Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Academic and Bar Support Scholarship Spotlight

Our scholarly cup runneth over again this week.  So much so that I need to have three posts and not just one.  The first includes law review articles written by those currently in the ASP/ Bar field.  The second will include books written by those currently in the ASP/ Bar field.  The last will note articles of interest to those in the ASP/ bar field.

1.    Beth A. Brennan, Explicit Instruction in Legal Education: Boon or Spoon? __ Memphis L. Rev. (forthcoming 2021).  

From the abstract:

While legal education unquestionably hones students’ critical thinking skills, it also privileges students who are faster readers and have prior background knowledge or larger working memories. According to the prevailing mythology of law school pedagogy, students learn by struggling to find their way out of chaos. Only then is their learning deep enough to permit them to engage in critical thinking and legal reasoning.

Learning theory and research suggest this type of “inquiry” learning is not an effective way to introduce novice learners to a subject. Lacking basic substantive and procedural knowledge, students’ struggles are often unproductive and dispiriting.

Initial explicit instruction early in a student’s learning more predictably creates stable, accurate knowledge. Because higher-order thinking depends on having some knowledge, ensuring students have a strong foundation of substantive and procedural knowledge increases the likelihood that they will develop critical thinking skills.

However, legal education uniformly dismisses anything that looks like “spoon-feeding.” If the academy is going to incorporate learning theory into its pedagogy, it must understand and articulate the differences between spoon-feeding and explicit instruction.

This Article examines explicit instruction as a pedagogical tool for legal educators. Part I examines cognitive psychological theories of thinking and learning to understand the differences between spoon-feeding and explicit instruction and explain why initial explicit instruction is useful. Part II delves into the cognitive differences between novices and experts that support initial explicit instruction. Part III examines experts’ cognitive barriers to effective teaching. Part IV provides examples of how explicit instruction can be used in the law school classroom.

The Article concludes that the time is ripe for the academy to bring explicit instruction out of the shadows, and to incorporate initial explicit instruction into legal education.

2.    Steven Foster, Does the Multistate Bar Exam Validly Measure Attorney Competence?, 82 Ohio St. Law J. Online 31 (2021).

From the abstract:

2020 brought many challenges, which included administering the bar exam. States jumped through numerous obstacles to continue administering the current form of the exam. However, the current bar exam has never been proven to be a valid measure of attorney competence. This article offers evidence the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), is invalid. The exam, in other words, does not measure the knowledge and skills that lawyers use in practice. On the contrary, it is an artificial barrier to practice—one that harms the public by failing to screen for the knowledge and skills that clients need from their attorneys.

3.    Kris Franklin & Paula Manning, Make it Work! Teaching Law Students to Get Great Supervision (Even When Supervisors Aren't That Great), NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3797175 (forthcoming 2021).

From the abstract:

In an ideal world every single meeting between law students and professors, or between beginning lawyers and their supervisors, should leave supervisors impressed by their charges and junior lawyers/students with a clear sense of direction for their work. We do not live in that ideal world.

This Article seeks to improve those supervisory meetings, and to do so from the perspective of the ones under supervision. We posit there is a genuine art to getting the best supervision possible, and that doing so can be both learned and taught. We first unpack some of the disconnects and hidden assumptions that can hinder effective supervisory meetings. We observe that participants in supervisory meetings may have very different expectations about the roles of the participants. We further explore the relational aspects of supervision and note that a shared sense of responsibility for supervision promotes more effective supervisory interactions. Next, the Article turns to considering what law professors can do to prepare law students to get the most out of feedback from their supervisors. We conclude that teaching law students to adjust their attributions toward growth, to set clear and achievable goals, and to be thoughtfully self-reflective, will maximize their learning in any academic and professional supervision.

(Louis Schulze, FIU Law)

April 28, 2021 in Books, Publishing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Academic and Bar Support Scholarship Spotlight

New Scholarship:

Lisa M. Blasser, Nine Steps to Law School Success:  A Scientifically Proven Study Process for Success in Law School (Carolina Academic Press, 2021).

From the publisher's description:

Nine Steps to Law School Success is the first scientifically proven study process for success in law school. Synthesized from the study processes of other successful law students, this book provides a straightforward, linear, and chronological study process for students to follow from the beginning of the semester up to their final examination.  Students will learn how to complete each step, how each step leads to a deep understanding of course material, and how each step ultimately leads to success in their courses. Students will also learn how to incorporate Nine Steps into their weekly schedules during the semester.

Foundational ASP Scholarship:

Michael Hunter Schwartz, Teaching Law Students to Be Self-Regulated Learners, 2003 Mich. St. DCL L. Rev. 447 (2003).

From the abstract:

This article articulates a model of self-regulated learning for law students and lawyers, explains why law schools should aspire to teach their students to be self-regulated learners and details a curriculum designed to accomplish that goal.

The first section of the article explains self-regulated learning. Self-regulated learning is a cyclical model of the learning process. In fact, all learners self-regulate, although many new law students are novice self-regulated learners. Self-regulation involves three phases. In the planning phase, learners decide what they want to learn and how they will learn it. Expert self-regulated learners are more likely to strive for mastery, to consciously make strategic choices in deciding how to study, and to consciously plan when and where they will study. In the second phase, expert learners implement their adopted strategies while monitoring whether they are learning and maintaining attention, and they quickly act to rectify confusion or distraction. In the reflection phase, expert learners evaluate their learning process to determine whether it was as effective and efficient as possible, attribute successes to personal competence and effort and failures to specific strategic choice errors, and plan how they will approach similar tasks in the future.

The second section argues that law schools should include self-regulated learning skills among the skills they teach. This section details education studies from within and outside of legal education that show that expert self-regulated learners learn more, learn it better and enjoy the learning process more than their novice peers.

The final section describes a curriculum designed to teach law students to be self-regulated learners. The curriculum, designed to replace law schools' traditional orientation programs, provides concrete ideas for teaching these skills and for reinforcing that instruction in students' first-year courses.

(Louis N. Schulze, Jr., FIU Law)

February 16, 2021 in Books, Publishing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

New: Academic and Bar Support Scholarship Spotlight

Good morning, everyone, and a big thanks to Steven and the ASP Blog crew for inviting me here again.  Every other Tuesday, I will be posting what will be called the "Academic and Bar Support Scholarship Spotlight."  In each post, I will highlight a publication from the academic and/ or bar exam support field. 

There will be two categories:  "ASP Foundational Scholarship" and "New Scholarship."  The first category will reintroduce the seminal pieces that developed the generally agreed upon "best practices" in the academic and bar support field.  

The second category of "New Scholarship" is self-explanatory but requires a quick note.  Traditionally, academic and bar support faculty have been reluctant to self-promote their scholarship.  Perhaps arising out of the "ASPish" moniker, this norm demonstrates the humility that sits at the epicenter of who we are as a community.  But, it has also left too much ASP/ Bar scholarship out of the spotlight.  I am hoping that this series can help solve that conundrum.    

Therefore, if you publish some form of scholarship on law school academic/ bar exam support, please send me a link.  I will also promote new scholarship referred or found independently, so if you read a new piece and find it helpful, please let me know.  

The format of the piece is not important.  Books, law review articles, online law review essays, shorter pieces ... all are welcome.  I also welcome suggestions for the ASP Foundational Scholarship category.  If a publication positively contributed to your understanding of our field, such that you think others should be aware of it, please let me know and send a link.  

Later today, I will post the first installment of the ASP Foundational Scholarship series.  No spoilers here, though; you'll have to wait for it.  

(Louis N. Schulze, Jr., FIU Law) 

January 19, 2021 in Books, News, Publishing, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 5, 2020

5 Types of Legal Reasoning and Argument

Scott Fruehwald recently released a book to help law students "think like a lawyer".  A colleague of mine immediately got a copy and read it during a road trip in August.  She loved it and highly recommended it.  He posted a brief summary of legal reasoning on the legal skills blog in August if you want a preview of some of his thoughts.  You can read the post here.

I plan to read the book to see if it is a book to add to our collection.  I am always looking for new ways to reach students who need a little more help.

(Steven Foster)

September 5, 2020 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Success Beyond the Bar

July 2019 bar exam results are not due to be released in New York for a few more weeks, but already here in Buffalo we have glad tidings, for one of our students took the Florida bar exam and has learned that she has passed.  What a thrill!  One that will soon be experienced by many others across the land.

Is there anything else that prompts the same surreal combination of pride and relief?  In an instant, a person’s very definition changes.  They go from not possessing a certain authority to possessing it (at least after other formalities are met).  Is it any wonder that the storied Jonathan Harker, wandering alone in a foreign land and distracted by the strangeness of it all, forgot for a moment his own momentous achievement?:

What sort of place had I come to, and among what kind of people? What sort of grim adventure was it on which I had embarked? Was this a customary incident in the life of a solicitor’s clerk sent out to explain the purchase of a London estate to a foreigner? Solicitor’s clerk! Mina would not like that. Solicitor—for just before leaving London I got word that my examination was successful; and I am now a full-blown solicitor!

Harker’s momentary pleasure at the memory of his bar passage is soon dampened, however, by the cold foreboding of the great estate he stands before – and no wonder, for only a few minutes later he meets the master of that castle, who greets him with the words, “Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own will! . . . I am Dracula. . .”

Whatever horrors Harker had to face next, at least he had made it past the doubt and anxiety that many people feel while waiting for their bar results to be revealed.  Consider the unfortunate Mitch McDeere, the latest Harvard Law graduate to be hired by the high-end Memphis law firm of Bendini, Lambert and Locke.  One autumn afternoon, Mitch is called unexpectedly into an urgent meeting:

Lambert, Avery, and what appeared to be most of the partners sat around the conference table.  All of the associates were present, standing behind the partners. . . . The room was quiet, almost solemn.  There were no smiles. . .

“Sit down, Mitch,” Mr. Lambert said gravely. “We have something to discuss with you.” . . . He frowned sincerely, as if this would be painful. “We’ve just received a call from Nashville, Mitch, and we wanted to talk with you about it.”

Poor Mitch immediately guesses what this is all about:

The bar exam. The bar exam. The bar exam. History had been made. An associate of the great Bendini firm had finally flunked the bar exam. . . . He wanted to speak, to explain that he deserved just one more chance, that the exam would be given again in six months and he would ace it, that he would not embarrass them again. A thick pain hit below the belt.

“Yes, sir,” he said humbly, in defeat.

Lambert moved in for the kill. “We aren’t supposed to know these things, but the folks in Nashville told us that you made the highest score on the bar exam. Congratulations, Counselor.”

The room exploded with laughter and cheers.

Surprise!  Not what Mitch was expecting.  Unfortunately, Mitch’s satisfaction is nearly as short-lived as was Harker’s, for less than two pages later, in John Grisham’s The Firm, Mitch McDeere meets an FBI agent who explains that the Bendini firm is mostly a front for the criminal activities of the Chicago Mob, and that attorneys who try to leave the firm always end up dead.

Dracula and The Firm were both sensationally popular novels, which suggests that there is something highly resonant about the notion of passing the ultimate test of professional ability, only to be led directly into a world of evil and mortal danger.  I suspect some people enjoy the irony – He’s supposed to be so smart, but he wasn’t smart enough to avoid the King of the Undead or the Capo di Tutti Capi – and other people appreciate the moral question – Does mere intellectual knowledge even matter when a person is faced with a threat to his life and soul?

But law graduates might see yet another layer to these tales: After all this hard work to pass the bar, over three crushing years in law school and ten blistering weeks of bar preparation, is my “success” just going to take the form of an indenture to forces that seek only to exhaust my vitality to feed their own appetites?  True, most attorneys do not end up working for vampires or gangsters, but even a wholesome job for a decent employer can feel like purgatory to someone whose interests and aptitudes lie elsewhere.  When our students are no longer our students, when they have taken and passed the bar and are out there gainfully employed, is that the end of their stories?

There might be a brief frisson in thinking so.  Isn’t that why people read suspense stories?  But if there are two last messages we can leave our students with, they are that passing the bar is both an ending and a beginning, and that the skills they’ve learned in meeting that particular challenge will be skills they can use in meeting future challenges as well.  If they can pass the bar exam, they can overcome anything – a misfit job, a toxic employer, even a threat to their lives and souls.

And Jonathan Harker and Mitch McDeere are evidence of this, because they each survive their ordeals.  In both Dracula and The Firm, the heroes triumph by relying on three core competences – the same three competencies we emphasize in preparing our own students to pass the bar and to perform well in practice: knowledge of the law, application of sound personal judgment, and reliance on a network of support.  Harker escapes from Dracula's castle by finding an unconventional route to freedom and judging that the risks of flight are smaller than those of remaining in place.  Once he makes it back to England, he uses his legal skills to locate Dracula's hidden lairs, documented in a tangle of deeds and conveyances, and then he teams up with a band of friends to track down and eliminate the fiend and his minions.  McDeere has the good sense to realize that neither the firm nor the FBI has his safety or best interests at heart, and, turning to a small group of family members of those previously hurt by the mob's activities, devises his own plan to use the legal tools he has learned to escape from the gangsters while passing along the evidence needed to bring down the Bendini firm.  Sure, this is all fiction and fantasy, but fiction is often popular because it provides another way of telling a truth.

To everyone who finds out in the next few weeks that they have passed the bar examination: Congratulations, and may the rest of your life be just as successful.  Know that you have the ability to make it so.

[Bill MacDonald]

October 1, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Books, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Reading, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

In-Between Times for Entering 1Ls

If you are starting law school in fall semester, you've entered the in-between times. The initial euphoria of being accepted into your school has worn off; Orientation and the first month of classes may feel either maddeningly distant or terrifyingly close. Even as you wrap up one phase of your life, you may be uncertain about how to prepare for the next. Here's some practical advice on bridging the gap.

Do What's Required

  • Know what you have to do before classes start, and do it. Do you register for your own classes, or does the law school register you? Is Orientation mandatory or elective? What books must you buy, and when must you complete required readings? Is there any paperwork you must complete and turn in? Don't procrastinate: get these tasks done.
  • Read all e-mails from the law school, respond as necessary, and save them in a separate, appropriately-named folder: chances are you will later have to refer back to messages that don't seem critical now. Check your junk folder regularly so you don't overlook mass mailings sent to the entire class. 
  • If you receive a summer reading list from your law school, make sure you understand which readings are mandatory, which are recommended, and which are merely well-meaning suggestions for incoming students with a lot of time on their hands. If you're not sure which among a list of suggested readings would be helpful to you, contact the law school's academic support office for practical advice.

Learn About Law School

  • The world is full of books and websites that purport to prepare you for law school. Several dozens are wonderful. But much of the advice is -- shall I be blunt? -- ineptly well-meaning at best and positively harmful at worst. Be cautious of books, websites, and courses of the "how-to-go-to-law-school" genre, especially those heavily supported by testimonials, promoted by commercial companies, or written by a random "J.D." If your law school doesn't give specific suggestions, seek materials written by law school academic support professionals, who are experts in law school learning and the process of transitioning from novice to expert law learners.
  • Don't go overboard on devouring materials about first-year success. One well-chosen book will give you more than enough grist for your mill.
  • Don't try to learn the law before you enter law school. This is a waste of your time, and it often backfires because your early superficial learning can cause you to tune out the more nuanced understanding you should acquire in law school.

Make Practical Preparations

  • Put your finances in order as far as possible. Retire any debts you can, create a budget, sell unnecessary stuff, and differentiate between your "needs" and "wants." Making these adjustments before law school will reduce your financial stress in law school.
  • BUT -- Accept extra expenses if they will result in a significant academic or professional payoff. A more expensive apartment closer to the law school may be a better choice than a cheap house that requires a 90-minute commute. Buying physical casebooks almost always results in deeper learning than borrowing books or settling for e-books.
  • Make the physical transition to law school early. If you will be moving across town or across the country, settle into your new digs before Orientation begins. Create a mental map of the grocery, coffee shops, bookstores, bike shops, or other physical spaces that you'll need to feel grounded.
  • Learn the way between your apartment and the law school, and find at least one alternate route. Ask about traffic patterns and rush hours so you don't risk coming late to class. If you drive, purchase parking passes in advance and find at least two parking lots you can use.
  • Buy your books early. Thousands of law students purchasing casebooks at the same time can create bottlenecks with booksellers; plan for delays.

Prepare Yourself Mentally

  • Celebrate your reason for going to law school. Your passion is what makes the work of law school worthwhile.
  • Determine what kind of person you will be during the three years of law school, both inside and outside the law building. The happiest law students maintain a positive mental attitude. They consider classmates to be collaborators rather than rivals; they feel comfortable asking for help when necessary; they maintain relationships; they practice gratitude; they "don't sweat the small stuff."
  • Prepare the precious people in your life for your transition, and tell them explicitly how much they mean to you. Brainstorm in advance some ways in which you can keep your relationships vital even as you take on the challenge of law school.
  • Tune up your brain for difficult learning ahead. One of the best ways of doing this is by hard reading -- that is, by tackling non-law books that are far outside your comfort zone. For example, an English major might plunge into tomes about physics and biology; an engineer might choose a work by a philosopher or economist. Talk back to the book as you read, and write a summary of each chapter or section as you go. 
  • Open yourself to accept new methods of learning. Even if you were wildly successful in undergraduate and graduate school, chances are that you will have to adopt new ways of learning to reach your potential in law school. Your academic support professionals will work with you to help you learn most effectively in this new environment.
  • Consider adding a meditation or mindfulness practice to your life, which can pay off both in reduced stress and in mental acuity.
  • Cultivate regular and positive habits of sleep, exercise, healthy eating, and effective stress management, which will provide mental, physical, and academic benefits over your three-year marathon.

(Nancy Luebbert)

June 19, 2019 in Advice, Books, Orientation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Keeping Our Students in the Game

Watching the Super Bowl on Sunday made me think of my students.  By no means am I implying any similarity between football and the legal profession.  After all, one is a grueling slugfest, featuring breathlessly intense clashes between aggressive competitors on behalf of highly partisan, sometimes even fanatically tribal, stakeholders, with pride and sometimes lots of money at stake.  The other is just an athletic contest.

No, the reason I thought of my students was the sudden shift in the game in the fourth quarter.  Through the first 50 minutes or so of play, the scores remained unusually low and very close.  Neither team could gain a clear advantage, and with less than ten minutes remaining, the score was still only 3 to 3.  Across the country, spectators were complaining about how stagnant and boring the game seemed.

Suddenly, within a minute or so of game time, everything changed.  The Patriots called a play in which a receiver wound up open in the middle of the field, just beyond the Rams' defensive line, and Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady deftly passed the ball to him and gained several yards.  By itself, the play was only mildly exciting, and then only because it provided comparatively more action than most of the preceding gameplay.  But the Patriots realized right away that the Rams' defense, which up until that time had been pretty successful at confining the Patriots' forward motion, had not had anything in place to keep that lone receiver from appearing unguarded behind the defensive line.  So for the next few plays, the Patriots ran essentially the same play, except for choosing a different receiver to run up the field each time.  In the space of four plays, the team moved all the way down the field and set up the winning touchdown run.

From the Rams' point of view, everything was fine, until suddenly it wasn't.  They were basically evenly matched with their opponents, in a game that looked like it might go into overtime -- and then, in less than a minute, everything fell apart.  One weakness was exposed -- one play that they had no planned defense for -- and before they could adjust to it, the other side had taken advantage of that weakness and taken a significant lead.  And the fact that they were in that distressing position left the team vulnerable to more trouble.  They rushed and ran riskier plays, hoping to score their own tying touchdown in the short time they had left, and under this pressure the Rams' quarterback Jared Goff accidentally threw the ball into the hands of a Patriots defender, leading the Patriots to score an additional three points.  The Rams went from having an even chance of winning to having no chance, all because of one weakness that wasn't addressed quickly enough.

In his fascinating book How We Die, the physician Sherwin B. Nuland explained that human death often follows a similar trajectory.  Laypeople often imagine that those suffering from serious injury or illness usually experience a long but steady decline until they pass away.  However, Nuland pointed out that at least as often, if not more so, the afflicted person manages the illness (or injury, if it is not so catastrophic that it simply kills them right away) fairly handily, with only slight decline or sometimes even with improvement, for days or even weeks.  If nothing bad happens, then they might even make a full recovery.  But if one thing goes wrong and isn't corrected quickly enough, it can cause significant damage, which itself leads to additional life-threatening complications, and in a short time the patient may spiral down past the point where any medical intervention will be enough to save him.  An infected wound, for example, if not treated quickly enough, can lead to a generalized blood infection, which can cause a patient's kidneys, liver, and other organs to stop working properly, and the patient, who otherwise might have almost completely recovered from his initial injury, will die of multiple organ failure.

We see the same phenomenon in other realms than just sports and medicine, such as business and politics.  In any complicated system, there can be long, steady declines, but the sudden drastic reversal, attributable to one or a small number of neglected infirmities, is often more likely.

And the life of a law student is pretty complicated.  New information to learn, new ways to think about it, new tasks to perform, all while juggling stress and ambition and self-doubt and mountains of practicalities like housing and relationships and (painfully often) finances.  We all know that a few students struggle right from the start, but very often students will be managing -- holding their own, even if not excelling -- and then they run into one tribulation they can't fix, and they can't handle.  A course they can't wrap their head around.  A romantic breakup.  Lack of funds to buy textbooks.  A death in the family.  An extracurricular activity that takes up too much time.

It almost doesn't matter what the problem is, because it's just the trigger.  It starts the landslide that could pull the student down.  Struggling in one course, for example, could pull the student's attention away from his other courses, leading to anxiety about not maintaining his GPA . . . and what started as one problem spirals into multiple problems.

The response, from an Academic Success perspective, has to be twofold.  First, we need to be able to detect these kinds of issues as early as possible, before they turn into the equivalent of a touchdown by the other team or a raging blood infection.  We need to have direct interaction with the students most at risk (incoming students, first-generation students, those in danger of financial difficulty, etc.), so we get to know them and encourage them to be forthcoming.  We also need to develop strong networks among those in the faculty and student services who might pass along observations of possible distress.

Second, we need to have systems in place to help these students address these issues quickly, before they do become intractable.  We are expected, of course, to handle purely academic issues on a moment's notice.  But we should also be familiar with other means of support on campus and in the community, to be able to quickly refer students who need help in financial, psychological, spiritual, and other realms. 

Time sometimes really is of the essence.  None of us want to end up being Monday-morning quarterbacks, lamenting that if we had just changed our defense one play sooner, we could have saved the game.

(Bill MacDonald)

February 5, 2019 in Advice, Books, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Miscellany, Sports, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

On Becoming Educated

What does it mean to be educated?  Tara Westover describes education as a form of self-creation.  Educated persons, she suggests, open themselves up to many different points of view, deepen their empathy, embrace doubt, and participate actively in their own learning.

In case you don't follow the best-seller lists, Westover is the author of the 2018 memoir Educated,  Reared on a remote mountain in southeast Idaho as the youngest child of survivalist parents who opposed not only "government schools" but also any type of formal education for their daughter, she worked in the kitchen with her herbalist mother and in the junkyard with an increasingly paranoid father and an abusive older brother.  Westover gradually came to yearn for an education and taught herself enough to earn an ACT score good enough to enter Brigham Young University.  While her first months in the classroom were filled with failure and missteps, her intellectual curiosity propelled her forward and brought mentors who encouraged her to go beyond her self-imposed bounds.  After graduating from Brigham Young University, she earned a Masters of Philosophy and then a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as becoming a visiting fellow at Harvard University.

Last night Westover came to our university and delivered an electrifying address to a standing-room only crowd.  The feeling of community in the room was intense: some audience members had grown up in the same county as Westover or had met members of her family through the years.  Although few if any came from such extreme circumstances, many could relate to her experience of trying to maintain loving relationships while breaking free of family expectations that denigrated the value of higher education. 

Westover spoke movingly of the role of passion in learning.  "I'm a believer in following what you care about," she told the crowd.  The first time she ever thought about formal schooling, she said, was when she listened to the recording of an opera.  Although she was already a gifted singer, she instinctively recognized operatic singing as something beyond what she had experienced, something that would require not only talent but also years of disciplined learning to master.  While her passion for music was what initially prompted her to go to college, she said, once her intellectual curiosity was aroused, it took her in other directions, first to politics and history, then to intellectual history.  "You don't know where someone's passion will take them," she said, "but no passion will take them nowhere."

In an era when so much emphasis is put on measurable results such as grades, bar passage results, and job placement statistics, it's easy to dismiss Westover's view of education as a romantic vision suitable only for the gifted few.  But her vision of the educated person is exactly what we want and expect a good lawyer to be -- an engaged self-learner with drive, empathy, and curiosity, a person who maintains an open mind even when surrounded by others rigid in their certainty. 

Unfortunately, most of us have seen too many students during the course of law school shift their focus from intellectual curiosity to grade point average, from passionate interest to resume building.  Sadly, in transforming their mindset to what they think is a more realistic outlook, these students lose both what brought them to law in the first place and what will make law a worthwhile endeavor for the rest of their careers.

While there's no magic bullet to prevent this devolution, consistently modeling "ASPish" behaviors may help.  It's vital, of course, to consciously show our our own passion for learning, for law, and for our personal calling in legal education.  For example, in his Property syllabus, my colleague and mentor D. Benjamin Beard wrote as his first course objective, "I expect you to care as passionately about your learning as I do."  (In true ASP fashion, I borrowed this message to put into my own syllabus.)  In addition, in our classrooms, individual meetings, and materials, we can consistently encourage our students to consider their core values and the good they hope to accomplish by mastering law.  (Paula Franzese's A Short and Happy Guide to Being a Law Student has become a wonderful resource for me in encouraging this mindset.)  Finally, I believe it's critical for all of us in legal education to openly honor the wide panoply of positive choices our graduates can make as they enter their careers.  Students can begin to doubt their own passions when they receive overt or subliminal messages that certain types of practice are more worthy than others.  The student with a passion for helping children cannot help but feel denigrated in an atmosphere that only celebrates landing "BigLaw" jobs; the person with a transactional bent can have their choices derailed in an atmosphere that considers litigation to be the pinnacle of practice.  So as we commend our own interests (Criminal defense rocks!  Small-town lawyers hold rural communities together!), let's not forget to openly value the many different ways lawyers serve others by pursuing their own passions.  (Nancy Luebbert)


September 12, 2018 in Books, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Critical Reading

Summer is my opportunity to go back to books I have quickly perused on arrival from the publisher and take a more in-depth look. I attended an excellent session at AASE that was presented by Jane Bloom Grise (my apologies, but I cannot figure out how to get TypePad to do an accent over the "e" in Grise). So, I decided to pick up Jane's book Critical Reading for Success in Law School and Beyond (West Academic Publishing, 2017) for another look.

One of the strengths of the book is that it explains not only the "what" of reading strategies, but also the "why" of reading strategies. Too often new law students will focus on what they think is wanted (a case brief) without understanding why lawyers read cases, why the sections of a case brief are there, , why cases need to be synthesized, etc. This book explains court structure, parts of a brief, the basics of civil and criminal procedure, and more to give the students greater context to the importance of their reading.

Another strength is that the book compares expert legal readers to novice legal readers, top students to struggling students, and proficient competency to developing competency. The comparisons help to illustrate for student readers where they fall on these continua.

I was pleased to see that the book looks at critical reading of statutes as well as of cases. (So often statutes are left out of skills volumes as though they are afterthoughts or not needed until upper-division courses. However, statutes have been embedded in first-year courses for years and deserve coverage in books aimed at new law students.) 

The book has a number of features that make it user-friendly for law students:

  1. It breaks down reading into before, during and after stages rather than lumping critical reading into one overwhelming process.
  2. It breaks down reading strategies for each stage into smaller steps, so that the reader can build incremental understanding and application.
  3. It includes a number of textboxes and tables to summarize the strategies visually.
  4. It provides exercises throughout the chapters for the student to complete (with answers at the end of the book).
  5. It includes an appendix of cases often seen in 1L year for use throughout the book as examples and exercises.

Notice that the title includes success beyond law school. If a law student uses these strategies to become an expert legal reader now, future practice will only enrich the skill. (Amy Jarmon)


July 29, 2018 in Books, Reading | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Are you considering an ASP course? There's a book for that.

Periodically the ASP Listserv hosts questions from law schools that are considering having an ASP course. Sometimes the questions focus on courses for first-year students; sometimes upper-division students are the focus. A wonderful resource as you work on your academic success course is Kris Franklin's Strategies and Techniques for Teaching Academic Success Classes (Wolters Kluwer, 2015). Kris Franklin is well-known in the ASP community and serves as Professor of Law, Director of Academic Initiatives, and Co-Director of the Initiative for Excellence in Law Teaching at New York Law School.

This short and readable volume will guide you from "soup to nuts" in the design process for your course. The book clearly recognizes that there is no "one size fits all" and looks at issues to consider and potential topics and skills to incorporate. The volume includes eight main parts: Type of Course, Materials and Texts, Beginning Your Course, Teaching Legal Reasoning, Academic Skills, Developing Teaching and Learning Exercises, Feedback and Grading, and Wrapping up Your Course.

Although the book is designed to be used in tandem with Strategies and Techniques of Law School Teaching by Howard E. Katz and Kevin Francis O'Neill, it is a very useful stand alone volume. A selected bibliography and an appendix of sample course sequences add to its value. (Amy Jarmon)




July 22, 2018 in Books, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 21, 2018

White Paper on Distance Learning in Legal Education

Hat tip to Jennifer Cooper (Tulane Law School teacher in the MJ Labor & Employment Law program) for reminding ASP listserv readers about the white paper from the Working Group for Distance Learning in Legal Education. The white paper is hosted by CALI as an ebook at

July 21, 2018 in Books, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Do you have your summer reading list yet?

Tia Gibbs, the new ASP Professor at St. Thomas in Miami, placed a request on the listserv this past spring asking ASP'ers to recommend books and articles for a summer reading list. Many ASP'ers responded, and Tia kindly shared the suggested reading list with the listserv. In case you missed her posting and are considering your own summer reading, here is the list that she shared:

Suggested Reading Material for ASP Professionals


  1. Expert Learning for Law Students by Michael Hunter Schwartz
  2. How to Raise an Adult  by Julie Lynthcott-Haims
  3. Excellent Sheep –The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Wait to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz
  4. Reading Like  a Lawyer by Ruth Ann Mckinney
  5. Bridging the Gap from College to Law School by by Ruta K. StropusCharlotte D. Taylor
  6. Law School Exams: A Guide to Better Grades. By by Alex Schimel
  7. Bridging the Gap by Charlotte Taylor
  8. Reading Like  a Lawyer by Ruth Ann Mckinney
  9. Succeeding in Law School by Herb Ramy
  10. First Year Law School Success: The Ultimate and Essential Guide for Every 1L by Ira L. Shafiroff
  11. The Companion Text to Law School: Understanding and Surviving Life with a Law Student (for families and significant others) by Andrew McClurg
  12. Juris Types: Learning Law through Self-Understanding (based on MBTI types) by Marty and Don Peters
  13. "Why Don't Students Like School" by Daniel Willingham
  14. Critical Reading for Success in Law School and Beyond by Jane Grise
  15. “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning” by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III & Mark A. McDaniel
  16. Small Teaching by James M. Lang
  17. Teaching with Your Mouth Shut by Donald Finkel
  18. Pass the Bar: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals by Sara Berman
  19. A Short & Happy Guide to Being a Law Student by Paula A. Franzese
  20. A Weekly Guide to Being a Model Law Student by Alex Ruskell
  21. Off the Charts Law Summaries: An All-in-One Graphic Outline of the 1L Law School Courses by Julie Schechter
  22. Teaching Law by Design by Michael Hunter Schwartz by Sophie M. Sparrow,Gerald F. Hess
  23. Learning Outside the Box: A Handbook for Law Students Who Learn Differently by Leah M. Christensen 
  24. Mastering the Law School Exam (Career Guides) by Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus  (Author)
  25. How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching by Susan A. Ambrose 
  26. Exam First Aid by Jennifer Kamita, Christopher Hawthorne, Sascha Bernsinger (help identifying mistakes with multiple choice/ teaching multiple choice)
  27. A Weekly Guide to Being a Model Law Student by Alex Ruskell (extremely helpful for those students that let time slip away quickly during their first year)

Law Review Article

  1. The Art and Science of Academic Support by Kris Knaplund
  2. Mary Ann Becker, Understanding the Tethered Generation: Net Gens Come to Law School, available at
  3. Louis N. Schulze, Using Science to Build Better Leaners…, available
  4. Helicopter Professors by Emily Grant  available at

July 7, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Measuring High Potential for Work Performance and Leadership

BBC News included an article this week (The Secrets of High Potential Personality) on a book entitled High Potential by Ian MacRae, Adrian Furnham, and Martin Reed (Bloomsbury Business, Second Edition, 2018) and the High Potential Trait Inventory (HPTI) that is based on the research of the authors.

The book and the HPTI focus on six characteristics that the authors feel are important to workplace performance and especially leadership: conscientiousness, adjustment, ambiguity acceptance, curiosity, risk approach (or courage), and competitiveness. The authors state that each trait can be measured with the HPTI to show its level for the individual. At the extreme level, each trait can have downsides. In addition, the combination and levels of traits that impact work performance or leadership may vary depending on the position held within an organization. (For example, when I looked on the web for the inventory, a sample report for the Thomas HPTI uses low, moderate, optimal, and excessive as the levels for each trait and then provides a report for the individual based on that person's scores.) 

As I read the article, I thought that several of these characteristics seem to relate potentially to law school performance and success. Inventories measure "only one piece of the puzzle," so to speak; but I am curious to learn more about these traits. The book is going on my list for future reading. (Amy Jarmon)

May 12, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 9, 2018

Understanding How to Create and Modify Habits

Routines are critical for me to get anything done in a day. I wake up at the same time every morning. I hit snooze 1 time, read my daily devotional after the next alarm, then start my shower routine. I turn the coffee pot on at the same time, grab breakfast, and have “shoe race” with my kids before driving them to school on the same route. The days I follow a solid routine at work with to-do lists, I am more focused and accomplish more. Sound familiar?

My routine and habits help me get through law school and overcome struggles. I knew what I planned to accomplish and finished my tasks even when life was difficult. I tell students every semester that having a routine makes doing additional MBE questions in face of failure, navigating life circumstances, and accomplishing anything else much easier, especially when confronting obstacles during studying. However, I didn’t know much about the research on habit formation until recently. The research could help all of us working with students.

I started listening to The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg recently while driving, and so far, I love the book. It is a great combination of explaining habit research and providing anecdotal stories of how the research worked in particular situations ranging from large corporations to individuals. I plan to purchase a desk copy to highlight and take notes.

Law students could benefit from the research. The early parts of the book discuss creating and modifying habits. People have cues and rewards for situations, and changing the routine or response to the cue while still receiving the reward helps habit formation or modification. I am already thinking about how I can teach specific responses to certain cues to help 1Ls build habits for law school and reinforce the habits right before the bar exam. Individual meetings may be the best way to inculcate routines, but I am also thinking about how I could integrate the information into my classes.

The section I am listening to right now is about willpower. Research indicates people can increase willpower, and small gains in willpower in one area of life can spillover to other areas. The willpower discussion overlaps with Angela Duckworth’s Grit research. The book indicates willpower can be built with pre-programmed responses to challenging circumstances, which creates routines. Starbucks receives high customer service reviews because they developed training programs for routine responses. Employees use a specific tactic when rude or angry customers come to the counter. Even if an employee is tired, upset, or life is going poorly, the pre-programmed response provides the willpower to help the customer in spite of the rudeness. Response routines can drastically improve willpower.

Students need pre-programmed responses to challenges. Many of us encounter students who dislike professor feedback on assignments, perform poorly on oral questions, or fail another set of MBE questions. Telling students to overcome the obstacle and not worry about the performance may be true but probably not specific enough to help. Helping students determine a clear roadmap for the response is what will help the next time. When faring poorly on the MBE, help them come up with a routine, which could include decompression, analysis, positive response, and another set of questions. We all know it is easy to continue when everything is going well. Responses planned before challenging events are more likely to help overcome those events. Just as lawyers do, plan for the worst.

I can’t wait to finish the book. I encourage everyone to listen or read it if you get a chance.

(Steven Foster)

April 9, 2018 in Advice, Books, Exams - Theory, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Professional Development on the Go

Academic Support is a great community with how we all share ideas and try to pick each other up.  The outpouring of support is invaluable, but I have to admit it sometimes makes me feel like I lack enough knowledge to help students.  I hear about all the great new ideas at AASE that others are trying based on research and books read about cutting edge neuroscience research.  I listen amazed at great new ideas, and I wonder where everyone finds time to both read the research and formulate ideas.  My typical day races through my head with teaching, student appointments, committee meetings, and class preparation followed by images of evenings and weekends filled with coaching youth sports, which is much more fun than reading learning science.  Extra time didn't seem to exist in my schedule.

Professional development is critical to progress for both me and my students.  I recently discovered a way to continually develop daily without missing my other obligations. Since I don’t listen to much music, I decided to listen to new literature while commuting to work.  I live in a suburb of OKC, so my drive is about 20-30 minutes each way.  Many of you have much longer commutes, which is an even bigger opportunity to grow.  Audiobook apps are abundant, s0 I spent a few days looking through the options like audible and  This was a new commitment for me, so free apps were the most appealing.  I decided to try the free OverDrive app.  OverDrive is connected to library systems across the country.  It allows users with a library card to check out audiobooks from local libraries.  They may not have every audiobook, but depending on the library, the selection is pretty good.

Downloading the app was the first step.  The next step was to create a habit of listening.  My library checks out books for 2 weeks before deleting them from the app.  Committing to 20-30 minutes would be necessary to make it through the book.  I constantly tell students getting better requires little decisions and discipline each day.  Practice exam writing for 30 minutes a day or adding in small substantive reviews throughout the week make a difference.  I needed to take my own advice.  Turning off ESPN radio and committing to professional development would be difficult, but I decided to listen to at least 1 book.

OverDrive made a huge impact on my development.  I started last October, and I am still listening to new books.   While reading an entire book during a busy day may seem daunting, listening to a book for 20-30 minutes while driving home isn’t difficult.  Since October, I listened to Grit, How We Learn, Make It Stick, Eureka Factor, Learned Optimism, and some of Chazown.  For general business leadership tips, I listen to Craig Groeschel’s Leadership podcast.  It is specific to leading a business (he leads one of the largest church organizations in the nation), but many of the tips are helpful in leading students.  I am on the waitlist for Power of Habit.  I hope to listen to it this semester.

Professional development is hard to fit into our schedule, especially since many times, immediate benefits don’t flow from reading new research.  However, students are engaging new technology at a rapid pace. We have to stay ahead on new information to help our students succeed, which is worth the 20-30 minutes driving home.  Not only that, you may be the presenter with great ideas at future conferences from the small amount of time spent each day.

(Steven Foster)

January 29, 2018 in Advice, Books, Science, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

A New Book on Trigger Warnings

We have several times posted links on this blog to articles about trigger warnings. Trigger warnings have been controversial: championed by some, derided by others, and supported with qualifications by another group. Inside Higher Ed discusses a new book about trigger warnings: Trigger Warnings: History, Theory and Context. (Amy Jarmon)

September 9, 2017 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Book on "New Majority" Students

Inside Higher Ed posted a recent item about a new book by Sister Kathleen Ross on different classroom strategies for teaching first-generation-underrepresented students. Although the book focuses on reaching undergraduate students, it may be of interest. The link to the post is here.

December 12, 2016 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

How Gritty Are Your Students?

Hat tip to Scott Johns, University of Denver School of Law, for informing us about a Wall Street Journal article on grit which can be found here: The Virtue of Hard Things. The article talks about Angela Duckworth's research and her book, Grit. Duckworth developed the Grit Scale and found that grit often predicted success better than innate ability. Grit combines passion and perseverance. Duckworth has implemented the Hard Thing Rule in her own family: choosing and committing to one difficult activity that requires daily practice.

May 5, 2016 in Books, Learning Styles, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Worthwhile Read: A Weekly Guide to Being a Model Law Student

Have you read Alex Ruskell's new book, A Weekly Guide to Being a Model Law Student? If not, you will want to get a copy of this valuable resource for law students. The book was published this year by West Academic Publishing.

Alex is the Director of Academic Success and Bar Preparation at the University of South Carolina School of Law. He has held similar positions at Roger Williams University School of Law, Southern New England School of Law, and the University of Iowa College of Law.  He received his law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and has degrees from Washington and Lee University, Harvard University, and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. In addition, Alex is a Contributing Editor for the Law School Academic Support Blog and serves as a member of the Executive Committee for the AALS Section on Academic Support.

First-year students are especially anxious about exactly what they should be doing. The book is laid out with suggestions for what the student should accomplish each week. For the first semester, the initial weeks include extensive information on the study skills for the week. Later weeks combine task checklists with highlights on a new study skill or more advanced discussion of a previously introduced skill. In these later weeks, exam skills are delineated in detail. For the second semester, the first week discussion focuses on evaluation of first semester and review of exams. The later weeks are checklists with some extra tips. 

Alex has included a large number of practice questions with answers as an appendix to the volume. He has helpfully divided them into courses and topics with separate sections dependent on complexity: short, medium, and long questions.

For those of you familiar with Alex's law school comics that appear in this Blog, you will be pleased to know that each week starts with one of his drawings. I particularly liked the somewhat sad and perplexed Thanksgiving turkey given the time of the semester right now. (Amy Jarmon)


November 1, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Resources on Classroom Technology and Digital Natives

Hat tip to James B. Levy of the Legal Skills Prof Blog for his September 25th post referencing his own SSRN article on teaching with classroom technology in law school and a forthcoming Australian book with a chapter on the myth of digital natives. His post can be found here: Legal Skills Prof Blog Post by James B. Levy. (Amy Jarmon)

September 28, 2015 in Books, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)