Friday, May 31, 2019

Farewell to an Inspiration

Saying goodbye is always difficult.  It becomes especially difficult when the person made an impact on so many people.  Amy Jarmon made that impact, and unfortunately, we say goodbye after her post last Monday and retirement.

If you attended the AASE awards ceremony, you saw the reaction from everyone when Amy was awarded the AASE Inspiration award.  Jamie could barely get words out announcing the award.  The standing ovation that followed was well deserved.  Amy inspired a generation of ASPers with both her insight and her ability to find other unique voices for the blog.  Many people read the blog each day because of how Amy expanded it over the years.  Her impact on our community is immeasurable.

True to form, Amy finished her tenure being recognized by the Texas Bar Today with a top 10 award.  Right after she transitioned to being a contributing editor, she wrote a top 10 post.  Her insight continued to garner awards to the end.

In her last post, Amy said she loved the camaraderie in our community.  She was a huge part of that culture with the help she provided to many of us.  I am sure we will continue in those footsteps.  Congrats to a great career and goodbye to an inspiration to us all.

(Steven Foster)

May 31, 2019 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Muscle Learning & Bar Prep Success

Last week at the annual Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) Conference, Professor Paula Manning shared an analogy about learning that gripped my mind and heart.  

You see, as Professor Manning reminded us, working out to get in shape is tough work.  Building muscles, well, takes daily pain.  It requires us to push ourselves, to lift beyond what we think we can, to walk further than we think we can, and to run harder than we think we can.  And, it requires us to work out nearly everyday.  Moreover, as Professor Manning related, the next day after a heavy workout can feel just downright aching.  "Oh do those muscles hurt."  But, we don't say to ourselves: "Wow, that hurt; I'm not going to do that again."  No, instead, we say to ourselves: "That was a really great workout; I'm building muscle."  In short, we are thankful for the temporary pain because we know that it will benefit us in the future.

But, when it comes to learning, as Professor Manning reflected upon, we often tend to not view the agonizing daily work of learning as beneficial in the long term.  Rather, if you are like me, I tend to avoid the hard sort of learning tasks, such as retrieval practice and interleaving practice, for tasks which, to be frank, aren't really learning tasks at all...because they aren't hard at all (such as re-reading outlines or highlighting notes, etc.).  But, if you and I aren't engaged in difficult learning tasks, then we aren't really learning, just like we aren't really building muscles if we just walk through the motions of exercise.  

So, for those of you just beginning to embark on preparing for your bar exam this summer, just like building muscles, learning requires building your mind to be adept at legal problem-solving by practicing countless multiple-choice and essay problems on a daily basis.  In short, the key to passing your bar exam is not what you do on bar exam day; rather, it's in your daily practice today that makes all the difference for your tomorrows.  

As such, instead of focusing most of your energies on watching bar review lectures, reading outlines, and taking lecture notes, spend most of your learning in problem-solving because that's what you will be tested on this summer.  Big picture wise, for the next six weeks or so, half of your time should be spent in bar review lectures, etc., and the other half should be spent working through practice problems to learn the law.  So, good luck in working out this summer!  (Scott Johns). 

May 30, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Getting It Right from the Start

Years ago, as part of an effort to address bar passage issues at my school, some well-meaning professors suggested having a remedial course for lower-performing law students. In broad-brush terms, the centerpiece of the proposal was to require students to begin each class, starting from the very first day of the semester, with a timed 30-minute essay question. After students finished the timed exam, the remainder of the class period would be devoted to the instructor reviewing the question and explaining what students should have written in their answers. Merely by dint of forcing students to write essay exam answers over and over, the theory went, they would do better on law school and bar exams. But the proposed class structure neatly met the clichéd definition of insanity, by requiring students to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result just by discussing what they should have done after the fact. Fortunately, the proposal never gained traction.

This summer and fall, I'm privileged to be involved with a CLEO program for incoming law students that takes the opposite approach. The Pre-Law Summer Institute, CLEO's familiar and long-standing residential program designed to prepare diverse participants for law school, now is preceded by a 30-hour online program, Developing Law School Literacies, devoted to providing instructional intervention from the start. Designed by Penn State education professor (emerita) Dorothy Evensen and funded by a grant from LSAC, the program leans on research about reading skills conducted by academic support educators such as Rebecca Flanagan and Jane Grisé and uses pedagogy based on sociocultural theory to provide intervention from the start. Rather than trying to do tasks on their own, students in this immersion program have frequent, intensive small-group meetings with academic support professors who act as instructional mediators. By explicitly focusing the students on using the tools given for effective case reading and briefing, and by verbalizing reasoning processes, the instructional mediators help students collaborate to competently complete a legal task from the very start. Each meeting focuses on a different aspect of case reading and briefing, such as the facts, the reasoning, and the rule. 

I am especially excited that this program strongly emphasizes pre-reading, which in my experience is critical to active engagement with a text. I additionally hope that my CLIC group in the fall will provide a critical mass of 1Ls experienced and enthusiastic about wrestling with cases rather than searching for a rule and moving on. Helping students get things right from the start is a very ASP-ish approach -- empowering, effective, and humanizing. 

(Nancy Luebbert)

May 29, 2019 in Reading, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 27, 2019

For the Love of ASP

Most of our readers have seen the announcement that I am retiring. My work in ASP at law schools has spanned nearly 18 years - at U of Akron as well as Texas Tech. I have been humbled by the outpouring of well wishes and kind words on the listserv and in personal emails. I was honored and deeply touched to receive an award at the recent AASE conference.

My years in ASP have been a pleasure. There are many reasons for that: 

  • I love working with students. I want them to achieve at the highest level of their potential and not just survive law school. Learning new strategies can transform their law school semesters.
  • I love seeing students and alumni flourish in their lives and careers. It gives me great joy to hear about their successes: improved grades, competition wins, officer positions, job offers, bar passage, promotions, marriages, new babies, and more. And, I have also been with them through disappointments and tears. I have had the honor of being part of so many lives.
  • I love learning. There is a 1980 framed poster in my office from the official opening of the U.S. Education Department that reads "Learning never ends." Each day I learned something new from my students, my colleagues, or other resources to improve my work.
  • I love the ASP/bar prep community. You are awesome colleagues! The amount of sharing of ideas, materials, and encouragement is unlike that in other legal professional groups. I am convinced that you are some of the nicest people to work with as colleagues anywhere on earth.
  • I love the dear friends in ASP/bar prep with whom I have shared many experiences. Whether we have seen each other only at conferences, worked on AALS or AASE projects, talked by phone, or emailed regularly, I have been privileged to be your friend. Your friendship and support have been phenomenal.

I wish each and every one of you personal satisfaction, opportunities to learn, camaraderie with other ASP'ers, and career successes. 

God bless!

Amy Jarmon



May 27, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 26, 2019

My Experience at AASE

AASE was a huge success again.  Seattle University did an amazing job hosting the event.  Isabel Freitas Peres and the team at Seattle provided great spaces to enjoy the presentations, and I definitely enjoyed the food variety throughout the week.  

The presenters did a great job last week.  I could tell they spent significant time preparing and provided great insights for everyone.  I wanted to pass along summaries of a few presentations I attended.  I encourage everyone to go to the AASE TWEN page and download the materials or contact presenters for their information.  Obviously, I couldn't make it to all the presentations.  Below are just a few of the ones I attended.  

Rory Bahadur's IRAC presentation was outstanding.  I love Rory's energy when he presents, and this presentation was very practical.  He provided 3 specific IRAC exercises to use in the classroom.  The time required for each exercise ranged from 10 to 40 minutes.  They are easy to use, already made for you, and require students to do the majority of the work in class.  I suggest contacting him or going to the TWEN page to find the 3 exercises.  

Scott Johns, Denise DeForest, and Christopher Engle-Newman's bar workshop lesson in a box provided a good foundation for any summer bar workshop.  Similar to Rory, I wish I could recreate Scott's energy in the classroom.  They did an excellent job of both simulating the workshop and explaining why they incorporated each component.  Their workshops include an introduction with a bar exam tip, retrieval practice from previous workshops, and a schema for the current subject.  The schema section for Con Law was great because Scott drew on the whiteboard while explaining very basic structure.  Workshops then move to MBE questions to teach strategy and the law.  They normally go through an essay prompt as well before finishing with takeaways from the workshop.  The setup used learning science in every step and was very well planned.

The initial plenary session with Dean Mike Barry, Zoe Niesel, and Isabel Peres was insightful.  Dean Barry explained statistics and modeling better than I had seen before, and he explained how to use the statistics.  The individual student information looks helpful when trying to counsel students during summer bar prep.  Zoe and Isabel discussed how to use the statistics when creating or modifying programming.  One big takeaway is none of us need to understand how to run the statistics.  We can partner with analysts on our main campus, bar review companies, or hire someone.  

Lastly, I encourage everyone to get information from Kris Franklin and Paula Manning.  They discussed preparing both students and professors for individual student meetings.  Part of the problem is everyone has different (and probably unreasonable) expectations walking into student meetings.  We can train both students and faculty how to utilize individual student meetings better, which then leads to more improvement in the long run.

There were many excellent presentations at AASE.  I did not see all of them, so I encourage everyone to look through the program and contact presenters for information or materials.  I can't wait for next year in D.C.

(Steven Foster)

May 26, 2019 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Instructor Openings in Law Success Program at St. Mary's

St. Mary's University School of Law invites applications for three full-time Law Success Instructors for the 2019-2020 academic year.  This is a full-time, non-tenure track position.  

The mission of the Office of Law Success is to ensure that St. Mary's students are successful in law school, on the bar exam, and in practice. This mission demands that Law Success Instructors be team oriented and collaborative, possess a positive mindset, be committed to excellence in teaching, and demonstrate passionate dedication to the students with whom they work. Instructors have four primary expectations in their role: 1) classroom instruction; 2) academic support; 3) aiding with bar exam preparation; and, 4) participating in program work to meet the needs of the students. As this position is student facing, Law Success Instructors are on campus and available to meet with students 40 hours a week during the contract period (excluding University holidays).

Each instructor will teach a required first-year legal research, writing, and lawyering skills course -- Legal Communications, Analysis, and Professionalism (LCAP). In addition, instructors may teach upper-level courses, including Bar Preparation for Credit.  Law Success requires a programmatic approach to teaching courses to ensure consistency between different sections of the same course and to provide a better student experience. Instructors will, among other things, help design courses, participate on committees, attend student and faculty functions, teach classes, prepare problems, critique assignments, and regularly meet with individual students.  St. Mary's has both day and evening programs, and instructors may teach in either or both based on the needs of the office.

This is a ten-month position (August-May), and instructors will be hired for one-year contracts. All instructors will be evaluated at the end of the contract with options for renewal.  The starting salary for the full-time position is set at $65,000, depending upon prior experience.  

Applicants for the position must have a JD degree, a strong academic record, excellent writing skills, at least two years of recent legal work experience post-JD graduation, and either aptitude for or experience in teaching. Experience working as an academic support professional, legal writing professional, and/or in bar exam preparation is strongly preferred, but not required.

St. Mary's is the oldest Catholic university in the Southwest and continues to advocate the Marianist mission of academic excellence and servant leadership. Founded in 1852 by the Society of Mary (Marianists), St. Mary's is a comprehensive Catholic and Marianist university with a strong tradition of integrating liberal arts with professional studies. St. Mary's enrolls approximately 4,000 students in a diverse university with five schools, more than 40 academic programs including Ph.D. and J.D. programs, and numerous pre-professional programs.

Applications can be found at Along with the employment application please submit: (1) a cover letter addressing your interest in position and how your experience would further the mission of Law Success, (2) curriculum vita, (3) an official graduate transcript confirming the Juris Doctor degree, (4) a list of three references, and (5) a writing sample. The deadline for submission of applications is June 7, 2019.

Any offer of employment will be contingent upon successful completion of a clear background check.  St Mary's University is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

May 25, 2019 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 24, 2019

Congrats to AASE Award Winners!

AASE is an outstanding organization, and I love that we are honoring colleagues doing great work around the country.  The awards committee did an outstanding job choosing the recipients this year, and Jamie Kleppetsch did a great job presenting the awards.  I want her to introduce me any time I am in front of a crowd in the future.  Below are this year's recipients.  If you haven't, send them a quick congratulations for the work they have done


AASE ASP Inspiration Award to Amy Jarmon

The Association of Academic Support Educators bestows the AASE ASP Inspiration Award upon Amy Jarmon in recognition of her significant contributions to ASP throughout her career, particularly her promotion of the field of ASP and her mentorship of her ASP colleagues.



AASE Enhancements in ASP Award to Herb Ramy 

The Association of Academic Support Educators bestows the AASE Enhancements in ASP Award upon Herb Ramy in recognition of his support to the field of ASP through his publications and presentations, his support of his ASP colleagues, and his leadership which empowered change in ASP employment status.



AASE Spirit of ASP Award to Jendayi Saada 

The Association of Academic Support Educators bestows the AASE Spirit of ASP Award upon Jendayi Saada in recognition of  her promotion of diversity in the ASP field and in the legal field, her mentorship of her colleagues, and her work to educate law school leaders about best practices for academic support and bar preparation.



AASE Guiding Light Award to Shane Dizon

The Association of Academic Support Educators bestows the AASE Guiding Light Award upon Shane Dizon in recognition of the knowledge and experience he brings to new colleagues in a supportive, transparent, and intelligent way. 



AASE ASP Innovator Award to Raul Ruiz

The Association of Academic Support Educators bestows the AASE ASP Innovator Award upon Raul Ruiz in recognition of his creation of a sophisticated data system that identifies and pinpoints students for additional support, which he has shared with the ASP community and uses to improve mentorship of students as they prepare for the bar exam.



AASE Order of Distinction to Kent Lollis

The Association of Academic Support Educators bestows the AASE Order of Distinction upon Kent Lollis in recognition of his role as one of the founding architects of ASP.

May 24, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Beyond War Stories

Thanks to Bill McDonald for his reflections in yesterday's post about the start of this year's annual Association of Academic Support Educators conference. I'm looking forward to hearing much more in the days and weeks to come about the presentations and ideas coming out of the AASE conference. The AASE conference (and the predecessor LSAC Academic Support conferences) have always been inspiring because our colleagues come together not to demonstrate their brilliance (although brilliance abounds) but to share and collaborate. 

I  missed the AASE Conference this year because a higher priority came up -- taking my mother to the 70th reunion of the Class of 1949 at West Point. (You don't need to be a math whiz to figure out why this mission took precedence.) For this generation, the wives, widows, and children were as integral to the cohesion of the class as the graduates themselves, and the nature of military service meant that classmates and their families crossed paths time and again over the course of their careers. Although there were misty eyes at times, overall the atmosphere was one of joyful community as 49ers and their families gathered to celebrate their legacy, strengthen their community, and move forward.

The 70th reunion could have been merely an occasion for swapping war stories (literally in this case), but it was so much more. The classmates, spouses, and widows -- who might , in their nineties, be forgiven for resting on their laurels -- gathered not only to remember and celebrate what had been but to move forward with plans for helping current students and younger alumni. They paid active attention to presentations on the academy's present and future, asking probing questions and offering insights gleaned from decades of service. They planned for the future of a lodge they had given the academy, but, recognizing their own frailties, enlisted younger classes to oversee this initiative in the future. In turn, those around them -- children, grandchildren, graduating "firsties," and younger alumni -- actively listened, questioned, learned, and bonded, not just with the elders but with each other. 

The best group meetings in which I have participated, including state bar conventions and AASE conferences, have much in common with the amazing reunion I just attended. Those present give themselves fully to the experience, not yielding to distractions which would divide their attention.  Participants understand that sharing their history and building relationships doesn't distract from their purpose but instead allows them to move forward. A spirit of mutual respect and admiration is paramount, even as participants debate, challenge, and question each other. Enthusiasm is tempered with realism about proposed and existing projects. And the experience invigorates those who attend, sending them forth with new purpose.  So if in doubt -- go. It will be worth it! 

(Nancy Luebbert) 

May 22, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Strength in Numbers

Today is the first day of the 7th Annual Association of Academic Support Educators [AASE] National Conference.  This year well over 200 law school academic support educators are gathering in Seattle, Washington, to share what we have learned about how to help our students succeed in law school and on the bar examination.  For me, it is an enlightening pleasure every year to swap stories and strategies with my brilliant colleagues.

Today's lead-off plenary session, presented by Michael Barry and Zoe Niesel of St. Mary's University School of Law and Isabel F. Peres of Seattle University School of Law, discussed the use of robust data analysis to create predictive models to help identify and calibrate the guidance provided to specific students in preparation for the bar exam.  Several other sessions on the agenda this week address the need to use specific, articulable information throughout the process of providing academic support: from laying out detailed strategic plans to assessing student development to predicting bar passage rates.  Certainly, like any mature field of study in which reliable and reproducible outcomes are valued, academic success recognizes the importance of definition, measurement, recording, and scrutiny.

Part of me feels there is an irony in this, in that the AASE Conference is also an opportunity to work with and learn from some of the most accomplished veterans in the field, people whose spontaneous intuition often appears to be more perceptive and accurate than a detailed mathematical data analysis.  Not only that, there is also a pervasive insistence throughout the Conference on recognizing the ineluctable humanity of each student -- of seeing every one not just as a set of numbers, but as an unpredictable human with immeasurable potential.  The numbers might tell us that student X has a 64% chance of passing the bar, but we might nevertheless work with X as if we sense he really has a 90% chance -- and in doing so, might even help X move from 64% to 90%.

The reality, of course, is that there is no contradiction.  Experienced and gifted professionals are observant; they work with data they may not even be consciously aware of when they assess a student's strengths and weaknesses.  In that context, rigorous scientific analysis can be just as much about confirming the deep knowledge of the veteran as about uncovering previously unsuspected truths.  It can also be about articulating facts and relationships observed by others through long experience in ways that make those facts and truths easier to explain to those new to the field.

Thus, our annual conferences are a double celebration of strength in numbers, recognizing not only the value of sharing the wisdom and lore of our most experienced professionals in a group setting, but also the importance of capturing and confirming this wisdom through data that can back up our intuition, guide our choices, and persuade skeptical students and colleagues.

[Bill MacDonald]

May 21, 2019 in Academic Support Spotlight, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Meetings, Professionalism, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Strength in Numbers

Today is the first day of the 7th Annual Association of Academic Support Educators [AASE] National Conference.  This year well over 200 law school academic support educators are gathering in Seattle, Washington, to share what we have learned about how to help our students succeed in law school and on the bar examination.  For me, it is an enlightening pleasure every year to swap stories and strategies with my brilliant colleagues.

Today's lead-off plenary session, presented by Michael Barry and Zoe Niesel of St. Mary's University School of Law and Isabel F. Peres of Seattle University School of Law, discussed the use of robust data analysis to create predictive models to help identify and calibrate the guidance provided to specific students in preparation for the bar exam.  Several other sessions on the agenda this week address the need to use specific, articulable information throughout the process of providing academic support: from laying out detailed strategic plans to assessing student development to predicting bar passage rates.  Certainly, like any mature field of study in which reliable and reproducible outcomes are valued, academic success recognizes the importance of definition, measurement, recording, and scrutiny.

Part of me feels there is an irony in this, in that the AASE Conference is also an opportunity to work with and learn from some of the most accomplished veterans in the field, people whose spontaneous intuition often appears to be more perceptive and accurate than a detailed mathematical data analysis.  Not only that, there is also a pervasive insistence throughout the Conference on recognizing the ineluctable humanity of each student -- of seeing every one not just as a set of numbers, but as an unpredictable human with immeasurable potential.  The numbers might tell us that student X has a 64% chance of passing the bar, but we might nevertheless work with X as if we sense he really has a 90% chance -- and in doing so, might even help X move from 64% to 90%.

The reality, of course, is that there is no contradiction.  Experienced and gifted professionals are observant; they work with data they may not even be consciously aware of when they assess a student's strengths and weaknesses.  In that context, rigorous scientific analysis can be just as much about confirming the deep knowledge of the veteran as about uncovering previously unsuspected truths.  It can also be about articulating facts and relationships observed by others through long experience in ways that make those facts and truths easier to explain to those new to the field.

Thus, our annual conferences are a double celebration of strength in numbers, recognizing not only the value of sharing the wisdom and lore of our most experienced professionals in a group setting, but also the importance of capturing and confirming this wisdom through data that can back up our intuition, guide our choices, and persuade skeptical students and colleagues.

[Bill MacDonald]

May 21, 2019 in Academic Support Spotlight, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Meetings, Professionalism, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 20, 2019

Some Things I Have Learned from Colleagues, Observation, and Experience

As my career in ASP winds down, I have reflected on what I have learned over the years. Here are a few things that strike me as important lessons learned from discussions with my ASP/bar prep colleagues, observations of our profession over time, and my own experiences:

  • ASP and bar prep work have gained more recognition through the years. LSAC supported us early on. AALS recognized our efforts with a section designation. Changes to ABA standards brought more attention to our roles. More law schools now have programs, but there is still work to be done if all law students are to have access to full-time, funded services.
  • ASP/bar prep started its work to increase academic and bar success for minority students. With the pressures of stigma and backlash, many ASP programs opened services to all law students. Although programs may still have minority components within the services, the broader law school population has now become the focus. Declining admissions (and the resulting decline in applicant credentials in some cases) and ABA emphasis on bar passage rates have continued the pressure for services to be available to all law students.  Let us not forget our original purpose of supporting diversity as our roles expand.
  • The work we do is not just about grades or bar passage. We teach skills that impact our graduates throughout their lives. We teach skills resulting in better lawyering and more satisfying living. Among the skills we teach are learning strategies, legal reasoning, problem solving, organizing work, managing time, managing stress, and avoiding procrastination.
  • We need to be careful that we do not just jump from the "hot topic or solution of the month" to the next hot topic. It is tempting, but ultimately shallow. There is no magic wand available for ASP or bar prep. Learning, memory, and legal reasoning are complex topics with layers of nuance. To those three, we must add the topics of diversity, motivation, procrastination, learning disabilities, time management, work management, stress management, resilience, grit, mindset, and mental health - also very complex and nuanced. I could easily list another dozen topics that relate to our work. We need to investigate deeply to understand the nuances, remain open to intertwined concepts, and build successful strategies over time.
  • The numbers game is not all that matters. It is nice if large numbers enroll in courses or attend workshops, but numbers alone do not tell the story. Our work regularly impacts on an individual level. We need to remember that assisting one student at a time is valuable. Let us not forget the merit of one-on-one assistance during our law schools' demand for numbers to tout.
  • We need to provide alternative methods for students to access our services. Some services may involve mandatory appointments, workshops, or courses. However, even mandatory offerings may not reach all students who need help or may fail to reach them at the time when they are most receptive. We need to continue to explore different ways to reach students where they are and when they are receptive to services. The possibilities are endless, but include appointments, workshops, packets, handouts, email tips, podcasts, blog posts, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter, intranet pages, pop-up events, and walk-abouts.
  • We need to remember that each student is unique. One size does not fit all, no matter what theory suggests. Each student comes with individual strengths, weaknesses, challenges, motivations, educational backgrounds, and experiences. We cannot forget the individual when we consider our repertoire of theories, generalities, and strategies.
  • We need to ask questions and listen to the answers. I learn some of the best strategies from students explaining what they have discovered. In the search for the combination of strategies for each student, we need to explore with the student what works, does not work, needs to be modified, or needs to be tossed.
  • We want students to succeed and are personally involved in their learning. However, ultimately the student must implement the strategies, eschew bad habits, and work to achieve success. Despite our best efforts, some students will not reach their full academic potential and may even fail academically or fail the bar repeatedly. It exemplifies the old adage of leading a horse to water.
  • Working 60-70 hours per week (and often more) is the temptation in ASP/bar prep because we want to implement new programs, stay up with professional development, be available to students, show up at events to support them, and answer emails at all times of the day and night. However, working at such a pace leads to burnout and ultimately does not help us or our students. We need to model the work-life balance that we regularly recommend to our students.
  • Have faith in your own expertise and the" best practices" that match your law school's culture. The variety of law schools means that one size does not fit all. Be open to ideas and weigh their value for your law school situation. ASP/bar prep colleagues are willing to share ideas and expertise - usually for free. Read the Law School Academic Support Blog, post queries on the Law School Academic Support listserv, attend AASE and AALS conferences or other regional workshops, and reach out to experienced colleagues. However, be wary of anyone who tells you there is one and only one (that is, the individual's own) path to "best practices" in ASP/bar prep; that viewpoint is just not accurate.
  • No matter how dedicated and expert we are in our work, our law schools have to provide the facilities and resources for us to do our work well. Without commitments for space, budget, staffing, support services, and equal status, we will be limited in achieving the greatest results for our students. Talk is cheap. It takes actions from each and every law school in support of our ASP and bar professionals to make a difference.

ASP/bar prep work is challenging, impactful, rewarding, and gratifying. We can be proud of what we do each day. What we accomplish is important. We need all law schools to recognize how important our work is for our students' academic success and for their futures. (Amy Jarmon)


May 20, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Learning Styles, Miscellany, Professionalism, Program Evaluation, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Bar Prep Marathon Begins

July Bar Prep is starting in many jurisdictions.  The Bar Exam in general is a tough test, and the MBE seems to be getting tougher.  However, don't let the difficulty psych you out in the first week.  This is a marathon not a sprint.  Pace yourself so you keep your energy up throughout bar prep. 

Many bar prep companies will start with MBE workshops or a few MBE questions.  Don’t worry if you don’t get many questions correct.  No one starts out acing the MBE.  The diagnostic test is the baseline to improve from.  If you follow a good plan, complete the MBE questions throughout the summer, and thoroughly review the answer explanations, you should improve your scores significantly.  Stay positive now because you will need it later.

My biggest suggestion is to develop a good strategy for each MBE question.  Hone that strategy and stick to it throughout bar prep.  MBE questions include irrelevant facts and distractor answer choices.  You will fall victim to some of the tricks if you passively complete MBE questions.  Attacking the MBE with the strategy from your Academic Support professor or bar review company is critical.  Practice your strategy on every question.  One of the most exciting moments I remember while watching basketball was game 6 of the 2013 NBE finals when Miami was losing to the Spurs with less than 20 seconds.  Miami's fans were leaving.  They didn't want to see their team lose the NBA Championship.  Lebron James missed a 3 point shot and Ray Allen was in the paint going for a rebound.  Ray didn't get the rebound, but when Miami teammate Chris Bosh did, Ray backpedaled behind the 3 point line.  He caught a pass, drained the 3, and the game went to overtime.  Lost in the story is what it takes to make that 3.  Many people think Ray Allen was born a brilliant 3 point shooter.  He would argue otherwise.  He said in an interview that he practiced that exact type of moment thousands of times over the years.  He didn't need to think about what to do because he practiced it so many times.  Practice is what made him great.  Answering MBE questions is the same way.  Practicing a strategy on all the possible questions will make exam day manageable.  Practice a winning strategy throughout the summer to excel in your biggest moment on your biggest stage.  

The bar exam is a grueling test.  Remember to tell yourself every morning that YOU HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, AND ABILITY TO PASS THE BAR!!!! Now just execute.  

(Steven Foster)

May 19, 2019 in Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Article on Teaching Metacognition

Many of us believe students enter law school with poor study habits.  Students don't know how to learn the volumes of material needed for the final exam.  The discussion is progressing to how to teach students how to learn.  I wanted to pass along a blog post from the Legal Skills blog that found an article on teaching Metacognition in the first year.

Click here for the blog post.

The article referenced is on SSRN here.

The article will be in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Legal Education.  I can't wait to read it.

(Steven Foster)

May 18, 2019 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 17, 2019

Congrats 1Ls!

Congratulations first-year students!  You made it through a grueling year.  Law school is a long and exhausting process.  The semesters are draining, and everyone feels burned out at the end of each year.  Many people could not make it through this intellectual, emotional, and sometimes even physical battle.  You should congratulate yourself because making it through is an accomplishment.  Optimism will help you successfully continue this journey through the next 2-3 years. 

For now, FORGET YOUR FINALS.  You turned in your answers, and at this point, you can’t change anything you wrote.  Talking to other students will only stress you out, and many times, your classmates are wrong.  No one writes perfect answers.  You can miss issues and still receive reasonable grades.  Even if you missed entire questions, you still can’t change it.  Don’t worry, your grades will be out soon enough.  Take this time to relax and hopefully gain experience.

The focus now should be on what to do during the summer.  My suggestions for the summer are:

1.  Gain Experience.  If you can't find a paid internship, volunteer somewhere.  No only do you gain valuable legal experience, you will also see the law in action.  Learning science indicates that we remember information better and longer if we understand context.  Helping litigate a personal injury case, working on a contract, and helping with a real estate transaction can provide context to solidify first year knowledge.

2.  Make connections.  I encourage everyone to make connections inside and outside the legal field.  Spend time with friends and family.  Make new friends, and enjoy time away from the law school.  Also, make connections with practitioners.  You should attend events with both new and experienced attorneys.  

3.  Read a book for pleasure.  You probably didn't get to read for pleasure the past year, so read something fun during the summer.

4.  Read a book for improvement.  You made it through the first year and understand what law school requires.  Spend a little time thinking about where you can improve.  Grab a good book to help improve in that area.  Your Academic Success professor at your law school can give you some ideas.  I also suggest reading books about how we learn, make habits, and persevere.  I love the books Grit, Make it Stick, and Atomic Habits.

5.  Take a break.  The most important piece of advice is to take a break and breath.  The academic calendar is packed.  August will be here fast, so take a moment to breathe.  Rest will be invaluable.

Law school is tough, and not everyone can do it.  Celebrate that you made it, and enjoy your summer.

(Steven Foster)

May 17, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Family and Bar Preparation

I'm firmly convinced that profession or occupation should take second place to relationships; we are persons first and law students / bar takers / lawyers second. However you choose or define your family, your relationships within this structure are likely to be the longest and deepest relationships of your life. Our families are central to our lives. 

We do a disservice to ourselves if we elevate what we do above who we fundamentally are. Crises such as the serious illness or impending death of death of family or intimate friends can make for difficult decisions.  We should approach these decisions not so much on practical as on moral or spiritual grounds. For example, instead of asking "Will I be able to focus on studying for the bar when my stepfather is in hospice care?", it is more life-affirming to ask "Is it better for me to postpone the bar exam to be with my mother now or to keep studying so she has space to grieve?" In different families, this may lead to radically different results: sometimes it is better to postpone the bar examto be with family during critical times; sometimes it is best to honor the wishes of those we love by continuing to devote our energies to the goal they have encouraged us to achieve. There are no easy answers in a family emergency, only hard choices.

More apropos to most bar takers, however, is managing more mundane family relationships over the ten weeks of studying for the bar. After three long years of law school and an impressive graduation ceremony, our families can be forgiven for thinking that the hardest part is over with and that the bar exam is mostly a formality that will validate our years of hard work. It's especially easy to make this assumption when bar takers are doing the majority of their work online at home. Children clamor for attention; spouses expect us to be more physically and emotionally available; parents suggest outings; cousins assume we will attend weddings, family reunions, weekends at the lake, and other festivities. It's easy for loving families to sabotage bar review with the best of intentions. Or, rather, it's easy to sabotage our own bar preparation by allowing ourselves to be sidetracked. By taking a long-term approach we can maximize the effectiveness of our bar review while remaining fully engaged with our families.

First, understand your family dynamics and plan accordingly. If you move back in with your parents to save money during the bar review period, for example, will you waste time or be more efficient? Several years back I talked with a 3L who was moving into his mother's house to study for the bar. I asked whether the living situation would distract him from effective studying. "Oh, no," he laughed. "My mother is a schoolteacher and the most disciplined person I know. After dinner she'll probably look at the clock and tell me I have two more hours of studying to do so I'd better get to it." Other former students have reported the exact opposite: parents would repeatedly drop in while they were studying, disrupt their focus, and guilt-trip them into time-wasting activities. If you know the latter is more like the dynamics in your family, you're better off in the long term spending extra money for rent so you can concentrate. Likewise, it is the rare parent who can study effectively with small children present. Your bar review will likely be more efficient if you study away from home: greater concentration will more than compensate for the time it takes to commute to library or school, and you will have the added benefit of associating with your peers

Second, create a schedule and stick to it. Bar review is like a full-time job (or full-time job with regular overtime) both in hours and in commitment. Sure, if you have a full-time job you will occasionally leave to take the dog to the vet or go to the dentist, but you mostly keep regular hours and pay attention to the task at hand while you're at work. Do the same with bar review. Having a regular schedule allows you to schedule in a good amount of family time when you are "off work." Make the family time commitment just as important as the bar review, even though the time will be shorter. When you're with family, truly be with them, not mentally running through the Erie doctrine or the parole evidence rule. Not only will this show your loved ones how much you treasure them, but it will also make it easier, both for you and for them, when you return to studying.

Finally, it's vital to communicate openly and honestly with your family, not only as you start out but also throughout bar review. Tell them this is an important time requiring as much or more effort as law school. Let them know how intense the bar exam is and how it tests you in ways you never encountered in law school, such as by having multiple subjects in one question, testing over a dozen subjects at once, and testing subjects in random order. Ask for their patience, their help, and maybe even their forgiveness. Acknowledge that you might be stressed and cranky, especially in July. Put your bar prep activities on a shared calendar so they can get a visual picture of what you're doing. And most importantly, let them know how much you cherish them even when studying for the bar exam is requiring the bulk of your time. Honoring your relationships during bar review will not only pay off in more effective studying but will give you a great start to balancing work and life once you are in practice.

(Nancy Luebbert)

May 15, 2019 in Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Summer: Associate!

This week, most of my 3L students are taking their last final exams. On Sunday they will graduate, and within a week or so, they will begin preparing to take the bar examination. Twenty years ago, this meant a return to the lecture hall for eight weeks of intensive lectures, surrounded by my closest classmates and a couple hundred other recent graduates. Today, the rise of online courses and live streaming means it is possible to complete an entire bar preparation course without getting out of bed, or at least without leaving one's home. It may be hard in the face of such convenience, but it is important to remind out graduating 3Ls of the substantial benefits of human contact.

One of the first things I tell my incoming 1L students is, "The law is a social profession." Successful practitioners, I explain, know the value of hashing out ideas and strategies with colleagues, and they develop networks of other lawyers to whom they can turn to make (or receive) referrals or to ask for guidance outside of their own areas of expertise. I tell my students this partly to help them to see the benefits of conferring with their own classmates and of taking advantage of mentoring and networking opportunities. But I also tell them because I know that a significant portion of the students in each incoming class needs this kind of encouragement, because they do not reflexively reach out to others for support and information. This tendency is explained in part by their natural inclinations; according to Eva Wisnik, president of Wisnik Career Enterprises, about 60 percent of those who become lawyers are introverts. 

By their 3L year, many students, including some of those more introverted ones, have perceived the value of collaborative work, as in study groups and trial teams. Even so, the ten weeks or so between graduation and the bar exam pose new challenges. Some students, tired of the law school grind, envision a comparatively more manageable summer, one in which they can watch videos and undertake exercises online at their convenience instead of on a set schedule. Others may underestimate the time and attention demanded by the bar exam and conclude that the effort of traveling to campus, particularly on a set schedule, is not worth it. Under these circumstances, it may take extra persuasive effort to convince newly minted graduates that there are benefits to seeking out the company of other new graduates.

Still, there definitely are benefits. Full participation in bar preparation courses can be easier to achieve when the courses are seen as group activities in which groups of students commit to watching videos and working on exercises together (and to hold each other accountable for missed work). Group study and review provides additional opportunities for feedback and clarification.  And when bar preparation becomes a stressful, tedious, and/or exhausting chore, as it often does halfway through the summer, commiseration can inspire tenacity.

How do you get soon-to-be ex-students to take advantage of these benefits by making particular efforts to associate with their peers, even when the apparently easier route would be to go solo?  There are three things to keep in mind:

  • Start early. Don't wait until graduation day is within reach to begin encouraging students to think of ways to work together during bar preparation. Social activities are easier to accept when they are perceived as social norms -- that is, just the way people expect to do things. Pointing out the social aspects of legal practice from the first year is one way to begin. Another way of normalizing the expectation that students will make efforts to work together during bar preparation is to encourage recent alumni who have done this successfully to share their experiences with friends from later classes.
  • Make it easy. Bar study is difficult and consuming. Having to make special efforts to collaborate may seem like too much, to those overwhelmed by course expectations. Anything a school can do to lower the threshold of energy or attention required to collaborate can help. Provide dedicated space on campus so that bar studiers can easily find each other. Set up channels of communication early and keep students informed of resources and opportunities to gather, and look for ways to connect such opportunities to activities already on students' radar screens (such as live video programs sponsored by bar preparation companies).
  • Add value. Finding ways to provide additional benefits to your alumni can change their calculation of whether or not it is worth it to them to step away from solitude and join their classmates, even if only occasionally. Offering small incentives, like free coffee and snacks or access to classroom space, can make getting together more inviting. More ambitious incentives might include providing supplemental live workshops on particular test-taking skills or subject matter areas, which can simultaneously draw students from their isolation and prompt interaction and planning with other participants.

At the end of the day, success on the bar exam does depend on individual effort. But in the face of innate introversion and technological isolation, we can help our students to recognize, once again, that individual effort can be promoted by social cooperation.

[Bill MacDonald]

May 14, 2019 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 13, 2019

Keep Your Perspective on Grades

Few law students are able to ignore grades - especially if the final exam is the only grade for a course. Whether students have been successful or unsuccessful in the past with their grades, they become anxious about the current exam, the upcoming exam, and the just past exam.

How one feels coming out of the exam is really immaterial because the class as a whole is what determines the outcome. I remember coming out of a property exam hoping I did not fail. I knew property really well but had been unable to finish the exam. When grades were posted, I got a very high grade because I finished more than others and that professor wrote the exam so no one would be able to finish it.

Here are some things to consider as you go through exams and afterwards:

  • Ignore the rumor mill. It has little truth on it this time of year. Use your common sense to spot the ridiculous. Example: Our exams are graded by anonymous numbers, and professors assign final grades by anonymous numbers. The rumor mill had the 1Ls convinced that grades for the semester would now be assigned alphabetically by last name so the only people who would receive A grades were last names beginning with A or possibly a few students with last names beginning with B.
  • It is common to walk out of an exam and realize that you missed an issue, misunderstood a question, forgot an ancillary rule, and made other mistakes. It's okay. Do not beat yourself up about the errors. It happens to everyone. Put the exam behind you and move on.
  • You do not want to talk with classmates about the exam after it is over. Just smile, wish the person luck on the next exam, and walk away. Why? You will stress because someone will mention an issue you missed - but it wasn't there and that person was wrong. Someone will brag about how easy the exam was when you thought it was very hard. Someone will predict doom and gloom and cause you to worry and lose focus on the next task.
  • The days of having to get 90-100% on the exam to get an A grade in a course are over. You left that grading scale behind with college. It is not unusual for a law school A to equal just 70-75% of the possible points - and sometimes even fewer points.
  • A final exam measures your performance on one day on one particular set of questions. You may know that course at a deeper level than your grade will show. Maybe the curve was tight. Maybe there were very few questions on a topic you knew well. Maybe you blanked on a topic. Maybe you were ill.
  • You are not your grades. Good or bad grades, you are far more than your grades. You are the same capable, intelligent, funny, caring, amazing person who came to law school the first day you arrived.
  • If  you want to improve your future grades, the academic support professionals at your law school can assist you in learning new strategies that will boost your academic results. See them early and often next semester.

Take your exams in stride. Do the best you can each day under the circumstances. It is the daily work that pays off in better grades. If you have a bad day, get some rest; start over again the next morning. Best wishes for exams. (Amy Jarmon)

May 13, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Assistant Director of Academic Support Opening at Thurgood Marshall School of Law

Thurgood Marshall School of Law is looking for an Assistant Director to join the Academic Success Team.  The new Assistant Director will join a team consisting of Assistant Dean Ronda Harrison Benjamin and three other Assistant Directors.  The law school is an HBCU and has a VERY diverse student population.  The position is full-time, 12 months.   

The posting can be found here.

Posting Number TSU201890 Official TSU Title: Assistant Director of Academic Support

Law School Job Description Summary / TWC Summary Under the supervision of the Assistant Dean for Academic Support and Bar Readiness, the Assistant Director of Academic Support at Thurgood Marshall School of Law will assist with the coordination and execution of strategies designed to strengthen academic support services and improve student outcomes. Essential Duties Summary In collaboration with the department head, teaches and manages one or more bar elective courses per semester in accordance with the Faculty Manual. Offers skills-based instruction for law students in a variety of areas. Works one-on-one with students needing academic assistance. Coordinates academic tutorials. Provides administrative supervision for student tutors. Evaluates student-lead tutorial sessions. Manages student assistant timesheets and tracks time and effort forms. Performs statistical reporting on attendance and outcomes as requested. Assists with the planning of 1L Skills Academy content based on current faculty syllabi. Collaborates with faculty to identify areas where academic remediation is needed and creates an effective outreach program to serve students most in need. Performs statistical reporting on attendance and outcomes as requested. Delivers academic and degree plan advising to students; responds promptly to student requests. Is accessible to students during Law School operational hours and as needed evenings, weekends and summers. Provides, administers and grades practice exams and maintains records of student performance. Facilitates skills and/or bar readiness workshops as directed. Performs statistical reporting on participation and performance indicators as requested. Assists with the planning and implementation of the 1L Orientation. Maintains department calendar and effectively communicates department events to students using electronic, social and print media. Submits and monitors funding requests for Academic Support events. Identifies at-risk students to the Assistant Dean. Monitors student academic performance and recommends new or additional learning interventions tailored to student performance. Performs other duties as required.

% FTE:  100%

Hiring Range:  Commensurate with experience.

Education:  Juris Doctor from an ABA-approved law school with a track record of academic achievement.  

May 12, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Interesting Articles on Bar Passage

As many of us know all too well, bar pass rates dramatically dropped upon introduction of Civil Procedure on the MBE in 2015.  Some people correlate the drop with decreasing applications, but at least at OCU, applications and credentials were steady in 2011 and 2012, which are the graduates who took the 2015 MBE.  Criticism of the MBE may be warranted, but the reality is we need to adjust to the exam in the short term while trying to advocate for a better test in the long term.  I don't believe practicing attorneys, who are members of boards of bar examiners, understand the new and more difficult exam.  Not only do we need to advocate to the NCBE for changes, we must inform and persuade state boards because the current perception is law schools are the cause of decreasing bar pass rates. published 3 articles online that illustrate the perception we are fighting.  The first 2 articles focus on law schools and the causes of the decline.  The last article discusses how that decline effects the job market.  Some articles highlight schools that overcome falling bar pass rates, but inherent in that argument is that other schools aren't doing enough.  The logical extension is law school policies and teaching are the major factors influencing bar pass rates.  Knowing many of you, I believe law schools are going well beyond what each school provided a mere 10 years ago, significantly more than 20 years ago.  Check out the articles below published over the last few weeks.

The Big Fail Part I

The Big Fail Part II

The Big Fail Part III

I encourage everyone to understand the perception in the legal community at large.  Let's keep working to make meaningful changes both to the exam and community perception.  

(Steven Foster)

May 11, 2019 in Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 10, 2019

Declining Bar Pass Rates Webinar Review

Kirsha Trychta, former contributing editor, gladly passed along her notes from the recent webinar discussing declining bar pass rates and the role of law schools.  If you have questions, you can contact her for more details.  Below are her notes.

On May 6, 2019, I attended a free webinar entitled “Live with Kellye & Ken: Declining Bar Passage and the Role of Law Schools in Bar Exam Prep and Reform.”  The 90-minute presentation consisted of six panelists:


Gunderson opened the presentation with an update on the state of the bar exam.  She explained that the February 2019 MBE mean increased for the first time since 2013.  According to Gunderson, the NCBE regularly focuses on the MBE statistic because: (1) the NCBE does not grade the essay component, (2) there are different cut scores across the jurisdictions, and (3) not all jurisdictions release results at the same time. 

She then told “the tale of two bar exams,” a tale which emerges if one compares July and February.  The NCBE reports that 68-70% of all examinees that sit in February are repeat test takers.  Meanwhile, in July repeat test takers comprise only 26% of all takers.  Typically repeat test takers earn lower scores than first time takers.  Moreover, even February first-time takers have a lower mean than first-time takers in July.  Finally, February score reports are complicated by the small number of applicants in some jurisdictions.  Consequently, just 3 or 4 people can totally derail a mean average for a particular jurisdiction.  In short, February scores are “not stable.” 

The adoption of the UBE is also impacting how many times each applicant sits for a bar exam.  Overall, the total number of people sitting for the bar exam keeps dropping, and each year there are less “passers” or “strong repeaters” (that is, those people who passed in one jurisdiction and sit again for licensure in a second jurisdiction.)  The decrease in overall takers—especially strong takers—continues to drive the overall pass rate numbers down.  For more statistics, click here.

Next, the Deans were invited to opine on whether law schools really have a problem with bar passage.  Abromovsky acknowledged that “we have a lot of changes going on right now, especially with the UBE.”  She suggested that law schools might just need a certain amount of time to “react with pinpointed specificity” to the changing format.  Baynes agreed and specifically highlighted the addition of civil procedure to the MBE.  He was, however, more concerned that “we’ve created a social construct of who passes and who doesn’t pass.”  If people are labeled as “likely to fail” or “likely to pass” perhaps they internalize the labels and then perform consistent with the assigned label.  Garon raised another concern: the ABA’s competing goals of increasing the focus on experiential learning and learning outcomes, while also increasing bar passage.  Can law schools really do both simultaneously, he wondered.  Testy rounded out the discussion by reminding listeners that the LSAC is “an incredibly strong predictor of success in law school,” but it’s not the only thing a law school should consider.

Randall, serving as a moderator, then posed a batch of questions for the panelists: What is the responsibility of law schools regarding the bar exam?  Are there tradeoffs?  Should there be different curriculum tracks for students? 

Garon responded unequivocally: there is a lot of pressure to assume a greater, more active, role in both job placement and bar passage.  For example, at Nova Southeastern, they’ve extended bar preparation into all three years of the curriculum.  In addition, there is a mentoring program during bar prep for both first-timer takers and repeaters.  Nova even offers two years of free CLE to aid in the transition from law school to the workforce, including a “launch pad” program for those who are interested in solo practice.  Garon linked the increased pressure to prepare students for the bar and for legal practice to economic changes.  He suggested that “economics have undermined the relationship between law schools and law firms.”  Students are expected to be billing associates on their first day at the office, instead of just beginning their training when they join the firm.  Baynes aptly summarized, “we are now responsible for everything.” 

The University of Houston Law Center conducted a regression analysis, using five years of law school data, and determined, unsurprisingly, that lower law school grades correlated with lower bar passage.  In response to their findings, Houston created a “special course” for the lowest performing students.  Baynes explained that the law school admits every student thinking they will pass the bar exam, so if it becomes apparent that the student might not pass the exam, it is incumbent upon the school to intervene.  One possible intervention could be the mandatory implementation of midterm examinations in first-year courses.  One Dean observed that since administering midterm examinations, students’ performances have increased overall, including in courses without a midterm examination (i.e. pedagogical transference).  He then quickly—and probably correctly—remarked that law professors “might not be the best teachers.”

Baynes has also seen an increase in the degree of anxiety among his students.   Students are more willing to talk about mental health issues, but the cost of treatment remains a barrier.  To combat the growing trend, his law school now offers meditation embedded in the curriculum.  Similarly, other schools have adopted wellness activities like yoga and petting zoos.  Garon commented on the Board of Law Examiners continued improvement in their handling of character and fitness disclosures, especially as those disclosures relate to mental health issues.   He then raised a parallel concern: academic testing accommodations.  While the jurisdictions have been willing to revisit their position on mental health disclosures, many remain quite unmoved regarding testing accommodations.  Too frequently, accommodations which were considered appropriately documented at law school are not sufficiently documented for the Board of Law Examiners, creating another barrier to exam success.

Abramovsky used most of her allotted time to discuss the impact of the post-2008 economy on law schools.  The average law student is no longer unmarried, childless, willfully unemployed, and fully dedicated to their legal education.  Her institution found, again unsurprisingly, that completing the bar preparation course was the strongest indicator of bar passage.  She encouraged schools to focus their efforts on identifying why some students do not complete the bar preparation program.  She suspects those students are too busy working part-time (or even full-time) jobs to study for the bar exam.  Perhaps that also explains why the student earned poor grades in law school, she wondered aloud.  She said law schools would be wise to check-in with their students in a routine and more holistic way.  She offered this metaphor, ripped from the headlines: an emergency room adopted a series of mini-checklists that doctors must complete before discharging a patient, designed to reduce the frequency of post-discharge infections.  Since adopting the quick “have you…” checklists, infections have dramatically decreased.  It appears a little check-in goes a long way. 

Following Abramovsky’s observations about the financial crunch, Testy announced that AccessLex is currently developing a lower-cost bar preparation course.  AccessLex’s press release states, “The program will function like a co-operative, with a transparent pricing structure established at a break-even level and reduced further as cost efficiencies are gained.”

The panelists entertained questions from the audience.  A listener inquired whether the NCBE could better assist law schools in identifying the specific subjects that are tested on the bar examination.  Gunderson explained that the specific subtopics vary every few years, following input from various stakeholders.  For example, in the last few years several jurisdictions have suggested that environmental law and Indian law should be added to the bar exam, but the number of requesting jurisdictions “has yet to reach critical mass.”  Meanwhile, the number of stakeholders pushing for negotiable instruments continues to decline each year.  Gunderson stressed that the “NCBE has no power.”  Ultimately the individual jurisdictions decide what components to administer and how to score the exam. 

Gunderson then pivoted to how students can better prepare and announced that NCBE study aids are now available in an interactive learning platform.  The “everything” packet which includes over 900 practice questions costs $250.  She also publicized that the NCBE plans to host an academic support focused conference this fall and will subsidize the travel costs for some attendees to ensure maximum participation.  She then reminded everyone that the Testing Task Force is out there collecting suggestions on the future of the bar exam, including the focus groups which will take place at the Association of Academic Support Educators Conference later this month. 

Garon is concerned that “we keep expanding what we expect of students.”  The bar exam used to be just a measurement at a moment in time between law school and starting your legal training.  Now the bar exam is frequently being used as a proxy by employers to measure the graduates’ readiness to join the workforce.  Garon recommended that we scale back the breadth of knowledge tested and instead increase the professionalism component, because that is what employers want anyway. 

The panelists also talked about the future of “state specific components” on the bar exam, considering the UBE.  Each Dean explained how their particular jurisdiction has handled the issue.  It quickly became apparent that there is little consensus among the jurisdictions.  Abramovsky chimed in, and said, “reasonable discourse” was to be expected, and that “we should be proud to consistently reexamine issues [like this one] that require core balancing decisions.”

(Kirsha Trychta, Guest Blogger)

May 10, 2019 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0)