Monday, September 22, 2008

Report from the Fall 2008 LSAC Bar Preparation Workshop

I have just returned from the Fall 2008 LSAC Bar Preparation Workshop held at Southwestern Law School in L.A, California. It was a wonderful affair, and HUGE thanks go out to Paul Bateman from Southwestern, Kent Lollis from LSAC, and the planning committee for doing a great job putting together the conference. 

As is my usual fashion, here are the highlights. My apologies in advance if I miss some presenters; I am feeling a bit jet-lagged:

Catherine Carpenter (Southwestern) and Rod Fong (Golden Gate) kicked off the conference with discussions on the history and implementation of 301-6. This was informative and helpful to all of us as we work to find ways to meet the requirements of the new standards.

The following morning started with the inimitable Mike Schwartz on what happens in the first year of law school shouldn't stay in the first year. Mike's presentation was really a theme that ran throughout all the presentations; if we build a secure foundation for learning the first year, bar preparation and support become a much easier task during the third year of law school and beyond.  A secure foundation includes more than just great teaching of the first year/MBE subjects; a secure foundation encompasses autonomy support, life management skills, and the ability to find and use the resources offered by the school. 

New this year was the extended-commerical format before breakout sessions. Many of us who attended the LSAC workshops in the past have felt like we had to chose blindly between several great workshops.  This year, the planning committee adopted an extended-commerial format, where the leaders of the breakout sessions were asked as a panel to give brief blurbs on what they were doing in their session.  This was a great change to the program and much appreciated by those of us in attendance. 

The next set of presenters, Lisa Lukasik of UNC Law, Jan Jemison of Hastings, and myself, of Vermont Law, presented on advising, counseling, and conferencing before, during, and after bar results.  I started off on how to introduce the bar exam during pre-orientation and orientation for 1L's, Lisa did a fabulous job presenting on programs for 3L's and bar takers, and Jan gave a wonderful overview of how the LEOP program supports non-passers after bar results are released.  Lisa has some really awesome resources for working with students who have anxiety or stress before exams. 

Laurie Zimet was the new presenter on upgrading learning strategies to meet the challenges of the bar. Laurie, as always, demonstrated some fabulous active learning techniques that reminded us all that the skills students should master for law school exams are remarkably similar to the skills students need to master the bar exam. 

I was only able to attend two of the three breakouts sessions that followed, but I received rave reports   about the session I did not attend.  Ben Bratman (Pitt) presented on the MEE/Essay portion of the exam; I was not able to attend that breakout, but I heard great things about his lesson. Pavel Wonsowicz (UCLA) presented on how the MPT is the best friend of every bar student who takes the bar in an MPT jurisdiction.  Pavel was not only informative and gave us some strategies to take back to our students, but provided the comic relief we all needed after so much information being thrown at us.  Mary Basick (Whittier), a new member of our community, presented on the MBE. Mary was a knockout; I strongly recommend any school that is struggling with how to teach MCQ skills to bar takers to contact Mary. 

The last formal presentation of the workshop was Emmy Reeves (Richmond) and Paula Manning (Whittier) on the what and how of data collection and the program evaluation requirements under 301-6.  Both ladies are masters in the field of program evaluation and using the statistics to measure program outcomes.  All of us in the field have strong feelings about how statistics are collected and used to evaluate learning,  but the presentation steered away from the emotional aspects of data collection and focused on how to do what we must do in order to meet the requirements posed by 301-6.

If you are new to ASP and have not been able to make the LSAC workshops, ask your dean for the money to go. These are an invaluble to those of us who work in ASP, and great networking opportunities to get to know your peers who also work in the trenches.

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