Thursday, January 26, 2023

Your bar prep program is enough, you are enough.

For February bar takers, this is your periodic reminder that your bar prep program (or the study plan you designed for yourself, if you are not using a company) is enough, and, as long as you actively engage with your program or study plan, you are enough.

After many exam cycles of working with bar studiers, I have learned that during bar review, studiers commonly hit a point where they start to know just enough to feel like they will never learn it all. This is normal, and it happens to many people. When you hit that point, when you feel like it is too much for you to possibly learn, a common reaction is for the learner to think one of two things must be true. Either 1) the bar review course they purchased is flawed or 2) they themselves are flawed in such a way that they are unable to learn the material.

You may be hitting that point and feeling those things. Don't get fooled, because neither one is true. The best response to those feelings is to take a deep breath and remember a few things before getting back to your program:

  1. Your bar review program is enough. If you bought one of the programs from one of the big names in bar preparation, it was designed by experts. These companies have subject matter experts and learning experts who understand the science of adult learning. They also have insight into bar exam drafting and grading. If you did not enroll in a program, you likely created a study plan and program for yourself, focusing on all the areas you know will be tested. Trust the process, trust your program, trust your plan. You bought the ticket, now take the ride. 

 

  1. You are enough. You got through law school, during a challenging time in the world from every aspect. You can do this. Bar review is hard but I promise you, you can do hard things. You have already accomplished graduating from law school. Passing the bar is the next logical step. You can do it, and the path to success is to work your program or study plan. Don't give up, don't switch strategies. Just settle into your program every morning, and do what they tell you to do, when they tell you to do it. It is normal if you feel like you can't. Just because it's hard doesn't mean it's not working. This is a normal part of the learning process. Put another way (and said in the kindest and best-intentioned way): you are not special, you are normal just like the rest of us. You are struggling, just like the rest of us, and you can come out successful, if you keep doing what you're supposed to be doing.

 

  1. A word about well-meaning lawyers: There are lots of well-meaning lawyers out there who will offer advice. Many think that because they have passed one bar exam (and in some cases a long time ago), they are qualified to tell others how to pass a bar exam. I promise you, no friend or acquaintance or alumni knows better how to pass a bar exam than your bar prep program. Passing one bar exam, or even a couple of bar exams, does not make an individual an expert on how to pass bar exams. Put your trust in the experts and in your own abilities.

 

Bottom line: you can do this because you are enough. The way to get it done is to trust your program, whether that is commercially prepared or one you thoughtfully designed for yourself; do what you have scheduled, when it is scheduled. Email your academic support office or your favorite professor if you need a pep talk or a reminder to get back on schedule. You can do this. Stay on course. Trust the process. Trust yourself.

 

(Lisa DeLaTorre)

January 26, 2023 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Academic and Bar Support Scholarship Spotlight

This new article has garnered a great deal of attention.  To paraphrase the Simpsons (as I am wont to do), "I, for one, welcome our [robot] overlords."

Bommarito, Michael James and Katz, Daniel Martin, GPT Takes the Bar Exam (December 29, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4314839 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4314839

From the abstract:
 
Nearly all jurisdictions in the United States require a professional license exam, commonly referred to as “the Bar Exam,” as a precondition for law practice. To even sit for the exam, most jurisdictions require that an applicant completes at least seven years of post-secondary education, including three years at an accredited law school. In addition, most test-takers also undergo weeks to months of further, exam-specific preparation. Despite this significant investment of time and capital, approximately one in five test-takers still score under the rate required to pass the exam on their first try. In the face of a complex task that requires such depth of knowledge, what, then, should we expect of the state of the art in “AI?” In this research, we document our experimental evaluation of the performance of OpenAI’s text-davinci-003 model, often-referred to as GPT-3.5, on the multistate multiple choice (MBE) section of the exam. While we find no benefit in fine-tuning over GPT-3.5’s zero-shot performance at the scale of our training data, we do find that hyperparameter optimization and prompt engineering positively impacted GPT-3.5’s zero-shot performance. For best prompt and parameters, GPT-3.5 achieves a headline correct rate of 50.3% on a complete NCBE MBE practice exam, significantly in excess of the 25% baseline guessing rate, and performs at a passing rate for both Evidence and Torts. GPT-3.5’s ranking of responses is also highly correlated with correctness; its top two and top three choices are correct 71% and 88% of the time, respectively, indicating very strong non-entailment performance. While our ability to interpret these results is limited by nascent scientific understanding of LLMs and the proprietary nature of GPT, we believe that these results strongly suggest that an LLM will pass the MBE component of the Bar Exam in the near future.
 
[Posted by Louis Schulze, FIU Law]

 

January 24, 2023 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 23, 2023

Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

It is that time of year when ASP folks are inundated with students who have had an epiphany about their study habits -- usually brought on by grades that were less than stellar. It is also the time of year when students with grades that our law school is concerned about are told to come visit ASP. These students all have a few Cs and have been told that this GPA might not be good enough to continue after the first year. They are frightened, chastened, and often need the tissues and the chocolate I've stocked for this season. I have a general plan for working with these students-almost a template: go over the bad exams, let's see where the deficiencies are (not phrased that way!), and let's get started with building the skills to avoid them for the next set of exams. If the issue is output (lack of IRAC, multiple choice questions that were confusing, etc., time), I get them started on practice questions ASAP. If it is input (didn't outline, didn't study efficiently, missing classes, other distractions), I get them started on building better habits and practice. If it was a mental health issue, or some outside trauma, I ask if they are in a better place, make sure that they are getting help, and then send them to practice (but very gently). I'm sure you do something very similar. This is the bread and butter of ASP. Time-proven technology that is individualized for each student.

But (you knew there would be a but), what do you do with the students who come to you with very good grades? Recently, before I even got a chance to email the 1Ls who will be notified that they should be seeing me, another first year student asked to meet with me to discuss improving their grades. Their grades were: A, A-, A-, and the dreaded B+. I had some good advice about improving their social life--i.e., don't complain to anyone else about these grades--that I kept to myself. I also did not want to dismiss the student with a "those are great grades, whatever you are doing, keep doing it." Although, I will admit this was my first thought along with, "do you realize that there are students here who would kill for those grades????" All I could think of was that Michael Jackson song, "[k]eep on, with the force, don't stop. Don't stop 'til you get enough1." Sigh.

Yet, I would never turn away a student who asked for help-even if my knee jerk reaction was that they did not need it. So, I followed the protocol-I told them to go talk to the professors and ask what was good, what might have been better on the exams,  and then to come back to me so we can start working on those things. I warned them that the professors might be seeing students with lower grades first so that they would need some patience.  I'm guessing I'll see them again by late February-hopefully.

In a way, I respect this student's drive, and in another way, I am a little concerned about it as well. So rather than act as a surly gatekeeper to the ASP resources in this situation, I thought it might be a good idea to keep an eye on this student to remind them every now and then that the goal is learning. I fully understand that if their grades are worse in the spring, I might be considered the reason. 

Academic support is more than academic. We all know it, so while this student may not need academic help, they do seem to need support. So, if I am their personal Stuart Smalley2 who helps them see that they are good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, they belong in law school, maybe that will be enough.

(Liz Stillman)

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yURRmWtbTbo
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuart_Smalley#:~:text=%22I'm%20good%20enough%2C,%2Ding%20all%20over%20yourself.%22

January 23, 2023 in Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Meetings, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Quick Emergence of AI

The last couple weeks have been enlightening, and caused me to feel older than I should feel.  I grew up as technology boomed, and I have multiple family members in the computer industry.  All that said, I did not pay enough attention to AI before the past couple weeks.  ChatGPT bombarded multiple academic listservs.  As I read the thread on the ASP listserv, our Associate Dean discussed the issue with our faculty from the thread on her listserv.  For me, it feels like the technology evolved almost overnight.  It went from unknown to a sensation that nearly passed the bar exam.  

I am frightened by the impact this could bring from conduct code issues to bot lawyering.  However, I think at least one positive might come from this endeavor for my students.  We will most likely stop giving any take home exams.  Yes, I know take home exams provide unique educational benefits that helps with lawyering, but I try to find every opportunity to help my students with timed, closed-book style exams (the bar).  I worry about the big picture impacts, but I find some solace in students preparing more for the bar.

Here are a few articles I saw this week:

Tip of the day: How to use ChatGPT to figure out if a text was written by ChatGPT

AI Generation (also a collection of articles)

ChatGPT takes the Bar Exam

 

(Steven Foster)

January 22, 2023 in Bar Exam Preparation, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 20, 2023

Academic Support Specialist at University of Illinois Chicago

The UIC School of Law, Chicago’s only public law school, is seeking an Academic Support Specialist, Academic Achievement & Bar Preparation.

This position will provide support to law students (day and evening), beginning in their first year, on study skills, critical and analytical thinking, exam strategies, time management techniques, and prepares students and graduates for the bar exam. The Specialist will teach skills courses, conduct workshops, and review and provide critical and constructive feedback on exercises and practice exams. The Specialist will also spend a significant time providing academic advising and counseling with a diverse range of students.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Collaborate with the Academic Achievement Team to develop the curriculum for the lL Expert Learning courses and teach a section or two in the fall and spring semesters.
  • Collaborate with the Academic Achievement Team to develop the curriculum for the bar preparation courses and teach a section or two in the fall and spring semesters.
  • Teach workshops, such as the Bar Boot Camp, and work directly with recent graduates in the bar preparation program.
  • Counsel and assist law students and graduates on law school and bar exam success. Many of our students are from diverse backgrounds and are first generation law students.
  • Review and provide meaningful feedback on practice exams and other formative assessment exercises submitted by law students and graduates.
  • Stay abreast and regularly update the deans and faculty of best practices and trends in law school academic support and bar preparation programs.
  • Communicate and coordinate with and stay abreast of the recent trends in commercial bar review programs.
  • Plan, assign and review work of staff to ensure that group objectives are met. Hire, train, develop and manage staff to ensure that a qualified staff exists to meet group objectives.
  • Perform other related duties and participate in special projects as assigned.

 Minimum Qualifications Required:

  • A J.D. degree from an ABA-approved law school is required.
  • Admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction and have at least three years of teaching experience, preferably at least one year at a law school.
  • Ability to work in a multicultural environment; strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Works collaboratively with members of a professional team;
  • Excellent and patient listener;
  • Interacts with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures;
  • Diagnoses student challenges with a holistic approach;
  • Familiarity with psychological barriers that affect student performance;
  • Optimistic and positive outlook;
  • Creative and innovative problem solver;
  • Effective verbal, non-verbal and written communication skills;
  • Manage time efficiently to handle multiple tasks;
  • Strong technology skills in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

For fullest consideration, apply online https://jobs.uic.edu by the listed closing date. Include (upload) a .pdf copy of your letter of intent, current CV/resume, and the names of 3 references.

The University of Illinois Chicago and the State of Illinois offer competitive wages, benefit programs, and resources for employees. UIC is strongly committed to providing equitable benefit options throughout each stage of employment. Many benefits become effective on the first day of employment. Benefits offered by UIC include health care options, wellness programs, educational opportunities, tuition assistance, vacations, holidays and other leave benefits, and University retirement plans. Detailed information on specific employee benefits may be found on the Benefits website.

The University of Illinois at Chicago is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, protected veteran status, or status as an individual with a disability.

Offers of employment by the University of Illinois may be subject to approval by the University’s Board of Trustees and are made contingent upon the candidate’s successful completion of any criminal background checks and other pre-employment assessments that may be required for the position being offered. Additional information regarding such pre-employment checks and assessments may be provided as applicable during the hiring process.

As a qualifying federal contractor, the University of Illinois System uses E-Verify to verify employment eligibility.

The university provides accommodations to applicants and employees. Request an Accommodation

The University of Illinois System requires candidates selected for hire to disclose any documented finding of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment and to authorize inquiries to current and former employers regarding findings of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment. For more information, visit here.

University of Illinois faculty, staff and students are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. If you are not able to receive the vaccine for medical or religious reasons, you may seek approval for an exemption in accordance with applicable University processes.

January 20, 2023 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Starting with understanding

Last fall at a conference I heard an idea that really stuck with me, and I’m still thinking about today. I had sort of intuited the idea before, but I had never heard anyone articulate it, and I’m still chewing on it months later: our students have a different relationship with knowledge than we did when we were students.

Those of us who completed our schooling before the ubiquity of smart phones used to have to know stuff. And to know stuff, we learned it was much easier to understand stuff—understand why it works a certain way, make connections to get to the answer, understand why A leads to B and that’s why C—than it was to simply memorize. And this was as true in our personal lives as in our educational pursuits. Remember how conversations about movies went, before IMDB? “What’s the name of that movie? The one with the actor I like? He was in that other movie with that actress, the one who played two versions of herself in that other movie?”* Not the most scholastic of examples, but it demonstrates one small way we practiced the skill of making connections to arrive at the needed information.

In contrast, students today largely have not needed to know information in the same way (that's not to say they don't know things, but that they haven't needed to know in the same way). They can always look it up on the spot, and so it they may not have had the same need to practice making connections and understanding as a means to remember and access necessary information. The entire contents of sets of encyclopedias and more have always been available with only a few thumbstrokes on their phones, so they could always just look it up.

If we believe that students today have a different relationship with knowledge than we did, it is not a long step to believing that they may also have a different relationship with understanding and learning. Before we can help students learn to think like lawyers, we may first need to talk explicitly about the importance of learning for understanding. (This concept as it applies to law school and the bar exam, and some excellent advice for how to implement it, was covered excellently in this blog about a year ago.)

I think we have all heard statements like, “students today don’t know how to think!!” generally, from kind and well-intentioned colleagues. What I think those types of statements intend to express is that learning and thinking are different now than when the speaker was in school. We can’t change the way our students have learned before they got to law school, and the thinking skills they had the opportunities to practice. But starting with the understanding that they may approach knowledge and remembering differently than we learned to can inform how we support our students for success in law school and the bar exam.

*Four Weddings and a Funeral, John Hannah, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sliding Doors.

 

(Lisa DeLaTorre)

January 19, 2023 in Learning Styles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Happy 10th Birthday AASE!

2023 marks the 10th birthday of the founding of the Association of Academic Support Educators! AASE is the first and only nationwide non-profit professional organization dedicated to supporting and promoting academic support educators in the legal academy. ASP and Bar Prep educators are a community of generous collaborators who seek to support and uplift their fellow members with a very student-centric focus. I am honored and privileged to have served as President of the organization, and have been a member for so long. It’s an organization that means so much to me, and many others, and that offers so much support and guidance to members of the academic support community. I am so proud of how far we have come in the past decade!

To celebrate this mile-marker year, we will feature blog posts about AASE history and great moments, written by those that have played an integral role in the organization’s beginnings. Knowing where we came from helps us chart our exciting future!

AASE members have been fighting and advocating for change in the legal academy since the organization’s inception. Advocating to elevate the status of AASE members, advocating to change education for the better on behalf of our students, and advocating for more equity and fairness in lawyer licensure and the bar examination.

For example, Professor Marsha Griggs, has been tirelessly advocating for more transparency, equity, and fairness in regards to the bar exam for years. She has recently been supported in this critical work by our own President Professor Ashley London.  On Saturday. Jan. 7, at the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Conference in San Diego, professors Griggs and London participated in an important panel discussion with Professor Joan Howarth and Dean Danielle Conway, addressing the problematic history of racism and gatekeeping at the hands of those traditionally in charge of lawyer licensing, “Who Are We: Racism at the Heart of Admission into the Legal Profession.”  The panel is based on Prof. Howarth’s new book, Shaping the Bar: The Future of Attorney Licensing, an absolute must read for the ASP community and law school administrators. Within our own community, we know these women are the experts on this history, as well as what needs to change. So, to see them on a national panel was amazing and well deserved. Marsha stressed that it is our profession, and that every lawyer, every practitioner, needs to come together to work on changes. She also advocates for “blunt force mathematical trauma” – using data to get rid of coded racism. I absolutely love this approach. Ashley added that if you’ve taken the oath of professional responsibility and you’re not currently angry with the state of the bar exam, something is wrong.  The panel was great overall, but I was so happy to see our AASE leaders shine!

325953054_542891391221953_5207868452408712403_n

In addition, other non-academic support panels had AASE members presenting. This would have been almost unheard of at the inception of our organization. The hard work of those who have come before us are carving a place for us in the academy, and we will carry on that tradition. I’m so excited to see so many members of our community recognized as experts, given tenure and promotion, and making strides in leadership and change. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years bring!

And of course, this means we really need to celebrate in Santa Clara, where we have our 10th Annual Conference – “Past, President, Future: AASE at 10 and Beyond.”  It will be May 23-25th, and I hope so many of us can gather together to celebrate the accomplishments of AASE, and of each other.

And remember, the deadline for proposals is January 20th! Submit your proposal here!

(Melissa A. Hale)

January 18, 2023 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 15, 2023

The Embrace

Embrace image copy 2

This is a new piece of amazing public art that was unveiled in the Boston Common last week. I am very lucky that it is across the street from my law school. It depicts the hug between Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. I have seen numerous photos of this sculpture (called The Embrace), but this one is my favorite because in this photo, you can see the heart shape most clearly.  The scale of this work is giant (a person can stand under the hands on the other side), as befits the scale of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s work. 

I am thrilled that Boston has embraced Martin Luther King, Jr. He lived in Boston, met his wife at Boston University and lived here for years while completing his Ph.D.  Did we embrace him at that point in his career? I doubt it. Despite being in the bluest of blue states, we were one of the last cities in the United States to desegregate public schools. It wasn't pretty when it happened in 1974 (yes, 20 years after Brown v. Board of Ed!!!). And, to be very clear, one piece of public art doesn't fix a lot of things, but it is a statement that here in Boston, we agree with Martin Luther King, Jr. who said (in 1967), "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." 

Let's take a moment to embrace that. 

On this day in particular, many of us are looking into the vortex of beginning a new semester and the challenges and stress that come with it. So as we move forward into the maelstrom, let us embrace the tasks, our students, and each other. 

(Liz Stillman)

Photo credit: https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2023/01/13/photos-the-embrace-sculpture-mlk-jr-coretta-scott-king-boston-common/

January 15, 2023 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Honoring Legendary and Impactful Leaders

Earlier this month at the 2023 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools (“AALS”), the Section on Academic Support held its yearly business meeting to elect a new slate of officers and to confer Section awards. Two of our most trailblazing and impactful leaders fittingly received recognition that was long overdue: Kris Franklin and Jamie Kleppetsch. Award

Kris Franklin, Wallace Stevens Professor of Law at New York Law School, received the Legacy in Leadership Award. Kris is an academic innovator who has generously and freely shared her pedagogical talent with the ASP community for decades. Kris has been a constant resource for teaching ideas, and she has advanced the field of academic support with her wealth of multidisciplinary scholarly publications. Not content to rest on her own laurels, Kris continues to elevate those who are junior academic support faculty members. She tirelessly encourages scholarly productivity by hosting weekly writing sessions for new ASP scholars. To know ASP is to know Kris Franklin. She is a scholar, an advocate, a friend, and a cherished mentor to us all.

Jamie Kleppetsch, Director of Bar Passage at DePaul College of Law, received the Impact Award. In a span of ten years, Jamie has held every single elected and appointed leadership position in organized academic support, including President of the Association of Academic Support Educators (“AASE”), Chair of the AALS Section on Academic Support, and Chair of the AASE Bar Advocacy Committee to name a few. Most notably, Jamie has used her leadership roles to forge meaningful partnerships with other academic and non-profit organizations. Jamie’s leadership has enhanced the voice of ASP in cross-disciplinary scholarship and bar administration policy.

In addition to recognizing our accomplished and deserving award winners, I want to also acknowledge the skilled leadership of outgoing Section Chair Kirsha Trychta, Teaching Associate Professor at West Virginia College of Law. Kirsha, the Section is better for your leadership and programming insights, and I will be texting you. With the conclusion of Kirsha’s term of service, we elected new officers. We welcome the newly installed officers and the new and returning at large members to the Section Board:

Marsha Griggs, Chair

Susan Landrum, Chair-elect

Titichia Jackson, Secretary

Petina Benigno, Treasurer

Sarah Garrison, at large

Nachman Gutowski, at large

Megan Davis, at large

Sarira Sadeghi, at large

Congratulations to our deserving award winners and we look forward to a great year ahead!

(Marsha Griggs)

January 15, 2023 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 13, 2023

Academic Support at AALS - Advising on the NextGen Bar Exam!!!

The AALS Section on Academic Support kicked off 2023 with a bang! They hosted a phenomenal panel at AALS on Friday, January 6th! The panel was called “Proactive Planning Across the Curriculum for the NextGen Bar Exam “and panelists were:

*Dustin Benham, Charles P. Bubany Endowed Professor of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law

*Brian Gallini, Dean, Willamette University College of Law

*Antonia Miceli, Professor and Director of Academic Support and Bar Exam Success, Saint Louis University School of Law 323384487_500752215276758_1556989816174541845_n

*Moderator Kirsha Trychta, Teaching Professor and Director of the Academic Excellence Center, West Virginia University School of Law

It was a great discussion, and so well attended! I want to try my best to highlight some key points and do justice to all of the amazing points the speakers made.

Timing

First, the main source of anxiety for many in the academy, but especially those that deal with Academic Support, is the timing of the NextGen Bar Exam. The NCBE, during AALS, has confirmed that it will be rolled out in 2026, with 100% certainty - that is from their mouth. However, jurisdictions need to adopt the NextGen bar, and as of yet, we haven’t had any jurisdictions announce whether they are adopting it, and if so, when. In addition, the NCBE will still be supporting the UBE for states that want it, for at least 3 years, potentially more. This means that anyone that works with students on the bar exam is struggling to figure out the NextGen, while still prepping for the UBE. Given the significant differences between the two exams, this is a monumental task.  It has also been brought up that, like with so many things, the bulk of this work falls onto the shoulders of academic support professionals – shoulders that are already weighted down.

Toni also brought up the fact that it seems Supreme Courts don’t always understand law school timing, since it’s not what they are working in day in and day out. Specifically, if you are at a school with a part time program, the students that will be taking the 2026 exam are already admitted. Their first year is complete, and we are at the point where it’s incredibly difficult to alter their 2nd year. So now bar support educators have to be creative on the back end as to how to integrate next gen bar skills, specifically experiential learning and skills, into the curriculum, and potentially while also running classes for the UBE.  Toni also mentioned that this is an opportunity to advocate with the state Supreme Courts and bar examiners. They don’t understand the challenges that schools are facing, so we need to educate them.

Dustin added that if jurisdictions aren’t clear on timing we still need to incorporate skills into doctrinal classes. He stressed that it’s what we should be doing anyway, and that we can and SHOULD do that in doctrinal classes, regardless of whether there is a next gen bar or when it’s rolled out. He said “we are preparing them for the next gen bar, current bar, and to practice if we incorporate skills into doctrinal classes.” He continued on to say that  “I’m teaching students to practice law, not pass the bar, but to practice, they need to pass the bar, so I try to teach both, and both can be taught.”

Convos with Faculty

Another big topic, and concern, with the NextGen Bar Exam is how do we have  conversations with faculty that are less open to change? Toni suggested that it’s important to have  early conversations, but faculty like examples, and we don’t have them yet. This can lead to frustrations for everyone. She also added that we really need leadership from the top down, for the Deans to incentivize. Typically research is a priority for faculty,  so deans need to lead that change, and prioritize the changes made to curriculum, potentially shifting the use of research grants.

Brian added that in reality the bigger picture is about faculty hiring. Specifically, how we think about faculty policies and equity, as well as tenure. Brian has offered faculty innovation 325119271_623818199744270_9185820492119431869_n grants at his school. These are designed to help, and encourage, faculty to create courses or change a course. He says that the real way to break down silos is to change the way we think about tenure, and now is the time to have that conversation.  This was definitely a theme of the panel, and it seems all are in agreement that we must change the way we think about not only tenure, but evaluating faculty and training faculty. Toni commented that there must be training on teaching, and Dustin specifically commented that we “must hire those capable of practicing law.” Krisha added that her school had done a teaching review , so they are not just relying on student evaluations. The teaching review includes a review of the syllabis, classroom observation, student evaluations and finally a “teaching agenda.”

324717095_1527854961049877_3453227038856975889_nDustin added that we also need to educate faculty, especially junior faculty, regarding textbook selection. Specifically because a traditional casebook makes it difficult to teach a problem-based curriculum, which can be the best way to incorporate skills into a doctrinal class. He says that there are textbooks out there that make this easier, but we need to incentivize faculty to change their syllabus and educate new faculty about textbook options.  Essentially book selection is key because it drives the format of the course.

Toni also stressed the importance of getting rid of silos between educators; academic support, clinicians, legal writing, and doctrine. We have to “de-silo”, and recognize that ASP and clinics don’t get research grants and stipends. Also, the work HAS to be collaborative, and it  HAS to be the dean incentivizing the change.

Kirsha mentioned that she never asks the faculty to DO anything, she merely shares information. and that she’s been intentional about what she shares and present depending on who is coming. In short, it’s an “ask” without asking, and the faculty response has been great. 322765203_574320757405240_1794210480919348856_n

Kris Franklin, and audience member, reminded everyone that “no one is a prophet in their own land, no one is listened to by their own faculty, that’s why we bring in each other” – and we need to remind the faculty that academic support, skills faculty and clinicians are experts in student learning. 

To add to this, Brian mentioned that he has launched a faculty and development series as a low stakes discussion about teaching, and bringing in conversations about improving teaching. Toni agreed that we have these existing structures, for workshopping research, so we need to flip that to workshop teaching exercises.

Concrete Takeaways

Of course, the panelists offered concrete takeaways that could offer change.  Dustin suggested that faculty integrate small exercises, and added that evidence is a great way to do this. He teaches evidence by having students act as attorneys and judge, and requests that they argue whether evidence should come in or not, as if it was a courtroom. He can get through 10-15 pieces of evidence a class, and finds that this increases engagement while teaching skills.

Dustin does something similar while teaching professional responsibility, and has students write client letters. He also has them flip their position frequently, to stay nimble, and gives them a “sample” client letter to keep for practice. Finally, he suggests embracing technology, and embracing using smart phones. He argues that students are going to use them, or think about them, no matter what, so we might as well embrace it and use it!

Brian suggests advocating with bar examiners, faculty policies and hiring, and incentivizing faculty.

Toni reminds those that are “Asp-ish” to set firm boundaries with faculty. She says that she is already seeing the “turning of the heads to ASP as “how do we do this” – and while it’s nice when we are recognized as experts, we need to provide resources without doing the work for them. She suggests hat struggling students often struggle because of the case method. They need a connection to reality, and work better with problem sets and simulations. So, we can share materials with faculty, but “be a resource without providing the answer.”  

Kirsha also mentioned that Kirsha – can create 1-2 hypos, exercises, and use them across the board on 1L classes, let students see how this plays out in reality- how the same problem can play out in different ways.

Finally, in true ASP-ish fashion, Kirsha left us with her “Takeaway Agenda” for the NextGen Bar:

  1. Begin an education campaign – faculty/boards
  2. Remain positive – this is an opportunity, be that energy
  3. This can be anchored outside the bar – assessment and ABA compliance, for example – the goal is to improve student outcomes
  4. Bring in outsiders

Personally, I feel, as usual with academic support, the panel gave the audience concrete action items, both “easy” and more long term, as well as thoughtful considerations.  I would like to add that our very own Cassie Christopher got a shout out from Dustin on her scholarship, which is fantastic.

The central theme, which seems to be a leading theme throughout academic support lately (and for good reason) is breaking down silos to rethink tenue, evaluation, and status. This not only benefits professionals, but students as well. And as Toni reminds us, we need to have conversations about compensating those that prepare students for multiple different bars, because that can be incredibly challenging.

-Melissa A. Hale

January 13, 2023 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Misery is not a strategy for bar exam success

 

January 12, 2023

If you are sitting for the February bar exam, you likely know that February 21, 2023, is less than six weeks away. If you are following the traditional bar preparation schedule, you likely started review and studying around mid-December, and so you are in week four or so of your study.

Over and over again I hear from examinees right after the bar exam a sentiment something like, “whatever happens, I know I did everything I could to prepare for this exam.” I hope when the time comes you feel that way too! But what does that mean, to "do everything you can" for success on the bar? My observation is that it has several components:

  1. completing your commercial bar prep program, faithfully (or if you don’t have a program, sticking with the study plan you designed for yourself);
  2. being thoughtful and self-reflective about your areas of relative strength and weakness (e.g., if you did poorly on a graded practice essay, what did you miss?);
  3. seeking out and using additional resources and active learning techniques for your areas of relative weakness (e.g., if you did poorly on a graded practice essay, did you read at least three selected answers released by the jurisdictions? Did you make flashcards of language from the released essay that stated a rule concisely and thoroughly? Did you then re-write the essay to solidify your understanding?);
  4. taking care of yourself as a whole person, including at least: sleeping enough, eating and drinking healthy foods, working actively to keep a positive mindset, engaging with your loved ones to keep yourself emotionally fulfilled, and moving your body at least a little bit every day.

We are at the point in bar prep where people want to get wild for some reason, almost like there is some kind of award for whoever can make themselves the most miserable and run themselves most deeply into the ground. This is the time when many start to despair. It is in these moments of despair that we become most vulnerable to thinking there must be some easier way, some magic strategy for bar exam success, and we become susceptible to bad advice.

Some of us become our own saboteur, and follow a flawed reasoning that goes something like this:

  1. To succeed on the bar, I need to put in many hours of study;
  2. To have enough time to study, I will have to give up doing some things I enjoy;
  3. Giving up things I enjoy will make me feel bad;

Therefore, the more miserable I make myself during bar study, the better my chance of passing the bar exam!

The three premises are all generally true, and consistent with the average bar study experience, but it is the “logical” conclusion of the first three that is very flawed.

This focus on misery as a strategy causes some to stare blankly at their outlines late into the evening, long after their brain shut down for the day. Some will cut out all pleasurable time spent with family and loved ones—staying home from every family Sunday dinner at your sister’s house, missing Grandma’s 75th birthday party, attending none of your child’s gymnastics classes—only to re-watch a video lecture while your mind wanders anyway. We stay up way too late, sleep later than we mean to the next morning, drink too much coffee to compensate and get the jitters, and then skip the routines that make us feel human like daily showers and routine workouts. “This is miserable!” the bar-studier thinks, and so feels virtuous and like they must be on track for that passing result.

Make today the day that you do a midpoint reset, and refocus before the second half of your bar prep. Commit to going to bed at a reasonable hour every night, starting tonight. Commit to waking up at the same time you will need to on bar exam day every day, starting tomorrow. Schedule breaks throughout your day to correspond with meals; eat peacefully without studying--bonus if you can share a meal with a friend or a loved one, even if it's a quick 20 minute sandwich break with your friend, your spouse, or your kid. Catch up on your bar review program if you are behind, and commit to staying on track and following through with all recommended assignments until the end.

Remember, when the exam is over, there is no award for The Most Sleep-Deprived JD Ever to Take a Bar Exam. There's not even an award for Did All Online MBE Questions Four Times, or Missed the Most Family Dinners Since November. Yes, you have to study A LOT. Yes, the bulk of your waking time should be spent studying. But remember to look after yourself as a whole person, because you can't run yourself so far down that you've got nothing left to give for the bar exam.

For the next six weeks you have to find strength in yourself that you might not know you have. To help you find it, allow me to remind you of everything in your life you had to achieve to find yourself in the privileged place you are today, about to take a licensing exam to become a lawyer. You had to get accepted into an undergrad school. You had to graduate with your undergraduate degree (and any graduate degrees you might have). You had to get accepted into law school. You had to attend law school during a pandemic and during some very challenging social and political times. You graduated from law school. By now you have likely completed 40+% of your bar review program. And, many of us had careers, families, and other big life events before we ever even got to law school. Each of these is a major success, and you likely have lots of other categories of success in your history that I haven't listed here.

Reflect on all these achievements and successes that led you to this point. You are a winner, an achiever, a successful person. And what do successful people do? They work hard to achieve their goals. So keep living the life of the successful person you already are. Keep working to achieve your goal of licensure. It's less than six more weeks. The follow-through is the most important part. Keep working to achieve your goal every single day, and don't stop until someone calls "pencils down" at the end of your bar exam.

(Lisa DeLaTorre)

 

 

January 12, 2023 in Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Save the Date for the AASE Bi-Annual Diversity Conference

 

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January 10, 2023 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Thought About AALS

I attended the Annual Meeting of AALS (Association of American Law Schools) last week.  Communing with ASP colleagues always leaves me energized and armed with new ideas for the next semester.  A few thoughts below the fold:

Continue reading

January 10, 2023 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 9, 2023

Academic Support Programs Should be Included in U.S. News Rankings...maybe

Happy New Year ASP Blog Readers! We are back!

Earlier today I was in a meeting with colleagues who told me that several publishers had not brought ASP/Bar Prep publications to the AALS meetings because, (and keep in mind that this probably hearsay squared), “AALS is for doctrinal faculty.” AALS abolished the distinction years ago, but perhaps that message has not reached all sectors. And while I could easily lament another occasion where academic support is overlooked and excluded, today I have another proposition.

I have written in the past about how U.S. News Rankings count the work of academic support and bar prep professionals (bar pass rate!!!), but they do not evaluate the programs themselves. This is, I have argued, essentially taxation without representation.

Recently a few schools that probably do not sweat the bar pass rate (let’s be honest here, it is always going to be in the over 90% area for them), have decided not to engage in rankings. These schools just don’t need the credential to boost their marketability or community standing. They already have all the name and prestige recognition they need. They just shuffle among the top tier like a tableau of rich invitees at a Gatsby event. But, as I tell students fairly often, 90% of the class in not in the top 10%. So too for law schools -- as a vast majority of schools are not invited to the West Egg shindigs.

After attending an amazing conference organized by the New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals where we discussed job security, equity, and even reached for the brass ring of tenure, I am convinced that having academic support programs ranked by U.S. News might be a step in the right direction.

Here are my top three reasons:

  1. This would be another metric for schools looking to gain status, meaning that schools that really do need a boost can get one, and
  2. It might shift a power dynamic to a successful (and therefore ranked) academic support program’s professionals to seek better job security (contracts where they are at-will employees, presumptively renewable contracts for those on a year-to-year contract, and tenure down the road.) A school that gains prestige because of a ranked ASP program would want to protect that asset.
  3. ASP professionals work extremely hard-we teach more, we meet more, we write as much (if not more), and we are often asked to take on responsibilities that are similar to doctrinal, legal writing, and clinical faculty. We deserve the recognition-beyond the amazing way we honor each other in our community.

But there are some downsides:

  1. More scrutiny doesn’t always reveal only good things. We might put folks with very little job security in a more precarious position and introduce metrics that are not necessarily indicative of quality academic support. This might turn out to be another area where BIPOC professionals are not fairly evaluated.
  2. ASP will now be tethered to raising or maintaining a ranking--which is not the point of ASP. This might distract us from our students, who are the reason we do what we do.
  3. Being tied to the bar pass rate more directly may not be fair since some of the variables that control bar pass rate are not within the control of ASP. We cannot overcome a poorly admitted class, or a pandemic, for example.

I invite debate on this idea. I would also happily invite the beginning of a national movement of ASP professionals to work together toward more equity and job security. If we take any page from legal writing, the one I believe is foundational would be that we gather our data and work together.

(Liz Stillman)

January 9, 2023 in Miscellany, Professionalism, Program Evaluation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Welcome Lisa DeLaTorre

LDeLaTorreHope everyone had a good holiday break.  Please welcome our new Contributing Editor Lisa DeLaTorre.  She will post her thoughts on Thursdays.
 
Lisa is the Associate Director of Academic Success and Bar Readiness at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University. She is a co-teacher of the 3L MPT writing course, and each bar exam cycle coaches bar takers to success on the exam, with particular focus on wellbeing during bar study.
 
Previously, Lisa was in student affairs administration at Rice University, where she sat on the crisis assessment team and was part of the broader behavior and behavioral health team. Before that Lisa was a litigator for seven years, focusing on insurance defense.
 
Lisa received her J.D. from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. She is a mother of three, including identical twins who were born on the last day of spring break of her 3L year.

January 9, 2023 in About This Blog, Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Academic and Bar Support Scholarship Spotlight

This week's installment of the Academic and Bar Support Spotlight gives us this:

Jane B. Grise, Grise's Critical Reading for Success in Law School and Beyond (with video) (West Academic, 2nd ed. 2022).

From the publisher's description:

Reading cases and statutes is challenging for students and attorneys. However, everybody can learn critical reading strategies and become effective legal readers and advocates. Critical Reading for Success in Law School and Beyond identifies the reading strategies used by expert legal readers and presents the strategies in a systematic sequence. Critical Reading is written in an easy to read style with lots of examples. Readers will learn:

    • the purpose for reading cases,
    • how to read with focus,
    • case structure and important civil and criminal procedure terms,
    • techniques for understanding complex text,
    • strategies for identifying the parts of a case,
    • how to brief a case,
    • legal analysis skills such as analogical reasoning and case synthesis, and
    • strategies for reading statutes.


The second edition adds chapters that address reading on screens and techniques for reading bar prep materials. The second edition also has a seventeen part video series with PowerPoint slides. Each video introduces a reading strategy, provides helpful tips, includes a short student exercise, and gives students the opportunity to self-assess their proficiency.

Critical Reading can be used in law school pre-orientation and orientation programs, academic success courses, bar prep courses, and legal writing and doctrinal classes. It is also useful for legal readers who want to improve their reading efficiency and effectiveness.

[Posted by Louis Schulze, FIU Law]

December 20, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 19, 2022

Happy Holidays and Enjoy the Break!!

All of us at the Law School Academic Support Blog wish you and your families Happy Holidays! We appreciate you reading our posts.  We also hope you are able to get a break over the next few weeks.  2022 may have been slightly more normal, but it brought its own challenges.  I hope you have a chance to recharge the next couple weeks.

We are taking a break to celebrate the season. We may post sporadically, but regular posting will begin again the week of January 9th.

(The Editors)

December 19, 2022 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Thank You

It is with both gratitude and disappointment that I announce Scott Johns won't be posting for us regularly starting in the spring.  He is tackling new adventures, but you may see him pop in with guest posts when available.  While disappointed he won't be posting, I want to thank him for his tenure on the blog.  He started as a Contributing Editor in 2016.  I was looking for the date he started, and was amazed at the numerous Top Ten Blog Posts of the Week from Texas Law Today he received.  I lost count after 10.  I loved reading his unique insights over the years, and am extremely glad he was a contributing editor when I became an editor.  He consistently provided insight and bar exam advocacy through extremely difficult times the last few years.  I will miss reading the posts each week, but I can't wait to hear about the semester next year at AASE.  Thank you Scott for your years of service.

(Steven Foster)

December 18, 2022 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Law School Diversity Professionals Annual Meeting

Save the date 2023 B

December 11, 2022 in Diversity Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Harkness Method and other Methods to Facilitate Deep Learning

I recently came across an article by an 83-year old history professor talking about a method of teaching that I had never heard - the Harkness Method.  Martindale, Jr., Wigt, "This Old Man, He Teaches History, WSJ (Nov. 17, 2022).  In the article, he suggests that our curriculum should be centered around two "rules."  First, that survey courses are the most important courses for high school and college education because they present the opportunity for students to learn the context of what will follow in their educational pursuits.  Second, and the point I'd like to share in this blog, is that we cannot teach today's students using outdated methods.  

That's when, in a passing comment, I first heard of the Harkness Method - "an oval table discussion format that encourages a class to explore an idea as a group."  Id. I recall after law school when I spent a passing year working half-time while engaging in a full-time doctoral program that the entire graduate school experience was built around this so-called Harkness Method.  In law schools, we might call it the seminar class.

That got me thinking, especially with bar exam rates downhill for most jurisdictions, that maybe we in law schools are violating the professor's rule no. 2.  We might be teaching using outdated quasi-socratic lecture methods when perhaps we should instead by devoting the resources and the time to teach in oval-table discussions with lots of small group settings.  Of course, that would be quite expensive because factory-like 1L curriculum is much more efficient, at least from the viewpoint of costs.  But cost efficiency in itself is not necessarily promoting better learning, learning that sticks, as a book title suggests. https://www.amazon.com/Learning-That-Sticks-Brain-Based-Instructional/dp/1416629106.

In my impromptu attempt to learn more about the Harkness Method, I came across some brief introductions about some other possible ways to reach today's students deeply and meaningfully.  They include the Harkness Method, the so-called flipped classroom experience, and problem-based learning (PBL). https://discussion.miami.edu/teaching-methods/index.html

I have to admit that I sort of skipped the Harkness Method because my class enrollments are not likely to be reduced from 50-75 students, at least at anytime in the near future.  But I really appreciated the information about flipped learning and the PBL methods. One thing caught my attention in particular. Flipped learning need not involve video cameo appearances, something I struggle with, and, to be honest, as a sometimes student myself, often find mind numbing.  

As the internet explorations often do, that lead me to a buried link outlining 5 ways to embrace flipped learning without the video camera.That's something I can get on board with.  Here's the link for 5 suggestions that might actually work out better for you and your students. https://rtalbert.org/flipped-learning-without-video/  

Regardless of what you choose, you need not chose alone.  Too often, however, in my own case, I'm stuck in the past because I'm comfortable with the past.  But a good life is not necessarily the comfortable life and good teaching is not necessarily comfortable either.  As Prof. Martindale writes: "Teaching is hard. Good teachers still have to know how to make contact with students and recognize a change in the climate of a classroom."  Id. But the hard things are often the best things in life.  And we are called to serve in one of the best pursuits of all - helping others become their dreams of service too as future attorneys.  (Scott Johns).

December 8, 2022 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0)