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@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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)
Saturday, May 30, 2020
Committees are integral to the growth and development of AASE. Please consider joining a committee. It is through your work through committees that we are able to achieve so much from year to year. The process of signing up for an AASE committee generally occurs at the AASE conference, and without a conference this year, we must adapt. Some of you signed up for committees as you registered and paid dues.
For those of you who did not sign up for a committee or are interested in signing up for a different committee, please sign up using this link. For a description of the committees and the tasks they undertook this year, please see the end of the year report presented by AASE Past President Antonia Miceli.
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
It is with great pleasure that we introduce the new Association of Academic Support Educators' Executive Board.
2020-2021 AASE Executive Board
President: DeShun Harris, The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphrey's School of Law
DeShun Harris joined the law faculty at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2018 as Assistant Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Bar Preparation. She has been teaching academic support and bar support since 2011. Her research and teaching interests include educational psychology, assessment, and critical race theory.
- DeShun's number one bucket list item is to visit every city with an NBA team
- She still sends postcards in the mail
- She's a foodie
President-Elect: Melissa Hale, Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Melissa Hale is the Director of Academic Success and Bar Programs at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Melissa oversees seven courses related to bar programming (teaching 2 of them), as well as overseeing academic tutors, and planning various bar related programming for the school.
Melissa is currently a contributor to the academic support blog, a Law School and Bar Exam Study Skills CALI fellow, and is writing a guide to the UBE with Past President Antonia Miceli.
In the past, Professor Hale has served as vice president of LawTutors, LLC, where she provided individual and group bar exam tutoring, trained other instructors, and created and edited bar preparation materials, including Aspen Publisher’s What Not to Write series, and Blond's Multistate Bar Exam. She has also served as an instructor for Emanuel Bar Review and Themis Bar Review. Before becoming a teacher, she worked in private practice in Massachusetts, specializing in small businesses and workers’ compensation.
Melissa graduated with a Bachelors of Science in political science and psychology from Central Michigan University, and earned her juris doctorate from New England School of Law in Boston. She resides in Chicago with her husband their 2 cats, Iggy and Lemmy.
- Melissa used to be a fairly serious ballet dancer
- She once worked for the Brazilian Ice Sport Federation (It's a thing)
- Her first job was as "donut girl" at a cider mill
Past President: Antonia Miceli, Saint Louis University School of Law
Antonia Miceli, JD, MPH, is a Professor at St. Louis University, where she serves as the Director of Academic Support and Bar Exam Preparation. In this role, she has developed and taught Introduction to Legal Studies, Legal Methods, Advanced Legal Methodology, and Advanced Legal Analysis and Strategies. She also developed and conducts SLU LAW’s Early Bird Bar Prep Workshop Series for graduating 3Ls and SLU LAW’s Bar Prep Essay Workshop Series for alumni preparing for the February and July bar exams. Prof. Miceli currently serves as the Past President of the Association of Academic Support Educators and serves on the Editorial Board of the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI). She is a member of the California, Missouri, Illinois, and District of Columbia Bars, and is also admitted to practice before the United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri. Most recently, Prof. Miceli completed her MPH in Epidemiology from St. Louis University School of Public Health and Social Justice and is Certified in Public Health.
- Toni is surrounded by boys; her husband, her two sons, and her dog
- She loves to cook and bake, particularly with her older son who has become obsessed with cake decorating
Vice President of Diversity: Yolonda Sewell, Western Michigan University - Cooley Law School
Professor Sewell joined the WMU-Cooley Law School law faculty in January 2020 as a Visiting Professor. Professor Sewell teaches Introduction to Law, directs the Dean’s Fellows teaching academy, and oversees the Tampa Bay bar exam coaching program. She currently serves as the secretary of the Law School Admissions Council Minority Network.
Prior to joining WMU-Cooley, Professor Sewell served as the Assistant Director of Academic Support & Bar Services at Texas A&M University School of Law. There, she taught Preparing for the Bar Exam, directed a comprehensive peer education teaching assistant program, and facilitated the bar preparation program for both J.D. and LL.M students. Professor Sewell served as a standing member of the Diversity Council and created a Young Scholars program for local high school students interested in pursuing legal education.
Professor Sewell received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Psychology from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She obtained her juris doctorate from Texas Tech University School of Law.
- Yolonda loves breakfast food. She can eat breakfast ANYTIME of the day.
- She loves, loves, loves puzzles – crosswords, jigsaw, and sudoku.
- She enjoys traveling.
- She speaks French though her fluency is waning from being in Texas for so long.
Treasurer: Twinette Johnson, University of District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law
Professor Johnson is a Professor of Law at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC LAW). She also directs the School of Law’s Academic Success program.
Prior to joining the UDC LAW faculty in 2017, Professor Johnson was an Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Academic Success Program at Southern Illinois University School of Law. There, she taught Agency and Partnership, Introduction to Commercial Law, Higher Education and Democracy (a writing seminar), Lawyering Skills, Advanced Legal Analysis and Strategies (a bar exam readiness course) and Professionalism and the Law.
Professor Johnson’s previous professional experience includes a clerkship on the Missouri Supreme Court with Judge W. Duane Benton. She also held a position as an associate attorney with Shearman and Sterling, LLP, a New York based law firm. There, she practiced in the Bank Finance group where she represented financial institutions and corporations in investment grade and noninvestment grade financing transactions.
Professor Johnson’s research interests include higher education access policy and learning theory models in legal education.
Professor Johnson earned her Ph.D. in Public and Social Policy from Saint Louis University, her J.D. from Tulane University School of Law and her B.A. in English Literature from Saint Louis University.
Treasurer-Elect: Laura Mott, CUNY School of Law
Laura is the Director of Academic Support for the 1L Evening Program at CUNY School of Law. Laura teaches Skills, 1L Lawyering, and has served as a bar mentor in CUNY’s Bar Support program since 2012. She has also taught legal writing and academic skills courses in the New York State Court System’s Legal Education Opportunity (LEO) Program, a summer program designed to prepare incoming law students from underserved communities for their first semester of law school. She has presented on best practices in designing academic support programs for part-time and evening students, and on issues related to associated general evening curriculum design and execution.
Laura is interested in how varying chronobiological levels on both individual and group levels affect short- and long-term doctrinal absorption and analytic dexterity in law school learning contexts. Her developing environmental research uses various social justice lenses to propose better public participation and consultation processes for national and international environmental decision-making.
Prior to teaching, Laura worked at the New York Environmental Law & Justice Project, at the Environmental Justice Initiative for Haiti, and was a Fellow in the New York City Environmental Law Leadership Institute. Laura also represented tenants facing eviction in NYC housing courts, and managed large discovery projects for complex civil litigation matters in the areas of antitrust, patent, securities, insurance, and M & A.
Laura holds a B.A. from Rutgers University, Douglass College, a J.D. from CUNY School of Law, and an LL.M cum laude in Environmental Law from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. During law school, she co-founded the student Environmental Law Society and served on the executive board of the New York City Law Review. Prior to law school, she worked in archaeology and cultural resource management. Laura is a member of the National Lawyers Guild and the Environmental Law Section of the NYSBA.
- Laura’s first job was in a pumpkin patch
- Laura really likes to play basketball
- Laura has yet to decide whether she is a dog or cat person!
Secretary: Goldie Pritchard, Michigan State University College of Law
Goldie Pritchard, JD, M.Ed., currently serves as Director of the Academic Success Program and Adjunct Professor at Michigan State University College of Law. Pritchard founded the current Academic Success Program in 2009. Since 2009, she has supported law students as they navigate their academic careers and prepare for the bar exam by developing and implementing several programs, courses, and one-on-one interactions. She embraces the challenge of deciphering how to best support individual students as they prepare to become academically successful and succeed on the bar exam.
Pritchard has served the academic support community over the years by participating in and taking on leadership roles with AASE and AALS Section on Academic Support. Pritchard earned a BA from the University of California Davis, a JD from Seattle University School of Law, and a MEd in Higher Education with an emphasis on College Student Affairs Leadership from Grand Valley State University.
- Goldie has lived in 4 African countries
- She enjoys changing her hair a few times a year, so she is not offended when not recognized at first
- She dislikes taking pictures but will take pictures of others
Host School Representative: Joni Wiredu, American University Washington College of Law
Joni Wiredu currently serves as Director of the Office of Academic Excellence and Adjunct Faculty at American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL) in Washington, D.C. As Director of Academic Excellence, at the sixth largest law school in the country, Ms. Wiredu leads an office supporting the academic achievement and bar exam preparation for over 1200 law students, sitting for bar exams in more than 20 jurisdictions. At AUWCL, Ms. Wiredu is responsible for spearheading strategic and innovative programing related to academic advising, academic planning, and increasing students’ bar exam preparedness. She regularly counsels students on best academic practices in law school and provides targeted planning assistance to improve students’ educational outcomes. In July 2018, less than two years after its inception, Ms. Wiredu’s office earned AUWCL’s ‘Outstanding Teamwork and Creativity Award’ for the office that contributed to AUWCL in the most creative and exceptionally effective manner. Ms. Wiredu is a widely respected lecturer on essay writing and bar exam study skills. She teaches Advanced Legal Analysis, a 3L course designed to increase bar exam readiness. Additionally, she serves on AUWCL’s Committee on Academic Excellence, which is responsible for implementing and supervising academic training and coursework at AUWCL. Prior to her appointment at AUWCL, Ms. Wiredu served as senior director at a major bar review company, where she amassed 14 years of experience - training hundreds of students on best practices for studying for the bar exam and crafting appropriate strategies for bar examination success. She earned a BA from Dartmouth College and a JD from William & Mary Law School. She resides in Maryland with her husband and teenage daughter.
Host School Representative-Elect: Zoe Niesel, St. Mary’s University School of Law
Zoe Niesel joined the law faculty at St. Mary’s University School of Law in 2016 as an Assistant Professor of Law. She currently serves as the Director of Statistics and Assessment. In that capacity, she spends her time preparing St. Mary’s students for the challenges of law school and the bar exam by utilizing data to pinpoint best practices and drive success. In addition, she teaches Civil Procedure, Administrative Law, Bar Prep for Credit, and a writing seminar on stolen art.
- Zoe has 3 cats – Darwin, Lego, and Smokey!
- She is a passionate gluten free home baker
- She loves hiking the trails of the Texas hill country
Friday, May 8, 2020
Last week, the Legal Skills Prof Blog highlighted a request from Dean Daniel Rodriguez from Northwestern to hold a virtual summit on how to provide online legal education. You can read the Legal Skills' post here. Dean Rodriguez's original post is here.
The desire for the online summit is great. I agree that we should increase training to deliver quality legal education online. I also want to point out that AASE and leaders within the ASP community started doing that in March, and we haven't stopped. Maybe they weren't the grand summit requested, but they did provide tips to help everyone navigate the new normal. I encourage others to promote the online summit, but I want to take a short moment to also give credit to those who already stepped up. You all were forward thinking and ahead of the curve. Great job!
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
One thing that most of us probably don't full appreciate until we miss it is degree to which we rely on predictability. When things are going well, it is often largely because so many things are doing just what we expect them to do, without us having to think about it. When every paycheck is direct deposited, when every mocha latte tastes just like you like it, when your spouse kisses you every morning and your favorite TV show is on every evening, it's all part of one grand comfortable life. It is not simply or even primarily the easy and convenience that makes it comfortable. It's the reassurance that comes with knowing that, and understanding how, cause leads to effect. Things happen because we make them happen, or if not, at least we expected them to happen, and all that generates confidence and a sense of efficacy.
Suddenly we enter an alternative universe in which supermarkets run out of the most basic, boring staples, like flour; in which basic medical precautions like hand washing might be useless because you were unknowingly infected two weeks ago; in which jobs and income just disappear for even the most conscientious employees; in which graduating with a degree, even with honors, from a decent law school may not even be enough to permit you to take a bar examination, let alone begin earning a living. All of these are aggravating, and some have potentially dire consequences. But taken as a whole, their greatest effect on us may be that they are contradicting our assumptions about how the world reliably runs.
Trust is like a vitamin. When we haven't got a minimum daily requirement -- when there are too many things in our lives that we can't rely on -- it's like a psychic scurvy. Instead of bruising easily and losing our teeth, we panic easily and lose our self-confidence. The cortisol levels in our bloodstreams shoot up, because in an unpredictable world we always have to be prepared to fight or flee. We can't concentrate, we are easily rattled, we might even suffer illness because of it. It's hard. We need to be able to rely on some things to perform well.
This is one of the reasons that humans invented lawyers in the first place. We needed more people we could trust to rely on. We needed people who could develop frameworks of predictable rules so that we would not feel that conflicts were resolved arbitrarily. Lawyers are a testament to the human craving for reliability.
And in order to make lawyers that clients can rely on, we need to teach students to rely on themselves, on their own capabilities and judgment. And this does not happen overnight. First we teach them that they can rely on others -- on their professors to teach them how the law works and on mentors to show them the ropes -- then that they can rely on systems, like legislatures and administrative bodies, and then ultimately on themselves. You know these rules and how to apply them. You understand how to navigate bureaucracy, at least enough to find your way through any new one you encounter. You know how to come up with solutions, how to suggest them to other interested parties, how to negotiate a compromise. You're a cause that has effect, because you are a lawyer.
Even with everything going well in law school, though -- and it may not be, at least not for every student, given the range of burdens that they are shouldering -- when the rest of the world is telling you that you can't eat in your favorite restaurant, that the only available toilet paper is the Want Ads section of your local paper, and it may be more than a year before you can begin working, it can be really easy to spend all your time on edge, trembling at the unclear implications of every announcement from the school or your state bar examiners. And when it is easy to be that anxious, it is usually hard to study, focus, work efficiently, and present yourself to the world as a new lawyer.
So, lately, I've been thinking of how Academic Support professionals are kind of like psychic vitamin supplements. In a world in which everybody feels that so many things are less reliable now, we are telling our students, "Look, you can trust us. We'll explain the right answer; we'll send you feedback on your writing; we will find and share information you might not be able to access yourselves. But we will also teach you that you can trust yourselves. You're learning the rules you need to learn. You're developing the writing and analytical and persuasive skills you need as tools to cause the effects you want. You're going to develop the judgment that makes a good counselor, and some day other people will come to rely on you."
All of that messaging is what we do on a good day. Lately, I feel like I have had to up my game to extra strength multivitamin levels. Making myself available for conferences more frequently; responding to emails super-promptly, before students can feel ignored; finding additional resources for students in increasingly dire straits because of the current crisis. Maybe this is really the core of what Academic Support does best at times like these: by actions that show our students that they can rely on us, we help them see they can rely on their professors, on the law, on the system, so that they can better learn to rely on themselves.
Saturday, April 18, 2020
Halle Hara pulled together a team of collaborators to create an Exam Series for the Law School Playbook. Last Monday was the first of ten posts on exams that I created together with Amanda Bynum (Professor of Practice, Law | Director, Bar & Academic Success | The University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law); Shane Dizon (Associate Professor of Academic Success | Director, Academic Success Program | Brooklyn Law School); Jacquelyn Rogers (Associate Professor of Law | Academic Success & Bar Preparation | Southwestern Law School); and Sarira A. Sadeghi, Esq. (The Sam & Ash Director of Academic Achievement | Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University). I really enjoyed working together virtually. It made this time of social distancing far less lonely and was a great testament to what you can accomplish when you work as a team!
The first post, on setting up your physical space, can be found here:
The remaining nine topics will post daily in the Law School Playbook’s 30-Day Challenge. Also check out the bonus post on gathering exam supplies—something our students might overlook until the last moment.
Saturday, April 11, 2020
As we saw on the listserv last week, many within ASP fight for status and to be heard. We desire to help students, but we also want to be acknowledged for the work we do within law schools. I am proud of the way our community coalesced over the last couple years to promote our profession. Marsha Griggs intentionally tries to cite to other ASP authors. We promote colleagues scholarship on the blog and listserv to increase downloads. The community is fighting together to promote all of us. As I watched the stream of emails about faculty not wanting ASPers to help students in their section, I was proud to see Sara Berman's blog post. She gave credit to and promoted the hard work this community has done in response to COVID-19 and the rush of bar exam postponements. She also argued for new solutions for licensure. You can read here post here.
The ASP community is amazing. I am lucky to be a part of it.
Friday, February 28, 2020
Congratulations to Marsha Griggs and Kevin Sherrill for being picked up by the AALS news feed. The feed includes links to quality blog posts and news stories. They included Marsha's The Other Side of Bar Prep post and Kevin's guest post The Art of Being Clutch - Part 2.
Friday, February 14, 2020
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
This year, I ended my holiday travels with a trip to AALS in Washington, DC. Now that I'm back to normalcy post travel, or at least what passes as normal in academic support, I thought I'd share a bit about our section's AALS Leadership, and our award recipient!
First and foremost, I'd like to officially welcome Jamie Kleppetsch, Director of Bar Passage at DePaul College of Law in Chicago, as the AALS Academic Support Section Chair. Jamie has been doing bar passage work since 2008, and I know she will lead our section to amazing things. I am looking forward to working with her, as I am the new chair-elect! In our leadership, we also have Kirsha Trychta, the Director of the Academic Excellence Center at West Virginia University as our Secretary, and Joe Buffington, Director of Bar Success at Albany Law School as our treasurer. I'm excited to work with this amazing group of people!
Most importantly, the section recognized Academic Support leader and trailblazer, Laurie Zimet. Laurie is the Director of Academic Support at UC Hastings, and is regarded as an expert and founder in the field of academic support. She even coined the term "Asp-ish!". In fact, Laurie was a founding member of the AALS section on Academic Support, so it is more than fitting that the section pay their respects!
While anyone that has met Laurie, or seen her present, knows exactly why she was deserving of this award, I wanted to include some quotes from some members that nominated her.
"She is a resource of incredible wisdom and insight, and she always makes time to check in with other professionals to track their career development. Whether it focuses on professional concerns, program development, and/or enhancing individual skills, Laurie has served our community tirelessly. Her thoughtful guidance has improved academic support programs across the country. She has also been a staunch advocate of academic support professionals by educating countless members of the academy of the importance of our field and the necessity of job security for those in our field." And "In addition, her expertise in teaching is known nationwide. She was an early proponent of active learning in the classroom, which has had a ripple effect on countless professors." Both of these descriptions from Pavel Wonsowicz at UCLA. I think Pavel sums up what those of us that know Laurie think.
In addition, from Kris Franklin, at New York Law School, Laurie is one of the true originators of our discipline, a mentor and foremother to uncountable past and present academic support professionals, and a widely-admired leading voice in legal education. Recognition of her unique contributions to the profession is fitting and probably overdue." Kris is not wrong, and continues to say "Laurie is a recognized expert in active learning and in ASP program design. She has frequently consulted with law schools that were seeking to open or expand academic support programming. In so doing, she helped create jobs in the field, and she directly or indirectly opened the door for many of those working in ASP positions today.
Laurie has always been seen as an unusually vibrant speaker and educator. She has given hundreds of talks at law schools and academic support conferences around the country, all of which helped further the field and inspire those working in it. As just one example, together with Paula Lustbader she was a frequent and early presenter at the AALS Workshop for New Law Professors. Those talks brought the student-centered learning so central to ASP work to a generation of entering law teachers nationwide.
Perhaps most endearingly, as the invited keynote speaker at an LSAC-sponsored ASP conference in Miami, Laurie coined the immediately-recognizable term “ASPish.” We may not be able to fully capture in words the many qualities that the term includes, but… we know ASPish when we see it. Laurie embodies it."
She really does. Congrats to Laurie!
Monday, January 6, 2020
You have so much to explore and express, but . . . you may be asking yourself, is my story good enough? The answer is yes! – Schan B. Ellis
I can think of no better way to begin the new year than by sending kudos to the AALS Section on Academic Support, the executive board, and the planning committee for a fabulous panel session. If you did not attend the AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, you missed a treat. The Academic Support session held on Friday, January 3, was attended by law school deans and administrators, clinical and doctrinal faculty outside of ASP, testing and learning specialists, and academic support professionals. To a standing-room-only crowd, a diverse panel of presenters shared their research and insights on the role of faculty in delivering academic support, academic archetypes that signal risks of law school underperformance and bar exam failure, potential gender biases in standardized testing, and bar examination, and the impact of bar exam cut scores on diversity in the legal profession.
I have attended the annual meeting many times. From New York to New Orleans, and from San Diego to Washington, AALS provides a unique opportunity to connect with professors and law school professionals in a welcoming smorgasbord of panel presentations and enriching roundtable sessions. Although I am a veteran AALS attendee, this year I saw the conference through the lens of a presenter for the very first time. I had become quite comfortable listening to and learning from others, and this time I sat at the presenters’ table instead of in the audience.
To say that I was nervous would be an understatement of enormous proportion. Even more daunting was the intimidating company of expert co-panelists that I found myself in. My panel included tenured professor and renowned ASP scholar Catherine Christopher from Texas Tech; published textbook author Jane Grise from the University of Kentucky; and Dean emeritus and UNLV law professor Joan Howarth. I was so busy taking notes from their presentations that I could barely focus on my own.
My point to anyone who has an article idea in gestation: do not convince yourself that you don’t have something worthwhile to say. I was so impressed by how broadly attended the session was, and I could only think that we need more novice scholars to share their works in progress and innovative ideas for the good of the profession. I encourage my ASP colleagues to respond to the call for proposals for the 2020 AASE Conference and the 2021 AALS Section on Academic Support session. It was a fabulous experience for me . . . and if I can do it, surely you can too.
Sunday, November 24, 2019
Please welcome Melissa Hale as a contributing editor of the blog. Melissa will be posting her perspectives on Wednesdays. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting Melissa at a conference, I copied her bio below.
Melissa is currently the Director of Academic Success and Bar Programs at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Prior to joining Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Professor Hale (Gill) served as a member of the faculty at the University of District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law, and the University of Massachusetts School of Law, Dartmouth. She focuses her teaching and research on the best techniques to prepare students for law school and the bar exam.
Professor Hale has served as vice president of LawTutors, LLC, where she provided individual and group bar exam tutoring, trained other instructors, and created and edited bar preparation materials, including Aspen Publisher’s What Not to Write series, and Blond's Multistate Bar Exam. She has also served as an instructor for Emanuel Bar Review and Themis Bar Review. Before becoming a teacher, she worked in private practice in Massachusetts, specializing in small businesses and workers’ compensation.
I look forward to reading her insights each week.
Monday, October 28, 2019
Even the greatest was once a beginner. Don’t be afraid to take that first step. – Muhammad Ali
While academic support programs are commonly recognized today in legal education, such prevalence has not for long existed. What was once a concept for increasing access to the legal profession, is now a construct mandated by the American Bar Association (“ABA”). ABA Standard 309 (b) requires law schools to provide academic support designed to afford students a reasonable opportunity to complete its program, graduate, and become members of the legal profession. Compliance with this standard is not measured by bar passage alone. Many schools who, for decades, have not had a distinct program or department devoted to academic support now seek to hire ASP professionals to build a specific program of academic support.
While it is wonderful news to incoming and existing law students that more elite schools are subscribing to academic support as we know it today, it can be equally redoubtable for those new to academic support to direct or build programs for which they have no blueprint. A substantial number of faculty and administrators hired to lead academic support programs, do so without ever having experienced an academic support program themselves. This is so largely because academic support programming is a comparatively new phenomenon that was not prevalent in the legal academy when the Boomers and Gen-Xers, who now predominate deanships and search committees studied law.
Goldie Pritchard, Adjunct Professor and Director of Academic Success at Michigan State University College of Law, is the founding director who built from scratch her school’s law school academic support program. She describes the role and duties of ASP work:
Academic support professionals are problem solvers who are willing to put in the time and effort to help guide students as they navigate their law school learning and bar exam preparation process. We are simultaneously juggling interactions with several different students, each with several different needs, and at a variety of points in their individual progression. We help students manage emotions and address non-academic needs. Doing this type of work is what gets us up in the morning and keeps us going.
Those of us who’ve made a career of our calling understand Pritchard’s words all too well. If you are tasked with creating ground level academic support programming, you can take comfort in knowing that there is a myriad of experienced human resources to turn to for guidance and example. There is not one member of the ASP community that I would hesitate to call upon for help or suggestions. To those who are newly minted program directors without the benefit of in-school predecessors, you can afford to be confidently assertive. Your law school has selected you to create programming because of great confidence in your capabilities, professional judgment, and career experience. Don't deny yourselves or your students the benefit of your instincts.
Fears and professional hesitancy associated with being first or building from scratch are understandable. Remember that prototype program design is, by definition, imperfect and subject to enhancement and improvement. The first iteration of your program is already a marked improvement over the nonexistent or prior patchy programming promulgated by a cache of volunteer or voluntold faculty and other departmental administrators. My advice to you: don’t hold back your suggestions, input, and well-vetted requests for financial expenditures to support your creative vision to improve academic outcomes for the students and graduates whom your position was implemented to serve.
Monday, August 19, 2019
A hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people. – Maya Angelou
The other day I emailed a colleague, that I won’t identify by name, seeking advice. The colleague, as expected, responded with very helpful information that I had not before considered. As I gushed my profuse thanks upon my colleague, my inner monologue said, “wow this person knows all the answers, I wish I could be like them!” My thoughts went immediately to a dream-like vision of them on some faraway campus with alphabetized, date-sorted, color-coded files of perfect teaching evaluations; an impeccably clean desktop; an email inbox that has been zeroed out; and a tickler with everything checked off. I fantasized that this person, my ASP hero, was respected and listened to by the faculty at their school and has well-behaved children at home to boot.
A phone call on my office line interrupted my fantasy daydream. It was a different colleague, this time calling me for help. I offered a suggestion to a problem presented, based on my experience. As the caller thankfully responded to me and then offered unsolicited extolment on something I’d published recently, it dawned on me that we are all, at some point, “heroes” to someone else.
I snort-laughed at the thought that someone outside of my building could be imagining me with the perfect office, the perfect classes, and the perfect life. My desk is cluttered, and my children are complex. There is far more in my to-do box, than in my outbox.
The point of my message is not about perceived perfection or praise. It is about our own reluctance to recognize how bad ass we really are. Sure, humility has its purpose, but too often ASPers are the unsung heroes of the law school. I champion my ASP colleagues who are teachers, leaders, and scholars. To all the adjuncts, instructors, lecturers, deans, directors, visitors, professors in residence, professors of practice, teaching professors, clinical professors, professors of academic support, and tenured professors, you may not have set out to be hero to anyone. But with every returned phone call and each answered email, with every listserv question and comment, with each textbook recommendation and syllabus share, you have become a hero to us all.