Friday, April 29, 2022
The University of Toledo College of Law seeks to hire an Assistant Professor of Legal Writing, whose courses will focus on academic success and bar preparation. In addition to the nine-month faculty appointment, this person will also serve as the Director of Academic Success and Bar Preparation, making this a 12-month position. The person selected will be responsible for overseeing programs and teaching classes to provide academic support and bar preparation to our students.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, but priority consideration will be given to candidates who apply by May 20, 2022. Inquiries can be directed to Professor Nicole Porter, Chair, Appointments Committee at [email protected]. Applications must be submitted through this website.
Tuesday, April 26, 2022
Law schools have not yet fulfilled the Carnegie Report’s call for more formative assessment. One reason for falling short is conflicting narratives about what is “good” formative assessment. One specific narrative seems particularly troublesome: That the only legitimate method for providing formative assessment is for the instructor to sit down with each student and explain their errors. This post pushes back on that narrative.
- Self-critique is more effective than we appreciate.
Most would agree that individualized feedback from an instructor, the expert both on the subject and the way the student will be graded, is most effective. But especially when using a model answer or quality student answer, allowing students to compare their work against the ideal version, doing so not only assists with doctrinal comprehension, legal writing, and exam skills, but also builds metacognitive abilities. Having the capacity to determine one’s own weaknesses is crucially important, as demonstrated by countless studies showing the performance-enhancing effect of improving metacognition.
The assumption that all feedback must come from the instructor certainly undercuts the mission to improve students’ metacognition. When students find themselves professorless during bar study, they will scramble around helplessly if they have absorbed the legal education fable that only professor knows best. Moreover, new lawyers will certainly struggle in the early years of practice when they need to run to the partner/ division chief/ client to do the metacognitive work for them.
Although some students certainly will do a poor job of self-critiquing (“I mentioned res ipsa loquitur just like the model did! I should get full points!”), this is no reason to underappreciate self-critique. First, in my experience, most students DO figure out their weaknesses from this process. While before the self-critique process they think their C-minus should be an A-minus, seeing the student essay that booked the course tends to leave them thinking otherwise. Second, even if the student still does not see the problems, this is where academic support faculty come in. In partnering with doctrinal faculty, academic support faculty can meet with underperforming students and comment not on the law but on the student’s metacognition. This method distributes personnel resources in a way that makes robust feedback more possible, fosters metacognition, demonstrates to students the valuable connection between doctrinal and academic support faculty, and frees up time for doctrinal faculty.
- Calcifying the status quo.
A particular danger with the solely instructor-based feedback narrative is that it preserves the status quo. We all know that formative assessment is lacking in legal education. The principal argument against remedying that problem is that individualized feedback is so time-consuming that one can accomplish little else. When those inclined to pursue efficient formative assessment are then met with the chorus of voices claiming that self-provided feedback is inadequate, they throw the baby out with the bathwater, dismiss formative assessment, and turn back to the same one-final-exam process used since 1877. Therefore, creating this strict dichotomy between individualized feedback and self-provided feedback makes the perfect the enemy of the very good and leaves students with nothing instead of at least something.
None of this is meant to say that instructor-led feedback is unnecessary or inferior. Feedback from course instructors is crucial. But when that type of formative assessment is not feasible, self-critique is a solid option.
There is a lot more to discuss on this subject. Unlike almost all other graduate programs, why do we think that TAs providing feedback is an unspeakable heresy? Why do we almost never use summative assessment as formative assessment by improving the process of post-semester self-critique? (FYI, simply letting students see their exam answers does not accomplish this goal.) Why do we see testing only as formative and summative assessment but not as a learning tool in-and-of itself?
Unfortunately, the time constraints on writing about the time constraints of formative assessments are such that I have to stop tying now. Ironic.
Louis Schulze, FIU Law
 Self-critique without a model answer is possible, too, but I concede that having a model answer is preferable. To those who would avoid providing such an answer because doing so would take time to write or risk being imprecise, I would argue that a simple solution is to release the strongest student answer.
 Metacognition is the process of assessing one’s knowledge: Do I really know the felony murder rule, or do I just think I know it? As I tell my students, it is like hovering over one’s knowledge and objectively scrutinizing one’s real comprehension.
 See generally J.A. Gundlach & J. Santangelo, Teaching and Assessing Metacognition in Law School, 69 J. LEGAL EDUC. 156 (2019) (reporting on empirical study of first-year law students, finding that students who demonstrated strong metacognitive skills were more likely to perform well).
Monday, April 25, 2022
This semester I changed up my assessments for my undergraduate law class. In the past, I had done oral arguments as a final assessment, but after witnessing paralyzing anxiety from more than a couple of students last semester, I decided that I was assessing mental health rather than legal argumentation skills. No one should be graded that way. So, this semester, students are writing a judicial opinion (pretending to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice) in the case of Carson v. Makin. This is a fun case for my undergraduates because it took place here in the First Circuit (nearby in Maine) and it is about high school (also temporally nearby for undergrads). The case is about Maine’s program for students in very rural areas that do not have a local public high school. Maine’s law allows parents to choose another public school in a different district, or a private school so long as the private school meets certain criteria in terms of state required curriculum, attendance, and our sticking point: that the school is “non-sectarian”. The case is a great example of free exercise clause litigation and students are really getting into it, but the very complicated issue of standing is one I have had to take off their plate because it is a bit too much for students who have not taken a course in Federal Courts. Essentially, the plaintiffs are parents who would like to send their kids to sectarian schools but because of the Maine law, they haven’t even tried to use the tuition assistance program. The schools that the parents want to send their children to have not agreed to follow Maine's other requirements either. So, you may be asking, how have they been injured? The attorneys for Maine asked this as well, in more than one case, and each time the District Court and First Circuit found that there was standing because, “[T]he plaintiffs’ injury in fact inheres in their having lost the “opportunity.”" It seems a little like tap dancing in the rain to find standing here, but there it is: a lost opportunity is sufficient injury to get the case before a court.
This decision made me think that we may be injuring our students who are on Academic Warning, Probation, guided curriculum, or whatever your school might call it. We do, of course, intend to help these students in terms of bar readiness and supervision to prevent further academic mishaps. We have a compelling academic interest in having students take this path. Our studies and experience show that it works. I really have no doubt that our process does improve our students’ chances overall. To that end, we have students take bar tested courses like Evidence, Commercial Law, Family Law, and Trusts and Estates once they have a GPA below a certain threshold.
But…these students are required to take another set of large, grade-curved classes that tend to have one high-stakes summative assessment at the end. This might be where things initially went wrong for them, so more of it may just dig the hole deeper for some. We also occupy their schedules with required courses that monopolize their time and credits each semester. Students in academic difficulty do not often get the green light to take a credit overload. There is less space, after satisfying the requirements, for courses that are not bar tested and may have alternate assessment schemes. Students who do well in their first year can then go on to choose courses that allow them to keep up or substantially improve their already good GPAs. Students flagged for warning or probation after the first year have a much harder time moving up in class rankings in subsequent years. Students in academic difficulty know that on-campus recruiting is not going to even consider them. Clinical opportunities may also be lost because of scheduling or because of academic status or both. Some students really need to take the engine apart and put it back together to understand how it works-and some students need to see what lawyering really is to reignite their underlying enthusiasm for continuing in law school. There is a hopelessness we are creating because these opportunities are lost.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that we abandon this process altogether. We do students a grave disservice if they are misled throughout law school to believe that they are on track for bar passage only to fail. We similarly do students no favors by continuing to take their tuition money when law school is clearly not for them. Perhaps, though, we can re-evaluate our methods. There are no easy answers here-just a request to be mindful of students who feel that they are drifting further away even as we are throwing them a lifesaver. They don’t want to just survive; they want the opportunity to get back on the ship.
 Carson v. Makin, 979 F.3d 21 (1st. Cir. 2020)
 Me. Stat. tit. 20–A, § 2(1) (2022).
 Carson, 979 F.3d at 26.
 Id. at 30 (citing Eulitt v. Me. Dept. of Educ., 386 F.3d 344 (1st. Cir. 2004)).
How’s my citation? Call 1-800-Bluebook to report it.
 Is this ideal for bar passage? Perhaps not.
Sunday, April 24, 2022
Loyola Chicago is seeking an Assistant Director of Academic Success and Bar Programs. You can find the posting here. The details are below.
- Counsel individual students to help them improve study and exam-taking skills, specifically those students that may be at risk.
- Assist in overseeing the First Year Academic Tutors
- Assist in developing and teaching academic support program for first year second semester students.
- Providing individual academic counseling to all students and alumni preparing for the bar
- Researching and implementing the most current best practices for bar preparation
- Serving on the Bar Exam Success Committee
- Develop and maintain a high level of knowledge about academic support and bar preparation programs, techniques, and methods.
- Track student success and academic performance for students in academic difficulty and at-risk students.
- Assist with supplemental bar prep program
- Assist with collection and organization of data for long-term assessment of: (a) student participation in Academic and Bar Success programming and course offerings, (b) individual student academic and bar exam performance, and © Loyola University Chicago School of Law retention and bar passage rates.
- Perform other duties in support of the Academic and Bar Success program as assigned by the Director
Friday, April 22, 2022
Thursday, April 21, 2022
Sometimes, if truth be told, we often feel out of place. That was never truer than when - a few years back - I interviewed for my first law school academic job, hoping to earnestly pursue a career as a legal writing professor. As those who know me know, that didn't pan out. But for perhaps not the reasons that you might image.
The interview trip started off uneventful. I flew across the country and the law school put me up in a very nice hotel just a block from campus. All seemed well, that is, until the next morning - the day of the interview.
With an early start, I had a nice breakfast and went back to the room to suit up, so to speak, for the interview, dressed in my finest linens (not really that fine but the best I had). Shirt, socks, pants, etc. With just shoes to go, I sat down on the bed and grabbed my two black shoes. The first one went on smoothly but not the second. You see, I had mistakenly grabbed two black shoes...for two left feet.
Panicked, I tried my best to take a few steps around the room, most uncomfortably. But the show had to go on. So I tumbled out the hotel, hailed a taxi for what was supposed to be a quick walk to campus to try to save my feet as best as possible, and made it to the law school on time for my all-day interview, as you might imagine, a bit tussled.
Frankly, the interview went much better than I expected, that is, until the library tour.
You see, libraries, at least to me, are like big canyons of exploration, with shelves upon shelves of books. With normal shoes, navigating such canyons ought not be too cumbersome. But with two left feet, I wasn't sure I could maneuver. I might just find myself boxed in by an apparently impenetrably canyon. That's because left shoes point right, making right turns quick tame. But if forced to turn left, I thought, I might just have to put myself in reverse and back out. Well, to cut to the chase, I survived the library tour no worse for the wear. All right turns as had it.
Then came lunch.
Now, for those of you not in academics, the lunch talk is whether one gathers before the faculty, with the faculty munching while you are talking, presently some fabulously creative and elucidate lecture on some astonishing topic of interest to legal educators. I gathered my balance and took off full steam ahead with my topic, but I couldn't help notice the stares. Lots of them. And not quite at me at all. Rather, the faculty seemed entranced at staring at my feet.
Not one to be stared at, I just didn't quite know what to say, so I just finally blurted out that, "yes, I have two left feet." Needless to say, in a crowd of academics, that didn't seem to even get a nibble of laughs.
I ended up, to my surprise, getting a job offer but needless to say went elsewhere. But I did learn something important about myself. Not to take myself too seriously. That's it's okay to not be perfectly put together (I never am). That I've sort of made peace with myself that I am just, well, quirky, as one person recently told me.
And I think that is quite good to know because, if the truth be told, there are no ordinary people. There are no normal people. We are all, in some ways and in marvelous ways, out of place but right in place where we belong. As CS Lewis put it, we are all extraordinary.
So as I share this story, I hope it helps you to be at home wherever you find yourself, and that it helps you help others be at home too in your presence and in your communities too. That's something extraordinary wonderful to share with each other. (Scott Johns).
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
This week in academic/ bar support scholarship:
1. D. Bowman (unaffiliated) and T.M. Miguel-Stearns (unaffiliated), Arizona's Diploma Privilege: There. . . And Back Again? (Arizona Attorney, Fall 2022).
From the abstract:
The Bar Examination is a longstanding hallmark of the legal profession, with most states administering it in some form for at least a century. This gateway into legal practice, however, has not always been viewed as a necessary, or even useful, way to ensure the competent practice of law. In the early 1900s, numerous states—including Arizona—allowed law-school graduates to be admitted to the bar based “upon their diplomas,” under certain conditions. And this “diploma privilege” is not unheard of today: it is still practiced in Wisconsin and a limited version is recognized in New Hampshire. The diploma privilege assumed special significance during the COVID-19 pandemic after several states elected to temporarily admit recent graduates without examination.
This Article discusses Arizona’s brief jaunt with diploma privilege from 1919 to 1925, when law graduates of the University of Arizona were “admitted to the bar of Arizona on their diplomas.” An examination of this history and of the arguments expressed for and against revocation of Arizona’s privilege reveals that conversations about diploma privilege have not significantly changed over the past century. The Article then surveys the continued existence of diploma privilege today in Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and five other jurisdictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This Article also briefly discusses the rise of the bar exam, its endorsement by accrediting bodies, and its hold on the legal profession today. Of course, some view the bar examination as a proper rite of passage. Others believe it is an important safeguard protecting the public from incompetent attorneys. Some have found it to be a formidable barrier to legal practice. For many, it is yet another mysterious and formalistic fixture of the legal profession. This Article grapples with these competing viewpoints and, in closing, invites Arizona’s legal community to rethink the utility, efficacy, and fairness of the bar exam, and to consider alternatives to examination that could bestow significant benefits upon Arizona’s residents and legal community.
2. S. Thaxton (UCLA), A Comment on Sander and Steinbuch's “Mismatch and Bar Passage: A School-Specific Analysis” (SSRN March 31, 2022).
From the abstract:
Richard Sander and Robert Steinbuch’s “Mismatch and Bar Passage: A School-Specific Analysis” presents a statistical analysis of the “law school mismatch hypothesis” in an effort to explain racial differences in the likelihood of passing the bar examination. Sander and Steinbuch (S&S) claim their analysis is an improvement on prior studies of mismatch—which relied on data from the Law School Admission Council’s (LSAC) Bar Passage Study (BPS)—because their data are (a) more recent (the BPS is nearly 25 years old) and (b) permit the construction of a school-specific measure of mismatch than was not possible with the BPS. These improvements, notwithstanding, several conceptual and methodological mistakes previously identified in the empirical literature on mismatch analyzing the BPS data are present in S&S's study of school-specific data, thereby calling into question S&S’s conclusion that “the mismatch effects in their models can therefore account for the large disparities in bar passage across racial lines.” This paper identifies six problems with S&S’s empirical analysis and attempts to propose a sensible solution, or set of solutions, to each problem.
[Louis Schulze, FIU Law]
Monday, April 18, 2022
Today I am sitting on my chosen side of Beacon Street while the Boston Marathon is happening just down the road. I cannot even imagine running over twenty-six miles -- especially considering that my “running” occasionally consists of trying to catch the train in the morning and occasionally deciding that the next train would be fine too.
According to the organizers of the Marathon, there will be numerous places to get water. There will also be places on the route to get some regular or decaf “hydrogel” (which honestly sounds like cheating, right?). There will also be people on bicycles bringing up the rear so that the slower runners are observed and safe even when the roads are re-opened, as well as 26 medical checkpoints. Don’t even get me started on the security surrounding the event (which is entirely understandable), I’ve been hearing helicopters overhead for about a week now. The route is marked on the ground and with signs. People are on the edge of route cheering all the runners on. Overall, the marathon runners are being cared for, protected, and encouraged all along the way.
Are we similarly helping our students in their upcoming exam marathon? We know students have been training for these final exams for months, and like the Boston marathon runners, since it is spring, these students have completed a set of exams that qualified them to tackle this one. We are getting to the point in the semester where just preparing and training will have to give way to running the actual course. Here are some things we can remind students to do for themselves, so they are ready when the starting gun is fired:
- Remind yourself that you have studied and put in the time. While you might have some regrets about the way you have studied or the amount of time you have put in, there is no changing that now and focusing on that will take up valuable time and bandwidth.
- Do not pull all-nighters before exams. This is not a sprint. You do not have the time to recover from a missed night of sleep before the next exam (if there is one), and more importantly you will need to be able to think clearly during the exam. Think of sleep as carbs for the busy work your brain needs to do.
- Be sure you have the correct technical equipment before you get to the starting point. Have you uploaded the exam software? Have you done any tutorials or tests that are recommended? Is your charger working? Now is a much better time to assess your equipment readiness than ten minutes into the exam.
- Do you know the rules? Have you looked over the exam requirements/restrictions? Is it open book, closed book, a hybrid? Can you bring in an index card? Write on the code (if that can come with you), tab your materials, bring in your outline? This will impact how you study and how you plan to access material during the exam (from your brain or other sources). Do you know what to do when you need to use a bathroom during the exam?
- Do you know your exam numbers?? Do you know where to find them? Also, do you have your ID with you for checking into the exam? Take a picture of it now just in case….
- Do you have SHARPENED number 2 pencils or know where to find them-- and a decent eraser? If you somehow ruin all your pencils and erasers during the exam, do you know who to ask for assistance and where they are located in the building?
- Do you have hydration for the exam? Is your water bottle clean and filled? Do you know where the water filling station nearest your exam room is? We will, sadly, be offering hydrogel (which, now that I think of it, may be the active ingredient in my sunscreen…).
- Know that the folks cheering for you on your exam route are your ASP faculty. We are also the folks who will have chocolate, band-aids, tissues, and a place to stash the stuff you cannot get into your locker in an emergency. No, we cannot stand in the hall with banners and yell (distracting and all), but we are there. We know how hard you have worked to get here, and we are behind you 100%.
 Once I was proctoring an exam and the student forgot their school ID and showed me their gun permit as an alternate picture ID. I reminded them (and myself) that I was not grading that exam-just proctoring….
Sunday, April 17, 2022
The NCBE released the NextGen Bar's content outlines recently and asked for public comment. The comments are due Monday April 18th. They contacted me asking me to spread the word about the notice and comment process and also encouraged me to provide my thoughts on the blog. I hesitated until now to not cloud others thoughts during the comment process. I probably should have posted my comments prior to February bar results. I might (probably not) have been less harsh a few weeks ago.
I will start with my overall view of the NextGen Bar is severely impacted by prior interactions with the NCBE. I sat in a room with roughly 150 ASPers (probably most of you reading this) at an AASE plenary session where ASPers were supposed to be able to interact with the NCBE regarding massive drops in MBE scores after adding Civ Pro as a topic. The NCBE representative spoke for about 55 minutes of the hour session. She took 1 question regarding cognitive load, didn't provide a coherent answer, and the session ended. No meaningful interaction occurred. I attended 2 workshops in Madison with the NCBE, which they do graciously provide at no cost to ASPers. Their hospitality was wonderful, but the substance in the first workshop didn't further schools ability to assist students. Most of the workshop justified their exams. The second workshop provided more information. They did a great demonstration of how they train graders and provided some information about MBE scores. While the second event still included justifications, it did provide more information for helping students prepare for the bar. Like many of you, I found the NCBE's claims about "less able students" offensive and lacking any self-reflection. I felt the NCBE's pandemic response and white-paper justifying the bar exam lacked basic social responsibility to fellow suffering humans.
I could expound on other grievances with cathartic rants, but I should progress to the current topic. I did want to be transparent that my views are based on interactions beyond the current exam restructuring.
One stated goal from the communication with the NCBE is the bar will test fewer topics less deeply. I think that is great. The current MBE tests a depth of knowledge that is significantly beyond minimum competence to practice law. The goal is great, but I don't trust the NCBE to execute it. I believe testing skills attorneys use on a daily basis and law that is truly the minimum amount to be competent is an outstanding goal. I applaud the NCBE for undertaking a task that could radically change the bar exam. However, goals and ideas alone don't always produce the best results. Executing a plan to provide a good exam is critical because individual's livelihoods are at stake. From my experience with how poorly the MBE tests competence, I worry the NextGen Bar will look different but not actually test minimum competence. My fear is also the NCBE will continue to justify their exam without self-reflection. A different bar exam isn't inherently good if it continues to test irrelevant skills on a standardized test.
One way to to fail in execution is content. The content scope outlines illustrate my worry. I love they are decreasing subjects. Students across the country will rejoice when Secured Transactions falls off the exam. Also, no more Family Law or the UCCJEA rules. Decreasing subjects should focus more on the necessary topics for new attorneys.
In theory, substantive cognitive load decreases. However, I still see 2 problems. First, the new skills to be tested (Legal Research, Client Counseling, Negotiation, etc.) can't logistically be tested in a real-world environment. Texas, New York, or Florida can't watch a simulated Negotiation or Client Counseling session for every taker. Those skills will be tested in some standardized format, which means students will have to learn the "best" answers for those sections. That still counts towards the cognitive load required to pass the exam.
My second problem relates to the content within the subjects. The content includes the traditional MBE subjects. The outline places an asterisk next to areas that must still be memorized. Glancing at the Contracts outline, nearly everything still must be memorized, including third-party rights, interpretation, and omitted terms. Business Associations also seems to need memorization of sections (ie - LLCs) that should be state specific statutory law. The amount of substantive memorization may decrease due to less subjects, but some subjects still seem to require memorization. I believe some of the memorization is still beyond what regular "competent" attorneys know.
My problems aside, I do love that common law crimes are no longer tested. Virtually none of Crim law must be memorized. Significant portions of Real Property doesn't need to be memorized, especially future interests. I would throw future interests out completely, but no memorization is a compromise. Civ Pro requires memorization but most of Evidence doesn't. There does seem to be effort to decrease content, but I think more could be taken out.
If I merely read the NextGen Bar's content scope outline with their goals, I think it could be a reasonable and relevant exam. However, I am skeptical of the NCBE based on prior interactions. I question whether the execution will follow the goals and whether this becomes another standardized mechanism to exclude diverse populations. I hope I am wrong.
New York Law School will be hosting a virtual NY Area Academic Support Workshop on Friday, May 13, from 1:30 to 4:30 PM ET. You can RSVP by clicking HERE.
In the tradition of this workshop, you should expect the virtual gathering to be interactive and to provide opportunities for attendees to share ideas and questions for collective exploration.
This year’s workshop will revolve around a discussion of the following four articles:
- Ruggero J. Aldisert et al., Logic for Law Students: How to Think Like a Lawyer, 69 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 100 (2007).
- Russell A. McClain, Bottled at the Source: Recapturing the Essence of Academic Support as a Primary Tool of Education Equity for Minority Law Students, 18 U. Md. L.J. Race, Religion, Gender & Class 139 (2018).
- Victor D. Quintanilla & Sam Erman, Mindsets in Legal Education, 69 J. Legal Educ. 412 (2020).
- Christopher J. Ryan, Jr. & Derek T. Muller, The Secret Sauce: Examining Law Schools that Overperform on the Bar Exam, __ Fla. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming), available at https://ssrn.com/abstract=4021458.
If you’re interested in leading the discussion of one of these articles, please indicate as much in your RSVP form responses. No later than Thursday, April 21, the workshop’s organizers will notify those individuals who will be leading each discussion—the organizers expect to designate teams of three to five individuals for each article.
The workshop’s organizers suggest that each team work collaboratively to prepare the following in advance of the workshop:
- A brief description of the article under discussion, and what’s useful or novel about it;
- An explanation of how workshop attendees might use one or more points from the article in their own work, whether that’s teaching, meeting with students, collaborating with faculty, etc.
- An exercise, through which the team will lead the other workshop attendees, that helps everyone better understand one or more points from the article, whether or not they’ve also read it.
The goal is to not just talk about these articles, but to explore how the ideas affect us and the work we’re doing to promote our students’ academic and bar success.
Zoom meeting link to follow (by email) for those who RSVP by Monday, May 9.
Saturday, April 16, 2022
Position Summary: Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Law is an outstanding small public law school that provides its students with an optimal mix of theoretical and experiential educational opportunities in a student-centered environment to prepare them for a changing legal profession in a global environment. SIU Law seeks to hire an Assistant Professor of Practice to support the Academic Success Program’s (ASP) work to train law students for law school rigor, the bar exam, and the practice of law. The initial appointment is a 12-month, term, non-tenure track (NTT) position beginning May 16, 2022. The appointment is renewable contingent on performance, curricular need, and budget.
Duties and Responsibilities: The assistant professor of practice will teach Academic Success and Bar Prep courses, provide individual coaching, monitor student performance data, provide in-depth feedback and guidance on writing skills, legal analysis, time management, and other skills that assist a student in achieving a high level of academic performance and the likelihood of bar passage, and serve as a liaison to alumni, bar service providers, and boards of bar examiners, or others involved in bar administration.
• Either a Juris Doctor degree from an ABA-accredited law school or its equivalent;
• License to practice law in at least one U.S. state or the District of Columbia;
• Prior academic or bar support teaching experience, or an equivalent combination of three years of practice experience and adjunct teaching. Preferred Qualifications:
• Superior written, oral, and interpersonal communication skills.
• Project management skills.
• Experience implementing new programs with specific, measurable goals.
• Experience working effectively with a diverse population of students, faculty, and staff.
• Experience collecting, interpreting, and analyzing data.
• Ability to handle confidential information, collaborate with colleagues, and exhibit good judgment when interfacing with students, staff, and faculty.
• Ability to establish and maintain positive and professional working relationships with all law school constituents, bar examination officials, and the legal community.
• Familiarity with learning theories.
Required Documents: Cover Letter, Curriculum Vitae
Contact: Judith Ray
Contact Email: [email protected]
Monday, April 11, 2022
Next Monday is Patriot’s Day here in Massachusetts. I used to think that since it was the day of the marathon, we all got the day off because getting anywhere in Boston can be fraught when you cannot cross Beacon Street. However, there is a revolutionary war meaning behind the holiday (it is Massachusetts, right?). Patriot’s Day commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord that began the colonists’ fight for independence from Great Britain on April 19, 1775. And we all know the story of Paul Revere, who warned the colonists here in the Commonwealth the day before-- if for no other reason than because we all had to memorize Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride,” which starts with,
“Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.”
I think some of my students might actually believe that I do remember that famous day and year-sigh. But, more importantly, I think at this point in the semester students are starting to hear the warning about exams coming and are looking to Academic Support to hang a lantern aloft to help illuminate their approach to the battle ahead. Here is what I would be crying into the night as I rode through the towns where my students live:
Outlining: students who heard and followed through on our earlier admonition to start outlining in January (or even catch-up during spring break in March) have more munitions in stock here in April. But for those who did not, there is still time to outline-either in the standard or other useful formats-like annotated flowcharts or Prezi. Outlining is both a review and the creation of a document to study from. It is what I like to call a two-birder, it is useful to do and useful to have when you are done.
Practice: at this point in the semester, doctrinal professors are handing out and going over old exam questions. This is a gold mine, because it lets students know how a professor will raise an issue and the depth that is required to answer it appropriately. Even students who have already been through multiple sets of exams need this because knowing your audience is a good writing tactic no matter what type of legal writing you are undertaking. Also, practicing multiple choice questions daily, from multiple sources (because slight changes in terminology can really throw you off unless you’ve seen them before) is key. At this point in the semester (or year for yearlong classes), students can look to bar questions or even scramble around other sources because they have finally encountered most of the material (if done too early, students may panic at what they don’t already know even though it hasn’t come up in the class yet).
Planning: students should sit down with their exam schedule and work backwards to today to plan their study. An examplan™ is a REALISTIC plan that includes time for finishing up the outlines, practicing essay and multiple-choice questions, studying from your outline, and (please!!) remembering to attend to your personal hygiene, physical and mental health. I advise students to remember to preview for the exam that is after the one they are currently studying for-you need to stay mentally nimble and not have to relearn all of Torts or Con Law in the two days before that exam. Having a plan has the added bonus of helping students feel more in control of the situation. Control is comfort in stressful situations.
Study groups: yes, but…every year I meet with a student on academic warning who assures me that they were the expert in their study group and all their “students” got better grades than they did. Remind students that if they are teaching the group everything, that the group is not putting anything they need on the table for them. I tell students that community, camaraderie, and shared circumstances are all important, but you cannot bring anyone else’s brain into the exam with you.
So, while exams are indeed coming, and they will bring some panic and chaos into the lives of our students, there is a lot we can do to prepare them for the onslaught-more than I have listed certainly. All we can hope is that our students will hear our cry and know that it is,
“A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!”
 I am really hoping this phrase catches on, but like “fetch” I am afraid it will not be a thing after all.
 Ok, I haven’t really registered this trademark, but if I see you all wearing t-shirts that say this, I’ll be pretty upset.
 This is what I am always thinking about when I say this to students (Gary Larson, 1986):
Sunday, April 10, 2022
UC Berkeley School of Law is accepting applications for an Associate Director in the Academic Skills Program. The posting and application process is located here.
Position and Program Overview
Berkeley Law is committed to fostering a supportive academic environment that allows students to achieve their full potential. The Academic Skills Program provides instruction and individual advising in a law school environment. Effective study methods are crucial to law school success, and the goal of the program is to ensure that students gain the necessary skills to succeed as law students and as lawyers.
The Associate Director will assist and collaborate with the Director in all aspects of the Academic Support Program. The position is primarily engaged in the coordination of academic programs but may include a separate but accompanying lecturer appointment.
The Associate Director will assist in planning and implementing a summer pre-orientation program, a student tutor program, workshops for students and faculty, and individual support for students. The Associate Director will also collaborate with the Director in developing new programming, including additional bar preparation support.
Key responsibilities include:
• Assist in administering the Academic Skills Program’s student-facing programs, including exam preparation workshops, study sessions, one-on-one meetings, orientation programs, and other special events at the law school;
• Lead workshops on study and exam-taking techniques for various audiences;
• Assist in supervising and training student tutors;
• Develop and implement innovative programming, including bar preparation support; and
• Attend conferences and/or professional workshops to stay informed of current trends in the field of legal education and academic support.
Additional materials may be required of applicants.
• J.D. degree or equivalent degree
• At least one year post-law school professional experience
• At least three years post-law school professional experience;
• Familiarity with the operations of a law school and legal organizations;
• Previous teaching experience and/or equivalent facilitation experience;
• Advanced program-development and problem-solving skills;
• Ability to relate to diverse audiences—students, faculty, academic administrators, practicing lawyers—within the legal profession;
• Ability to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students;
• Excellent oral and written communication skills; and
• Excellent interpersonal skills.
Friday, April 8, 2022
Thursday, April 7, 2022
I read a recent article about memorization. What caught my attention was the headline: "Why We're All Forgetting More Things Right Now."
According to the article, "[o]ur brains are like computers with so many tabs open right now....This slows down our pressing power, and memory is one of the areas that falters." (Quoting neuroscientist Sara C. Mednick). As I look at my computer screen right now, that's not only my brain but my computer too. It might just be that the reason that we have difficulty creating and retrieving memories is that we aren't focusing our attention on the tasks at hand.
In summary of the article, here are four tips to improve memorization and memory:
- First, don't force memorization because frustrations then creep in and "override the parts of our brains that retrieve memories." Id. Instead, "take some deep breaths to calm your brain down and try again." Id.
- Second, don't multi-task. Id. In my own words, if a task is important, it deserves all of us, not just part of us. So practice paying attention and put yourself in a position to remove distractions.
- Third, develop brain calmness. Id. That means taking breaks, meaningful breaks, with others, with yourself, in nature, and get sleep because sleep "clears out the toxins that can clog [our] mental processing." Id.
- Fourth, "be socially present." Id. The article talks about approaching "conversation intentionally." Id. That requires a lot out of us, but those around us deserve our attention - completely and fully. And, I'd add, approach reading and learning and problem-solving in law school intentionally conversational. Take with the cases as though the judges are present before you. Speak out your study tools and outlines. Challenge yourself with flashcards or other problems.
So, take pauses, be kind to yourself and others, when present be really present, and put away the distractions.
Sometimes I think that is why writing is so beneficial for me. It takes focus, attention, and being truly present with the task at hand. It's also why I run from writing so often. I suppose, like many, I like to go from experience to experience, never really seeing, or really experiencing at all. That's not exactly the right path for a rewarding memory or life. (Scott Johns).
I just blurted it out in class yesterday, not quite knowing what I was saying: "To do great things you must do great things." You see, I think many of us - me especially - think that I can do great things without really doing great things. That they just sort of happen, so to speak. That blurt got me musing about legal education.
Take bar prep. Preparing for the bar exam takes great effort. But it takes more than effort. It takes focusing attention, work, and learning on those activities that are most optimal for growth and leaving behind those activities that merely feel like learning but are not. And, it takes relying on others who have gone before us, for materials, lessons learned, and advice.
Take law school. Many of us - at least for me when I was in law school - checked all the boxes but didn't really understand what I was doing nor even why. Great education leaves us changed for the better. It doesn't settle in like a comfortable pillow. Rather, a remarkable educational experience challenges us, makes us uncomfortable about what we think we know because, the more we learn, the more we come to know that we have so much more to learn. As my mom used to tell me in response to what she suggested I teach my students, she said to "teach them to see things from the other persons' shoes." Sound advice but not necessarily easy to do.
Take academic support and bar passage programs. For many institutions, ASP and bar passage work is compartmentalized. It's something of a side show. A box checked, or, as recent post described it, non-contextualized. That's like trying to build something great without demanding something out of all of us.
One of my colleagues suggested to me that our role as legal educators should focus on three objectives:
- Developing professionally competent attorneys.
- Preparing our students to successfully pass bar exams.
- Ensuring that our students have meaningful employment in their chosen fields.
If we do those three things well, in community with each other and our students, we will have done great things...together. But, that takes the entire community cooperatively engaged in great things, little or big, to ensure that the great things happen for our students. It's a big job for all of us but it's a job that ought not be on the shoulders of solely any of us because we all have a role to play regardless of our job titles, program responsibilities, or rank.
That's something that plays out in military aviation. The pilots, so to speak, are the faces of aviation. But the planes don't fly without all of the other participants fully committed and fully engaged, fueling the airplanes, maintaining the airplanes, paving the runways, controlling the skies, etc.
There's a saying that comes to mind. There are no solo pilots, even in military jets. We all fly together or we don't fly at all. Let's fly together so that we can fly higher than ever. (Scott Johns).
Wednesday, April 6, 2022
I’ve been President of the Association of Academic Support Educators for almost a year now. Before that, I was President-Elect, and prior to that, was a committee chair. When I ran for President-Elect I had so many doubts about my own qualifications and capabilities. But I was encouraged to take the leap, and leap I did.
Let me tell you, it has been a fantastic experience. It has helped me grow as an educator and a leader, and it has helped me get to know more members of our wonderful and generous community. I have also loved working with others to shape our relatively new organization, and advocate to get us a seat at the table with other organizations. I have no regrets.
Because I have no regrets, I’d like to encourage YOU to take a leap and put your name in for leadership. We are accepting nominations for:
President-Elect (3 year term)
Vice President of Diversity (2 year term)
Secretary (1 year term)
Secretary -Elect (2 year term)
Treasurer (2-year term)
You may be wondering why we have Secretary as a one year term, and then also Secretary-Elect. This year the board decided that it made sense to have a Secretary-Elect, for the same reasons we have a Treasurer-Elect. However, we will be voting on this addition to our by-laws in May, and since we don’t currently have a Secretary-Elect, we need a Secretary for one year, and a Secretary-Elect for two years. So next year we will just be electing a Secretary-Elect.
You can nominate yourself, or someone else. The only people not eligible to run for office are myself, Megan Kreminski (current Treasurer-Elect) and Brittany Raposa (current President-Elect).
If you are nervous about stepping up to the executive board, but would like to get more involved, being a committee chair might be perfect. If there is a committee you are interested in chairing, please reach out to Brittany Raposa, and let her know of your interest.
And if you need someone to encourage you, here I am! So go forth and nominate!
Tuesday, April 5, 2022
When I started teaching in the academic support field, the pedagogy differed from today’s practices. The most dominant method at the time was what might be called “uncontextualized academic support.” In a nutshell, this is analytical skills training not set in the context of students’ current doctrinal courses. Because much of this instruction occurred in a non-course-based setting, the method frustrated many in the field due to its inability to reach more than one student at a time and because students were less engaged with materials not intersecting with their currently graded courses. Often the use of such methods was not the product of strategic decision-making but instead a broad fiat to avoid invading doctrinal turf.
In the oughts, more pedagogically progressive schools started to adopt what now might be called “contextualized academic support.” In this method, students learn analytical skills using problems set in the context of their current doctrinal courses. An example might look like this: Imagine a course for 2Ls in the bottom 20% of the class that is comingled with the crim pro course they take at that same time. Among other active learning assignments, students complete six exam-like essays, three 20-question MCQ quizzes, 250 “extra” MCQs, a mini-mock exam, and a full mock exam. Such courses, careful to employ measures ensuring doctrinal accuracy, can be of tremendous benefit to students.
Contextualization is important for many reasons. First, it motivates students to take academic support more seriously. When students are able to spend double time on topics on which they are about to be graded, they become more engaged and work harder. Second, contextualization shows that the faculty trusts the academic support faculty, thus fostering student buy-in. Additionally, and among other reasons, contextualization facilitates doctrinal learning due to active learning methods and feedback that doctrinal faculty may not have time to provide. (In the elusive search for more formative assessment, might "academic support across the curriculum" be the cure to the age-old problem of insufficient time?)
Contextualized academic support (and embedded academic support) is now the dominant pedagogy. Through working with other academic support educators, and based on conversations at many conferences, I get the strong sense that most schools with ASPs leverage contextualization. Empirical evidence of this method’s efficacy no doubt fueled its development into a best practice.
But some schools still ban contextualization. This usually occurs against the advice of academic support experts who must somehow meet their goals and objectives without a say in how to meet those goals and objectives. But banning ASPs from their most optimal methods will leave a mark. Under such a ban, expecting an ASP to render miraculous results like preventing academic attrition or single-handedly increasing bar pass rates is indefensible.
I end on this note: I can write this blunt post because I have the benefit of academic freedom, a supportive dean, and encouraging faculty. Others are not so lucky, and so I cover this topic so that those folks can cite this post as evidence against baseless condemnation of contextualized academic support or the claim that “no other schools do this.”
Yes, they do.
[Louis Schulze, FIU Law]
 To be clear, there certainly is a place for uncontextualized academic support. Some matters to be taught do not lend themselves to doctrinal immersion.
 Embedded academic support means doctrinal courses taught with an ASP component. Often, the ASP instructor will teach both components.
Sunday, April 3, 2022
Remember Thanksgiving when you were a kid? The adults sat at one table with endless access to the stuffing and gravy while you sat with your cousins wondering why the potatoes never got to you. The kids’ table was a fixture, but when I was middle school age, I was certain I should be allowed to join the adults and enjoy the power of the serving spoon. Perhaps Academic Support has entered that part of our growth as well.
The 2023 Best Law Schools list was recently published by U.S. News & World Report. In determining these rankings, U.S. News looks at numerous factors in determining how and where schools are listed. According to U.S. News, they, “evaluate institutions on their successful placement of graduates, faculty resources, academic achievements of entering students, and opinions by law schools, lawyers and judges on overall program quality.” From time to time the importance and proportional value of the various criteria are tweaked. This year, for example, the value of Bar Passage was increased, with U.S. News noting that, “[a] key change for the 2023 edition involved U.S. News more comprehensively assessing the bar passage rates of first-time test takers. “ The actual overall value this year was 0.03 as opposed to previous years when it was 0.0225. This doesn’t seem like a big change in the scheme of math but consider that bar passage is valued more than the acceptance rate, student-faculty ratio, and debt at graduation.
The U.S. News rankings also include programs within law schools in the areas of (among others): Business/Corporate Law, Clinical training, Constitutional Law, Contracts/Commercial law, Dispute Resolution, Legal Writing, and Trial Advocacy. Academic support is neither considered in the overall rankings nor ranked independently as a program.
Just to be clear, I don’t like rankings: I even volunteered to be on a subcommittee that is examining our internal student ranking system. Yet, I understand that without a very complicated mathematical algorithm based on a long list of both objective and subjective criteria, law schools cannot brag, fundraise, um, see how we are doing overall. I get it: law schools need a way to be assessed.
But here’s the rub: I am a parent of a child with learning issues who had an IEP all the way from kindergarten through to college. They were “othered” by going to the learning center, they were sometimes bullied, and they came home feeling that they were intellectually inadequate often especially in the middle school years. I spent a lot of time explaining to her how school only measured certain types of intelligence while overlooking many others. Howard Gardner’s work on multiple intelligences was something we could both cite over the years to remind ourselves that school assessment isn’t the sum of who we are.
In the same way that schools tend to only assess a very limited number of student intelligences, I would argue that ignoring Academic Support Programs in ranking law schools similarly overlooks something important. Even worse, by assessing the consequential outcomes of good Academic Support programs--like employment rates and most obviously first-time bar passage rates--without looking at ASP itself means that ASP professionals are truly the unseen factotum in law schools. We are taxed without being represented because all the things ASP touches are considered or ranked, but ASP programs are not considered in any part of the formula.
There are, of course, some major downsides to having ASP ranked or considered in ranking without more job security (like tenure!). I wouldn’t want to outsource my yearly work evaluations to U.S. News especially if I had a contract that was up for renewal frequently (or worse yet, not have one at all). Nor would I want to be assessed based on criteria that I cannot control, like admissions decisions. Like all coins, this one has two sides.
And yet, wouldn’t it be nice to sit at the adult table sometimes?
 Where she is a junior who is regularly on the Dean’s List (my bragging).
 This is a real word. And so much fun! https://www.dictionary.com/browse/factotum
 Since my law school is located in Boston, this is a required complaint.