Monday, June 30, 2014

Conference Announcement: Teaching the Academically Under-Prepared Law Student

Teaching the Academically Under-Prepared Law Student
The Fourth Colonial Frontier Legal Writing Conference
Hosted by the Duquesne University School of Law
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Saturday, December 6, 2014

For generations, college and law school educators have often voiced the belief that their students are not as prepared as they used to be.  Although some educators may disagree about whether there really has been a change in students since the apocryphal “good old days,” there is a growing body of scholarship suggesting that 21st Century college graduates and law students lack the critical thinking skills necessary for law study and that as educators we are facing new challenges in teaching these students.  Scholars and other commentators have pointed to many causes for the real (and perhaps perceived) problems that new law students experience while trying to cope with the demands of academic and professional training.  These causes include the declining quality of pre-college schooling, the focus on standardized testing, lowered expectations at the undergraduate level, a decrease in the numbers and “quality” of incoming law students, the generational characteristics of current law students, the effects on student learning from psychological problems such as anxiety disorders, the deleterious influence of the Internet and computer technology, and more.  This conference will offer attendees an opportunity to hear from others who are interested in these questions, and, hopefully, learn how to better teach current law students or change the current educational environment.  The DUQUESNE LAW REVIEW, which has published papers from two previous Colonial Frontier conferences, will devote space in its Spring 2015 symposium issue to papers from the conference. 

Here is an alphabetical list of the presenters, their schools, and the topics of the twelve 30-minute presentations:

• Mary Ann Becker, Loyola Univ. Chicago College of Law – Understanding the Tethered Generation: Net Gens Come to Law School
• Heidi Brown, New York Law School – Empowering Millennial and Generation Z Students to Overcome Extreme Public Speaking Anxiety in the Socratic Law School Classroom
• Catherine Christopher, Texas Tech Univ. School of Law – Eye of the Beholder: How Perception Management Can Counter Stereotype Threat Among Struggling Law Students
• Rebecca Flanagan, Univ. of Massachusetts Law School – Should Law School Admissions Follow a Medical School Model?  An Argument for A Pre-Law Curriculum 
• Shailini George, Suffolk Univ. Law School – How Mindfulness Training Can Improve Learning in Law School
• Julia Glencer, Duquesne Univ. School of Law – Emerging Adults, “Rules” and Authority: Navigating the Minefield to Cultivate Professional Behavior
• Jane Bloom Grisé, Univ. of Kentucky College of Law – Critical Reading and Legal Writing
• Sherri Keene, Univ. of Maryland School of Law – Are We There Yet? Aligning the Expectations and Realities of Gaining Competency in Legal Writing
• Susan Landrum, Savannah Law School – Drawing Inspiration from the Flipped Classroom Model: An Integrated Approach to Academic Support for the Academically Underprepared Law Student
• Courtney Lee, Pacific McGeorge School of Law – Changing Gears to Meet the New Normal in Legal Education
• Tammy Pettinato, Univ. of North Dakota School of Law – Special Challenges for Law Students from Lower Socio-Economic Backgrounds
• Ruth Vance and Susan Stuart, Valparaiso Univ. School of Law – Academically Underprepared Yet Overconfident: Teaching the Learning-Resistant Law Student

The attendance fee for the conference will be $50 for non-presenters.  Duquesne will provide free on-site parking to conference attendees.  The conference will begin 8:00 a.m. with a breakfast reception at the Duquesne University School of Law, followed by a welcome and a series of presentations beginning at 9:00 a.m.  We will provide a catered, on-campus lunch, followed by a series of afternoon presentations, ending at approximately 3:00 p.m.  The conference will close with food and drinks in the “Bridget and Alfred Pelaez Legal Writing Center,” the home of Duquesne’s Legal Research and Writing Program.  

Pittsburgh is an easy drive or short flight from many cities.  To accommodate persons wishing to stay over in Pittsburgh on Friday or Saturday evenings, Duquesne will arrange for a block of discounted rooms at a downtown hotel adjacent to campus, within walking distance of the law school and downtown Pittsburgh.  We will also provide attendees with information about the Pittsburgh area’s attractions, including our architectural treasures, museums, art collections, shopping, and world-class professional sports teams.

For more information contact Professor Jan M. Levine at 412.396.1048 or [email protected].  Online registration for the conference and hotel will be available in September 2014, at  
(Myra G. Orlen)

June 30, 2014 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Done is better than perfect

I am in the middle (or actually, the middle of the end) of writing my first law review article in 7 years. It has been a monumental task, starting with the fact that I am terribly out of practice. The Bluebook has changed since the last time I published in a law review (and I wasn't great at Bluebooking to begin with!) I have only had a month of solid writing time, although I have been researching and writing piecemeal for almost a year. To get inspired this morning, because I am so tantalizingly close to the end, but just so burnt out and exhausted, I read an article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed comparing writing to running. I am a long distance runner, primarily at the 10k to half-marathon length, so I thought the article could help inspire me. And she did have some good advice.

Done is better than perfect. As I write, I think about all the connections I should be making. However, I don't have the time to write the article of my dreams, I have to finish. And done is better than perfect. I think this also applies to bar takers. So many high-achieving students get stuck during bar prep because they have trained themselves to be perfect. On law school exams, aiming for perfect is important if you want to be in the top of your class. But for bar prep, just getting the work done is more important than perfect. You can't be perfect when you have so many subjects to cover, and so little time.

Writing and running each require one small step. An article doesn't come out whole in a day or a week. Neither does bar prep. Each are about taking one small step, then another, and so on. Because if you look at the project, the race, or the bar exam, as one giant  monolith, you will never get started. And you have to get started. And you have to keep going when you only have 4 pages of a 30 page article, or you have only read one subject in a 15 subject outline, or you have run one mile, and have 12.1 more to go.

So with that, I need to get back to writing. I am working on one of my last sections, a section that is dear to my heart--ASP. And then I need to write my conclusions. Wish me luck. And to all of you working on the bar exam, good luck to you, too. I hope to see fellow ASPers at LWI next week.




June 28, 2014 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Miscellany, Sports, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What Went Well at AASE

The Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) convened in beautiful Indianapolis for their second annual conference.  What went well at AASE?  Well...the program was packed with creative, informative, and inspirational presentations; all in attendance can attest to knowing how to add multiple choice questions to help students achieve core competencies, recognize the implications FERPA has on Academic Support, and to design effective learning experiences for their students.  Plus, it was 80+ degrees and sunny!

In true ASP fashion, everyone was encouraged to acknowledge "what went well" by expressing their gratitude, thoughts, or observations to each other on index cards.  While this was conceived at the inaugural AASE conference, I am happy to report that it has now become a tradition.  Honoring each other in this manner is such a gift.  Both receiving an index card or giving one provides a great opportunity for us to show our support for each other.

In addition to the amazing presentations, the conference provided the perfect venue to network (and dance) with AASE members and Indianapolis was the perfect backdrop.  A huge thanks to the program and planning committees and to the host school representative Carlotta Toledo for organizing such a wonderful conference.  Next year's AASE conference will be in Chicago, at John Marshall Law School, and our host school representative will be Jamie Kleppetcshe.  

June 26, 2014 in Current Affairs, Meetings, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Take Advantage of Your University's Opportunities

I am fortunate to work at a law school that is part of a major university.  Physically, the law school is located at the northernmost end of the campus across a busy street (It is known as “Rio Lomas” -- which many do not dare to cross).  There are amazing resources available to students, staff and faculty on main campus.  Students can take advantage of all the services and resources available from training in a first class gym to attending a movie for two bucks, to taking advantage of a career fair that has cross over opportunities with graduate students.  There are regularly national level speakers lecturing on a host of topics.  At our school, law students can take up to 6 hours of graduate level courses in other departments such as Business, public administration, Latin

American studies and more.  For staff and faculty there is top notch training for teachers through the Office for Support of Effective Teaching.  Staff  have tuition remission available to take classes.  Take advantage of what your school has to offer this summer! (Bonnie Stepleton)

June 24, 2014 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Taking notes in law school: pen and paper or laptop.

To type or not to type; that is the question . . ..

Susan Bakhshian of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles addressed this issue in her presentation at the Second Annual Conference of the Association of Academic Support Educators.  Professor Bakhshian, like many of us in academic support, encourages law students to take notes the old fashioned way -- in longhand. 

For years, many of us have been telling students of the potential downfalls of relying on laptops for note taking in class.  First,  typing notes leads students to create a transcript of the class discussion, rather than a meaningful account of what students should take from the class.  Second, laptops and the internet can be unwelcome distractions in the classroom.

Recent publications  confirm what we have been telling students over the years; students will get more out of writing their notes in longhand than they will if they type notes on their laptops.   One such publication is a research article published in Psychological Science OnlineFirst: "The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop," by Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer. 

Professors Mueller and Oppenheimer's article indicates that "laptop use can negatively affect performance on educational assessments even -- or perhaps especially -- when the computer is used for its intended function of easier note taking."  The studies described in their article confirm what we surmised: even though more notes are better than fewer notes, indiscriminate transcription of class content does not promote learning as well as purposefully synthesizing and summarizing class content.

Additionally, following on the heals of the AASE Conference, the New York Times published an article further addressing the connections between writing and learning:  In addition to Mueller and Oppenheimer's work, the New York Times article references work done studying the connections between longhand and learning. 

(Myra G. Orlen)




June 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Answer the Question!

Many bar applicants are unsuccessful on the written portion of the bar exam because they fail to adequately answer the question(s) posed by the examiners.  However, telling our students to “answer the question” not only seems obvious, but can also feel patronizing.  To avoid this, I clarify how a student can ascertain what the examiners are really asking by following these steps.

Step 1. Read the call of the question to identify the subject, parties, and cause(s) of action.  If the call is narrowly crafted (i.e. Can Abel be found liable to Cain under a strict liability theory?), make sure that you are answering the specific direction within the call.  If the call is broadly drafted (i.e. Discuss the liabilities of the parties.), you will need to determine the central focus from the facts presented.

Step 2. Before moving forward, recall the key topics within the subject area being tested.  You should be able to visualize your checklist, flowchart, or outline for each topic area.  You may even want to quickly write your mnemonics on your scratch paper.

Step 3. Now, it is time to “actively read” the fact pattern.  What does “actively read” mean?  Use a pen/pencil/highlighter (depending on your state bar policies) to circle, underline, or annotate the facts as you read through them slowly.  Pay attention to numbers, quoted language, unusual FORMATTING, and repetition within the fact pattern.  These are structural and factual issue signals.  Pay close attention to these facts and use them liberally within your answer as you apply the law.  Reading slowly and carefully will help you to fully synthesize and find relevance for all of the facts.

Step 4. Use your scratch paper.  Yes, use the paper provided to sketch out your answer before you begin typing your response.  Do NOT rewrite the entire fact pattern or your entire outline.  Use your scratch paper to list the buzzwords and legally significant facts.  But, you may also want to write the call of the question on your scratch paper to ensure that you answer it.  These brief notes will help later with your IRAC.

Step 5. An important last step: reread the call of the question!  Make sure that your scratch paper notes and initial impressions align to the actual question being asked.  Now, you are ready to begin writing your answer.

Bar exam drafting committees are constructing fact patterns and questions to test various skills and abilities.  The ability to identify legal issues and determine the legally relevant facts are two such skills.  Knowing the law thoroughly will help you spot issues and will help you answer the question.  But, practice will help even more.

(Lisa Bove Young)

June 19, 2014 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Is Word Processing Dead?

In a recent conversation with a student, she commented that she wished knew more than just how to type on a word processor. She was disappointed with her first year advocacy brief’s appearance. She spent many frustrating hours reformatting and page numbering which took away from precious writing time. With the current generation’s use of mobile devices, texting, tweeting and blogging, the fine art of word processing seems to be on the downward slide. Having worked in a law office many years ago using onion skin paper and carbon, I was struck by this difference. Brief writing can be made much easier by using simple tools available in the basic Word program. For example, the use of styles enables students to automatically format the table of contents and table of authorities. The problem becomes how to find the resources and time to learn to use this tool. Check to see if your University has any continuing education or distance education resource for learning Word. At our law school we are very fortunate to have members of the IT team who are expert word processors and available for workshops and individual assistance. Each fall, I coordinate with the IT department to present a workshop on basic word processing for law students. There are many online tools available as well. For example provides tutorials for a low cost subscription. The time invested in learning to use these tools can be paid back many times over as students go through law school and eventually into the practice. (Bonnie Stepleton)

June 17, 2014 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Welcome changes at Western New England University School of Law . . .

Beginning on July 1st, Kandace Kukas will be the Assistant Dean of Bar Admissions Programs at Western New England University School of Law.  Kandace Kukas comes to Western New England University School of Law with a wealth of experience in bar preparation.  Beginning on August 1st, I will take on the role of Director of Academic Success Programs -- in addition to that of Associate Professor of legal Research and Writing.

(Myra G. Orlen)

June 16, 2014 in Academic Support Spotlight, Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Reminder about Call for Papers for AALS Section on Academic Support - Deadline August 15th

As you plan your summer writing, remember the call of papers by the Section on Academic Support for our fourth speaker at the AALS Annual Meeting in January 2015.  The call for papers deadline for submission of your paper is 5:00 p.m. Friday, August 15, 2014.  The full announcement is below.


Call for Papers

AALS Section on Academic Support

January 2015 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.


ASP a Roadmap at the Crossroad: How Academic Support Will Meet Today’s Varied Challenges


This year, the Academic Support Program Committee opted to have a call for papers and one speaker will be selected from the call.  From isolated academic support efforts to more formalized multifaceted programs, academic support has fundamentally changed itself and legal education over the years.  In light of shrinking budgets, disappearing positions, smaller applicant pools, changing profiles of incoming students, and media attacks on legal education, academic support programs face newer and varied challenges. We seek papers highlighting innovative methods, programs, or ideas related to these challenges.


Topics might include, but are not limited to, efficient and effective ways to:  collaborate with faculty; manage limited human and financial resources; attract and retain students; provide resources for students with learning and other disabilities; and create programming for diverse populations to address any social isolation and/or bridge any skills deficiencies.


As the deadline for program proposals was April 1, 2014, our list of program proposal speakers will be forthcoming.  The selected paper speaker will join those speakers as one of the presenters.  There is no formal requirement as to length of the abstract and paper submission.  Preference will be given to papers that offer novel scholarly insights on the panel topic.  A paper may have already been accepted for publication as long as it will not be published prior to the Annual Meeting.  The Section does not have plans to publish the papers, so individual presenters are free to seek their own publishing opportunities.


Papers must include the following information:

1.  A title for your paper.

2.  An abstract of your paper.

3.  A final draft of your paper.

4.  The amount of time requested for your presentation. No single presenter should exceed 30 minutes in total.  [Deleted statement about shorter presentations because paper speaker should be given at least 30 minutes.]

5.  A detailed description of both the substantive content and the techniques to be employed, if any, to engage the audience.

6.  Whether you plan to distribute handouts, use PowerPoint, or employother technology.

7.  A list of the conferences at which you have presented within the last three years, such as AALS, national or regional ASP or writing conferences, or other academic conferences.

8. A list of your published scholarly articles or books within the last three years.

9.  Your school affiliation, title, courses taught, and contact information (please include email address and telephone number).

10. Any other information you think will help the Committee appreciate the value your paper presentation will provide.


Please submit your paper by Friday, August 15, 2014 at 5pm to Goldie Pritchard, Michigan State University College of Law, [email protected].  If you have questions, please email Goldie Pritchard or call at 517.432.6881.

The Section on Academic Support Program Committee:

Goldie Pritchard, Chair

Robin Boyle Laisure

Robert Coulthard

Steven Foster

Lyndsay Garmond

DeShun Harris

Danielle Kocal

Haley Meade

Maysa Nichter

Brendon Taga

ASP Section Chair:  Amy Jarmon



June 16, 2014 in Meetings, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

University of Louisville Director of Academic Success Position

Director of Academic Success position at the University of Louisville School of Law.   You can find the posting on under “Staff Positions”.  The job ID # is UL172 and will remain open until June 15.  The online application is available at   I think there are a lot of talented folks in ASP positions that would be a great fit for this.  Please share with anyone you think might be interested.


Position Description
Please note: this is the 80% FTE position with the salary of $40,000.00 annually.

The successful candidate will work with students in their transition to law school, will promote students' successful completion of the J.D. program, and will work with administration and faculty to provide students with a skill-set that will prepare them for the bar exam. The School of Law seeks to serve and retain a highly qualified and diverse student body, and the Director should have experience and training that will support working with a diverse student population. Ideally, the successful candidate will begin on June 30, 2014.

Some specific responsibilities of the Director of Academic Success include being responsible for the 1L Structured Study Group program, which includes providing curriculum, training, and supervision to Student Academic Fellows; working with students, individually and in small groups, on legal writing, time management, and test-taking skills; developing and conducting academic support workshops on class preparation, study habits, case briefing, outlining, and exam-taking; and assessing the academic success program, including the law school's bar passage, along with making periodic reports to the faculty on program outcomes. The Director should be prepared to develop and teach a one-hour Legal Methods Study Group in the Spring semester.

Finally, the Director is responsible for working more generally with the Assistant Dean of Student Life and others, to help acculturate students to the rigors of law school and to provide support and referrals to students in need.

The Brandeis School of Law is part of a dynamic metropolitan research university and has a student body of approximately 400 students. It is committed to maintaining a diverse student body and providing an educational experience focused on public service, interdisciplinary study, and public policy development.


June 14, 2014 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Assistant Director of Academic Achievement Position at California Western

Assistant Director of Academic Achievement

California Western School of Law seeks applicants for the Assistant Director of Academic Achievement.  Under the general direction of the Assistant Dean for Academic Achievement, the Assistant Director of Academic Achievement provides academic support to law students, particularly those at academic risk.  The Assistant Director is primarily responsible for supervising the tutoring program, presenting skills workshops, and working with first-year students who are facing academic difficulty.  The Assistant Director also teaches the Academic Achievement Workshop for second-year students and tutors alumni who are studying for the California bar exam. 

Qualifications:  (1) a J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school with a record of academic success and bar passage; (2) at least two years of law teaching experience, preferably in an academic support or bar preparation program; (3) excellent written, oral, and interpersonal communication skills; (4) strong problem-solving abilities; (5) good organization, judgment, and flexibility; (6) strong legal research and office computer skills, as well as an aptitude for learning new technology; (7) experience with educational technology and/or statistical analysis software (like SPSS) a plus; (8) experience  in course planning, classroom presentations, formative and summative assessment a plus; and (7) a demonstrated ability and interest in working collaboratively with a diverse population of students, faculty and staff.

Applicants must submit: (1) a cover letter describing their qualifications and salary requirements; and (2) a resume to Human Resources ([email protected]). Salary will be commensurate with experience, and the position includes a competitive benefits package.  Applications will be accepted through June 30, 2014.  The preferred start date is August 1, 2014.

California Western is an equal opportunity employer and values diversity. Founded in 1924, California Western ( is a private, independent law school located in downtown San Diego, California that is celebrating 90 years of excellence.  It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. 

June 13, 2014 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Meditate to Melt Bar Exam Stress

Summer bar preparation is kicking into high gear.  The first week is a blur.  The second week is overwhelming.  The third week is a blur again.  Bar preparation is excruciating- physically, mentally, and emotionally.  One way to stay even and remain focused is to practice meditation.

Meditation can take on many forms.  However, mindfulness, attention to breathing, and intentional focus are necessary components.  First, try to create an environment where you can be quiet and free from distractions.  You do not need to redecorate or go to extremes.  Merely find a spot where you can feel relaxed for ten or twenty minutes per day without being interrupted.

Next, concentrate on your breathing.  Think about good air coming in to refresh and satiate your spirit; and, the bad “stressful” air being exhaled and released.  Attention to breath is essential to meditation.  If the only one thing that you accomplish is sitting with your breath for 10 minutes, you will still be in a better mental place.  Try to clear your mind and focus on your breathing and let everything else melt away.  Thousands of assignments, rule statements, MBE questions, and life stressors will try to infiltrate your thoughts.  Keep them out by concentrating on your breathing.  Let this time be just about your breathing. 

By making meditation a daily practice, the stress of bar review will slowly melt away…at least for a short part of your day.  Even though schedules are strained, adding a 10-20 minute daily meditation can help add a deeper level of peace and contentment.  So... turn off your phone and computer, find a soft spot to land, close your eyes, and breathe. 

(Lisa Bove Young)

June 12, 2014 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why Do Law Students Dislike Group Work?

Group work is essential to graduate programs in business. Group work is a staple of medical school. But law students baulk at the idea of group work. This is a problem that has baffled me for years. We hear more and more about collaborative work as the cornerstone of students learning, and the need to teach law students how to work collaboratively. But professors who do require group work find that law students resist, fight, and malign collaborative projects. Why do law students hate group work?

1) We teach them that their grade is only as good as the person next to them.

Competition for grades starts the minute law students realize they are graded on a curve. Students begin to fear their peers, because they perceive their peers as their enemies, not as collaborators. Students who fear and mistrust they classmates are not going to put in extra effort to work together. They w fear that anyone who knows what they know will use it against them, either in preparing for a final exam, for personally, to hurt them in the future. Fear and mistrust are not the building blocks of collaboration.

2) We haven't dealt with our "free rider" problem.

I have colleagues who assign group projects, and I always hear about the "free rider" who manages (scams) his or her way into a hard-working group, only to receive a (high) grade based on the work of others. The students mistrust the free rider, but other than tattle to the teacher, there is little the group can do about a free rider. I have seen teachers try to deal with the free rider problem by requiring peers to assign grades to their partners, but this often results in gaming. Entire groups can game the grading by agreeing ahead of time what grades they will give each other, or individuals can game the system by agreeing to a group grade, and later giving their partners lower-than-promised grades in order to boost their personal standing in the class (yes, our students know the "prisoner's dilemma"). The only way to deal with the free rider problem is to require law students to work together on many projects over a long period of time, so "free riders" have to fear their own reputation. However, collaborative projects are pretty rare in law school, so a "free rider" doesn't need to fear that they will be ostracized from other groups if they manipulate the system.

3) We have not taught them HOW to work collaboratively, and they fear what they do not understand.
I loved group work when I was getting my MA in education. Early in my program, we were taught how to collaborate. Our professors explained the expectations of the program; teachers must collaborate, so collaboration was a part of what we needed to learn in order to be successful classroom teachers. The professors were very clear about their personal expectations for the class. Any one person could be asked to explain all of the project, at any time, so no one could be a "free rider" without risking their grade. Probably the most important lesson imparted in my program was that we were all in this together. My MA program stressed that all of us are representing the Neag School of Education, and one person who is a failure as a teacher represents our entire program. No one wanted our program to be anything less than excellent, so we wanted to shine. We worked together because we saw ourselves as members of a team, not competitors.


June 11, 2014 in Advice, Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Volunteer This Summer

Don’t’ have a summer job?  Consider becoming a volunteer.  If possible, it is preferred to find a volunteer position with a non-profit or agency to gain legal experience.  Even a few hours a week can be beneficial  and provides much needed help to the sponsoring entity.  Have a goal in mind for the volunteer experience.  Improve your writing, practice research skills,  or observe other lawyers in action.  Take this opportunity to network.   Ask questions, and ask for feedback on your assignments.  Students can contact their Career Services Office or Pro Bono office to learn of opportunities in their market.  Students can make a big difference with a small investment of their time and talents. (Bonnie Stepleton)

June 10, 2014 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Body Movin'

This is an interesting article from Wired on the effectiveness of lecture vs. active learning.  Basically, the upshot is that students in a lecture course are 1.5 times more likely to fail.  While the study only looked at STEM courses, the data is still interesting for law folks to consider when planning out their courses.

Active Learning 


(Alex Ruskell)

June 6, 2014 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

How do I study for the bar exam?

Bar Review companies are specialists at delivering programs that give students a comprehensive view of the rules that will be tested on the bar exam.  However, bar review companies are not always experts on instructing students on the best ways to study that material.  I find that this disconnect contributes to some of the stress that accompanies bar preparation. 

“Studying” does not always come easily.  Some students have had mostly open book exams and/or papers in law school; while others never figured out the best way to study.  Thus, I have included a few ideas for bar students to explore as they consider how to study for the bar exam.

  • Consider your learning style.  If you are visual, use flowcharts, diagrams, or pictures.  If you are aural, record yourself explaining the law and reciting the rules or talk out the material with a friend.  No matter what your learning style, align your learning preferences to your study methods.
  • Use your bar review materials.  Review the outlines, checklists, on-line programs, flashcards, and any other resources that your bar review provider includes with their program.  And, go one step further and specifically ask them how to best use those resources in light of your learning style or individual needs.
  • Quiz yourself.  The best way to see what you know and what you do not yet know is to quiz yourself. One way to do this is to carve out time to sit and write from memory everything you remember about a subject or component of a subject area.  Then assess your gaps in your knowledge.
  • Repetition.  It may seem like a waste of time, or a waste of paper, but repetition is a proven method to increase memory.  Whether it is repetitively writing the rules, speaking the rules, or listening to the rules, this method will help you grasp the vast amount of material tested on the bar exam.  Using spaced repetition (more in upcoming post), will greatly increase memory retention.
  •  Test yourself (different than quizzing yourself).  Essay writing and MBE practice are both forms of studying.  By placing yourself in a simulated testing situation, you will learn test taking techniques, but you will also learn the law as you work through the questions.  This type of active engagement with the material will help you learn and retain the rules.

Studying can happen in many different ways depending on one’s learning preferences and individual needs.  Discovering the most efficient and effective way to study is crucial to successful bar preparation.

(Lisa Bove Young)

June 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

New AASE Leadership

I just came back from the AASE (Association of Academic Support Educators) conference in Indianpolis. For only our second national conference, it was excellent. Kudos go to Jennifer Carr of UNLV Law for leading us through our inaugural year. She now moves to Immediate Past President. Our new President of AASE will be Paula Manning of Western State Law School. Most, if not all, of you know Paula. She is a powerhouse, and I know we will have an amazing year with her at the helm. Our new President-Elect of AASE is Pavel Wonsowicz of UCLA Law. I don't know what to say about Pavel...but I will start with outstanding, hilarious, respected, dynamic, hilarious (because he is the funniest man in ASP, by far).  Our new secretary is Betsy Brand Six from Kansas Law. Betsy did a phenomenal job last year as chair of membership. I could not left the position of secretary in better hands. Lastly, Kris Franklin of New York Law School will be continuing on as treasurer of AASE.

Next year's conference will be in the Windy City, Chicago, at John Marshall Law School, and our host school representative will be Jamie Kleppetcshe. Jamie is a superstar (but we all know this because she was the program chair for this year's conference!) Myra Orlen and myself (Rebecca Flanagan) will be chairing the program committee for 2015, so please, start thinking of presentations!

Lastly, thank you SO much to McKinney School of Law and Carlota Toledo--we could not have done this without you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


June 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bar Exam: Work Ethic

I teach a bar skills seminar.  The last class of the semester I reserve for a guest speaker - a graduate who took the most recent bar examination.  I chose the person I did this time because of his work ethic I observed during his bar study.  He had one study partner.  They had an express agreement to treat bar review like a job.  They showed up “for work” every day at 8:00 at the law school to study in a room they had reserved for the day.  My guest explained to my class that after checking in with each other they would go to their commercial bar review class. 

At this point, one of my students raised their hand and asked, “I heard that all that the bar review courses provide is a video lecture so why bother showing up to class?”  He had a good answer.  “Because then I was sure I would watch that video.  Coming to class each and every day made me accountable to myself and to my study partner.”  This got the class’ attention.  The students shifted in their seats.  My guest went on to describe how he brought his lunch every day to assure that he ate something healthy and affordable.  During lunch he and his study partner would review their flashcards.  “Tell me everything you know about X.” Then his partner would rattle off all the elements of X and if there were any gaps, they would note them and go over it again.  Once lunch was over, they would return to their reserved room and continue studying until 5:00.  Every day included multiple choice practice tests and essays.  They worked in extra MPTs as well.  My guest told the class that he studied 7-8 hours per day, every day including weekends.  By now you could hear a pin drop in the classroom.  Another student raised her hand and asked, “But, how did you find time to work?”  He answered, “I didn’t.”  After a beat he continued , “I didn’t work, I didn’t go to the gym (he was big into working out), I didn’t do anything but study. I wanted to be able to tell myself that I had done absolutely everything I possibly could.  If I didn’t pass I know it would not be because I didn’t work hard enough.”  So there it was. 

His method for passing the bar was basically working hard.  I felt a twinge of guilt in the moment.  Inside my head I said “Well, that goes against all I’ve been telling students about work life balance for their entire law school careers.”  After more reflection, I think he is onto something.  He looked at bar study from a long range perspective.  Bar review would be 8 weeks long.  He mentally made space in his life to do what he felt needed to be done.  He trusted his instincts.  For him at least, working harder was working smarter. (Bonnie Stepleton)

June 3, 2014 in Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

USC Gould School of Law Dean of Students Position

Position Vacancy



USC Law School seeks applicants for the position of dean of students.  The law school – located just south of downtown Los Angeles on the main USC campus – has always been a small and collegial institution.  Our entering JD classes typically are under 200 students.

The dean of students oversees core aspects of student services, including student affairs, financial aid, registration and records, and the office of public service.  In addition to managing these functions, the dean of students provides students with personal and academic counseling and collaborates with other law school offices, especially admissions, careers services, international programs, academic support, and the academic dean.  The dean of students sits ex officio on the academic affairs committee.

The successful candidate will possess a collaborative working style and proven ability to manage an office.  A JD degree and prior experience in higher education, especially in counseling students, are strongly preferred.

USC values diversity and is committed to equal opportunity in employment.

To apply for this position, follow this link:

For additional information, contact Professor Scott Altman: [email protected]




June 1, 2014 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)