Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Academic Advising Worksheets

Many of us are intimately familiar with ABA Standard 309(b), which requires a law school to "provide academic support designed to afford students a reasonable opportunity to complete the program of legal education, graduate, and become members of the legal profession."  But, today, I'd like to focus on subsection "(a)."  Standard 309(a) states that a "law school shall provide academic advising for students that communicates effectively the school’s academic standards and graduation requirements, and that provides guidance on course selection."

Typically, first-year students have little (or no) say in what courses they will take.  Upper-level students, on the other hand, have many different--and sometimes competing--options available to them.  The vast number of different course combinations can be overwhelming to even the most organized law students.  Here are a few tips to help rising 2Ls and 3Ls register for upper-level courses.

Step one: check the law school's website or academic handbook for advising information.  Virtually every law school's website boasts an academic advising section.  For example, the University of California at Irvine's academic advising website offers some good suggestions for course selection:

  • Take the classes that interest you the most.
  • Take classes from professors you would like to study with, even if the subject matter is not one you think will appeal to you. There are practice fields you have not considered that will actually capture your interest.
  • Take classes from professors you enjoyed and whose teaching style matches your learning style.
  • Take classes that will give you a strong foundation in the practice field you intend to enter.
  • Take a class in an area of law that interests you, even if you never intend to practice in that field.
  • Takes classes with a mix of different methods of evaluation (e.g., exams, papers, in-class exercises).
  • Take a mix of skills and doctrinal courses.
  • Take a broad range of classes. Life is unpredictable. You may discover you do not enjoy the work you do, or business in your practice area may dry up. Choose courses that will expose you to various methodological approaches to the law and that prepare you to be a well-rounded lawyer able to take advantage of opportunities as they appear.

NYU Law's website echoes these same recommendations.  You may also want to consult Professor Jarmon's 2013 "Academic Advising and Registration" blogpost for some additional helpful tips.

Step two: make a list of all the academic requirements needed for graduation.  Check for specific course requirements, minimum/maximum credit limitations both at the semester level and cumulatively, writing or seminar requirements, and concentration requirements.  Put all of that information on a single sheet of paper.   You are welcome to Download Graduation Requirements Checklist that I use at my school and then make adjustments to the document to reflect your school's requirements. 

Step three: create a two-year plan.  Frequently, elective courses are offered during either the fall semester or the spring semester, but not both.  And, some specialty elective courses are only taught once every two years, meaning students will only have one opportunity during their upper-level to enroll in the course. Therefore, it is critical to know when, and how often a course will be offered.  Once you know which courses are offered when, chart them out.  It may feel like a complicated LSAT logic game (e.g. you can't take Wealth Transfers the same semester you that take Family Law), but it's worth the effort.  Again, you are invited to Download 3-Year Course Sequence Planning Worksheet to get the process started.

Step four: take draft versions of your worksheets to your academic advisor and academic support professor for approval.  Once you get the thumbs-up from your academic advisor about the mechanics, turn your attention to the bigger picture - goal setting.  For more information on what that conversation should look like, read Professor Jarmon's 2015 blogpost entitled "The Missing Piece: Academic Advising."  Finally, stop by your Academic Support Professor's Office for some deeper insights.  They are always full of helpful information, especially as it relates to your current academic achievement and future academic goals.  After all, there is a reason that ABA Standard 309 includes academic advising in part (a) and academic support in part (b) of the same rule!  (Kirsha Trychta)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2018/03/academic-advising-standard-309a.html

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