Thursday, September 26, 2013

West Coast Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Conference

Teaching, Scholarship, and Service:

Professional Development for Academic Support Professionals

 November 8, 2013

9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

University of San Diego School of Law, San Diego, California

Spend a day sharing with and learning from your colleagues! We spend most of our year dedicating ourselves to the needs of our students, our school, and our communities.  It is time to take a day just for us!  The West Coast Consortium of Academic Support Professionals invites you to attend just such a day in sunny San Diego at the beautiful campus of the University of San Diego School of Law. 

PART 1 - Scholarship:  Are you looking for feedback on a paper in progress?  Would you like suggestions on how to strengthen an almost done piece of scholarship?  Would you like to present a paper to a group of supportive colleagues and participate in a critique?  We will look at best practices in developing scholarship, the steps necessary to finalize and submit papers for publication, and discuss further strengthening the ASP area of scholarship. 

PART 2 – Teaching and Service:  Would you like to reinvigorate your ASP program?  Looking to get a few more ideas for bolstering presentations in the classroom? We will look at innovative teaching methods, new ideas for ASP programming and discuss how you can best be of service to your students, school and ASP community.  We welcome your ideas if you have specific areas you would like to discuss. 

 WE NEED YOU!  If you would like to present a work in progress during Part 1 or be a presenter for Part 2, please email a summary of your paper or presentation idea along with your contact information and a list of your past presentations to Lisa Young at [email protected].  The summary should be no more than 250 words and must be submitted no later than Friday, October 11th for full consideration.

While WCCASP is a regional subgroup, we welcome any and all from around the country to join us! 

September 26, 2013 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Everybody Hurts

Every year, I have a handful of first-year students who do not utilize ASP because they believe that it is only intended for students for whom "something is wrong."  They think (or, more precisely, fear that others think) that ASP is for students who don't understand the law, or haven't slept in a week, or have a recurring dream where they are naked in class and the professor is beaning them with copies of the Restatement.  

They are not wrong to think that ASP is primarily targeted at struggling students. ASP is usually built around specific programs targeted at students who have already "failed" at one indicator or another (low LSAT, low GPA, failed exams).

The problem is that the perception of ASP as a program for students who can't quite make it means that some students who could greatly benefit from ASP services are not taking advantage of them.  They believe either that they "get it well enough" (a common feeling for weak first-year students in the fall) or they are embarrassed to come. In the past, some struggling students have told me that they feel there's something shameful about using ASP.  One of the ways I've tried to fight against this problem is to work on "de-pathologizing" struggle in the first year. 

The first year of law school should be a struggle.  It should stretch students' minds. Law school asks them to think deeply and critically, forces them to analyze all that they think they know, and requires them to participate in class in an utterly new pedagogical style.  The question that law school thrusts upon first year students is: How do you know what you think you know?  This is not just a matter of learning to think like a lawyer.  For some students, it can call into crisis their entire worldview.  Of course they struggle.  They must struggle, because it's in the struggle itself that thoughtful, critical thinking is born.

We tell them that law school is difficult and that they will think in new ways, study more hours, and do more work than they might have done before in their educational careers.  Despite this, some students still seem to get the message that there is something wrong in needing help in that struggle.  Perhaps it comes from their peers, or perhaps it's a result of the ease and success they had in undergraduate school.  Perhaps it's a message from the larger culture and the image of what a "smart and successful" lawyer should look like.  But wherever they are getting it from, the belief that struggling with law school is a sign of weakness is compounding their difficulty.  

This year, I have made a great effort to not say things along the lines of "If you're not getting this for some reason..." or "If you need my help..."  I have also tried to present coming to workshops, going to tutoring, and seeing me individually simply as something that successful law students do as part of their routine.  I think it's worked -- I've had over 100 students at every workshop, and I've had to switch rooms for tutoring because of overflow issues.  I've also been emailing as many students as I can to ask them to meet me individually to look over outlines or do sample questions.  I've let them know in that email that they aren't being targeted for any other reason than that they were the next name on my list. Finally, I employ 18 tutors, all of whom are in the very top of the class. In hiring the tutors this year, I made sure that as first-year students each of them came to every ASP workshop and went to all of the tutoring sessions available.  That way, I can simply point at the very successful tutors and say, "They came to everything -- they utilized services -- nothing was 'wrong' with how they were doing in law school -- they just realized ASP was a good idea -- and look how things turned out."

Luckily, I don't think this perception affects a majority of students. However, year after year, a majority of first-year students who get in serious trouble didn't use ASP when it could have helped them. Consequently, whatever small things I can do to reach students who might not have used ASP are worthwhile. [Alex Ruskell]



September 26, 2013 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

National Punctuation Day

Today is National Punctuation Day!  Any of us who work with students on the legal writing aspects of law school or lawyering skills know that many students struggle with correct punctuation.  Commas show up in all sorts of places they are not needed.  Semicolons are exotic for our students.  Where the punctuation goes in relation to the final quotation mark in a sentence is a mystery for many.  And apostrophes are appearing in amazing locations. 

My praise, empathy, and heartfelt thanks to all ASP'ers and professors who join in the fight to train lawyers who will correctly place the punctuation in their drafted legislation, contracts, legal memoranda, and other documents.  (Amy Jarmon) 

September 24, 2013 in Miscellany, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Two Positions at Stetson Law

POSITION:        Assistant Director for Academic Success & Bar Preparation Services

DEPARTMENT:             Academic Success & Bar Preparation Services

REPORTS TO:              Professor of Legal Skills and Director of Academic Success

DATE POSTED:            09/17/13


Primary Purpose:

Participates in the development and implementation of a comprehensive Academic Success
Program that partners with students from admission through bar passage.  Responsibilities will include academic counseling and administrative tasks.


Academic Counseling:

  • Advises upper-level students on course selection, study techniques and exam preparation. 
  • Reviews upper-level student work product to provide analysis and feedback to help
    students improve their writing skills.

Bar Preparation Counseling:

  • Meets with individuals who are preparing for the bar exam and review sample bar exam
    essays and provide analysis and feedback to help them improve their writing skills.
  • Helps individuals develop and execute customized study plans and strategies for
    passing the bar exam. 
  • Develops and implement the Bar Preparation Service’s Repeat Taker Program.
  • Addresses general student questions about completing the bar application.

Administrative Tasks:

  • Assists with Academic Success and Bar Preparation Workshops.
  • Assists in the development and maintenance of the Bar Preparation website and blog.
  • Assists with New Student Orientation. 
  • Collaborates with other campus offices to provide a comprehensive and meaningful academic experience for students.
  • Performs all other duties as assigned.


  •   J.D. degree
      required.  Must be a member in
      good standing of The Florida Bar.  One
      to three years’ experience in academic support preferred. Ability to build
      rapport with students in individual counseling setting. Ability to maintain
      the confidentiality of student records and information. Ability to conduct
      basic statistical analysis, preferred. 
      A high level of organization, flexibility, judgment and interpersonal
      skills are required.  Strong written
      and verbal communication skills, and presentation ability, required.  Experience with Stetson’s bar preparation
      program, a plus. Proficiency with Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, and

and/or applications and salary requirements should be sent to Human Resources
Office at 1401 61st Street S, Gulfport, FL 33707 or email to [email protected]

The Stetson University community is dedicated to being one of inclusive excellence,
where people from all backgrounds can live, learn, work and contribute.

Stetson University is an Equal Opportunity Employer that affirms cultural diversity and inclusion as a core value of academic excellence at Stetson University. We are committed to achieving equal access in education, employment, and participation through the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty, staff, and students from diverse backgrounds, and to meaningful academic and intellectual transformation in curriculum, research and service.  We are dedicated to actions and policies that foster a community in which individuals with various identities, cultures, backgrounds, and viewpoints work together to create opportunities for engagement through rewarding and fulfilling careers and personal experiences in a culturally and racially diverse society and a globalized world. We strongly encourage members of historically under-represented and economically-disadvantaged groups and women to apply for employment. Stetson University is an EEO, ADA, ADEA, and GINA employer.


POSITION:        Director of Bar Preparation Services
(non-faculty opening)

DEPARTMENT:             Academic
Success & Bar Preparation Services

REPORTS TO:              Professor of Legal Skills and Director of Academic Success

DATE POSTED:            09/09/13

Primary Purpose:

Stetson’s Academic Success Program’s vision is that all students will achieve their personal best in law school and pass the bar exam on their first attempt.  Its mission is to provide the academic support and guidance necessary to empower students to achieve personal and professional success.


  • Implementation, evaluation, and enhancement of existing bar-preparation services
    • The existing services include:  providing a clearinghouse of bar preparation
      information for Florida and other state bar takers, collaborating with
      commercial bar preparation companies to generate study plans to assist students
      with their bar preparation efforts, coordinating an essay writing program to
      assist with the students’ performance on the Florida bar exam, coordinating a
      mentor program to provide individual mentors to graduates preparing for the
      bar, tracking at risk students’ preparation for the bar exam and performance on
      the exam, and providing resources for repeat bar exam takers
    • Instruction in workshops and for-credit course
      • Coordination of a bar preparation workshop series
      • Coordinate instruction and assessments for Survey of Florida Law, a for-credit bar preparation course  Serve as Course Administrator for Multistate
        Strategies, a distance-learning for-credit bar preparation course
      • Individual student counseling and mentoring
        • Providing feedback on student work product
        • Providing advice on course selection
        • Providing general advice about bar application completion
        • Assist with supervision of Academic Success Program assistant directors and administrative specialist

Additional responsibilities include

  • Assist with general academic success program efforts, such as new student orientation
  • Work closely with the Director of Academic Success, the Associate Dean of Academics, and other members of the Stetson faculty and senior staff
  • Work with day and evening students on Stetson’s campuses in Gulfport/St. Petersburg and downtown Tampa
    • Other duties as assigned by supervisor.
    • All other duties as assigned by Director.


Required qualifications include:

  •   J.D. from an ABA-accredited law

  •   License to practice law; if not a
      member of the Florida bar, willing to obtain a Florida Bar license within one
      year of hire

  •   Strong communication,
      organizational, and interpersonal skills

  •   Proficiency
      with Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint


Preferred qualifications include:

  •   Experience with bar exam
      programming and instruction

  •   Teaching experience — especially
      bar tested topics or academic support

  •   Experience with counseling,
      outcomes assessment, statistics, English as a Second Language, and disability


Resumes and/or applications and salary requirements should be sent to Human Resources
Office at 1401 61st Street S, Gulfport, FL 33707 or email to [email protected]

The Stetson University community is dedicated to being one of inclusive excellence, where people from all backgrounds can live, learn, work and contribute.

Stetson University is an Equal Opportunity Employer that affirms cultural diversity and inclusion as a core value of academic excellence at Stetson University. We are committed to achieving equal access in education, employment, and participation through the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty, staff, and students from diverse backgrounds, and to meaningful academic and intellectual transformation in curriculum, research and service.  We are dedicated to actions and policies that foster a community in which individuals with various identities, cultures, backgrounds, and viewpoints work together to create opportunities for engagement through rewarding and fulfilling careers and personal experiences in a culturally and racially diverse society and a globalized world. We strongly encourage members of historically under-represented and economically-disadvantaged groups and women to apply for employment. Stetson University is an EEO, ADA, ADEA, and GINA employer.



September 23, 2013 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

ABA Draft Report on the Future of Legal Education

Readers might be interested in two links regarding the ABA Draft Report on Legal Education.  The first link is to the draft report itself which is on the ABA website: ABA Draft Report of the Task Force on the Future of Legal Education . The second link is an article in the September 20th Chronicle of Higher Education: Chronicle of Higher Education Aricle . 

September 22, 2013 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rage and the 1L student

Rage and ASP are something we talk about, but have not frequently addressed on the blog. I think everyone in ASP has seen it; a 1L becomes frustrated, but doesn't have a productive outlet for the frustration. The frustration simmers until it is rage, and the rage comes out in office hours and the classroom.

The sources of the rage are myriad. A student can become frustrated because they don't understand the material the way the think they should and blame the teacher. The student feels overwhelmed with the amount of work required in law school, decides to cut out the activities (exercise, hobbies) that make them happy, and winds up being less productive, but embittered because they no longer do what makes them happy. Or, as I have seen this past week, a student is unfamiliar with normed grading ("the curve") and discovers that they will not be receiving the grades they became accustomed to during their undergraduate careers.

Rage manifests in a variety of ways, all unpleasant for the student and the teacher. Eye rolling in class, side conversations that disrupt their peers, hijacked class discussions are all symptoms of rage. Office hour conversations that are full of blame without a concomitant sense of responsibility, body language that is hostile and aggressive, and foul, inappropriate language are also symptoms of rage.

If we know 1L rage is a problem, how to we defuse it? I don't have any easy answers. Rage is bigger than any one teacher, and often has roots outside the law school. We can recommend counseling and professional help, but a student with rage issues rarely responds to suggestions that they need assistance.

I think it is important we spend more time discussing rage amongst 1L students. One of the challenges we face is that rage can be  a contagion, spreading from student to student. This is especially true when the student with rage issues was likable and popular at the start of the school year; their attitude and issues infect those around them, and make dealing with the source of the problem even more challenging. (RCF)

September 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

In the last few weeks, I have had students commenting in sessions on their inability to hear professors.  It is not because the students are hearing-impaired.  Instead it seems to be from two sources: less than optimal classroom acoustics or professor characteristics.  What has struck me about the problem is that the students (whether 1L or upper-division) are reluctant to mention the problem to the professors.  The students in the back rows prefer to miss out on sections of class rather than take any risk to resolve the problem.

Now I can understand more readily when the hesitation is because of a soft-spoken or mumbling professor.  After all, one wants to be diplomatic and not seem critical.  But when acoustics are involved, there is no "personal failing" on the part of the professor that would make it awkward.

Here are some possible ways for students to handle the situation tactfully:

  • For true  acoustical problems, see if the AV/IT staff can approach the professor about wearing a microphone because they are aware of the poor acoustics and want to remedy the problem.
  • Once a professor is aware of the problem and trying to remedy it, let the professor know if you can't hear: wave from the back of the room as an agreed-upon signal for example.
  • If the problem is hearing fellow students when they are answering/asking questions, perhaps ask the professor to prompt students to speak up or to hand the students a hand-held microphone each time.
  • If the room has other empty seats, move to a spot where it is easier to hear.  If the professor uses a seating chart, ask permission to move to an empty seat before doing so.
  • Blame it on acoustics - perhaps even when it is not the total cause of the problem.  If people in the back two or three rows cannot hear the professor, then indicate that there is a dead spot and would the professor mind using a microphone or speaking louder.
  • Have a group of students approach the faculty member together so that no one person feels embarrassed about bringing it up.  Or write a diplomatically worded group note/e-mail to the professor.
  • If it is a class with a teaching assistant (for example, a first-year doctrinal course), explain the problem to the TA and see if that person is willing to approach the professor so that the information can be passed on anonymously.

Most professors will be very glad to know if there is a problem.  A diplomatic discussion between students and the professor would be ideal.  After all, it shows that the students think what the professor is saying is important and they do not want to miss it!  (Amy Jarmon) 

September 19, 2013 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fear of Public Speaking

People expect that all lawyers are good public speakers.  Lawyers, and even law students, are frequently asked to be the spokesperson for a group in many different settings on the theory that since they are lawyers, they are quick on their feet.  However, speaking in front of a group can be a very stressful and frightening experience for some people.  Many law schools require students take a course which includes an oral advocacy component.  Other students may choose to take a trial practice course or other class which requires a verbal presentation.  What can a student do to conquer their fears and become an eloquent public speaker?  As we know from the television show, Fear Factor, the best way to overcome a fear is to face it.  The problem becomes finding the best opportunity to practice this skill.  This can be difficult due to the lack of time and resources. Some possible strategies to practice include having a student start an oral argument study group.  Students can gather at regular intervals and practice speaking in front of each other in one of the school’s moot court rooms.  If students are reluctant to practice with each other, encourage a student to attend or start a Toastmasters group at your school. There is an excellent book called The Articulate Attorney by Brian Johnson and Marsha Hunter which breaks down the process of public speaking into the areas of body awareness, mind discipline and control of the voice.  Help students really understand from where their fear arises.  For many, the fear of being “judged” by their peers in class while speaking is the root cause. Students should know that as lawyers, they will be judged daily by clients, opposing counsel and judges.  This is an opportunity for the student to see that practicing the skill of conversation in the form of client counseling, oral argument or giving a public speech is invaluable.  Once the student is comfortable talking in front of a group, transition to the next level by arranging with your media center to record a student’s moot court argument.  Debrief together in person. Examine what is happening on the tape and ask the student what they are thinking and feeling at each moment.  They might  be surprised to find that they do not appear as nervous as they feel.  Finally, help the student to find strategies that make them prepared to speak by taking a written script down to an outline and finally to a memorized list of topics.  Hopefully with time, the student will feel more comfortable speaking in front of a group and maybe even come to enjoy it. (Bonnie Stepleton)

September 18, 2013 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Writing Process and ASP'ers

During the last few years I have been blessed with some writing opportunities that have taught me a great deal about putting words on paper while juggling a busy ASP office.  In addition to writing articles for the Student Lawyer and writing posts for this Blog, I have had the opportunity to publish Time and Workplace Management for Lawyers through the ABA this past spring. 

If anyone had asked me before these opportunities if I would ever be published in any format, I would have been skeptical because my full-time job is so busy.  Here are some of the tips that I can pass on to ASP'ers who might want to write but who are unsure how to get started:

  • Realize that you have something to say that can help law students and your colleagues.  ASP'ers may discount their expertise if they are treated as "just administrators" and peripheral to the law school experience in their own work settings.  ASP'ers are experts and with declining law school applications are becoming more important because of the changing law school populations.
  • Turn items that you already use with your law students into writing opportunities.  You may be able to use e-mail study tips, a series of handouts, a Power Point workshop, or other material as the basis for an article.
  • Turn presentation materials that you have done for a regional workshop or national conference into an article on the same topic.  Watch for conferences which are linked to publication opportunities with paper submissions linked to the sessions. 
  • Turn trends and observations that you have noticed about student skills or problem areas into possible research projects and later writing opportunities.  Remember, however, to clear any research through your institution's human subject research approval process.  Once you have collected and analyzed your results, consider whether you can turn your research into an article.
  • Look for opportunities to write articles in related disciplines.  Legal writing, balance in legal education, pre-law advising, teaching legal education, and student services are just some of the overlap areas that often have academic support writing opportunities.
  • Start out with smaller writing opportunities that seem possible within your time constraints: guest posts submitted to this Blog; guest posts for other blogs that you read; short articles (usually 1,000 to 2,000 words) or comments (roughly 500 words) to newsletters, web publications, and other publications; book reviews for publications.
  • Realize that many writing opportunities in the beginning are unpaid opportunities.  Once your material becomes known, you may be able to land a paid situation on a regular or occasional basis.  Even unpaid opportunities are beneficial!
  • If law review articles are your interest, then talk to faculty and ASP'ers who are already published to gain tips on submissions; look for mentors who will review your articles and make constructive comments during your writing process.
  • Consider starting your own blog or web pages.  You can use tweets to gain followers.
  • Consider posting your research papers on SSRN either as finished works or as working papers for comment.
  • Set aside time in your schedule to write so it will happen instead of staying just a wish.  Personally I work in the evenings and especially on the weekend when I have articles and book projects.  An article of 1,200 words may take me 8 hours of writing time and 2 hours of editing time.  My book on the other hand went through about 5 drafts during the approximately 20 months before the manuscript went to the publisher. 

Writing is not for everyone.  It is okay not to be interested in such tasks if you are not required by your law school to publish.  However, if writing appeals to you, make time for it.  Being published can add to your resume, your own feelings of personal accomplishment, and your credibility with ASP'ers, faculty, and students.  Most of all, enjoy the process and the opportunities.  (Amy Jarmon) 


September 17, 2013 in Advice, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Turning the Socratic Method into a More Positive Experience

The Socratic Method is probably the most feared and most maligned aspect of law school.  Fortunately, most professors sincerely use the Socratic Method to improve learning.  Unfortunately, a very few professors purposely misuse Socratic Method to humiliate or terrorize students and to make themselves feel superior.

A professor can make the questioning more effective as a learning tool by keeping the following points  in mind:

  • Students have different reactions to Socratic Method dependent on their learning styles.  Students who are talking learners or active thinkers may feel less intimidated because they learn by discussion and asking questions.  Students who are listening learners or reflective thinkers may be more nervous because they prefer to not speak in class and think about material without interaction with others.  Also the students who process with the opposite styles from the professor will at times get flustered because they may not understand the professor's approach to questions; they are well-prepared but organize their thoughts differently.
  • Building a series of questions that a particular student answers by beginning with relatively easy questions before proceeding to harder questions will allow the student to gain confidence with some on-target answers before the challenging steps.
  • Rephrasing a question if a student seems stumped rather than merely repeating the question again will allow a student who found the phrasing of the question to be confusing to realize what the professor is asking.  Merely repeating the same words is often unhelpful in moving the conversation forward.
  • Realizing that your multiple questions to a student who is having trouble may be misperceived by the student can suggest another approach.  You may be trying to help that student sort out the material and to guide the student to understanding.  However, the student may feel that the experience is akin to being turned on a spit over an open fire.  By using positive prompts, you can make the experience less stressful.  "Good first step, but let's look again at the next step."  "Good argument, but let's back up and see how you got there."  "You are on the right track, but broaden your issue statement beyond the very specific facts in this case."  "That is a paraphrase of the rule, give me a more precise in the rule statement."
  • Introduce your series of questions to give more context to the students before you start calling on people.  They will understand better how the questions fit into the discussion and the level of analysis you are looking for in the series.  "We have talked about each of the separate cases for today, but now let's try to synthesize the cases and see how they relate to one another and to today's topic."   

Part of the problem with Socratic Method is that students do not know how to prepare effectively for the experience.  Here are some hints for students to get ready for the Socratic Method:

  • Recognize what questions the professor almost always asks about each case during class.  Think about the answers to those standard questions during your class preparation.
  • When reading for a continuing topic, think about the topic-specific questions that the professor has been asking and be prepared to answer those topic-specific questions.
  • Before the class, consider the case from 360 degrees.  In addition to understanding the case deeply (its separate case brief parts and details), consider the case more broadly (how does it fit with the other cases read for that day and into  the larger topic).
  • Practice explaining the case and answering your professor's standard and topic-specific questions aloud.  Talk to an empty chair, your dog, or a very understanding friend.  You will have more confidence when called on if you have rehearsed your answers.  If you cannot explain the case to an empty chair, then you do not understand it well enough to explain it to your professor in front of others.  Re-read the case sections that you did not understand or reflect more deeply on the case and try your explanation and question answers again.
  • When the professor calls on other students, answer the question silently in your head.  Compare your answer to what the other student says and what the professor indicates.  As you realize you are usually right, it will give you greater confidence for when the professor calls on you.
  • When called on, think about the question asked and take a deep breath before answering.  Many mistakes are made because students blurt out something they immediately realize is wrong or answer a different question than actually asked.
  • If you do not understand the question, ask the professor to rephrase it.  If you do not hear the question, ask the professor to repeat it.
  • Remember that many questions in law school do not have right answers.  There are many questions that seasoned attorneys disagree on about the answers.  You need to approach the questions with the realization that "it depends" may be the reality and make the best arguments possible.
  • View Socratic Method as a learning opportunity: how to think on your feet; how to improve your analysis; how to find out what you overlooked and need to notice in the next case;  how to get over your fear of speaking in front of others. 
  • Remember that most people in class are not judging you when you are the student called on for Socratic Method.  About a third are relieved it was not them.  About a third are looking ahead frantically because they realize their turns are coming up.  About a third are busy taking notes and looking for the answers. 
  • Every lawyer I know has at least one or more stories to tell about their own experiences with Socratic Method.  You are highly unlikely to get every question right.  You will likely blank out once or twice even when prepared.  You will misunderstand the question at times.  It is all part of the learning experience.  Do not dwell on your mistakes.  Instead learn from them and move on.
  • If your professor uses expert panels on assigned days or only calls on you once per semester, do not stop reading and preparing for class because you will not be called on that day.  Always read and prepare for class because your deeper understanding of the material depends on it.  Slacking off will only get you lower grades.
  • Be courteous regarding your professor's and classmates' time.  If you are unprepared because your child went to the emergency room or you became ill, let the professor know before class so time is not wasted calling on you.  If you pass, realize that you are probably going to be called on the next class and be prepared.   

Accept the challenge of Socratic Method and do your best.  Law school will be far less stressful if you can get into the spirit of learning from the technique rather than seeing the experience as an illustration of your success or failure.  Intelligence is not a fixed commodity - a mistake leads to improvement and later success.  (Amy Jarmon)   

September 15, 2013 in Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Submission of Articles to Western State Law Review

Hat tip to Lori Roberts for the following information on a call for submissions:


The editor-in-chief of Western State's law review has asked me to announce that they would like to encourage the submission of articles related to legal writing, pedagogy, academic support and assessment in legal education.  So, if you have a piece that is finished (or almost) please send it along!  The deadline for submissions is September 30th.  We have a fantastic group of students and a faculty advisor that keeps everything on-time and on-track during the publication process.

Please let me know if you have any questions.  You can submit articles through ExpressO, or directly to the law review at [email protected]   

Thank you,


Lori A. Roberts

Professor of Law

Director of Legal Writing & Research

Western State College of Law

1111 N. State College Blvd.

Fullerton, CA 92831

(714) 459-1145


September 13, 2013 in Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Daily Writing Tips

Hat tip to the Legal Writing Professors Blog for suggesting an article on this Daily Writing Tips website about 50 Ways to Shorten Your Phrases.  Although the website is not for lawyers only, this particular article can be of assistance to our students.  (Amy Jarmon)

September 13, 2013 in Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Some Quick Tips for Studying

I have been collecting tips from my students and others to pass on to our readers.  Here are a few items you might find interesting:

  • Check out the Flash Card Machine app for Android and iPhone there are free and paid versions; the website allows you to create flashcards on your computer that you then can sync with your phone; the app can sort the flashcards by categories or randomly and can modify how often you see certain flashcards.
  • For international students who are trying to assimilate differences between United States law and the law in their own nations: draw a bracket to encompass the class notes that show the U.S. difference and then note in the margin what the law would be under your own country's legal system.
  • Add to your outline pages for a topic a checklist that helps you remember the steps of analysis: what questions do you need to always ask to complete the proper analysis?
  • If you are tired of highlighters that have dried out because the cap was not on tightly enough, try the new retractable highlighter that clicks open and close like an ink pen.
  • Students who have trouble staying on task because they waste time on the Internet may want to check out two technology helpers: Stay Focused is available for Google Chrome and Self-Control is available for Mac users.
  • The Blotter application allows Mac users to set up a routine weekly schedule that will then appear each day on the desktop with space for a "to do" list and a "right now" window.
  • If gentle movement helps you focus and learn, try studying in a rocking chair.
  • Ask your teenagers to quiz you on your flashcards: they become part of your law school success, and you provide a role model for serious studying and for persevering when you make mistakes.
  • For parents who study at home behind a closed office/den door and have younger children: put a construction paper traffic light on the hallway side of your door; hang out the red circle for do not disturb, the yellow circle for come in if important need, and the green circle for okay to interrupt for any purpose.
  • Take a walk around your neighborhood with another law student to get some exercise and discuss your classes while you walk: you get exercise and review at the same time.

Do you have some good tips to share with other law students?  Send your study tips to me for inclusion in a future posting.  My e-mail is listed under the "About" tab; put Blog Study Tips in the subject heading.  (Amy Jarmon)

September 12, 2013 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Schedule for Academic Support Section at the AALS Annual Meeting

The following letter is from Louis Schultze, Section Chair:

Dear academic support colleagues:  

I write today to share some details about the Section on Academic Support’s events at the upcoming AALS Annual Meeting.  Our numerous committees have done an outstanding job planning a great program, and I’m very pleased to let you know that AALS has been very accommodating in
meeting our schedule requests.  All of our events occur in the brief window from Friday evening to early Saturday afternoon, so those who can only attend the annual meeting for a short time can do so easily.  Also, our Section Program time does not conflict with the program times of other sections
typically frequented by our members (i.e. Student Services, Legal Writing, Balance, Teaching Methods, etc.). 

I hope you all will take a moment at the annual meeting to join me in thanking our committee members for their diligent work.  In the meantime, the schedule of events is as follows: 

1.  Section on Academic Support Business Meeting: 
Friday, January 3, 2014, 6:30pm. 

2.  Informal/ Unofficial Dinner Gathering: 
Friday, January 3, 2014, 7:30pm.  More information to follow. 

3.  Section on Academic Support Program:  “Early
Intervention for At-Risk Students.”  Saturday, January 4, 2014,

In light of shrinking budgets, smaller applicant pools, and media criticism of legal education, how can law schools proactively address the potential influx of at-risk students?  What does “at-risk” really mean?  Are law schools responsible for ensuring that students succeed once they are admitted?  Should law schools even admit at-risk students?  This panel will address these questions and provide helpful insights to benefit faculty, administrators, and institutions.  Specifically, panelists will discuss programs and methods for supporting at-risk students, the important issue of “stereotype threat,” at-risk students and bar passage, and a unique empirical method of predicting academic success. 

Joanne Harvest Koren and Alex Schimel
(Univ. of Miami):  “At Risk” of What?  Definitional Issues in Law
School Academic Intervention  

Chelsea Baldwin (Oklahoma City
Univ.):  Intervention Without

Jamie Kleppetsch (John Marshall Law
School):  Providing “At-Risk” Students with the Skills Necessary to be
Successful on the Bar

Allison Martin (Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law) and Kevin Rand (Indiana University – Purdue
Univ. Indianapolis):  Early Identification & Intervention: Is There
“Hope” for At-Risk Students?                            

4.  Informal/ Unofficial Lunch Gathering: 
Saturday, January 4, 2014, 12:30pm-2:00pm.  More information to follow.

Best regards,

Louis Schulze

Section Chair, AALS Section on Academic Support

(Professor of Law & Director of Academic Support, New England Law, Boston) 

September 11, 2013 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Preparing for Bar Exam Results

Bar Results are released at different times in each jurisdiction.  This summer, Washington State administered the Uniform Bar Exam for the first time.  In addition to many changes to the exam format, the results release date is changing as well.  The bar exam results in WA are being released earlier- one month earlier!  It is time to prepare for the results.

Grads often go into hibernation right after the bar exam.  They are busy getting their lives back, traveling, getting married, and catching up on their sleep.  As they begin to establish new routines distance grows between the bar exam and their current existence.  Eventually, they are able to move beyond thinking about their performance on the bar exam.

However, as soon as talk of the impending results begins to surface (likely through Facebook), grads are jolted back to that uncomfortable state of limbo.  During the weeks before the release of results, I start receiving emails, phone calls, and visits from grads who are calling on me for support or to ask questions about the delivery of their results.  While I did everything possible to help them pass the bar exam, I now have no control over the fate of their results.  I find myself in a purgatory of sorts.  I, like our grads, am waiting with baited breath for the results. 

With less than a week before the release of bar results, I offer these suggestions to grads who are feeling anxious. 

  • The bar exam is only a test.  I know this is easy for me to say when I have already passed the exam.  But, this test is only a snapshot in a lifetime filled with many rewarding and joyous occasions. 
  • The bar exam does not define who you are.  (As stated above, the bar is only a test.)  Your intelligence and character are not judged by a standardized test taken over a two day period.  You have a lifetime to create memories, build a career, and show the world who you are.
  • Focus on the things that matter most in your life.  Having gratitude for the many wonderful gifts you enjoy in your life can turn a fretful time into one of reflection and personal growth.  Sit down and make a list of what matters to you most and use that list to stay centered through the days (and hours) leading up to the release of your bar results.
  • Make a plan for when you receive your results.  Do you want to be with your friends or loved ones?  Or, would you rather receive your results by yourself?  Either way, you should make a plan so you can be prepared when the results are released.  If your results are not favorable, you should have a support system in place to help you process your disappointment and lift your spirits.  If you pass, you will want someone with you to celebrate.  I hope all of  you will be celebrating!

Lisa Young

September 10, 2013 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Call for Award Nominations for AALS Academic Support Section

On behalf of Joyce Herleth, Chair of the Awards Committee for the Academic Support Section of AALS:

The Awards Committee for the AALS Section on Academic
Support is soliciting nominations for our section award.  The Association
of American Law Schools Section on Academic Support’s Award will be presented
at the January 2014 AALS meeting and will be awarded to an outstanding member
of the ASP community.  Please review the eligibility and criteria
information below and send nominations directly to Awards Committee Chair, Joyce
Savio Herleth
via email [email protected].
The deadline to submit nominations is October 1, 2013 at 5pm PDT
For a nomination to be considered, it must include (at a minimum) a one to two
paragraph explanation of why the nominee is deserving of the award.  Only
AALS ASP Section members may make nominations, but all those within the ASP
community may be nominated.  Membership in the section is free and can be
processed within minutes at AALS Section Membership.  For detailed
instructions on how to become a member, please view this page:

Eligibility and Criteria for Selection.  The
eligible nominees for the Award will be Section members and any other
individuals who have made significant or long-term contributions to the
development of the field of law student academic support.  All legal
educators, regardless of the nature or longevity of their appointment or position,
who have at some point in their careers worked part-time or full-time in
academic support are eligible for the Award.  The Award will be granted to
recognize those who have made such contributions through any combination of the
following activities:  assumption of leadership roles in the ASP
community; support to and mentoring of colleagues; service to institutions,
including but not limited to schools, the ASP Section, and to other
organizations; expansion of legal opportunities to traditionally underserved
segments of society; teaching and presenting; and scholarship, both traditional
and creative. 

Law schools, institutions, or organizations cannot receive
an award.  Prior year or current year Section officers are excluded from
being selected as an award winner.

September 8, 2013 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Meet Bonnie Stepleton - A Contributing Editor


Also joining us as a new Contributing Editor is Bonnie Stepleton from the University of New Mexico School of Law.

Bonnie graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1987.  She served as a law clerk in the New Mexico Supreme Court followed by private practice in the areas of mental health and disabilities law, personal injury and workers’ compensation.  She has been at the University of New Mexico School of Law since 2004, and is Assistant Dean for Student Services. She teaches Bar Strategies Seminar, Interviewing Counseling and Negotiation and coaches in the Mediation class.  She is a member of the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE).

We look forward to having Bonnie as one of the editors and reading her viewpoints from student services as well as academic success.

September 7, 2013 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Should 1Ls think about the bar exam?

Two weeks ago we held our Student Services Fair and on behalf of the Bar Studies Program I was invited to participate.  The first floor of the law school was lined with rows of tables nicely dressed with red and black covers (our school colors of course).  Eager, newly minted 1Ls meandered through the crowd stopping to secure swag and informational handouts from the myriad of vendors and student services teams. 

As students approach my table labeled with a “Bar Studies Program” placard, their starry-eye gaze quickly faded.  Some completely ignored me and continued to walk past the table to quickly grab a stainless steel water bottle with attached carabiner (because law school is a lot like mountaineering but I will save that for another post).  However, a few brave souls stopped to ask a question or flip through the books and brochures that I had on display.

From the fearless few, the most frequent question asked was, “I do not have to think about the bar exam yet, right?”  Even though this sounded more like a statement than a question, I ventured to answer.  While I did not want to completely terrify them, especially before classes even started, I also wanted to seize this opportunity.   Thus, I proceeded cautiously. 

From my point of view, bar preparation begins on the first day of orientation (possibly even earlier).  Therefore, hopefully without scaring them to death, I discussed a few ideas regarding the bar exam that they should consider as they embark on their legal education.  I have highlighted a few here.

Bar Examination Considerations for 1Ls:

  • Think about where you want to practice law:  It may seem too early to consider where you want to establish yourself as an attorney, but 1Ls should at least consider where they would like to live and practice as they begin their legal education journey.
  • Find out jurisdictional requirements:  Once you have chosen the jurisdiction in which you would like to practice or narrowed down the jurisdictions, it is a good idea to learn about the licensing requirements in that jurisdiction.
  • Pro Bono Requirements:  States may begin to require pro bono service for bar applicants.  For example, New York State recently adopted a pro bono service requirement.  Other states may soon follow suit...stay tuned.  Either way, volunteering your time by doing pro bono work is win- win.
  • Register with the bar association:  Some states require law student registration or require a first year law student’s exam to be completed.  For example, California requires CA law students to register with the State Bar within 90 days after beginning law school.
  • Build the foundation for bar review: Keep in mind that everything you learn in your first year of law school will be tested on the bar exam.  Most students just try to stay afloat long enough to get through their 1L exams.  However, I encourage students to think about how to study, how to prepare for exams, and, most importantly, how to store information into their long term memory.  The legal concepts and doctrines that they learn during their first year will be more readily accessible to them during bar prep if they have a solid understanding of them during their 1L year.
  • Learn about the bar review course offerings:  Once students have determined where they plan to practice, they can learn about the bar review course offerings in that jurisdiction.  Registering for a bar review course during 1L year will allow students to take advantage of their law school programs such as lectures, exam review materials, and interactive software programs.  Additionally, students will typically save money if they register for a bar review course during their first year.
  • Plan financially for the bar exam:  Create a budget for yourself during law school that reserves funds for your bar review expenses.  In your expense calculations, make sure you include your bar review course fee, your bar exam application fees, MPRE registration fees, hotel and transportation fees during the administration of the bar exam, and living expenses while studying for the bar exam.

In essence, 1Ls, it is never too soon to prepare for the bar.

     Lisa Young




September 6, 2013 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Meet Myra Orlen - A Contributing Editor


We would like you to meet our second new Contributing Editor, Myra Orlen from Western New England University School of Law.  The following information is from the WNEU web pages:

After graduation from law school, Professor Orlen served as the Law Clerk for the Honorable Alexander O. Bryner, Chief Judge of the Alaska Court of Appeals, and later served a clerkship in the Superior Court of Massachusetts. After her clerkships, she worked as a Staff Attorney for the University of Massachusetts Student Legal Services Office in Amherst and as an Associate in a Northampton, MA, law firm. Professor Orlen has taught in the law program since 1995.

It is exciting to have Myra join us, and we look forward to her contributions to the blog.  Her legal writing and academic success experience will benefit all of us.

September 6, 2013 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Meet Alex Ruskell - A Contributing Editor


We have several new Contributing Editors for the Law School Academic Support Blog.  We will be introducing them to you in upcoming spotlight posts.  

Alex Ruskell is the Director of Academic Success and Bar Preparation at the University of South Carolina School of Law.  He has held similar positions at Roger Williams University School of Law, Southern New England School of Law, and the University of Iowa College of Law.  He received his law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and has degrees from Washington and Lee University, Harvard University, and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.  In a review of his wife's memoir, FumblingThe National Catholic Reporter noted "Alex is a saint.  Seriously."  The poster in his picture is hung in his office and is his daughter's (Mary Frances) made-up superhero which was designed by a friend for her.

We look forward to forthcoming posts from Alex!  Welcome to the editorial staff.  

September 5, 2013 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)