Monday, November 11, 2019

Disruptive Diversity

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an essay by Pamela Newkirk. The article, Why Diversity Initiatives Fail, addresses the measurable lack of progress at elite U.S. universities in creating sustained diversity. The article cites that African Americans and Hispanics, who account for about 31% of the national population, are just 4% and 3%, respectively, of full-time professors. I would add to that statistic the fact that women and people classified as minorities disproportionately hold untenured and non-tenure track positions in law schools, which feeds status issues within the legal academy.

Newkirk references the millions of dollars spent on in-school diversity initiatives, but says “there is little indication that they have resulted in more diversity or less bias.” A disheartening reality, finds Newkirk, “there’s some evidence that some of the anti-bias strategies can actually make matters worse.” I am pained at the notion that many educational institutions that profess inclusive and non-discriminatory policies have not effectively confronted the systemic and implicit biases that stunt the academic, professional, and career development of their students, faculty, and administrative leaders.

“Strategies for controlling bias — which drive most diversity efforts — have failed spectacularly,” said sociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev in their studyWhy Diversity Programs Fail, (Harvard Bus. Rev. 2016). For me, reading articles like Newkirk’s, and studies like Dobbin and Kalev’s, are like amening a sermon from the choir stand. Their published works simply add discourse to the reality of my existence. Too often, I have witnessed or experienced the dismissive nature of privilege and its righteous indignation when it dares be challenged. Inside and outside of the classroom, I have been mansplained, prof-splained, and most recently student-splained. I struggle to describe the simultaneous disbelief and frightening foreseeability that I experienced when I distinguished two legal principles in response to a student question, only to have another student repeat my explanation verbatim, but in a tone that would suggest that the student had added, expanded, or corrected my explanation in some way. The resultant outcome was a head nod and an audible “thank you” from the questioning student, and an internal eye roll from me.

Diversity, as we have come to use the term, is a disruptor of the presumption and perpetuation of privilege. To the extent that diversity promises, or threatens, to disrupt the status quo in higher education, we are all affected. Lawyers and affirmative action opponents must be confronted with the hypocrisy of their fight against race-based denials for entry into competitive graduate programs and prestigious positions. Law professors, academic support professionals, and student affairs administrators must continue to promote diversity, inclusion, and opportunity for our students even when our own statuses are minimized and disregarded.

(Marsha Griggs)

November 11, 2019 in Diversity Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Design Process

The regular readers know my love for sports, but the following confession will probably remove any doubt of my sports geekdom.  An annual golf hole design contest is held every year since 1998 to honor Dr. Alister MacKenzie, world famous golf architect.  I discovered the contest a few years ago, and of course, I submitted my very rudimentary drawing.  My 9-year old even participated this year with his own submission.  Following the MacKenzie Society's lead, the Perry Maxwell Society (slightly less famous designer) held a 9-hole course design contest through last week.  My son and I participated again.  The interesting part of the contest was all the different ways to route the holes.  I completed my design and compared with my son's drawing.  Using the same terrain, he envisioned a completely different use of the land in numerous different directions.  Looking at his, I rethought my design.  I started seeing even better possibilities.  I wanted to submit multiple entries, which is against the rules.  The possibilities were endless, and perfection was in the eye of the beholder.  The process was the fun part.

Outlines for finals are similar.  While I will concede there are more correct ways to structure the law than golf holes, perfect outlines are in the eye of the beholder.  The vision of one person with flow charts and bubbles will be completely different than a classmate.  The linear outline that follows all the correct design rules may not work for everyone.  Mike Strantz was an eccentric golf course designer.  I played Tobacco Road, one of his courses in North Carolina, and it was one of the most visually exciting courses I have played.  My dad played with me that day and hated the course.  He couldn't comprehend why the valleys and sandhills flowed the way they did.  He commented that the course got in his heard early.  Don't worry about what someone else thinks of your outline.  Your outline is intended to help you prepare.

As we all know, the process is what matters.  I sat with my son drawing our courses last week.  We talked about the possibilities and why we chose our routing.  Neither of us was right, but we enjoyed the process.  Outlining is the same way.  The process of making the outline and looking through the material develops understanding.  The repetition improves retention.  The outlining process is what matters.

Outlining and preparing for finals is in full swing.  Remember to focus on the process to produce what will work best for you.

(Steven Foster)

November 10, 2019 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Congrats Scott Johns on a Top 10 Badge

TexasBarToday_TopTen_BadgeCongrats to Scott Johns for being recognized by the Texas Bar Today.  His post A Bountiful Harvest of Practice Problems – Just in Time for Final Exam Season was recognized as one of the top 10 legal blog posts last week.

Keep up the good work!

November 9, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 8, 2019

AALS Awards Committee

The Awards Committee for the AALS Section on Academic Support is soliciting nominations for our annual section award winner.  The AALS Section Award will be presented to an outstanding member of the ASP community at our section meeting on January 3, 2020 at the AALS Annual Meeting.  The committee members are: Jamie Kleppetsch (chair), Susan Landrum, Haley Meade, and Laura Mott. Please review the eligibility and criteria information below and send nominations directly to me, at

The deadline to submit nominations is Monday, November 11 at 5:00 p.m. CST. For a nomination to be considered, it must include (at a minimum) a one to two paragraph explanation of why the nominee is deserving of the award.  Only AALS ASP Section members may make nominations, but all those within the ASP community may be nominated.  Membership in the section is free and can be processed by e-mailing a membership request to

Eligibility and Criteria for Selection.  The eligible nominees for the award are individuals who have made significant and/or long-term contributions to the development of the field of law student academic support.  All legal educators, regardless of the nature or longevity of their appointment or position, who have at some point in their careers worked part-time or full-time in academic support are eligible for the award.  The award will be granted to recognize those who have made such contributions through any combination of the following activities: 

  • service to the profession and to professional institutions—e.g., advocacy with the NCBE or assumption of leadership roles in the ASP community;
  • support to and mentoring of ASP colleagues;
  • support to and mentoring of students;
  • promoting diversity in the profession and expanding access to the legal profession; and
  • developing ideas or innovations—whether disseminated through academic writing, newsletters, conference presentations, or over the listserv.

Law schools, institutions, or organizations cannot receive an award.  Prior year or current year Section officers are excluded from being selected as an award winner.

November 8, 2019 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 7, 2019

A Bountiful Harvest of Practice Problems - Just in Time for Final Exam Season

It's quite common for most of us learn to prepare for final, unfortunately, not actually preparing for final exams.  

Here's why:  

If you're like me, I just never quite feel like I know enough law to start practicing problems.

But if we wait until we feel like we know enough, we'll run smack out of time to practice exams because most of our time will be spent instead on creating and reviewing our study tools (rather than using our study tools to help us navigate through "test flights" of practice final exam problems). 

And that's a problem because professors don't test on the quality of your outlines but rather on whether you can use the law in your study tools to solve legal problems.

But that's great news because...

Solving legal problems is a skill that you can learn through practice!  [Like any skill, it just takes pondering, puzzling, and practicing through lots of simulated exam problems to develop expertise as a legal problem-solver.]  So, this harvest season as you turn towards final exam preparations, focus much of your learning on working through practice final exam problems.  

As such, the best source of practice exam problems is to ask your professor for sample exam problems.  If none (or only a few available), feel free to ask your professor and academic support department if they can suggest additional practice problems.  Finally, if you still can't find practice problems, feel free to work through past bar exam essays.  To get started, here's some links for some nifty old bar exam essays, organized by subject, complete with hypothetical scenarios and analysis:

Administrative Law


Civil Procedure

Constitutional Law



Criminal Law

Criminal Procedure


Family Law




UCC Article 2 – Sales

UCC Article 3 – Commercial Paper

UCC Article 9 – Secured Transactions

Wills and Trusts

(Scott Johns).

November 7, 2019 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Building an Archetype

A couple of years ago, there was a meme making its way across the internet encouraging people to describe themselves as a combination of three fictional characters.  In a rare moment of lucid self-awareness, I described myself as part Encyclopedia Brown, part Johnny from the movie Airplane! ("I can make a hat, or a brooch, or a pterodactyl . . ."), and part Dewey Finn, Jack Black's character in School of Rock.  It was a fun exercise, because it made folks think about what they considered their defining characteristics, and it gave us the giftie of finding out if others saw us the same way we see ourselves.

I thought about that game this week, when it randomly occurred to me that all Academic and Bar Support teachers must feel a bit like -- wait, spoilers; I'm going to save that character for last.  But it led me to consider: Is there a combination of three fictional characters that would constitute the archetypal A&B Support provider?  What are, or should be, our defining characteristics?  And will everyone agree with me?  And so, I submit for your approval my proposed set of three characters (though I am open to criticism and to suggestions for alternatives) that define Academic Support:

  1. Jubal Harshaw -- Harshaw is one of the main characters of Robert Heinlein's novel Stranger in a Stranger Land, a nifty, influential, and slightly heretical book from the 1960s that probably is not read now as much as it ought to be.  Harshaw, who ends up protecting and teaching the naive but powerful protagonist of the book, is a notable polymath: a lawyer, a physician, and a popular writer -- among other things, but those three are the most relevant to our work.  Basically, we have to know a lot about a lot of things.  We have to be comfortably familiar with every subject that is tested on the bar, and at least know enough about other legal subjects to be able to support students struggling in those areas.  A knowledge of the practice of medicine is not usually required -- thank goodness -- but, like a physician, we do have to care for our charges, to recognize symptoms of unease (of both mind and body), and to provide comfort, advice, and referrals when appropriate.  And naturally we have to be communicators skilled enough not just to see and address the communication flaws in others, but also to capture the attention of the sometimes jaded, reluctant, or resentful.  Take it from me: being a tax lawyer was hard, but at least you only had to know the entire Internal Revenue Code and all associated regulations.  To be an Academic Support professional, you have to know something about practically everything.
  2. Mickey Goldmill -- There are a lot of great sports movies anchored by wise, inspiring coaches, but can any of them compare for our purposes with Mick, the man who coached Rocky Balboa to the heavyweight championship of the world?  Because when it comes right down to it, no matter how much we encourage our students to support each other and learn together, no one takes a final or a bar exam as a team.  The people we work with have to step into the ring alone.  Like Mickey, we have to help our students find out just what they are capable, then help them find ways to make themselves capable of even more, and then help them to see that they carry that capacity within themselves.  And, like so many Academic Support providers, Mickey was a great improviser: when he didn't have the latest hi-tech sports equipment, he got Rocky into shape by having him chase chickens and pound on sides of beef.  Who else in law school but Academic Support has to squeeze so many results out of so few resources?  And one last thing: remember, Rocky lost in the first film.  He gave it his all, and he lost, and he thought, I guess I'm done with boxing.  It was Mickey who convinced Rocky that he could step into the ring again, against the champ that had beat him the first time, and that he had what it took to pull out the win.  Mickey Goldmill knew that just because you were down, that didn't mean you were out.
  3. Jiminy Cricket -- In the original Disney movie Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket actually played two roles.  He started off as the narrator, explaining to the audience that they are about to see the story of a wish coming true.  Then, after the Blue Fairy visits the puppeteer Geppetto, and brings his creation Pinocchio to life, she tasks Jiminy with the job of being Pinocchio's conscience.  If, with Jiminy's help, Pinocchio can prove himself worthy, then he will become a real boy.  I feel we have a lot of Jiminy Cricket in us.  We often start by explaining to our audience -- during orientation, or as part of a class or workshop -- what they are going to see and experience while they are in law school.  But then, inevitably, we get involved with our students as individuals, trying to help guide them into making good choices.  They still have to make the choices themselves -- how they spend their time, what they choose to focus on, how they plan and prepare -- and sometimes we can only watch as they make poor ones.  Sometimes they ignore our counsel, and it feels like you really are just an insect buzzing around a wooden-headed ne'er-do-well.  But we stick with our students, like Jiminy stuck with Pinocchio, because we want to give them the best chances to prove themselves worthy, so each can become a real . . . well, not boy, but lawyer, which practically rhymes.  

As an Academic Support professional, I'd be gloriously content if I possessed the know-how of Jubal, the inspiration of Mickey, and the compassion of Jiminy.  But that's just me.  What three characters compose your AS ideal?

[Bill MacDonald]

November 5, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 4, 2019

Stigma and Professional Identity

Logically it makes no sense that, in today’s world, failing at something because you tried will tarnish you with a negative social label.  . . . [T]o continue evolving, the stigma associated with failure has to be shaken off and be replaced with positive personal development. When you fail at something, hopefully you can recogni[z]e why and where you failed, so that next time you can move forward accordingly. – C. Montcrieff

Bar takers in all but one state have received results from the July 2019 bar exam. Although California examinees may have to wait another week for results, with increased MBE scores reported nationally, bar passage rates (overall) are deliciously higher than recent past exams. What better way to transition to the semester wind down than with news of newly licensed attorneys joining the ranks of your alumni rosters!

I am elated and overjoyed for my students who find their names on the bar pass list. I understand the sacrifice, the grit, the fear, the pressure, the exhaustion, and the anxiety that are necessary conditions precedent to bar passage. I actually get teary-eyed as I scroll through the social media feeds of newly minted attorneys that contain expressions of joy and gratitude for the obstacles they overcame and support they received.

My joy is tempered by the heartache I feel for those who fought so valiantly and fell short of the state cut score. It never ceases to amaze me how a day that brings elation can, at the same time, end in devastation. Those of us doing ASP work must manage that range of emotions altogether in the same day. We collect data and publish articles on interventions that lead to bar success in licensure candidates with known failure indicators. We are experientially trained to manage bad news and to earnestly encourage unsuccessful students to try anew. But how does the reality of our calling square with the purpose of our profession?

We must examine the role and reality of stigma in bar exam failure and determine where, how, and if, it fits into the notion that diversity in the legal profession is not solely about racial and socio-economic inclusion. The diversity promoted by effective academic support programs includes intellectual disparities, physical and emotional disabilities, linguistic variations, and learning differences.  

The definition of academic and bar success is changing. Success for some may be sitting through a two-day exam without the testing accommodations relied upon during law school. For others, it can be completing an exam scribed in a language other than the test-taker's native tongue. For many bar takers who graduated in the bottom quartile of their law school classes and/or with low entering LSAT scores, success may be coming within 5-10 points of a passing score, that all published statistics said that they could not achieve.

I dare not suggest that legal educators dismiss or ignore bar failure, but I challenge the status quo about how we frame bar failure as part of professional identity formation. Moved by the MacCrate Report, law teachers have become more intentional about teaching, and have begun to support law students’ professional identity formation inside and outside of the classroom.1 I see no reason for that support to end with the bar examination. As we normalize struggle2, we must communicate bar failure as a temporary status and not as an indelible component of one’s professional identity.

1 Susan L. Brooks, Fostering Wholehearted Lawyers: Practical Guidance for Supporting Law Students' Professional Identity Formation 14 U. ST. THOMAS L.J. 377 (2018).

2 Catherine Martin Christopher, Normalizing Struggle, ___ Arkansas L. Rev. ___ (2019).

(Marsha Griggs)

November 4, 2019 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Exams - Theory, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Last Leg of the Marathon

November barged in completely changing our weather.  November also brings the last leg of the semester marathon.  I encourage preparing for finals throughout the semester, a few activities should be highlighted the last month.  The activities should be integrated into a comprehensive finals study plan.  Here are a few ideas:

1.  Work on and finish outlines early.  If you worked on outlines throughout the semester, this is an easy task.  If not, plan significant time to get outlines done as early as possible.  Integrate new material from November into the outline as you go.  Having everything in the outline up to November allows for the activities below.

2.  Complete practice questions.  I encourage completing 2 types of practice questions.  First, go through multiple choice questions that test broad areas within each course.  Multiple choice questions test more material in a shorter amount of time.  If the question does not follow exactly what your professor said, don't worry.  Knowing that fact illustrates an understanding of the material.  Also integrate simulated essays.  Look at old exams from your professor or find hypos from online, bar review companies, etc.  Think about the most likely tested sub-topics and do questions on those.  Time yourself and fully write out an answer.  Writing out the answer is important because what someone thinks about a question and what they tend to write is 2 different things.

3.  Seek feedback.  Take the practice essays to your professor or academic support person.  Feedback is what improves scores.

4.  Rotate subjects.  One of the most uncomfortable ways to study is to rotate subjects throughout a session or few days. Studies show that rotating subjects throughout studying will lead to longer term retention.  For example, don't study 1 subject (ie - Torts) for 3 straight days, then Contracts, etc.  Switch subjects frequently during November.  As you get to the end of November and the few days before the exam, you may focus primary on the upcoming test.  Only do that close to the exams, not before Thanksgiving.

5.  Don't forget to complete your regular course activities.  Nearly every professor will put material from November on the final exam.

6.  Lastly, plan your breaks.  You cannot study non-stop from now until mid-December.  Take breaks to stay mentally fresh.


Good luck on the last leg of the semester!

(Steven Foster)

November 3, 2019 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Last Call for Proposals for SWCASP

Last Call for Proposals for the

8th Annual Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Workshop on March 6th, 2020 

ASP Across the Curriculum


Texas Tech University School of Law

in Lubbock, Texas 

The Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals will host a one day conference focused on developing Academic Support programs throughout the curriculum.  ASPers are amazing at the work we do, but we have limited interactions with students.  Students need skills work reinforced throughout every year of law school.  ASP skills range from metacognition to specific test taking skills.  The goal of the conference is to provide ideas for participants to take back to law schools that will encourage everyone at the school to help students improve. 

Registration will be open to anyone interested in academic support.  Registration forms, hotel information, and additional details will be provided in early January. 

We are encouraging those interested in presenting to submit a proposal to Steven Foster at by November 3rd, 2019.


If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:

Steven Foster (

Director of Academic Achievement at Oklahoma City University


Cassie Christopher (

Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Bar Success


Chelsea Baldwin (

Director, Academic Success Programs

November 2, 2019 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 1, 2019

Assistant Director of Academic Success and Bar Preparation at Stetson

STETSON UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW, located in the Tampa Bay area, invites applications from candidates interested in serving as the Assistant Director of Academic Success and Bar Preparation Services. This is a non-faculty position. The successful candidate will participate in the development and implementation of a comprehensive program that partners with students and alumni from admission through bar passage.

The Assistant Director will be primarily responsible for academic counseling, planning and presenting academic skills workshops, and coaching alumni who are studying for the bar exam.


JD degree from an ABA accredited law school, required.

Member in good standing with the Florida Bar, required.

One to three years’ experience in legal academic support, preferred.

High level of organization, flexibility, sound judgment, and interpersonal skills.

Must have strong written and verbal communications skills and make large and small group presentations.

Legal practice experience, required.

The ability to conduct basic statistical analysis.

Teaching experience, preferred.

Experience with Academic Success program and Stetson Bar Preparation Program, a plus.

Flexibility to work outside the normal assigned schedule when requested.

Works with the faculty and staff to build an environment that promotes and facilitates the success of Diversity and Inclusive Excellence. Proficiency in MS Office.

APPLICATION: Please visit  for a complete job description. Click on How to Apply to complete the secure online application and upload your resume. The position will remain open until filled. Review of applications will continue until position is filled. All correspondence will be held in strictest confidence.

November 1, 2019 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Wise Interventions: A Searchable Research Database

Thanks to the work of social psychologists Gregory Walton (Stanford) and Timothy Wilson (Univ. of Virginia), here's a wonderful searchable database of research articles about interventions to concretely improve learning, life, and community.  


And there's more great news...

It's a free!  In fact, it's one of my go-to sources as I look for ways to enhance student learning.  

(Scott Johns).

October 31, 2019 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Is There Time to Turn Things Around?

At my law school, it is 40 total days, and 23 class days, until the first final exam. For some students, now is the time of reckoning.

There are always a few students who get a late-semester wake-up call: the 3Ls affecting insouciance who heretofore mouthed "C=J.D." but now want to demonstrate their mettle to a mentor; the 2Ls who did so well during the first year they initially assumed they could cruise through 2L year without effort; the 1Ls so impressed with their above-median LSAT they can't acknowledge their work product falls short of the mark; the students in any year who have spent the first months of the semester struggling with illness or family emergencies or pure bad luck.  Ten weeks into the semester, they wonder if there is time to turn things around. 

If the answer to every legal question is "It depends," the answer to "Is there time to turn things around?  Can I pull this off?" is "Maybe. Are you willing to do what it takes?" Can you accomplish a lot in the last 40 days?  Yes.  Will you be as successful as you would have been if you spent all semester working on it? Probably not. Will it be good enough? That depends on your own hard and strategic work. 

Strategies must necessarily differ for different kinds of courses, but here is an approach that can be helpful for law school courses with a comprehensive final exams:

  • Read the syllabus.  "What? I don't have time for that -- I have to catch up!" I repeat -- read the syllabus. Knowledge is power, and the syllabus lays out the expectations of your professor, including topics covered, the grading scheme, and penalties for missed classes. Pay attention to what you are supposed to know and how you are evaluated.
  • Move forward, never backwards.  You will just fall further behind if you decide to go back to read and brief the cases from day 1.  Instead, do the current work to the best of your ability.
    Does that mean blowing off all you have missed?  By no means. Rather, for material you have missed:
    • Ask for help.  Ask friends if they are willing to share class notes. Buy lunch for a classmate who offers to walk you through how to analyze key issues. Ask to borrow outlines not to copy, but to give you a start on creating your own. Check for any materials your professor has posted on learning platforms or made available through the law library.
    • Work through simple problems. You will learn much more by problem-solving than by reading casebooks or even excellent study supplements. Look for supplements that offer problems or exercises, and go straight to the problems without reading the background text.  Think deeply as you work your way through the problems, and do your best. And whether you get the problems right or wrong (as with true/false or multiple choice questions), read the explanatory answers until you understand why your answer or reasoning was right or wrong.
    • Utilize spaced repetition. You can use spaced repetition with your own flashcards or by using software resources available commercially or through your law library.
  • Work your way through complex practice exams. If you have access to former midterms or finals, work your way through the complex problems. Pay special attention to the analytical steps you must take, and the order of reasoning. Gain an understanding of the big picture as well as the specific rules.
  • Communicate with your professor.  If you are demonstrating your willingness to do the hard work, your professors will usually be happy to help.
  • Decide the hard work is worth it.  When you are seriously behind, the work needed to turn things around will be considerable. Marshall your inner resources to help you stay motivated, work effectively, and devote the time and energy needed to complete the work.

(Nancy Luebbert)

October 30, 2019 in Advice, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 28, 2019

Starting from Scratch

Even the greatest was once a beginner. Don’t be afraid to take that first step.  – Muhammad Ali

While academic support programs are commonly recognized today in legal education, such prevalence has not for long existed. What was once a concept for increasing access to the legal profession, is now a construct mandated by the American Bar Association (“ABA”).  ABA Standard 309 (b) requires law schools to provide academic support designed to afford students a reasonable opportunity to complete its program, graduate, and become members of the legal profession. Compliance with this standard is not measured by bar passage alone. Many schools who, for decades, have not had a distinct program or department devoted to academic support now seek to hire ASP professionals to build a specific program of academic support.

While it is wonderful news to incoming and existing law students that more elite schools are subscribing to academic support as we know it today, it can be equally redoubtable for those new to academic support to direct or build programs for which they have no blueprint. A substantial number of faculty and administrators hired to lead academic support programs, do so without ever having experienced an academic support program themselves. This is so largely because academic support programming is a comparatively new phenomenon that was not prevalent in the legal academy when the Boomers and Gen-Xers, who now predominate deanships and search committees studied law.

Goldie Pritchard, Adjunct Professor and Director of Academic Success at Michigan State University College of Law, is the founding director who built from scratch her school’s law school academic support program. She describes the role and duties of ASP work:

Academic support professionals are problem solvers who are willing to put in the time and effort to help guide students as they navigate their law school learning and bar exam preparation process. We are simultaneously juggling interactions with several different students, each with several different needs, and at a variety of points in their individual progression. We help students manage emotions and address non-academic needs. Doing this type of work is what gets us up in the morning and keeps us going.

Those of us who’ve made a career of our calling understand Pritchard’s words all too well. If you are tasked with creating ground level academic support programming, you can take comfort in knowing that there is a myriad of experienced human resources to turn to for guidance and example. There is not one member of the ASP community that I would hesitate to call upon for help or suggestions. To those who are newly minted program directors without the benefit of in-school predecessors, you can afford to be confidently assertive. Your law school has selected you to create programming because of great confidence in your capabilities, professional judgment, and career experience. Don't deny yourselves or your students the benefit of your instincts.

Fears and professional hesitancy associated with being first or building from scratch are understandable. Remember that prototype program design is, by definition, imperfect and subject to enhancement and improvement. The first iteration of your program is already a marked improvement over the nonexistent or prior patchy programming promulgated by a cache of volunteer or voluntold faculty and other departmental administrators. My advice to you: don’t hold back your suggestions, input, and well-vetted requests for financial expenditures to support your creative vision to improve academic outcomes for the students and graduates whom your position was implemented to serve.

(Marsha Griggs)

October 28, 2019 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 27, 2019


The Legal Skills Prof. Blog had 2 excellent posts last week regarding metacognition.  The posts discuss different commonly held myths by students and faculty that have detrimental effects on learning.  My experience is not only do these myths exist, but the hardest thing to overcome is the entrenched nature of the beliefs.  As the posts suggest, students tend to continually slide into comfort over scientifically proven methods.  I highly encourage reading the 2 posts.

Educational Neuromyths and Cognitive Biases

The pernicious falsehood about visual learners and other neuromyths

(Steven Foster)

October 27, 2019 in Learning Styles, Science, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Law Success Instructor at St. Mary's School of Law

St. Mary's School of Law is seeking a Law Success Instructor to work in their innovative program.

About Us

The Office of Law Success at St. Mary’s University School of Law is on a mission is to ensure that our students are successful in law school, on the bar exam, and in practice.  We achieve this mission by being:

  • An innovative, data-driven program that thrives on new ideas and methodologies for success
  • Dedicated teachers engaged in developing our students and ourselves
  • Committed to the academic success of our law students through individualized development that meets each student where they are
  • Providing one-of-a-kind assistance to our students during bar exam prep
  • A team of people passionately dedicated to changing the face of what it means to guide law students to success today

About You

You come to the office five days a week (except holidays) energized and excited knowing that the day ahead will involve:

  • Teaching upper level writing or bar preparation courses
  • Planning and execution of bar exam preparation programming
  • Meetings with students to provide academic support, counseling, and skills development
  • Reviewing student work and providing feedback to develop them as young professionals
  • Working with your team to develop program materials that serve our students
  • Hard, but incredibly rewarding work in helping mold future lawyers

You Also Need

  • A JD degree and a strong academic record
  • Excellent writing and research skills
  • A minimum of two years of legal work since graduating with your JD
  • To submit a cover letter showing your interest in the position and describing why you are a fit for this role
  • To submit a curriculum vita and official transcript
  • To submit a writing sample demonstrating your excellent research and writing skills

A Few More Details

  • Experience in bar exam preparation or coaching is strongly preferred
  • This is a non-tenure track, ten-month position (January-October) with a one-year contract, with options for renewal after evaluation
  • The starting salary is set at $65,000 depending upon prior experience
  • To apply please go to:
  • Offers of employment are contingent upon successful completion of a background check

If this fits you, you have until November 8, 2019 to apply!

October 26, 2019 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 25, 2019

New Faculty Positions at University of Richmond

The University of Richmond created 2 new faculty positions to help students develop both legal analysis and professional skills.  The description for the positions are exactly what ASPers do each day.  Here is the information:

"Two newly posted faculty positions at the University of Richmond School of Law are aimed at helping students adapt to a changing legal profession. The school plans to hire a Director of Legal Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Director of Professional Identity Formation starting with the 2020-2021 school year.

“Our vision is for these two offerings to be signature programs of the Richmond Law experience," said Jessica Erickson, Associate Dean of Faculty Development. Through the Professional Identity Formation program, students will develop "the habits of mind and character" that are associated with professional excellence in the legal field. Meanwhile, students will learn a broad toolbox of skills – from project management to data analytics – in the Legal Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program. The programs will include a mandatory course in the first year, as well as upper-level electives and co-curricular offerings. "These two programs will work in tandem to make our students as well-rounded as possible and truly prepare them for the modern legal profession," said Erickson. "Traditional legal doctrine and skills will always be the cornerstone of legal education, but lawyers today need a broader toolkit to serve their clients effectively."

Learn more:

Director for Professional Identity Formation -

Director for Legal Innovation & Entrepreneurship position -"

October 25, 2019 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Ritual Matters

Twenty times I've sat in the University ballroom in mid-semester, hearing welcoming speeches from representatives of the University, the College of Law, the state bar, and the state judiciary. Twenty times, I've seen students, staff, and faculty dressed to the nines and rapt in attention, whatever the lecture's subject matter. The signature event at my law school is the annual Sherman J. Bellwood Lecture, named after the state judge who left a generous (and evidently quite unexpected) bequest to fund endowed lectures. During the Bellwood Lectures, we've heard about topics ranging from federal Indian law to Abraham Lincoln, from racial injustice to climate change. We've heard perspectives from the right, left, and middle of the political spectrum, with speakers from Janet Reno to Kenneth Feinberg, Haleh Esfandiari to Alan Simpson.

The exposure to different ideas matters, as does the exposure to key persons in academia, the bar, the judiciary, and public policy. But as I left this year's lecture, I couldn't help but think about how much the very ritual of Bellwood matters. It undoubtedly mirrors similar events in schools across the country: a meet & greet to allow the student body to meet the distinguished speaker, an "in-house" panel with the guest speaker, a large public lecture, and several formal receptions and meals with invited dignitaries as well as law students, faculty, and staff. At and after the public lecture, I noticed students were energized: they were discussing ideas of justice and policy, whether directly connected to the lecture or not. I thought how important this event was, not only to bring the speakers' new ideas and insights to the school, but perhaps more importantly to remind all of us of the power of big ideas. Rather than dwelling on the pages of reading, or the disappointing grades from quizzes and midterms, students were prompted to think of those passions that drove them to law school: "Who or what do I care about? How can I serve these people or values in my legal practice?"

Every law school has rituals of welcoming in (convocation) and sending forth (commencement). The legal profession has rituals for swearing in members of the bar and of the judiciary. Rituals help us concentrate, learn, and viscerally understand our system of shared values. For example, when our state supreme court justices step down from the bench after oral argument to shake hands with counsel, this simple ritual powerfully speaks to the value placed on collegiality in our bench and bar. Rituals overdone can become stultifying customs or habits, but done at the right frequency, and with the right amount of emphasis, can help us lift us out of the ennui and lethargy that often creeps into our thinking and actions. Daniel Kirzane writes, "Both rituals and education seek to order, orient, and transform." In the coming months, I'll be on the lookout for ways of incorporating meaningful rituals, great and small, to celebrate, focus, and transform in my small corner of the legal community.

(Nancy Luebbert)

October 23, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Charisma of Numbers

Today's Washington Post has a fascinating and disturbing article about the company HireVue and its signature product, an artificial intelligence hiring system through which employers can set up automated "interviews" with prospective employees.  The system "uses candidates’ computer or cellphone cameras to analyze their facial movements, word choice and speaking voice before ranking them against other applicants based on an automatically generated 'employability' score."  Based on these scores, HireVue's clients -- which include large organizations like Unilever and Goldman Sachs -- can choose which candidates they would like to bring in for actual human interaction.

The growing reliance of employers on HireVue and its competitors suggests several issues of interest to law students.  Can we expect that someday soon, they too will be forced to welcome their new computer overlords by developing another set of skills -- namely, the art of using just the right expressions and intonations to appeal to the interviewing algorithm?  How do we even know what appeals to that algorithm, and whether the appealing features actually bear any relationship to job performance, if HireVue releases no information about what it is measuring, what it assigns value to, or, indeed, even what a candidate did wrong?  (The mystery and validity issues echo some complaints about the UBE, but at least bar examinees are told their scores.)  Like it or not, this Pandora's boxing ring is now open, and it's only a matter of time until young attorneys are sent in to altercate.

To get some perspective on the rigor of the HireVue system, the Post reporter spoke to researchers in applicable fields, including Luke Stark, an AI researcher who was

skeptical of HireVue’s ability to predict a worker’s personality from their intonations and turns of phrase. . . . Systems like HireVue, he said, have become quite skilled at spitting out data points that seem convincing, even when they’re not backed by science. And he finds this “charisma of numbers” really troubling because of the overconfidence employers might lend them while seeking to decide the path of applicants’ careers.

The charisma of numbers is something I feel I run up against over and over again.  And I say this as a person who values data and statistics!  I believe it is difficult to make consistently effective decisions or to take wise action without obtaining and evaluating relevant numerical information.  And, true, in a field in which our success is largely measured numerically (GPAs, retention rates, bar passage rates), numbers can possess either star power or infamy.

But, notwithstanding their dazzle and clout, numbers should only be powerful if they are attached to something meaningful.  If they are being misused or misunderstood, that can mean mistaking the sizzle for the steak.   Figures can be seductive when they seem rounded, or extravagant, or provocative, or revealing.  It's easy to jump on the conspicuously appealing numbers -- the highest GPA, the apparently significant pattern in MBE scores, the increase in median starting salaries -- just as it's easy to be attracted to the confident, well-spoken cutie who walks into the party.  But the GPA might be based on a disproportionate number of generously graded courses; the MBE pattern might be statistically insignificant; the median salary increase might represent slippage, not advancement, if similar schools are seeing an even larger increase.  Causes, reliability, and context all matter.

The danger of the charisma of numbers is that sometimes, even when a person is only looking at the surface, they don't feel like they are being shallow, because numbers are supposed to be scientific and rational.  We need to remember, and teach our students and colleagues, that, even with the most alluring numbers, you should really spend some time with them first, get to know their flaws and idiosyncrasies, before you commit to them.

[Bill MacDonald]

October 22, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, News, Program Evaluation, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 21, 2019

Productive Procrastination

My constant battle is putting aside time wasters, and I have to watch out for procrastination. Staying on the path of something you’re trying to create has much to do with having confidence in yourself and in your capacity to realize the things you want out of life. – Ruby Dee

Anyone in the dissertation process or in any stage of researching or writing a scholarly article knows that procrastination, not perfection, is the enemy of completion. Even the most well-intended scholars struggle with finding the will and motivation to write. Caring professors fall into the lure of putting off grading until the last possible moment – often to the disappointment of students eagerly awaiting grades. Students, in all fields, and at all levels, will wait until the last conceivable second to complete or even begin a task. We all fall prey to procrastination in one form or another.

Ironically, procrastination is a natural occurrence in the lives of highly productive individuals. Procrastination, as a form of managed delay, can generate productive and invigorating levels of adrenaline.  According to Dr. Adam Gonzalez, “[w]hen you experience anxiety, it is often in response to an actual or perceived threat.” At low or moderate levels, anxiety can help increase productivity. Productive levels of anxiety may lead to hyper-focus and allows adaptive response to external demands like a challenging job or a tight deadline. However, this productive procrastination, while effective in the short term, can have negative long-term consequences, like over-commitment, disorganization, and unhealthy stress levels .

Procrastination can be both a contributor to, and a consequence of, cognitive distortions. One survey found that procrastination was a top reason that Ph.D. candidates failed to complete their dissertations. Another study identified four major cognitive distortions that lead to academic procrastination.*

  1. Overestimating how much time is left to perform a task;
  2. Overestimating future motivation for a task;
  3. Underestimating how long certain activities will take to complete; and
  4. Mistakenly assuming that a “right” frame of mind is needed to work on a project.

Although the study focused on student procrastination, each of the listed distortions can be equally applied to academics. The year-round deadlines for submissions, edits, proposals, evaluations and feedback can necessitate some degree of procrastination as a means of self-preservation. We engage in managed delay to strategically decide which tasks must be immediately completed, and which tasks can be put off or allotted comparatively less time and attention. We want our students to be well-prepared for class and professional life. Yet, there is no future in legal education wherein some students do not come to class unprepared. No scholarly psychological study will prevent the eleventh-hour email seeking an extension of a deadline imposed weeks, if not months, earlier. Perhaps self-reflection about our own effectively managed tendencies toward procrastination will cause us to be more compassionate when left to respond to the self-delayed outcomes of our students, family, and coworkers.  

*Ferrari, J. R., Johnson, J. L., & McCown, W. G. (1995). The Plenum series in social/clinical psychology. Procrastination and task avoidance: Theory, research, and treatment. New York, NY, US: Plenum Press.

(Marsha Griggs)

October 21, 2019 in Miscellany, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Football Clichés to Use with Students

We are halfway through the best time of the year, college football season.  As a kid, I always wanted to be a football coach.  I watched games all day Saturday, then I watched the coaches' shows during the week.  I wanted to understand the strategy.  I obviously did not take that path, but the intellectual curiosity is still there.  I still listen to post-game shows and analysis.  My wife needles me with "you just watched the game, why do you need the recap?"  She has a great point, but how will I know if my perception of the defensive line play was accurate if I don't listen to the recap?  

The recaps have the information I crave, but they also have the best clichés.  Every week, I hear some variation of the following:

1.  The game is never as good as you think or as bad as you think (a newer one from Oklahoma's coaches recently).

2.  We will enjoy this win today, but then, it is on to next week.

3.  We must get better each week, so we have a few things to clean up before the next game.

4.  Don't listen to the "rat poison." (Nick Saban made famous, and now, Jalen Hurts says it every week at Oklahoma).

5.  One play, drive, quarter, half, or game at a time.

The statements are obviously clichés, and some call it "coach speak."  However, I think the statements have value for our students if they pay attention to the meaning.  Let's look at each statement.

1.  The game is never as good as you think or as bad as you think.

This is absolutely true, and our students need to embrace this idea.  Too many students walk out of exams thinking it was either terrible or awesome.  Very few are correct.  If the test was that hard, it was hard for everyone.  If you think you knocked it out of the park, there is a chance everyone else feels the same way.  The review and feedback after exams is what matters.

2.  We will enjoy this win today, but then it is on to next week.

I encourage students to celebrate success.  Making it through law school is tough.  Every milestone from completing the first midterm to making it through the first semester should be celebrated.  However, I also tell students it is time to get to work the next day.  Finals, or the bar exam, won't change based on how long we celebrate.  The goal is still to be prepared by a certain day.

3.  We must get better each week, so we have a few things to clean up before the next game.

I use a form of this statement all the time with students.  Early the first semester, I over emphasize that I don't care if they are first or last in the class.  The goal is to get better every semester.  Employers want attorneys that can improve and learn throughout his/her career.  Self-reflection and improvement plans setup a great career.

4.  Don't listen to the "rat poison."  

This one is newer but funny.  The idea is to not let the media over inflate players' egos.  The same is true for our students.  Students should focus on getting better and self-assessment.  Don't listen to classmates talk about how great your class answers were.  Don't let previous grades lull you into complacency.  Every class and every test requires proper preparation.

5.  One play, drive, quarter, half, or game at a time.

Law school and the bar exam are overwhelming.  Over 500 hours of work for 10 weeks during the summer or countless hours of preparation for 14 weeks during the semester can cause anxiety and immobilize the calmest students.  The key is to only focus on today.  Do the work for today.  Complete the practice questions for today.  Focus on today because taking 1 step each day will eventually lead to the destination.

(Steven Foster)

October 20, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (1)