Monday, October 18, 2021
In the musical Hamilton, Eliza tries to persuade her husband, Alexander, to take a break, “Take a break…Run away with us for the summer. Let's go upstate…There's a lake I know…In a nearby park. I'd love to go.” Alexander refuses to go and, no spoilers beyond this, it doesn’t end well.
Two weeks ago, on the first Monday in October, I asked my undergraduates why this time of year was so important, and one student said, “It’s spooky season.” I was trying to get at the Supreme Court getting back to work (on what very well may a spooky season of cases), but it is also, as ASP folks know, that scary time of year when our 1Ls hit a wall. I’ve stockpiled candy (easy this time of year), tissues, and some advice.
We all know that 1Ls have a moment of crisis when they lose their altruism about helping the world with their law degree and become caught up in a smaller world of grades, midterms, legal writing assignments, outlining, and the overwhelmingness of just showing up for class. Students lose sight of why they even came to law school to begin with. Surely, masochism wasn’t the reason mentioned in their application personal statements. Sometimes, students need to be reminded of their initial reasons for being a lawyer. A gentle reminder might be enough for some students. It never hurts to tell them that no one really comes to law school to be a law student, they come to become a lawyer. Being a law student is temporary. And while it seems counterintuitive to advise taking a break, that is the advice I often give them at this point in the semester.
This may be a perfect time for a student to take a small break (hours, not days). Midterms are over, legal writing is less intense (for the moment) and they have been doing the reading, briefing, and outlining for long enough that it isn’t all consuming. Honestly, if Boston was a drag queen, this time of year would be its death drop in terms of the weather and natural beauty. Soon enough, everything will ramp up again and often with larger consequences, but at this very moment, a few hours spent away from law school is doable.
To that end, I have “prescribed” a drive to a beach town about 40 minutes north of here with saltwater taffy, a giant rocky sea wall that is both walkable and climbable, and just sitting at the edge of the ocean and getting perspective. Need something closer? Walk down to the aquarium, smell the ocean, and watch the harbor seals frolic in the outdoor (free!) exhibit. Even closer? Walk the Freedom Trail (it is right outside the doors to our law school). Really, anything can be a break; the only rules are no books, no laptop, and no regrets. Time spent rebuilding yourself is priming the pump for students (and faculty). The investment will pay off.
So be on the lookout for students hitting the wall. Be their Eliza. I would always prefer my students took a break than get broken.
 © Lin-Manuel Miranda
Sunday, October 17, 2021
How The Results of a New Study Analyzing First Time Bar Passage on The UBE Will Change My Messaging to Students and my Approach to Teaching Bar Prep Curriculum
How The Results of a New Study Analyzing First Time Bar Passage on The UBE Will Change My Messaging to Students and my Approach to Teaching Bar Prep Curriculum.
As Academic Support Professionals, we are always striving to find the best way to reach each student in our classes. We cull through textbooks, outside materials, attend conferences and ask questions of colleagues to find best practices and integrate as much of what we think increases bar pass potential into our lectures. Recently, the New York State Board of Law Examiners (NYSBLE) commissioned a study to find the key metrics for first time and second time bar passage success. The report, ANALYZING FIRST-TIME BAR EXAM PASSAGE ON THE UBE IN NEW YORK STATE: Insights From a Study of First Time and Second Time Bar Exam Candidates, captured data over two years (2016-2018) and was released May 19, 2021. While the study does not capture any data from the ongoing pandemic, it does give insight into key factors we should all incorporate into our curriculum to increase bar passage success.
While New York is a UBE jurisdiction, and the jurisdiction I am in (Texas) just became a UBE jurisdiction in February 2021, I believe the results transcend testing standards and will prove useful to all in the Academic Support space. The results of the study found the following six metrics have the most positive impact on bar passage success:
- Hours put in—the rule of 400! I always tell my students to aim for 500 because 400 is the bare minimum necessary and many students need more than the bare minimum.
- Time management and messaging to those around the candidate—I tell my students in our first conference period that they will need to turn the volume of any outside distractions down to 0 when it comes to bar prep. Of course, many of my students cannot, as they have families, work obligations, etc. But I message early and often that will need to tell their partners/support team the following: “I will be underground during bar prep. This will be a grueling and relentless process and I will be unavailable for [chores/pet duty/heavy parenting/bill paying/dinner making/grocery gathering/car tending/socializing/full time working] and I need you to understand I will come back up and be 100% available after I take the bar, but this is an investment in our future together, so I need your grace and space right now.”
- Managing the clock—we talk about this a lot in class and spend a lot of time practicing the habit of managing the clock. The report calls out the MEE and the MBE as areas of time management concern, but I personally think the MPT is where clock management is hardest and where additional practice can prime the candidate for success to beat the clock. I ask my students to find time to practice eight MPT’s during commercial bar prep. I am aware that many of their peers in the commercial bar exam prep courses will not spend as much time practicing and may even tell others it is not worth the time. I always caution against listening to this advice. In my jurisdiction, it could be the difference between passing or failing. Therefore, I tell my students to find the time to practice two each in the four types of tested subjects (objective, persuasive, letter writing and wildcard) before they take the bar exam.
- Journal participation—the report talks about not having enough data to know if journals tend to pull better writers who usually have higher class rank and therefore perform better on the bar exam, or if the additional exposure to writing and editing that being on a journal entails helps prepare them for the bar. I tend to the think it is both! I certainly see that students who have journal experience come to my class with more robust writing skills, although by the end of the course, I would say journal and non-journal students are equally situated with writing skills, probably because of all the writing we do in class.
- Reducing financial anxiety—debt and employment. Horrifyingly, the NYBLE study quotes a student who describes being so stressed from food and housing insecurity during bar prep that the candidate could not devote the hours necessary to study and did not pass on the first attempt. Institutionally, I hope our universities are taking measures to reach students who cannot take bar loans but need resources to devote to studying. With the new ABA Standard 316 requiring 75% of law graduates pass the bar exam within two years of graduation, I would hope that our institutions are looking at ways to ease the financial struggles of the bar prep experience. Doing so will go a long way towards decreasing the financial anxiety during bar review. That in turn should increase bar exam passage and help generate positive feelings towards the law school.
- Completing elective courses in bar topic classes does not correlate to bar passage—only two classes are mentioned as having a positive impact on first time bar passage and those courses are Evidence and Limited Liability Companies and Corporations. I think it is fair to say that those courses should be highlighted in our curriculum to ensure our students have a robust understanding of the material.
These metrics will certainly be used in ASP programs across the country to shore up areas of weakness and concentrate on areas of strength. One metric the study touched on briefly but only identified as having some positive beneficial impact to second time test takers is assessment of learning style. Specifically, the study noted that second time test takers often change the approach to studying to better suit their personal learning style, and that the change, while not always having significant positive effect, does somewhat correlate to increased scores (even if the increase is not enough to achieve a passing score).
I find the mention of increase scores for second time test takers as they adapt studying to suit their best study styles fascinating, and I think we can use that to gain even more improvement in test scores for both first time and second time bar takers. Law school, academic support programs, and commercial bar preparation courses all tend to teach in a style that benefits left brain thinkers (lectures, outlines, Socratic method while sitting in place) which promotes linear thinking. That type of teaching is at odds with the way right brained thinkers learn best (tactile/kinesthetic, need to move, talking it out, main ideas first then fill in with details). In A Primer on Learning Styles: Reaching Every Student, 25 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 139 (2001), M.H. Sam Jacobson posits that many lower performing law students tend to be right brain learners and therefore might not understand the best approach to succeed in law school right away. They then fall to the bottom of the class, and at my institution, these students make up the vast majority of those in our academic support classes. I think an opportunity exists to explore our curriculum and see if we can make adaptive changes to more fully capture these students who will make excellent attorneys but need a different style of teaching to fully engage their brain with the material.
As an adjunct working in this space since Spring 2020, many of the key factors listed as success metrics are topics I discuss with my students in one-on-one conferences. But I have only given cursory thought to the idea of different learning styles when preparing my lectures. Since teaching in this space, I have encountered a few students who have disclosed they are eligible for accommodations because of learning differences and a few students who I suspected may have learning differences but who never disclosed. Learning differences highlight how important it is as an instructor to find the modality that will reach that specific student with that particular learning difference.
At my institution, much of our Academic Support curriculum relies on commercially produced videos that the students watch, outlines they can fill in while watching the videos, then lectures by me with the aid of a PowerPoint. And while these approaches include oral/aural/visual learning styles, it does not really help those who need a big picture, top-down approach. I am going to think about ways to take the big picture and break down the building blocks into more manageable pieces so that I can represent the material with more illustrations, pictures, and charts, and promote the benefit of handmade flashcards for rule memorization. Those tools are all proven to be useful to the visual-spatial right brain learner. In the one-on-one conferences I do with each student, I am going to spend more time taking a learning style inventory in our first conference. I will ask up front--how would you describe your learning style? What helps you learn best? Listening to a lecture? Reading text in a book? Looking at illustrations, pictures, and charts of materials? Thinking about the whole picture? Thinking about how to build it from the bottom up? Asking each student to think about their learning style and then using that data, combined with how they are progressing in the class on the metrics I score them on, will help me advise them how to study in the last conference we have at the end of the semester. Once I have completed that assessment and collected the data, I will be better positioned to advise my students for success with the commercial bar prep programs. Are you a left brained type of learner? Great! The commercial bar prep courses will probably be just fine for you. Follow their guide for studying to a T and you will likely be well positioned to pass the bar on the first attempt. Are you a right brained type of learner? Great too! Just know that the material and guidance given by the commercial bar prep programs will likely need to be adapted by you (or you and me) to fit your learning style best. And it is okay to take the commercial bar prep course material and adapt it to a style that suits your needs. You do not have to follow BARBRI or other commercial bar prep program completely to find success and pass the bar on the first attempt. I think if we all keep in mind the impact of different learning styles and the need to adapt to a learning style that fits each of our student’s needs, we may see incremental to substantial improvement in first time bar passage rates.
(Kathryn Shotwell, Guest Blogger)
- THE NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF LAW EXAMINERS (NYBOLE) AND ACCESSLEX INSTITUTE, Analyzing First-Time Bar Exam Passage on the UBE in New York State: Insights From a Study of First Time and Second Time Bar Exam Candidates, May 19, 2021.
- American Bar Association Standard 316. BAR PASSAGE At least 75 percent of a law school’s graduates in a calendar year who sat for a bar examination must have passed a bar examination administered within two years of their date of graduation. (2020-2021)
- M.H. Sam Jacobson, A Primer on Learning Styles: Reaching Every Student, 25 SEATTLEU. L. REV. 139 (2001).
 THE NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF LAW EXAMINERS (NYBOLE) AND ACCESSLEX INSTITUTE, Analyzing First-Time Bar Exam Passage on the UBE in New York State: Insights From a Study of First Time and Second Time Bar Exam Candidates, May 19, 2021, pg 41
 THE NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF LAW EXAMINERS (NYBOLE) AND ACCESSLEX INSTITUTE, Analyzing First-Time Bar Exam Passage on the UBE in New York State: Insights From a Study of First Time and Second Time Bar Exam Candidates, May 19, 2021, pg 23-24
 M.H. Sam Jacobson, A Primer on Learning Styles: Reaching Every Student, 25 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 139 (2001), pg 142: “Professors can help their students achieve their full potentials by teaching to the diverse learning styles in the classroom. Teaching to diverse learning styles helps students in two significant ways. First, students will be more successful in mastering their coursework if they are better able to absorb, process, and retain information. Second, students will be more successful in mastering their coursework if they learn how they learn best.”
Saturday, October 16, 2021
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas invites applications for Assistant Director, Academic Success Program, UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law [R0127006]. Link here.
PROFILE of the UNIVERSITY
Founded in 1957, UNLV is a doctoral-degree-granting institution comprised of approximately 31,000 students and more than 3,900 faculty and staff. To date, UNLV has conferred more than 136,000 degrees, producing more than 120,000 alumni around the world. UNLV is classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as an R1 research university with very high research activity. The university is committed to recruiting and retaining top students and faculty, educating the region's diversifying population and workforce, driving economic activity through increased research and community partnerships, and creating an academic health center for Southern Nevada that includes the launch of a new UNLV School of Medicine. UNLV is located on a 332-acre main campus and two satellite campuses in Southern Nevada. For more information, visit us online at: http://www.unlv.edu
COMMITMENT to DIVERSITY
The successful candidate will demonstrate support for diversity, equity and inclusiveness as well as participate in maintaining a respectful, positive work environment.
ROLE of the POSITION
The position exists to provide support for the Academic Success Program. Reporting to the Director of the Academic Success Program, the Assistant Director meets weekly with current students to assist them with their legal studies, monitors and trains student mentors, assists in curriculum and program development for the bar passage and first-year programs, counsels current students and alumni on bar passage issues, and conducts seminars and workshops. Evening and weekend work is sometimes required.
This position requires a Juris Doctor from an ABA-approved law school and membership in a state bar and 1 ~ 3 years of related professional experience. Membership in the state bar of Nevada is preferred. Credentials must be obtained prior to the start of employment.
The Assistant Director of the Academic Success Program must have excellent oral and written communication skills with strong attention to detail, excellent writing and editing abilities, sound legal skills and knowledge, an affinity for counseling and mentoring students, interpersonal skills, public speaking skills, critical reasoning skills, and excellent time management and organization skills. Solid working knowledge of computer systems and software applications such as PeopleSoft, word processing, spreadsheets, and database management is also desired. This position requires the ability to establish and maintain cooperative working relationships within a diverse environment and the ability to work well as a member of a team and independently. Prior academic support experience or teaching experience (i.e. Legal writing or comparable teaching experience in writing and analytical skills training) is preferred.
Salary competitive with those at similarly situated institutions. Position is contingent upon funding.
Submit a letter of interest, a detailed resume listing qualifications and experience, and the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of at least three professional references who may be contacted. Applicants should fully describe their qualifications and experience, with specific reference to each of the minimum and preferred qualifications because this is the information on which the initial review of materials will be based.
Although this position will remain open until filled, review of candidates’ materials will begin on October 25, 2021, and best consideration will be gained for materials submitted prior to that date. Materials should be addressed to Sydney Lisy, Search Committee Chair, and are to be submitted online as we do not accept emailed materials. For assistance with the application process, please contact UNLV Human Resources at (702) 895-3504 or UNLVJobs@unlv.edu.
Friday, October 15, 2021
Thursday, October 14, 2021
It's the aftermath of the first day of the AASE (Association of Academic Support Educators) Third Bi-Annual Diversity Conference, hosted by CUNY Law. Unfortunately, my notes are a mess, much like life I suppose.
But I managed to jot down some key thoughts from speakers and participants that pierced my heart today, leading me to reflect deeply on what I, personally and professionally, must do next, must be next.
So here's some of what grabbed my heart from today's conference. It's just one person's view. And I realize I left out much. But, in case you weren't able to participate today, I share with the hope that what we learn together in community might truly be life-changing for so many of our students, left behind and hidden.
- Be willing to and make the invisible visible.
- Generosity of spirit.
- Ask questions about the learning environment, culture, the institution.
- Who's here? Who's not here? Who's rules? Who created them?
- Be a sponge - absorb.
- Be curious, especially about who's uncomfortable.
- Reach out to student groups. Don't wait for them to reach out to you. Be the instigator.
- Build rapport and relationships.
- Grow in humility.
- Social Identify Mapping: A Tool - Use it! Share it! Practice it! Live it!
- Humble ourselves.
- Be willing to lose control so the others might grow and learn.
- What's your definition of academic freedom? Who is it for? What does it serve? How does it help or hinder our students and their learning?
- Are you living mission statements or mission? Truly? Really?
- Why so hard to talk about race? What are you waiting for?
- Crown Act - creating and crafting successful curricular ways to teach learning, build DEI, and grow in respect and appreciation for others.
- A few possible communication principles for living, learning, and growing, together: "Vegas---Wall Street---weather.com"
- There's more to academics than academics - much more.
- Pandemic Education - What worked? What didn't? What will you continue? Who did it work for? Who didn't it work for? How were you changed by it? How will you let what you learn positively impact your teaching and your students?
- Don't be afraid to let your students see you, know you.
- Create space for expression, for belonging.
- Ask more questions.
- Make Good Trouble--Yes, Be a Trouble-Maker!
Finally, thank you to the organizers and leaders of this conference - Professors Yolonda Sewell and Haley Meade - and all of the participants, speakers, and sponsors for giving so much of themselves to us for others. And thank you to Dean Hayat (CUNY Law) for your opening remarks and Dr. Spates (Kent State) for your keynote address. Truly inspirational. (S. Johns).
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Maya Angelou wrote “we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” One of my favorite songs right now is Bleed the Same by Mandisa where she conveys a similar message. I believe the message from both of them would apply to the current discussion surrounding factors impacting bar passage rates.
Most of you are aware Rory Bahadur wrote a series of articles examining the relationship between certain factors and bar passage rates. He specifically questions whether FIU’s emergence as the leader in Florida’s bar pass rate is significantly impacted by factors such as involuntary attrition, incoming transfers, and incoming credentials. An oversimplification of his conclusion is that these factors have a major impact on Florida’s bar pass rankings. His 3 articles are on SSRN here:
- Blinded by Science? A reexamination of the Bar Ninja and Silver Bullet Bar Program Cryptics
- Reexamining Relative Bar Performance as a Function of Non-Linearity, Heteroscedasticity, and a New Independent Variable
- Quantifying the Impact of Matriculant Credentials & Academic Attrition Rates on Bar Exam Success at Individual Schools
FIU’s academic support team, which includes one of our editors Louis Schulze, responded last weekend in a series of blog posts. You can read the posts here:
- Does Academic Support Matter? A Brief, Preliminary Response to Blinded by Science and its Progeny
- Does Academic Support Matter? A Brief, Preliminary Response to Blinded by Science and its Progeny, Part 2
Louis’ response questions the statistical methods used in the previous articles and posits that FIU’s new Academic Support program made a statistically significant effect on bar passage rates. Rory responded to the posts with a message on the ASP listsev/google group. You should be able to access his message within that group.
Rory and Louis are engaged in a relevant and important discussion for ASP. I encourage everyone to read the articles and posts. AccessLex also published a brief post addressing this topic and one of Rory’s articles. The AccessLex authors state they are conducting a couple projects that will provide even more insight.
The academic debate surrounding this topic is necessary, but we should also recognize the reason why the debate is important and sometimes personal. While they disagree, both Rory and Louis are passionate about helping ASPers and students. They both cite the lack of tenure for ASPers as a major concern. They both argue for more resources for Academic Support. Knowing them both, I truly believe they are trying to do what is best for both ASP and students.
As long as we are trying to figure out what helps students succeed, I do want this discussion to continue in an academic manner. One of my major concerns is when schools/Deans evaluate whether ASPers are effective based primarily on bar pass rates. Bar pass rates are an easy number to stamp on a department, almost treating bar pass numbers as wins and losses. Media and other entities fuel that perception with articles about who had the highest bar pass rate in the state. FIU’s success has brought national attention from the ABA journal and other legal news sources. Deans around the country, especially ones in Florida, do specifically ask, “why isn’t [insert school] having the success of FIU? Are our people doing their job correctly?” Those outside ASP want to know, what is the secret sauce?
I also want the discussion to continue to demonstrate the impact ASP has on students. Both Louis/Raul and Rory presented at regional and national ASP conferences about best practices in teaching. Many of us agree that law school education and pedagogy needs improving. Most of us agree that better teaching would improve student learning and that we should use scientifically proven methods to teach students. We would also agree that improved student learning should have an impact on student success and bar performance. I want to know what everyone else does, including Louis and Raul, to lead to improved student performance. I especially want to read studies that quantify the impact of Academic Support and/or specific Academic Support programs. Anecdotally, we know we have an impact on individual lives. That impact matters, and should be measurable.
Promoting ASP is important to the majority of us. We need ongoing projects to measure what works and how we can all improve our students’ chances to pass the bar exam. I know we are all striving to promote each other and help students. I hope we can continue to do that.
Monday, October 11, 2021
Have I mentioned that I live in walking distance of Boston's Fenway Park? I live in the town just slightly west of Boston. Last night there was a baseball game at Fenway. It was an important one to Red Sox fans. Have I mentioned that I am not, proximity aside, a member of Red Sox nation? However, the Red Sox beat my team to get to this game, so since I am an adult, I decided that I am now a fan…of the team the Red Sox are playing (there are no adults in baseball, or was that crying? Either way). Yet, I live with Red Sox fans, so we were watching the game. For a very, very long time. Because it ended in the 13th inning. I guess folks with tickets got their money worth, but they do close the beer stands after the 7th inning which means that when this game finally became interesting to me most people down the street were either happily sober or wishing they weren’t.
You are wondering, what is the legal teaching connection? Glad you asked. Here is our fact pattern: it was the top of the 13th inning and the Tampa Bay (not devil anymore) Rays were batting. There was a player on first base and one out, when Kevin Kiermayer came to bat and Kiermayer hit a “rocket” to the wall. Then, “[t]he ball hit the wall, struck Red Sox outfielder Hunter Renfroe in the right thigh and hopped into the Boston bullpen.”The runner on first ran; Kiermayer ran. The runner on first crossed homeplate and the Red Sox fans in attendance, now long cut off from beer, were despondent. For a moment. The umpires conferred and ruled it was a double, so the runner on first could only get to third base and the run the Rays had “scored” was erased. This is the run that would have broken the 4-4 tie in the 13th inning. Red Sox nation rejoiced. I glowered a bit.
This is where the rules of baseball come in-as they do in every game-but since there are fewer playoff games occurring than on usual nights -we were paying attention. The rule and its application were explained by Major League Baseball umpires this way: “It's item 20 in the manual, which is, balls deflected out of play, which is in reference to official baseball Rule 5.06(b)(4)(H) [which] says, ‘If a fair ball not in flight is deflected by a fielder and goes out of play, the award is two bases from the time of the pitch. Once that ball hit the wall, it was no longer in flight. Now the ball bounces off the wall and is deflected out of play off of a fielder. That’s just a ground-rule double.”
The legal education angle here is that this seems to be a strict liability rule-it doesn’t matter if the ball accidentally or intentionally got put out of play. The way I plan to use this in class this week is to ask students to go through all the possible intents: willful, reckless, negligent, etc. and ask how each could have been proven in that moment. I'll poke at the idea of whether Renfroe had intentionally pushed the ball out of play to save the game knowing that his intent didn’t actually matter and wouldn’t be examined. Would he be a hero or a scofflaw for engaging the rules that way? I’ll tap the professional responsibility issue of whether the rules act as a shield or a weapon when you are player. I’ll ask why Major League Baseball tends to use strict liability rules. You can’t stop the game to have a trial, but they do have so many camera angles at every position on the field that they send off multiple videos to a third party for confirmation. I’ll also show the video of the 2013 World Series where a call by an umpire awarded the St. Louis Cardinals a run, and therefore the game, and ultimately the series, against the Red Sox for contrast…and laugh.
Sunday, October 10, 2021
Does Academic Support Matter? A Brief, Preliminary Response to Blinded by Science and its Progeny, Part Two
In our previous post we discussed the Blinded by Science series’ essential thesis, that other factors at FIU Law, other than teaching the science of learning, impact its bar pass rate. By demonstrating numerous methodological flaws in the series' analysis, we suggested that Blinded by Science's conclusions about transfers and attrition are faulty.
In this post, however, we do something probably unexpected: We agree with Blinded by Science.
Here is what we mean....
To investigate its central theme (other impacts on FIU Law’s bar passage), the series digs deep into the pile of ABA Form 509 records; it uses extravagant mathematical methods; it examines university records, details listserv quotes, and exposes personal emails. All to prove what? All to prove the unremarkable proposition that FIU Law’s higher-than-expected bar pass rate involves causal factors other than the science of learning.
We absolutely agree.
In fact, we agree that transfers and attrition impact bar passage. In our forthcoming paper, we will detail the study we (Ruiz) conducted that suggests that transfers and attrition do have a weak but statistically significant impact on bar passage. (We further detail how Blinded by Science’s methodological flaws led to an overstatement of that impact.)
But here is what Blinded by Science got wrong: Delta.
In mathematics, “delta” means “change.” The general idea is that if a change in a dependent variable, such as bar passage rate, is due to the influence of an independent variable, such as the number of transferred or academically dismissed students, there must be change in the independent variable to account for the change in the dependent variable. In other words, if the transfer/ attrition theory helps explain the 2015 increase in the bar pass rate, the transfers and attrition numbers must have changed between 2014 and 2015. If so, we would see, say, five transfers in the 2014 bar exam cohort, and twenty in the 2015 group; and we would further see five students attritted in the 2014 bar exam cohort and twenty in the 2015 cohort. Thus, if the transfer/ attrition theory is valid, the bar pass rate increase had to coincide with a statistically significant change in the transfer and attrition numbers between those two years.
But no meaningful change occurred.
With an exception that we will rebut, The Blinded by Science articles did not look at this. The Blinded by Science articles’ only focus was on explaining, by looking solely at the cohorts from 2015-2018, the other factors involved in FIU Law’s pass rates during that period, after the initial increase. But the articles do nothing to explain what happened between 2014 and 2015.
So, why is it that the bar pass rates changed, increasing almost 11 points from 2014 to 2015, even though the number of transfers and academic dismissals did not (and despite the fact that the statewide pass average dropped four points)? Our contention all along has been only that academic support contributed to that change.
Our claim is that, together with the contributions noted above and a number of other initiatives designed to support student success, which we address in the article, academic support simply leveraged potential that already was there in the first place. Although we have never claimed to be the cause of the bar pass rate increase, we unflinchingly believe that we contributed to it … and that other ASPs can and do, too.
And that is why the Blinded by Science articles are so problematic. By arguing so forcefully, and personally, that we FIU Law Bar Ninja/ Silver Bullet charlatans could not possibly have impacted the school’s bar pass rate, Blinded by Science unintentionally articulated an intense doubt about whether academic support can be a real factor in bar passage. That suggestion undermines the purpose of our previous writings, which was to provide evidence that a well-resourced ASP, given latitude to do the work it needs to do, can tangibly contribute to bar passage. Our point was not to say, as the author contends, that any ASP unable to produce these results is doing something wrong. To the contrary, our point was to say that because ASPs in American law schools are almost never adequately resourced, empowered to use effective methods, or given adequate conditions of employment, law schools are preventing them from realizing their potential and needlessly blocking their own students’ success.
We worry that, instead of interpreting FIU Law’s success as an indication of ASP as a worthy investment, law schools crediting the Blinded by Science series’ analysis of the transfer/ attrition theory will simply choose to fail out more students. We worry that if law schools credit Blinded by Science’s Bar Ninja/ Silver Bullet theory, they will employ very few academic and bar support instructors, expect them to be Ninjas, and then put responsibility for bar passage solely upon these one or two untenured, unsupported, and pedagogically restricted ASP professionals.
Our forthcoming article will demonstrate that we never claimed that the science of learning was the sole cause of our bar pass rate or to being Bar Ninja’s possessing silver bullets. We will demonstrate that by attributing comments of others to us, citing quotes without actually citing quotes, and ignoring numerous statements we made actually denying the sole causation/ Ninja theories, Blinded by Science, et al. weaved a picture that just is not true.
But, even more importantly, we will double-down on one contention we know to be true: Academic support matters, and law schools should finally, after three decades, fully embrace the methods ASP faculty have championed for years.
[Louis Schulze & Raul Ruiz, FIU Law]
Saturday, October 9, 2021
In August of 2020, an author published Blinded by Science? A Reexamination of the Bar Ninja and Silver Bullet Bar Program Cryptids. The first of three articles analyzing FIU Law’s Academic Excellence Program ("AEP") and its methods, Blinded by Science contended that: (1) transfers and attritions, and not teaching students the science of learning, constituted a significant cause of FIU Law's bar pass rate; and (2) the AEP overstated the impact of our academic support measures upon those rates.
After many months of remaining silent as we prepare a more extensive rebuttal, the recent release of a third article prompts us to address the matter, if only in this truncated fashion. Our conclusion, which we articulate in the second post, will surprise the reader.
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Monday, October 4, 2021
When you Google “magic formula,” you get a series of articles all referring to the “Magic Formula of Investing” which is based on a book written by Columbia University Professor Joel Greenblatt. That formula is often defined on websites as, “… a simple, rules-based system designed to bring high returns within reach of the average investor.”
The first set of 1L legal writing memos were due over the weekend. For our students, it was a closed objective memo involving essentially two issues, three cases, and one overarching statutory rule. I must have discussed and drawn the chart that accompanies my magic formula for legal writing easily twenty times in just the past week, in person on a 3x5 post-it note, or over Zoom. I have shared my formula possibly thousands of times over the years. I would describe it as a rules-based system designed to bring good analysis within the reach of the average legal writer.
This is the “magic formula” that I share with my students:
- Start with a Rule. A well-synthesized, complete rule is the key to everything. Everything unspools from your rule. It shapes and orders your discussion of the cases and your analysis of the facts. The rule divides your small legal world into essentially yes and no. Some cases will fall on the yes side of the rule while others will be nos.
- Your rule may come from more than one source. Cases, statutes, regulations etc. may all be relevant.
- Do your research. You need to use cases on both sides of the rule divide.
- Talk about cases in the past tense-they have no value but historical value. Precedent is about the past and how it shapes the decisions that will be made in the future (stare decisis).
- Use the Facts, Holding, Reasoning (FHR) method of using cases in your writing. For example: In Claus, where a senior citizen was struck by a reindeer, the court held that the sleigh driver was not liable because plaintiff’s decedent was walking on the reindeer path. The court reasoned that "grandma" assumed the risk of walking on the path, and while the driver had less than ideal lighting conditions, a pedestrian on the path was not a foreseeable event. I know-I haven’t even decorated for Halloween yet and here I am putting a winter earworm in your head. I’m almost sorry.
- While this is somewhat formulaic writing, you can control your narrative. We all teach this, but possibly in different ways. Here is where the chart below comes in handy. In paragraphs where you are explaining the law in your writing, think of this as the space where you place cases on a spectrum created by dividing your world by the rule (this would be E paragraphs in CREAC, and the first part of the A in IRAC). You should place your cases (using the FHR format) on this “spectrum” and then when doing your analysis later on (or soon thereafter in IRAC), put the facts of your current “case” on the spectrum as well. The place where I put the circle is where the facts in front of you go-this is the sweet spot-the facts are not a slam dunk “yes” like case 1, but better than case 2--while still staying on the side of the rule you want to be on. The court cases closer to yours are your positive analogies because the facts are more similar, and you distinguish the cases on the far side of the rule. You only create this “distance” by having a full spectrum. The key here is that you, as the writer, get to lay out the spectrum.
Honestly, this is probably old news to most of you. But on the off chance that this rules-based system brings good analysis within reach of the students you are working with, I feel it was worth putting out there. Some might say there is no magic in legal writing, but as for me and grandpa, we believe.
Sunday, October 3, 2021
The City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law seeks highly-qualified candidates for two tenure- track faculty appointments to begin in Fall 2022.
CUNY School of Law is a national leader in progressive legal education: we are ranked first in the country for public interest law and first in the country for clinical programs. CUNY is one of the most diverse law schools in the nation.
Our mission at CUNY School of Law is two-fold: training public interest attorneys to practice law in the service of human needs; and providing access to the profession for members of historically underrepresented communities. The Law School advances that dual mission through an innovative curriculum that brings together the highest caliber of clinical training with traditional doctrinal legal education to train lawyers prepared to serve the public interest. The basic premise of the Law School's program is that theory and abstract knowledge cannot be separated from practice, practical skill, professional experience and the social, cultural, and economic context of law. The curriculum therefore integrates practical experience, professional responsibility, theoretical perspective, and lawyering skills with doctrinal study at every level. The Law School faculty and administration are committed to providing academic and bar support to all students.
Performs teaching, research, and guidance duties at the CUNY School of Law in area(s) of expertise. Responsibilities may include supervising students in legal practice or related activities. Shares responsibility for committee and department assignments including administrative, supervisory, and other functions.
The principal responsibility will be to teach in the Law School’s Academic Support and Bar Support Programs, and to assist the Academic Dean in designing, implementing, and assessing these programs. All faculty at CUNY are expected to teach outside their programs on a rotating basis to help meet curricular needs. Faculty teaching in the Academic Support and Bar Support Programs are also expected to teach outside of these programs on a rotating basis, based on interest and in furtherance of the Law School’s curricular needs, as planned with the Academic Dean. Current curricular needs include constitutional law, criminal law, and evidence. The rotation may include teaching our first-year Lawyering course.
All faculty are expected to teach in either the day and evening programs on a rotating basis. Teaching the Law School’s Core Doctrine bar support course may involve teaching regularly in the evenings.
CUNY School of Law’s Academic Support and Bar Support Programs
CUNY has a fully-integrated Academic Support Program going back more than 26 years. The two faculty members will work with day and evening students as they develop the doctrinal, academic, study, and other skills necessary for success in law school, on the bar exam, and in practice. This may entail teaching weekly first- or second-year skills sessions; teaching academic support sections of required doctrinal courses; working with students individually or in small groups; training and supervising teaching assistants; teaching bar electives and other bar support courses, and providing feedback to other faculty about practice problems and exams. There is also the possibility of teaching during the summer in the Summer Law Institute (a two-week intensive introduction to law study) and the Pre-Law Program (a mandatory orientation program for all entering students) for additional compensation. In keeping with CUNY's integrated approach to academic support and bar support, these two faculty members will also help develop faculty workshops on pedagogy and serve as a resource to faculty in areas of skills-based teaching and testing.
J.D., L.L.B., or Ph.D. in a law-related discipline. Also required are demonstrated or promised evidence of significant success as a faculty member; interest in productive scholarship or law-related work; ability to teach successfully; and ability to cooperate with others for the good of the institution.
a) Admission to bar practice
b) Social justice lawyering experience and an ability to bring this experience to their teaching
c) Demonstrated commitment to working in and building an anti-racist learning environment
d) Experience in a law school academic support program or other relevant teaching experience
e) Demonstrated commitment to the public interest and access missions of CUNY School of Law
f) Demonstrated commitment to the role of an integrated academic and bar support program in a law school curriculum
g) Experience in programming or individual tutoring and/or mentoring students with respect to bar readiness
h) Experience with respect to adult learning processes
i) Demonstrated commitment to excellent teaching (ability to teach in both a classroom and individual and small group settings)
j) Demonstrated ability to work with a diverse group of students, faculty, and staff
k) Availability and willingness to teach in the day and evening programs on a rotating basis
l) Availability and willingness to teach outside the Academic Support and Bar Support Programs on a rotating basis (i.e., first-year lawyering seminar or other parts of the curriculum) as needed
m) Commitment to scholarly engagement
n) Demonstrated ability to collaborate with others and to share responsibility for joint projects, assignments, and service requirements.
CUNY offers faculty a competitive compensation and benefits package covering health insurance, pension and retirement benefits, paid parental leave, and savings programs. We also provide mentoring and support for research, scholarship, and publication as part of our commitment to ongoing faculty professional development.
Law School Assistant Professor: $76,444 - $113,544 Law School Associate Professor: $89,452 - $138,859
HOW TO APPLY
From our job posting system, select "Apply Now", create or log in to a user account, and provide the requested information. If you are viewing this posting from outside our system, access the employment page on our web site and search for this vacancy using the Job ID or Title.
Candidates should provide a CV/resume and statement of scholarly interests.
Applications will be accepted through February 15, 2022 and will be considered on a rolling basis.
Saturday, October 2, 2021
Oklahoma City University School of Law seeks experienced, diverse, and innovative candidates for three separate positions: an Assistant Director of Academic Achievement, an Assistant Director of Law Student Services, and a Director of Student Success.
The Assistant Director of Academic Achievement will help train a diverse population of law students for the rigor of law school, the bar exam, and the practice of law with academic workshops and individual coaching. The Assistant Director will primarily provide one-on-one instruction for first and second-year students and will assist in the bar preparation program. This is a staff position. Candidates must have a J.D. degree, a law license in the United States, and a minimum of six months of experience in the areas of academic advising, academic support, teaching (adjunct instruction accepted), and/or one-on-one instruction in an ABA accredited law school. A suitable combination of education and experience may be substituted for minimum requirements.
The Assistant Director of Law Student Services will support students as an additional office counselor to support the Director of Student Success and the Director of Career Development & Student Programming. They will work closely with both Directors to support the goals and objectives of the Student Success Program, career and professional development programming and resources, and student programming.
The Director of Student Success will be responsible for the overall facilitation of the Student Success program including the development, planning, implementation and assessment of student transition, engagement, and retention from admission to graduation. The Student Success Position collaborates with a variety of faculty, staff, and student positions and departments to increase student success and retention.
A JD degree from an ABA accredited law school for the Assistant Director of Law Student Services and Director of Student Success is preferred. A suitable combination of education and experience may be substituted for minimum requirements. Successful candidates will begin as soon as possible but no later than January, 2022. The deadline for applications is November 15, 2021, but applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and the positions may be filled before the application deadline.
Friday, October 1, 2021
This weekend, I attended the Central States Law Schools Association Scholarship Conference and ASP was well-represented. each speaker gave a talk highlighting their current works and sought feedback from the audience of faculty members. Here is just a sampling of the ASP presentations:
Cassie Christopher, Texas Tech School of Law
A Modern Diploma Privilege: A Path Rather Than a Gate
Michele Cooley, IU McKinney School of Law
But I’m Paying for This!: Student Consumerism and Its Impact on
Academic and Bar Support
Danielle Kocal, Pace Law School
A Professor's Guide to Teaching Gen Z
Blake Klinkner, Washburn School of Law
Is Discovery Becoming More Proportional? A Quantitative Assessment of
Discovery Orders Following the 2015 Proportionality Amendment to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26
Leila Lawlor, Georgia State College of Law
Comparative Analysis of Graduation and Retention Rates
Curricular Tracking as a Denial of the “Free Appropriate Public Education”
Guaranteed to Students with Disabilities under the IDEA
I was delighted to see so many ASPers presenting Works in Progress, and I cannot wait to read and cite your published works!
Thursday, September 30, 2021
Often times I see but I don't. Perhaps an analogy will explain.
It's bear season where I live. But the bears are awful hard to spot, despite their large size. It seems that their big paws tend to distribute weight so that they move with stealth-like grace as they forage among the mountain berries, shrubs and trees. They tend to make not much more noise than a trifling breeze or a bird at work building a nest.
But I have a secret weapon to spot the bears - my dog.
You see, a few weeks back, while hiking, Maisey came to a screeching halt, sat perfectly still, and sniffed the mountain breeze. A sniff here and a sniff there. I was like, "Come on Maisey, let's get going." But she sat, still.
After about 5 minutes of waiting silently, I finally noticed a slight rustle down the hillside from the trail. Not much of anything. But then another rustle and another and another, all ever so silent. Suddenly, I saw what Maisey had sensed all along before. A bear, foraging in the scrub oaks. For the next twenty minutes or so, I watched the bear slowly eat its way down the hillside before I finally lost sight. But the lesson wasn't lost on me. I would not have seen that bear by myself. I needed the sense of another, one with keener senses than me.
I think law school is bit like that.
As law students, we can re-read our papers or our notes or our midterm answers and not really see what we really wrote. It's sort of like we are blinded by our own senses, by our own sight.
However, much like my experience on the trail scouting for bears, as law students, we have available to us, just for the asking, people who have keener senses than us, finely tuned, who can take a look at our work and thus open us up to a whole other way of seeing and experiencing things. In short, we can turn to our faculty and academic support teams to help us - as learners - see what's really in our answers (and what isn't).
So, as law students, don't feel like you need to go it alone in law school, at all. Freely reach out to others for help. Let experts review your work. Get feedback from your professors and your ASP team at your law school. You'll be surprised at what you'll see. It probably won't be a bear, but I can guarantee that it will help you become a better attorney. And that's what we are here for -- for you. (Scott Johns).
Someone once said, "no one is an island," or something like that.
But, I fear, many of our students live island experiences. In some ways, we all fear vulnerability. We are all, often times, afraid to ask for help or counsel. However, as has become especially acute in midst of this ongoing pandemic, we truly weren't meant to live alone but rather in community with others.
So, in follow-up to Prof. Steven Foster's post on "Making Connections," providing practical ways to bridge the oft-experienced gap between academic support professionals and faculty-at-large, Professor Charles Calleros offers the following well-aimed advice to help us better connect to our most struggling students while there's still plenty of time to make a difference.
"One way to foster connection with 1L faculty: Ask Legal Writing faculty in late September whether any of their students look like they are headed for a D (or worse) based on preliminary writing assignments. By mid-October, ask faculty in casebook courses whether any midterm exams look like total disasters. If my experience is any indication, many of them will be grateful for the query and eager to identify students who could use some ASP assistance....I also like...[the] idea of connecting with students in a way that allows them to show that their identities and accomplishments are not limited to their not-yet-impressive success in law school." - C. Calleros, Prof. of Law, Arizona State University.
Great suggestions from both!
So, for you law students, be brave. Reach out to your faculty or your ASP or student services teams with any questions or concerns that you might have or to just talk about life, together. And, for those of you in ASP, the two professors remind us that we work as a team, to proactively reach out to those I serve with, and to make connections with both our colleagues and students.
It might just be the "cure that the doctor ordered," for all of us, in community with and for each other. After all, we're in this together. (Scott Johns).
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
The AALS Section on Academic Support is seeking nominations for two awards.
Legacy in Leadership Award. This award is given to a person who is a senior member of our discipline and has made outstanding contributions to the academic support profession throughout their career, including building and evolving the discipline of academic support.
Trailblazer Award. This award is given to a person who is inspiring change in the academic support profession today and catapulting us forward to a stronger tomorrow.
To be eligible for an award, the nominee must have made significant and/or long-term contributions to the development of the field of law student academic support, 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 academic support community;
- support to and mentoring of academic support 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.
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. 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.
Please submit nominations by October 25th, 5pm EST, to email@example.com. The nomination should include a letter that describes why the section member should be honored. You can submit a nomination for one, or both, awards.
Monday, September 27, 2021
Our law school building was shut down as of 2:00 p.m. Wednesday. An email went out at 1:47 p.m. letting us know that we were going to be taking all classes online until, they then said, Monday at 7:00 a.m. Now, if I were reading this as someone who didn’t know more, I’d be reaching for the hand sanitizer (despite the fact we know that the internet transmits all kinds of virulent things, but not actually human viruses). I’ll wait a moment for your hands to dry before I go on.
Here’s the thing: it wasn’t COVID-19 that shut us down (but your hands are now clean and that’s never a bad thing). Our building had been having air conditioning problems for weeks. The classrooms I taught in last Monday afternoon and evening felt like, to add to your Yiddish vocabulary, a schvitz. The classroom I taught in that Wednesday morning felt like a rainforest. It was easily close to, if not above, 90 degrees in the classrooms and getting up there in my office as well. When I finally was able to get out of the building much later that afternoon, the subway station was refreshing (it was Park Street for you Boston familiar folks and you know if it was refreshing there, the building was bad). The air-conditioned train was my night in shiny greenish armor. Not many people say “aaah” when getting on a green line trolley, but there I was perking up as we meandered through the Back Bay. It turns out that the building will actually be closed until this Wednesday (we think) because the “chillers” have failed (and yes, I am imagining “chillers” as those folks in high school wearing a lot of flannel and playing hacky-sack).
But this blog entry is not about my escape from schvitz mountain-it is more about the fact that I realized that I wasn’t concerned about moving to remote teaching for a week. 2019 me would have been trying to remember how to record a Panopto video and reconfiguring all my slides for the small screen. 2019 me would probably have taught the classes wearing work pants and shoes. 2019 me would have tried to position myself somewhere the dog barking wouldn’t be audible (which, by the way, it turns out is nowhere in my house). In short, 2019 me would have panicked.
But 2021 me immediately created a Zoom link on the class BlackBoard site and emailed everyone to find it there. 2021 me already had the slides on my laptop (which 2019 me would have said was a crazy expensive investment-but 2019 me was wrong about that). 2021 me really enjoyed seeing my student’s faces for the first time this semester, and hoped they enjoyed seeing mine. And so, 2021 me started the class, shared the screen, and carried on. The only thing that made me sweat about the whole thing was that I was still stuck in my office because 13 minutes wasn’t enough time to get to a cooler place. 2021 me would have chuckled at the state of 2019 me (and, in all fairness, 2019 me would have been horrified to see my frizzing hair take up almost all of my 2021 Zoom rectangle).
COVID was certainly not the ideal way to learn how to quickly pivot and conduct classes even when we do not have access to a school building, but those skills are now honed.
We’ve come a long way.
Sunday, September 26, 2021
A few years ago, our new Dean brought the leaders of each department together for a retreat to prepare for the upcoming year. The Dean planned the retreat with activities to both get to know each other and create goals for the upcoming year. The retreat was a resounding success. One of the biggest successes from the event was the connections we made with each other. Every business deals with interpersonal dynamics and requests for the limited resources. I feel like coming together for a couple days helped the leaders of our school understand each other more and helped us work with each other for common goals even though resources are limited.
I believe the same type of connections could help ASPers in 2 ways. We could use similar activities to connect with faculty. The divide between tenure-track and contract faculty/staff seems pervasive throughout law school discourse. ASPers complain at every turn that doctrinal faculty aren't using the most up-to-date teaching methods. Doctrinal faculty think ASPers just hand-hold a new generation of entitled students. ASPers respond that some hand-holding is necessary when jobs are tied to bar results. The non-stop complaining creates a layer of animosity throughout law schools.
The animosity isn't inevitable. We can break the cycle. Other than a few outliers, I believe most faculty (doctrinal and ASP) and staff want students to succeed. Schools probably can't hold large gatherings safely, but we can all have a small meal or zoom meeting with another member of the law school. The meal or meeting doesn't need to be about work. Connections related to interests and family can begin a conversation that leads to discussing helping students inside and outside the classroom. The discussions can lay the interpersonal foundation to then create dialogue on how to help students.
We can use the same strategy with students. In smaller classes, I begin every semester with an introduction and one unique thing about myself. Students introduce themselves and give their unique thing. I try to include anecdotes and stories in all my lectures that relate to my interests. Someone after each of my classes will ask about my kids sports or the recent football games. I use the information to ask students questions when in the hallway. When students know we care about them as people, they are more likely to follow our studying advice. We can go to student organization meetings, take class time, or attend campus events to make connections. The connections may be as valuable as one of the lessons in class.
Working with faculty and students requires navigating many interpersonal and campus dynamic issues. We can't solve all of them with a meal, but genuine conversation can go a long way to helping everyone achieve success.
Saturday, September 25, 2021