, and nothing came out. It was probably only a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. Anxiety almost took over. The ironic thing is that I had regularly done public speaking throughout my prior career.
When my students tell me that they have a fear of speaking in class, I empathize with them. Sometimes it is just fear of a new situation. Other times it stems from learning styels. Students who are listeners rather than talkers with a high degree of reflective thinking in their learning styles are unlikely to jump in and rabbit on in class.
My 1L students who avoid class participation and internally gasp when they are called upon usually fear the Socratic Method and having all eyes on them in a large section. However, 2L and 3L students also admit that they are reticent to speak in class. The problem for them is that class participation often makes up some portion of their grade. So, unlike the 1L student who can silently pray that she is not called upon, the 2L or 3L has to brave it and raise a hand or forfeit a chunk of the grade.
Here are some tips that I give to my students to help them become more confident:
- After reading and briefing (or taking notes if material other than cases is assigned), take a few minutes to synthesize your reading. Then out loud explain the reading to an empty chair, the family pet, or an understanding friend. Next think of the professor's usual questions and answer them out loud. You can practice your answers and gain confidence by this recitation step.
- When the professor asks a question in class, answer silently in your head. Then compare your answer to what another student says. Listen to the professor's feedback. You will probably find that you would have answered correctly. Again, your self-confidence should get a boost from this exercise.
- Gain additional practice voicing your opinions, questions, and answers by talking in your study group more than usual, talking with a classmate about the material, participating in student organization meetings, or asking the professor questions on office hours. The more you talk, the less apprehensive you will be.
- Pick the class that you feel most confident in about the material and/or most comfortable with the professor/class size. Prepare carefully for each class. Write down one or two questions that you could ask in class. Choose one or two of the professor's typical questions that you could answer. In each class period for two weeks, make yourself participate once. Then particpate twice each class period the next two weeks. Continue to increase your participation over the semester.
- After you have had success in one class, use the same methods in another class. Be consistent about challenging yourself to participate every class.
- If you find it hard to make yourself voluntarily participate, consider going to the professor for assistance. Explain that you are trying to get over your fear of speaking in class and ask that the professor call on you some days. Most professors are pleased when students try to confront their fears and are willing to help in overcoming the challenge.
Law school is a "safe place" to gain more confidence in speaking in groups. Practice is essential in developing a new skill. As an attorney, you will be expected to speak up in meetings, hold client interviews, and lead case/project meetings. Why not gain those skills in the law school environment? (Amy Jarmon)
October 09, 2009
Dealing with negativity
Stress and anxiety are increasing as the semester reaches the halfway point. More students are mentioning that they are not sleeping well, cannot focus, are prone to procrastinate, and feel guilty or depressed about their academics.
In many of the conversations, students share with me the types of negative self-talk statements that cycle through their heads. Here are some examples:
- Everyone else seems to "get it." What's wrong with me?
- I am way behind and won't catch up no matter what I do.
- I will never finish this memo/paper with a good grade.
- I should be paying more attention to my boyfriend/spouse/ children/sick aunt and am such a bad person.
- I will never understand ________, so why not just give up.
Students often believe this internal negativity without any question. Instead they should rebut the negativity and refuse to blindly accept it as true. The rebuttal should take a more positive position and determine a strategy to resolve any problem. Examples of rebuttals to the negative self-talk above might be:
- Realistically, I am not the only person who is confused. I can get clarification from my professor/tutor/study group by asking questions.
I am behind in my reading and have a strategy for catching up. I'll stay current with my new reading and slip in back reading one case at a time next week.
I will do my very best. I have time for one more draft and several more edits.
I am not a bad person. I am balancing my time between school and personal obligations. My family members and friends understand the importance of school.
This course is hard, but I can learn it. I shall spend some time today writing down my questions and talking to my professor.
There are other actions that can also assist in dealing with negativity in one's outlook. By following some simple steps, life begins to look less awful:
- Get enough sleep. At least 7 hours. With appropriate rest, our brains are more alert and productive. And problems do not seem as overwhelming.
- Exercise. Exercise is one of the best stress busters. By taking a break for some cardio, students renew themselves for the next round of studying.
- Eat nutritious meals. Our bodies and brains perform better when we include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat or fish in our diets. Junk food, sugary snacks and drinks, caffeine, and processed foods provide less nutrition. And skipping meals is total no-no!
- Surround oneself with positive people. Avoid law students who are complaining, moaning, and groaning. You can take on their negativity if you are not careful.
- Break larger tasks into very small steps. You will feel more motivated and confident about completing a small step when the larger task seems too overwhelming.
- Take time to write down a "blessings" list for yourself. Write down all the things you can be thankful for and read it whenever you begin to lose your perspective.
- Remember that you are the same very bright and capable person who entered law school. You are dealing with challenging material and are among others who are equally bright. If you use the many resources available at your law school, you can learn more efficient and effective strategies for your studies that will help you succeed.
- Seek medical advice if necessary. If the negativity makes you ill or turns into depression, go to a doctor or counselor for assistance.
Most law students feel overwhelmed at some point during law school. However, it does not have to be an ongoing way of life. (Amy Jarmon)
September 25, 2009
When it all becomes too much...make the tough choices
This is not about the stress and anxiety students are feeling, but the stress and anxiety we feel at the start of the school year. 5 weeks into the year, and many of us feel as beat-up as our students. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, if you light the candle (mixed metaphor, but I think it works).
Most ASPer's run themselves ragged at the start of the school year; orientation, new-student workshops, bar prep workshops, one-on-one's with nervous students. On top of these demands, many of us are also teaching classes of some sort. At the start of the semester, you think..."Okay, it will get better in a few weeks. I just have to hold out for a few weeks, and it will slow down." However, it rarely slows down. After the start of the semester, mid-term prep starts. Then mid-term crisis. Finals prep is right after you finish with midterm crisis. Throughout, ASPer's are grading and giving feedback, writing practice questions, serving as a resource to other faculty, attending committee and faculty meetings, returning (voluminous amounts) of email, and some have additional publishing and presentation requirements for contract renewal or tenure considerations. And if you are a new ASPer, everything just takes a longer amount of time to get finished, because you are on such a steep learning curve. To be in your first or second year of the profession, don't expect to work as fast or get as much done as someone in the fourth, fifth, or sixth year.
Lesson: It won't slow down until summer, unless you are involved in bar prep, and it never slows down.
ASPer's tend not to be of the personality type that takes time for themselves. We are the givers. We certainly don't do it for the money (in fact, many of us took pay cuts to be ASPer's). We do it for the satisfaction of helping people. But there is a never-ending supply of people to help. Recognizing this fact is part of the solution. During law school, a wise, wise ASPer told me that all of us got to law school because we ate our spinach before the chocolate cake, but in law school, there is a never-ending supply of spinach, and it's possible to never reach the chocolate cake. You just need to make a choice to stop eating the spinach and reward yourself with the chocolate cake. There may be spinach left on your plate, but you need to choose the chocolate cake.
Right now, you need to start making tough choices, choices that replenish you emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. No one will make these choices for you. Of course there is more to do, there always is more to do, but some of it just won't get done. You won't please all people. Doing more than you are capable of handling can make you a poor role model for our students, who need to see effective work-life balance. No, students won't be thrilled when you tell them you are taking a day off from meetings to focus on professional development, but they will learn much more from a refreshed, happier, teacher than a burnt-out, angry, exhausted one. You may not get support from your faculty and staff; some may resent that you are taking a break during the semester (many don't realize that you worked through the summer). ASP has a high burn-out rate because so many of us don't make the tough choices soon enough. We wait until we finish our first year, then we want to wait until after contract renewal, then after we succeed teaching our first doctrinal class, publishing for the first time, so on and so forth. Very few administrators will tell you to take a time out to focus on your own needs; their top concern is the needs of the school and the needs of the students. You need to explain that you are placing the needs of the school and the students first when you take time off, because you will come back giving 100% everyday, instead of 50% (or 30%) most days.
If you feel like you need permission, I am giving you permission. I am not your boss, your partner, a family member, or a colleague (to most of you). I am a concerned person who has been there, and done that. (RCF)
July 01, 2009
Goals and Happiness
And another study backs up what Larry Krieger and Ken Sheldon have been telling us in the ASP community for years...extrinsic goals make people more anxious, and intrinsic goals make people more happy. Of course, the study is far more complex than my simplification here, but it's interesting that more research is coming out showing that money, fame, and good looks are not the keys to happiness...they are keys to the hedonic treadmill. Unfortunately, these are the reasons many people come to law school. And then we see unhappiness and anxiety.
For more on the study, click here The Keys to Happiness
May 15, 2009
Helping Probation Students Deal with Grades
Finals finished a week ago today. Grades are due on Monday.
I am beginning to get e-mails and queries from students who were on probation last semester. It is as if they have had some relaxation but also just long enough to rehash exams. They are now mentally preparing themselves.
Some are inquiring about meetings in preparation for attending summer school. They are feeling confident that grades will allow them to continue. They want to start working on their study habits for the short, intense summer classes. They will often be juggling classes and part-time jobs. The discussions with these students tend to focus on:
- Discussion about the differences between regular semesters and summer sessions.
- Discussion about progress in their study skills and honing improved skills to new levels while shoring up areas that are still weak.
- A draft time management schedule for their planned courses and work hours.
- If they ask, we discuss how the petition process ties into summer school start-up should their grades fail to meet all of the requirements. (With no grades posted yet, I tend to allow them to ask. We still have time for this discussion if needed as grades come in.)
Some are making backup plans. They are somewhat hopeful about grades, but are contacting me about possible alternatives. The discussions with these students tend to focus on:
- The petition process if their grades fail to meet all of the requirements. They usually ask about the process immediately. The time line for the process is often important to them.
- Discussion of possible avenues other than law school: work, other graduate programs, later readmission, application to other law schools.
- The reality that it will take a few days for all grades to be posted and that some grades may be late coming in because of professor illness or other extenuating circumstances.
- Stress management tips as needed.
- A few of these students doubt that they will want to continue even if their grades turn out okay. I encourage them to do what is best for them and remind them that law school is not a perfect match for everyone.
Several different types of probation students will contact me once grades begin to post. The context will vary with each situation.
Some will contact me with excitement over the postive changes they made and their first ever Bs - or even As. What are fondly known as "Atta Boy! Atta Girl!" letters will be in the mail for them before too long as they surpass their probation requirements. In these cases, I focus on:
- Being enthusiastic in my celebration with them.
- Talking about future honing of study habits to continue a sharp upward trend in their grade point averages.
- Offering to work with them again on a regular basis to help them improve further when they take their next courses.
Some students will contact me with despair when not all of their grades measure up to their expectations even though they met the requirements. Why? They are personally disappointed because they just eked by the probation requirements or have not yet achieved anything higher than perhaps a C+. For such students, the discussion focuses on:
- The areas of improvement that they did have and what changes contributed to that improvement.
- The fact that study habits improve over time and need to be honed each semester.
- A game plan for ways they can improve in the future.
- An offer to work with them again on a weekly basis to help them improve further when they take their next courses.
Some of the students who are despairing will have fallen below the requirements but have a right to petition because of extraordinary circumstances. With these students, I will focus on:
- Listening to their concerns and worries so that they are able to process some of the shock and sorrow.
- Turning their attention to any options that they have and how to take action on those options.
- Explaining what the requirements mean for the student's specific transcript and discussing the petition option(s) appropriate for that student. Again, time lines are often important.
- Explaining what categories of information must be included in the written petition.
- Beginning the process of thinking about alternatives if a petition is unsuccessful.
- Discussing stress management tips as needed.
- Referring them to other deans or offices as appropriate.
And for those students whose grades are so far away from the requirements that petitioning is not realistic or impossible because of the rules, the discussion focuses on:
At the end of the day, I want each of these students to exit whatever level in the process feeling that someone listened, gave accurate information, and helped them through the process. A student may have abysmal grades, no extraordinary circumstances, or no options left in regard to law school. However, that student still deserves someone who listens with patience and courtesy. (Amy Jarmon)
April 08, 2009
Rewards as Motivators
Law students may find that providing themselves rewards for task completion during final assignments and exam studying will keep them motivated. Students should match the reward to the accomplishment: large rewards for large tasks completed; medium rewards for medium tasks completed; and small rewards for small tasks completed.
Students can determine their own definitions of large, medium and small tasks depending on difficulty of course material, type of assignment, and length of the paper. In addition, students will differ as to the content of the motivators depending on their own tastes and lifestyles.
Here are some ideas to help students generate their own rewards lists:
- Ice cream for dessert
- Chai latte on the way to school
- Popcorn snack mid-afternoon
- Chat in the student lounge for 10 minutes
- Sit outside and work on one's tan for 10 minutes
- Check e-mail for 10 minutes
- Walk around campus for 10 minutes
- Watching a 1/2 hour sitcom.
- Phoning a friend for 30 minutes.
- Lunch with a friend in the student lounge
- Video games for 30 minutes
- Free cell for 30 minutes
- Playing Frisbee with the family dog
- Reading a story to a child
- Lunch or dinner at a restaurant
- Going to the cinema
- Reading the Sunday paper cover to cover
- Reading a novel for several hours
- Taking a drive in the countryside
- Buying a new cookbook
- Taking one's children to the park
The rewards are only limited by the law student's imagination and finances. By having something to look forward to, it is easier to persevere and finish a task. (Amy Jarmon)
April 07, 2009
Exams start here in 21 days, so the stress level is increasing by the minute. Many of my students are handling their stress well, but some have become so stressed that they are not able to get a perspective on how to help themselves.
Students sometimes think their stress comes only from studying itself, but stress can also come from friends, family, and personal responsibilities. By dealing with both the law and non-law stress, students can cope more effectively.
The following list of stress busters should help students who are looking for quick and easy solutions for decreasing their stress:
- Tackle your most onerous task for the day as early as possible in your schedule. That way, it won't "hang over" you all day long and add to your stress.
- Tackle your hardest study tasks when you are most alert. Your brain will absorb material more easily for greater understanding and retention. Consequently, you will feel better about your study session and lower your stress.
- Decide whether you study better for exams by focusing on one subject or several subjects per day. Some students need the variety to stay focused. By working with your own style, you will be less stressed than trying to study the way your friends study.
- Read through your outlines cover to cover each week in addition to any specific topics you are studying. By keeping all of the material fresh, you will feel less anxious about forgetting things.
- Take short breaks (5-10 minutes) every 90 minutes and longer breaks every 4 hours (45 minutes). Your brain will keep filing information while you relax. You will stay more focused by allowing some down time to de-stress.
- Explain to your family and non-law friends why you need to focus on preparing for exams. Schedule some fun activities for after exams so they know you will make it up to them after this last push. If you do not feel guilty about family and friends, you will be less stressed.
- Exercise for 30 minutes at least 2-3 times per week. You may not have time for your usual long workout at the gym. However, taking time to go for a walk or jog will help defuse stress.
- Eat three balanced meals a day. Resorting to junk food deprives your brain of much needed fuel and contributes to stress. Cook large quantities over the weekend or in a crock pot so that you have meals for the week.
- Avoid caffeine overloads, including energy drinks. High doses of caffeine can have serious health side effects: increased blood pressure, panic attacks, increased anxiety, insomnia, and more. Drink ice water instead.
- Avoid sugar highs and crashes from too many candy bars and sodas. Too much sugar will add to irritability which will cause you to feel stressed.
- Get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. Shirking on sleep means your brain cells do not work as well, your productivity goes down, and your ability to cope with stress decreases.
- Stock up on all of your exam essentials now: pens, pencils, ink cartridges, healthy snacks, healthy beverages, foods with long shelf life. Fewer errands to run as exams approach will lower your stress.
- Complete a "whirling dervish" clean of your apartment now. Then just pick up and spot clean for the remaining weeks. Finding time for major chores every week can be very stressful.
- Switch to low-maintenance clothing so that you have less ironing to do and fewer dry cleaning trips to fit in to your schedule. Again, one less chore to worry about will lower your stress.
By adding even one or two stress busters, students can increase their coping skills as the semester winds down and the stress winds up. (Amy Jarmon)
February 11, 2009
From Blame Game to Blessing
It is the time in the semester when blame seems to be going around at the same speedy rate as colds and flu. Students are feeling hassled because our weather is ping-ponging regularly between sunny 70s and freezing temperatures. (At your school, it may be ice and snow and torrential rains.) Stress is up because mid-term exams are either in progress or approaching within a few weeks.
We all blame other people or other things for our problems at times. After all, last time I checked, we are all human. And, because we are human, we sometimes get stuck in the blame cycle. It is far better if we can get beyond venting to implementing a plan of action to resolve the difficulty. (Even better, if we can also go the next step to a proactive plan to avoid the same problem in the future.)
Below are some of the common blame game statements that seem to be circulating right now. Each is coupled with an attitude switch to end the blaming and move on to finding the blessing in disguise:
- Blame: My professor has cancelled class so many times because of (fill in: illness, conference travel, special events) that it is impossible for me to understand the course. Blessing: Take advantage of the extra time to review the material and pull it together before class picks up again. Work with a classmate or Tutor/Teaching Assistant if necessary.
- Blame: My professor is so far behind in the syllabus that it is a waste of time to read. Blessing: Review your prior reading before going into class so that you understand it at a deeper level. Use the time you do not need for reading to complete other study tasks: outline the course, review your outline, make flashcards, undertake practice questions.
- Blame: My professor has assigned a mid-term the day after my other mid-term and just before Spring Break because students want to leave early. Blessing: You still have enough weeks before the two mid-terms to schedule your studying to prepare for both mid-terms without sacrificing one grade for the other. Attorneys often have multiple deadlines and cope better if they have previously learned how to juggle multiple projects.
- Blame: My mid-term exam was impossible to (fill in: understand, complete in the time, know what to expect) because the professor did not (fill in: give us practice questions, teach the material, warn us it would be so hard). Blessing: You now have realistic expectations about the exams for this professor and how you need to study. You have time to review your mid-term exam, get suggestions on how to improve from the professor, take proactive measures, and bring your grade up on the final exam.
- Blame: Its nof fair that my professors are speeding up in class when I am busy with (fill in: job hunt for the summer, mock trial try-outs, legal writing projects). Blessing: Again, whether you are busy with personal or other academic tasks at this point in the semester, you are learning how to juggle multiple projects and deadlines. You are also learning about priorities. Attorneys need these skills. Learn it well now, and you will be more successful in the future.
So, I let my students vent a bit. Then, we get on with reality and a game plan to turn lemons into lemonade. (Amy Jarmon)
February 04, 2009
Second Semester Exhaustion
If there is one complaint I hear everyday, it is second-semester exhaustion amongst 1L's.
It doesn't matter where they fell on the curve at their school, or where they are ranked, second semester exhaustion happens across the spectrum. Students who did well are scared that they can't keep up their grades and any drop in their GPA will reflect on them poorly during summer OCI; students who did not do well are exhausted because they worked very hard during the fall, and they are demoralized by their performance; and students in the middle of the curve are still mystified by the process and don't know what they can do to bring up their grades. 1L's spend their very brief (sometimes just two-week) break between fall and spring semester rushing through the holidays and fretting over their grades, so they don't really get a chance to unwind and regroup. The start of the semester at the same time grades are coming out packs another punch to 1L's; they don't have a chance to digest and evaluate their performance because they are already overwhelmed with the work they need to complete. To add to the stress, many law schools have a more rigorous second-semester legal writing course that requires 15 credit hours worth of work for a 3 credit class, and are looking for jobs for the summer. When you think about all that 1L's are trying to carry during the start of the semester, it's really not a surprise they are exhausted and many feel unmotivated.
I try to reassure the students that they will be fine, that it is okay to feel less excited and more tired during the second semester than they felt during the first. As long as they are doing the reading, briefing and outlining, as well as turning in their legal writing assignments on time, they will be fine. I only start to worry when the exhaustion overwhelms them and the basic law school necessities (reading, studying) start to slide. Those students need immediate intervention; it's very difficult to catch back up once a student falls behind.
But most students do stick to the minimum, and start to feel better by spring break. They have had a chance to regroup and digest their grades, and they feel they are on more solid ground. (RCF)
January 14, 2009
Why did I ever go to law school?
As Liz stated in her wonderful posting yesterday, our minds are with our students who are struggling right now. My posting below follows up on her theme.
Students are showing up in my office with the above question on their lips. They generally fall into two categories. Some ask because their grades are less than adequate in their eyes (and in some cases are actually probation grades). For others, it is the thought of facing another semester of hard work and stress when they have begun to have doubts.
It would be easy to plunge in to a "Dean Fix-it" mode right away. After all, we ASP types know lots of techniques and strategies and can usually see what needs to be "worked on" by each student. Instead, I bite my tongue initially (fortunately, not all the way through yet), listen, and nod as the student tells me all about it.
The first thing most of my students want is the knowledge that somebody cares about how they are feeling. My office is one of the places where they can check their machismo play-acting at the door.
The second thing most of my students want is the realization that no matter how embarrassed they are about their performing badly or questioning whether law school is still their goal, I do not judge them. Life is full of obstacles and doubts. My job is to help them move forward.
The third thing most of my students want is reassurance that they are not the only ones who have ever felt this way about grades or law school. They are not failures though they may have failed or nearly failed courses. They are not aberrant members of society if law school is no longer appealing.
Finally, they want the reassurance that there are strategies and techniques that we can work on together that should be able to improve their grades and get them back on track if law is still their dream. I am not a miracle worker. But, I have seen students blessed with miracles when they worked exceedingly hard. Does that mean that every student will make it? No, but it means that I no longer think that I know which ones will or will not.
[Of course, there are some students who definitely do not want to continue to pursue a law degree. There are a few that statistically should not unless the law school has policies that provide options. I help these types of students weigh the pros and cons, make a plan if they decide to withdraw or to stay, and believe in themselves after the decision. If they stay, they need to know that I shall work 110% to help them (and expect them to do the same). If they walk away, they need to know that law is not for everyone and that there is a life (and success and joy) outside law school.]
"Why did I ever go to law school?" One of the reasons that I understand the question is because I asked it myself a few times during the process. Fortunately for me, it was soul searching rather than grades that prompted the question. However, the question was scary just the same. (Amy Jarmon)
November 14, 2008
Remembering What Crisis Really Looks Like
With exams just two weeks away, some law students have started to lose perspective in major ways. Despite the current world events, they have forgotten what a real crisis looks like outside our building. They believe that papers, exams, presentations, and grades are crises of enormous magnitude rather than transitory problems with solutions.
Law school is tough, but not as tough as life is for many people each day. Here are four statistics to share with students who have lost their perspective:
- 9.2 million children died worldwide in 2007 before their fifth birthday. (UNICEF)
- 33 million people worldwide were living with HIV in 2007. (UNICEF)
- One out of three city dwellers worldwide lived in a slum in 2006. (UN-Habitat)
- More than 14 million refugees and internally displaced people lived in tents or temporary shelters in 2006. (Kissick et al)
Perhaps these world figures are too faceless and, therefore, have little impact on regaining perspective. In those cases, I suggest you provide examples by filling in the blanks below for your own locale:
- The small businessman caught in the economic downturn who owns _____________ is focused on trying to avoid filing for bankruptcy this week.
- The single mother living in the _______________ shelter with her three children just hopes to be safe from domestic abuse tonight.
- The homeless person at the ____________ soup kitchen is most concerned about having one hot meal.
- The mother whose child was killed at the corner of ____________ and ____________ by a drunk driver last week just wants her child back.
- The workers for ______________________ that just laid off hundreds are wondering how to pay the rent, buy groceries, and find another job.
If the students came to law school to make a difference in the world, they will likely regain perspective quickly by remembering all the people in their own city, in the U.S.A., and throughout the world who are waiting for caring lawyers to graduate, pass the bar, and come to their assistance. With that incentive, these students can re-focus on preparing for upcoming exams and a future where they will be qualified to help solve the world's most difficult problems.
If the students came to law school merely wanting to earn enormous future salaries, drive expensive cars some day, and own the biggest houses in the neighborhood when they become partners, perhaps these statistics will cause them to think of others and how their legal careers could serve society through pro bono work. They may get more perspective on what a real crisis is and get back to work with less angst over their studies.
There are always some law students who keep their perspective in place because they live with real life crises daily. However, living in the law school fish bowl with the same people every day can cause other law students to forget the world outside. Those law students need to regain perspective on what a real crisis is and be thankful for the privilege of being in law school. (Amy Jarmon)
November 05, 2008
Helping Students Manage Stress
Exams start at our law school immediately after the Thanksgiving Break this year. With just four weeks left, the students are becoming more stressed each day. Those who have been distributing their learning throughout the entire semester are holding up far better than their classmates.
Here are some of the tips that I offer my students to help them manage their stress during this time of the semester. The tips are not in any particular order as to priority.
- Break every task down into small steps. It is easier to motivate yourself to complete a small task. You will feel less stressed about the progress you are making because small tasks will get crossed off your list more quickly.
- Get assistance from others when you are confused about course material. Go to your professors on office hours. Go to the teaching assistants or tutors for your 1L courses. Ask questions of classmates who understand the material. Work with a study partner or group to review material.
- Condense your outlines multiple times to avoid stress about forgetting material. Someone described this process to me as follows. After you know the material in your full-length outline, condense it in half to "son of outline." After you are confident with that version, condense it in half again to "grandson of outline."
- Have a memorized mini-outline to reduce stress in the exam. At least a week before the exam, condense your course to the front and back of one sheet of paper. In a closed-book exam, you write the mini-outline down on scrap paper once the proctor says you may begin. Voila - security blanket extraordinaire.
- Practice applying the content for each course. The more questions you do, the more confident and less stressed you will be in the exam. A myriad of fact scenarios during your studying means you will be less likely to meet something on the exam that you have never thought about previously. And you will be more aware of nuances when applying the law.
- Practice exam-taking techniques for each course. By doing plenty of practice questions, you will have your strategies on auto-pilot: how to organize your answers, how to write concise sentences, how to calculate a time-chart for the exam, how to approach the fact patterns most efficiently, how to use IRAC. You will be less stressed over how to take the exam and will focus instead on the actual questions asked.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Whether it is face-to-face or by telephone, have contact with people who will encourage you and raise your self-esteem. Avoid people who are all "doom and gloom" about exams.
- Choose study locations that help you focus and lower your stress. Many law students cannot study at the law school because the stress level is so high. Consider studying at other academic buildings on campus, the main campus library, coffeehouses, classrooms at your local church or synagogue, or your apartment complex conference room.
- Become an even nicer person. You will feel better about yourself and lower your stress if you focus on others rather than yourself. Help another student who doesn't understand a topic. Buy a cup of coffee for the student behind you in the lunch line. Take cookies to your study group. Volunteer in class when another student is floundering in answering a question.
- Get in touch with your spiritual side. No matter what your belief system is, being in touch with a power greater than yourself can be calming. You will be less stressed if you do not feel alone in carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.
- Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. You will focus better, be more productive, and retain more information.
- Eat nutritious meals. Your body will function better, including your brain cells. Avoid caffeine and sugar overload.
- Exercise at least 45 minutes three times per week. Exercise is one of the most effective stress busters. Avoid exercising too late at night,however, as it can disrupt your ability to sleep.
In addition to tips, I provide my students with a handout of easy relaxation exercises. Most of the exercises can be done anywhere - even in the exam room. (Amy Jarmon)
November 04, 2008
Aesop's Fables for Law Students III
The final re-written Aesop's fable is probably less well-known than the other two that I chose. The original fable is about a cat that has only one method of defense in danger and a fox that prides itself on its many options of defense. When the hounds get close, the cat runs up the tree to safety. The fox dithers about which option to use and is caught and eaten.
The Cat and the Fox:
Cat is known for adaptability, but lives day by day and task by task. Cat reads all the cases, takes notes, outlines material, and talks with the professor. Cat always attempts to understand material by thinking about the cases, the sub-topics, and the topics. When perplexed, Cat draws down from the library shelves one study aid on the subject to gain more understanding. Sometimes Cat uses different series to help with studying, but always realizes that study aids are supplements to his learning. After additional reading and pondering, Cat goes to the professor if still confused. Cat thinks and thinks about the material read and discussed. After time, Cat smiles and nods his head in understanding.
Fox is known for being one of the most clever, but always seeks another option. Fox reads the canned briefs, uses a class script, uses outlines guaranteed to be from A students, and never meets with the professor. Fox avoids personally thinking about the cases, the sub-topic, and the topics whenever possible. Fox goes to the library shelves and pulls down several different study aids explaining the subject. If those study aids do not state the answers, Fox pulls down more study aids. Soon Fox is surrounded by study aids but does not know any more than when the first was used. Fox is disgruntled that nothing states exactly what to know and how to know it. After time, Fox fumes and shakes his head in disgust.
One day Cat and Fox are seated next to each other in the student lounge. "Do you understand Topic X, Cat?" "Why, yes, I do. X means...." "But I have scanned multiple study aids without understanding X! How did you understand it?" Cat mulls over the question and responds, "I only have one way to learn and that is to think, and mull over, and ponder. Even with other resources, I still must do the laborious thinking to make the knowledge my own."
Moral: Having multiple resources will do a law student no good if one's natural intelligence to think about the material is ignored. Study aids are useful supplements to help in thinking, but one must still do independent thinnking to learn. Use study aids wisely. Avoid shortcuts that undermine thinking. (Students do not have to settle for shortcuts and can select more successful strategies.)
I might add that I am a strong proponent of study aids. My office actually has an extensive study aids library for students to use. I carry the major series of study aids - most of which are written by law professors. However, I avoid study aids that are designed merely as shortcuts. I do not carry canned briefs, for example, because students use those as replacements for reading and briefing.
My office provides a handout on wise use of study aids. I also spend time talking with students about which study aids will best match their needs. Our 1L Tutors also advise students on study aids that are appropriate for individual professors. A number of professors recommend study aids in their syllabi.
Although I am in favor of study aids, I encourage students to make their own briefs, outlines, flashcards, graphic organizers, and practice questions. I advise students to use study aids as supplements to their learning rather than being "study aid dependent" in their learning. I remind students that they should learn their professor's version of the course for the exam. I warn them that commercial aids may be wrong and, with a few exceptions, will not cover Texas law.
Why do I encourage study aid use and have a study aids library? There are a number of reasons.
- Casebooks are often bereft of previews, summaries, questions, and problems that can assist in student learning. Even students who work very hard at their reading and briefing will not always be able to understand the material. Study aids can add background that a student is unable to get alone.
- No matter how good the professor is, some students need a different approach to the material. Students learn differently; and as a result, need to study differently. Some students need an overview first. Some students need summaries after learning the parts. Some students are weak aural learners. Some students learn from application. The professor's teaching style is legitimate, and the students' different learning styles are also legitimate. Study aids can bridge any gap between the two.
- Some students are unable to articulate their questions for the professor until they have a general understanding of the material. Study aids can facilitate their understanding so that they are then able to approach the professor and articulate their specific gaps in understanding.
- Practice questions are essential to students learning how to apply the material. Unfortunately, most professors provide limited practice questions to their students. There are a number of practice question books that can provide application experience for students throughout the semester as well as when they prepare for exams.
- Study aids are expensive. Not all students can afford to purchase them - even the ones recommended by their professors. Because study aids can serve as positive supplements to student thinking, having a study aids library for short-term use allows all students access to the main series. Those students who are considering purchases can "test drive" several study aids to match the purchases to their learning styles and the professor's course.
Study aids can bridge the gap in understanding material. However, students still need to use their own thinking ultimately to learn the material. (Amy Jarmon)
October 31, 2008
Aesop's Fables for Law Students II
I have included below the second of the Aesop's fables that I wrote for my law students in my weekly tips e-mail. Most of you will probably remember the original version of this well-known fable.
The Tortoise and the Hare:
Tortoise methodically thinks about every question and topic: considering the rules for each issue, laying out every step, and providing relevant details to analysis. Tortoise often answers questions in class slowly. Tortoise mulls over remarks in study group and is never quick to answer. Tortoise sometimes worries because the Hares seem so adept in class or study group when answering questions.
Hare can think on his feet adroitly and is never at a loss in class when called upon by the professor. Hare gets to the point rapidly without wasting words or time on aspects that seem unimportant. Hare is often perplexed why Tortoise is so slow when the answers seem so obvious. Occasionally Hare is asked by the professor for more information, but Hare has never actually been wrong on an answer.
Exam period arrives at last. Tortoise carefully reads the instructions, reads each word of each fact pattern, and takes time to make an "outline" of each answer before writing. Tortoise allots the maximum time for each question and moves to the next question when that time is up. Tortoise stays to the end of the exam and finishes with only minutes to spare.
Hare ignores the instructions, sizes up the fact patterns quickly, and begins writing furiously within minutes of reading a fact pattern. Without making many notes, Hare juggles all of the rules and facts in his head. Hare sees that the issues and analysis are obvious for the right conclusions. Although it is a four-hour exam, Hare crosses the finish line in a mere 2 1/2 hours. Looking around the room after turning in the exam, Hare is astonished that nearly everyone else is still writing furioiusly. Hare chuckles, congratulates himself on his right answers, and leaves the room.
When grades come back, Hare is startled to receive only low C grades. During exam reviews, Hare finds out that the model answers have more detail, give in-depth analysis, and are more organized. The professor's comments on the exam indicate that Hare's answers were "conclusory" without sufficient analysis and that Hare did not use the format in the instructions. And, to Hares's astonishment, his "right" conclusion received only one point.
Moral: The highest grades do not always go to the swift in exams or those who are most adept in class. To do well on exams, a law student must read the instructions, spot the issues, state the law accurately, connect the dots in orgnaized analysis, and use relevant details and facts. (Students who are too quick off the mark can learn how to correct exam-taking errors with new strategies.)
For those ASP readers who saw my earlier three columns on the processing learning styles (October 8, 9, and 13, 2008), you will recognize that Hare would be a very high scorer on the Global-Intuitive styles, and Tortoise would be a low to moderate scorer on the Sequential-Sensing styles. (Amy Jarmon)
October 28, 2008
2005 Post Revisited
Dennis Tonsing e-mailed me with a revised link for a column that he had published in April 2005 regarding non-traditional students. In fixing the link, I read through the journal entry from Alice Marie Beard that was referenced.
Two thoughts came to mind. First, the column reminds us of the struggles for non-traditional students. Although written after Ms. Beard's first semester in law school in 2001, it is apropos to non-traditional students who are struggling this semester. Second, we are fortunate that Ruth Ann McKinney has published her wonderful book Reading Like a Lawyer since this column and Ms. Beard's experience in 2001.
Rather than just fix the link, I decided to re-publish the column that Dennis wrote. It appears below with the corrected link to Ms. Beard's diary entry/essay. (Amy Jarmon)
April 1, 2005: One Hell: February Thoughts on Law School
Alice Marie Beard, a recent graduate of George Mason University School of Law, wrote this essay during her first year of law school, while attending The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law.
Although this particular essay (diary entry)was written in February 2001, it is still instructive to those of us who deal with students, especially with "non-traditional" students. Are we, too often, out of touch with what is going on with our students?
This morning, I worked with a non-traditional student who was about to "jump out of her skin" with anxiety. She hails from another state. She has a husband, lots of bills, and an extremely annoying landlord. She is in her first year of law school. Her husband is still job hunting. Her first semester grades are lower than she anticipated. She never saw a "C" in college, was accustomed to nearly all A's. She did the right thing: she asked for help. (Academic support often includes more than an IRAC rehash - I referred her to professionals who will be of great and immediate assistance to her.) In order to comprehend the profundity of the emotional impact of law school on ALL of our students, we need to become familiar with what they are going through.
Alice Marie Beard has graduated from law school, and (in more recent essays linked to her web site) looks back on her years at "Catholic." (djt)