Sunday, January 15, 2023
Earlier this month at the 2023 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools (“AALS”), the Section on Academic Support held its yearly business meeting to elect a new slate of officers and to confer Section awards. Two of our most trailblazing and impactful leaders fittingly received recognition that was long overdue: Kris Franklin and Jamie Kleppetsch.
Kris Franklin, Wallace Stevens Professor of Law at New York Law School, received the Legacy in Leadership Award. Kris is an academic innovator who has generously and freely shared her pedagogical talent with the ASP community for decades. Kris has been a constant resource for teaching ideas, and she has advanced the field of academic support with her wealth of multidisciplinary scholarly publications. Not content to rest on her own laurels, Kris continues to elevate those who are junior academic support faculty members. She tirelessly encourages scholarly productivity by hosting weekly writing sessions for new ASP scholars. To know ASP is to know Kris Franklin. She is a scholar, an advocate, a friend, and a cherished mentor to us all.
Jamie Kleppetsch, Director of Bar Passage at DePaul College of Law, received the Impact Award. In a span of ten years, Jamie has held every single elected and appointed leadership position in organized academic support, including President of the Association of Academic Support Educators (“AASE”), Chair of the AALS Section on Academic Support, and Chair of the AASE Bar Advocacy Committee to name a few. Most notably, Jamie has used her leadership roles to forge meaningful partnerships with other academic and non-profit organizations. Jamie’s leadership has enhanced the voice of ASP in cross-disciplinary scholarship and bar administration policy.
In addition to recognizing our accomplished and deserving award winners, I want to also acknowledge the skilled leadership of outgoing Section Chair Kirsha Trychta, Teaching Associate Professor at West Virginia College of Law. Kirsha, the Section is better for your leadership and programming insights, and I will be texting you. With the conclusion of Kirsha’s term of service, we elected new officers. We welcome the newly installed officers and the new and returning at large members to the Section Board:
Marsha Griggs, Chair
Susan Landrum, Chair-elect
Titichia Jackson, Secretary
Petina Benigno, Treasurer
Sarah Garrison, at large
Nachman Gutowski, at large
Megan Davis, at large
Sarira Sadeghi, at large
Congratulations to our deserving award winners and we look forward to a great year ahead!
Friday, January 13, 2023
The AALS Section on Academic Support kicked off 2023 with a bang! They hosted a phenomenal panel at AALS on Friday, January 6th! The panel was called “Proactive Planning Across the Curriculum for the NextGen Bar Exam “and panelists were:
*Dustin Benham, Charles P. Bubany Endowed Professor of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law
*Brian Gallini, Dean, Willamette University College of Law
*Moderator Kirsha Trychta, Teaching Professor and Director of the Academic Excellence Center, West Virginia University School of Law
It was a great discussion, and so well attended! I want to try my best to highlight some key points and do justice to all of the amazing points the speakers made.
First, the main source of anxiety for many in the academy, but especially those that deal with Academic Support, is the timing of the NextGen Bar Exam. The NCBE, during AALS, has confirmed that it will be rolled out in 2026, with 100% certainty - that is from their mouth. However, jurisdictions need to adopt the NextGen bar, and as of yet, we haven’t had any jurisdictions announce whether they are adopting it, and if so, when. In addition, the NCBE will still be supporting the UBE for states that want it, for at least 3 years, potentially more. This means that anyone that works with students on the bar exam is struggling to figure out the NextGen, while still prepping for the UBE. Given the significant differences between the two exams, this is a monumental task. It has also been brought up that, like with so many things, the bulk of this work falls onto the shoulders of academic support professionals – shoulders that are already weighted down.
Toni also brought up the fact that it seems Supreme Courts don’t always understand law school timing, since it’s not what they are working in day in and day out. Specifically, if you are at a school with a part time program, the students that will be taking the 2026 exam are already admitted. Their first year is complete, and we are at the point where it’s incredibly difficult to alter their 2nd year. So now bar support educators have to be creative on the back end as to how to integrate next gen bar skills, specifically experiential learning and skills, into the curriculum, and potentially while also running classes for the UBE. Toni also mentioned that this is an opportunity to advocate with the state Supreme Courts and bar examiners. They don’t understand the challenges that schools are facing, so we need to educate them.
Dustin added that if jurisdictions aren’t clear on timing we still need to incorporate skills into doctrinal classes. He stressed that it’s what we should be doing anyway, and that we can and SHOULD do that in doctrinal classes, regardless of whether there is a next gen bar or when it’s rolled out. He said “we are preparing them for the next gen bar, current bar, and to practice if we incorporate skills into doctrinal classes.” He continued on to say that “I’m teaching students to practice law, not pass the bar, but to practice, they need to pass the bar, so I try to teach both, and both can be taught.”
Convos with Faculty
Another big topic, and concern, with the NextGen Bar Exam is how do we have conversations with faculty that are less open to change? Toni suggested that it’s important to have early conversations, but faculty like examples, and we don’t have them yet. This can lead to frustrations for everyone. She also added that we really need leadership from the top down, for the Deans to incentivize. Typically research is a priority for faculty, so deans need to lead that change, and prioritize the changes made to curriculum, potentially shifting the use of research grants.
Brian added that in reality the bigger picture is about faculty hiring. Specifically, how we think about faculty policies and equity, as well as tenure. Brian has offered faculty innovation grants at his school. These are designed to help, and encourage, faculty to create courses or change a course. He says that the real way to break down silos is to change the way we think about tenure, and now is the time to have that conversation. This was definitely a theme of the panel, and it seems all are in agreement that we must change the way we think about not only tenure, but evaluating faculty and training faculty. Toni commented that there must be training on teaching, and Dustin specifically commented that we “must hire those capable of practicing law.” Krisha added that her school had done a teaching review , so they are not just relying on student evaluations. The teaching review includes a review of the syllabis, classroom observation, student evaluations and finally a “teaching agenda.”
Dustin added that we also need to educate faculty, especially junior faculty, regarding textbook selection. Specifically because a traditional casebook makes it difficult to teach a problem-based curriculum, which can be the best way to incorporate skills into a doctrinal class. He says that there are textbooks out there that make this easier, but we need to incentivize faculty to change their syllabus and educate new faculty about textbook options. Essentially book selection is key because it drives the format of the course.
Toni also stressed the importance of getting rid of silos between educators; academic support, clinicians, legal writing, and doctrine. We have to “de-silo”, and recognize that ASP and clinics don’t get research grants and stipends. Also, the work HAS to be collaborative, and it HAS to be the dean incentivizing the change.
Kirsha mentioned that she never asks the faculty to DO anything, she merely shares information. and that she’s been intentional about what she shares and present depending on who is coming. In short, it’s an “ask” without asking, and the faculty response has been great.
Kris Franklin, and audience member, reminded everyone that “no one is a prophet in their own land, no one is listened to by their own faculty, that’s why we bring in each other” – and we need to remind the faculty that academic support, skills faculty and clinicians are experts in student learning.
To add to this, Brian mentioned that he has launched a faculty and development series as a low stakes discussion about teaching, and bringing in conversations about improving teaching. Toni agreed that we have these existing structures, for workshopping research, so we need to flip that to workshop teaching exercises.
Of course, the panelists offered concrete takeaways that could offer change. Dustin suggested that faculty integrate small exercises, and added that evidence is a great way to do this. He teaches evidence by having students act as attorneys and judge, and requests that they argue whether evidence should come in or not, as if it was a courtroom. He can get through 10-15 pieces of evidence a class, and finds that this increases engagement while teaching skills.
Dustin does something similar while teaching professional responsibility, and has students write client letters. He also has them flip their position frequently, to stay nimble, and gives them a “sample” client letter to keep for practice. Finally, he suggests embracing technology, and embracing using smart phones. He argues that students are going to use them, or think about them, no matter what, so we might as well embrace it and use it!
Brian suggests advocating with bar examiners, faculty policies and hiring, and incentivizing faculty.
Toni reminds those that are “Asp-ish” to set firm boundaries with faculty. She says that she is already seeing the “turning of the heads to ASP as “how do we do this” – and while it’s nice when we are recognized as experts, we need to provide resources without doing the work for them. She suggests hat struggling students often struggle because of the case method. They need a connection to reality, and work better with problem sets and simulations. So, we can share materials with faculty, but “be a resource without providing the answer.”
Kirsha also mentioned that Kirsha – can create 1-2 hypos, exercises, and use them across the board on 1L classes, let students see how this plays out in reality- how the same problem can play out in different ways.
Finally, in true ASP-ish fashion, Kirsha left us with her “Takeaway Agenda” for the NextGen Bar:
- Begin an education campaign – faculty/boards
- Remain positive – this is an opportunity, be that energy
- This can be anchored outside the bar – assessment and ABA compliance, for example – the goal is to improve student outcomes
- Bring in outsiders
Personally, I feel, as usual with academic support, the panel gave the audience concrete action items, both “easy” and more long term, as well as thoughtful considerations. I would like to add that our very own Cassie Christopher got a shout out from Dustin on her scholarship, which is fantastic.
The central theme, which seems to be a leading theme throughout academic support lately (and for good reason) is breaking down silos to rethink tenue, evaluation, and status. This not only benefits professionals, but students as well. And as Toni reminds us, we need to have conversations about compensating those that prepare students for multiple different bars, because that can be incredibly challenging.
-Melissa A. Hale
As a quick update, Sophie Martin from the NCBE reached out and asked for this clarification: : In addition, the NCBE will still be supporting the UBE for states that want it, for at least 3 administrations
Monday, January 9, 2023
Sunday, December 18, 2022
It is with both gratitude and disappointment that I announce Scott Johns won't be posting for us regularly starting in the spring. He is tackling new adventures, but you may see him pop in with guest posts when available. While disappointed he won't be posting, I want to thank him for his tenure on the blog. He started as a Contributing Editor in 2016. I was looking for the date he started, and was amazed at the numerous Top Ten Blog Posts of the Week from Texas Law Today he received. I lost count after 10. I loved reading his unique insights over the years, and am extremely glad he was a contributing editor when I became an editor. He consistently provided insight and bar exam advocacy through extremely difficult times the last few years. I will miss reading the posts each week, but I can't wait to hear about the semester next year at AASE. Thank you Scott for your years of service.
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
I was honored and surprised and thrilled to find out that I was the recipient of the 2022 Trailblazer Award. I truly feel that I have the best job in the world, and part of that is because I get to be a member of the broader academic support community.
While I take pride in and ownership of my accomplishments, it also is not lost on me that they would be much more difficult for many other academic support professionals to achieve because of the inconsistency and inequity among how we are treated at our schools. I wanted to highlight the ways in which my institution – Suffolk University Law School (SULS) – has supported me, in the hopes it will encourage other law schools to do the same.
- Financial and logistical support for research and writing: SULS provides summer funding for professors who wish to take on scholarly projects, and they extend this funding to academic support professors. I’ve written four articles and have received funding for two of those. The funding is both a financial help, as well as – importantly - an incentive and a vote of confidence. I wasn’t sure that I would ever write an article, but getting funding made me feel like the school believed I could. In addition to the funding, the law school has an active and robust Scholarship Committee and does not require me to teach a full course load over the summer.
- Faculty status: I'm faculty and therefore involved in faculty committees and meetings, which allows me to form relationships with other faculty, get ideas, exchange ideas, and feel more invested in the school.
- Conference funding: SULS provides me with conference funding, which allows me to meet other academic support colleagues, build community, and gain skills.
- Long-term contracts: Those of us in the Academic Support Program have 1-, 3- and 5-year contracts, which allow us greater stability than others who face yearly renewal and review.
- Parental leave: I received maternity leave (it is sad that this even needs to be said, yet it does).
- A significant academic support program: There are four full-time academic support professors at Suffolk (names familiar to and beloved by anyone working in the field: Herb Ramy, Liz Stillman, Phil Kaplan, and Jen Ciarimboli). This is not only crucial because we have a very large student body, but also benefits me immensely because I have generous, wise, and hardworking colleagues with whom to exchange ideas and resources.
- Teaching opportunities: Finally, in recent years, SULS has allowed me to teach non-ASP classes like Professional Responsibility and Negotiation. Doing so has helped me gain experience and confidence, generated ideas for scholarship, provided me with additional pay, and helps students and faculty see that ASP professors are part of the broader curriculum.
Of course, we are not perfect at SULS. In short: I would love to have tenure. When I joined legal academia, tenure seemed primarily like a matter of ego to me. But now, I value it more. I’d like financial equity with my colleagues; to feel fully respected and valued; to have full academic freedom; and to be able to have a greater impact on my community through voting on matters of appointments and tenure. Perhaps this award will be a step towards these goals.
And perhaps I am sharing too much, being too transparent. I’ve come to learn that a certain amount of gamesmanship is expected in academia. But I believe part of the success of many of us in academic support is our authenticity and transparency.
If you are a tenured faculty member or administrator reading this - thank you, and I hope this has given you some ideas.
If you are academic support staff or faculty, please feel free to reach out if I can be of support - I know how much you do for students, how unquantifiable the majority of it is, and I believe in and value you.
 I don’t mean at all to prioritize faculty over staff, and I think staff should receive these benefits as well. I intend instead to acknowledge what I gain from being a faculty member.
 Another note: my title is not Associate Professor, but Associate Professor of Academic Support, and many wonderful scholars have noted the way that titles perpetuate hierarchy. See, e.g., Rachel Lopez, Unentitled: The Power of Designation in the Legal Academy, 73 Rutgers L. Rev. 923 (2021).
(Sarah Schendel - Guest Post, Associate Professor of Academic Support, Suffolk Law School)
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Maya Angelou wrote “we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” One of my favorite songs right now is Bleed the Same by Mandisa where she conveys a similar message. I believe the message from both of them would apply to the current discussion surrounding factors impacting bar passage rates.
Most of you are aware Rory Bahadur wrote a series of articles examining the relationship between certain factors and bar passage rates. He specifically questions whether FIU’s emergence as the leader in Florida’s bar pass rate is significantly impacted by factors such as involuntary attrition, incoming transfers, and incoming credentials. An oversimplification of his conclusion is that these factors have a major impact on Florida’s bar pass rankings. His 3 articles are on SSRN here:
- Blinded by Science? A reexamination of the Bar Ninja and Silver Bullet Bar Program Cryptics
- Reexamining Relative Bar Performance as a Function of Non-Linearity, Heteroscedasticity, and a New Independent Variable
- Quantifying the Impact of Matriculant Credentials & Academic Attrition Rates on Bar Exam Success at Individual Schools
FIU’s academic support team, which includes one of our editors Louis Schulze, responded last weekend in a series of blog posts. You can read the posts here:
- Does Academic Support Matter? A Brief, Preliminary Response to Blinded by Science and its Progeny
- Does Academic Support Matter? A Brief, Preliminary Response to Blinded by Science and its Progeny, Part 2
Louis’ response questions the statistical methods used in the previous articles and posits that FIU’s new Academic Support program made a statistically significant effect on bar passage rates. Rory responded to the posts with a message on the ASP listsev/google group. You should be able to access his message within that group.
Rory and Louis are engaged in a relevant and important discussion for ASP. I encourage everyone to read the articles and posts. AccessLex also published a brief post addressing this topic and one of Rory’s articles. The AccessLex authors state they are conducting a couple projects that will provide even more insight.
The academic debate surrounding this topic is necessary, but we should also recognize the reason why the debate is important and sometimes personal. While they disagree, both Rory and Louis are passionate about helping ASPers and students. They both cite the lack of tenure for ASPers as a major concern. They both argue for more resources for Academic Support. Knowing them both, I truly believe they are trying to do what is best for both ASP and students.
As long as we are trying to figure out what helps students succeed, I do want this discussion to continue in an academic manner. One of my major concerns is when schools/Deans evaluate whether ASPers are effective based primarily on bar pass rates. Bar pass rates are an easy number to stamp on a department, almost treating bar pass numbers as wins and losses. Media and other entities fuel that perception with articles about who had the highest bar pass rate in the state. FIU’s success has brought national attention from the ABA journal and other legal news sources. Deans around the country, especially ones in Florida, do specifically ask, “why isn’t [insert school] having the success of FIU? Are our people doing their job correctly?” Those outside ASP want to know, what is the secret sauce?
I also want the discussion to continue to demonstrate the impact ASP has on students. Both Louis/Raul and Rory presented at regional and national ASP conferences about best practices in teaching. Many of us agree that law school education and pedagogy needs improving. Most of us agree that better teaching would improve student learning and that we should use scientifically proven methods to teach students. We would also agree that improved student learning should have an impact on student success and bar performance. I want to know what everyone else does, including Louis and Raul, to lead to improved student performance. I especially want to read studies that quantify the impact of Academic Support and/or specific Academic Support programs. Anecdotally, we know we have an impact on individual lives. That impact matters, and should be measurable.
Promoting ASP is important to the majority of us. We need ongoing projects to measure what works and how we can all improve our students’ chances to pass the bar exam. I know we are all striving to promote each other and help students. I hope we can continue to do that.
Friday, October 1, 2021
This weekend, I attended the Central States Law Schools Association Scholarship Conference and ASP was well-represented. each speaker gave a talk highlighting their current works and sought feedback from the audience of faculty members. Here is just a sampling of the ASP presentations:
Cassie Christopher, Texas Tech School of Law
A Modern Diploma Privilege: A Path Rather Than a Gate
Michele Cooley, IU McKinney School of Law
But I’m Paying for This!: Student Consumerism and Its Impact on
Academic and Bar Support
Danielle Kocal, Pace Law School
A Professor's Guide to Teaching Gen Z
Blake Klinkner, Washburn School of Law
Is Discovery Becoming More Proportional? A Quantitative Assessment of
Discovery Orders Following the 2015 Proportionality Amendment to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26
Leila Lawlor, Georgia State College of Law
Comparative Analysis of Graduation and Retention Rates
Curricular Tracking as a Denial of the “Free Appropriate Public Education”
Guaranteed to Students with Disabilities under the IDEA
I was delighted to see so many ASPers presenting Works in Progress, and I cannot wait to read and cite your published works!
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
AASE will once again provide awards to acknowledge excellence in the academic support field at the annual conference. AASE developed the following recommendations for the Award Committee:
- AASE should recognize members’ valuable contributions to law school academic support
- AASE awards should have as an important objective the recognition of early and mid-career ASP professors
- AASE Awards should be for specific work or in specific categories
- The goal of AASE awards should be honoring contributions, not covering categories
The 2021 Awards committee, DeShun Harris, Twinette Johnson, and Antonia Miceli (chair), are soliciting nominations for contributions by individuals, or in appropriate circumstances, groups, in any of the following areas:
- Specific ideas or innovations—whether disseminated through academic writing, newsletters, conference presentations or over the listserv
- Specific services to the profession—e.g., advocacy with the NCBE, etc.
- Providing services to students
- Promoting diversity in the profession and expanding access to the legal profession
- Mentoring and supporting others in ASP
Recognition may be given to more than one individual or group in any of these categories, and no category requires an award in any one year. We fully recognize just how many ASP educators have made heroic contributions to their students and to the profession. For these reasons, the Awards Committee will consider all nominations received, while keeping in mind there must be a reasonable limit for awards in any one year. Anyone in law school academic support may offer nominations, but current AASE Board members and AASE Awards Committee members are ineligible for recognition. Awards recipients must be members of AASE at the time an award is bestowed.
Please send your nominations to Antonia Miceli by Monday, May 3, 2021.
AASE Awards Committee 2021
Also, remember to register for our conference! May 1st is the deadline if you want SWAG!
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Dear Academic Support Community,
I’m very pleased to announce, through the hard work of Kirsha Trychta and our programming committee, we are Co-producing a webinar with the Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research Section.
Co-produced by the Sections on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research and Academic Support
Date: Monday, May 10, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30 PM EST
Moderated by AALS Past President Darby Dickerson, this webinar will explore the caste system in legal education and will discuss potential solutions to the problem, with a particular focus on legal writing and academic support programs and professors. The moderator and a panel of law school Deans (comprised of former academic support and legal writing professors) will discuss how their schools and others can address this issue by mobilizing institutional support for skills professors, capturing the value-add that skills professors bring to legal education, opening up pathways to tenure, and addressing inequities, among other topics.
- Understand the problems with the academic caste system in legal education
- Identify one concrete step professors can take to help develop their career or their program at their institution
- Identify one concrete step law school administration can take to help develop the profession of skills professors
Click Here to register for the Webinar. *Registration is required
I hope to see many of you there, and feel free to spread the word!
Chair, AALS Section on Academic Support
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Sunday, April 4, 2021
Members of the Association of Academic Support Educators,
Please complete the AASE 2021 Short Survey before April 7th. A link was sent out on March 25th. Search your inbox for an email from AASE Membership. A reminder email should follow shortly. If you cannot locate the link, please email me or Goldie Pritchard.
The AASE Assessment Committee compiled this short nationwide survey to supplement the longer survey conducted by AASE in 2018. This short survey (maximum 20 minutes if all sections of the survey apply to your school) compiles the following:
- general data about each law school,
- information about the content of academic success programs and workshops,
- information about the content of bar prep programs and workshops, as well as,
- salary and status data.
To ensure that all teaching philosophies and that all job statuses and salaries are captured, the committee recommends that each non-clerical faculty and/or staff member within the academic success community complete the AASE 2021 Short Survey. Only the general data about each law school would be duplicative.
Further, since the AASE Assessment Committee exists to support and promote the assessment of programmatic effectiveness within AASE, the committee looks forward to compiling the data and presenting the results at the annual AASE Conference in May. If you have any questions regarding the survey, please contact me at [email protected] or board member, Goldie Pritchard at [email protected].
Special thanks to my fellow committee members, Matthew Carluzzo, Jeanna Hunter, Diane Kraft, Dyann Margolis, Chenay Weyble, and our board liaison, Jodi Wiredu, for their valuable insights and tireless energy developing this survey. This truly was a team effort and it was an honor to work with all of them!
Thank you for taking the time to complete the survey!
All the best,
Anne G. Johnson
AASE Assessment Committee Chair
Adjunct Professor of Law
Assistant Director of Academic Success
Mercer University School of Law
Thursday, February 25, 2021
This week the Association for Academic Support Educators ("AASE") published Best Practices for Online Bar Exam Administration. AASE President, DeShun Harris, says that the best practices advocate for "procedures that ensure a fairer test for online test takers." The organization, established in 2014, urges state high courts and bar examiners to adopt these procedures. The AASE Bar Advocacy Chair, Marsha Griggs, says "many of the best practices that we identified are things that bar examiners are already doing." Yolonda Sewell, Vice President for Diversity, adds that in addition to the great strides that bar examiners have made in deploying an online exam, we seek to make sure that the online administration does not unfairly disadvantage any bar applicant on the basis of skin tone, race, gender orientation, biophysical conditions, disability, need for test accommodations, or socio-economic resources. The Best Practices are aimed to level the playing field, both among applicants of varied backgrounds, and between the online and in-person versions of the exam."
One of several effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, was that bar examiners and bar applicants questioned the wisdom and feasibility of administering in-person exams in the traditional large group format. In response to COVID-19 limitations, the first online bar examinations in the United States were administered between July and October 2020.
With but a few exceptions, the online exams were remotely proctored using artificial intelligence technology provided by a commercial vendor. As the exam dates approached many issues surfaced surrounding the use of facial recognition software and remote proctoring. One prominent issue was the number of complaints voiced from students who are people of color, asserting that the software did not recognize them. During and after the exam, other complaints sounded, ranging from data breaches, and poor technical support, to "flagging" hundreds or thousands of applicants for alleged cheating or "testing irregularities." At the extreme, some applicants reported having to sit in their own waste—as the exam instructions warned applicants about being out of view of the camera except during scheduled breaks—for fear of failing the exam. Additionally, there were reported issues with the technical delivery, submission, and scoring of the Multistate Performance Test, and jurisdictional scoring errors that wrongly identified applicants who earned passing scores as exam failures, and falsely notifying others who failed the exam that they had passed.
AASE lauds the efforts of bar examiners at the local and national levels for their flexibility and willingness to provide options for remote administration. While we defer to the proven expertise of the test-makers in determining matters related to exam content, scoring, accommodations and character and fitness eligibility, we add our collective expertise in assessment delivery, performance application, and enhancement pedagogies for non-traditional test takers. We recognize that online bar exam delivery will outlive the pandemic and current circumstances. We also believe all who play roles in the process of creating and delivering a bar exam, want the exam to be fair and effective. In light of those dual goals, we think the time is ripe for adoption of additional policies that are more than performative gestures toward a more diverse legal profession.
(Association of Academic Support Educators)
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
This past week many of us attended AALS virtually. In that spirit, I want to honor the award winners within our community. The AALS Section on Academic Support gave two awards this year, to two very deserving women.
Paula Manning, Visiting Professor, McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific
American Association of Law Schools Section on Academic Support Legacy in Leadership Award
At the 2021 meeting, the AALS section on academic support gave Paula Manning the Legac in Leadership Awards. Paula has been instrumental in building and nurturing the discipline of academic support. Paula is a mentor and guiding force for ASP colleagues across the country. Whatever the topic, Paula has provided guidance and wisdom to countless ASPers on the evolution of their programs, their teaching, their scholarship, and their professional development. Her advice is always insightful and thoughtful, and countless ASPers now possess stronger programs, students, and professional opportunities because of Paula's contributions to our discipline.
She worked with LSAC as a frequent organizer of early national and regional ASP conferences, and was a driving force behind the creation and evolution of AASE. Put simply, the field of Academic Support has grown stronger through Paula’s energy, passion, and insight.
Paula's research and scholarship have had a profound impact on the field. Paula co-authored with Michael Hunter Schwartz the most recent edition of the field-changing Expert Learning for Law Students, wrote a Torts casebook in the Carolina Academic Press “Context and Practice” series, and has produced numerous influential law review articles on such topics as how to inspire creative growth-minded lawyers, and how to give productive feedback to law students.
Paula is a gifted educator. She has been innovative in her own teaching and has developed strong programs that maximized the potential of her students at numerous schools. Her devotion to students is unparalleled, as she offers feedback that fosters effective, precise, and positive reinforcement. Her scholarship has also influenced many educators by examining core premises of what it means to be an effective legal educator. Paula's work has promoted progress in ASP and instilled change to law school classroom pedagogy.
Marsha Griggs, Associate Professor of Law and Director of Academic Support and Bar Passage, Washburn University School of Law
American Association of Law Schools Section on Academic Support Trailblazer Award
At the 2021 meeting, the AALS section on Academic Support gave Marsha the Trailblazer Award. Marsha is a uniquely resonant voice in speaking to the current moment, and in leading the charge for change to professional licensure for the future.
Marsha’s academic writing and conference presentations have moved bar prep into the mainstream of legal education. Most recently, she authored The Bar Exam and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Need for Immediate Action, Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 537(2020), which provided a national voice for bar reform during the global pandemic. This article was followed immediately by another important work: An Epic Fail, which will be published in the upcoming edition of the Howard Law Journal. Additionally, she is a frequent contributor to the Law School Academic Support Blog and has presented at numerous national and regional conferences. She has also had her work cited by numerous national magazines and publications, including The National Jurist, the ABA Journal and Law.com. Her expertise has been sought by boards of law examiners and supreme courts across the nation. Prior to her most recent scholarship, she has published in the SMU Law Review Forum, and the Texas A&M Law Review.
Marsha is a colleague who always looks for opportunities to lend a helping hand. She not only diligently serves her current students and recent graduates at her law school, but assists law graduates across the entire country who seek out her guidance and input on the challenges ahead for alternative paths to licensure and how to improve access, opportunity and diversity in the legal profession.
Sunday, November 29, 2020
Raising some up does not diminish the work of others. Instead, it improves the whole of legal education. – Darby Dickerson
I am encouraged by the words of AALS President, Darby Dickerson, who calls out the caste system in law schools and advocates for its abolition. The caste system is an unnatural stratification that unnecessarily subdivides the legal academy in a manner that is contrary to the goals and best practices of quality legal education. Yet it prevails.
Dickerson acknowledges that there is much work to do in the quest for parity. She points out that some schools pay those with non-tenure track appointments (“NTT”) one-half or less of the average pay for tenure-line faculty, even with the same (or greater) number of credit hours taught. She also addresses the disrespect and other “affronts” that many NTT must bear, like exclusion from faculty meetings and votes.
ASPers know too well the stinging bite of having tenure-line administrators and faculty dictate which courses we teach and what the content of those courses will and will not include. Sung like the song of our collective souls, Dickerson recounts the common practice of having faculty or faculty committees change or attempt to change program design (e.g., number of credits, grading schemes, course titles, etc.) “without consultation and sometimes over [our] expert objections.” Our ideas and experience-based practices and recommendations for course revisions and program redesign are too often challenged or disregarded. Failing to acknowledge the expertise and accomplishments of non-tenure track faculty and staff is a mistake that should be avoided at all costs.
Of particular interest, is that Academic Support is neither assigned, nor expressly described by, a caste. If titles correlate to perceptions of one’s status, the omission of an entire skills discipline should sound an alarm. ABA Standard 405 makes specific reference to legal writing faculty and clinical faculty, and none specifically to ASP. Legal writing professors deserve every advance they have fought for over the years, and more. Still we cannot presume to be included in the decades-long battle to erode the hierarchy separating doctrine from skills.
Our legal writing and clinical counterparts are rarely categorized as staff. Yet many in ASP have staff classifications, despite teaching required and elective courses. Too many in ASP are denied a voice or vote in the programs they teach or direct, are physically segregated far from the faculty hallways, and are denied budget funding for travel and professional development, and have 12-month appointments that limit writing projects and scholarly pursuits. Have law schools and the ABA created a caste-in-caste system by further subdividing the “skills” faculty? Why is ASP too often omitted from the from discussions about hierarchy and status?
Dickerson asks what our law schools would look like without the labor and skill of NTT. Would our program of education be as robust? Would student class performance and outcomes decline? Would our students succeed on the bar at the same rate? Perhaps we can add to her well-voiced list of questions: 1) how would our profession look without the unnecessary stratification that law schools perpetuate? and 2) what are we willing to do about it?
Friday, November 13, 2020
The Nominating Committee of the AALS Section on Academic Support is now seeking nominations for three positions: an incoming 2020 Treasurer and two Board Members.
Under our section bylaws, our Treasurer should be able to commit to four year-long terms in succeeding positions. At each annual meeting, the Chair-Elect succeeds to the office of Chair, the Secretary to Chair-Elect, and Treasurer to Secretary. Individuals nominated for Treasurer should consider whether they are willing to serve the Section through this rotation. Executive Board members serve two-year terms. All Officers and members of the Executive Committee are expected to participate actively in Section work.
You may nominate yourself or another person. Each nomination should include a short statement (no more than 250 words) explaining the nominee’s interest and relevant background. Those who have served on the Board or as officers in prior years may be nominated for a current open position, but current officers and members of the Nominating Committee are not eligible. These include:
- Board (term expires Jan 2022) – Afton Cavanaugh
- Board (term expires Jan. 2022) - Maryann Herman
- Board (term expires Jan 2021) – Herbert Ramy
- Board (term expires Jan. 2021) – Haley Meade
- Chair – Jamie Kleppetsch
- Chair Elect – Melissa Hale
- Officer (Treasurer) - Joe Buffington
- Officer (Secretary) - Kirsha Trychta
Nomination statements are due by November 16, 2020. Please send nominations directly to the committee chair (Herbert Ramy) at [email protected].
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Saturday, October 24, 2020
The Awards Committee for the AALS Section on Academic Support is soliciting nominations for our annual section award winner. The AALS Section Award will be presented to an outstanding member of the ASP community at our section meeting at the virtual AALS Annual Meeting. Date for the virtual section meeting is TBD. The committee members are: Jamie Kleppetsch (chair), Kris Franklin, Marsha Griggs, and Amy Vaughn-Thomas. Please review the eligibility and criteria information below and send nominations directly to Jamie, at [email protected].
The deadline to submit nominations is Friday, October 30 at 5:00 p.m. CST. For a nomination to be considered, it must include (at a minimum) a one to two paragraph explanation of why the nominee is deserving of the award. Only AALS ASP Section members may make nominations, but all those within the ASP community may be nominated. Membership in the section is free and can be processed by e-mailing a membership request to [email protected].
Eligibility and Criteria for Selection. The eligible nominees for the award are individuals who have made significant and/or long-term contributions to the development of the field of law student academic support. All legal educators, regardless of the nature or longevity of their appointment or position, who have at some point in their careers worked part-time or full-time in academic support are eligible for the award. The award will be granted to recognize those who have made such contributions through any combination of the following activities:
- service to the profession and to professional institutions—e.g., advocacy with the NCBE or assumption of leadership roles in the ASP community;
- support to and mentoring of ASP colleagues;
- support to and mentoring of students;
- promoting diversity in the profession and expanding access to the legal profession; and
- developing ideas or innovations—whether disseminated through academic writing, newsletters, conference presentations, or over the listserv.
Law schools, institutions, or organizations cannot receive an award. Prior year or current year Section officers are excluded from being selected as an award winner.
Sunday, September 27, 2020
Each year, The Learning Curve brings on a new member for a three-year term: the first two years as an Associate Editor, and the final year as Executive Editor. Kevin Sherrill just ended his term, Sarira Sadeghi is stepping into the Executive Editor role this year, and Susan Landrum is in her second year on the publication and will become Executive Editor next year. They are now seeking a new colleague to join this fantastic publication for a three-year term.
The publication puts out two editions each year, one toward the end of the calendar year and one near the end of the academic year. Each editor is assigned between two and five articles for each edition. The time commitment per edition is approximately 10 hours.
They are considering a third, special-edition next spring, but are also sensitive to the time constraints.
The publication would like to invite anyone interested in joining the team to email Sarira their resume and a short (1-2 paragraphs) statement of interest at [email protected] by Sunday, October 4, 2020.
Monday, June 15, 2020
One year ago this month, I wrote my first post for the ASP blog. And while it seems like only yesterday that I began my quest to bombard readers with my weekly musings, I have decided to step aside to make room for other voices to be heard through this forum. Today will be my last post as a regular contributing editor, and I will use this opportunity to reflect on the wonderful learning and growth experience that the year has brought.
I’ve learned that:
Education and advocacy are not parallel paths, but rather an important intersection at which the most effective teachers are found. I left a high stakes commercial litigation practice for a role in academic support. I naively believed that an effective teacher had to be dispassionate and objective and more focused on pedagogy than on legal advocacy or controversial topics. However, I grew to realize that the very skills that made me an effective lawyer still guided me in the classroom to teach my students and to open their minds to new perspectives. My realization was affirmed when ASP whiz, Kirsha Trychta, reminded us that the courtroom and the law school classroom are not that different.
Anger can have a productive place in legal education and scholarship. I don’t have to conceal or suppress my passion to be effective as a scholar. I am angry on behalf of every summer (or fall) 2020 bar taker. I am bothered by states that are so tethered to tradition that they refuse to consider the obstacles and challenges of preparing for a bar exam during a pandemic. It troubles me to see law schools close the doors to their libraries and study spaces, and yet expect 2020 bar takers to perform without the benefit of quiet study space and access to internet and printing. I am flat out disgusted by the notion of forcing law students to assume the risk of death to take the bar exam. And I waive my finger to shame the states that have abandoned exam repeaters and that waited or are still waiting to announce changes to the exam dates and format after the bar study period has begun. These states have essentially moved the finish line mid-race, and our future lawyers deserve better. But thanks to the vocal efforts of others who have channeled their righteous anger into productive advocacy and scholarship, I’ve seen states like Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Utah, and Washington emerge as progressive bar exam leaders in response to a crisis.
Silence is debilitating. Like so many others, I was taught to make myself smaller, to nod in agreement, and avoid topics that would make others uncomfortable. The untenured should be seen, not heard. I am the person that I am because of my collective experiences. Stifling my stories and my diverse perspective would be a disservice to my calling and to the next generation of lawyers who need to be met with a disheartening dose of racial reality. As soon as I showed the courage to speak up and step out of other people’s comfort zones, I found that I was not alone. My ASP colleagues, like Scott Johns, Louis Schulze, and Beth Kaimowitz and others, were right there speaking out too.
Glass ceilings become sunroofs once you break through them. In the last few years, I have seen more and more of my ASP colleagues earn tenure or assume tenure track roles. And while a job title or classification, will never measure one’s competence or value, our communal pushes for equity are visibly evident. ASP authors continue to make meaningful contributions to scholarship in pedagogy and beyond. Thank you to Renee Allen, Cassie Christopher, DeShun Harris, Raul Ruiz, and the many, many, many others who I can’t name but whose work I’ve read and admired. With varied voices, we are paving the way to enhanced recognition and status in the academy, and with mentorship and writing support we are forming the next wave of formidable ASP bloggers, scholars, textbook authors, and full professors.
June 15, 2020 in About This Blog, Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, News, Publishing, Weblogs, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0)