Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gearing students up for bar prep

I haven't worked on bar prep for a couple of years, but I speak to many colleagues at other law schools who spend most of their summer working with alumni on preparing for the bar exam.This is a short list of recommendations based on what I have heard from colleagues and my own experience preparing students for the bar exam:

1) Never take the bar exam "for practice"

Look at the bar exam for what it is--THE bar exam. Students who worry about anxiety getting in the way of performance sometimes tell themselves they will take it once "for practice" to become acquainted with the exam. However, this can lead them to sloppy study techniques. I hope this attitude becomes more rare with the changes in the economy. Students do themselves a disservice when they try to alleviate anxiety by telling themselves they can take it again, because it removes ALL the pressure. Some pressure to perform is good, because it focuses study. There is a middle ground between paralyzing anxiety and dismissing the exam as practice. Students should focus on that middle ground.

2) Don't let practice tests scare you--let them guide your study

Early practice exams frequently come back marked up with significant suggestions. Students need to realize that they have time to fix the errors. Making mistakes in May and June does NOT mean they are not ready to take the bar exam. It usually means they need more focused practice on the areas that are difficult for them. Don't let students give up if they are struggling.

3) Practice your writing under timed conditions

Some students will take practice exams without the time constraints to test how much they know. This is a mistake because it gives them a false sense of confidence. It does not help a student if they know all the law, but it takes them too long to recall it. Knowledge of the law is critical, but being able to recall the law accurately while under pressure is essential to bar exam success.

4) Stay away from gimmicks

Oh, the gimmicks. There are too many to list. Students hear all about how to "game" the test, strategies to do well on one part and ignore another, or spend disproportionate amounts of time on some area of the law. I am not talking about smart studying based on examination of long-term trends on the exam, which is valid and helpful. I am referring to the word-of-mouth, unsubstantiated gimmicks that students hear about from people who took the bar decades ago, or from friends-of-friends-of-friends. These gimmicks almost always lead to problems. Studying for the bar exam is, for the most part, straightforward. Students need to know the law. Students need to be able to perform under timed conditions.

5) Don't over-study and burn out before the exam

Another tactic of students with exam anxiety is to study 12-14 hours a day, every day, and plan to keep up that schedule for over two months. It is not realistic that your mind or body can maintain that type of schedule. Focused, meaningful study, with breaks and time to enjoy life, is the path the success. It's all about balance. Overstudying means that by the time the exam comes, students won't have the stamina necessary for a 2-3 day test.

6) Don't beat yourself up over minor slip-ups in bar prep

Just like in life, stuff happens. You get sick. You just have a bad couple of days when you can't focus. Your car breaks down and you spend all day waiting for the mechanic to tell you what is wrong. While a bar prep schedule is critical, be sure that the study plan is flexible enough to accommodate life. If something throws the bar prep schedule off course, just get back to the schedule and plan to make up what was missed a little bit at a time, until it's all covered.

7) Don't talk to anyone about the exam during breaks or after it is finished

It is tempting for students on exam day to rehash what was difficult. DON'T LET THEM DO IT! It will freak them out and make them think they failed the exam. What is done is done. There is no point in rehashing the exam, because it leads to unnecessary anxiety.


June 30, 2011 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What makes law school so different for many new law students?

We have all heard it announced during law school orientation programs that law school is not like any other educational experience.  We have all heard someone (or multiple people) tell the new students that it will be harder than anything they have done in prior education, that they will need to work harder than ever before, and much more.

There seem to be several reactions to these types of statements.  Some students over-react by becoming very anxious, doubting their ability to succeed, and working themselves to the point of exhaustion.  Some students under-react by assuming that the warnings only apply to everyone else in the room.  Some students take the warnings to heart, react appropriately by learning the differences, and seek ways to study effectively for law school.

I think warning statements during orientation programs are ineffective with many students because the warnings do not include information on why law school is so different and why they will need to work harder.  Without more information students are considering the statements in a vacuum.

Most new first-year students do not realize some of the items in the following list.  They might be more likely to heed warnings about their upcoming experience with this information available.

Active learning is required instead of passive learning.  Many incoming law students have come from educational environments that did not encourage them to be engaged learners.  They attended lectures delineating everything that would be on the exam, and they were merely expected to regurgitate it for an A grade.  Textbooks included all of the material for the course with little need for critical thinking or synthesis. Few writing assignments were long enough to require students to go beyond the obvious.

One grade is the norm rather than multiple grades in a course.  Most college courses provided for multiple test or assignment grades.  Grades addressed smaller chunks of material within the course rather than being comprehensive.  With grades addressing manageable chunks, it was possible to cram for a few days before an exam or start an assignment right before the due date and still get a high grade.  However, when one final exam grade covers 15 weeks of material, cramming no longer works.  A paper that is expected to meet a legal standard of excellence cannot be written right before it is due.  In addition, the anxiety level of the student increases because so much rides on the exam or paper.

"It depends" is the response rather than finding the right answer to a question.  Many undergraduates study disciplines that have a correct answer as the goal.  The easy cases in law never get to court.  Law students are often surprised by the "it depends" nature of the law.  They become frustrated with arguing both sides, looking for nuances in the law, and being uncertain of a final right outcome.  In the very different world of legal analysis, they become disoriented and discouraged without the security of the "right answer" to comfort them.

Professors expect them to learn the basics before class and continue to analyze material after class.  Many professors give guidance the first couple of weeks so that students learn how to read and brief cases for their particular courses.  After that initial period, however, students are expected to analyze the cases and understand the basics before class.  Professsors then begin to focus class time on more advanced discussion of the cases, the nuances in the law, and increasingly difficult hypotheticals.  It is not uncommon for them to walk out of class without the answers to the hypotheticals discussed.  Students may not be accustomed to having responsibility for learning material on their own.  Many of them have only had to learn what was directly taught to them during all-encompassing lectures.

Learning the law is only the beginning and not the end of the process.  Many first-year students misunderstand the place of black letter law in legal analysis.  They think that memorizing the law will by itself give them an A grade.  They do not understand that they must know the law, but then will need to be able to apply it to new facts on the exam.  They must be able to issue spot, state the law, apply it to the facts through arguing for both parties, appropriately use policy, and draw conclusions.  The application or analysis will give them the bulk of the points that they need. 

Law school requires many more hours of studying outside of class.  Many new law students only studied 10 - 20 hours per week outside of class during their undergraduate studies.  They do not understand that law school will take far more hours if they want to get their best grades.  50 to 55 hours per week outside of class is typically required for A and B grades at most law schools.  Many new students think reading and briefing are all they have to do regularly in addition to any legal writing assignments.  They do not understand the necessity for regular outlining and review for exams.  They think a few practice questions near the end will suffice.

If new law students can absorb these differences and truly understand them early in their studies, they will have greater incentive to take the warnings to heart.  By learning how to study efficiently and effectively from the start, they can excel in law school with less stress.  Unfortunately, many students will not take advantage of the services through their academic support offices and instead depend on past study habits or bad advice from upper-division students.  The differences between law school and undergraduate education can be overcome most easily if new 1L students seek advice from the academic support professionals either individually or through workshops, podcasts, and other methods of dissemination of information at their law schools.  (Amy Jarmon)   






June 28, 2011 in Miscellany, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Academic Success Counselor Opening at PhoenixLaw

Phoenix School of Law (PhoenixLaw) seeks applications for an experienced Academic Success Counselor.

The school is a member of The InfiLaw System, a consortium of independent law schools committed to making legal education more responsive to the realities of new career dynamics. Its mission is to establish student-centered, American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools in underserved markets that graduate students with practice-ready skills, and achieve true diversity programs aimed at student academic and career success.

The Academic Counselor will be part of an energetic team of professionals who develop and implement a comprehensive academic support program designed to assist, teach and mentor a diverse student body through the law school experience. The Academic Success Counselor engages in activities designed to maximize student learning, minimize the number of students who are dismissed due to low academic performance, and foster high bar exam pass rates through coordinating with professors, teaching workshops, and conducting individual academic counseling sessions.

Primary Duties & Responsibilities:

1. Demonstrates capacity to work with individuals from diverse cultures and backgrounds;

2. Provides individualized counseling to students;

3. Assists in teaching, evaluating and revising lessons and workshops for students;

4. Develops individualized learning plans for students;

5. Analyzes and provides feedback regarding legal writing samples submitted by students;

6. Analyzes and provides feedback regarding essay exam writing samples submitted by students;

7. Analyzes and provides feedback regarding multiple choice practice questions submitted by students;

8. Reviews academic records and maintains records regarding progress of students receiving assistance;

9. Assists with New Student Orientation;

10. Establishes and maintains professional attitude and good rapport with students, employees, community members and vendors;

11. Maintains confidentiality of information at all times;

12. Supports and participates in the Phoenix School of Law mission, vision and values; and

13. Other job related duties as assigned.


1. Experience in teaching, mentoring or counseling.

2. Experience working within multicultural settings.

3. Understanding of, or experience with, academic support programs.

4. Knowledge of adult learning theory.

Communication Skills

  1. Ability to listen and respond to student concerns; ability to teach in a small group and/or classroom settings; ability to analyze and suggest improvement to legal writing submitted by students; ability to communicate feedback in a positive and encouraging manner.

Computer Skills

  1. Intermediate to advanced level of experience with Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Publisher and PowerPoint.

Math Skills

  1. Ability to apply mathematical concepts such as percentages, ratios and fractions to practical situations. Ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide in all units of measure using whole numbers, common fractions and decimals.

Reasoning Ability

  1. Ability to collect information, establish facts, draw valid conclusions to resolve complex situations with little to no assistance.
  2. Must be very detail oriented and accurate.
  3. Must display tact, discretion and judgment.

Such alternatives to the above qualifications the hiring supervisor and Human Resources may find appropriate and acceptable.


  1. Juris Doctor degree required.


Other Requirements:

  1. License to practice law in any state.


Salary is commensurate with experience. PhoenixLaw offers a full benefits package. For more information about Phoenix School of Law, please visit

If helping others and working in a dynamic workplace is what you feel passionate about and you are looking for a new challenge and a chance to put your experience to work in an innovative environment – Phoenix School of Law may be the place for you.

Please send a resume, the names of three references (including addresses and phone numbers) to [email protected] or via mail to:

Phoenix School of Law
Human Resources
4041 N. Central Avenue, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85012

Phoenix School of Law is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Civil Rights Act Title VII of 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Phoenix School of Law does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or age in employment or in any of its educational programs or in the provisions of benefits and services to students.

The information contained in this job description is for compliance with the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) and is not an exhaustive list of the duties performed by this position. Additional duties are performed by the individuals currently holding this position and additional duties may be assigned.

June 21, 2011 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Guest column with another tip for 1L students

Our Guest Column for today is a posting by Barbara McFarland, Director for the Office of Student Success Initiatives at Chase College of Law, Northern Kentucky University.  Barbara has suggested an excellent tip for first-year law students and included an exercise to help them apply it.  Thank you for sharing your insight and expertise with all of us, Barbara!  (Amy Jarmon) 

One More Tip:  Remedy Writing Problems

Dr. Amy Jarmon’s May 19th blog post provided ten excellent pieces of advice for incoming students.  She is kindly allowing me to add an eleventh:  Remedy writing problems before you begin law school.

Even students who have always been good writers struggle to master the intricacies of legal writing.  Students who are not good writers do not have time during first semester to learn the basic rules of writing good English prose, punctuating properly, and editing for clarity and concision.  While we can say that our students should have mastered the mechanics during undergrad, or even earlier, the sad truth is that many of them have not.  They have studiously avoided any class that required them to write anything more than a name on a scantron.  Or, if they have done any writing, it was assessed by teachers and professors more interested in commenting on the substance than the form.

When my law school offered a voluntary writing course in the week before classes began last August, almost half of the incoming full-time class attended.  The improvements achieved during that one-week class, as measured by pre- and post-tests, were impressive.  A second post-test given at the end of the first year of law study indicates that some, but not all, of the gains made during that week were retained nine months later.  More number crunching is needed to confirm this initial impression, but the good news is that it’s not too late for our incoming students to learn the rules needed to improve their writing.

How they go about that task is up to them, of course.  They could take a business or technical writing class at a local college or university this summer, beg help from the high school English teacher who tried to teach them those rules back in the ninth grade, or just buy a book.  Grammar and writing books abound; any used bookstore will have inexpensive texts that will serve the purpose.  Online grammar guides are also plentiful.

For a simple technique that students may find helpful, suggest this exercise.


Often, mechanical errors are much easier to find in our own writing after the passage of time.  Pull up a document you wrote some time ago, read it critically, and use it to diagnose areas of weakness in your writing.  

First, double space after each period and review each sentence in isolation:

  • Is each group of words between the capitalized first letter and the end punctuation a complete sentence?
  • Do the subject and verb match in number and make sense together?
  • Does every verb that requires an object have one?
  • Are modifiers close to the words they modify?
  • Does every pronoun have an antecedent, and do they match in number?
  • Are the sentences typically very long, containing two or three thoughts that could be separated?
  • Are the sentences typically very short, dividing ideas that could more effectively be communicated in compound or complex sentences?
  • Does the sentence structure vary sufficiently?
  • Does every word of each sentence convey the precise meaning intended?
  • If you read the sentence aloud with great inflection and pregnant pauses, does the punctuation seem appropriate, necessary, and correct?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” chart the errors to identify patterns and problem areas. Once you have identified your errors, learn how to fix them by reading in a grammar book or online service.  Rewrite each sentence to fix the sentence-level problems.

Then reunite all the sentences for a particular paragraph and review each paragraph in turn:

  • Is the first sentence a topic sentence that accurately portrays the remainder of the paragraph?
  • Is every sentence in the paragraph related to the stated topic?
  • Do the remaining sentences present ideas or information in a logical order for the purpose of the paragraph?
  • Are relationships between sentences clearly made by references and other transitional devices?
  • Do the remaining sentences develop the stated topic as completely as needed?

If not, identify, chart, and remedy errors.  Rewrite each paragraph into a coherent and correct whole.

When you finish reviewing all of the paragraphs in a particular section of the document, look at the entire section:

  • Do transitional devices between the paragraphs develop the overall topic or theme of the section?
  • Are the paragraphs in a logical order, facilitating the development and exposition of that topic or theme?
  • Are the paragraphs typically overly long, too short, or a good mix of lengths?
  • Are one- or two-sentence paragraphs used only sparingly and for emphasis?

Again, identify, chart, and remedy errors.  Follow the same procedure with as many written documents as possible until you can identify and eliminate errors accurately and efficiently.  If you can write and punctuate good sentences and paragraphs, you are more likely to successfully adapt to the forms and structures of legal writing. 

Enjoy the rest of your summer, and I will look forward to meeting you in August. ___________________________________________________________________

Although this exercise was created specifically for students who have not yet started law school, it can be easily modified for use with current law students.  Unfortunately, many law students are taken by surprise when we expect them to write perfect English prose.  Even those with good mechanics are astonished that their writing style, honed by years of trying to write enough to meet the minimum page requirements of undergraduate papers, must be simplified, clarified, and slashed to meet the expectations of their legal writing professor.

We do our students a service by preparing them for legal writing, in addition to warning them about other rigors and oddities of law study. Recommending that they take time now to remedy writing problems is another step toward the goal of informing and educating our incoming students even before they reach our classrooms.



June 20, 2011 in Advice, Guest Column, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bar prep position at Chapman University

Chapman University seeks applications for the position of Assistant/Associate Professor of Bar Preparation.

Chapman University, located in the heart of Orange County, California, offers traditional undergraduate programs in the arts and sciences and select pre-professional and graduate programs. With the university ranked in the top tier of western universities and the law school ranked number 104 in the Top Schools category by U.S. News and World Report, Chapman has gained substantial recognition with its commitment to excellence through research and innovative teaching. More information about the Chapman University School of Law is available at

Candidates must be admitted to the California Bar and have significant teaching experience. We also prefer some degree of legal practice experience.

The Assistant/Associate Professor of Bar Preparation will be responsible for designing, coordinating and teaching courses that will prepare law students for a successful bar examination performance. This individual will be expected to devote considerable energy to helping graduates prepare for the bar examination, including, but not limited to, directing the law school’s summer supplemental bar exam program, meeting with students in groups and individually to respond to questions related to the bar exam, assisting students with their moral character applications, motivating students to devote the efforts required to be successful on the bar exam, and administering and critiquing mock bar multiple choice, essay, and performance test exams. The successful candidate will have a full-time, non-tenure track faculty appointment at the Assistant Professor or Associate Professor level, depending on his or her experience and qualifications.

Final candidates will be required to undergo a background check.

Please send letters of interest to:

Professor Celestine Richards McConville

Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee

Chapman University School of Law

One University Drive

Orange, CA 92866



June 17, 2011 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mixed emotions upon the end of 1L year

Do you vividly remember how you felt after your last exam for 1L year?  After your grades for 1L year came out and you knew you had passed?  After you put "2L" on some form or application for the first time?

Even though it has been a number of years since those events occurred in my life, I still remember exactly how I felt.  Current rising 2L's will often talk with me about their mixed emotions at the end of their 1L journey.

There is the exhilaration of knowing that 1L year is finally over.  For most students, the fall semester dragged out while spring semester flew by.  

There is euphoria knowing that a well-deserved summer break is in front of you.  Sleep, movies, long workouts, family, friends - a potpourri of forgotten pleasures awaits you.  

There are pride and awe realizing that one not only survived, but developed analytical and writing skills that were unknown or untapped just ten months earlier.  And, one can now speak a foreign language known only to attorneys and law students.

There is sadness that you will not be in every class over the next two years with the close friends you made in your section.  Your terrific study group is now dismantled - probably forever.

There is relief that certain students in your section will no longer be in every class with you over the next two years.

There is the uncertainty of juggling academics, part-time work, student organization responsibilities, and personal responsibilities during the upcoming 2L year.  Do they really "work you to death" now that they are done "scaring you to death" during first year?

There is the excitement of going into upper-division classes in summer school, working at one's first legal summer job, or beginning an internship or externship in the legal field.

There is the realization that, good or bad, there will never be another 1L year when it was all new, exciting, a bit frightening, and an adventure. 

There is the amazing opportunity to put into place new strategies and techniques to become more efficient and effective at studying.

Congratulations to all of you who are rising 2L students!  Enjoy your summers.  Come back in August refreshed and ready for new challenges and advanced skill use in your learning.  (Amy Jarmon)



June 15, 2011 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The "one size fits all" flaw

ASP'ers know from their daily discussions with law students that there is a great deal of diversity within a student body.  Law schools as entities, however, sometimes ignore that law students are unique from one another more than they have ever been before in legal education.

  • Some law students come to us straight out of undergraduate school.  Some law students worked for years before undergraduate school.  Some law students worked for years after undergraduate school.  Some law students have graduate/professional degrees already.
  • Some law students are single parents.  Some law students are married.  Some law students are married with children.  Spouses may be working or stay-at-home.  Some law students are responsible for the care of parents, grandparents, or siblings.
  • Some law students are 20-something.  Some are 30-something.  Some are 40-something. And some are much older.
  • Law students are visual learners, verbal learners, aural learners, oral learners, kinesthetic learners, tactile learners, or any combination of these styles.
  • Law students are global thinkers, intuitive thinkers, sequential thinkers, sensing thinkers, and pairs of these processing styles.
  • Some law students have learning disabilities, ADHD, visual impairments, mobility impairments, or other characteristics that result in their having accommodations.
  • Some law students are battling chronic illness, financial problems, family problems, or personal problems.
  • Some law students want to practice.  Some want to be law librarians.  Some want to go into business.  Some have no idea what type of law career they want.
  • Some law students have English as a second language.  Some law students have weak writing backgrounds.  Some law students are deficient in math skills. 

In short there is NO one size fits all for law students.  Yet, so many types of decisions track what has been done in the past rather than consciously considering today's student body characteristics.  Diversity in students can affect a myriad of areas including:

  • orientation schedules
  • class schedules
  • tutoring times
  • make-up class schedules
  • review sessions for exams
  • teaching methods
  • testing methods 
  • support services
  • emergency loan programs
  • school-sponsored insurance 
  • curricular options. 

(By the way, do not assume that one type of law school automatically does a better job on these decisions than another type.  All law schools could do better on decision-making with diversity in mind - some may be farther ahead in this type of input, but none is perfect.) 

So, why is it that well-meaning law schools sometimes make decisions that ignore the differences?  In this day and age, I doubt that it is because of a lack of knowledge regarding all the different aspects of diversity.  Instead, I think the decisions occur because of:

  • budget cuts ("if it is across the board, everyone suffers equally" or "we never provided that support service before"),
  • lack of planning ("we need to move now on this idea" or "we can worry about that later"),
  • insensitivity ("it has always been that way" or "there are not a lot of students with that problem"), or  
  • lack of information from students telling us when there is a procedure or policy adversely affecting students ("five of us had child-care problems and couldn't attend that make-up class" or "international students run into extreme health care cost problems because the school insurance plan is not required"). 

Don't misunderstand me.  I am not saying that law schools need to change everything just because some students desire things to be different.  I am saying that we need to consider whether there are characteristics of our students that we are missing when we make decisions.  We can then at least weigh possible implications for learning and success and determine whether there is an appropriate modification that would work better than the way we had planned/always done it.  

After-the-fact information from several students, for example, has made me re-think how I will schedule make-up classes next year.  I want to try some new delivery methods to reach more students with scheduling conflicts.  Several expertise areas are ones that I need to investigate to be more helpful to my students with disabilities.  And I want to find ways to integrate my students' prior experiences in Europe into my EU course.  (Amy Jarmon)   



June 14, 2011 in Diversity Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Positive Psychology and Law Students

Corie Rosen of ASU-Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law recently published in article in the McGeorge Law Review on positive psychology and law students. Corie's work is a good reminder for all of us that self-efficacy is important for law students as learners and as future professionals.

1) Feedback should be temporary and specific.

Avoid making comments on students papers (and to students directly) that are permenent or pervasive. This is a hard thing to do, especially when you are frustrated. Setbacks are temporary. One bad grade or semester does not mean the student cannot succeed in law school.

2) Students need to know they have some control in their lives.

Law school can infantilize students. During their first year, they cannot choose their classes, their section, or their schedule. If you cannot let them make a decision, then explain to them why they can't make the decision. If them control where you can.

3) Encourage connection and roots in the community and in the law school.

Law school can disconnect students from their traditional support systems. Try to reorient them by letting them know where they can seek help if they need it. Help foster close relationships with peers by encouraging study groups and teaching them how to work in a study group. Show them the community outside the law school walls and help them remember the relevance of what they are learning to the outside world.


June 13, 2011 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Feedback on student work

This is a short post as a reminder about feedback on student work. HT goes to Paula Manning, who reminded me at the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning conference lsat Thursday that what we write matters to student success.

1) White space is good.

Too much verbiage on the page overwhelms students.

2) Institute a "top 3 areas for growth" policy.

Try giving comments on the top 3 areas where they need improvement, instead of commenting on everything that can be fixed. By explicitly telling students you are not commenting on everything, you prevent them from thinking that the non-commented parts of the paper are strong.

3) Think about rubrics.

Instead of reserving your feedback to comments on the page, think about a rubric that covers the main points of the exam. You can check whether a student has hit the point by marking it on the rubric. It preserves white space on the paper, and gives students an idea about their overall grasp of the subject area.

4) Think globally.

If you read the paper without making comments once, and then making comments on the top three areas for growth. What you will find is that students generally makes the same mistakes over and over throughout a paper. If you read through the paper once, you may only need to mark three areas for growth, but each area for growth shows up multiple times in the paper. After making the comment once, star * the other places in the paper where the mistake comes up again.

5) Avoid red pens, big X's, and rhetorical questions.

Another way to say this is to remind you to reign in your own frustrations. Some students feel red ink "bleeds" on the paper. Big X's say "You did nothing right and you will fail." Rhetorical questions are not particularly helpful to students. Instead of asking questions like "Why?" try to comments explicitly about the weakness and how to fix it. When you find yourself ready to write a rhetorical question, rephrase the question to reflect advice and suggestions. If you usually write "Why?" try writing "This is conclusory. Please show every step of your thinking. If you leave out which relevant facts you are considering, the reader cannot follow your analysis."


June 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A new resource: Learning outside the box

Leah Christensen, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, has recently published a book entitled, Learning Outside the Box: A Handbook for Law Students Who Learn Differently.  The book covers specific strategies for law students with learning disabilities, reading disabilities, ADHD, Asperger's, or other learning differences.  The author notes in her introduction that other law students can also benefit from the strategies.  I just received my copy in the mail today and am looking forward to learning additional ways that I can help my students who learn differently.  (Amy Jarmon) 

June 9, 2011 in Books, Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

University of San Diego part-time instructors for Introduction to the Study of Law

PART-TIME TEACHING POSITIONS University of San Diego School of Law


The University of San Diego School of Law invites applications for the position of Part-Time Instructor for the 2011-12 academic year.   Instructors teach the required first-year Introduction to the Study of Law course, a 1-credit, fall semester-only course designed to provide an introduction to the legal system and assist in the development of analytical reasoning skills. USD seeks those willing to collaborate with a creative, experienced team to achieve excellence in teaching and learning.


The primary responsibilities of each instructor include teaching classes, preparing student assignments, commenting on student work, and counseling students during scheduled office hours.  Each instructor will likely teach two sections of approximately 80 students. A doctrinal faculty member will serve as a guest lecturer in several classes.  Instructor contracts run from July 18th through December 18th.  The position is not benefits-based and the salary is $12,000 for the semester.


Applicants must have a JD degree, a strong academic record, excellent writing skills, at least one year of legal work experience post-JD graduation, and either a demonstrated aptitude for or experience in teaching.  




Applicants should submit the following: 1) cover letter discussing the applicant’s qualifications for the position and reasons for wanting to teach the course; 2) resume; 3) law school transcript; 4) names, telephone numbers, and email addresses for three references. 


Please submit application materials to: Emily Scivoletto, Assistant Dean for JD Student Affairs, University of San Diego School of Law, 5998 Alcala Park, Warren Hall 130, San Diego, CA 92110-2492.  The deadline for submission of applications is June 20, 2011. Applicants must be available for telephone interviews the week of June 20, 2011 and in-person interviews (with a 5-7 minute teaching demonstration) the week of June 27, 2011. 


The University of San Diego does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, or any other legally protected characteristic. 


For additional questions, please contact Emily Scivoletto at [email protected] or 619-260-6851.


June 9, 2011 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Meeting announcement for "Helping the Helpers: ASP Basics from Orientation to the Bar"




DATE:              August 4-6, 2011


(Guests should plan to arrive early in the evening August 4 and to leave either in the evening of August 6 or the next morning.  The formal program will go two full days – August 5 and 6.  In addition, there will be a reception on August 4 and there will be hosted dinner outings on the evenings of August 5 and 6.)


REGISTRATION FEE:  $35 (Registration form attached to this e-mail.)


LOCATION:     Western State College of Law

                        1111 N. State College Boulevard

                        Fullerton, CA 92385

                        (714) 738-1000          


DESCRIPTION:  The purpose of the workshop will be to equip attendees with the basic tools necessary to work with the diverse population of students whom academic support professionals serve.  Topics covered will include (1) overall program design, (2) orientation and first semester programs, (3) later semester programs designed for struggling students, and (4) bar preparation.  Attendees also will be given “lessons in a box” to use in their own programs.


                        A more detailed agenda will follow.


WHO SHOULD ATTEND:  This program is designed for/open to professionals who have been working in academic support for three years or less.  The maximum number of attendees is 50.  If we do not reach maximum capacity, the program will be opened to additional participants.


HOTEL INFO:   Fullerton Marriott at Cal State University



To book online, guests can go to and enter the codes below under "group code":


LSALSAA for one king bed

LSALSAB for two double beds


                        Conference rate: $99/night (Must be booked by July 19, 2011)



We hope to see many of you there.  Look for other e-mails from us with information about the other workshops shortly.




The LSAC Academic Assistance Topical Workshops Planning Subcommittee:

                Russell McClain, Chair

                Paula Manning

                Odessa Alm

                Hillary Burgess

Kent Lollis

LSAC Staff


June 8, 2011 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Looking for work in ASP (Rebecca's perspective)

Amy's post was fantastic. I cannot add to her list. My first point will be to anyone, new or established, to print Amy's post, and look at it when you are considering a job.

I am going to go more narrative here, and expound on Amy's list by explaining why these things matter.

1) You need to know yourself and your preferences.

It is a serious mistake to think you will be comfortable teaching any type of ASP that comes your way. As Amy mentioned at the start of her post, ASP varies dramatically from school to school, far more than doctrinal teaching. If you prefer classroom teaching, make sure you are looking for a school that has you in a classroom, not just in 1-1's with students. Maybe you love working with students 1-1, but find the classroom too impersonal. I know of an ASPer who mentioned at a conference that she was sure that all students could succeed if the ASP professional at their school could meet with them 1-1 everyday. I cringed; I believe students learn best from each other in a classroom led by skilled teacher; I don't believe 1-1's are universally effective for reaching all students. Don't assume one type of teaching is interchangeable with another; they are not the same. To be your best, you need to know yourself and your preferences. Don't make the mistake of thinking "But I just want to get my foot in the door, and then I will move to a place with a better fit." If you washout because the school is looking for someone you cannot be, then it will be very difficult to move on to a different school. Take the time to choose a job where you can shine.

2) You need to know  you will be comfortable with the management style.

This is toughest for people coming from non-teaching positions. Do you like a lot of oversight, and someone who you can check-in with if you are struggling? Or do you feel that is micro-managing and intrusive? One person's heaven is another person's hell. Be sure you ask a lot of questions about the type of oversight, and ask them in different ways to different people. The person who will be your superisor may think they are very hands-off because they only visit your office once or twice a week. Other supervisors may think they are very supportive, but never see the inside of your office for your first year--they believe you will come to them if you need something. Ask your predecessor (if you have one) as well as people in legal writing (your closest colleagues if you are in a one-person ASP) about how they are managed.

3) You need to understand you can go from being a superstar at one school, to a washout at another.

Some of the very best in ASP spent time at a school where they did not succeed in creating the program they wanted to create.  Ask them about it at a conference; many people are very comfortable talking about their time at a school that wasn't a fit. It has nothing to do with tiers, or resources, or rankings. Every school has a culture, and you have to be sure you will work in that school's culture. Believing that you are a universally brilliant teacher who can teach ASP at any school displays an unfortunate disregard for the realities of the field. Culture is more than the faculty; it's the students and the location of the school. Students can feel like they want support, and you can feel like they are seeking a program of learned helplessness. It's a matter of perception, not right or wrong.

I have spoken to new ASPer's who feel they are invincible because they are successful at their school, after only a year or two in the field. I have spoken to ASPer's who feel like they can do no right, although they are applying the advice of every leader in the field. Make sure you understand that it may not be you, it may be that you are a good or bad fit with the school.

4)  Keep an open mind.

ASP is an amazing, diverse field. It is changing by leaps and bounds. Keep an open mind about the field and what schools are looking for you to do. Keep an open mind about experimental programs. Don't be afraid to push your own boundaries. Look for growth in a position.

I hope everyone finds a wonderful fit, and for newbies, I look forward to meeting you soon.


June 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Part-time Coordinator of Academic Support position at Cardozo

PRF 10419- Coordinator of Academic Support

The Coordinator 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 Director of Lawyering Skills and Legal Writing. 



  • Provide one-on-one guidance and tutoring.
  • Coordinate tutoring sessions and a variety of small and large group workshops.
  • Develop materials and resources on the skills and information needed for success in law school.
  • Address class preparation, time management and exam skills (writing answers and interpreting results constructively) as well as case synthesis, the organization of written documents, and integrating doctrine with legal analysis.
  • Assess and triage student requests for tutoring.
  • Recruit, train, assign, supervise and evaluate tutors in the academic support program.
  • Develop expertise on aspects of the Bar exam to help improve Cardozo graduates' Bar passage rate.



  • J.D. degree from an A.B.A. approved law school; strong law school credentials.
  • Ideal candidates will have experience working in a higher education setting in the areas of teaching, academic assistance, academic counseling or similar administrative, teaching, or practice experience.


Skills and Competencies

The Coordinator of Academic Support should have:

  • Excellent interpersonal and organizational skills, and a passion for working with students;
  • Foster, encourage and facilitate open communication and an atmosphere of open expression;
  • Continually search for ways to increase satisfaction of faculty, students, staff and other constituents;
  • Demonstrated leadership, management and administrative skills; and
  • Demonstrated ability to devise and implement innovative programming.


For more information about Cardozo Law School and the Legal Writing Center, please visit  For more information and to apply for the Academic Support Coordinator position go to to view the live posting.


June 6, 2011 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Laugh at yourself

I need to remember the title of this post.  Sometimes it is too easy to be very serious and not see the humor in my life. 

Mind you, there are many serious things that ASP'ers deal with: students on academic probation, students facing dismissal, students with life events that disrupt their studies, teaching courses, sitting on committees.  I am not suggesting that we laugh about the serious things that confront us.

However, there is plenty of room for humor and a laugh at oneself.  Many years ago, a colleague advised that one always needed to laugh during hectic or stressful times because otherwise it would be too easy to become discouraged.  He was right.  Perspective is everything.

So what are some of the things that I laugh about?

  • By the time I read a slew of student memos with multiple punctuation errors, I begin to wonder if I am the one who does not know commas and semi-colons!
  • Last week I walked down to the administrative offices and couldn't remember why I was there.
  • In the midst of a busy semester, I tend to pile rather than file.  In an anti-clutter fit, I threw stacks of papers for later sorting into a series of boxes.  To my chagrin, a student asked me what had happened because he had never seen my office so neat. 
  • Recently a student told me his name, and I forgot it within the conversation we had.  After he left, I had to check our class photo files to remind me.
  • I hurriedly photocopied a series of charts for class only to discover when I passed them out that the 2-sided function had printed every back page upside down.
  • A colleague asked me why I didn't have any pictures or other items on the wall in my office.  I had to laugh and point to a large picture leaning against another wall and admit it had been there for 3 years waiting to be hung once I decided what other things would go on the wall as well.
  • After at least the twentieth interruption, I sent an e-mail off before another distraction could hit.  Of course, immediately after hitting the send button, I realized I had misspelled my own name in a sentence.
  • I attended a law school event which denoted on the invitation that "business casual" was the designated attire.  On arrival in the appropriate attire, I discovered that almost everyone else was dressed in cocktail dresses and suits! 
  • A number of students had been late during class presentations, so I reminded my students to please be on time the next class.  On the day, I got engrossed in a project and only made it to class 5 minutes late after one of my students stuck his head in my door and asked me if I were coming!

It helps to realize that as a human I will be fallible.  If I accept that fact with good grace, it allows me to laugh at my imperfect moments.  I learned long ago that perfection is just not always possible if I want to finish projects, keep up with the workload, and remain productive.  Have you laughed yet today?  (Amy Jarmon) 







June 4, 2011 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Now that grades are out

Most law students have received their spring semester grades at this point.  The cheers and groans are probably echoing somewhere near you.  Grades can be a euphoric high, a dismal depression, or somewhere in between.  Here are some ideas how to view your grades wherever you fall in the class:

For those who are at the top of the class (however you want to define that measure):

  • Congratulations!  Your hard work has paid off, and you can celebrate.
  • Evaluate your study habits.  Even though you are happy with your grades, you still want to take some time to consider your semester's studying to improve your study skills.  What were your strengths and weaknesses?  Do you need to become more effective in your reading, note-taking, outlining, writing/researching, or exam-taking skills?  Do you do better in certain types of course or exam requirements?
  • Consider your options.  Do your grades give you confidence to sign-up for more challenging courses for next year?  Do your grades suggest that you want to re-think your career goals?  Do your grades mean that you can now become involved in student organizations or community service where you were hesitant to do so before?  Do you now have the confidence to try out for a competition team, apply to be a research assistant, or participate in the write-on competition after all?
  • Evaluate your summer plans.  Does your evaluation of your study skills suggest that you need to spend time this summer on specific skills?  Are there areas of the law that have picqued your interest that you want to read about during the next weeks?  Do you have the confidence now to apply for summer law jobs that you doubted you could get before?
  • Enjoy your academic postion, but do not let it go to your head.  Some law students make the mistake of letting an inflated ego become an obstacle.  They may slack off because they think they are invincible and will actually see their grades drop at the end of the next semester as a result.  Or they may become a bit arrogant and think they are better than fellow students, staff, faculty, and deans.  Arrogance does not win friends or influence people.     

For those of you in the great middle of the class:

  • Work through any frustration or anger about your grades.  Occasionally I will talk with law students whose dissatisfaction with their grades leads them to vent emotionally rather than taking positive actions to improve.  If you find yourself saying any of the following things, you probably need to step back and regain some objectivity: "I was in the hard section and would have done fine in another section."  "If I had Professor A instead of my professor, I could have had a better grade."  "Course C is a dumb course any way, so it wasn't my fault."  "It is not fair that there is a curve."  "The prof should have given me the B because I was only 3 points away."
  • Do not make the mistake of considering yourself to be mediocre or just average.  You are holding your own. Remember that you entered your law school class with the best and the brightest of college and university graduates.  You are still who you were when you entered; the competition changed.  You are not necessarily destined to remain in the great middle.  You can break out of the great middle with appropriate changes.   
  • You can improve your grades by becoming a smarter studier.  Take some time to think through what worked well and what did not.  Be honest with yourself.  Did you put in your best efforts or slack off at some point?  Did you take shortcuts rather than become more efficient and effective?  Did you use all of the resources available to you at your law school - professors' office hours, supplemental study groups, academic support professionals, writing specialists, advisors?
  • Make a plan for improving your study skills.  Instead of just changing up things at random or latching on to every piece of advice you hear from upper-division students, make an appointment with the academic support professional at your law school.  That person is able to help you objectively evaluate you strengths and weaknesses and look at sound strategies for improvement.
  • Review exams with your professors for any courses in which you received a C+ or lower grade.  You should try to do this as soon as possible on your return for the next semester.  You want to determine what you are doing well and need to continue.  You want to get specific feedback on what you need to improve on for higher grades.  Take copious notes during your discussions with the professors and share them with the academic support professional at your school to get advice on strategies and techniques for improvement.

For those of you in the bottom portion of the class (however you want to define that measure):

  • Deal with your disappointment with your grades and move forward.  Do not let discouragement prevent you from improving your grades in the future.  All law students can learn more effective ways to study.  You definitely want to work with the academic support professional at your law school to evaluate what went wrong and what you are doing right.  Avoid being your own expert.  You obviously need someone else's expertise in study strategies to sort out what can be done.
  • Review each of your exams with your professors.  If this will not be possible until the fall semester, make yourself notes about each exam that you took.  Did you run out of time?  Did you have trouble with one section but not others?  Were you confused by a particular topic that was tested?  Did you panic or freeze up during the exam?  As soon as possible in the new semester, make an appointment to go over the exam to discover your strengths and weaknesses.  The more specific the feedback, the more information you will have to guide your improvement.
  • Look hard at your time management and tendency to procrastinate.  It is not unusual for law students to have problems with these two areas.  Many law students received good grades in undergraduate courses with little work and last-minute cramming.  There was less material to learn.  The material was rarely as dense as law cases.  Multiple tests or other assessments made it easier to fall into cram mode.  Again, your academic support professional can help you develop better skills in these problem areas.
  • Evaluate your goals, motivation, and commitments.  How do you want to use your law degree upon graduation?  Do you want to be in law school right now?  Do you like the study of law?  Are there other variables (family, financial, medical) that suggest you need a leave of absence to get things sorted out?  Is law school a priority in your life right now?
  • If you are being placed on probation, find out exactly what that means.  What is the standard that you must meet?  What time period do you have to meet that standard?  Are you required to take a certain number of credit hours during your probation semester (some schools have a higher requirement for probation students)?  What happens if you have to repeat a required course while on probation?  What resources are available to you (academic support professional, advisor, tutoring, counselor)?

For those of you who are facing academic dismissal:

  • Be honest with yourself.  After you get over the initial shock, you need to evaluate how you ended up in this place academically.  Is law school where you really want to be?  Is being a lawyer a priority for you?  Did you put in the effort that was needed on your academics?  Were there circumstances outside school that caused you problems?         
  • Find out your law school's procedures and policies.  Every law school is different.  You need to determine your law school's way of doing things.  You should be able to find this type of information in your law school's student handbook (look on-line if you were not handed a hard copy during your 1L orientation).  If you cannot find the information, contact the Associate Dean for Academics, Registrar, or other appropriate person at your law school for help.
  • Find out what options you have (if any).  Some law schools allow dismissed students to petition for readmission (continue on with your class) or re-entry (repeat your 1L year) on the basis of extraordinary or exceptional circumstances.  Some law schools make you sit out at least two years before you can reapply.  Some law schools have entirely different options. 
  • Get some advice from an authority on the school's policies and procedures if you need to consider options.  You preferably want to talk with administrators who work most closely with students on these issues.  If possible, schedule an appointment.  Consider a telephone discussion if you cannot make it back to campus.  Write down your questions ahead of time so that you do not forget to ask everything.
  • Have a Plan B.  There are always other options than law school if a petition is not successful or you cannot petition under your law school's policies.  You can apply to a graduate program in another field.  (Yes, people who leave law school for academic reasons do get accepted in other graduate programs.)  You can get a law-related job until you can re-apply.  (Think paralegal or legal assistant, for example.) You can get a non-law-related job until you decide what to do more long-term.  You can get a roommate to help with expenses on your apartment.
  • Remember that leaving law school does not mean that you are a failure.  The study of law is not a good match for everyone.  There is a niche out there that will use your talents and abilities.  You will be successful in life - law is not the only career path.  You are the same bright, talented, exceptional person you were before law school.  All that has changed is that law school did not work out.  That is actually okay even though it may not feel that way right now.  You will be fine. 

Whichever category matches your grades, don't get stuck in the place where you are.  Evaluate.  Strategize.  Move forward.  And, believe in yourself.  (Amy Jarmon)  


June 3, 2011 in Advice, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)