Sunday, June 21, 2020

You Say My Existence Matters, Now What?

This is my leap of faith to be transparent with the hope that I am the voice of someone’s situation. Previous posts by me on diversity on this platform garnered unexpected responses, not in a positive way. I hope that the openness I see around me will allow all who read to receive my words. One thing I learned from my mother is to speak when you feel it is necessary and know that every word and action is a risk. Today, I feel it necessary to write. Let me forewarn you, this may be raw and heartfelt for some but not out of the ordinary for others.

I am a Black woman in law school academic and bar support. As simple as this seems, it is a weighted statement. I contend with a myriad of impressions, judgments, expectations, and stereotypes projected on me by virtue of being black, by virtue of being a woman, by virtue of being in a law school environment, and by virtue of being in academic and bar support. The word count does not permit me to fully explore each aspect but generated here is an outline for a paper. Expectations thrust on me in the professional environment about how I should carry myself, how I should dress, and how I should speak are abundant. Also thrust on me are expected and projected limitations in my ability to be successful and thrive professionally are daunting. I balance this all while carrying the weight of expectations of immediate family, extended family, adopted family, and community because “I made it”. Why didn’t I matter earlier when I expressed the struggles I carry?

I am touched by the individuals around me who check-in, ask if I am okay, tell me I am valuable, show care, express anger, and even apologize. I used to say I am okay but lately, I say I am not okay.  It is not because of all the happenings on the news, though I am significantly impacted by it, it is because those around me only seem to hear my voice now, but I am still invisible to them. I understand that for some it is too “real” to have a conversation that might highlight the fact that you injured me by your actions and inactions and made me feel less than and undervalued even though you thought you supported me. When will we have that conversation? Will you still be invested in me a month from now? Six months from now? Therein lies why I am not okay. Your silence makes me fearful that you are not committed.

As academic support and bar professionals, our focus and heartbeat are our students. I was once a black student, a female student of color. We need to examine ourselves and ask if we do not provide our colleagues of color with the care and support, then are we truly living up to the mission, values, and origins of law school academic support. I challenge my academic support colleagues and others who do not identify themselves as individuals of color or of indigenous populations to evaluate how they engage with colleagues of color and students of color. Please be proactive and intentional. Do not simply say you are an ally and you care but have no action to support your statement. Be courageous and willing to stand for and endure the consequences for something or someone you say you care about.  If you value me, you will see me, you will hear me, you will try to understand me, and you will empathize with me.

My experiences and life are not a trend; I am a human being just like your grandmother, mother, sister, cousin, and daughter. Please show-up as an ally and not simply as a bystander as I am destroyed by others. Someone once said, say what you mean and mean what you say. Honestly, I do not have all the answers and my concerns may be very different from the next person, but I call you to action and challenge you to:

  • Read and implement information from Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project on the AALS page[1]
  • Read the #BlackInTheIvory, while focused on higher education, information is applicable to black, brown, and indigenous colleagues and students in the legal arena[2]
  • “Cite Black Women”, persons of color or indigenous persons[3]
  • Use your power to occasionally give up your seat for the next person
  • Dismantle the “isms” for the rest of your life
  • Notice a silenced voice and amplify it
  • Share the microphone and spotlight
  • Be uncomfortable
  • Mean what you say
  • Use your power
  • Take a risk

If you expect the process to be perfect, I am sad to tell you it will not be. You are going to mess up and you might mess up a lot. You must start so start with someone who is open and will tell you the truth. I can be blunt on occasion and don’t speak for everyone, but you are more than welcome to start with me.

True change starts with you!

(Goldie Pritchard - Guest Blogger)

 

[1] https://www.aals.org/antiracist-clearinghouse/?fbclid=IwAR2Gh40j-iVhV1mnlfnX-qqNnl3-_vXBEfxc7DhbNWtrB4Olio6R-YJStQM

[2]#BlackIntheIvory was co-founded by Dr. Sharde Davis and Joy Melody Woods

[3] ”Cite Black Women” created November 2017 by Dr. Christen A Smith to push people to engage in citation that acknowledges and honors Black women’s intellectual product

June 21, 2020 in Current Affairs, Diversity Issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, June 15, 2020

What I've Learned

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.

(Marsha Griggs)

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)

Monday, June 8, 2020

What If . . . ?

But opportunity is real, and life is free, equality is in the air we breathe. – Langston Hughes

Today I see my country, my life, my career, and my future through the convoluted lens of multiple opinions. My aspirations, both professional and private, are crowded by polarized expressions of rage, shock, and dissatisfaction. As I fight the soul soothing desire to escape the madness that for me is today, yesterday, and tomorrow, I retreat into a self-denying sense of duty that is my temporal high calling – to help others. To help others pass the bar exam and to succeed in law school is the calling of academic support. I am one of a wonderful community of academic support professionals who work tirelessly to help law students and law graduates develop the skills for academic success and bar readiness. As I ponder this special calling, I ask myself, what if countries were like ASP?

What if we had ASP-like programs and opportunities that were available to all members of society? What if coaching, and other resources were made equally available to every and any person who wanted or needed them? What if governments sought out the weakest and most vulnerable members of society to make sure that those most in need of extra help were aware of the resources available? What if national communities were organized in the most ASP-ish of manners, so that support resources could be shared freely, and various cities and states could benefit from this system of open-access without costs or competition? What if all members had the benefit of practice exams and test drives that carried no lasting consequence other than early exposure and preparation for the true tests of life?

For those unfamiliar with the term ASP, Cornell Law School provides some guidance. ASP, or “Academic Support Programs, are available to help all students develop the skills necessary to succeed in law school.” Law schools are purposely, and rightly, inclusive in the scope and description of their academic support services. CUNY School of Law is “committed to providing academic support services to all students who need them.” These descriptions are both accurate and aspirational. ASP is for everyone and anyone who wants or needs it.

Yet, those of us who lead and direct institutional academic support programs know that, although available to all, not all students take advantage of ASP. In fact, the students who we serve most commonly, or rather those who are most often targeted for inclusion in our programs, are the ones most in need of the supplemental opportunities provided by ASP. We willingly make resources available to all, but the success of our programs will be measured, inter alia, by the degree to which we mitigate the “failure-risks” presented by some students based on admissions indicators or law school performance.

As I again consider my precious and special calling and my wonderful ASP colleagues and the many students in whose lives we make real differences, I ask – what if ASP were like countries? What if we could not single out the students for whom our programs were created? What if we were not permitted to tailor the focus of our programs for those with the greatest academic need and those with socioeconomic disadvantages? What if we were forced to dilute the quality and quantity of remediation for the ones at risk of academic dismissal, to prevent the appearance of non-inclusiveness? What is ASP “for all” was interpreted to mean that ASP “for some” was exclusionary and an affront to the importance of the entire student body? The notion of academic support available to all is not cheapened or compromised by the calculated and deliberate act of making sure that the reach of our services extends to, and includes, those for whom denial of such services would make legal education far less likely. After all, ASP exists to level the playing field and make a diverse and inclusive legal profession more likely, not less.

In the end, I guess I am glad that ASP is not like the countries that I know of, and I am left to wish that countries could be more like ASP.

(Marsha Griggs)

June 8, 2020 in Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, Miscellany, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 1, 2020

Despicable Us

My house is made of candy, and sometimes I eat instead of facing my problems! – Gru, Despicable Me 2

As a nation we have problems to face, but a complacent majority seems to be turning to self-comfort and denial instead of confronting the problems head on. In the legal profession, complacency will cause the voice of the oppressed to fall on deaf ears. The greatest risk of self-regulated and unregulated professions is smug indifference to social change. As legal professionals, we are trained advocates. Trained first to advocate for ourselves and then for our clients, our students, and the protection of the rights of the commonwealth.

We took oaths to defend the Constitution and to conduct ourselves ethically. History and now recent events have proven and reminded us that silence in the face of injustice is unethical.  We are not powerless to uphold law and order. We are equipped with the voice, credibility, network, skill, education, and training to effect change and to preserve lawfulness. In our silence and inaction, we become complicit in crimes and civil wrongs against those in dire need of advocacy.

Like all of us in ASP, I am a fervent advocate for my students and alumni. I want them to have sufficient bar prep resources, and fair and reasonably transparent practices in the administration and scoring of the bar exam. One of the most important things about our bar policy advocacy is that we are advocating for positions that will not affect us personally or professionally. On a daily basis, we demonstrate staunch support and fervent advocacy for a fair exam process for bar takers, even though we already hold law licenses and don’t need to take a bar exam.

In that vein, we should also be able to lend our voices to causes that may not “seem” to directly impact us. The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct remind us that as lawyers, we have a “special responsibility for the quality of justice.” As legal educators we are molding the next generation of lawyers. A generation that should be shaped with more than our thoughts and prayers. Last week the world witnessed a modern-day lynching by knee, with the assailant face to camera and hands in pocket. This horrific and callous homicide and all events in its aftermath will not be brought to justice on social media or in the courts of public opinion.

If the Constitution that we are all sworn to uphold means anything, then lawyers, law professors, judges, prosecutors, clerks, and peace officers will put to use their advocacy skills, training, and public reach to bring about the justice that has continued to elude people who look like George Floyd, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, and others. Unless we use our voices and our knowledge of policy, procedure, and statutory construction to protect people who jog, play in public playgrounds, drive luxury autos, travel by car with their children, and eat dinner or sleep in their own apartments, we will have progressed too far down a path of Constitutional disregard.

Our houses are not made of candy, and we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to challenges to justice and equality.

(Marsha Griggs)

June 1, 2020 in Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, News, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Final Friday Webinars!

The AALS Section on Academic Support is pleased to announce a 2020 “Final Fridays” Summer Webinar Series.  The webinars will be held on the final Friday of May, June, and July.  The first webinar—to be held on Friday, May 29—is titled “Supporting Bar Exam Takers.”  On June 26 we will discuss “Supporting Each Other and Ourselves.”  Then, on July 31, we will turn our attention to “Supporting our New and Returning Students this Fall.”

Registration is free and open to all. The webinars will also be available for on-demand viewing later, via the members-only section of the AALS Section on Academic Support webpage.  The benefit of participating live is the ability to ask questions of our panelists and to engage in the breakout sessions.

On Friday, May 29 at 1:00 EST, panelists Antonia Miceli (Saint Louis), Britany Raposa (Roger Williams), and Joni Wiredu (American) will provide suggestions on how ASP’ers can support both July and September studiers simultaneously this summer.  Kirsha Trychta (West Virginia) will moderate.  In addition to multiple exam dates, the pandemic has created several other unique and novel challenges for bar takers this year.  Following the 60-minute panel presentation, attendees will have the option to participate in one of three breakout sessions:

  1. Social distancing measures during the bar exam, including mandatory quarantines
  2. Limited seating and priority seating concerns
  3. Limited licensure and diploma privilege options

Each breakout session will be a roundtable discussion engaging all session attendees.  To attend the May panel presentation and/or breakout sessions, follow the Zoom invitations below Additional invitations for June and July will be sent later.

Sincerely,

The AALS Section on Academic Support Executive Board

Chair Jamie A. Kleppetsch, DePaul University College of Law

Chair-Elect Melissa Hale, Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Secretary Kirsha Weyandt Trychta, West Virginia University College of Law

Treasurer Joe Buffington, Albany Law School

Committee Member Afton R. Cavanaugh, St. Mary's University of San Antonio School of Law

Committee Member Maryann Herman, Duquesne University School of Law

Committee Member Zoe E. Niesel, St. Mary's University of San Antonio School of Law

Committee Member Herbert N. Ramy, Suffolk University Law School

 

AALS Webinar Series Zoom Invitations

“Supporting Bar Exam Takers on Multiple Timelines”

May 29, 2020

1:00 – 3:00 p.m. EST

 

Join Panel Presentation

https://wvu.zoom.us/j/92885330059?pwd=RDBlVytidHJWUFhIUFRHMlV5bEdvdz09

Meeting ID: 928 8533 0059

Password: AALS-ASP-1

One tap mobile

+16465588656,,92885330059# US (New York)

+13017158592,,92885330059# US (Germantown)

Join Breakout A: Social Distancing Measures

 

https://wvu.zoom.us/j/91463674076?pwd=TVgzSEhNTGgyMnl0RmJWQllyMDg4dz09

Meeting ID: 914 6367 4076

Password: AALS-ASP-2

One tap mobile

+13126266799,,91463674076# US (Chicago)

+16465588656,,91463674076# US (New York)

Join Breakout B: Limited Seating and Priority Seating

 

https://wvu.zoom.us/j/98579524155?pwd=OGRoVCtpL003V0RnMTFaTkMrWHBNQT09

Meeting ID: 985 7952 4155

Password: AALS-ASP-3

One tap mobile

+13017158592,,98579524155# US (Germantown)

+13126266799,,98579524155# US (Chicago)

Join Breakout C: Limited Licensure

 

https://wvu.zoom.us/j/91049286166?pwd=cVdhZ1A5SlVmcEpKcWRRaDFkS3BmQT09

Meeting ID: 910 4928 6166

Password: AALS-ASP-4

One tap mobile

+16465588656,,91049286166# US (New York)

+13017158592,,91049286166# US (Germantown)

Dial by your location for any meeting using the meeting ID #

+1 646 558 8656 US (New York)

+1 301 715 8592 US (Germantown)

+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)

+1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose)

+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)

+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)

888 475 4499 US Toll-free

877 853 5257 US Toll-free

May 20, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Bar Prep Begins . . . Sort of

In a normal year, my students would all have begun their bar preparation yesterday, coasting on their post-graduation-ceremony momentum right into a seat in front of the first of many lecturers.  But in New York, and more than a third of all U.S. jurisdictions (in which -- again, in a normal year -- more than half of all July examinees would be sitting for the exam), the date of the bar examination has been postponed for six weeks or more, leaving bar students in those jurisdictions with the gift they hate most of all: uncertainty.

What is to be done with all this extra time?  Bar preparation companies cannot agree: some are simply administering their typical ten-week program, just starting it six weeks later than usual, while others have reworked their program schedule, starting it earlier and drawing it out over a longer period, but with shorter study days.  Employers, many contending with their own virus-induced crises, have added variables to the new graduates' calculations, some allowing their new employees to start early and then take time off, others expecting hirees to adhere to their original early-August start dates, and still others unnervingly withdrawing their employment offers indefinitely.  Even we bar support specialists can only make well-educated guesses about how to make use of six extra weeks.  We have no data, no direct experience of how a delay like this will affect individual students or the testing cohort as a whole.  How much more study can a student put in without burning out?  Should the extra time be spread across all aspects of bar study, or should certain skills or subjects receive more attention?  Will MBE scores increase overall for those who take the test in September?  Decrease?  Will the bell curve spread out?  Will this hurt or help examinees?

Sensibly, 43 more days of prep time should be seen as a boon.  In a normal year for bar study, isn't time the most precious resource of all?  In my discussions with students, I have suggested they think of this extra time the way they might think of an unexpected financial windfall.  You don't have to spend it all in one place.  You might devote a large chunk of it to bar study -- that is, after all, the primary focus of the summer -- but how you specifically budget it depends on your own circumstances.  An examinee facing financial pressures might choose to work for a few weeks, then begin studying a few weeks early.  Someone eager to get started studying might begin this week, but set aside a week or two, at strategically placed spots on the calendar, to put study aside, connect with family and friends, or do whatever else helps them refill their gas tank.  It's important not to let the time slip by unnoticed -- it would be bad to turn off the TV one night near the end of June and realize you had not done any bar study -- and that's why it's important to budget the time and actually create a schedule.  And that, for some, is what seems to turn this temporal windfall into a vexation.  In order to budget, you have to make choices.

No one wants their bar prep period to feel like playing endless rounds of "The Lady or the Tiger?"  At every step: choose the right path, and you will be rewarded with contented knowledge and testing skills; choose the wrong path, and you will be mauled by a ravenous UBE with MPT fangs and MBE claws.  In a normal year, examinees only have to be certain that the regimented bar study course they have chosen, which has worked for thousands of examinees before them, will continue to reliably work for them.  This summer, though, because so much is unregimented, some examinees are anxious about being uncertain about so much more.  Am I studying enough?  Am I studying too much?  Am I studying too early?  Am I studying the right things, in the right way, for the right amount of time?

Two propositions can help people in such a tizzy of uncertainty.  First, assure them that they are not feeling this uncertainty because of some character flaw that prevents them from making definitive choices.  They are not losing their heads while all about them are keeping theirs.  This is an inherently uncertain situation -- we can't even be assured the exam will actually be administered in September! -- and so there is no single "correct" choice.  The best they can do is what they've been training to do for the past three years: exercise good judgment based on competent authority and relevant facts.  As long as they are not just guessing, as long as they are talking to us and their mentors and their instructors and applying what they learn to what they already know about themselves and the task before them, they can at least make a good choice.

Second, help them subdue the perception that they are overwhelmed by uncertainty by reminding them of what is certain.  The content and structure of the bar examination remains the same (well, except in Indiana), as do generally those of the reputable bar courses designed to prepare examinees for the test.  They still have their law degrees, and the skill, intelligence, and diligence that helped them earn those degrees.  They have a community of classmates, instructors, and mentors who they can rely on to share perspective and feedback on the decisions they do make.  They have a certain task, they have certain abilities, and they have certain resources.  In the face of uncertainty, those are best certainties to have.

[Bill MacDonald]

May 19, 2020 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

A Fun Look at Bar Exam History

The Bar Exam is in the front of everyone's mind right now. When will it happen? Should we change the exam? Does the exam actually measure competence as lawyers? Should we be using diploma privilege instead?

All of these are excellent questions, and handled in much more serious papers, usually by our very own Marsha Griggs!

However, I wanted to take a bit of a fun look at the history of the Bar Exam. I have been reading Robert M. Jarvis' An Anecdotal History of the Bar Exam (9 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 359 (1996)) and wanted to share some highlights.

  • Massachusetts became the first state to offer a written exam in 1855. Prior to this, states would issue oral exams, often with a Judge in the district that the lawyer wished to be admitted, or with a lawyer already admitted to that bar. Massachusetts began the written portion for those that couldn't take the oral portion, but in 1876 Suffolk County (the county that Boston, MA sits in) began requiring lawyers to pass a written examination in order to be licensed. In 1877 New York introduced a written exam in addition  to the oral exam.

 

  • The oral exam seems like it was less stressful and rigorous than what applicants go through today. Huey P Long – former Gov of LA - passed his oral examination easily. When asked by George Terriberry, an admiralty practitioner, what he knew about admiralty, Long replied” Nothing." When further asked about how he would handle an admiralty matter, long answered “I’d associate Mr. Terriberry with me and divide the fee with him.” Long passed. 

 

  • Abraham Lincoln was a bar examiner, and judged to be a very lenient one. According to Len Y. Smith, in Abraham Lincoln as a Bar Examiner, B. Examiner, Aug. 1982 (An article I'm currently trying to find), Jonathan Birch of Bloomington relays his experience with Lincoln. Lincoln essentially asked him "how long have you been studying?" with Birch responding "Almost two years."  According to Birch, Lincoln's response was "By this time, it seems to me," he laughed, "you ought to be able to determine whether you have the kind of stuff out of which a good lawyer can be made."  Then Lincoln asked for a definition of a contract, and then sat on the edge of the bed and began to entertain Birch with stories. Then, took him to the clerk, and gave the clerk a note saying "My dear Judge:- The bearer of this is a young man who thinks he can be a lawyer. Examine him if you want to. I have done so and am satisfied. He's a good deal smarter than he looks to be. Yours, Lincoln." I am certain almost all of my students would pass either of these oral exams. I have also heard that Lincoln once examined an applicant from his bath tub. I love this story, but have yet to be able to find a reliable source, so take that with a grain of salt.

 

  • Before you think that all oral examinations were easy, and most were just a mere formality, they were not easy for everyone. Clara Foltz, the first woman admitted to the CA bar, was administered a 3 hour oral exam. In addition, this "mere formality" was usually a way to find out the applicant was likable, or meshed well with the current bar. You can imagine how this created inequity at the bar.

 

  • 7 states allow you to “read” the law – California, Maine, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming – this means aspiring lawyers study to be a lawyer and take the bar without attending law school. This is what Kim Kardashian is currently aspiring to do. I can tell you, it isn't easy!

 

  • It used to be that 32 states allowed for diploma privilege. Currently only WI allows this. It was abolished in CA in 1917, and most recently, Mississippi in 1981,  Montana and South Daktoa in 1983, and West Virginia in 1988.

 

  • New Hampshire was the first state to use a permanent board of law examiners. This occurred in 1872

 

  • KY and  VA used to have strict dress codes of business attire. While they still have dress codes, they are not as strict as they once were, which required women to wear skirts and nylons.

  • In 1985 Laura Beth Lamb, a lawyer with the securities and exchange commission, dressed up like her husband, Morgan Lamb, to take the California Bar Exam for him. She was 7 months pregnant, and diabetic, and passed the bar with the 9th highest score on the exam. However, when she was found out she was disbarred, so please don’t try this one. (Also, on a sad note, she claimed he forced her to sit for him after he failed the bar, and threatened and abused her.)

  • In July 1985 hundreds of bar exams from the New York State bar disappeared without an explanation.

  • Prior to the 1980s, it was more common for states to use geographical exclusions to limit bar admissions, but a series of cases in 1980 struck down suck exclusions.

I hope this gives you a bit of a fun break from the craziness that is the current bar exam!

(Melissa Hale)

May 6, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Reliance Interests

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.  

[Bill MacDonald]

May 5, 2020 in Academic Support Spotlight, Bar Exam Issues, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 4, 2020

Imbroglio

Imbroglio: A complicated situation; a sequence of events so absurd, complicated, and uncommon as to be unbelievable.

Merriam-Webster might as well add a footnote to the July 2020 bar exam administration as an example of the term “imbroglio.” No other term can accurately describe the debacle that surrounds the upcoming bar exam. Blog, essays, and the exasperated cries of bar candidates—summed up in one word. One word with an applicability of meaning that has become self-evident.

A complicated situation – Our nation has become embattled by a contagion that shows no sign of relenting. Across the country, stay at home orders are in place to mitigate the spread of the deadly coronavirus. In states with large numbers of bar takers, there is no safe way to administer the bar exam in the traditional format. Yet, bar examiners and the American Bar Association insist on a bar exam as screening tool for entry into the practice of law.[1]

A sequence of events so absurd Some states postponed the July exam. Some states canceled it altogether. Some states propose to offer a bar exam in early September; others in late September; others have postponed the exam “indefinitely.” No matter what the states propose, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (“NCBE”) will let us know on May 5, 2020 whether there will be any multistate or uniform exams released in July. States that have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam  (“UBE”) are powerless to administer any exam in July if the NCBE won’t provide the questions, because UBE states don’t write their own bar exams anymore.

Complicated – Epidemiologists tell us that the virus comes in waves. Even with proposed and announced dates for the bar exam, COVID-19 may make it impossible or unwise to administer it in the late summer or early fall. But bar takers cannot afford to wait until there is certainty to begin studying. Many will begin bar study this month, for an exam that may or may not take place. They will study in places that are not libraries or law schools, because those places are closed.

Uncommon – COVID-19 presents an unprecedented situation that will impact the flow of new attorneys into the profession at a time when there will be an increased need for legal services. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, like emergency diploma privilege. Utah adopted a sensible emergency diploma privilege, but the ABA and the NCBE discourage other states from following suit.

Unbelievable – Just when we thought things could not possibly get any worse, the New York Board of Law Examiners announced that it may not have enough room to allow bar applicants from out of state law schools to sit for the exam that it hopes to administer on September 30 – October 1. In that same announcement, and with hold-my-beer momentum, the New York bar officials strongly encouraged candidates “to consider sitting for the UBE in other jurisdictions.” That this advice was given without regard for the COVID precautions of other states, and at a time when very few other states were still accepting applications, defies comprehension.

I won’t ask, “what could happen next?”

(©Marsha Griggs)  

 

[1] ABA STANDING COMMITEEE ON BAR ACTIVITIES AND SERVICES LAW STUDENT DIVISION RESOLUTION [sic] (04/07/020) “the Resolution does not . . . modify or limit the historic and longstanding policy of the ABA supporting the use of a bar examination as an important criterion for admission to the bar.”

May 4, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Exams - Studying, Miscellany, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 27, 2020

Will the Bar Exam Go the Way of the 8-Track Tape?

For the times they are a-changin’. -Bob Dylan

The times certainly have changed. Almost overnight, every facet of daily life has transitioned to online delivery. Telehealth and telemedicine are becoming the primary source for doctor-patient interaction during the pandemic. Law school classes are online. College classes are online. K-12 primary education is online. Church and religious services have moved to online formats. My grocery and organic farm-to-table products —gone online. Court hearings, also online. I can buy a car, entirely online. I can have legal documents notarized online.

But I cannot take the bar exam online. At least not yet.

The COVID pandemic has tested our resolve and our ability to utilize available technology. Almost every aspect of the legal profession, from court proceedings and probate administration, to law enforcement and legal education, has mobilized for remote administration. Bar examiners at the state and national levels should hang their heads in shame for not harnessing the available technology to deliver the existing exam remotely. It is an embarrassment of epic proportions that those at the helm of legal licensure are so behind the times that the pipeline for entry to the legal profession could be closed until further notice.

Relentlessly tethered to tradition, those insistent that 2020 law grads take an exam that may not be offered until early 2021 have either dropped the ball or are hiding it. It is fundamentally unfair to require an exam for licensure and at the same time withhold that exam from licensure candidates. The cries for diploma privilege and supervised practice options have sounded around the world. To which bar examiners and high courts have responded with either feigned indifference or a proposed solution that is no more than a band-aid for a gaping wound.

To become attorneys, bar candidates should not have to risk their health or the health of their vulnerable loved ones to the spread of the coronavirus. Even today, there are still more unanswered questions than answers. The majority of U.S. jurisdictions have made no announcement as to whether they will offer an exam in July or not. A number of states have canceled the July exam, but still have not announced definitive information about the date or form of the replacement exam. Candidates across the country remain in the dark as the bar exam becomes an archaic qualifier for competence. If the bar examiners hold fast to the pencil and scantron method of testing, we can expect to see it go the way of the pay phone, the answering machine, and the 8-track tape.

Two states, California and Massachusetts, have alluded to an online exam, but with little detail. It remains unknown what role the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), who produces the multistate exams used in all states except Louisiana, will play in the online exam. If the NCBE can provide an online exam for two states, why not do so for all UBE jurisdictions? And why make candidates in other states suffer the risk of exposure to COVID or career delays by withholding the online exam?  

If the NCBE has not developed an online exam, we must ask “why not” and "where has it been for the last two decades?" And we must not accept “test security concerns” as a viable response. Test security is no less of a concern to law school faculty, and to those who administer admissions exams. Yet all law school exams and the LSAT will be offered online in May 2020. The MPRE (another NCBE exam) and other professional licensing exams are already online.

Whether the bar exam effectively assesses one’s competency to practice law is a reoccurring question that will continue to resurface.  At a time when virtually every state, except maybe Utah and Wisconsin, is under fire for indecisiveness and poor communication regarding the fate of would-be July 2020 bar takers, bar examiners are justifiably under scrutiny. As is the bar exam. The future of the exam is in the examiners’ hands. We’ve only to watch and see if they’ll respond like Blockbuster or Netflix.

(Marsha Griggs© 2020)

April 27, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Exams - Theory, News, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Cost of Certitude - Might be Preventing the Future

There's a line in the book Moon Dust, regarding people who fervently believe that the Apollo moon landings did not take place, that reads: "The only thing I feel sure of [with respect to a moon landing skeptic] is that he wants to believe this story...." A. Smith, Moon Dust, Harper Perennial (2005).  In other words, no matter the evidence, the unbeliever will not believe. Sometimes I feel like that with the bar exam uncertainties and postponements.  

As Professor Marsha Griggs points out, law schools (and most of the rest of education) flipped on a dime to online learning.  Let me tell you about online learning.  I was a skeptic.  And, I was afraid, mighty afraid, because I didn't think I could do it.  But guess what?  I just finished my last class of the semester, online, with smiles and in celebration with my online students.  It's too early to tell, but it seems to have worked. I think I'm now a believer.

That brings me to my first point... 

Prior to online teaching, I just didn't believe that it could be done, at least not well.  I was like the moon landing skeptics. I had heard that some had succeeded in online environments but I didn't really believe the stories.  Not at all.  But I'm no longer a skeptic because I've experienced online learning for myself.  It's not quite a moon landing, but somehow I navigated through the ether of the internet space to make contact with my students, for them to connect with me, for all of us to connect with each other.  Here's what I've learned.  I was stuck in the past due to confirmation bias.  To put it plainly, I lived in the rut of traditional classroom teaching because that was all I knew.  And, because that was all I knew, I couldn't see that there might be other ways to deliver high quality legal education.  That is until I had to teach online.

So that brings me to my final point - the bar exam... 

If law schools can successfully switch to online learning in just a few weeks or two, it sure seems like bar examiners can switch to online bar exams with a few months of lead time.  Yes, that would mean open book bar exams.  Yes, that might mean reducing the bar exam to a one-day multiple-choice MBE exam.  Yes, that might mean some lack of security.  But, is there any real reason to hold onto the past model in light of the future pressing down upon us with some much uncertainty?  I think not.

It's time for the bar exam to move past tradition and into a future that might be much better for all of us - for bar examiners, bar exam takers, and the public too.  I know. Sometimes it's hard to give up what we know.  However, if we only ever keep our hands gripped tightly around the present, we'll miss the wonderful chances that are all around us to improve the future of our world.  The choice is ours, all of ours.  (Scott Johns).

April 23, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Law School Transparency: Vision 2025 Report

Law School Transparency has put out a new report on its Vision for 2025. LST is a nonprofit dedicated to making the legal profession more transparent, affordable, and fair. The report identifies LST’s priorities, recommendations, and efforts to create more accessible, affordable, and innovative law schools—all with an eye to creating a more diverse law student body and, by extension, a more diverse practicing bar. (The report was funded by the Iowa State Bar Association—kudos to that organization and its leaders for its financial support of LST and its advocacy!)

I’m on LST’s board of directors, so I knew this report was coming, but I’m blown away by its depth and thoroughness. There’s a useful executive summary on pages 5-11. Some highlights:

    1.  Taking on US News: David and Goliath

The first half of the report addresses the wrongheadedness of our national reliance on Goliath: the US News rankings. As LST’s Executive Director, Kyle McEntee, said to me recently, “Ordinal rankings—one, two, three—convey authority because of their simplicity. They convey that one is better than two, and two is better than twenty.” But of course law schools have many dimensions of strengths and weaknesses, and prospective law students have a diversity of priorities, so ordinal rankings don’t address prospective students’ actual interests.

In response, LST is in the process of developing its own, more nuanced, rating system for law schools. Called the LST Index, it will evaluate schools based on a better set of criteria than US News’s clunky proxies. The exact criteria are still in development—LST will draft a list of approximately 50 criteria for consideration, then refine those criteria through an extensive public engagement period. Each criterion will be measurable, document-able, and provable. (LST has already workshopped some proposed criteria with D&I experts, deans, law students, and practicing lawyers at University of South Carolina and Boston College.) Then, the entire system will be improved through an iterative review process—does the Index measure the things law schools and law students value? More information about the LST Index is available at pages 31-39 of the report.

Meanwhile, as LST is developing an alternative to the US News rankings, it’s also lobbying US News to modify its existing ranking algorithm. I think it’s really practical for LST to address the problem on both fronts—loading its slingshot with the LST Index while also working with Goliath to be smarter about things. LST’s specific suggestion here is that US News replace its current “expenditures” data point with an “efficiency” metric. That is, instead of taking into account how much a school spends per student, a figure that will always make private schools look better than public ones, LST is suggesting that US News give credit to schools who provide more bang for their buck. An efficiency metric would consist of the ratio of tuition revenue to high-quality jobs (e.g., long-term, full-time JD-required or JD-advantage jobs) after graduation. More information about the proposed efficiency metric is available on pages 40-50 of the report.

    2.  Adjustments to the Law School Accreditation Process

The second half of LST’s report addressed law schools’ accreditation. LST has specific critiques of which accreditation metrics the ABA should ease up on and which it should tighten. These are more interesting to law faculty than to prospective students, but they’ll still be important adjustments that can make a big cumulative difference. In particular, LST is lobbying the ABA to allow more flexibility in how law schools deliver learning outcomes, review what full-time faculty members do to provide high-quality legal education, liberalize distance education standards (oh, how timely!), examine the diversity of valuable ways in which libraries contribute to legal education, and refine the variance system. On the other hand, as a matter of consumer protection, LST argues that the ABA should ask tough questions about why different students—particularly students of color and women—in a law school class are paying different amounts of tuition, and frankly, why legal education is so freaking expensive in the first place. LST has always been a proponent of transparency (it’s right there in the organization’s name: Law School Transparency), and the report makes compelling arguments for law schools to make more disclosures about law student borrowing, tuition discounting, and diversity. More information about accreditation changes can be found in Part II of the report, pages 51-84.

Lastly, a plug for assistance.  If you want to help LST develop the LST Index or lobby for different accreditation standards, check out ways to help here.

(Cassie Christopher - Guest Blogger)

April 19, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Current Affairs, Guest Column | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 13, 2020

Unanswered Questions

Hat tip to Sara Berman who shared an op ed that made it to my inbox this morning. The article: When Will Life Be Normal Again? We Just Don’t Know, by Charlie Warzel, an opinion editor for the New York Times. Warzel’s article consists of 46, mostly single-sentence, paragraphs of pandemic related questions that we simply do not have answers to. Those unanswered questions are flanked by only and exactly eight sentences of text, that bring home the point that as we enter a month or more of shelter in place lockdown, “we have more questions than answers.”

Today, like so many days before, I ended the day with more questions than I started with. And not one of my questions has found a definitive answer. I’ve read and written articles, blogs, exposés, papers, and proposals, but I’ve found no catchall answers for those tasked to assist the incoming class of attorneys with bar readiness. As I ponder my own questions, my thoughts shift seamlessly to the meritorious and unanswered questions of law students and future bar takers:

If there is a bar exam, will masks be included on the list of permitted items? If not, will the examiners provide masks at the test sites?

How will bar examiners ensure the safety of examinees during the exam administration? Will there be on-site coronavirus testing?

What recourse do we have if we contract the virus during an exam administration?

Should we have to risk our health and the safety of our loved ones to take the bar exam? 

If it's not safe to go to school, attend church services, or have dinner in a restaurant, how is it safe to sit in a room with others for six hours to take an exam?

What supervised practice options are available to students who plan to enter solo practice or practice in rural areas without other attorneys?

What arrangements will there be for students who receive test accommodations? 

When did administration of the bar exam become tied to the number of people taking it? 

If there is a bar exam given in July in State A, will students in State A also have the option to take the exam in September instead of July? 

If a student who has registered to take the July exam does not feel safe taking the exam in July or September, can that student receive a refund of their examination fee?

Are you listening to the students in your state or are you listening to some outside entity tell you what is best for us? 

Could you study [effectively] for a two-day bar exam under these conditions? Has anyone ever had to prepare for and take a bar exam under these conditions? 

Do you wonder why the number of people interested in going to law school has dropped?

If an emergency is not a time to make a change, when is?

Why are folks in a diploma privilege state so opposed to diploma privilege?

What is it about diploma privilege that scares you? 

Isn't diploma privilege a bigger threat to those who sell and profit from the exam than it is to the public? 

What good is ABA approval if examiners and the ABA don’t trust our law schools to educate us and prepare us for practice? 

What does the bar exam test that three years of law school did not teach us? 

Why do you have more confidence in an exam than in us?

I claim no originality for this week’s blog. I credit a writer whom I’ve never met for the concept, and I credit the questions to the voices of law students that I have and will continue to listen to.

(Marsha Griggs)

April 13, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Now Comes the Hard Part

The last few weeks have been extraordinary in dizzying ways.  A massive and abrupt shift to online teaching; a disruptive delay in administration of the bar examination; increased academic, professional, and/or personal responsibilities; fears for one's health or the health of loved ones; actual physical illness; loss of income; loss of planned employment or experiential opportunities; long-term economic uncertainty; social isolation and loneliness -- any one of these would be distractingly stressful to a student or teacher under ordinary circumstances, and many of us and our students are facing most of them simultaneously. 

The saving grace has been the correspondingly extraordinary response -- demonstrations of grit, resourcefulness, generosity, and positivity -- that the situation has generated.  Administrators and technicians working 16-hour days to keep classes and resources flowing.  Educators implementing and sharing creative solutions to the problems of distance learning, and making special efforts to keep students engaged.  Students accepting their changed circumstances with remarkable flexibility, increased effort, and gracious understanding.  And, as a backdrop, millions of people, throughout the country and the world, working, sharing, and cooperating towards common goals.

But these last few weeks are really the first few weeks.  To many they seem much longer already, but everyone -- law schools included -- faces an even more extended period of disruption and deprivation.  That burst of energy and goodwill with which our students faced the initial transformation will have its limits.  Even our own stockpiles of buoyancy and resilience are going to be threatened.

That is normal.  It is really a form of culture shock, and as anyone who has experienced culture shock can tell you, there will be a cycle of highs and lows until we fully acclimate to our new world.  We can all deal with these, one way or another, but the best way is with open eyes and thoughtful consideration.  Expect at some point to feel exhaustion and discouragement in ourselves, and to recognize them in our students and colleagues. 

Plan for it if you can -- be thinking ahead about when (soon!) you can take some time for yourself, and about how you can encourage your students to do the same.  Classes will be over in a few weeks, exams a few weeks after that; a little downtime right about now, and then after exams are over, can help to stretch everyone's reserves. 

Reaching out to others for support -- sharing or trading tasks, enjoying a little social time (like a virtual happy hour), or even just mutual commiseration about how tough it has been -- should be a little more manageable at this point, now that we have all familiarized ourselves with our new schedules, our formerly unfamiliar conferencing tools, and the proper guidelines for face-to-face-but-still-six-feet-away interactions. 

And, most importantly, don't let the next plunge in spirits catch anyone by surprise.  Let your students know -- gently, not with a sense of foreboding -- that it would be natural to start feeling low at some point, and that the feeling will not be permanent, and that you can be there for them while it lasts.  Help them to focus on the tasks that will help them not only get through the next several months, but also accomplish things they will be proud to talk about years later.  And remember that you will not be immune, and that taking care of yourself is another way to help you take care of your students.

[Bill MacDonald]

April 7, 2020 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 6, 2020

The (Emergency) Return of Diploma Privilege

For decades Wisconsin has stood alone in its court-adopted diploma privilege for graduates of law schools within its state borders. However, Wisconsin is not the first state to enact diploma privilege as a means of licensing attorneys. At one point, diploma privilege was the norm, not the exception. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia utilized diploma privilege as the principal means of licensing law school graduates until the early 1900’s.[1] When the American Bar Association denounced diploma privilege, states began to move toward examination as the gateway to licensure.[2] Many could have been left to believe that the time of diploma privilege was a bygone era. But maybe not so.

New Jersey has emerged as a leader by offering what most should consider a reasoned and compassionate compromise to address the frustratingly uncertain predicament that would-be July 2020 bar takers face. Today, the New Jersey Supreme Court entered an Order cancelling the July exam and postponing to a date uncertain in the fall. State courts in Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New York, had done the same thing days earlier. But unlike its northeast neighbors, New Jersey has granted an expanded ability to temporarily practice law under the supervision of an attorney[3] to 2020 graduates of any ABA accredited law schools who have not previously taken a bar examination. The order temporarily authorizes 2020 graduates to enter appearances, draft legal documents and pleadings, provide legal services to clients, engage in negotiations and settlement discussions, and provide other counsel consistent with the practice of law. The temporary license terminates on the date the next bar exam is given in the state of New Jersey.

Critics may point to shortcomings of the Order. To such criticism bar admission policy reform advocates will likely respond todays order was not perfect, but it was an excellent start. “At this challenging time, the public has a continuing and growing need for legal services in many critical areas,” Chief Justice Rabner stated in the order. “Newly admitted lawyers can help meet that need. The Court also recognizes that, without a means to pass the bar and obtain a law license, qualified students who expect to graduate this spring may lose job offers, be unable to find legal work, and otherwise suffer financial hardship.” Thank you, New Jersey. Thank. You.

Who's got next?

(Marsha Griggs)

 

[1] Beverly Moran, The Wisconsin Diploma Privilege: Try It, You'll Like It, 2000 Wis. L. Rev. 645, 646 (2000).

[2] Paul C. Huddle, Raising the Bar: How the Seventh Circuit Nearly Struck Down the Diploma Privilege Under the Dormant Commerce Clause, 5 Seventh Circuit Rev. 38, 40 (2009).

[3] The supervising attorney must be in good standing and have been licensed to practice law in New Jersey state courts or at least three years.

April 6, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Bar Examiners Don't Seem to Be Listening

There is so much that goes into the making of a bar exam. There are layers of research, accountability, and quality control involved in the drafting of the questions. There is beta testing of the exam content. There is scoring, rescoring, and equating. And there are levels of exam security that rival Area 51. The parties involved range from statisticians to politicians, who cautiously weigh input from the podium, the bar, and the bench. To top it all off, the job of bar examiner – at least at the state level – is a modestly compensated appointment that is held all the while keeping a day job of managing a law practice, or ruling from the bench. Too little appreciation is shown to our almost volunteer bar examiners in times of rest and high passage rates. So, I sincerely and thankfully shout out bar examiners everywhere who discharge an office of such societal importance. And I use the term bar examiners in the collective to include every role, from essay graders to the character and fitness investigators, from the licensure analysts to the admission administrators and honorable members of the board.

Bar examiners have to operate independently and make decisions about scoring and bar admissions that will be unpopular to some. But the examiners must make decisions, and it is the failure or delay in reaching a particularly important decision that has placed examiners under fire across the country. That decision: what about the July 2020 exam?

It is understandable to the legal and lay public that a law license is a privilege not to be indiscriminately awarded. It is equally clear that security protocols must be in place to maintain the integrity of the exam. What is not understandable is how some examiners can fail to make adjustments in the face of the extreme and dire circumstances of the COVID pandemic.  In less than two weeks’ time, the nation’s ABA-accredited law schools went entirely online, trained faculty (many with limited technology skills) for online teaching, and adopted pass-fail grading. There is simply no excuse for bar examiners to not be just as creative and as willing to implement emergency protocols for the prospective July 2020 examinees.

This week 1,000+ students, representing all of New York’s law schools, petitioned the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on the New York Bar Examination for an emergency diploma privilege. Days later, New York canceled the July exam. Adding ambiguity to injury, the exam has been rescheduled to the fall, but no date is provided to examinees who need to make study, travel, and lodging plans for the two-day exam. Are you kidding us?  It’s almost like the examiners are not listening. At all.

A reasonably prudent person will interpret the New York decision as a signal for other states to follow. New York is considered highly influential, as its 2016 adoption of UBE was followed by Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and others. The 2020 bar takers are not asking the examiners to give away law licenses without merit. They —joined in large number by law faculty, deans and alumni— are asking for necessary emergency licensing measures. They are asking examiners to think outside of the traditional bar exam box. They are asking that fairness, humanity, and the chance to earn a living be prioritized  over security worries. They are asking the examiners to listen.

(Marsha Griggs)

March 28, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Exams - Theory, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 23, 2020

It's Time to Consider Licensure Alternatives for the Class of 2020

The Class of 2020 has suffered blows like no other graduating class. Domestic K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students alike have been informed that they are not allowed to return to their physical campuses, and must continue their school year online. Hardest hit are the presumptive graduates of the class of 2020. They must forego prom, senior skip day, all manner of internships and externships, competitions - from moot court to state basketball playoffs, science fairs, presentations, and call-back interviews. These students resume academic life, complete with homework and online class presentations, only to confront the added heartbreak of not being able to walk across the stage adorned in cap and gown or hood. My heart aches for the entire class of 2020 who will be unavoidably denied a great rite of passage: the commencement and hooding ceremony with all its pomp and circumstance. 

But for law school graduates, the heartache may not end with foiled graduation plans. All medical and environmental indicators would suggest that the July bar exam cannot go forward as scheduled.1 But eleven law professors have said: Enough. While none of us can undo any of the devastating impact of COVID-19, state and national bar examiners can and should consider alternatives to licensure to maintain the influx of new lawyers into the legal profession. In a recently distributed policy paper, The Bar Exam and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Need for Immediate Action, Professor Deborah Jones Merritt joined with ten other notable legal scholars to pose alternatives to licensure that would allow 2020 law graduates to enter the ranks of the legal profession without costly and undue delay.

According to the paper, the legal system depends on a yearly influx of new law graduates to maintain service to clients. The scholars, in a unified voice, reasonably predict that the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic will create an increased need for legal services. Says Merritt et al., “[o]ur 2020 graduates have knowledge and skills that will be particularly helpful in responding to the legal needs of a population stricken by COVID-19,” as “these graduates are fully equipped to function online, a skill that some senior lawyers lack.”

The paper poses six alternatives to the standard summer exam administration, and argues that postponing the exam for weeks or months is not a viable alternative with the uncertainty and medically likely resurgence of the COVID-19 virus. The paper’s authors urge the licensing jurisdictions, and most notably the NCBE that controls the Multistate exams, to consider an emergency diploma privilege, or supervised practice as an alternative in this limited and exigent circumstance that the pandemic presents.

Whether or not the bar examiners agree with the proposals, the time to act decisively is now. Keeping the class of 2020 in limbo about the administration of the July exam, piles onto the existing educational disruptions it has already suffered. Any substantial postponement of the exam will have harmful effects on the candidates who hope to join the legal profession this year.

According to Tammy King, Assistant Dean for Professional Development at Washburn School of Law, “the public service employers who need someone who can practice immediately are among those most likely to wait to make offers or to make offers and start dates contingent on bar passage.” According to reported NALP data, as many as 41.3% of 2017 graduates who were employed within 10 months after graduation secured their jobs after bar results were released. CUNY Law professor @allierobbins may speak for the class of 2020, in a March 23 tweet, "Dear Bar Examiners, Please Listen to these Women."

(Marsha Griggs)

1 The National Conference of Bar Examiners’ website contains the following update regarding administration of the July 2020 exam: “The bar exam is administered by individual jurisdictions, not by NCBE. We are in close contact with jurisdiction bar admission agencies as they consider possible options for the July exam in the event that shutdowns and prohibitions against large gatherings remain in effect.”

March 23, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Online Learning Resources and Tips

Currently, all ABA accredited law schools have moved online. This means many of us are in new territory when it comes to working with our students. Some schools already have online or hybrid programs, but for many, this is completely new!

I've been hosting bar workshops and classes on zoom for awhile now. I wanted to share some things that I have found to be useful when teaching on zoom, as well as lists of resources I've compiled from elsewhere. (Elsewhere being our listserv and twitter, or through colleagues)

My own tips:

  1. If possible, ask that students leave video on. I find this works better to foster community, and you get better participation. 
  2. However, they should mute their microphone when not talking. This one might be obvious, but even the sound of typing gets picked up on the microphone, and can be distracting to other students. 
  3. The chat feature can be wonderful, but probably only in small groups. I find it works well if I have a workshop of under 20, but it would likely be distracting in a larger class. Its a great way for students to participate, or to keep track of questions until the end.
  4. I have found the polling feature to be a great way to get people to participate. Obviously this is best used for multiple choice style questions, but I think it can be used creatively for all manner of things. 
  5. Share screen to share essay prompts, sample answers, power points- great! However, the white board is great in theory, but I find it hard to use. Maybe it's me, or my lack or artistic ability. Instead, I pull up a blank word document, which I find easier to create charts and graphs on, like I would in a non virtual classroom.

Other resources:

CALI (Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction)

And online learning guide from Roger William's  and LawTutors' Brittany Raposa:

https://lawtutors.net/online-learning-guidelines-in-the-wake-of-covid-19/

Suffolk Law's Sarah Schendel compiled a great list of resources on twitter:

https://twitter.com/s_james_s/status/1237529688437751810

and finally, an article about better focus with online learning:

https://99u.adobe.com/articles/6969/10-online-tools-for-better-attention-focus

 

If you have your own tips, or I've left out any great resources, please leave them in the comments!

(Melissa A. Hale)

 

March 18, 2020 in Advice, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 16, 2020

A Message for Unchartered Territory

I'm sharing a message from Professor Janet Thompson Jackson of Washburn School of Law for all of us in this period of social distancing. Feel free to share it with your students or incorporate it into your own mindfulness meditation.
 
This is a very stressful and uncertain time.  None of us has lived through anything like this before.  You may be feeling scared or you may be unconcerned or you may be somewhere in the middle. However you are feeling is okay. I suggest you sit with your feelings for a bit and then ask yourself if where you are emotionally is serving you and others in a helpful way.
 
If you find yourself in a constant state of panic or worry, that is likely lowering your immune system, which is not what you want right now. Feeling some anxiety in a time of uncertainty is normal, but it’s good to make an effort to move out of that state. Try making a daily list of good things that happened during the day, even small things like laughing at a movie or show. Keeping a gratitude list helps us to shift perspective.
 
Or, you may be unconcerned and think that everyone is overreacting. That, too, is a legitimate feeling. It's good to realize, though, that your reaction may be your own response to stress. This might be a good time to extend some grace and compassion to others, including yourself.  Everyone is pretty much doing the best they can under the circumstances. Maybe demonstrating a sense of calm without any criticism is just what someone else needs right now.  You also may want to take some time to donate to an organization that is working to help people who are living in the margins and are particularly challenged at this time.
 
You may find yourself somewhere in between. You may vacillate between the extremes, but are able to come back to the middle most of the time. A good way to keep your equilibrium is to look for ways you can be of service. Is there someone you know who doesn’t do well with social isolation who could use a call or text (or even better, FaceTime or other video chat)? 
 
Here are some other ideas to help stay emotionally and physically healthy in uncertain times:
  1.  Meditate. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Sitting or laying down and focusing on your breathing will work. Or stare at a candle for a few minutes or listen to calming music.  Even 5 minutes of mindfulness helps. Try it a couple times a day, like in the morning and before bed.  The effects last longer than you would think.

  2. Give your devices a break. Isolation sometimes makes us even more attached to our devices, especially when we’re trying to keep up with the fast changing news. Try planning a time during the day or evening when you will not be on any device for an hour if possible. If that seems too long start with 15 min and work your way up.

  3. Laugh. Find a funny movie, book, song — anything that makes you laugh. Laughing is good medicine.

  4. Read something uplifting. Give the news a break and pick up a book that makes you feel good.

  5. Move. The gym may not be a good idea right now, but you can work out, dance, do yoga or other
    movement at home.

  6. Be kind. Just be kind to yourself and others. 

  7. Sleep. Now is a great time to catch up.

March 16, 2020 in Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Southwest Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Recap

This past Thursday and Friday, I was in Lubbock for the SWCASP2020, hosted by Cassie Christopher at Texas Tech. Both Cassie and Steven Foster (our editor and founder of SWCASP!) put on a fantastic event.

The morning started with a presentation by Preyal Shah and Meijken Westenskow from UNT Dallas College of Law, 'It Takes a Village: Establishing Working Relationships with Doctrinal Faculty", and that was followed by Zoe Niesel from St. Mary's University School of Law with "Using Academic Support Techniques in the Doctrinal Classroom: One Civil Procedure Professor’s Experience." 

Both presentations gave attendees wonderful and concrete takeaways to implement at their schools. Preyal and Meijken took us through various models of working with doctrinal faculty, and the pros and cons that come along with each one. Zoe took us through her experience implementing academic support practices in her own civil procedure course. I have a literal pages of ideas from both presentations, and can't wait to implement them all.

This was followed by our keynote speaker, Raul Ruiz, from Florida International, discussing his work on spaced learning and bar passage. 

In the afternoon Antonia Miceli, from Saint Louis University School of Law, presented on "Integrating the Multistate Performance Test from Day One"  It gave us great ways to place the MPT in various settings, and she even had us do an exercise where we thought about where we could use practice MPTs, and potential benefits and challenges. 

The conference ended with Jamie Kleppetsch from DePaul University College of Law, with "2L Curriculum Chasm: Creating the Skill Bridge Between 1L and 3L" In true ASP fashion, she gave us a syllabus and materials to start implementing a 2L course of our very own, along with a checklist of things to think about.

You might sense a theme - academic support conferences leave us all with concrete takeaways and lists of things to implement at our home schools. And to that end, I promise the member's only section of the AASE website will be making its debut soon, with many of these materials!

However, that's not the only takeaway. The best part of any of these conferences are the lunches and dinners, and shared conversations in hotels and shuttles, and walking during breaks. Most of us have a department of 1 or 2, maybe 3 or 4 if we are very lucky. But that sometimes makes it hard to find support for ourselves. These conferences help us build a community, and that community sustains us throughout the year.

Which is why it is breaking my heart that regional conferences in Chicago and NY are being canceled. It's necessary, but I will very much miss the community gathering. 

(Melissa Hale)

March 11, 2020 in Current Affairs, Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)