Friday, January 30, 2009

Responsibility for Teaching and Responsibility for Learning

I believe in humanizing legal education.  I believe in life balance.  I believe in improved teaching methods.  I believe in diversity in learning styles.  I believe in listening carefully and trying to help.  I believe in bending over backwards for students who are trying to learn.  I believe in spreading the wealth of ASP knowledge so that all can have more efficient and effective study methods.  I take responsibility for being the best ASP professional as I can.  And, I know many faculty colleagues who work equally hard at teaching.

I also believe that students need to take responsibility.  Students ultimately need to be responsible for their learning.  Students need to be responsible for working hard.  Students need to attend classes.  Students need to prepare for classes.  Students need to self-monitor their learning.  Students need to study more than 20 hours per week.  Students need to review material rather than cram.  Students need to set some limits on their social calendars.  And, when they do not know how to do any of these tasks effectively, then they need to take responsibility to seek help from faculty members, ASP staff, tutors/teaching assistants, counselors, and others.

I do not believe that we serve our students well when we let them descend into non-stop whining and avoiding of their academic responsibilities.  We are hopefully preparing them to be excellent practitioners as well as excellent human beings.  Responsibility is part of both roles.  (Amy Jarmon)         

January 30, 2009 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Learning Life Skills

Many law students are surprised when I announce some of the topics that we will work on in our weekly sessions.  They expect me to talk only about reading and briefing cases, outlining course material, and taking tests.  Instead, I add a number of life skills to the list: managing time, curbing procrastination, using learning styles, promoting memory, and managing stress.

At first some students are skeptical that these skills will have much impact on their grades.  However, as we explore these topics, my students begin to realize that law school is not just about torts, contracts, wills and trusts, or other legal topics.  Yes, the legal course material is important; it is not everything for success, however.

I meet some law students who are intellectually bewildered by legal analysis and unable to succeed.  But more often I meet students who are unable to tap their potential because they do not know how to set up a serious study regime for a very different intellectual challenge. 

Law school is not as much of a special place for special people as some would like the outside world to think.  Yes, it is difficult.  Yes, you have to be intelligent.  Yes, you have to be committed.  But, no, you do not have to study round the clock, lose sleep, and never see your family or friends.  The old adage about studying "smarter" does hold true.   

Time management is critical to good law school grades.  A rigorous time management schedule can help students make time for all of the different tasks: reading and briefing, reviewing before class, making outlines, reviewing outlines, memorizing rules, applying the law to practice questions, and writing memos or papers.  Most of my students who go from poor or mediocre grades to high grades will study outside of class for 50-55 hours per week.  Most of these same students were used to studying less than 20 hours per week outside of class when they came to law school.  Although "front loading" one's studying sounds daunting, it works far better than the alternative of cramming.  Consistent time management throughout a semester is rewarded by deeper understanding of material, greater retention of material, more sleep, less guilt, less stress, greater life-school balance - oh, and better grades. 

Procrastination is highly prevalent as I mentioned in my posting last week.  A number of strategies can be implemented by students to chip away at their procrastination tendencies.  Curbing procrastination means better time management.  Better time management means less procrastination. 

We rarely enter settings where material is presented specifically for our precise learning styles (absorption and processing).  However, if students know how to use their own preference combinations, they can learn more efficiently and effectively because 1) they know how to convert material to their own advantage and 2) they can use strategies to learn when they are confronted with their non-preferences.  Furthermore, they can adapt their learning style strategies for group or "solo" learning.

The student grapevine thrives on study myths that fly in the face of research on memory.  By understanding how memory works, students suddenly realize the disadvantages of cramming and depending on working memory (aka short-term memory).  Unlike undergraduate education where they had a number of courses they saw as superfluous to "real life" and unworthy of memory retention past the exams, most law courses have a longer "shelf life."  When I mention that good memory work during law school can mean less re-learning of material during bar review or later legal research, the light bulb goes on for students.

By proactively using all of these other life skills, students are able to lessen stress.  Learning additional methods to cope with stress can increase their resilience in any stressful environment.  Life balance becomes easier to attain when life skills come into focus.

Being more successful in law school is usually enough incentive for law students to tap their potential.  However, when I talk about how these same life skills will benefit them in the daily world of legal practice, the skills take on another meaning.  Any attorney can expound on time management, procrastination, learning style differences in meetings/teams, retention of the law, and stress.  If one gains good life skills during law school, one's life after law school will be far more pleasant.  (Amy Jarmon) 


January 29, 2009 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Job at Hofstra School of Law

Assistant/Associate Professor of Academic Support


Hofstra University School of Law invites applicants for the position of Assistant/Associate Professor of Academic Support. This is a full-time, renewable contract faculty position.

The Law School’s Academic Support professors have primary responsibility for teaching and counseling students to help them make adjustments to the academic demands of law school and to develop skills to reach their full academic potential for performance in law school, on the bar exam, and in the legal profession.  Included within these responsibilities are the following:

1) Administering and teaching of first-year and upper-level classes and workshops for students in need of academic support;

2) Assisting in the planning and implementation of first-year orientation programs;

3) Working with students in individual and small group sessions;

4) Identifying and assisting students who need additional academic support;

5) Designing and implementing innovative academic support programs;

6) Assisting with facilitation of the law school’s bar exam preparation programs and bar-exam related events.

Applicants must have a J.D., strong academic record, and background demonstrating a potential for excellence in academic support and an understanding of developments in legal pedagogy. Experience in law school academic support programs or other relevant teaching experience is strongly preferred. The successful candidate must possess strong organizational and interpersonal skills, the ability to work collaboratively with all members of the law school community, and excellent writing and speaking skills. Salary is commensurate with experience.

Hofstra University is an equal opportunity employer, committed to fostering diversity in its faculty, administrative staff and student body, and encourages applications from the entire spectrum of a diverse community.

Send a resume and writing sample to:
Professor Roy Simon
C/o Rachel Muganda
Hofstra University School of Law
121 Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY 11549-1210


January 28, 2009 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Job Listing-St. Mary's Law (May be Tenure Track!)

St. Mary’s University
School of Law

St. Mary’s University School of Law invites applications for the position of Academic Support Professor.  The law faculty has recently voted to create a faculty position that can begin on June 1, 2009.  The person filling this new, full-time position will be a member of the law faculty with multi-year contracts and the opportunity to apply for tenure-track if interested and suitably qualified.  The salary for the position of academic support professor will be commensurate with the qualifications and experience of the person employed, and also comparable to salaries paid tenure-track teachers with similar experience.

St. Mary’s University School of Law is located in the City of San Antonio.  The city is known for its tourist attractions, but also boasts a multi-cultural environment with an active legal and business community.  The Law School seeks to serve the South Texas region of the state, but also enrolls a geographically diverse student body. 

The Academic Support Professor will be responsible for designing and administering the academic support programs as required by the law faculty.  These tasks will be undertaken with the support and supervision of the Academic Support Committee of the law faculty.  We want programs that help our students improve their study, analytical, and test-taking skills so they will obtain the greatest benefit from the educational opportunity offered at the Law School.  Our broader goal is to help students prepare themselves for law school, for success in passing the bar exam, and for the competent and ethical practice of law.

The Academic Support Professor will work with law school faculty and administrators to support first-year students in adjusting successfully to law school and to enhance the educational development of second- and third year students.  Depending on interest and qualifications (and subject to faculty approval), the Academic Support Professor may also occasionally teach academic or skills courses within the law school. In addition, the Law School encourages and will provide support for the Academic Support Professor to engage in research and professional development activities in the academic support field.

A juris doctor degree from an ABA-accredited law school is a desirable qualification. An applicant should also have a strong academic record.  In addition, an applicant should have excellent written and verbal communication skills, and should have considerable (3-5 years) experience with an existing law school academic support program.  An applicant will be asked to provide a written description of the programs he or she would design for our students and make an oral presentation on that subject to the faculty.
Professor Laurie Zimet of the University of California, Hastings College of Law, has agreed to act as consultant to the Law School during the search.  To apply, send your resume with a cover letter by mail to Professor David Dittfurth, One Camino Santa Maria, San Antonio, Texas 78228, or by email to  <> .  If you have questions, please call David Dittfurth at one of the following: (210) 431-2206; 824-6718; or 316-7483.     Applications will be received at any time beginning on January 12, 2009, and continue until the position is filled.
St. Mary’s University School of Law is an equal opportunity employer. Women and minorities are strongly encouraged to apply for this position.

January 27, 2009 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Prevalence of Procrastination

Many law students suffer from procrastination.  In fact, some of them have perfected procrastination beyond my wildest imagination.  The reality is that many of them were able to procrastinate throughout college without any adverse effects (at least not on their grades).  When they arrive at law school, they assume that they can get the same good grades without changing any of their habits.

As I have been working with a new crop of students who need to change their strategies and curb procrastination, I began thinking about the favorite ways that students procrastinate.  Here are some of the top contenders:

  • E-mailing, instant messaging, and talking on the cell phone.
  • Taking naps for three or four hours.
  • Hanging out in the student lounge.
  • Running random errands so that every study hour is interrupted.
  • Organizing a study area until it is immaculate.
  • Cleaning the apartment/house so that it is spotless.
  • Major painting or re-decorating projects.
  • Using a family pet as an excuse to go home and do nothing ("I had to let the dog out.").
  • Attending every student organization meeting and speaker (whether or not interested).
  • Watching every mindless TV program available after a "must see" 1/2 hour sitcom.
  • Working on their abs daily for multiple hours.
  • Blaming everything on their computer (the modern version of "the dog ate my homework.")
  • Asking everyone they know if they have started an assignment (as long as one other person has not, permission to procrastinate is present).
  • Visiting everyone in the library to talk about the latest law school gossip.
  • Scheduling long weekends to go skiing because the snow is just so perfect in Colorado.
  • Joining another community or organization committee with major time commitments.
  • Surfing the net for information on anything.
  • On-line shopping for anything useless, unwanted, or unaffordable.
  • Endless thinking about a project, task, or deadline.
  • Focusing solely on one's job hunt (forgetting that an employer may well look at grades).
  • Planning a wedding (usually the student's), a baby shower (usually for Aunt Jennie's neighbor's daughter), or a family reunion (usually a year away in a different state with contentious relatives).

When I point out the effects of their procrastination methods, some students are surprised that there is any connection between their behavior and their grade performance.  When I suggest practical ways based on common sense to avoid the procrastination, they are surprised at how simple the techniques are to avoid procrastination.

We all suffer from procrastination at times (at least if we are normal and telling the truth).  An occasional transgression is understandable.  When procrastination becomes a major lifestyle, it has gone too far.  (Amy Jarmon)

January 23, 2009 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Revamping your law school strategy

I  just finished a workshop for 1L's on revamping their law school strategy.  I always give a start-of-the-spring semester workshop, but I wanted to make this year's different.  It's always a challenge to present to students in new and exciting ways; it's easy to get stuck in a rut and use the same strategies.  This semester, I am vowing to use more active learning exercises in my workshops. I thought active learning was a particular challenge while preparing the workshop because some of them have been standing room only--more than 100 students.  I use what I call "quasi-active" learning in many of my big classes; I ask questions and solicit student suggestions, but the students play a minimal role in the actual lesson.  With my background in teaching at the elementary school level, I am most comfortable teaching to a class with less than 30 students.  In my discomfort, I revert to the lecture-with-visuals strategy I know is not particularly effective when the workshops grow to 80 or more participants. 

But as I prepared, I started to reevaluate why I was so uncomfortable with changing strategies. Maybe it wasn't that I didn't think active learning strategies could be used with large groups of students; Kris Franklin, Alison Nissen, and Mike Schwartz's presentations at AALS used active learning strategies in a room with 100+ people.  The ASP and Teaching Methods joint meeting was one of the most fun AALS meetings I have ever attended, because I was allowed to play with the material, and I wanted ot try some of their techniques myself. But my initial discomfort is one that I have heard other professor's lament; active learning requires letting go of (the illusion of) control in the classroom.  I feel comfortable sharing the class with my students when I have fewer than 30 students; in fact, I don't feel comfortable playing "sage-on-the-stage" in smaller classes.   During the two years I was working on my MA in Education and my thesis, I was taught active learning was the only way to go, and it was modeled by the professors who taught my graduate courses.  As a result of the teaching in my graduate program, I know everyone shares "control" in a classroom, and it is an illusion that a teacher can "control" learning or behavior. I never applied active learning to a large class because we did not have, nor did we teach, to large classes in my graduate program. So I reverted to a modified version of the teaching methods used by my (law) professors in large classes because I didn't know how to transfer the lessons from one type of class to another.

It required some self-reflection both during the planning and after the execution of the workshop for me to reach some conclusions about the source of my discomfort.  I know the fundamental teaching principles do not change when the number of students in the room goes from 20 to 100 or more.  In a room of 30 people or less, I have the ability to engage each student personally, by asking questions and soliciting the opinions of everyone in the room. I can manage chatter by calling on students who seem lost or distracted.  I can address confusion without losing the rest of the class.  It's very difficult to do that is a large class; you just can't reach everyone personally.  Most importantly, I learned in graduate school how to build a sense of camaraderie and trust in small classes, and I don't know how to build those into large workshops.  When I trust my students and they trust me, we, as a class, feel comfortable taking risks with our learning. But if I don't trust the class, I replace that need for trust into a need for control.  It's an emotional response that undermines critical learning goals. 

But I took the leap.  I knew I had to try harder to employ active learning to all groups, large and small.  I figured that if the lesson flopped, at least I had tried.  I felt awkward standing at the front of the class, not talking, during the think and pair portions of think-pair-share.   I would have sworn that the students were bored when I asked them to think on their own.  But I caught myself learning from my students. I learned two new strategies for approaching case briefing and outlining that I will be sharing with future classes.   

Then I looked at the evaluations.  Except for one, they were overwhelmingly positive. It struck me that many of the students took the time to fill in the "comment" section on the evaluation (something they rarely do), and note how great it was that they could talk to their classmates about different strategies for reading, case briefing, and outlining. And that one negative evaluation...based on the comments, I don't know if I could have reached the student using any other teaching method. 

I learned you can build trust in a large classroom.  Using Mike Schwartz's think-pair-share, I could reach each group in the classroom.  I could still reach students confused about the material, but I had the additional support of their classmates as I brainstormed how to approach their issue.  Students who are uncomfortable speaking in a large class felt comfortable speaking to classmates in their group, and their group members could share their insights with the rest of the class.  (RCF)

January 21, 2009 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 16, 2009

An Oft-Forgotten Concern--Guest Column by Russell C. Smith

As we talk to students after first semester grades come out, I find that often I neglect to address one concern that I believe they all have, yet one that is not often expressed in our conversations with students.  We have no trouble focusing on grades, exam writing, study habits, briefing skills, etc.  Yet I find at the bottom of many of my students concerns, maybe subconsciously for some, lurk a couple of nagging questions.  If I am struggling academically, will I be a good lawyer?  Will I be able to make a living practicing law?  Embedded in these questions are perhaps the concern about repaying loans and living up to the expectations of others. 
    Students usually find some comfort when they realize that the correlation between academic performance and the potential for a successful practice career is not as strong as they might imagine.  I try to get students to think of the whole process of becoming a lawyer as hurdles to be jumped only once.  Once you’ve cleared the hurdles (LSAT, school, bar) then you’re at the finish line ready to practice and nobody really cares, particularly your clients, how difficult you found the hurdles.
    I usually tell students some true stories to help them with this concern.  We all know of students who struggled academically and then went on to fame and fortune or at least successful practices.  I share the stories of some people I know like this.  Also, we all know of superior academicians who, because of a lack of other skills, could never make a living as a practicing attorney.  In fact, some of these people would have trouble giving away legal service, let alone getting someone to pay them for it.  (If you are now thinking of some of the people you know in academia, shame on you!)   I practiced for ten years and never once did a client ask me what I made in evidence when deciding whether to hire me for a trial.  As an aside, I did hear a story of an assistant district attorney once who cited his performance in evidence class as authority for his argument regarding a piece of evidence.  The court was not persuaded.
    Students that struggle find some comfort in knowing many stellar legal careers have sprung from less than stellar law school performances.  Even if this is not verbalized by the student, I think most of the time they have concerns about their ability to practice and make a living.  It is a worry that we can help to alleviate.  And after all, every thing that we can help students become comfortable with is likely to take them to a better place, both emotionally and academically.

Russell C. Smith
Assistant Dean for Student Services

Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law
Campbell Law School
Buies Creek, NC

January 16, 2009 in Advice, Guest Column, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why did I ever go to law school?

As Liz stated in her wonderful posting yesterday, our minds are with our students who are struggling right now.  My posting below follows up on her theme.

Students are showing up in my office with the above question on their lips.  They generally fall into two categories.  Some ask because their grades are less than adequate in their eyes (and in some cases are actually probation grades).  For others, it is the thought of facing another semester of hard work and stress when they have begun to have doubts.

It would be easy to plunge in to a "Dean Fix-it" mode right away.  After all, we ASP types know lots of techniques and strategies and can usually see what needs to be "worked on" by each student.  Instead, I bite my tongue initially (fortunately, not all the way through yet), listen, and nod as the student tells me all about it.

The first thing most of my students want is the knowledge that somebody cares about how they are feeling.  My office is one of the places where they can check their machismo play-acting at the door.

The second thing most of my students want is the realization that no matter how embarrassed they are about their performing badly or questioning whether law school is still their goal, I do not judge them.  Life is full of obstacles and doubts.  My job is to help them move forward.

The third thing most of my students want is reassurance that they are not the only ones who have ever felt this way about grades or law school.  They are not failures though they may have failed or nearly failed courses.  They are not aberrant members of society if law school is no longer appealing. 

Finally, they want the reassurance that there are strategies and techniques that we can work on together that should be able to improve their grades and get them back on track if law is still their dream.  I am not a miracle worker.  But, I have seen students blessed with miracles when they worked exceedingly hard.  Does that mean that every student will make it?  No, but it means that I no longer think that I know which ones will or will not. 

[Of course, there are some students who definitely do not want to continue to pursue a law degree.  There are a few that statistically should not unless the law school has policies that provide options.  I help these types of students weigh the pros and cons, make a plan if they decide to withdraw or to stay, and believe in themselves after the decision.  If they stay, they need to know that I shall work 110% to help them (and expect them to do the same).  If they walk away, they need to know that law is not for everyone and that there is a life (and success and joy) outside law school.]

"Why did I ever go to law school?"  One of the reasons that I understand the question is because I asked it myself a few times during the process.  Fortunately for me, it was soul searching rather than grades that prompted the question.  However, the question was scary just the same.  (Amy Jarmon) 

January 14, 2009 in Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Feel Your Pain-Well, Now I Do....

My son's goldfish, Max, died yesterday.  Ben never seemed all that interested in him after the first few days and we were happy that we got our 13 cents worth of finny fun from him in that time alone.  Max was with us for about 6 weeks, but yesterday he was floating sideways in his little tank and was disposed of with all the pomp and flushing such an event requires.  But we didn't tell Ben last night and we didn't really think he would notice.  We were wrong.  This morning he came running into our room, "where's Max?"  Well, um, we stuttered, Max was sick and he couldn't swim anymore, but we can go to the pet store and get a new Max over the weekend.  Well, that was the wrong answer.  "I want the real Max back.  I don't want another Max; if I get another fish, he will have to have a new name because he will not be the real Max."  Then the tears--big, tragic, three-year-old tears--he was really and truly heartbroken.  We were surprised and a little ashamed that we assumed, wrongly, it wouldn't have much of an impact on him.

The first years here got (most of) their grades on Friday.  And I have seen my share of big, tragic, 22-25 year-old tears.  I was a little baffled when I realized that some of these students were crying about B's.  We have a B- grading curve here, so B's are actually considered above the pack-certainly not the kind of grades that will get you into academic hot water later on. 

I was as tempted to be dismissive of the students' angst over these grades as I was over the death of the 13 cent fish, but I realized that I had to take a step back and really listen to these students before I decided that they were being overly histrionic.  Some of these students have always been A students in prior educational settings; some have scholarships that are contingent on a certain GPA.  Either way, they have always defined themselves as smart, "good student" types.  To these students, a B can really shake the foundation of their self-definition--their very being.

We in Academic Support know that somewhere in the first year of law school, a student can get separated from the person they were--and the goals that they had--before they came to law school.  Grades that are unexpectedly bad (even if not objectively bad) can sometimes be the nail in the coffin of a student's prior persona.  This is scary stuff, especially when students are looking at two and half more years of school.

I find that reminding students to keep the grades in perspective helps.  Students need to know that while the grades are important (I can't tell them that the grades are not important, would you trust me if I did?); they are only important in their context and no other.  Your law school grades are not indicative of your worth as: a person, a son, a daughter, a husband, a wife, a parent or even a fish owner.  You will most likely go on, not only to finish law school successfully, but to be a good lawyer.  Your grades are only indicative of how well you were able to communicate your skills in a particular area of law, to one professor, in a two to three hour period, on one day.

This is not to say that I don't offer advice and guidance on how to do it better next time-mere comfort without future planning is an incomplete response to these issues.  I do a post-mortem with students on the exams that includes asking:  how did you study?  with whom? how did you feel the morning (or evening) of the exam?  how did you spend your time during the exam?  did you run out of time? and most importantly, have you spoken with your professor?  I offer appointments throughout the semester at regular intervals and exercises that can be done now to help get ready for spring exams.  And above all, I offer tissues and chocolate. 

In the end, my response needs to be the same for any student who is disappointed or even shocked by their midterm grades.  Even if those grades will not effect their academic standing down the road, a student's human standing is just as important. 

As for Max, may he float in peace. (ezs)

January 13, 2009 in Exams - Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Moving away from large lectures

While this article is about MIT's move away from large lectures in introductory physics, the rationale behind the change is applicable to law schools. MIT has moved away from introductory classes in physics with 300+ students, and failure rates have decreased 50%.  Attendance is up. 

Most applicable to law schools is a quotation by Prof. Eric Mazur:
“Just as you can’t become a marathon runner by watching marathons on TV,” Professor Mazur said, “likewise for science, you have to go through the thought processes of doing science and not just watch your instructor do it.”

Just as you cannot learn to think like a lawyer by watching your teacher do it.  (RCF)

At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard

By Sara Rimer
January 12, 2009
New York Times

After years of debate and research, M.I.T. has replaced a large introductory physics course with smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive learning.

January 13, 2009 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Notes from AALS ASP Business Meeting

(Please note: any errors are mine. If I made any egregious errors, let me know and I will fix. RCF)

Meeting of ASP Academic Support Business Meeting

January 7, 2009

Start of meeting: 6:25 pm

Kris Franklin: open meeting

Discussion of conflict with Balance in Legal Education Business Meeting. Motion to join the Balance business meeting was tabled until we addressed unique ASP issues.

Usually business meeting is held at close of the session, this is a change from previous years because we wanted an opportunity to talk with one another during a meeting when so many ASP folks are in one place.

First order of business: Last year, a number of committees were formed and met. They did a lot. Brief reports from the committees:

Bar Passage Committee: Many members, including the leader of the committee could not make it to the meeting. As a committee, they put together a letter regarding bar passage, that was not adopted, but there was a positive response to the letter. Move to continue the meeting.

Program Committee: Thank you to those presenting, did a wonderful job this year on the joint session with Teaching Methods. Thank you Vinita and Robin.

Website Committee: Started to help “jump-off” from Barbara Glesner-Fines website that we have been using as a group for some time. This year, AALS will be building a website for each section. Additionally, RuthAnn McKinney is creating an ASP resource website through LSAC, which is going “swimmingly”. Decision to wait and see what else is going on before we go forward and expend additional resources on a website.

Nominations Committee: Pavel is moving onto Chair, Kris is moving to immediate past chair, replacing Nancy Soonpaa. This moves Kristin Holmquist to chair-elect, Mike Swartz to secretary, Robin to treasurer, and moves onto and among the board members:

2009-2010 Slate:

Officers, serving one year terms:

Chair: Pavel Wonsowicz—UCLA Law

Chair Elect—Kristin Holmquist--Berkeley Law School

Secretary--Michael Hunter Schwartz—Washburn Law

Treasurer—Robin Boyle—St. John’s Law

Executive Committee Board Members:

Board A (expiry 2011)—Paula Manning—Whittier Law School

Board B (expiry 2011)—Rebecca Flanagan—Vermont Law School

Board C (expiry 2010)—Jeff Minetti—

Stetson Law


Board D (expiry 2010)—LaRasz Moody—Villanova Law (filling the seat vacated by Vinita Bali)

Kris Franklin moved to accept the board. Seconded. Kris moved to accept nominations from the floor. No nominations from the floor were put forward. Move to accept new board. Voted; Congratulation to the new board.

Carry-over business from 2009 business meeting:
Suggestion from last year—creation of a section award to recognize those who serve in ASP and have done extraordinary things for the field. The idea was put through the listserv as well as discussed at the meeting last year. There was some consternation about singling out one or two people when so many people are doing so many wonderful things; it doesn’t feel “ASP-ish.” A committee was formed that was favorable to creation of such an award. A draft has been circulated among the board, however, the AALS Executive Committee must approve. Because of this, the award can only be provisionally adopted at this point.

Commentary from the Award Committee—Jeff Minetti
Only three people responded from the listserv. Thank you to Barbara McFarland for her had work on this issue. The committee felt it was time to start honoring those who made significant contributions to ASP. Discussion of by-laws and how to approve the award. Discussion of what was meant by “present for quorum” in the bylaws, and how to approve such an award.

Barbara McFarland
Should note that the committee was not “balanced”; because those who volunteered for the awards committee were those in favor of creating the award.

Alison Nissen
This is one more thing, along with student support, to honor us, and additionally benefit our students when we are recognized for the work we do with them.

Jeff Minetti
This award will help us decide who we are as a field by recognizing who is the very best among us.

Kris Franklin moved that this year’s board tinker with the details on the award and get started. All in favor, vote was unanimous.

Open topics:
Should we have a section newsletter?
The Learning Curve hasn’t come out in a while, and isn’t an “official” newsletter of this section. Ken Rosenblum, as a past editor of The Learning Curve, volunteered to assist getting The Learning Curve started again. Noted that Hillary Burgess is working with David Nadvorney to get things started again. Also noted that we should be making repeated appeals for articles for a new issue of The Learning Curve by everyone in ASP. At this time, no new section newsletter was approved.

Transition to new chair: Pavel Wonsowicz

Continue with the nominating committee. Noted by Ken Rosenblum that this committee is actually required by the AALS bylaws. If chose t be on the nominating committee, cannot seek or accept an executive position while serving on the nominating committee.

Bar Passage Committee: Paula Manning noted that a number of people committed electronically to continuing the committee. If others want to join, contact Paula Manning, “the more the merrier.”

Planning Committee: Robin Boyle has served as the head of the planning committee for three years; Vinita would have taken over but has moved on from ASP. Emily Randon of UC-Davis volunteered to take over for Robin, with Robin’s wise assistance, Kathy Garcia, Hillary Hoffman, and Barbara McFarland also volunteered for the planning committee.

Joanne Koren noted how it was wonderful to combine with another section. This year ASP combined with teaching methods for a joint session at annual meeting, maybe explore joint session with Balance in Legal Education?

Kris Franklin moved to discuss whether to continue with the ASP breakfast. There is significant concern over the cost of the section breakfast.


LSAC National Meeting will be Wednesday June 3-June 6 at St. Louis University.  Barbara McFarland received approved from her Dean to host a small regional ASP meeting at Northern Kentucky. Contact Barbara if interested. The proposed date is immediately after the LSAC National conference to provide an opportunity to share materials with those that cannot attend.

Emily Randon solicited interested people for a western regional ASP meeting. Contact Emily if you want to get involved.  They will meet tonight after the meeting to organize.

No further business-Meeting adjoined.


January 12, 2009 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Asking Faculty for Help

I sent an e-mail to my faculty today asking for help so that I can do a better job for my students.  I know that our students benefit when we coordinate our efforts rather than either side having isolated efforts.

My e-mail was specifically about their implementing some suggestions during their appointments with students to review exams.  For many of our faculty, they will have already been doing all the things I suggested.  And, for others, it meant asking them to increase their burden a bit.

I am very fortunate that Texas Tech law faculty work daily to help our students improve their performance.  We have a true open door policy here that means our students have the opportunity for a great deal of faculty contact if they wish to solicit help.  My faculty has been very welcoming of ASP since I began the program.  So, I realize that it was non-threatening for me to ask my faculty to help me out.

I have suggested below some things that you might ask faculty for help with as they begin to see students who are worried about grades (or at least want to do better this semester).  This list is brief and does not encompass everything that could have been included.

  • If a student mentions s/he is on probation, encourage the student to work with ASP staff immediately.  Some students try to go it alone.  The more people who tell them to work with ASP, the more likely they will follow up with an appointment.
  • If a student had a low grade but did not end up on probation, encourage the student to work with ASP staff also.  These students can benefit from ASP help even though they may not consider themselves as being "in trouble."  A few appointments on appropriate strategies can elicit dramatic results.
  • Echoing Rebecca's advice, faculty should be on the lookout for students who have disabilities but failed to request accommodations or whose disabilities have gone undiagnosed before law school.  ASP staff can help students with study strategies and make referrals that may be needed.
  • Faculty should also be on the lookout for students who have other factors interfering with their performance.  Coping with illness, death in the family, or financial concerns can be debilitating.  Married students often have special circumstances as do law students with children.  ASP staff can help these students with study techniques that take into account their circumstances.  ASP staff can also make appropriate referrals to other deans or services.
  • Suggest that a faculty member talk with you personally if there is any student about whom s/he especially concerned.  Again, you may be able to assist the student and make referrals as needed.
  • Students often listen carefully to faculty feedback but do not write down any notes.  Ask faculty members to encourage students to take notes so that when you later work with them you will have the details and not just the gist of the exam review.  (This generation of college and graduate students seems especially prone to avoid notes in meetings and appointments.)
  • Thank your faculty ahead for their help and for all the other things that they do for your students each day that make your job easier.

I provide my faculty and students with handouts on questions/patterns to refer to during the exam review process.  In addition, I ask them to make suggestions on how I can improve these handouts.  If you have similar handouts, consider sharing them so that all of you are working on the same agenda in exam reviews.

If you are not sure whether your faculty as a whole would welcome a solicitation for help and suggestions from you, then start small.  Have the discussion with those faculty members who will be open to coordination of efforts.  Alternatively, talk with the Associate Dean for Academics about a possible joint communication with the faculty.  (Amy Jarmon)

January 8, 2009 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Grades and Disabilities

This is the time of the year when grades start coming in, and distraught students soon follow. There are numerous prior posts on dealing with the aftermath from fall grades; if you are new to ASP, I would suggest scrolling through the archives to find some of the wonderful, informative posts  by the current and former blog editors. 

When students land on your doorstep, please listen carefully to their stories.  Many of their stories will sound the same.  But listen for things you may not think are relevant; listen for signs of disabilities.  My advice is two-fold; listen for disabilities the students may not have felt comfortable disclosing at the start of law school, and listen for signs that a student may need a referral to a specialist to be tested for learning disabilities.  Disabilities may not be "handled" by your office, but ASP professionals are frequently the first ones to hear or see a problem. Don't assume the student knows where to go, or who to speak to, if your office doesn't handle the technical side of accommodations for students with disabilities. Find out where to refer students if you do not know.  Students hit with the double whammy of lackluster grades and the possibility of a disability may be disoriented and overwhelmed; help them by having the relevant information on hand.  Many times, it's as easy as googling your institutions website and searching for accommodations.  Sometimes it will require a phone call to your Dean of Student Services. 

Here is a short list of things to listen for in student meetings:

1) "My arm/leg/wrist fingers ached throughout the exam, so I just couldn't type/write fast enough. I broke my arm/leg/wrist last year, but it's all healed." 
Many students think that they are done healing when the cast or brace comes off. In reality, it takes much longer for broken bones to heal, and they may need a temporary or permanent accommodation for exams if the break was within the year, or  if it was a complex or multiple fracture. 

2) "I think I had some special help when I was, like, in kindergarten or something, but I don't really remember. My parents said I was fine." 
Red flags should go up when you hear a student mention accommodations or a diagnosed learning disability in the past. Law students are high achievers, and they may have found ways in the past to compensate for a deficit. Ask them to find any original paperwork if possible, and  ask them to schedule additional testing with a specailist. Let them know that the law school is requesting the paperwork so they have a response if their parents balk at the request to dig up the past.  Some parents have a hard time believing their high achieving, superstar daughter or son may be struggling with a learning disability. 

3) "I am so ashamed. I am so stupid. I thought if I just worked more, it would be fine. When I worked really hard in college, I did fine, although I studied 60 hours a week and only carried 9 or 11 credits a semester.  I had to put so much time into my classes in undergrad that it took me 5 years to graduate. But I only had three classes this semester, and I still did bad." 
Students who had to work exceptionally, unusually hard in undergrad to achieve good grades can hit a wall when they get to law school.  Listen carefully to their story; unusual amounts of work to achieve good grades in the past is a sign that the student may have an undiagnosed learning disability. The student worked exceptionally hard to compensate for a deficit, but the pace and nature of law school require more than extra hard work.  These are the hardest students to refer to a specialist.  I err on the side of referring a student when it seems unclear.  It's better to  over-refer than have a student  academically dismissed because of an undiagnosed learning disability. 

4) "My medication makes me sleepy all the time/keeps me up all night/makes me jittery and forgetful. I feel like I am always out-of-it. There is nothing I can do; I have to take medication X."
Send the student back to the prescribing doctor with instructions to get the side effects documented.  Many prescription medications can make a 3 or 4 hour exam impossibly difficult.  Small accommodations, such as a private testing room or short breaks, can make the exam manageable. 

These are just four of the many stories you may hear after students receive fall grades.  If you have a question, ask the person in charge of accommodations at your school. If you need more guidance than they can provide, check out professors at the school of education on your campus, if you have one.  Many education professors are happy to help or provide recommendations if you ask.  (RCF)


January 5, 2009 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Thoughts on Getting Ready for Spring Semester

Happy New Year to one and all!  I hope that 2009 will bring both personal joy and professional success.  Some of you are gearing up for your arrival in San Diego for AALS.  Others of us will be on our home turf either because of commitments or travel budgets.

Whatever your situation, I thought I would pass on some suggestions before you start a new semester of classes.  As Rebecca commented in her last post before the holiday closings for our law schools, we can absorb stress from our students because we have compassion and "feel their pain" as they go through crises. 

It is important that we continue to de-stress before our offices are busy once again.  All too soon we shall be inundated with students in crisis over disappointing grades, probation status, and (depending on your school's rules) dismissal.  If your school is like mine, I see a whole slew of new faces all semester long.  Hopefully, some of the suggestions below will help your semester go smoothly.

  1. If you are one of the fortunate ones who can attend AALS, spend lots of time talking with your ASP colleagues to share your ideas and get new ideas in return.  There is nothing more energizing than being with our ASP counterparts!  One of the hallmarks of our group is that we support each other and want others to succeed. 
  2. If budget cuts, overwhelming demands or other factors have you a bit blue about your job right now, seek out an experienced colleague who has been through a number of semester cycles and can be a mentor and encourager.  If you are at AALS, ask a colleague to lunch.  If you are alone in your office, contact a colleague at another school for a telephone chat.  All of us have turned to colleagues during rough patches at one point or another.    
  3. Get as much rest as possible.  In most states it is the perfect time of year to climb into bed early, snuggle under the covers, and read a non-law book before dozing off earlier than usual.  Research shows that people who consistently get less than six hours of sleep are chronically sleep deprived.  So get those ZZZZ's with pride all semester long.
  4. Treat yourself well now and throughout the semester.  You deserve it.  Do not skip meals, even when your students are lined up outside your door and you need to eat at your desk some days.  Get some exercise.  ASP types often become sedentary because they are exhausted by the end of a day of multiple appointments, teaching, committee meetings, and so forth.  Take your vitamins.  Our students share their germs as well as their crises.  Set some boundaries to protect your personal time.  All of us come in early or stay late at times because of students in crisis or too many students to see in a 40-hour week.  However, overworking should not become a consistent way of life.      
  5. Start multiple "to do" lists.  Have one for things that must be completed before the semester begins.  Have a second list for items to be completed in the first week: daily lists for that week can be added if you work better with further specificity.  Have a first month list prioritized so you can easily move items to new weekly lists.  Finally, make a "wish" list for the things you would like to do when time or money allow.
  6. Get organized.  Now is a great time to go through the stacks on your desk and discard, file or act on items.  Restock office supplies.  Delete old e-mails that are no longer needed from your archives.  Start a list of projects for your administrative or work study assistants.
  7. Schedule times each month for uninterrupted creative thinking.  Think about new ideas for programs.  Think about improvements to current programs.  Think about ways to be more efficient.  Think about ways to be more effective.  Think about new ways to present material for diverse learning styles.       
  8. Schedule times each month for uninterrupted professional reading - most of us have a desk pile of ASP, legal teaching, and bar prep articles that never quite disappears because new items join the stack.  Alternatively, choose one of the latest books in the field to read cover to cover rather than hurriedly dipping into it during a random few minutes.
  9. Schedule times each month for uninterrupted professional writing.  Whether you write for an AALS newsletter, your law school alumni magazine, a journal submission, or the book you have always meant to write, fit in the time.  If you have a new or evolving program, you may also use the time to prepare new handouts or manuals for your students and tutors/teaching assistants.  Get fingers to keyboard so that your colleagues and students can benefit from your expertise.
  10. Count your blessings.  Before you go to bed each night, think of at least three things that you did during the day that made a difference (no matter how small) for students or colleagues.  Then think of at least three things (no matter how limited) that you like about your job.  Then think of one small thing that you will improve on tomorrow.  Finally, think of at least three other blessings in your life outside of your ASP world.

Best wishes for healthy and happy weeks ahead.  (Amy Jarmon) 

January 2, 2009 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)