Monday, February 26, 2024

Lost and Found

Today, I will have two former members of the United States House of Representatives come and speak to my undergraduate class as part of an amazing program called Congress to Campus. I am always incredibly excited to have these gentlemen (and so far, they have only sent me white men) come and speak to the class. More importantly, I am fervently hoping my students have questions for them[1]. I have provided their biographies; we have discussed checks and balances and separation of powers, and they should know what Congress does (and cannot do) well enough to be curious about what differs between the textbook and the reality in terms of the Federal Legislature. I think I have done my job (we’ll see, of course) of piquing their curiosity.

But that leads me to a broader question in teaching: how do we nurture curiosity in all of our students? I am not sure the first year of law school, in general, does that. Where is the adventure in the Commerce Clause? The cliff-hanger in Adverse Possession?[2] What happens when students lose their sense of wonder about law? And notice, I say when and not if, because I think the vast majority of students do (at least temporarily) lose their sense of wonder about six weeks in to the first semester, and again just about now in the second.

Part of the issue is that 1L students do not get choices. They cannot choose their classes, professors, or schedules. I don’t think that changing this entirely would be a great plan since (among other things) 1L subjects are bar tested and finding doctrinal faculty to teach 1L classes is hard enough without a popularity contest built in.[3]

I once read in a parenting book that offering your toddler choices-where you, as the adult, control all the options-prevents meltdowns. For example, offering a blue cup or a red cup (you have both ready) is easier than giving a blue cup and then trying to explain that all cups are the same in the end. You still control the options, but they get to make a choice. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying our students are toddlers, but they may similarly feel that they have very little control over their education in the first year (and beyond depending on your law school’s policies and requirements).

We are currently planning to offer an optional 1 credit Pass/Fail elective to students in their 1L spring after we freed a credit when we semesterized[4] all of our 1L classes. We have discussed this at length and even had our faculty vote (in favor) of making it happen. I am thinking the classes we offer need be something interesting enough to combat the idea of just enjoying the semester without that extra credit. It needs to feed and restore curiosity. Granted, at the moment the only times available for such classes are late on Thursday evening or early Friday morning, so not primetime, therefore I am not certain our first foray will be representative of what we could do with this credit. But we shall see. One member of committee suggested we try Accounting for Lawyers. Since I wonder if that will attract any students, my curiosity is already piqued.

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] God knows I have questions about the governance of the country recently, but this isn’t about me.

[2] Although an elemental test in 1L Property is always nice to see….

[3] And the logistics would be difficult. We have an incoming 1L class at or near 400 students, so that would be chaos for us.

[4] It turns out this is not a word-but indulge me here.

February 26, 2024 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Director of Academic Achievement at California Western School of Law

California Western School of Law seeks candidates for the Director of Academic Achievement. This long-term contract faculty position is responsible for leading the academic support and bar support programs at California Western. The Director must provide leadership for the department and effectively manage multiple tasks, programs, and responsibilities. Strong interpersonal skills and demonstrated ability to work with a highly diverse student, staff, and faculty population are essential to success. A commitment to data-driven academic programming and a sincere desire to enhance student performance in law school and the bar exam are essential for this position.

Qualifications: (1) a J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school; (2) at least five years of law teaching experience, preferably in an academic support or bar preparation program; (3) excellent written, oral, and interpersonal communication skills; (4) good organization, judgment, and flexibility; (5) experience with educational technology and statistical analysis; (6) experience in course planning, teaching, formative and summative assessment; (7) experience in staff supervision; and (8) a demonstrated ability and interest in working collaboratively with a diverse population of students, faculty, and staff. 

Application Requirements: Candidates must apply for this position through the California Western Career Website. They must submit: (1) a cover letter describing their qualifications and salary requirements; (2) resume; and (3) a statement indicating how they will engage with the Law School’s mission of supporting a diverse student population. 

Salary Range: $122,000-$144,000. Factors in determining the appropriate compensation include experience, skills, knowledge, education, licensure and certifications, and other institutional needs.  Applications are due by March 15, 2024 but will be accepted on a rolling basis. Interested applicants are encouraged to apply early. The anticipated start date is June 1, 2024. The law school offers competitive benefits for eligible employees.  

About California Western: Established in 1924, California Western is an ABA-accredited and AALS member, non-profit law school located in downtown San Diego, California. We have the distinction of being San Diego’s oldest law school. California Western is the recipient of numerous community service awards, including the State Bar of California President’s Pro Bono Service Award and the federal government’s President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. We are home to numerous outstanding programs, including the Community Law Project and New Media Rights Program. The Faculty is dedicated to teaching, research, and community service. Detailed information is available at www.cwsl.edu/.

California Western is committed to training ethical, competent, and compassionate lawyers who represent our diverse society. California Western is an Equal Opportunity Employer dedicated to affirmative action and excellence through diversity. The Law School provides reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants with disabilities upon request.

February 25, 2024 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Visiting Assistant Professor and Assistant Director of Academic Enrichment at Washburn

Washburn is hiring a Visiting Assistant Professor & Assistant Director of Academic Enrichment and Bar Readiness Programming.  The full posting can be found here.

For questions about the position, please contact Professor Michelle Ewert, Chair, Faculty Recruitment Committee, at [email protected] or Professor Chelsea Baldwin, Interim Director of Academic Enrichment and Bar Pass Programs, at [email protected].

If you're interested, please get your applications in before March 1, 2024. We're hoping to bring someone on in time to help with summer bar support, but in this market, that is of course negotiable.

February 24, 2024 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Academic Support Positions at North Carolina Central University

North Carolina Central University School of Law is currently hiring for a Director of Bar Preparation as well as an Academic Success Specialist.  The job description and application portal is online at https://linkprotect.cudasvc.com/url?a=https%3a%2f%2fjobs.nccu.edu%2fpostings%2fsearch&c=E,1,UqdjR8rQ4BkQI3EXhmlzVSvNYIH_3UzHUuXpahb09Pv7Th1U1ijhQXrt_D3LkCoSPeSK1X_4fNlWlYTaMvcKfIkNBO8Rcbixja4VAGpRiqtJh6JM&typo=1

North Carolina Central has a diverse and amazing student population. The individuals hired for these positions will have an opportunity to significantly contribute to enhancing the AS and bar prep programs already in place. NCCU School of Law is a great place to work and is centrally located to restaurants and parks, with new budget-friendly housing developments popping up daily.

February 24, 2024 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 19, 2024

No Winners

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Last week, in summarizing our discussion of Plessy and Brown v. Board of Education, one of my undergraduate students used a word that, while not the most offensive when referring to race, was nonetheless unwelcome in my classroom community. And when she said the word, I stopped her cold and informed her that it wasn’t a word that is appropriate in reference to race. She asked which one of the words she said was offensive and I told her that I would not repeat it but would happily explain the issue after class. I encouraged her to move on with her summary, she did, and I thanked her. End of story, I thought.

Not end of story. About twenty minutes later, she threw on her jacket, her headphones, and backpack and quite dramatically left the class. Now, this is a student who has left each class this semester at least 15 minutes before it ends to get to a work shift that she assured me in January was a holdover from the Winter break and was only going to be, “this once,” but this was much earlier than her usual (far more subtle) exits.

After class was over, I e-mailed her because I was pretty certain my callout was the reason for her hasty departure. I explained why the word was offensive and apologized if she felt I was both blunt and vague. I told her that as the person in front of the class, I could see something she couldn’t--and that was the reaction of her fellow classmates. I would have stopped her in any event and do not (in any way) regret stopping her, but I understand that undergraduates are young and still learning. I thought the discussion we had had as a class about Plessy and Brown had been very clear (and I had discussed these cases using critical race theory as a backdrop). Then I thought perhaps she might have been a freshman who could not have known better. It turns out that she is actually a junior majoring in something in the Political Science department, so no, that wasn’t it either.

I very quickly got a reply from the student. It wasn’t pleasant, professional, or respectful. There was no remorse, no lesson learned, or any understanding (or desire to form one) of why the word was offensive. And she told me that as a “white woman,” I had no place telling her anything. I do not know her race, nor would it matter since no one can use that word in reference to race in my class. And while there were dozens of other inconsistent and misinformed points in the unpunctuated masterpiece she sent me, that was the worst.

Because I was the right person to tell her.

Because I carry the burden of civility in my class.

Because it is not the job of BIPOC students to correct her.

Because when something is wrong, it is wrong regardless of who informs you of it.  

Because not saying something publicly would have been worse.

Because sometimes being uncomfortable and sitting in that space is learning.

I invited her to come see me about all of this I have received no response. And I don’t expect one anytime soon.

I don’t feel great about how this ended (if it has), and I hope it will go better next time. Most of all, I hope there is no next time.

(Liz Stillman)

February 19, 2024 in Diversity Issues, Meetings, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Director of Academic Success at Illinois

 

Director of Academic Success & Bar Support

University of Illinois College of Law

Champaign, Illinois

The University of Illinois College of Law is one of the oldest and most prestigious law schools in the United States and is part of a major public research university. The College of Law is committed to academic excellence for all students and is seeking a dedicated academic success professional to direct the College of Law’s Academic Success and Bar Support Program. The position is based in Champaign, Illinois.

In this critical, high-visibility role, you would direct the College of Law's Academic Success and Bar Support Program.

Key responsibilities include:

  • • Providing one-on-one support to students to promote each student’s academic success in law school and successful performance on the bar exam.
  • • Partnering with faculty and staff to help students develop study, legal analysis, and exam-writing skills that enhance their academic performance.
  • • Developing and implementing academic support programs.
  • • Identifying and addressing barriers to students’ academic success.
  • • Preparing and delivering bar preparation programs building on the existing “Countdown to the Bar” program at the College of Law.
  • • Reaching out to recent graduates to encourage completion of bar preparation courses and help address barriers to bar preparation.
  • • Nurturing relationships with bar examiners in Illinois and other jurisdictions.
  • • Developing and maintaining expertise in the various bar exams College of Law graduates take, including the current Universal Bar Exam and NextGen Bar Exam.

This position requires residency in the Champaign-Urbana areas and may necessitate occasional travel.

Candidates must have a Juris Doctor Degree from an ABA-accredited law school, a Bar membership in a US jurisdiction (which may be inactive), and two years of relevant experience. Preferred qualifications are prior employment in a law school, particularly in connection with academic and bar success; advising, counseling, or teaching experience; experience in law practice; and experience working with students with disabilities.

This is a full-time, 12-month position. The expected start date is between May 16 and August 16, 2024. The salary range for this position is $85,000 to $110,000 per year. The University offers a generous and flexible benefits program. Relocation assistance will be provided.

Applications must be received by 6:00 pm (CST) on March 17, 2024. Apply for this position at https://illinois.csod.com/ux/ats/careersite/1/home/requisition/9426?c=illinois. Only applications submitted through the University’s job portal will be considered. If you have questions about this position, please email Patrick Rietz ([email protected]). For assistance with the application process, please contact 217-333-2137.

The University of Illinois System is an equal opportunity employer, including but not limited to disability and/or veteran status, and complies with all applicable state and federal employment mandates. Please visit Required Employment Notices and Posters to view our non-discrimination statement and find additional information about required background checks, sexual harassment/misconduct disclosures, and employment eligibility review through E-Verify.

Applicants with disabilities are encouraged to apply and may request a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (2008) to complete the application and/or interview process. Requests may be submitted through the reasonable accommodations portal, or by contacting the Accessibility & Accommodations Division of the Office for Access and Equity at 217-333-0885, or by emailing [email protected].

February 18, 2024 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 16, 2024

To Take a Bar Exam (or Not)

A lot has changed since I started working with law students in 2015. A lot has changed in the world, in my own life, and for the students I serve. It seems every year more students arrive at law school fresh from undergraduate commencement ceremonies. Fewer students have worked in a legal setting, or any professional setting, before embarking on the study of law. This isn’t a bad thing, just a difference I notice with each passing year.

Every August at orientation, the 1Ls are told that they are embarking on a professional journey – that law school is a professional school. We do our best to let them know the expectations are different here than in their undergraduate programs. The workload is heavier. They should be developing professional identities – preparing to one day take an oath of attorney and pledge to ethically represent clients. These are important points that for many describe the path ahead.

Still, less than two weeks out from the bar exam, as the stress mounts on our graduates, I reflect on another change I’ve witnessed over the years. There are more law students who are unsure about whether they want to practice law at all. There are also more law students who are sure they don’t want to practice law. JD advantage career opportunities continue to increase, and students pursue legal education for different reasons than they did a decade ago. Yet the vast majority of graduates continue to take the bar exam.

I’m reminded of the term, emerging adulthood coined by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, PhD back in 2000. He used this term to describe the period of development between the ages of 18 and 29 where adolescents begin having adult experiences that shape their transition into adulthood. It’s a time of self-exploration and identity development, and this individual growth and personal identity formation is happening alongside many law students’ professional development. I would argue that a growing portion of law students leave law school having made major strides in personal identity formation, while remaining ambivalent about their professional identity.

When I talk with graduates taking the bar exam because of family pressure, because it’s what everyone else is doing, or with no real reason in mind, I know it will be a struggle. Not because they can’t do it, but because they are doing it for the wrong reasons. No amount of external pressure will keep you internally motivated to study forty to fifty hours a week for ten weeks.

Every year, I ask my 3L students to write down why they want to take the bar exam. I ask them to save the piece of paper and look at it when bar prep gets hard. Maybe I should also stop and let them know it’s OK if they don’t want to practice law. There are many successful JDs out there who are happily doing something else with their legal education. I could normalize other paths. I could stop reinforcing the notion that the bar exam is a necessary hurdle for all, and instead be clear that it is only necessary for those who seek to practice.

(Ashley Cetnar)

February 16, 2024 in Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Actual Cause, Proximate Cause, and Academic Underperformance.

Every first-year law student knows (or should know) the terms “actual cause” and “proximate cause.”  In a tort claim for negligence, a plaintiff must prove actual cause, that the plaintiff's injury would not have occurred but for the defendant's negligence.  A plaintiff must also show proximate cause, that the injury was the foreseeable consequence of the defendant's negligence.  But when underperforming1 students try to figure out why they received unwelcome grades, they often forget the nooks and crannies of causation, leading them to bad decisions.  

What do I mean?

When the Registrar enrolls students in my second-semester class for those in the bottom 20% of their section, I send them a questionnaire that prompts them to think deeply about why they underperformed.  I then construct the first individual meeting with each student around those responses so that we can build an improved learning plan.  Students' answers often make a major mistake:  they assume that a bad breakup, bad roommate situation, or serious illness was the only factor involved.  In doing so, they rationalize that the results are extrinsic to themselves, unrelated to effort or not-yet-developed skills, and conclude that change is unnecessary.  After all, now that the outside problems are gone (hopefully), the grades will magically improve, right?

These students are ignoring the tort concepts of concurrent causes, sufficient combined causes, and apportionment.  Concurrent causes are those where an injury results from two separate acts.  The classic example is when the construction worker leaves a maintenance hole cover open, a driver collides with the pedestrian plaintiff, and the plaintiff suffers injuries both from the collision and falling through the maintenance hole.  Sufficient combined causes are those where two separate acts combine to cause an injury.  The classic example here is two farmers separately lighting fires that combine to burn down another farmer's barn and either of the fires could have produced the same result.  Lastly, apportionment examines the relative blameworthiness of multiple actors to assign damages based on each actor's contribution to the injury.

The student focusing solely on outside factors instead of examining other possible causes ignores the role of the driver and seeks to blame only the construction worker.  The student also ignores Farmer #2, seeking redress only from Farmer #1 whose impact might have been equal to or less than that of Farmer #2.  By ascribing causation only to one factor rather than to concurrent or sufficient combined causes, the student then attempts to apportion damages only to the external circumstances and not to the internal ones, such as using a suboptimal learning plan, inefficiency during the semester, neglecting to develop analytical skills, or expending insufficient effort. 

It is incumbent on academic support faculty to encourage students to explore these issues.  Maybe the "minuses" on those C's were due to the outside factor but the original drop from A to C occurred because the student merely read for class and nothing more.  True, maybe the student is correct that the outside situation was indeed the sole cause of the underperformance.  But I counsel that student that we should rather be safe than sorry and assume that changes are necessary.  These changes might include a stronger learning plan, better exam prep methods, and/ or more hours devoted to law school.  

This message acknowledges the psychology at play.  Arriving at the conclusion that internal causes contributed to the underperformance is uncomfortable.  Attributing the blame to external causes rationalizes the result as something DONE to the student rather than something they DID.  This is all normal.  But posing the solution as "let's make changes just to be safe rather than sorry," accounts for this psychology but also fosters the necessary consideration of concurrent causes, sufficient combined causes, and apportionment.

Louis Schulze (FIU Law)

---------

1 I use this term instead of less helpful ones, such as "your bad grades," "your weak GPA," or "flunking out."  I choose words carefully, having developed an almost Orwellian set of phrases that communicate a lack of judgment.  The commonly used but dispiriting terms imply some form of wrongness or personal deficiency that may be unwarranted.    By contrast, "underperforming" recognizes that the performance is not ideal but suggests that the student is capable of doing better.  This gives them hope that they can improve instead of suggesting that their grades reflect a permanent condition attributable to something wrong with them.  Other terms I avoid, for various reasons, include:  "remedial class," "tutoring," and "failed the bar."   

February 6, 2024 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Naked and Afraid

I’m being dramatic of course: I am fully clothed and just a bit rattled. I am writing this entry on Thursday, Feb. 1st for publication next Monday, Feb. 5th. Today is the day that the faculty votes on whether I will be offered an additional five year contract, or I will be out of a job on July 1st. To be crystal clear, I am not really expecting to be shown the curb today. I feel valued at my school, and I think they would feel a loss if they let me go. I believe this. Intellectually, I know this isn’t going to be an issue, but emotionally, I must say that it doesn’t feel great to have such an important decision seem so completely out of my control.

Part of this feeling of vulnerability may stem from my first gen background. My parents worked in the garment industry and my maternal grandparents worked as a milliner and a produce buyer. I am the first woman in my immediate family who knows how to drive, went to a four year college, and then on to law school. For me, having control of how I am perceived and discussed is therefore really important. I would never say I am self-made--my family was wildly supportive-- but I also do not want to be unmade by others.

I think one of hardest parts of this process is seeing the Committee memo that essentially lays me out bare circulated not once, but twice to everyone (including me). I am glad there will be no paper copies circulated both for the trees and the possibility of it moving beyond our faculty (which I know is also very possible, if not even easier, via email, but somehow paper seems like more of a security risk, which only goes to prove my addled state). Everyone gets to know about my course evaluations, syllabi, PowerPoint slides, and scholarship. And the folks who get to vote to keep me or not include:

  1. People who have known me since July 2023;
  2. People who have been here for a year or two but haven’t met me at all;
  3. People who are actually leaving at the end of the semester;
  4. People who have been unprofessionally rude to me in Committee meetings;
  5. People who have said no to a tenure track possibility for ASP; but then there are also:
  6. Amazing colleagues I have known for over 20 years;
  7. Amazing colleagues in my ASP department;
  8. Amazing colleagues I consider friends (these past three are not mutually exclusive categories);
  9. Fabulous colleagues who support changes in ASP status; and
  10. Wonderful administrators I am not sure can vote but have always been quite supportive.

In short, a lot of my jury may not consider themselves my peers. And they will get together in a big room (and I am not going to be there as per tradition) and talk about me and then they get to decide if I can continue doing this job even if some of them are uncertain what it is. The fact that I need to do this every five years (although when I started it was shorter intervals) is frustrating. If my position doesn't merit tenure-which I understand is a long investment in me by my school--then why so much repeated scrutiny for something that clearly isn't considered all that important? I know this lesser status is a construct, but a process that is a reminder of this status over and over can't be the best practice. I have been through this more than seven times already.

So, when quotes from my course evaluations are circulated far and wide, I feel particularly exposed (although they were all positive quotes). When someone comments (again, positively) on the quality of my slides, I feel invaded. And when I am told that my scholarship is nice but not tenure worthy, I am livid, because tenure is not even on the table.

The only thing on the table is me.

(Liz Stillman)

**UPDATE**:  My contract was in fact renewed by the faculty on Thursday and nice things were said about me during that meeting. I am, although still slightly salty about the process, very pleased with the result.

February 4, 2024 in Miscellany, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Assistant Director of Academic Success at UNLV

UNLV Boyd School of Law has an opening in the department for an Assistant Director of the Academic Success Program, which also includes the role of Assistant Professor-in-Residence. This is a faculty position. A blend of teaching, collaboratively running our academic success programs and guiding students through their legal education journey. Plus, it’s a spot that promises growth, with a clear path to 5-year presumptive renewal contracts.

In terms of compensation, it matches the value we place on this role and the person who will fill it. The position's pay and benefits are more than competitive.  We’re after someone who’s not just looking for a new job but a place to invest their talents long-term and be part of our community. Nevada has a lot to be excited about, particularly the likely changes coming here to the Bar. Being the only law school in the state has distinct advantages, and being a small jurisdiction allows for a significant impact by our graduates.

February 4, 2024 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 3, 2024

MWCASP/SWCASP Workshop

Please join us in St. Louis, MO for the Joint One-Day Workshop of the Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals and the Midwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals, hosted by the Saint Louis University School of Law on Friday, March 8th, from 9:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. CST, with a welcome dinner the evening of Thursday, March 7th.

The theme of this year's Workshop is Practical and Innovative Techniques to Approach Teaching and Advising for the Next Gen Bar Exam and the Next Generation of Lawyers. We have an exciting program and selection of speakers for you (see attached) and are excited to spend the day sharing ideas with our colleagues from the Southwest and Midwest regions - and beyond!

The conference will be hosted in person at the Saint Louis University School of Law. However, while we are excited to return to an in-person workshop this year, we also will do our best to record the workshop for those unable to travel to St. Louis.

Thanks to our generous sponsors, AccessLex, BarBri, and Themis, there is no registration fee, but we ask that you please register using this link so that we can adequately prepare: https://forms.gle/YTGyHB8zm6WdkGL78

Due to unexpected flooding at our original hotel, we are unable to provide a room block for workshop participants. However, there are a number of hotels nearby, including the following options:

Tru by Hilton St. Louis Downtown (~$123 per night, .2 miles walk)
 
The Last Hotel 4-Star Boutique Hotel (~230 per night, .4 miles walk)
 
21c Museum Hotel St Louis (~$230 per night, .4 miles walk)
 
We hope we get to "meet you in St. Louis" in March!
 
2024 SWCASP/MWCASP One-Day Workshop Planning Committee
Toni Miceli, Saint Louis University School of Law
Petina Benigno, Saint Louis University School of Law
Steven Foster, Oklahoma City University School of Law
Megan Kreminski, University of Illinois Chicago School of Law

February 3, 2024 in Bar Exam Preparation, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 29, 2024

Track Work

The “spring” semester is underway here at my school. I say “spring” because anyone who has ever been in Boston in January knows that green leaves, blue skies, and dry sidewalks are a long way off. Recently, I took an involuntary month-long vacation from my normal commute. The train that I have taken to work for many years was shut down for almost all of January for track work. Not running at all. Not going inbound or outbound. Not moving under or over ground-just not at all. So, I had to change my usual routine and take a bus to a different train line and then walk a different route to the law school. As I joked with a Bar Prep buddy, my commute went from an MEE to an MPT in terms of timing. But after four weeks of this new daily odyssey, I suppose I got used to it[1].

Today, I was finally able to take my normal route into work. I thought it would be glorious, but after a month of doing it differently, it was strange and even a little awkward[2]. Even going back to something that is very familiar is still a transition. I might even miss some of the small joys I found in the “new normal.”[3] I thought that this must be how our students feel after taking a month long break from law school and then starting up-except in reverse. I am sure a month away from school with no reading or papers or exams was lovely.

Now that we have started up again, I have been meeting with 1Ls over these past weeks. I am mainly seeing students who did not do as well on exams as they (or we) had hoped. We have spent time trying to determine the reason why things went awry during exams and try to start better habits in the place of the methods that were not effective. Yet, the abrupt jolt back into law school after a month off is not something we have discussed or given much thought.  Even if this is familiar, it is still a transition. And, to make things worse, I am asking students to try different routes to success just when they thought they knew the way after surviving the fall. It is a lot to ask all at once (with the additional stress of non-stellar grades looming).

I think articulating that I am making a big ask at a stressful time might go a long way to developing an honest relationship with students moving forward. I do them no favors by just saying, “it’ll be fine.” I can assure students that there is great relief in plotting a course and making a plan to move forward. I cannot make the train run before the track work is done, but I can help them navigate this detour.

Hopefully, they will extend the same understanding to me when I am cranky that my train is out of service again in late February to early March.

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] Well, most of it. I did see a fistfight on the bus that was a bit rattling and intense. Physical violence in a small moving space is not something I’d like to grow accustomed to….

[2] Although back to MEE commute times which was glorious indeed.

[3] It was faster train, there were more coffee options on the walk from the station to the law school, and I could walk through Primark on the way in or out if I needed anything….

January 29, 2024 in Exams - Studying, Orientation, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 26, 2024

Go have a little fun!

It’s the third week of spring classes here in Idaho. Grades from the fall term were released and exam reviews are underway. A few students are feeling elated with their fall performance. The majority (even those who did well) are experiencing disappointment. Emails are going out to students from all directions with words of encouragement and tips for what to do next.

When I think back to my best and worst semesters of law school, I can’t remember the grades earned. I can remember the key ingredient that made the difference: fun. I worked hard, yes. I remained diligent and met all deadlines. But when my head was swimming with legal theory, or I had simply finished my workday in the library, I went and had fun. That’s right, I actually spent time doing things I enjoy with the people I love – as a law student!

The bad semesters, the ones full of stress and anxiety, were full of wasted time and wasted opportunities for fun. I should get ahead on my reading. I don’t have time for the things I like to do. I can’t meet you for dinner because I’m sitting here looking at my books (not reading, looking at). When I gave myself permission to create more balance in my life and schedule, my work was more efficient, I felt happier, and I learned more.

We spend a lot of time talking about wellness in law school. I love meditating. I love thinking about ways to optimize my wellness. I also think we forget that having fun is a big part of being well. So, let’s all commit to blocking off some time for hobbies, time with family and friends, and doing something for the sake of fun. It’s good for us.

(Ashley Cetnar)

January 26, 2024 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Academic and Bar Support Scholarship Spotlight

This week in scholarship.

1. Benjamin Afton Cavanaugh (St. Mary's), The Next Generation Professional: An Opportunity to Reframe Legal Education to Center Student Wellness, 51 Hofstra L. Rev. 775 (2023).  

From the introduction:

Legal education has a serious design problem. The current rigorous design of legal education breeds depression, imposter syndrome, anxiety, and problems with substance abuse. The outcome of these issues is that too many graduates are not ready “for effective, ethical, and responsible participation as members of the legal profession” because their mental well-being is at an all-time low following graduation and preparation for the bar exam. Law schools across the nation need to undertake a self-evaluation of how to marry the rigor needed to prepare their students for law practice with the necessity of ensuring graduates leave the academic world with a strong sense of themselves as legal professionals and in a healthy state of mental wellness. This self-evaluation starts with being honest about how far programs geared at wellness can really go in resolving the impact the design of law school has on students....

Part II of this Article discusses the design of legal education as a disease that law schools have largely focused on treating the symptoms of rather than doing the hard work of identifying the disease and seeking to cure it. Though the problems with legal education have long been discussed, this Article calls into questions the practice of treating the symptoms rather than addressing the problems head on. Part III examines two change agents—the American Bar Association’s (“ABA”) revisions to Standard 303 and the NextGen Bar Exam—as the drivers to finally identify the diseased aspects of the legal curriculum design and make changes with these looming shifts in mind. Part IV presents an approach to evaluating and changing the first-year law school curriculum that centers student wellness. It lays out a path for law schools to adopt changes to the system of legal education that would shift the focus from treating symptoms of a bad design to resolving the bad design itself. Every law school has different considerations for their student population, a different mission, and different driving goals that should factor into such decisions. The purpose of this Article is not to suggest the method described is the only way forward, but to demonstrate how student wellness can be a core consideration in curriculum design. Thus, Part IV posits that the focus on molding law students for practice should rely on building well-being into the curriculum design rather than putting the onus totally on students to incorporate well-being into their professional identity formation.

2.  DeVito, Scott (Jacksonville), The Kids Are Definitely Not All Right: An Empirical Study Establishing a Statistically Significant Negative Relationship Between Receiving Accommodations in Law School and Passing the Bar Exam, 102 Oregon L. Rev. 1 (2023).

From the abstract:

Many factors can influence whether a person passes the bar examination on their first attempt. One factor that should not is whether that person has a “disability” that would mandate reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. Unfortunately, before the publication of this Article, there has been no publicly available data that could be used to assess the relationship between receiving accommodations and passing the bar examination. To begin to remedy this absence of data, the author filed public records requests with sixty public law schools seeking information as to the number of students accommodated by each law school for the years 2019, 2020, and 2021. This data was then analyzed to see whether the percentage of accommodated students at a law school was correlated with bar passage rates. This analysis shows that there is a statistically significant negative relationship between the percentage of a law school’s student body who received accommodations and the school’s bar pass rate (controlling for other relevant factors). In other words, the more accommodated students a school has, the lower its bar passage rate will be.

[Posted by:  Louis Schulze, FIU Law]

 

 

January 23, 2024 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Director of Bar Success at Emory

Emory University School of Law seeks applicants for a full-time contract faculty position focused on bar examination success. This twelve-month, faculty member/administrator will work closely with the Associate Dean, faculty, and administration to develop and implement programs to provide substantive review and teach skills required for optimal performance on law school and bar examinations. 

Specific duties and responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Contributing to the development and teaching of a third-year bar preparatory course and a skills-focused “laboratory” component to a second semester, first-year course. 
  • Working collaboratively with the administration to enhance instruction at orientation and throughout law school on skills, time management, professional expectations, and the like.
  • Working collaboratively with the faculty to create and implement bar success strategies.
  • Providing mentoring for graduates as they prepare for the bar examination.
  • Assisting with compilation and analysis of bar examination data and recommending changes to address weaknesses.
  • Providing information and mentoring on the bar application process. 
  • Providing individual feedback and assessment to help students improve academic performance, study skills, and bar exam preparation.

Minimum requirements include a J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school and an outstanding academic record. Professional experience in bar readiness or academic success programming in a law school with a strong preference for teaching experience in bar examination courses. Applicants preferably should have familiarity with the Uniform Bar Examination and the NextGen Bar Examination, with a demonstrated skill in initiating and maintaining engagement with a diverse group of students.

This is a temporary, one-year contract faculty position with the possibility of renewal beginning on August 1, 2024 and ending on July 31, 2025.  The position is coded as "Instructor" within Emory University systems.  Candidates who are currently contract faculty members of Emory Law may be considered and, if selected as the finalist, will be granted a one-year leave from their contract position (with tolling of their review requirement) in order to perform the duties of this position. 

To Apply

Candidates should complete the online application which requires creating an account, uploading a resume or CV, and providing basic personal information. In addition, applicants should submit a cover letter, a current CV, writing sample, and teaching evaluations (if available) to [email protected]. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis with a first review on January 29, 2024. 

January 20, 2024 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Diving into Spring...

I spent yesterday at a collegiate swim meet. It was indoors for those of you wondering just how crazy we are in Massachusetts (not quite there yet). I sat with an alum of my son’s team, and as a relative newbie (he’s a freshman), I asked a lot of questions about the etiquette and process of this kind of competition. My son is a walk-on to the team (maybe a dive-in?), and he didn’t swim in high school, so my knowledge of swim meet procedure fossilized somewhere in late middle school. My alum guide was very patient with me (she is planning a demeanor-appropriate career in clinical psychology).

As much as I was excited to see my son (he’s my youngest and college has hit me hard), swim meets are not the most pleasant spectator sport. First of all, it is hot-and humid--I could hear my hair frizzing, the “seats” in the viewing gallery are hard (and without backs), and it is incredibly loud in a space that seems intended to warp and amplify sound. Having spent time underwater in my lifetime, I was surprised at the way coaches were cheering for their swimmers although it seemed like the swimmers would be unable to hear them (as their ears were mostly in the water) or see them (as they had to look straight ahead or at the ceiling for the back strokers). I asked my kind college swim meet guru who was in that position just a few years back if the swimmers could even hear the cheering. She confirmed that you really couldn’t hear it, nor could you really see the folks on the side of the pool jumping up and down and urging you to go faster.

But, every single person on the side or end of the pool was either a current swimmer or coach (who has no doubt had competitive swimming experience) and thus must have known that the swimmers couldn’t hear or see them. To me, this is almost the team sport definition of altruism: cheering for someone who couldn’t see or hear you just because they are your teammate. It is true that everyone wanted to win the swim meet, but each individual swim was neither victory nor loss defining.

In a way, Academic Support folks are the coaches on the side of the pool. As students start to come see us (or are asked to see us) with their fall grades, we will review their performance and coach them on their form, their entry, their turns, their methods between exams (meets), and their finishes.  We will tell them that grades are not defining (and they might not believe us, and they are, sadly, somewhat right about that).

First, we will consider entry. We will go back to beginning of how students handled the competing tasks of the semester and look for cleaner and more efficient ways for them to get into the material. Then we will look at the course of the semester in terms of study methods, outlining, juggling responsibilities, and time (and resource) management. Finally, we will discuss how to push to the finish. We will work towards personal records rather than pure wins.

Getting students to understand that you are on their team in helping them succeed is pivotal in this process. Like college athletes, our students may have had other coaches who taught them differently; or may have been told that they have natural talents that will propel them through challenges. Some students will blame outside circumstances for poor grades-and while this may be true in some circumstances[1]- it is often not  a helpful mindset. Students need to see that there are things that they can control that can be tweaked (or entirely overhauled) in order to perform better. Pools may have warmer or colder water than where you practice, but you can be ready for these issues if you prepare. The issues students have can be input issues like reading, outlining, engagement in class; or output issues like exam writing or multiple choice methods. And we need to remind them that they valuable members of our community/team. Everyone in law school belongs on the team and (this one is not easy to see) we all win when we do our personal best.

In the meantime, I’ll be sweaty and frizzy and yelling my support to all the students who were hoping for better grades whether they see me or not. 

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] Family emergencies, medical emergencies, mental health, financial issues, disruptions during the exam, and many other things happen-and they can change exam outcomes. However, it is very unlikely, especially in a school (like ours) that uses blind exam grading, that personal animus or even annoyance on the part of faculty is a factor in a final grade.

January 16, 2024 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Academic and Bar Support Scholarship Spotlight

As Simpsons news anchor Kent Brockman put it:  "I for one welcome our new [Artificial Intelligence] overlords."

Tammy Pettinato Oltz (North Dakota),  ChatGPT, Professor of Law, 2023 U. Ill. J.L. Tech. & Pol'y 207 (2023).

From the abstract:

Although ChatGPT was just released by OpenAI in November 2022, legal scholars have already been delving into the implications of the new tool for legal education and the legal profession. Several scholars have recently written fascinating pieces examining ChatGPT’s ability to pass the bar, write a law review article, create legal documents, or pass a law school exam. In the spirit of those experiments, I decided to see whether ChatGPT had potential for lightening the service and teaching loads of law school professors.

To conduct my experiment, I created an imaginary law school professor with a tough but typical week of teaching- and service- related tasks ahead of her. I chose seven common tasks: creating a practice exam question, designing a hand-out for a class, writing a letter of recommendation, submitting a biography for a speaking engagement, writing opening remarks for a symposium, developing a document for a law school committee, and designing a syllabus for a new course. I then ran prompts for each task through ChatGPT to see how well the system performed the tasks.

Remarkably, ChatGPT was able to provide useable first drafts for six out of seven of the tasks assigned in only 23 minutes. Overall and unsurprisingly, ChatGPT proved to be best at those tasks that are most routine. Tasks that require more sophistication, particularly those related to teaching, were harder for ChatGPT, but still showed potential for time savings.

In this paper, I describe a typical work scenario for a hypothetical law professor, show how she might use ChatGPT, and analyze the results. I conclude that ChatGPT can drastically reduce the service-related workload of law school faculty and can also shave off time on back-end teaching tasks. This freed-up time could be used to either enhance scholarly productivity or further develop more sophisticated teaching skills.

[Posted by Louis Schulze, FIU Law, who ChatGPT has now officially rendered useless.]

December 19, 2023 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 17, 2023

SWCASP & MWCASP Call for Proposals

Call for Proposals: SWCASP & MWCASP Joint One-Day Workshop

The Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals and the Midwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals are now accepting proposals for presentations at their Joint Workshop taking place in-person at the Saint Louis University School of Law on Friday, March 8, 2024. We welcome proposals from presenters in the Southwest or Midwest regions and beyond! While we are excited to return to an in-person workshop this year, we also will try to record the workshop for those unable to travel to St. Louis.

The theme of this year's Workshop is Practical and Innovative Techniques to Approach Teaching and Advising for the Next Gen Bar Exam and the Next Generation of Lawyers. The Workshop Planning Committee seeks presentations focused on:

  • What we can do to prepare the students entering our classroom that don't have the same skills as previous classes;
  • How to advise students in the face of the many unknowns that accompany the adoption of the Next Gen Bar Exam; and
  • How to advise and support faculty in moving forward with their own teaching in a way that embraces the changes presented by the bar exam and legal practice.

Preference will be given to presentations that are both interactive and contain Lessons or Presentations in a Box (where the presenter provides all of the information and materials necessary for attendees to leave the session prepared to deliver the lesson or presentation on their own).

Proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis, with all acceptances going out by the week of February 12, 2024. To apply, please complete the proposal SUBMISSION FORM by January 31, 2024. The Submission Form requests the following information:

  • Name and Email of Presenter(s)
  • Title of proposed presentation
  • Brief description of your proposed presentation (under 100 words)
  • Desired length of presentation (25 minutes or 50 minutes)
  • Brief description of the interactive elements of your presentation
  • Brief description of the materials you will provide to participants to take home with them from your presentation

If you have any questions about your proposal, please do not hesitate to contact one of us. Information on hotel blocks and workshop registration will be forthcoming. As always, there is no fee to attend this workshop.

We look forward to receiving your proposals!

2024 One-Day Workshop Planning Committee

Toni Miceli, Saint Louis University School of Law

Steven Foster, Oklahoma City University School of Law

Megan Kreminski, University of Illinois Chicago School of Law

December 17, 2023 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.  Every year has unique challenges.  I know many of you are working tirelessly to get ready for NextGen. Even in this hectic time, 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 15th.

(The Editors)

December 17, 2023 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 11, 2023

A Visit from ASP (with apologies to Clement Moore)

‘Twas the night before finals, and all through the house, only a law student was stirring and clicking a mouse[1];

Casebooks were stacked by the monitor with care, in hopes that the answers were hidden in there;

Most people were already snug in beds, while law students crammed adverse possession into their heads;

Professors and TAs were in for the night, knowing that grading was surely in sight;

The morning of exams would soon appear, and students would file into the test rooms with fear;

One last look at a study aid and search for a sign, perhaps one last perusal of their outline;

They’d sit and pray to the study aid masters, and hope to avoid essay question disasters;

Now Glannon, now Dressler, now Prosser and Keaton, On Erwin[2], on Crunchtime, on Answers and Questions[3]

To the top of the class! to the top of the curve!
Now write away! Write away! Write it with verve!;

On the first question, the students would start, to prove what they learned and that they are smart[4]

Working to IRAC each issue they spotted, students strived not to exceed the time they’re allotted;

After the essays they moved on to the multiple choice, reading the calls of the question and remembering their voice;[5]

The questions were tough from the facts to the answers, but they carefully read the qualifiers[6] and enhancers;

After weeks of studying, with no sleep or gym sessions, they were pale, tired, and lacking expression;

They said not a word as the proctors would scold, and worked hard until all of the test time had tolled;

When told to put their pens down, the students complied, they packed up their highlighters and other supplies;

But I heard them exclaim as they fled down the hall,

“So glad that’s it over, I gave it my all.”

Happy whatever-if anything-you celebrate in this season! I hope that your smaller and greater worlds are filled with peace and joy in the new year.

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] Touchpad really doesn’t rhyme with anything…..

[2] With all due respect to Professor Chemerinsky, I could not find anything that rhymed with Chemerinsky either.

[3] Yes, I know I reversed it, but let’s call it artistic license….

[4] Remember, exams do not actually assess intelligence!!! Poetry is a harsh taskmaster.

[5] Remember, you can be a judge, an advocate, or a scholar on MCQs!!!

[6] With thanks to Ashley Cetnar for her MCQ tips last week!

December 11, 2023 in Exams - Studying, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)