Tuesday, December 29, 2020
While the conference is specific to Legal Writing, many in our community have insight in this area. Check out the call below.
The 2021 Empire State Legal Writing Conference Wants YOU!
The Empire State Legal Writing Conference is a biennial event dating back to 2010 (when we actually attended conferences in person). The Empire State Planning Committee is comprised of Legal Writing faculty and administrative staff from all over New York State. In addition to arguing about things like whether buffalo chicken wings are better in Buffalo or Brooklyn (ok we know who wins that one), we are also delighted to announce that we will be holding a two-day virtual conference on May 13 and 14.
If you want to present, we want you! While we friendly New Yorkers welcome proposals from legal writing faculty at all stages of their career, we particularly encourage proposals from newer legal writing faculty. If you are a first time presenter afraid to take that leap, a committee member will happily assist you with your proposal.
The Details. . .
Cost: Free, free, free. In other words, no charge.
I am new to teaching legal writing, should I submit a proposal?
ABSOLUTELY! You are exactly the kind of presenter we are looking for. Everyone has to start somewhere and the Empire State is the perfect place to start. We will even assign you a mentor to help you prepare for your presentation, if you want.
Does the conference have a theme?
Yes - the theme is there is no theme; we want to encourage presentations on a wide range of topics. We encourage both individual presentations and panels.
What types of presentations and panels are you looking for?
We are looking for presentations and panels on a wide variety of topics - some ideas include:
- Transitioning from online to in-class, lessons imparted;
- A panel discussion for legal writing professors who teach classes outside the discipline;
- A panel for legal writing professors who publish outside of the discipline;
- Ideas for teaching effectively (this can include a specific exercise or problem that you used that worked well);
- Techniques for providing meaningful feedback;
Or anything else you can come up with - the New York City skyline is the limit!
Will we be going to see a Broadway show, or visiting Niagara Falls?
Very funny, but look at the bright side- you don’t have to wear a suit when you present.
Deadline and Submission Instructions for the Presentations
Please use the following for the email subject matter line [if multiple presenters, please use the name of the person submitting the proposal]: EmpireState2021.LastName.FirstName
Submit the proposal in word, using the same name as the email subject matter line.
Proposals should include the following information:
- The presenters’ names, titles, school affiliations, email addresses, and cell phone numbers (in case of technical glitches).
- The title of the presentation.
- A description of no more than 250 words.
- A description of no more than 2-3 sentences for the program.
- The preferred length and format of session (panel/presentation/etc.). In an effort to accommodate as many speakers as possible, we are contemplating sessions of different lengths, with different numbers of speakers. We think we may have some sessions of 20 minutes, and others at 45 minutes.
Deadline and Submission Instructions for Scholars’ Work in Progress
We welcome your participation if you have either: 1) an idea for an article and would like to receive feedback and suggestions before jumping into the research/writing progress; or 2) if you anticipate having a draft of an article by May 2021 and would like feedback on the draft from other legal writing scholars (participants will circulate drafts in advance).
Please use the following for the email subject matter line [if co-authors, please use the name of the person submitting the work]: EmpireStateScholars2021.LastName.FirstName
Submit the proposal in Word, using the same name as the email subject matter line.
Descriptions should include the following information:
- The authors’ names, titles, school affiliations, email addresses, and cell phone numbers (in case of technical glitches);
- A description of no more than 250 words; and
- Whether you will be workshopping:
- an idea for an article or
- an article draft in progress (see explanation above).
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
All of us at the Law School Academic Support Blog wish you and your families Happy Holidays! We appreciate you reading our posts. We also hope you are able to get a break over the next few weeks. 2020 took nearly all our collective energy, so hopefully, we can recharge for the new year.
We are taking a break to celebrate the season. Posts will begin again the week of January 11th.
Monday, December 21, 2020
Assistant Professor of Academic Success
at the University of Dayton School of Law
Work Type: Faculty Full Time
Location: Dayton, OH
Applications Close: January 6, 2021
The University of Dayton School of Law invites applications for an Assistant Professor of Academic Success. This is a twelve-month, non-tenure track position with an initial appointment of one year and the possibility of renewal for long-term (three or five-year) appointments after three years of satisfactory service. The position is expected to begin on July 1, 2021.
The focus of the Academic Success Program at the University of Dayton School of Law is to help students develop the skills necessary for law school success and first-time bar passage.
At the University of Dayton, we value our inclusive climate because we know that diversity in experiences and perspectives is vital to advancing innovation, critical thinking, solving complex problems, and creating an inclusive academic community. We translate these values into action by seeking individuals who have experience and expertise working with diverse students, colleagues and constituencies. Because we seek a workforce with a wide range perspectives and experiences, we encourage diverse candidates to apply, including people of color, women, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.
The University of Dayton School of Law has positioned itself in recent years on the cutting edge of legal pedagogy. Its innovative Road to Bar Passage and Academic Success Programs, school-wide curricular reforms, and ongoing partnerships with expert consultants and University experts from outside the law school such as the Director of Assessment and Student-Centered Analytics, have led to significant leaps forward in the art and science of improving student and alumni outcomes. In the last four years of concerted effort, the school bar passage rate has increased markedly, as have median test scores and GPAs of incoming students. The Law@Dayton Online Hybrid JD program, launched in 2019, expanded access to legal education to students not otherwise able to join the profession. Few American law schools have pushed as aggressively as the University of Dayton School of Law for novel, creative, effective ways to help all students learn and succeed in the legal profession. The Assistant Professor of Academic Success will contribute to these ongoing efforts of the School of Law.
Responsibilities of the Assistant Professor of Academic Success will include:
- Teaching academic success courses related to legal reasoning, critical reading, exam- writing, and bar examination preparation;
- Providing academic advising and professional development counseling for students;
- Supervising and evaluating the Law School’s Learning Communities program, including designing student-led sessions and working with upper-level Dean’s Fellows;
- Participating in the larger community for academic success professionals through regular attendance or presentations at conferences and other relevant endeavors to support the faculty member’s professional development;
- Delivering and assessing a comprehensive program of academic support from orientation until graduation.
A J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school; and
Ability to articulate a commitment to academic support, including implementing the best models and practices available to encourage student success and utilizing recent developments in pedagogy in U.S. law schools.
While not everyone may possess all the preferred qualifications, the ideal candidate will bring many of the following:
Successful experience in:
- Academic support, including implementing best models and practices available to encourage student success and utilizing recent developments in pedagogy in U.S. law schools;
- Providing effective academic advising and professional development counseling for students;
- Law teaching, particularly in designing and teaching academic success courses or those related to legal reasoning, critical reading, exam-writing, and/or bar examination preparation in a U.S. law school;
- Compiling and analyzing data for statistical analysis, including familiarity with the most commonly used statistical software programs;
- Mentoring and working with students from diverse backgrounds;
- Demonstrating a commitment to socially and culturally diverse communities.
Recent successful experience in:
- Developing and administering structured intervention and counseling programs for at-risk students;
- Program administration, including delivering and assessing all aspects of a program, especially if the experience relates to academic support;
- Excellent written and oral communication skills, including effective presentation skills;
- Law school achievements and accomplishments, including high academic achievement, law review, or moot court;
- Effective interpersonal communication skills with various constituencies and the ability to work collaboratively with colleagues; and
- Expressed willingness to engage with Catholic and Marianist educational values.
Special Instructions to Applicants:
A complete application consists of a CV and Cover Letter addressing commitment to academic support, including implementing the best models and practices available to encourage student success and utilizing recent developments in pedagogy in U.S. law schools.
Applicants must be currently authorized to work in the United States on a full-time basis.
Posting closes at 11:55 PM EST, January 6, 2021.
The University of Dayton is a top tier, Catholic research university with offerings from the undergraduate to the doctoral levels. Founded in 1850 by the Society of Mary, the University is a diverse community committed to advancing the common good through intellectual curiosity, academic rigor, community engagement and local, national and global partnerships. Guided by the Marianist educational philosophy, we educate the whole person and link learning and scholarship with leadership and service.
Informed by its Catholic and Marianist mission, the University is committed to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Informed by this commitment, we seek to increase diversity, achieve equitable outcomes, and model inclusion across our campus community. As an Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Employer, we will not discriminate against minorities, women, protected veterans, individuals with disabilities, or on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The University is also pleased to provide support for spouses of prospective and newly hired faculty through its dual career program. While we cannot guarantee placement, we serve as an effective resource and support system for your spouse. Information can be found at http://www.udayton.edu/hr/employee_resources/dual_career_resources.php
Interested applicants must apply online directly through: https://employment.udayton.edu/cw/en-us/job/498357/assistant-professor-of-academic-success
Sunday, December 20, 2020
|Posting Type:||External - Open to All Applicants|
|Job Title:||Assistant Director of Academic Success; Rank of Instructor|
|Position Title:||Assistant Director of Academic Success; Rank of Instructor|
|Position Type:||Full-Time Faculty|
|Department:||College of Law|
Benefit package includes: Medical, Dental, Vision and Prescription insurance, Life insurance, Workers’ Compensation insurance, Unemployment insurance, and Total Disability insurance. Retirement: The University contributes 4% of the regular salary with up to 3% of additional matched contributions into the TIAA Retirement Program.
(The University has currently frozen employer matched contributions for the remainder of the fiscal year.)
Other benefits include tuition remission for employee, spouse, and employee’s dependent children under the age of 25 (this does not include the last two year of the PharmD program or the JD), and twenty days of paid medical leave per year.
Candidates must hold at least a J.D. from an ABA accredited law school with a minimum of more than one year’s prior experience in academic support. The Director will lead the academic support program at ONU and coordinate with and report to the Director of Bar Success to provide an integrated program of academic support and bar support services.
Assistant Director of Academic Success. Non-tenure Track Faculty. 12-month appointment with eligibility for continuing appointment. Instructor Status. The Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law is seeking to appoint an Assistant Director of Academic Success to begin on or after January 2, 2019.
Be an integral part of the Academic Success Program (ASP) at Ohio Northern University College of Law, working with the Director of Academic Success; provide academic assistance for all students to improve essay writing, reading comprehension, issue spotting, and legal analysis skills; meet individually with academic at-risk students in the 1L and 2L classes or any student by request or upon recommendation by professor; teach an academic support lab to 1L students; teach an academic support course to select 2L students; provide academic assistance and host weekly ASP sessions in the Summer Starter Program; coordinate and teach in the January term Legal Problem Solving and Analysis course for 1L students; coordinate and supervise the teaching assistant academic support program; provide input on issues such as academic assessment and data evaluation of student performance. Program; provide input on issues such as academic assessment and data evaluation of student performance.
- Strong writing, analytical, and organizational skills
- A JD from an ABA accredited law school with strong grades
- Familiarity with outcomes based assessment
|Open Until Filled||Yes|
|Special Instructions to Applicants:|
Saturday, December 19, 2020
|Position Title||Director of Bar Success|
|Location||IIT-Downtown Campus (DTC), Chicago, IL|
|Department||CK Dean of Law|
Chicago-Kent College of Law seeks an energetic, innovative, and experienced teacher to direct its Bar Success Program. The Director will design and implement bar-related programming and will be responsible for monitoring, developing and enhancing a complete Bar preparedness program for Chicago-Kent Students.
The Director will assume leadership of a program that has already developed several classes and strategies to facilitate bar preparedness. Chicago-Kent is committed to enriching and streamlining its current program by hiring someone who can work full time on bar preparedness efforts. The Director will work closely with faculty and staff (particularly the Director of Academic Skills, the Dean for Student Affairs and the Director of Legal Writing and the faculty currently working on bar readiness) to provide tailored assistance for at-risk students including advising, coaching, instruction, and referrals to resources; develop and present programming for all JD students concerning bar readiness; offer bar-related advising and support to individual students on matters such as character and fitness concerns or course selection; and track relevant data related to bar passage and other academic success metrics. Scholarly writing, especially on topics related to teaching and learning, is welcome but not required.
|Special Schedule Requirements||
Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employers, abide by all applicable provisions of federal, state and local law. IIT does not discriminate in their employment policies and practices on the basis of race, color, religion except where religion is a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification for the job, national origin or ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, marital status, veteran status or any other classification protected by applicable law.
|Education & Experience||
● Juris Doctor Degree from an ABA-accredited law school plus three years of relevant experience
|Knowledge & Skills||
* At least three years of experience in law practice or teaching
|List any certifications or licenses that are either required or helpful in performing the job, designating whether required or preferred.||
Tailored Support for Individual Students:
|Percentage Of Time||50|
|Percentage Of Time||30|
Data Tracking, Analysis, and Follow-up:
|Percentage Of Time||20|
Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
|Position Category||Full Time|
|Posted Until Filled||Yes|
Friday, December 18, 2020
As we enter the holiday season, we seem to measure things in dozens. To that end, and in that spirit (and as a respite from grading…), here are the 12 Students You Meet on Zoom:
1. The First One There: this student comes before I have even poured the coffee I will need for the class. And then they leave because they are alone. And then they come back. And now I have four separate recordings for the class-three are about 38 seconds long.
2. The Gamer: he (or she) has the headphones/mic combo and gamer chair set up like all the folks on YouTube videos that your 15 year old son watches. They may actually be playing a game online with your 15 year-old son during class…..
3. The Snuggler: she (or he) is all comfy cozy in their fluffy bed during class. Their face is sideways because sitting up is a lot. Probably not taking any notes….
4. The Snacker: they did bring enough to share but….
5. Video off/audio on: Um. We can hear their mom telling them something even if we cannot see them (rolling their eyes no doubt). No worries, I muted you both.
6. Computer only attending class: no video, no audio, no student. I called on them after asking them to turn on the video three or four times. No answer. I ended class but didn’t end the meeting and they were still there-or were they ever there? The emailed questions later in the week make me believe not…..
7. The Chatter: the syllabus actually says that any private chats will show up in my transcript of the chat. I don’t care if you think my hair looks weird today. Actually, I do. Ouch.
8. The Harry Potter Painting: they are off screen and then they are back and then they are off again. I am waiting for them to show up in another person’s square…with a sword….and a pony.
9. The Traveller: they are moving from room to room hunting the elusive wifi. Wascally wifi….or walking around outside and taking us with them. Sadly, it will not count towards my daily steps…
10. The Mobile Classroom: They are in a minivan-in the driver’s seat, but when we go into breakout rooms I have a weird vision of them physically driving over to another parking spot. I’m actually impressed at how spacious and clean the van is compared to my house.
11. The Pet Sharer: I love your dogs and cats. I had no idea you had a whole bunch of birds until you unmuted yourself and the noise made all three of my cats come running to my laptop. Still, it was a delightful chaos.
12. The Student doing the best they can under the circumstances: that’s everyone. I would like to thank my students for their patience and understanding during the garbage collection/mail or package delivery/fire engine barking as well as the occasional meowing and tail in your face. This is hard-and we made it work.
(Elizabeth Stillman - Guest Blogger)
Thursday, December 17, 2020
Wow. At long last, final exams are over...sort of.
For most of us, we have a very difficult time with uncertainty in general, which is particularly exasperating as we wait - sometimes for weeks - for our grades to arrive (and the more so in light of the current ongoing pandemic).
So, despite the festive times that are supposed to fill this month, we often find ourselves unable to relax, to enjoy others (and ourselves), and to simply wind down and rest.
Nevertheless, there's a simple way - in just a flash of a moment - to help break free from the many stresses and strains of the past few weeks of final exams. Why not try out, today, the "smile loop?" It sounds, sort of, fun, doesn't it? So, here's the scoop (and the science too):
You see, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Elizabeth Bernstein:
"Smiling produces neural messaging in your brain that makes you happier. Some studies have shown that when we smile our facial muscles contract, which slightly distorts the shape of the thin facial bones. This leads to an increase in blood flow into the frontal lobes of the brain and the release of the feel-good chemical dopamine. And, when we smile at someone, that person tends to smile back. So, we've created a feel-good loop." http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-fall-back-in-love
For those of you that are not scientists (that's me!), the short scoop is that smiling brightens not just our days but the days of those around us. And, it seems to me that smiling at another person helps put us on the right track to thinking about others rather than worrying about the past few weeks of final exams (with its lingering wait for grades). Indeed, despite face masks due to the pandemic, I've noticed that I can tell whether someone is smiling. Even masks can't stop us from appreciating smiles!
A few years back I had the chance to put smiling to the test in very difficult circumstances as a volunteer attorney. There's a little Greek island just a few short miles off the Turkish coast. Because of its locale so close to Turkey, thousands of people had been fleeing on small inflatable boats across the Aegean Sea to escape persecution and in some cases war in their native countries - from Syria to Iran to Iraq to Afghanistan to South Sudan - with the hope of receiving refuge in the European Union. I talked with a man, his wife and his adorable small children that risked it all traveling by land from Afghanistan through Iran and Turkey only to be finally living for months in a small UNHCR tent in a refugee camp on the island of Chios.
Despite the lack of resources and the uncertainty of still waiting - for months on end - to receive as of yet an asylum hearing, he smiled. And, then his children smiled. Why, his whole family smiled. In the December cold of the wind swept coast of this little island refugee camp, we all smiled...together. He and his family may not have had much to give but they gave something immeasurably priceless...they shared smiles with me.
Let me say, this was not a unique experience. As I walked through the refugee camp with a number of refugee-seekers, even though we often didn't speak the same language, we were able to communicate in ways richer than words. Over and over, refugees would just come up to me with big generous smiles and warm handshakes of greetings. Memorably, a small Syrian boy grabbed my hand one day by the lunch tent as a group of young people were dancing, asking me to join in the footsteps and singing.
You see, smiles are not just a trick to make your life better or happier. Rather, smiles are the sweetness of life itself in helping us to make the world a little better for others.
So, as you wait for final exam grades to come in, be of good courage and share smiles with those around you. Who knows? That brief smile might get you up and dancing!
Saturday, December 12, 2020
Western State College of Law (WSCL) at Westcliff University invites applications from candidates for a tenure-track position as Director of the Academic Support Program beginning July 1, 2021. We seek candidates with prior experience in teaching academic support or bar preparation, strong academic backgrounds, a commitment to teaching excellence, and demonstrated potential for productive scholarship.
WSCL is located in the city of Irvine, California – close to miles of famous beaches, parks, recreation facilities and outdoor activities as well as the many museums, music venues, and diverse cultural and social experiences of greater Los Angeles.
Founded in 1966, WSCL is the oldest law school in Orange County, California, and is a fully ABA approved for-profit, private law school. Noted for small classes and personal attention from an accessible faculty focused on student success, WSCL is proud that our student body is among the most diverse in the nation. Our 11,000+ alumni are well represented across public and private sector legal practice areas, including 150 California judges and about 15% of Orange County’s Deputy Public Defenders and District Attorneys.
WSCL is committed to providing workplaces and learning environments free from discrimination on the basis of any protected classification including, but not limited to race, sex, gender, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, veteran status, genetic marker or on any other basis protected by law.
Confidential review of applications will begin immediately. Applications (including a cover letter, complete CV, teaching evaluations (if available), a diversity statement addressing your contributions to our goal of creating a diverse faculty. and names/email addresses of three references) should be emailed to Professor Todd Brower, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee: [email protected] For more information about WSCL, visit: wsulaw.edu
Friday, December 11, 2020
The Legal Skills Prof. Blog had 2 great posts recently that I want to pass along. The first is about a piece written by Deborah Jones Merritt. She advocates for a new bar exam that would be significantly more statistically valid. The Legal Skills post is here. You can also read her full article Building a Better Bar: The 12 Building Blocks of Minimum Competence.
The other post relates to cognitive challenges in teaching. It begins with "I have a feeling my co-blogger Scott is going to love this one (it's right up his alley). It's a new article I stumbled across called "The Cognitive Challenges of Effective Teaching" by Professors Stephen L. Chew (Stamford) and William J. Cerbin (U. Wisc.) that pulls together an extensive body of cognitive science research into a nine point framework to guide and inform classroom teaching." The post is a great summary of the 9 points, and the full article is worth the read.
Thursday, December 10, 2020
According to a recent article, law school applications are up 35 percent at this point in the admission cycle in comparison to the previous year. https://news.yahoo.com/law-school-applications-rise-means-150112132.html
As cited in the article:
"Reginald McGahee, associate dean of admissions and student affairs at the Howard University School of Law in the District of Columbia, explains that people who have been contemplating law school for a long time had more time for soul-searching during quarantine. With that time and space for introspection, some individuals realized that they wanted to become lawyers, McGahee suggests. 'The pandemic has forced a number of people to really take stock of the fragility of life and the importance of doing things that are fulfilling and nurture you and advance the goals that you set for yourself,' he says. He adds that because people had to 'slow down' during the pandemic, they couldn't distract themselves from big questions about what a good life is. 'We've been able to focus on those things that are really important to us, and I think that a lot of people are reconnecting with the idea that, if I'm going to work, let me add something to society that I didn't really think that I was adding before,' McGahee says." Id.
Dean McGahee's points are worth remembering. Students are drawn to legal education to pursue purposeful lives. That's something that I need to remember when I meet with my students.
I sometimes think that many (if not most) academic issues are not really at the heart academic issues at all. Rather, I find that many students who are so-called underperforming are really underperforming because we - as legal educators - are not always measuring up to helping connect their educational experiences with the heartfelt desires that brought them to law school in the first place, i.e., to make the world a better place.
One of the questions that's been circulating around is what sort of guidance one might start with in meeting with students or bar takers who have not performed as they hoped. I always try to start by asking them to tell me about their passion in life. What brought them to law school? How have their law school experiences related to their purposes? Is law school not just shaping them but are they shaping law school for the better? Those are big questions, and most of our students have come to law school with big questions on their minds with big hearts of passion to enrich the world for the better. (Scott Johns).
Monday, December 7, 2020
Law students seeking to avoid unnecessary stress and maximize learning opportunities should consider adopting a modified Vegas rule during the exam period. In the law school exam context, this rule is simple: Take the wisdom, Leave the substance (Take the “W” and Leave the “S”).
Each law school exam provides an opportunity to become a better exam taker. Students experience firsthand the challenges of effectively managing their time, ordering issues, outlining responses, and applying rules to a new set of facts. Do not ignore the wisdom to be gained from each exam experience. Instead, identify the lessons to be learned, and commit to practicing and refining your skills and/or exam-taking strategy as needed before the next exam.
Once you have completed an exam, do not discuss the substance of it with anyone during the exam period. If someone tries to engage you in such a discussion, politely decline. Walk away, leave the chat, step away from the video call. Do not talk substance, do not collect anxiety. Nothing good comes from rehashing the substance of your exam with your peers (and it may run afoul of your law school’s honor code). Almost invariably, someone will have “spotted” an issue that you “missed.” As you sit and listen, second-guessing your answer, anxiety levels rise and confidence levels fall. In reality, that issue you “missed” may not have really been an issue at all. The damage that discussion can do to your confidence and focus, however, is very real. Keep your eyes forward and on the prize.
(Victoria McCoy Dunkley)
Sunday, December 6, 2020
One of the books that I have read with my children (and without them because it is that good) is Wonder by R. J. Palacio. It is the story of a child with significant facial abnormalities and how he navigates attending school for the first time as a fifth grader. It is not a great book to read on the subway if public crying is not your thing. One of the things I loved about Wonder was that it was full of warm-hearted quotes, but the ones that really resonate with me in these pandemic times are about kindness, "When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind," (Dr. Wayne Dyer) and a variation of this quote from J.M. Barrie, “[b]e kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”
I have about seventy-five students I am responsible for this semester: sixty are undergraduate law majors and the rest are law students. Throughout this entirely remote semester, and especially as we move into exam season, I am trying to live by the words quoted above. What does it mean to be kind in these unprecedented days of legal education? Sadly, the answers are becoming clearer as we get closer to not needing to know anymore.
I wonder how to balance teaching important material, assessing learning of that material and yet not causing any additional stress to students who are already in uncharted waters. I do students no favors by not teaching the subject because, after all, this pandemic will end someday and not knowing what they should know after taking my class is not ideal. I also do students no favors by being rigid for what seems to be no reason other than to maintain the usual power dynamic in a “classroom.” Nothing usual is going on right now, and yet the normalcy of learning may be comforting. How can I make what I teach relevant in a topsy-turvy world?
I will preface my argument for extra kindness with the recognition that I am a bit of a mush even in the best of times: I will accept late work (if students ask for the extension prior to the due date), I will find ways to add extra credit for students who really need more points to pass and I will meet with students really early and fairly late in the day. I am not a doormat though: if you lie or cheat, the well of good will runs dry.
Here’s the thing though, the battles that students have been fighting since March are both obvious and hidden. There is the elephant in the room (wearing his mask and six feet away from the other battles in the room): Covid-19, but there are also so many other occupants of this space. There are students who don’t have the equipment, wi-fi, personal bandwidth or private space to be productive in remote classes. There are students who are ashamed of their living space, or who are sharing that space with siblings, parents, and roommates. There are students who are learning while parenting students who are also trying to learn remotely. There are students with executive function issues who are really struggling to stay organized and focused when the class content is coming from so many different sources. And then there is the student who attends class from inside his car because he needs to drive his grandmother to chemotherapy (public transportation and taxis are not safe at the moment) and our class is during her regularly scheduled appointment. There is the student who lost a close family friend to suicide the week before a scheduled oral argument about a case involving bullying another person to commit suicide; a student who had to fly home to Ghana due to a family emergency; a student whose wife is immune-compromised who was exposed to the virus at work and they live with her older parents, and so on.
I would argue that kindness is the only answer to balancing all the competing interests in teaching in these times. Asking for and accepting help teaches students maturity. For pre-law and law students, learning to advocate, even if for themselves, is a skill that is absolutely necessary but hard to assess. Understanding that most people will do the right thing given the necessary information is also an imperative, and yet ephemeral, lesson. This is where modeling kindness can be an unexpected but powerful aid to teaching.
So, I am doing my best to teach and model kindness as part of the hidden curriculum in these classes. I am accepting all work until the last minute. If you ask me to turn it in late, the answer is yes and there is no penalty. I may even track you down to make sure you ask. If you need to do your oral argument about a different case because the assigned one is too hard to read about, then so be it. I’ve stopped using a virtual background because I want students to know that I am sitting at my kitchen table in my messy and chaotic house. My students have seen (and mainly heard) all my pets and children. I am not pretending that anything we are doing is normal, but I am teaching within this paradigm and not despite it. I want my students to learn that there are some things that are more important than classroom hierarchy, and yet I also want them to learn that being an attorney means that, for the most part, you will be working with and for humans-who all have battles. When our class could be an immersive escape from the world, I hope it was; but where it could be an oasis acknowledging the reality of this time, I hope it was that too. When we get to a point in this pandemic where we can safely be caught crying on public transportation, I will have to find a new balance and I hope my students will have acquired the resilience to find one as well.
(Guest Post - Elizabeth Stillman)
Saturday, December 5, 2020
Friday, December 4, 2020
South Florida Regional ASP Conference
Call for Proposals and Save the Date
Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law requests presentation proposals for the first annual South Florida Regional ASP Conference, which will be held virtually (on Zoom) on Friday, January 29, 2021. We envision that the upcoming conference will consist of two types of sessions:
- Presentations demonstrating a new strategy, tool, or approach to ASP developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic but with continued usefulness after law schools return to non-pandemic instruction; and
- Guided conversations about topics of interest to ASP professionals.
If you are interested in presenting at the conference, please email your proposal by Monday, December 21, to Susan Landrum, Assistant Dean for Academic Success & Professionalism at NSU Law, at [email protected].
Please include the following information in your proposal:
- Name of Presentation
- Name(s) and Contact Information of Presenter(s)
- Short Biography for Each Presenter (no more than 100 words)
- Type of Presentation (Pandemic Tools or Guided Conversation)
- Proposed Length of Presentation (30, 45, or 60 minutes)
- Short Description of Presentation (no more than 250 words): In particular, please note the extent to which the presentation will be interactive. In true ASP fashion, we encourage everyone to make presentations as interactive as possible, giving session participants new tools and ideas to take home to their own schools. For Guided Conversations, the presenter should speak for no more than 5 minutes at the start of the presentation and then act as a facilitator for a conversation about their chosen topic.
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
I write this, or some variation of it, a few times a year. And I do so because I feel passionately that it needs to be heard. Many of you are getting Bar Exam Results right now, and if the news is good, great! Congrats! However, for some of you, the news is less than idea. That's ok too. Read on!
First and foremost, this does not define you. Trust me, we have all heard stories of prominent lawyers, judges, and politicians that have failed the bar, sometimes multiple times. I could make you a list of all of the successful lawyers that were unsuccessful on the bar exam their first time. In fact, you likely have bosses, professors, or have met judges or elected officials that have failed the bar, and you might not even know! That's because failing the bar does not define them. If you try to make a list, you won’t find “failed the bar” on Wikipedia pages, or official biographies, or resumes. It’s not because it’s some secret shame, but because no one cares. In 5-10 years, no one will care how many times it took you to pass the bar. In fact, they won’t care in 6 months or a year. It seems like a defining moment right now, but it isn’t. Your defining moments come from the way you treat clients, the way you treat colleagues, and what you choose to do with your license once you have it.
So, take a few days to be upset, it’s ok. Also, remind yourself that you are in a pandemic! And for most of you, the goal posts around the exam kept changing. There was so much extra stress involved in this last Bar Exam, and to be honest, so much extra stress in life. Sure, you might be sitting here thinking that you don't want to make excuses, and that's admirable. But, this isn't an excuse, it's reality. You were likely studying for, or taking the exam, in less than ideal circumstances. So, given that, cut yourself some slack.
Then, remember that you don't owe anyone an explanation. No one. Yes, you have a duty to be honest. If you currently have a law related job, or are in the hiring process, yes, you have to tell your employer or future employer. And you can't pretend to be licensed when you are not. But beyond that, you don't have to explain this to well meaning family or friends, or anyone else. However, you also want to trust me when I say that more people will understand than you think, and very few people will judge.
So finally, dust yourself off, and start looking towards the next bar. Also, remember that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s a part of success. Every successful lawyer has failed – on the bar, at trial, in a negotiation, not getting a job. Every failed politician has lost a race. Every failed Olympian has lost a game or a match. That failure is a normal way to achieves success in the future. However, for that to be true, you have to learn from failure. So, what can you do?
FIRST: Look at your score (if your state gives you the breakdown) and request back your essays (if you can). It's going to be hard, you likely don't want to look back. But you can learn so much from those scores and the essays!
Once you have your essays, I want you to do a couple things. Review your answers. Now that you are removed from the day of writing, what do you notice? If possible, compare them to the sample answers. See if you can pick out patterns. Don’t just focus on the conclusions, or the issues spotted. Did the sample answers use more facts? Or have a more in depth analysis? Be honest with yourself. Also, if you have a varied set of scores (one essay is a 1, while another is a 5) compare the 2. What is the difference? Don’t just shrug it off as you know one subject better. Pay attention to the writing in both.
THEN: Look at your score. How close or far away are you from passing? Did you do better on a certain subject? Is your written score considerably better than your MBE score? This is an excellent place to start. Some things to keep in mind:
- If your essay score is higher than your MBE, it may be tempting to place most of your energy into MBE practice, and forget about essays. This will only result in your score “swapping.” So, while it is good to note that you might need more work on the MBE, don’t forget that you aren’t carrying the score wit you so you still need to practice essays. The reverse is true if you did better on MBE than the essays.
- Perhaps you did really well on the torts MBE, but your lowest score was civil procedure. Again, do not just focus on civil procedure, and forget other subjects. Your scores will just swap places, and not improve overall.
- You might be only 2 points away from passing. Great! However, your score is still starting from scratch. Meaning, in one sense, you only need 2 more points, but that’s not how the bar works, obviously. You have to still work to get the points you already got AGAIN, and it is likely you forgot things, and are out of practice.
NEXT: Think about external factors, ya know, like a pandemic!
Did something unrelated to the bar impact your studying? Perhaps a health issue, physical or mental? Perhaps a family emergency, or ongoing family issues? Did you have a good place to study? Or time? Much of this might have been beyond your control, and it might feel like you are searching for excuses, but really, you are analyzing the situation so you can create a plan moving forward.
Have you suffered from anxiety in general or related to exams? If you do, are you being treated for the anxiety?
These things can and will impact your studying. Not matter how much time and effort you put in, if you are not physically and mentally healthy, you won’t process the information correctly.
Not to mention, if there is something in your life that is distracting you, that will also impact how you process information, which will impact your score.
REVIEW: Your study habits!
The most important thing you can do is practice. Many bar students get caught up in trying to memorize every sing law, or master every subject. While this is admirable, and takes quite a bit of time and effort. However, mastering the bar is a SKILL. You need to practice. When I work with repeat takers, I often find that they knew the law, and they studied hard, but didn’t practice enough essays or enough timed MBE.
This matters for a few reasons. One is timing. You can know all the law in the world, but if you can’t write an essay in 30 minutes, you will struggle to get the scores you need. Similarly, doing 100 MBE questions in 3 hours is not easy, even if you DO know the law. You need to practice the timing, and practice for the stamina.
Secondly, the skill being tested on the bar is applying the law to the unique set of facts. Yes, you need to know the law to do this, but knowing the law is not enough. You need to practice the application.
This means that writing essays, fully out, not just passively reading sample answers or issue spotting, is key. It has to be a priority in studying.
In fact, all of your studying should be active. Don’t focus on rewriting, or reviewing, outline after outline. Again, yes, you need to know the law, but you are also more likely to remember the law if you apply it – in MBE questions, writing essays, and so forth.
FINALLY: Meet with your Academic Success Professor, if you have one. We are here to help, I promise! I always hope that if my students aren't successful, they will come see me right away. We want you to! And we want to help you go through those essays and that score report, and create a game plan. Trust us, it's what we do! Maybe you don't know why one of your essays was given a 1, while another was a 5. We are trained to help you! We can help you with all of the above!
LAST: Change it up. Your Academic Success Professor can likely help you identify ways to change the way you studied, or identify different resources you might use.
Also, don't forget about non standard testing accommodations. I've had students fail the bar because they use non standard testing accommodations all through law school, and then decide not to apply for those same accommodations on the Bar Exam! That's just silly. You are entitled to them. Yes, the application process can be frustrating, but at least try.
Finally, if you don't have an Academic Success Professor to help you out, here are some resources that I give to my students:
CALI lessons! Which are free, always a bonus!
- CALI Lessons on improving multiple choice:
- CALI Lessons on improving memory: https://www.cali.org/lesson/18157
- CALI Lesson on issue spotting: https://www.cali.org/lesson/18169
- CALI Lesson on improving analysis: https://www.cali.org/lesson/18171
Other Resources, sadly not free, but some can be helpful. If you do have an Academic Success Professor, they might have discount codes, or other ways to help you get the below resources.
- Adaptibar: https://www.adaptibar.com/
- Strategies and Tactics for the MBE: https://www.amazon.com/Strategies-Tactics-MBE-Bar-Review/dp/1543805728/ref=sr_1_1?gclid=CjwKCAiA-vLyBRBWEiwAzOkGVArOgksVIJF-Ay7c5WMFApM2Dic8N2-DFZSxm95A23E0b-sHif7OthoCQmQQAvD_BwE&hvadid=241627170717&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9021760&hvnetw=g&hvqmt=e&hvrand=7692014818673609309&hvtargid=aud-840076997981%3Akwd-555060935&hydadcr=22595_10356262&keywords=strategies+and+tactics+for+the+mbe&qid=1583177627&sr=8-1
- Private tutors, which can help you create a plan and personalized study process. I send my students to:
Above all else, don't give up! I'll say it again, this does NOT define you, not as a person, not as a future lawyer. This is one small hiccup on your road to a fantastic career. And it's frustrating yes, but you WILL get past it!
Tuesday, December 1, 2020
Now that Thanksgiving is past, most law students have started or are about to start preparing for final exams. With an entire semester of material to master, many try to prioritize what to spend their time on. Some concepts and rules, introduced early in the course, may feel tediously familiar through repetition, and students may feel they can afford not to spend time on them now, especially if they tested successfully on those points on the midterm. Experimental evidence suggests, however, that time could still be well spent, even on familiar material, if it is spent the right way.
Jeffrey D. Karpicke and Henry L. Roediger III, psychologists at Washington University, ran a series of tests of memory recall of lists of words, examining the effects of two distinct tasks that contribute to learning: studying and testing.1 Their first set of tests, similar to other experiments that had been done over the previous 40 years, sought to determine what combination of studying (in this case, visually reviewing lists of words to be memorized) and testing (writing down recalled words under time pressure) would produce the best learning. Some subjects were told to study a list of words, then were tested on their recall, then given another opportunity to study, and finally given one last test. These were identified as STST subjects. Other subjects were given disproportionate opportunities to study, or to test: either three study periods and one test (SSST) or one study period followed by three tests (STTT). The scientists then compared recall performance for different groups of subjects after the final test. Hopefully not surprising to either law students or Academic Success professionals, the subjects in the STST group had the best recall in the end. As other psychologists have observed, a mix of studying and testing produces the best learning.
What was new and interesting was the second phase of their testing, in which they variations on the STST pattern on new groups of subjects, and tested recall not just at the end of the four-step pattern, but also on an extra test given one week later. In addition to testing some volunteers using the original STST method (study, test, study, test), and to tweaking the order (but not the ratio) by giving some volunteers two study sessions followed by two test sessions (SSTT), the scientists tested a third set of volunteers by starting with the same size set of words in the first two steps (study, test), but then removing from the word list all the words successfully recalled at that point, and then asking the volunteers to study and then test using only the words not recalled in the first test. Using the reduced list of words was identified with a subscript "N", so this set of examinees was called "STSNTN". [This method is familiar to many who study (or recommend studying) with flash cards by removing from the deck each card you recall correctly, so that every new pass through the deck, you are only studying and testing yourself on the information you failed to recall the last time.] Finally, a fourth set of volunteers similarly started with a complete list of words, which they studied and were tested upon, and then spent a second study period studying only the reduced list (that is, again, they did not have to study any words they had already learned). However, on their second test, all of the words from the initial list were tested, even those that were not studied a second time. Thus, this was the "STSNT" group.
What Karpicke and Roediger discovered this time was that the STSNTN group clearly had the best recall after the second test -- in fact, among the fifteen subjects tested in this group, there was only a single instance of a word not being recalled. In other words, this group had the "fastest initial learning" of all, apparently because they focused both their studying and their testing on material that they had not previously learned. They learned the material more quickly than either group that studied and tested on all the words twice (STST and SSTT) or the group that studied only material that it had not previously learned, but tested on all the words twice (STSNT). And this has an intuitive appeal to those of us who have used flash cards -- if you focus on your gaps, you can overcome them more quickly, right?
However, the scientists also tested all the subjects one week later, asking them to recall all the words from their initial lists. And on this later test of long-term memory, the STSNTN group performed the worst. One might simply attribute this to those subjects having spent less total time and mental energy on the learning task, since they had a reduced word list for the second half of their learning. If that were the case, though, you would expect that the best long-term results would have been seen in the STST group, which studied and tested on full word lists twice. In fact, the long-term performance of the STSNT group was as good as, and in some cases better than, the performance of the STST group. This suggests that it does not matter so much whether you spend time studying material you already know, as long as make sure to continue to test yourself on that material along with the material you are continuing to learn.
So over the next few weeks, as our students work somewhere between diligently and frantically to prepare themselves for their final exams, it seems that the most efficient and effective use of their time will be to focus their study time (reviewing, rote memorization, consulting supplementary material, asking TAs and professors questions) on the things they are unsure of, but to continue to test themselves on everything in the syllabus.
1Jeffrey D. Karpicke & Henry L. Roediger III, Repeated retrieval during learning is the key to long-term retention, Journal of Memory and Language 57 (2007) 151-162.