Sunday, August 22, 2010

Case briefs and apple crisp

Sue Liemer at Southern Illinois posted a short piece on Sunday, August 22nd on the Legal Writing Prof Blog with a good illustration of how perfecting case briefs is like perfecting apple crisp recipes.  If you did not see it, it is worth a look at: Comparing apples to case briefs   Thanks, Sue, for your insight!  (Amy Jarmon)   

August 22, 2010 in Miscellany, Reading, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 20, 2010

ASP survey coming soon to an inbox near you

So often we wish we had information about what other law schools are doing in the ASP area.  For some time there has been discussion encouraging data collection from all of us about our staffing patterns and program details.  The Law School Academic Success Project is undertaking a survey of academic support programs/staffing with assistance from LSAC. 

The following announcement about the survey was posted by John Mollenkamp on the ASP listserv today.  Please help us by providing the contact information requested so that the correct person at your law school will receive the upcoming survey.  (Amy Jarmon)


As you may already know, we're trying to develop a Survey of Academic Support Programs in hopes of gathering data about what programming different law schools offer (and what staffing those programs have, among other things).  Those familiar with the Legal Writing Survey may  be glad to know that our planned survey is MUCH shorter.

But, to have a similar response rate (even for a shorter survey), we're going to need to find out who should answer the survey at each law school.  Thus, starting next week and lasting through Labor Day, we're going to begin sending out individual e-mails to the folks that we THINK might be the right person to answer the survey.  Then, once we've built that list, we'll send survey information to those folks.

You can help us now, though, by coming forward (by reply e-mail OFF-LIST to [email protected]) and giving your name, school, and e-mail for purposes of getting the survey answered.  If you have multiple folks at your school who might be interested in answering the survey, you'll need to collaborate and decide which person will be the contact person and the one to receive the survey (though you can all work on answering it).  If we don't know the "right" person, we'll probably ultimately send it to a Dean found via a web search with hopes of it getting forwarded.  This is not nearly as good, of course, as getting it directly to the person who knows the answers already.

Thank you for your help in getting the ASP Survey off to a great start.  I'm also glad to answer any questions you might have about this project.

John Mollenkamp

Clinical Professor of Law

Director of Academic Support

Cornell Law School

(607) 255-0146

[email protected]

August 20, 2010 in Program Evaluation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Second call for news on new ASP'ers

During July, I requested news on new folks in ASP at law schools so that we could introduce them on the Blog to the entire ASP community.  I am repeating the item now that we are nearing the start of school in case some folks did not see it earlier.  (Amy Jarmon)

It is the time of year when we begin collecting short profiles, pictures, and web links for folks who are joining ASP work for the first time or who have moved to different ASP positions over the summer. 

If someone new has joined your ASP staff since May 1st or if you have moved to a different school or position, please send us a one paragraph blurb (title, duties, law degree, work experience, awards, hobbies, etc.) as well as a link to your law school's faculty/administrator profile on the web.  If that profile does not include a picture, please also send us a picture of the person as an e-mail attachment.

We will begin a series of Academic Support Spotlight postings after the new academic year begins so that all of us in ASP can meet the new members of our community and congratulate our current colleagues on their job moves.  Our community is so friendly that it will give folks a "heads up" so that they can watch for new colleagues at conferences and workshops.

If you would like us to do a spotlight posting on you or someone new to your ASP staff, please send the requested information to [email protected]

Welcome to everyone new!  Congrats to all of you who have re-located this summer!  I look forward to hearing from you. 

August 18, 2010 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Position at Duquesne for Director of Academic Excellence Program

Duquesne is seeking applicants for the newly-funded position of "Director of the Academic Excellence Program." 

This position serves as Director of Academic Support for the School of Law. The Director will have a 12-month non-faculty, full-time administrative appointment. The Director will administer and advance the School’s academic support program, which assists law students as they develop and improve legal study, writing, and test-taking skills, adjust to the challenges of law school, and prepare to enter law practice. He/she will work with law school faculty and administrative staff to create and present first-year orientation and academic skills programs and to coordinate a yearlong peer mentoring program. The Director will design and implement programming to enhance the professional development of second- and third-year students as they make curricular choices, sharpen their academic skill, and prepare to take the bar examination. As a complement to programming, the Director will also work closely with individual first-year and upper-level students to improve their academic and professional skills. He/she may assume other duties related to law student services as well, such as working with students for whom English is a second language.

For more information, and instructions on how to apply, please visit the Human Resources section of the Duquesne University website at and  This position will not be officially posted online until the first week of August 2010.

August 16, 2010 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Inspiring Future Lawyers

I spent the last three weeks on the Stanford campus, working for the Center for Talented Youth. This is a long-time labor of love for me; it brings me back to my roots as an elementary school teacher.  It also takes me far away from my daily life; I teach a subject completely unrelated to what I do throughout the year.  This summer, I was working with 6th graders in Model United Nations simulations.

At the end of the session, some of the students had decided they wanted to be lawyers. These are not typical 12 year olds; they are in the top fraction of 1% in IQ. Many have been exposed to the type of travel and experiences few can enjoy, even as an adult. What impressed me most were the reasons why some of them wanted to be lawyers; they wanted to be lawyers because they liked to learn, they wanted to help people, and liked that lawyers saw the world from a variety of angles, not just one perspective.  I was inspired by my students reasoning; they wanted to become lawyers because of what lawyers do, not because of what lawyers get (in compensation, authority, etc.) None of them said that lawyers are rich or powerful.

I had an in-depth conversation during lunch with one of my students. Both of his parents are attorneys. He was well aware of the time commitments and sacrifices lawyers make for their clients.  However, he still saw a law degree as a possibility on his way to working in foreign relations. He was able to isolate the sort of thinking skills lawyers need, and match them to the thinking skills needed when working with people from diverse perspectives from around the world.  Another student said that she thought law school would give her negotiation skills, so she could solve problems "without yelling."  

I was inspired by my students.  Over and over, they expressed the desire to learn the law because it can be a tool, not a weapon, during disputes.  Due to their life experiences, most students had lawyers in their family or knew lawyers through their parents. Notably absent was the role of television and movies in their decision to be lawyers.  Most watched a limited amount of television, and had not been seduced by the idea that law is all fun, money, and courtroom drama. They knew the struggles, and the challenges, of law school and a legal career by getting to know lawyers. They saw the power of learning how to think like a lawyer.  These students put a high value on the power of thinking.  They were metacognitively sophisticated at a young age.  It inspired me to see the next generation of lawyers with a realistic view of the profession, its rewards and its pitfalls.  (RCF)

August 11, 2010 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


(Note to reader: This is my first ever blog post, so I hope you will afford me some leeway as I find my voice.) 

According to one songwriter, you should “[f]ollow your heart [because] your intuition, it will lead you in the right direction.”  Indeed, if you “[l]et go of your mind, your intuition is easy to find.” (Jewel, “Intuition.”)

I have been thinking a lot about intuition.  Simply put, I question whether intuition is good, bad, or both when it comes to academic support?  Is it better to let our minds go and allow intuition to guide us?
Having met many of the members of the academic support community, I can say confidently that a significant percentage of those drawn to work in academic support are thoughtful, caring, often empathic people.  Our DNA mandates that we work in a position where we can help others.  For example, years before I took the academic support position I have now, I knew, instinctively, that I wanted to work with new law students and help them adjust to the rigors of law school.  I am sure that many other academic support professionals had the same inclination. 

In our roles as academic support professionals, we wear many different hats.  We act as academic advisors, of course, helping students figure out how to outline, take notes, review, and write essay exam answers.  But we also are counselors, career advisors, mentors, coaches, and even -- at times -- surrogate parents.  We wear these hats willingly, and, to the extent that we ever take them off, we can put them back on at a moment’s notice.  

Notwithstanding the many aspects of our professional duties, many of us have very little formal training.  Of course, there are some who are well-trained professionals, but the rest of us, while smart and highly capable, often rely on intuition.  (And I do not mean to ignore the highly valuable training and guidance provided through the Law School Admissions Council and the American Association of Law Schools.)  For the most part, I think that our intuition serves us well.  We are encouraging, we challenge our students, and we look for creative ways to assist them.  But, unless your last name is Jarmon, how do you really know how to work with a student who has an unusual learning style?  Unless you are Marty Peters or Ruth Ann McKinney, do you really know how to effectively counsel students in crisis?  (And really, unless you are Michael Hunter Schwartz, how can you even look at yourself in the morning?) 

We read and write articles, go to conferences, and, over time, we develop competence in these areas through trial and error.  In large part, if we are honest, we rely on intuition.  For example, most of us are not qualified to diagnose the student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), nor do we appreciate the difference between that and attention deficit disorder (ADD) – I had to Google that just to be sure there was a difference.  Nevertheless, we must rely on our intuition to help those with learning disabilities.  (I do not mean to paint us all with the same brush.  Indeed, perhaps I should refer only to myself.  But my intuition tells me that I am not alone.)

Many times, our intuition guides us to do the right thing.  Help a disorganized student schedule her time, help a lost student see the forest notwithstanding the many trees, help a depressed student find the motivation to work.  But is it possible that sometimes we say the wrong thing and never know it?  Do we encourage when brutal honesty is more appropriate?  Do we assuage when we should increase pressure?  Are we harsh when a gentler, kinder approach would be better?  [Having recently returned from the LSAC workshop on counseling, my inclination is to compare us to those who work in counseling as therapists or psychologists.  I am sure that many work in that profession because they, too, feel an innate need to help others.  But no one would ever claim competence in that area without substantial training.  Should we be any different?]

Perhaps we make mistakes and never know it.  Maybe, over time, we do enough right that it all works out in the end.  Maybe, the words of Amy Jarmon in response to my draft post are the most enlightening:

All of us [rely on intuition] (even those of us with lots of experience and expertise).  Any training (whatever its source) will assist in fine-tuning that intuition.  Study and research can also aid our intuition.  Often, expertise in an area is built over time on a series of intuitions that prove right consistently.  And, we have to be willing to learn from our students on a daily basis to gain knowledge that we may have missed with our intuition or which tweaks our intuition to be a bit more accurate. 

While I write this post in no small part to encourage us to deliberately develop our professional expertise, my intuition tells me that Amy is right.

Russell McClain

August 4, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)