Sunday, July 21, 2019
Historically, legal education has been slow to change. The Socratic method dominated (and may still dominate) instruction in spite of teaching experts criticizing its effectiveness. Assessment only recently entered law schools' radars when nearly every other department on University campuses utilized it. Many schools act like formative assessment and curriculum wide assessment are the new iPhone with infatuation followed by falling back into normal routines. Many find it easy to criticize legal education, but can the bar exam bear some of the blame by also evolving slowly?
Law schools know, or at least should know, they need to teach more practical legal skills. From the Carnegie report and beyond, schools heard skill development was necessary. Newly admitted attorneys needed more practice interacting with live clients and practicing in simulation style classes. Many would argue that certain skills, for example negotiation, are applicable throughout practice while another doctrinal class may cover materials alumni will virtually never see from clients. I have many classmates that have never, and will never, handle a secured transaction. The ABA responded to that argument (and a few others) with an increase in practical skills requirements.
The increased requirements help students become more practice ready when entering the profession. However, alumni still have to enter the profession through the bar exam. The bar exam doesn't test the "soft skills" of negotiation, mediation, legal research, or most of the other skills listed in the Carnegie report. The NCBE conducted a practice analysis a few years ago, and one major skill employers wanted was improved research and writing. The NCBE determined a bar exam component on research and writing was impractical, so we still have the traditional essays and MBE. The MBE and essays require memorization of significant amounts of material with highly specialized forms of legal analysis. Not the same type of legal analysis for practice. When the bar exam is an obstacle, some students make logical choices to take more doctrinal classes instead of practical skills classes.
The need for skills isn't the same problem as problematic instruction methods, but the mentality permeates both issues. If the bar exam is perceived to require the same thing now as it did many years ago, then why change teaching methods or curriculum requirements? We can all make the science based arguments why practical skills can ingrain information better, but overcoming years of perception is difficult. Not only that, students perception of the a particular bar class versus a skill can easily tilt in favor of the class. Students tell me all the time they know how to negotiate, so why take the class. The ABA and some legal educators are trying to move law schools in a more fundamentally sound direction. However, the bar exam setup makes changing legal education even harder.
The problem will only get worse. A recent blog post on the Legal Skills Professors Blog discussed a Forbes article that says new lawyers need "[e]motional intelligence, creativity, cognitive flexibility, and the ability to work collaboratively with others." Practicing law is changing. California may allow online legal services that are performed primarily by computers. Our alumni need a wide variety of skills to thrive in practice. However, I am worried the bar exam as it is constructed will continue to prevent legal education from evolving to produce the best entry ready lawyers possible. I hope the new NCBE study will provide drastic changes, but similar to law schools, I believe the NCBE will be reluctant to change.
Saturday, July 20, 2019
If you haven't already, now is the time to start waking up and studying during exam time. I know many students like staying up late studying while sleeping during the day. If that worked during bar prep, that is great. However, now is the time to transition to waking up and studying during exam time. Our bodies get into cycles, and you want to be mentally ready to take the exam by 8 or 9 in the morning. You don’t want to still be tired. Some students lose points on question 1 or 2 on the essays or the first 10 MBE questions because they are not awake. Start studying by 8 or 9 to prevent this. Get ready for the 2-3 day marathon. The mental preparation can an extra 10 points.
I also recommend eating during the bar exam lunch hours next week. You want to train yourself to make it through the testing session not needing food. You don’t want your stomach to start grumbling with questions left. This can make a huge difference. Train yourself for every aspect of the exam. Take breaks when the breaks would be on exam day.
All alumni taking the bar have the ability to pass. The last few points will be the mental preparation for all the non-legal aspects of the exam. Have a great last week of practice!
Friday, July 19, 2019
Congratulations to Contributing editor Marsha Griggs for being in SSRN's top 10 downloaded papers in the Law & Society eJournals category each day from July 13th to 18th! You can find her article "Building a Better Bar Exam" here.
Also Congratulations to ASP colleague Cassie Christopher for also being in SSRN's top 10 downloaded papers in Law & Society eJournals category on July 13th (and possibly more). Her paper titled "Normalizing Struggle" is here.
We should definitely celebrate these accomplishments of our colleagues. Also, this is a great sign that ASP scholarship is being read by more and more people. Marsha did a great job intentionally citing to other ASP authors to increase exposure of our profession. I hope we can all follow the lead to continue to promote ASP scholarship.
Congrats again for 2 great articles.
Thursday, July 18, 2019
I recently saw data suggesting that bar passers do things differently in the final weeks of bar prep than those who are not successful on the bar exam. That got me thinking about what I've been seeing, at least anecdotally, in working with students in preparing for their bar exams.
But first, let me be frank. Without hard dedicated work in learning throughout the course of bar prep period, and in particular, during the final week, it's really difficult to pass the bar exam because the bar exam, in the last few years, has become much more challenging, particularly due to cognitive load. See L. Schulze, Dear Practicing Attorneys: Stop Giving Our Bar Students Bad Advice. Thus, it's not just hard work that makes for passing the bar exam. Rather, it's important to make sure to do what is most optimal for learning during the final week of bar prep. See S. Foster, Positive Self-Talk.
So, even with all of the hard work, what might account for the differences in bar passage outcomes for both groups of diligent bar studiers? In short, it must be in the type of work that the two groups are doing rather than the quantity of work. In the last week, bar passers tend to ramp up their practice with lots and lots of MBE questions and essays while also working on memorization while people who are unsuccessful tend to focus on creating perfect study tools trying to memorize every little nuance of law with very little continued practice. In sum, one group is continuing to practice for the exam that they will take and the other group is focused on memorizing for the exam.
But, here's the rub:
It’s a perfectly natural feeling during the last week of bar prep to want to focus solely (or mostly) on creating perfect study tools and trying to perfectly memorize all the law.
But, according to the educational psychologists, there’s something called “desirable difficulties.” You see, when we jam pack our study tools with everything, we aren’t learning much of anything because we aren't making hard decisions about what is most meaningful. And, with everything written down, there's no opportunity for retrieval practice, which is the best form of memorization practice.
So, as a suggestion for the final week, tackle two to three subjects per day. Work through a number of essay questions for each subject. Then, take your study tool and use it for retrieval practice, reading it and then covering it up to see if you can spout out what's in it. Push yourself. You might even take your study tool and, without looking at it, recreate it in a different format, for example, converting it from an outline to a poster, etc. Then, in the evening, work through a batch of MBE questions, pouring and pondering through them. Finally, when you miss something in an essay or MBE question, add that concept to your study tool. As Prof. Micah Yarbrough at the University of Maryland says, your study tool becomes a sort of "bar diary" of your adventurous travels in learning by doing. And, it's in the learning by doing that makes all the difference in passing the bar exam because the bar exam tests - not just memorization - by problem-solving. So, for those of you taking the July 2019 bar exam, focus on practice first and foremost throughout the final week of your bar preparations because you aren't going to be tested on your study tool. Rather, you're going to be testing on whether you can use your study tool to solve hypothetical problems. And, good luck on your bar exam this summer! (Scott Johns).
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the most distinguished jurists of modern times, died on Tuesday. The author of more than 400 decisions as well as notable dissents in cases including Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, Justice Stevens was considered a "judge's judge," intensely patriotic without being partisan, free of ideological baggage, and devoted to the rule of law. Former President Gerald Ford praised Stevens in 2005, saying "I am prepared to allow history's judgment of my term in office to rest (if necessarily exclusively) on my nomination thirty years ago of Justice John Paul Stevens." Chief Justice John Roberts noted that Stephens, in addition to his "unrelenting commitment to justice," served with "an inimitable blend of kindness, humility, wisdom, and independence."
As I explored more about his life today, I was struck by how Stevens was not content to rest on his laurels, but rather continually pushed himself out of his comfort zone. His graduate study in English was interrupted by World War II, where he put his analytical skills to work as a code-breaker for the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater. He originally made his mark as an antitrust lawyer, first in as an associate in private practice, then as associate counsel to a U.S. House committee investigating antitrust activities, then, only three years after admission to the bar, as an antitrust litigator and partner in a firm he co-founded. Widely respected for his expertise, he wrote influential articles and taught at the University of Chicago and Northwestern law schools while remaining active as a litigator.
Stevens could have remained a respected antitrust scholar and practitioner, but in 1969 he took on the thankless task of serving as counsel to a commission formed to investigate corruption allegations against two sitting members of the Illinois Supreme Court. The commission was evidently expected to perform only a perfunctory investigation, for the person bringing the charges was a well-known conspiracy theorist with little credibility. Nevertheless, Stevens conducted a vigorous investigation which verified the allegations and ultimately led to in the resignation of both the current and a former chief justice. His refusal to take half measures led to considerable acclaim, an appointment to the Seventh Circuit by President Nixon, and ultimately to his appointment in 1975 to the U.S. Supreme Court where he served with distinction for 35 years.
It's not unusual for law students or lawyers to form a narrow view of their own abilities. Knowing they are competent in one area of doctrine or in one application, they allow that expertise to bind them into a narrow view of what they can and should do, rather than exploring how their expertise in one arena could translate into competence and even brilliance in another or a wider field. John Paul Stevens could have made his mark only as an English scholar, or only as a Bronze Star code-breaker, or only as a litigator, or only as a law professor. But he continually stretched to do more, developing expertise in constitutional law and new skills on the Court like coalition-building. And even after retirement at age 90, he stretched himself more, writing three books over the next nine years. His belief in constantly stretching himself to do more and better work can be an inspiration to all of us to not content ourselves in one narrow path. (Nancy Luebbert)
Monday, July 15, 2019
You can choose to listen to the skeptics or hit the ignore button. - Michael Peggs
Our students today have become adept at shunning criticism and negative input. When coaches or teachers prejudge students at any age, there is an army of protective advocates who will stand up for the wronged student and demonstrate that with the right accommodation a student may exceed the expectations of a perceived disability. We full-scale reject the haterist mindset that seeks to label learners with arbitrarily imposed limitations. Taylor Swift warned us that “haters gonna hate”. Yet, too often when the stakes are high, and especially during bar study, we stir up our own hater-aid. Over the years I've overheard students say things like: “I’ve never been good at standardized tests,” “I am never going to learn all these essay subjects,” “I’ve got too much going on to study the way I should,” and “I don’t expect to pass on the first time.”
You may need to mute your inner monologue, if it is filling your mind with self-defeating prophecy. Each time a fear-based thought tries to creep in, hit the ignore button and block it like a call from a telemarketer. Follow Taylor’s lead and shake off the self-doubt. Use daily bar study affirmations as an exercise in mindfulness to allow you to meditate on your positive potential. For the next two weeks, the only attitude you can afford is a can-do attitude. Repeat these affirming words until they become your reality: I can and will pass the bar. I am worthy of a bar card, and right now I am making plans for my life as an attorney.
Sunday, July 14, 2019
I still remember the kindly judge for whom I interned as a 3L. Knowing that bar prep was coming up and sensing my anxiety, he called me into chambers. “Louie,* have a seat.”
(* Remember, we’re talking about Boston. Anyone named “Louis” is called “Louie,” whether they like it or not. My co-clerks in the Superior Court were “Sully,” “Fitzy,” and “Other Sully.”)
Anyway, “Louie,” he said, “you’re a smart* kid. If you do half the work in that bar prep program, you’ll pass just fine.”
(* I’ll note that this is properly pronounced “smaahht.” See supra at Boston.)
He continued: “My firm* gave me two weeks off to study for the bar, and I did just fine. So stop worrying about spending three months studying.”
(* If I remember correctly, the firm was called “Oldguy, Oldguy & Deadguy, LLP.” Somehow, they made the group of Dan Aykroyd’s business school chums in “Trading Places” look like the picture of diversity.)
My judge’s advice was well-intentioned, and I appreciated his attempt to calm me down. But, the Type-A, neurotic kind of guy I was (errata: am), mostly ignored this advice and studied with the kind of ferocity only those with a festering inferiority complex can muster.*
(* I can thank my significant other at the time for the bar exam-related inferiority complex. An Ivy League law student, she’d repeatedly say, “It’s not like you went to Harvard.” Luckily, our relationship did not last much longer. Ironically, neither did her legal career.)
Many of our students are not so lucky, though. They hear this same tone of advice and happily digest it as a welcome counterthesis to the admonitions of that overly-intense ASP/ bar exam professor. “The partner at my firm said that Schulze is crazy.”*
(* A fair point. No objections so far.)
“You don’t need to do 1,500 Adaptibar questions or whatever. Just watch the videos, read the outlines, and you’ll pass.” The student then spends a relaxing summer watching some videos, hanging out with friends, and going to the beach. (Meanwhile, I’m in my office slowly rocking back and forth in the fetal position after seeing the student's stats and completion percentage data.)
Then, the student fails the bar exam.
The practicing lawyers who give this advice might think that the bar exam world remains a static place where nothing changes. But, the substantial changes to the bar exam over the last five to ten years severely limit the applicability of their experiences. Here are those changes and why practicing attorneys need to be careful with their advice.
The bar exam is getting close. This is the stretch run. Bar prep is long and tiring. All takers have accomplished a ton to get to this point, but don’t quit now. Work hard for the next couple weeks to fully prepare for the exam. You should know that everyone is exhausted at this point. Stay positive the last couple weeks. Positive thinking helps learn the material better and is a great way to beat the stress of the last few weeks. There is an interesting blog post and research that just came out about positive self-talk in the second person works best. Check it out here.
As everyone studies the last couple weeks, make sure to take normal breaks throughout the day. Breaks are necessary to help the brain catch up to all the studying.
These last couple weeks focus on memorizing the law and practicing questions. Memorize as much law as possible, and then do practice essay questions. Keep doing practice MBE questions to increase scores through the exam. Peak on exam day, so continue to improve up to the exam.
Everyone should know that you can do this. Obtaining a J.D. is impressive. Keep up the hard work throughout the bar.
Saturday, July 13, 2019
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) seeks a Director of Academic Success. The position is located here at their site. The following is the information from the site.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas invites applications for Assistant Professor in Residence and Director of Academic Success Program, UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law [R0117026]
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 on line 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.
PROFILE of UNLV WILLIAM S. BOYD SCHOOL of LAW
The William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is a state-supported law school, the first in Nevada's history. The law school commenced classes in August 1998 and is fully accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. The William S. Boyd School of Law offers Juris Doctor full time, part-time day, and part-time evening programs. For more information on the Boyd School of Law, see our website www.law.unlv.edu
ROLE of the POSITION
The Director is responsible for all Academic Success Program (ASP) programming and initiatives in support of Boyd’s 400 full-time, part-time day, and part-time evening students. The Director works closely with law faculty and administration to develop and implement programs to support student achievement in law school and to help students pass the bar exam and succeed in their professional lives. The Director interacts with students in formal and informal classes, conducting workshops and outreach on essential law school skills and bar exam preparation, and meets individually with students seeking to improve their academic performance and to develop strategies for bar exam study and success. The Director is expected to identify students who are likely to benefit from ASP resources and encourage their participation in ASP programming. The Director plays a prominent role in new student orientation, introducing students to legal reasoning and analysis, task and time management, and the services provided by ASP.
The Director is expected to be familiar with national bar exam standards and trends in bar exam assessment. He or she serves as the law school’s authority on the Nevada bar examination, its content, and trends in that content. He or she works directly with students individually and in groups on bar preparation and with the law school faculty and administration on analysis of bar examination results and strategies for maximizing bar passage for Boyd graduates.
The Director supervises an Assistant Director and upper-class student mentors and directs their deployment in meeting ASP objectives. The faculty expects that the Director will be a resource for its members to increase teaching effectiveness. Given the nature of the position’s responsibilities and the composition of the student body, the Director will be required to work evening and weekend hours as necessary.
For more information on the Boyd School of Law, see our website www.law.unlv.edu.
This position requires a J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school, and membership in a state bar with successful completion of a state bar examination and one year of academic success experience preferably in a law school setting. Credentials must be obtained prior to the start of employment.
The successful candidate will have significant law school professional experience, preferably in the context of a law school academic success program, a record of strong academic performance in law school, and experience in teaching or instruction. Other preferred qualifications include: excellent project management skills, strong organizational skills with attention to detail, the ability to carry out responsibilities with a minimum of supervision, excellent oral and written communication and interpersonal skills, and a strong service commitment.
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 August 1, 2019 and best consideration will be gained for materials submitted prior to that date. Materials should be addressed to Professor Ruben Garcia, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR INTERNAL NSHE CANDIDATES
UNLV employees or employees within the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) MUST use the “Find Jobs” process within Workday to find and apply for jobs at UNLV and other NSHE Institutions. Once you log into Workday, type "Find Jobs" in the search box which will navigate to the internal job posting site. Locate this specific job posting by typing the requisition number, “R0117026” in the search box.
If you complete an application outside of the internal application process, your application will be returned and you will have to reapply as an internal applicant which may delay your application.
SAFETY AND SECURITY STATEMENT
UNLV is committed to assisting all members of the UNLV community in providing for their own safety and security. The Annual Security Report and Annual Fire Safety Report compliance document is available online.
Where cost is a material factor, the abbreviated statement can be used in lieu of the preferred complete statement.
UNLV is an Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action educator and employer committed to achieving excellence through diversity. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to, among other things, race, color, religion, sex, age, creed, national origin, veteran status, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, or any other factor protected by anti-discrimination laws. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas employs only United States citizens and non-citizens lawfully authorized to work in the United States. Women, under-represented groups, individuals with disabilities, and veterans are encouraged to apply.
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.
Posting Close Date
Friday, July 12, 2019
Lecturer on Law, Academic Excellence Program
New England Law | Boston is seeking dynamic and experienced applicants for the part-time position of Lecturer on Law in the Academic Excellence Program. The Academic Excellence Program provides support to students throughout their law school experience, including a first-year legal skills course, as well as individual counseling and advising initiatives. These programs help students learn the critical skills for success in law school, on the bar examination, and in legal practice.
Primary Duties and Responsibilities:
The position will work closely with the Director and other members of the faculty to:
- Design and teach academic support courses, workshops, and additional programming as needed. Teaching responsibilities may include evening classes for the law school’s part-time division. Specifically, the person hired will be responsible for teaching:
- a) Academic Excellence: a full-year, weekly class for all 1L students and designed to develop the fundamental skills for law school success (e.g., case reading, briefing, outlining, exam writing and legal analysis). The course also includes several sessions that are co-taught with other members of the faculty.
- b) Orientation Program sessions presented by Academic Excellence faculty.
- Provide individual counseling to first-year and second-year students struggling academically;
- Assist with administrative responsibilities as needed to implement the program; and
- The person hired may also be called upon to perform other activities in service to the law school, such as faculty committee and task force work, and student group advising.
- JD from an ABA-accredited law school with strong law school credentials
- Superior oral and written communication skills
- Excellent interpersonal and organizational skills
- Enthusiasm for working collaboratively with students to support their academic progress and to implement individually tailored measures to improve their performance
- An ability to work efficiently and collaboratively with faculty in designing effective co-taught classes within the first-year program
- Prior experience in teaching legal skills and designing assessments to achieve skills-based learning objectives (such as issue-spotting, identifying and applying legal rules to material facts, and presenting viable counterarguments) is highly desired
- Experience in educational counseling/advising is desired
This is a part-time (20-hours per week during the academic year) visiting position, for evening classes, with some day time availability required. The position begins in mid-Augut. To apply, please submit cover letter and resume (including salary requirements) to email@example.com. Final candidates will be required to submit a writing sample.
New England Law | Boston is an equal opportunity employer, values diversity, and is committed to providing an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment as defined by federal and state law.
Thursday, July 11, 2019
It's time to create your own personal handy-dandy bar exam study tools. But, you ask, how, with so many other things to do (and with just a few weeks before the bar exam). Well, here's a suggestion for creating your study tools from scratch in just a few easy steps and in less than 2 hours flat.
But first, let's lay the groundwork. Why should I create a study tool, especially with so many other tasks at hand that demand my attention in preparation for the bar exam in a few weeks?
There are at least three reasons.
First, the process of creating your own study tools creates a "mental harness" for your thoughts. It serves to bring you back to the big picture of what you have been studying the past many weeks since graduation.
Second, the process of creating your own study tools cements your abilities to synthesize and distill the rules that you will be tested on this summer. In short, we memorize (remember) what we create rather than what we read that others have created.
Third, your study tools are, in essence, an organized collection of pre-written, bar exam answers for tackling the hypothetical problems that you will face this summer on your bar exam.
So, let's set out the steps:
1. Grab Your Study Tool Support Team!
That means grabbing hold of the shortest bar outline provided by your bar review company. Shorter is better because less is often more! And, you already have too much to remember.
2. Create the Big Picture Skeleton for Your Study Tool!
That means taking hold of the table of contents in your bar outline provided by your bar review company or the subject matter outlines provided by the bar examiners. For example, the NCBE provides super-short two-page outlines for each subject on what issues are testable. http://www.ncbex.org/meeoutlines. Then, using that skeleton structure, create an overview of the testable issues in your own desired format, whether as flashcards, posters, or outlines, etc.
3. Insert Rule Sound Bites!
Using your bar review lecture notes or subject matter outlines, insert rule "sound bites" for each item identified as testable subjects. Move swiftly. Don't dwell. If you think you you need a rule, don't put it in...because...you can always add more rules later if you see that rule popping up in your practice during the course of the next two weeks. Don't try to create perfect rule statements. Instead, just insert the "buzz words." Feel free to be bold, daring, and adventuresome in doodling or using abbreviations to remind you of the rule. For example, for negligence per se (NPS), my study tool just reads: (1) P.C. and (2) P.H. That stands for protected class and protected harm. By writing out just a few tips to help me remember, I am actually enhancing my study tool (and developing my confidence in being able to recall, for example, the requirements for NPS). Get your entire study tool completed in 2 hours or less! How, you ask? By leaving lots of stuff out because you can always add more later. Here's a tip: It's called "desirable difficulties." You see, according to my arm chair understanding of the science behind learning, optimal learning requires us to push ourselves; it requires mental perspiration, it takes sweat. So, the process of deciding what to put into your study tool (and what to leave out, and, indeed, leaving out lots) enhances are learning because we can't solely rely on our study tools for memorization. Rather, our study tool because a prompt for our memory. So, keep your study tools super-short and crisp.
6. Take Your Study Tool for Lots of Test Flights During the Final Several Weeks of Bar Prep!
Yes, you might crash. Yes, it might be ugly. In fact, if you are like me, you will crash and it will be ugly! But, just grab hold of lots and lots of past bar exam essays and see if you can outline and write out sample answers using your study tools
Finally, let me make set the record straight.
You don't have to make an outline as your study tool. Your study tool can be an outline…or a flowchart…or a poster with lots of pictures...or a set of flashcards, etc.
What's important is that it is YOUR study tool that YOU built from YOUR own handiwork and thoughts! It's got to be personal to you because it's going to be you that sits for your bar exam. So, have fun learning by creating super-short snappy study tools that serve as organized pre-written answers for this summer's bar exam. (Scott Johns)
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Like my colleagues, I am thinking ahead to the new school year even as my attention is consumed by those preparing for the bar exam three weeks from now. Last year at this time I was thinking mainly about scheduling and content and skills development, and how to tweak and rearrange my classes and workshops to make them more effective. This year, I find myself thinking at least as much about stories as about skills.
Part of this cogitation is driven by my conversations of late with students dealing with varying degrees of anxiety about the bar exam. I ask them how they are doing and what has led them to whatever position they currently find themselves in, and their narratives fall broadly into two categories. Some students tell me kinetic stories about what work they have done, what challenges they have faced, and what strategies they have employed. They may not have conquered every problem that has come up -- in fact, that's usually why they are talking to me -- but they still see themselves as the protagonists who are driving their stories and pursuing some kind of prize. Other students, even some with objectively similar obstacles, tell their stories in a different way. They are still the centers of their own stories, but things keep happening to them (poor performance on a practice test, illness, misunderstanding, etc.), and they are just doing what they can to cope. These latter folks are not doomed, by any means; they are, in fact, often quite capable. But they do seem to feel more anxiety and doubt than the more protagonistic students. So part of what I am wondering is whether it might be possible to cultivate that sense of protagonism by using language that highlights one's sense of agency and potency, from the very start of law school. Perhaps by using less language about "what will happen" and "what you will encounter", and more language about "what you will learn to do" and "how others have overcome difficulties", I can shift students' perspectives in a more empowering direction.
Another aspect of storytelling that has become clearly significant over the past year is how students perceive their stories in relation to their law school -- their fellow students, their class as an entity, their professors, their administration, and their alumni community. At the start of my 3L pre-bar prep course this spring, I felt it was very important to intentionally and repeatedly talk about our class as a team. We were there to support each other, I said, because we had common goals as individuals and as a group. Each student wanted to pass the bar exam in July -- that much they knew going into the class -- but, I pointed out, each student should also want to see everyone else in the class pass, too. Teamwork might mean going a little further to help our classmates in a pinch, but it also means we've got a bunch of other people in our corner, willing to do the same for us. The faculty, the administration, and the alumni want to see them succeed, too, because their success makes everybody look better, and because we've invested so much energy and faith in them. And if the class does notably well as a group on the bar exam, their pass rate becomes public information that makes them all look like part of a stellar crop of new lawyers.
At times I felt almost like a goofy cheerleader telling this story, and encouraging my students to tell that story about themselves as a team. But it seems to have paid off. This summer we are seeing notably higher rates of participation and completion of assignments in summer bar prep courses. Recent graduates are spending more time together, on and off campus, and I've been talking to far more of them in my office and on the phone than last summer. Just telling a story of teamwork isn't enough -- the school has also had to walk the walk, by providing additional resources and guidance to students -- but it is clear that intensifying our characterization of getting ready for the bar as a communal effort has had a positive effect.
This is another thing I am wondering about, as I move forward with plans to work with our new incoming students. How can I tell that story of the law school as a team in a way that will stick with these new students for three intensive years? Is there a way to cultivate that story in the face of the known competition for grades in the first year? Is there a way to keep that story from becoming trite and from being tattered by cynicism? I think there must be. It's not just the telling of the story that makes it work; it's also acting the story out, and making it seem real because it could be real.
So, while I will be working on better ways to improve students' analytical and time management skills this fall, I will also be thinking about better ways to tell them stories -- about themselves as individuals and as part of this new community -- that they can believe in. Stories that they will want to carry on telling themselves.
Monday, July 8, 2019
And suddenly you just know it's time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings. – Meister Eckhart
This is the time of year when many ASPers transition from one position to the next. Career progressions in ASP are as varied as they come. Many who entered as an assistant director are now ready to direct programs at their own schools or another. This fall some will transition from administration to faculty or vice versa. Some are preparing to teach doctrinal courses for the first time, and others just received rank and tenure promotions. Whether your move will take you across the county or across the street to another institution in the same city, boxes must be packed and a world of newness awaits.
The newness can be the most exciting part of a new role in ASP. The newness also can be the most scary. Recent law school graduates newly entering ASP may face the challenge of being perpetually viewed as a student or former student. Those with new roles as faculty or with first-year core teaching responsibilities may have to abide additional layers of oversite not imposed upon other faculty members. A lateral move to a new school can deal the unsettling reminder that, even with years of pedagogical experience under your belt, you are a newbie to this institution, its policies, and its students. Perhaps the greatest hurdle of all is following another great ASP predecessor who left very big shoes to fill.
Whether your newness is a new position, a new course, or just additional responsibility at your current post – embrace the newness. You were recognized for your unique skills and qualifications. You bring amazingness with you. Savor the transition time as you learn your new role and your new students and create a course/program/system that will leave your own indelible footprint.
Congratulations and continued success to all who are making moves from one role to another. The next big shoes to fill will be yours!
Sunday, July 7, 2019
The calendar turned to July. The heat index is climbing over 100 in Oklahoma, which also means it is time to plan the fall semester.
The difficult part of July is everything happens at the same time. The bar exam is still 3 weeks away, but I can’t wait until after the bar to plan for the fall. The semester will start only a couple weeks later, and in an attempt to follow my own advice, I take time off right after the exam. The timing means fall planning must happen now.
I am sure many in ASP have a similar timeframe. When thinking about the fall, I wanted to pass along a few tips:
- Look back at the AASE materials. AASE presenters provide numerous ideas. Implementing the great ideas is the more difficult part, but one way to increase the chance of implementing them is to re-read those ideas now.
- Review feedback from last year. If students provide constructive feedback, then look through the feedback prior to creating syllabi or programming. Small changes each year can make a big difference. However, ignore any non-constructive criticism.
- Analyze notes and materials from last year. I suggest writing down what works and doesn’t work throughout the year. Look at those notes to see what changes are needed.
- Decide on a few new things to integrate. Don’t try to remake the entire ASP program in one semester/year.
The summer is winding down, fortunately or unfortunately depending on who you talk to. Many professors are planning for the fall. Spending the few extra minutes looking at great ideas, feedback, and notes can gradually improve programming.
Saturday, July 6, 2019
Cardozo School of Law in New York is looking for a Director of Academic Support. You can find their posting and application procedures here.
The listing information is below.
The Director of Academic Support will provide assistance to students to help them develop the skills needed to succeed academically. The position reports to and is supervised by the Dean of Students as part of the Cardozo Division of Student Affairs.
Experience & Educational Background:
Skills & Competencies:
Please include a resume and cover letter in your application.
The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law is a leader in legal education, located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. The law school is renowned for its program in intellectual property, which includes the FAME Center for Fashion, Arts, Media and Entertainment Law. Cardozo Law has a long tradition of public advocacy and is the birthplace of the Innocence Project and the home of our Center for Rights and Justice. Cardozo offers a world-class faculty and encourages creative thinking and innovation in the legal profession. Cardozo provides students with a strong foundation in legal theory combined with practical hands-on experience in a variety of areas including criminal law, civil rights law, and business law. The school prides itself on creating a vibrant and warm community for faculty, staff and students.
A division of Yeshiva University, Cardozo Law School offers an excellent compensation package, and a broad range of employee benefit plans. The law school is a secular institution within a religious university and welcomes people of all religions, ethnic backgrounds, races and sexual identities.
Equal Employment Opportunity:
Yeshiva University is an equal opportunity employer committed to hiring minorities, women, individuals with disabilities and protected veterans.
Friday, July 5, 2019
Our own Cassie Christopher from Texas Tech University School of Law wrote a recent blog post for the Appellate Advocacy blog on helping students understand that struggle and failure is part of the learning process. You can find her post here.
The post is a short synopsis of her forthcoming article with the same title. Many of us know that learning is hard and students should struggle through the process. The problem is many students don't know that they should struggle. Not only have many of them not struggled before, law school culture perpetuates a perfectionism mindset. I encourage everyone to read her post and pass around her article to all law faculty to help spread a message to students that struggling is ok.
Thursday, July 4, 2019
On this July 4th holiday, with just under a month to go for this summer's bar takers, let's face the facts:
Most of us are downright exhausted.
And, we should be because we've been working pretty much non-stop since graduation Moreover, given what seems like the insurmountable pressures to learn so much material for the bar exam, it seems like we can't let up with our daily regiment of bar studies. There's just too much to learn.
However, let me offer you an encouraging way to "let up" so that you can feel mighty good about taking a real day off, whether today or this upcoming weekend.
Here's how and why...
Holidays, such as the Fourth of July, are some of the best days of the year to see bar exam problems in living color.
That box of fireworks someone bought at a big-top fireworks tent stand. That was procured through negotiation of a UCC contract for the sale of goods (and the seller most likely provided a secured transaction agreement in order to bring the goods to sale).
That box of fireworks that didn't work as advertised. Well, that might just blossom into a breach of contracts claim or even a tort claim for misrepresentation.
That box of fireworks that were lit off in the city limits. In most cities, that's a strict liability crime, plain and simple.
You see, even when we take a day off from studies, we are live in the midst of a world of bar exam problems. In fact, we are surrounded by bar exam problems because the bar exam tests legal situations that are constantly arising among us. So, it's a good thing to get our heads out of the books occasionally to see what's happening around.
That means that you can completely feel free to relax and take a whole day-off because even while taking a time-off, you will still be learning lots from just living in the world. And, because you've been trained as a professional problem-solving attorney, you can't help but see legal problems in full color everywhere. That's a sign that you are well underway in preparations for your bar exam this summer.
So, please rest assured - bar takers - that in the midsts of a day-off with family and friends, you'll be learning helpful legal principles that you can bank on preparation for success on your upcoming bar exam. And, as a bonus, you'll get some mighty needed rest to recharge your heart and mind too! (Scott Johns).
Wednesday, July 3, 2019
This summer, the AALS Section on Technology, Law & Legal Education is presenting a series of webinars on technology and legal education. Now I look forward to every Wednesday, wondering what I will learn each week. Sessions range widely, from hackathons and biotech to formative assessment and access to justice using technology. You can watch past webinars on demand and sign up for forthcoming live webinars by visiting the Section's web page. While I have learned fascinating things from each webinar, I found two webinars touching on IT security and law students to be especially compelling.
As a population our law students are far less technologically savvy than we would expect, according to Cumberland Law's Grace Simms, in an a wide-ranging presentation on "Teaching Tech to Law Students." Two of the most obvious shortfalls are failing to appreciate how social media can affect their personal marketing & job prospects, and failing to grasp the importance of security measures and backups. The back-up problem rings especially true in my experience. For example, although our students have free access to OneDrive and receive back-up reminders from a variety of media, invariably every semester at least one student experiences a major meltdown when upon realizing, only after their computer self-destructs (whether from a hard drive crash, an unfortunate drop in the parking lot, or simply wearing out from obsolescence), that they have not backed up their legal writing projects, case briefs, and outlines. Far less critical, but a time-waster day after day, is the fact that many students have only the most superficial understanding of the capabilities of word processing programs: this not only makes day-by-day writing a more laborious process but also can cause many finished pieces to look amateurish. Inspired by Professor Simms's presentation, I'll be tweaking lesson plans in my fall Skills Lab to include micro-practice sessions on doing backups, creating quick access toolbars, assigning keystrokes in Word, and other simple technology to enhance the daily tasks of law student life.
Lincoln Memorial's Sydney Beckham, himself a former hacker, delved deeper into security threats and safety measures in "Hacked! An Examination of Cyber-Threats and Techniques to Thwart Them." The bad news is one out of every three Americans is affected by a cyber-threat every year. The good news, since 95% of security breaches are caused or exacerbated by human error, is that most cyber-threats can be prevented or mitigated by taking prudent, and often amazingly simple, security measures. While many institutions must take sophisticated measures like two-factor authentication, most individuals can protect themselves with relatively simple practices such as:
- Backing up important data using thumb drives, external hard drives, or cloud storage
- Setting antivirus protection for automatic updates
- Updating operating systems frequently
- Covering the webcam when not needed for active use
- Using a microphone lock on phones and computer when not needed for active use
- Using strong passwords and usernames, and not sharing them between accounts
- Using the cellular hotspot provided by a personal cell phone rather than public wifi when sending personal information in a public place
- Limiting social media posting of information that might be used for security questions
A compelling point was the need to constantly reinforce IT security messages through live interaction with law students. Like Professor Simms, Professor Beckham stressed that many law students are not aware of IT security issues and solutions. Information sent through e-mails and video sources, he suggested, is overwhelmingly ignored. To be effective, information should be conveyed live and in person. Moreover, to pack the most punch, it shouldn't be conveyed only during Orientation: rather, repeated live messaging by different faculty and staff is the best way of helping law students to become security aware. It sounds like a good idea to add a question about backups and security to my checklist for meeting individually with students. (Nancy Luebbert)
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
In Michael Crichton's book The Lost World, his sequel to Jurassic Park, the scientist Ian Malcolm observes that the velociraptors -- pack-oriented hunting dinosaurs that have been brought back from extinction through genetic engineering -- behave unexpectedly viciously towards each other. Ordinarily, pack animals would work under some kind of social structure, as, for example, when wolves are led by a single alpha male, disadvantaging other males but minimizing conflict and maximizing cooperation among the pack as a whole. But in the book, the velociraptors are depicted as combative and treacherous, attacking each other at the slightest provocation or opportunity.
Malcolm realizes that even though the DNA used to recreate these creatures captured perfectly the information needed to duplicate the originals physically, there had been no means by which the scientists could have reproduced the social structure that the original animals had developed and passed along over uncounted millennia. Without that information inherited from previous generations, the cloned velociraptors could only work out their own "culture" by trial and error -- mostly maladaptive, destructive error. They might well destroy themselves as a species all over again, just because they had had no chance to observe and learn from those who had come before them.
Every year, we are midwives to a new brood of legal hatchlings, law school graduates who must face the professional equivalent of nature red in tooth and claw: the bar examination. In the majority of cases, this is not an iterative, developmental experience. Most attorneys take the bar exam once and never have to apply its lessons again. But the lessons are real and valuable.
Some of those lessons are relatively easily compiled and organized, so that they can be provided/sold to future graduates through various forms of mass marketing: bar review courses that offer exhaustive compendia of necessary legal rules and concepts, or books that provide tips about studying, memorizing, essay writing, or time management. These can be quite helpful, and they provide a very large portion of the information that determines most applicant's behavior as they prepare for, and then take, the bar examination.
Still, for the most part, this information goes only to the development of the individual's fitness for the exam. Each individual applicant acquires certain needed components -- some knowledge, some judgment, some skills -- in the same way that an individual velociraptor can develop pointed teeth, sharp claws, and a muscular tail. And these components may serve that applicant well on the exam.
What about the social aspect? I see my students this summer gathering to watch lectures together. I hear about them supporting each other when they are confused or frustrated. I know they are pushing each other to stay on track in their study progress. They tell me about meeting up off campus or trading thoughts by phone or online. I know that, for my school at least, something is different this summer: the students are more communicative with me, they are completing more of their assigned work on time, and they are sharing more notes and resources with each other. This isn't something they've read in a book or took down in a lecture. It is the social structure of this class of legal hatchlings, developing in a healthy way.
It may only be an incremental change, increasing engagement or completion or quality by a few percentage points. But such changes, over time, is the definition of evolution. But it can only happen if we have some way of passing it along, some analogue of DNA that transmits the essence of this slightly modified social structure along to the next generation of hatchlings.
In a way, one aspect of our existence as Academic Success vectors is to carry this information, as best we can, from class to class, like plasmids shuttling genetic material from one bacterium to another. We can tell next year's graduates what this year's graduates did, ask them to trust us and to try the same strategies. To the extent they do trust us, and to the extent that we know and can articulate the changes to the social structure, this can be helpful.
We can also ask our alumni to transmit directly, inviting them to return to the classroom next year and to share their experiences with the following class. I did this twice this past spring semester, and my students seemed very responsive, asking lots of questions to help them suss out what to expect in the summer. Later this month, I plan to record some video of students engaged in studying, or willing to open up after a lecture or an exercise, so that my future students can get a better idea of how these students worked alongside each other.
It is great to seem some improvement in outcomes for our students, and often we can point to better development of individual skills as a contributor to this improvement. But just because changes to the social component of performance might be more difficult to isolate and package doesn't mean we should let them slip away from year to year, with just the hope that they might be recreated from scratch each time. Some information is transmitted via nucleotides; some information, via letters and numbers; but some can only be passed along, by explanation and example, from one society to its successor.
Monday, July 1, 2019
Don't fight [challenges]. Just find a new way to stand. - Oprah Winfrey
The bar exam is 30 days away. It may feel like you have been prepping for the bar exam all your life instead of six weeks. The 30-day mark is a great opportunity to acknowledge that not all bar takers enter bar study on the same footing. Students without strong academic records may be riddled with self-doubt about their ability to pass. For repeat takers, the mental and financial exhaustion of bar study can be all the more discouraging when experienced a second or third time. Past negative experiences are setbacks of which bar study brings daily reminders. These setbacks are short-term, but under the lens of today, they may seem to indelibly mark one’s chance for future success.
Whether your setback was a previous bar exam failure, or not finishing law school with the ranking or job opportunity that you hoped for, there is a comeback in your future. Maybe your setback is trying to juggle a full-time job and raise a family, while your peers bask in the seeming luxury of full-time bar study and an arsenal of supplemental study aids. Whatever the setback, use it as the gateway to an epic comeback.
If we track the lives of great actors, athletes, political leaders, and other celebrities, we'll find some major comeback that catapulted their career success. Public figures who have mastered the art of the comeback transform their reputations and eradicate public recall of scandals, felonies, fraud, and political defeat. After a comeback, onlookers almost never remember the setback, that is because the setback is never as good or as lasting as the comeback.
Instead of allowing your setback-circumstances to shape your attitude or approach to bar study, let your setback elevate you to greater heights. Pledge today to reform your thoughts. You are not struggling through bar study. You are making your comeback.