Monday, April 30, 2012

TED-Ed as a Teaching Tool

Many of you are probably already aware of the TED education video/flipped lessons website.  If not, you want to check it out.  An article in today's Chronicle of Higher Education talks about TED and a link to the website is here: TED-Ed .  Although the lessons that are already on the website are not particularly useful for law, the ability to flip You Tube videos and make lessons is potentially useful.  (Amy Jarmon) 

April 30, 2012 in Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Are you looking for a first job in ASP?

As is the case every year at this time, postings for ASP jobs are beginning to proliferate.  Some of the openings are brand new positions; some of the openings result from retirements, moves to other law schools, or changes in career focus. 

If you are applying for ASP jobs for the first time, I would like to make some observations that may be helpful to you as you approach your job search.  Whether you are a recent law graduate, an attorney leaving practice, or an academic changing paths, there are some things that you need to know.

ASP positions vary greatly throughout the law school landscape.  They run the gamut of part-time to full-time, tenure-track to administrative, ASP alone to ASP with bar prep and/or writing centers, one-person offices to multi-layered staffing, entry-level positions to experience-required positions.  The positions might report to Academic Affairs or to Student Affairs or to a faculty committee.

The salaries for ASP positions will reflect that law school landscape as well.  Unfortunately, unlike our colleagues in legal writing, we are rarely privy to the salary range from the job ad that is provided.  The wide range of salaries in ASP work makes it especially hard to know whether a position for which you are applying is even realistic for your salary requirements.  If you are looking at positions in diverse geographical areas, your search is complicated even more with cost-of-living considerations.  Add differences in state and local tax rates, benefits packages, and real-estate markets to your list of considerations.

Your status as an ASP'er will also vary.  At some law schools, you will be an equal with faculty because of your tenure-track status.  At other law schools, you may be treated like a faculty member in many ways except the formal ones: promotion, retention, tenure, and voting rights.  And at other law schools, you will be treated as a staff member of lesser status.

The ASP program components will vary depending on the school as well: individual sessions, workshops, formal classes, and more.  The students who will receive services may be at-risk, probation, or all students.  There may be services for students in all three years, a focus on 1Ls, or special segments of your program designed for different populations in each year.

At some law schools, you will be encouraged to publish and teach outside the confines of ASP.  Other schools will see you as purely an ASP person and confine your classroom involvement to those areas of expertise - no matter your actual additional practice expertise.  Some law schools will not allow you to have a classroom presence at all.

You will serve on law school (and maybe even university-wide) committees in one situation. You may have service opportunities for your law school in the wider community even (for example, with a pipeline partnership with the local school district).   Another law school may not require your service at all for anything because only faculty and higher-level administrators are on committees.

At some law schools you will have a carved-in-stone-never-to-vary budget line for your program.  At other places you will justify your budget line anew each year, but have a budget line that you know ahead of time for the year.  At other law schools you will have to go hat in hand for every dollar you need throughout the year.  In some situations, you will be a miracle worker creating programs without resources.

Your facilities might include spaces for multiple staff, classrooms, conference rooms, library space, and other dedicated spaces at many schools.  At other schools, you will have an office space alone that doubles as your space for other duties if you are a part-timer.

Professional development and travel funds will be budgeted for you at some law schools.  Other law schools will have you apply on a case-by-case basis for approval.  Yet other schools will place you at the bottom of the queue for such funding. 

In other words, "it depends" is the mantra for what an ASP position entails.  Each position will have a different experience for you as an ASP'er.  You want to read job ads carefully.  Investigate the parameters of ASP at the specific law school.  Determine where you will fit in professionally.  Determine what the resources are available for the position.  Determine what avenues there will be for your professional growth.  In short, do not make assumptions or take anything for granted because of what you are familiar with at your alma mater or in a friend's ASP program.

ASP work is terrific.  It is rewarding and vital.  However, it is also hard work.  The extras of professional development and service often come out of your overtime hours.  You will not get rich.  There may be detractors if your status is not equal to faculty.  But the incentive is that you will make a huge difference in students' lives.  (Amy Jarmon)       

April 29, 2012 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bad news for writing

This frightens me, to my core. The style of writing that garners top scores from a robo-grader is the style of writing I try to eliminate from my students repertoire: lengthy, inaccurate, complicated, and verbose. I know colleges are now using robo-graders in large, introductory classes.  This means that ASP and legal writing will be dealing with more remedial writing challenges, as students learn to write for robo-graders.

Here are some of the highlights of robo-grading that draw my ire:

  • Favoring longer sentences, when shorter sentences would be more direct.
  • Giving points for length, regardless of what is written.
  • Preferring "gargantuan" words ("egregious") to simple phrasing (it was wrong).
  • Facts can be wrong, as long as the facts are a part of a well-structured sentence. “E-Rater is not designed to be a fact checker,” said Paul Deane, a principal research scientist. 


Facing a Robo-Grader? Just Keep Obfuscating Mellifluously
Computers are fast when it comes to grading test essays, but they can be fooled.

April 27, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

LSAC Academic Assistance Training Workshop - Limited Enrollment Information

Have you registered yet for the LSAC Academic Assistance Training Workshop to be held in Denver during June 13-16, 2012? 

Please read the following two e-mail messages sent to the ASP Listserv from Kent Lollis at LSAC regarding the one spot per law school limit and lottery if there are any open spots after May 7th.

4/16/12 Message from Kent Lollis at LSAC:

Dear Academic Assistance Colleagues:

Please note that because enrollment for the 2012 LSAC Academic Assistance Training Workshop is limited, we are permitting ONLY one registration per school during the initial enrollment period that ends on May 7, 2012.  If there is space available after the initial enrollment period, all names will be entered into a lottery for open spots, if any.  The lottery will occur on May 9, 2012.

We thought our online registration would catch multiple registrations from the same school, but that was not possible.  I regret any confusion this may have caused.  In the meantime, be assured that we will be entering multiple registrations from the same school in the lottery.  This will be a transparent process and you will be advised accordingly.  Thank you for your cooperation.

4/13/12 Message from Kent Lollis at LSAC:

Dear Academic Assistance Professionals and Law School Admission Deans and Directors:

Attached below is the link to registration information for the 2012 LSAC Academic Assistance Training Workshop to be held in Denver, CO, June 13-16, 2012. This workshop is for staff, faculty and directors of academic assistance programs at ABA-approved law schools. As in previous workshops, enrollment is limited. Please read the registration information carefully and respond promptly.

To ensure that this information reaches the intended audience, I am asking law school admission professionals and minority network subscribers to assist the planning committee by forwarding this email to the appropriate individuals at your law school.

The planning committee is continuing to add details to the curriculum, and the schedule provided in the attached registration materials is preliminary. A detailed curriculum will be added to the registration materials as it becomes final. However, I encourage you to make sure your registration materials are completed as soon as possible. If you have questions about the program content, please don't hesitate to send them to the contacts identified in the registration materials. Here's the link:


April 26, 2012 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Academic Achievement Counselor Position at Atlanta's John Marshall Law

Office of Academic Achievement Counselor

Atlanta's John Marshall Law School has an opening for a full-time Academic and Bar Support Counselor.  Reporting directly to the Director of Academic Achievement, the primary function of this position is to assist in providing academic and bar exam support services to students. 

The duties of the position include, but are not limited to, teaching academic study skills to currently enrolled AJMLS students, counseling students on academic and bar exam success skills and attorney licensing requirements and advising graduates studying for the Bar Examination. 

The successful candidate must hold a Juris Doctor degree from an ABA accredited law school with a strong academic record. The ideal candidate will also have at least one (1) year of academic experience in either law school teaching, counseling, or bar exam tutoring, and a strong academic record.  Additionally, a candidate must be a member of a state bar who has successfully completed a bar examination. Experience working with diverse populations is preferred and ESL experience is highly valued.  Evening work, as well as occasional weekend work is necessary to accommodate students enrolled in the part-time evening division. 

The hiring range for this position is dependent upon qualifications and departmental equity.  The Law School is committed to its historic mission, including diversity and service to traditionally underserved communities.  Interested candidates may submit their letter of interest, along with a current professional resume and the names of three references to: 

Atlanta's John Marshall Law School

Attn: Cynthia Crawford

1422 W. Peachtree Street NW

Atlanta, Georgia 30309

[email protected]


JMLS is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate in any of its programs or activities on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, marital status, age, disability, color, or religious belief.

April 25, 2012 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Uh-Oh I'm in Trouble Phenomenon

This is the time in the semester when all of us begin to see a lot of new faces in our offices.  First-time appointments happen more often than we would wish.  For most of these students, the realization that they have too much to do in the days before exams and paper deadlines has created a sense of worry - and for some, outright panic.

In fact, some of these students are in pretty good shape and just need a pep talk combined with structure and organization to show them how to produce maximum results.  Unfortunately, there are other students who are seriously behind in most aspects of their studying.  For those students, the ASP task becomes containing the damage rather than fixing all of the problems.

If we give a true reading of how poorly prepared the students are at this point in the semester, it just increases the panic and sinks any hope or motivation.  So, the strategy has to be working with the student to implement the best strategies for the time available and encourage the student to "come see me at the beginning of the next semester so we can avoid problems by implementing early strategies." 

What are some steps we can take with students who are very far behind to help them make the best of a bad situation?  Here are some possibilities:

Take stock in each course as to the status of the student's studying:

  • How many topics/subtopics/chapters/pages have been covered in the course up to this point?
  • How many topics/subtopics/chapters/pages will be added over the remaining class periods?
  • Are the course topics discrete units or do they build from week one through the end in a cumulative effect or some combination of these two?
  • What information has the professor given about topics not on the exam, topics to expect on the exam, or strategies for exam study?
  • How far along are the student's outlines: not even started, started but many weeks behind, just 3-4 weeks behind, or almost up to date?
  • How many weeks out of the semester's material does the student understand well already: none, less than 5 weeks, 6-9 weeks, 10-13 weeks?
  • How much of the material has the student memorized rules/definitions/steps of analysis for already: none, less than 10%, less than 25%, less than 50%, less than 75%, more than 75%?
  • If an essay exam will be given, how many essay practice questions have they done for the course material already: none, 5 or less, 6-10, 10-15, more than 15?
  • If a multiple-choice exam will be given, how many multiple-choice practice questions have they done for the course material already: none, less than 25, 26-50, 51-75, 76-100, more than 100?
  • What is the order among the courses as to difficulty for the student: hardest, next hardest, etc.?

Use the information that has been gathered to determine for each course how easily the student can get "caught up" and move forward in studying.  The idea is to prioritize the order in which the student wants to tackle the courses.  Consider the following items to determine the possible strategies:

  • Which partial outlines can be caught up with the least amount of work and in the least amount of time?
  • Which un-started outlines lend themselves to making condensed versions because there is no time to do full-blown proper outlines?
  • Which unstarted outlines may by default need to be "other people's" or commercial outlines because there is no hope of developing an outline of any kind in the time remaining?
  • In which courses does the student have the best grasp on the concepts and just needs more memory time?
  • Which courses does the student feel fairly clueless in and will need significant time to understand?
  • What type of exam will be given in each course: closed book, open book, take-home, essay, multiple-choice, combination of these?
  • When is the exam for the course scheduled during the exam period?
  • Are there any papers or other assignments also due in the courses?
  • How many credit hours is each course and are the courses required to graduate, bar courses, and/or elective?

Now that the information gathering is finished and priorities have begun to emerge, it is time to lay out a plan of action.  The specifics of the student's situation and courses will make all of the difference.  However, there are some general thoughts that can help in the weighing of strategies within the plan:

  •  Some students overreact to the pressure they are feeling and initially feel in trouble in all courses.  As the questions above explore the status of each course, do a reality check with the student.  Is the situation as bad as it seemed when the student crossed your threshold?  For example, is the student in solid shape in one course, good shape in two others, and really panicky about two more?  By pointing out the true status, the student will hopefully calm down some, regain perspective, and be ready to remedy the situation in the two courses that are the stressors while continuing to make good progress in the other three courses.
  • Students need to use their time wisely to get the most results for that time.  A student may be behind in five outlines, but knows that two of them could be caught up quickly.  It is usually more desirable to knock those two otlines out first rather than slog through three outlines at a snail's pace first.
  • Some students feel better if they front-load one day on exam review for each course early on so that they feel progress on all courses.  Then they have less overall stress and can more realistically parcel out study through the later days as warranted by each specific course. 
  • Days have three parts: morning 8-12, afternoon 1-5, and evening 6-10.  By taking a monthly calendar and dividing each day into its natural thirds, a student can plan out when to work on different courses.  During a class week, some of the thirds may be crossed off because of classes or a part-time job.  However, the other thirds are potential study times.  On the weekends, students will take some down time, but still have 8-12 potential hours to consider for study.
  • By adding deadlines for papers or other assignments and exam dates to the monthly calendar, it becomes obvious for at least certain days where one needs to focus on which courses.  Other days have more flexibility and can be divided among multiple courses. 
  • We all know the traps of open-book exams.  Students do not have time to look everything up.  They need to know the material well before the exam.  However, if a student will be able to take a code book into an exam, it does diminish somewhat the hours on memorization of multiple sub-parts.
  • Ideally we would like students to take every course equally seriously in their studies.  The reality is that a course required for graduation has a different weight than an elective for a 3L in the last semester.  A student is likely to focus on credit hours and quality points: a 4-credit course that will garner them a C grade versus a 3-credit course that could garner them a C grade.  Whatever the decision about a course, there will be some practical things to consider.

Each student's strategies will have to be tailored to the situation.  By helping students weigh the pros and cons of strategies, we can contribute to their being able to turn around some situations.  Where medical problems, family emergencies, or other special circumstances have led to the student's academic dilemma, there may be other options available and referrals will be needed.  (Amy Jarmon)  

April 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Director of Academic Success and Bar Prep at South Carolina

Director of Academic Success and Bar Preparation 

The University of South Carolina School of Law seeks a Director of Academic Success and Bar Preparation.  The Director will support the overall academic mission of the law school by developing and implementing an academic success program that encourages a high level of academic performance for all students.  The Director will work with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the faculty in designing a comprehensive academic support program.  

The Candidate must have a J.D. or equivalent degree from an ABA-approved law school and be a licensed attorney in good standing.  The Candidate must have a strong academic record that demonstrates potential for successfully leading a law school academic success program. The Candidate must have 2-4 years of relevant experience, with preference given to applicants who have experience in developing and directing academic support programs.  The successful Candidate must also demonstrate the ability to identify, develop, and assess the essential skills law school students need to achieve academic success, with a focus on legal analysis and writing.  The Candidate may demonstrate prior success in this area through direct academic support experience or through relevant practical experience in private practice or public sector work. Salary is based on individual qualifications and experience with salary range of $60,000 to $70,000. 

To apply for this position, please send a CV and cover letter to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Danielle Holley-Walker or visit the University’s website at  Applications received by May 15, 2012 will receive full consideration. 

Job Description 

•The Director will design and implement an academic success curriculum. The curriculum will include an emphasis on developing analytical skills, writing skills, time management skills, and other skills that will assist law students in achieving a high level of academic performance.

•The Director will identify students for possible inclusion in the law school’s academic success program and develop strategies to effectively communicate with students about the benefits of participating in the program.

•The Director will be responsible for hiring and coordinating a group of 2L and 3L student tutors who will provide a peer tutoring program for 1Ls. 

•The Director will be responsible for assessing the academic support program and making periodic reports to the administration and faculty on the program’s progress and outcomes.  

•The Director will be responsible for leading the design and implementation of a bar preparation program. This will include identifying 3L students that are “at risk” for failing the bar and implementing a program for bar preparation.

•The Director will assist in analyzing bar exam results and developing lectures, writing tutorials, or other programs to address weaknesses in student bar performance. 

April 17, 2012 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Vinyl thoughts in a digital age: laptops, classrooms and beyond

About five or six years ago, messages about laptop use in the classroom hit both the ASP list-serve and the Teaching Methods list-serve within a few weeks of one another. Even though the distress signals have calmed, “laptops-in-the-classroom,” as a usual suspect for student disengagement and distraction, still pops up at my law school. Responses vary from embracing, to tolerating, to banning the machines. How to manage the machines is the challenge. And it's going to be a challenge for our graduates as well. What is a diversion for students while in law school can become a monster of a taskmaster in law practice.

Law school classrooms have changed dramatically in the last twenty years or so. Up until about 1980, the biggest observable change was from black boards to white boards. Since then, the changes have been rapid, often with little attention to pedagogical detail, but more to being able to brag that a school was the most wired. Even just fifteen years ago, only a few students brought a lap top to class, and it certainly wasn't an Apple. Now the view from the podium is a sea of laptop lids, and eyes down.

The problem is not so much that students and lawyers are bathed in technology. The challenge is to determine how best to use that technology. Various practitioners’ journals include reviews and advice about the latest in software and hardware that make the lawyer’s workday efficient. The reviews are tempting, but each new machine and program has to be managed, requiring time and effort. Those who write about the virtual world have coined some interesting buzz words in the last several months: cognitive surplus, neural plasticity, digital alarmists—that last term might apply to me.

However, even those whose professional lives have embraced the technical world wonder about the effects of the machines and the Internet on our daily lives. Chip-maker Intel felt the pressure a few years ago. In 2007, Intel gave its employees the option of “email-free Fridays” in an effort to promote more direct communication within the company. Just last year, Caitlin Roper, managing editor of the Paris Review, in reviewing two books about the tech world for the Los Angeles Times, wrote that she felt “faster, but more distracted than I used to be. I don't know anyone who doesn't struggle . . . with the issue of how much to let technology aid, or encroach, on daily life.”

Roper's words define that daily effect: the demon that technology and the Internet can become unless it's leashed. A few years ago, a GPSolo article told the story of the young associate's attempts at a vacation with her family, while leashed to her office via her smart phone. It wasn't a pretty picture. It's the classic concern about whether the owner is leashed to the dog, or whether it's the other way around.

I've noticed a subtle unleashing trend at my law school. Southwestern's Bullocks Wilshire is a wonderful marriage of the building's Art Deco style with an LA coolness. In the open spaces you get a Michael-Jackson-Billy-Jean-MTV effect when the ceiling lights fire up as you pass by. It's lively but subdued. Faculty offices have light sensors, but several of us turn off the sensor so that the office is illuminated by window light only. Subdued.

I occasionally go one step further: my computer is off as well. Deep thought. And the notebook I'm using is yellow, with horizontal lines. My office is quiet in spite of the hubbub of Wilshire Boulevard outside my window, perfect for thinking and as close as I can get to an imaginary walk in the wilderness while in the heart of Los Angeles. Nothing to distract me from my distraction.

 Is this a lesson for my wired students? As academic support professionals we can develop strategies for effective and efficient use of the new beast, and learn to cage it when we need to. I know I need help with this.

Paul Bateman


April 13, 2012 in Professionalism, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Are you looking for ways to use time wisely and be more productive?

Exams are rapidly approaching.  How are you doing with all of your daily tasks, papers, and exam studying?  If you are looking for ways to use your time more wisely and be more productive in that time, here are some suggestions: 

Choose your study locations carefully.  If studying at the law school stresses you out and you get too distracted at home, here are some possible alternatives to consider: Other academic classroom buildings on campus.  The main university library.  The Student Union Building.  Local coffee shops or fast food restaurants.  The business center/function rooms at your apartment complex.  A little-used office or conference room at the law firm where you work part-time. 

Complete the hardest or least liked task on your daily “to do” list at the first chance you have in the morning.  You will get it out of the way and not have it hanging over you all day. 

Break every project or study topic into smaller tasks.  You can often get a small task done in 15 – 45 minutes instead of looking for multiple hours to finish a larger task or study topic. 

Take small breaks roughly every 90 minutes.  Get up and walk around for 10 or 15 minutes rather than just stay seated.  You will feel more refreshed and be able to focus better after your break. 

If you tend to turn small breaks into longer than you wanted to take, use the alarm function on your smartphone to bring you back on time. 

Ask a classmate or family member to be your “study conscience” for the remainder of the semester.  Give that person permission to point out when you are procrastinating. 

Every 3 to 4 hours of studying, take a longer break of at least 30 – 60 minutes so that you can relax before the next intense study session. 

Some people need to take a 2-hour break that combines exercise and a meal at the end of the class day before they can re-focus for the evening.  By combining exercise with a nutritious meal, you keep two healthy options in your routine. 

Pull together the questions you have about course material to this point and get them answered soon by your professors.  You will be more likely to learn the material correctly.  You also will avoid the last-minute rush during the end of classes and exams.  Some professors will only be available by e-mail once classes are over. 

Consider condensing sections of your outlines that you have already learned well to half of the current length.  Have the condensed version become your master document for exam study for those sections.  As you learn additional sections in your longer outline, condense them also.  (Begin your condensed outline as a new file and keep the longer version as a separate file in case you need to refer back to it.)

Complete as many practice questions as possible each week.  Set aside blocks of time specifically designated to complete questions for each course.  Otherwise you are likely to put off doing them. 

Be on the lookout for when you are wasting time: between classes, checking e-mail and texts constantly, chatting with friends in the lounge, napping. 

Have a series of study tasks that you can do in small amounts of time: using your flashcards, completing a couple of multiple-choice questions, writing out your “to do” list for the next day, going to ask a professor a question, editing a few paper citations. 

Balance study group time with individual study.  You cannot depend on your group members in the exam.  Make sure you know the material and are not lulled into a false sense of security just because the group knows it. 

Avoid people who stress you out, tempt you to avoid work, or make you feel inferior.  Surround yourself instead with people who remain calm, are focused on their studies, and encourage you. 

Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.  Your brain cells need the rest so that you can be more alert and productive.  You will get more done in less time if you are well-rested. 

Avoid junk food, caffeine, and excessive sugar.  Healthy, nutritious meals three times a day will give your brain cells the nutrients they need to perform well.

By being more intentional in your use of time, you can boost your productivity a great deal.  Everyone needs to find better ways to use the time available during this crunch time period.  (Amy Jarmon)


April 11, 2012 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Call for proposals from AALS Section on Part-Time Programs

Call for proposals:

Unbundling Part-Time Programs from Full-Time Programs

The AALS Section on Part-Time Division Programs is soliciting panelists to discuss and describe ways that law schools have created curricular and extra-curricular offerings for part-time programs that are specifically designed for the schedule and needs of part-time students, rather than mirroring the full-time program.

If your school has an innovative or unusual schedule for part-time students, creates different course configurations from the full-time courses, provides internship or extra-curricular activities designed especially for the part-time program, or in some other way unbundles the part-time program from the full-time program, please take this opportunity to highlight these programs or activities.

ASP professionals might also have insight into innovations or initiatives specifically tailored to support the academic success of students who fit the demographic profile of students in part-time programs: older and returning students with work and family responsibilities.

Proposals need not be long or complicated. Please send a short description of the feature you would like to share with the section. Length of presentations may vary, depending on the final number. Proposals should be forwarded by April 18 to: 

[email protected]

(808) 956-3002

Liam Skilling

William S. Richardson, School of Law

University of Hawaii

April 10, 2012 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fantastic post on teachers who are not officially professors in InsideHigherEd

Although this article was written by someone outside of the legal academy, but it applies to many, if not most, of us in ASP. Too many people can relate to this paragraph:

    "Yes, we are salaried professionals who get paid an “annual” (but in most cases, nine-month) salary to     do a job that increasingly never ends: serve students, do research, reform curriculum, advise graduate     students, supervise student groups, sit on committees…the list keeps growing and growing while     salaries remain stagnant and 24 hours still remains as the length of any given day" 

April 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Disruptive" Legal Education of the Future

It seems like the news focusing on legal education is rarely positive. It's not much better at the undergrad level, where very good books (Academically Adrift, Higher Education? Crisis on Campus) from well-respected researchers are focusing on the problems at the BA/BS level. Criticism of undergraduate education and legal education share some common themes: there are not enough jobs for graduates, graduates have no marketable skills, and what is taught is disconnected from what graduates need to know. At the law school level, ASP and LW focus on skills acquisition, and should be at the center of efforts to reform legal education.  While ASP and LW scholars have come up with some great ideas for reforming legal education, we have not really discussed "disruptive" ideas that change the very concept of legal education. Undergraduate researchers have done a lot more thinking about wholesale change in the academy. Most of the changes and ideas are not going to be embraced in entirety, but they they can spur innovation that can lead positive changes to help students and graduates become more successful after they leave us.

One of the most fascinating ideas coming from the undergraduate reform movement centers around using mentors and doing away with the idea of traditional courses with a sage-on-the-stage professor. This type of university would blur the lines between professional and liberal arts education, and do away with disciplinary silos that exist only in the academy. With the growth of open access education or MOOC's, sage-on-the-stage teaching can be done economically over the web, as was done at Stanford when Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig taught an artificial intelligence course to over 100,000 students. Instead of traditional courses, students would work with mentors who could help guide their course selection and college experience. With a small peer group and a mentor, students could work together to solve real-world problems, using the knowledge they gain from MOOC's. Students gain skills when working with real-world problems in a safe, contained learning environment, and mentors can help guide students socially, intellectually, and professionally.

There are certainly challenges to implementing such large-scale changes to the current model of undergraduate education. It is wonderful that researchers and academics are looking to disrupt the current model--something that is not happening at the law school level. I am not dismissing some of the ideas that have come out of the legal academy that promise to improve legal education; there are some great ideas out there (see Robert Rhee and Bradley Borden's "The Law School Firm").  But legal education has had few truly "disruptive" thinkers. Disruptive thinking is scary and promises change, and law schools are notoriously risk-averse and conservative. Instead of fearing change, ASPer's can get out in front of it; think about how our skills can be used in novel and unconventional ways to solve the problems facing law schools. It means we may need to re-boot our thinking, and consider brand-new ways of delivering services.

Here are some things ASPer's can think about:

1) Law firms major complaint is that law school graduates are not practice-ready. Can ASP work with legal employers to teach skills to graduates? Law schools can start making guarantees to law firms: hire our grads, and if they don't have the skills, we will provide them to graduates for free, at the firm. This type of deal with law firms would benefit all parties: law firms would be acquiring less risk when hiring, law schools could get work with law firms so more students are employed, and law students could feel more secure about their employment options.

2) Shift students into "pods" that work on a real-world problem. Instead of a 3-hour exam at the end of the semester, each pod would be responsible for an entire portfolio that addresses the problem. Students would need to address the problem from the perspective of their core courses; they should be able to produce memos that discuss the contract implications of the problem, the constitutional challenges, and possible conflicts with property laws (zoning implications, etc.). ASPer's could play myriad roles; they can be the overall supervisor of a pod, they could float through each pod throughout the semester to check their progress, or they would be the resource for pods that were struggling. An additional benefit would be that ASP would not need to isolate struggling students; the ASPer could work with the entire pod to reinforce skills.

ASPer's need to start thinking about ways to leverage their skills and knowledge for a different type of legal education. If we don't act as change agents, we risk being lost in the changes. No one is going to speak for us but ourselves; we cannot rely on others to find a place for ASP. The fantastic thing about ASP is that we are collaborative, creative, and flexible. Let's use those skills to help address the problems in legal education from new and novel directions. Let's provide the ideas that "disrupt" legal education for the benefit of our students and the profession. (RCF)

April 1, 2012 in Academic Support Spotlight, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)