Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Saturday, December 8, 2018

New Law Student Mindfulness ABA Podcast

Hat tip to Susan Wawrose at the University of Dayton School of Law for alerting us to the third installment in the ABA's podcast series on law student well-being. The podcast (entitled Episode 3 on the web page) includes three parts (why a law student would benefit, ways to get started with mindfulness, how to overcome roadblocks) and a bonus 3-minute mindfulness exercise. The link to the ABA web page that has all three installments in the series is: ABA Law Student Well-Being Podcasts. (Amy Jarmon)

December 8, 2018 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

NCBE Invitation for AALS Registrants to Participate in Focus Groups

Invitation from NCBE

The National Conference of Bar Examiners requests your assistance with a significant research study regarding the bar examination. NCBE has created a Testing Task Force to oversee a comprehensive, future-focused research study of the bar examination, and we want and need to tap the insights of legal academics. We would like to invite you to participate in one of six focus group sessions held at the AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans on January 3 and 4, 2019.

The Task Force is approaching its study with no preconceived notions and is considering the content, format, timing, and delivery methods for the bar exam to ensure it keeps pace with a changing legal profession. For more information about the study, please read the overview of our research plan at

As a legal educator, you are a vital part of the legal licensure process, and gathering input from you and other stakeholders is an essential component of the study. We hope you are as eager to share your ideas and opinions about the bar exam of the future as we are to hear them! The focus group sessions will be facilitated by one of the Testing Task Force’s independent research consulting firms, ACS Ventures LLC. The number of participants will be capped at 12-15 people per 90-minute session to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to provide their input, so you are encouraged to register early to reserve your spot in a session.

To sign up for a focus group session at the AALS Annual Meeting, complete this online registration form. You’ll receive a confirmation with logistical details and additional information about the session by email.

NCBE and its Testing Task Force are committed to creating additional opportunities for focus groups and web-based interactions to gain insights from legal academics, law students, and other stakeholders in the next six months. Subscribe at the Testing Task Force’s website to receive updates about the study and to be notified about other opportunities to participate.

Thank you for all you do to help prepare law students to become lawyers. If you have questions, please feel free to contact the Testing Task Force at We look forward to hearing from you!

November 25, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Meetings, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Call for AALS Section on Academic Support Award Nominations

Dear ASP Colleagues,

As the recently appointed Awards Committee Chair, I am pleased to report that the Awards Committee for the AALS Section on Academic Support is soliciting nominations for our annual section award winner.  The AALS Section Award will be presented to an outstanding member of the ASP community likely at our section meeting at the January 2019 AALS Annual Meeting.  Please review the eligibility and criteria information below and send nominations directly to me, Awards Committee Chair, at

The deadline to submit nominations is Friday, November 9 at 5:00 p.m. EST (a very quick turnaround). For a nomination to be considered, it must include (at a minimum) a one to two paragraph explanation of why the nominee is deserving of the award.  Only AALS ASP Section members may make nominations, but all those within the ASP community may be nominated.  Membership in the section is free and can be processed by e-mailing a membership request to  For further detailed instructions on how to become a member, please view the following link.

Eligibility and Criteria for Selection.  The eligible nominees for the award are individuals who have made significant and/or long-term contributions to the development of the field of law student academic support.  All legal educators, regardless of the nature or longevity of their appointment or position, who have at some point in their careers worked part-time or full-time in academic support are eligible for the award.  The award will be granted to recognize those who have made such contributions through any combination of the following activities: 

  • service to the profession and to professional institutions—e.g., advocacy with the NCBE or assumption of leadership roles in the ASP community;
  • support to and mentoring of ASP colleagues;
  • support to and mentoring of students;
  • promoting diversity in the profession and expanding access to the legal profession; and
  • developing ideas or innovations—whether disseminated through academic writing, newsletters, conference presentations, or over the listserv.

Law schools, institutions, or organizations cannot receive an award.  Prior year or current year Section officers are excluded from being selected as an award winner.

The Committee looks forward to receiving your nominations.  Please let me know if you have any questions.




Goldie Pritchard, J.D., M.Ed.

Director, Academic Success Program

Michigan State University College of Law

648 N. Shaw Lane, Room 230(B)

East Lansing, MI 48824-1300

Phone: 517.432.6881

November 3, 2018 in Meetings, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Marvelous Thing

Academic support professionals are often required to be observant, creative, and meticulous under demanding circumstances.  Sometimes it helps to take inspiration from unexpected places:

The world was at war.  It was 1943, and the United States was stretched across two oceans, trying to protect its merchant fleet while fighting at sea against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.  Shipyards were working around the clock to build new and better ships.

In one such facility on the Delaware River, in Philadelphia, Dick James was trying to solve a problem.  He was a mechanical engineer, and his task was to develop a support system from which to suspend delicate shipboard instruments, to keep them stable when a ship was in rough seas.  He was working with tension springs, and at one point he accidentally struck one that was sitting coiled on a shelf.  The spring arched over, planted itself on top of some books stacked nearby, flipped end over end and arched again onto the table on which the books were sitting, and then flipped again to stream in another arch over the edge of the table and onto the floor.

Anyone else in that room might not have noticed the spring's behavior, or, if they had, might only have responded with an amused chuckle and promptly forgotten about it.  But James saw something in the way the spring had practically stepped from level to level, like an animated pair of britches.  He wasn't sure what it was good for, and he soon discovered that he could not reproduce it reliably.  But he sensed it was something, and something that hadn't been seen before.  When he got home that day, he told his wife Betty about it and declared that he was going to find the right kind of steel and the right degree of tension to create a spring that could walk.

Dick James was on his way to inventing the Slinky, the perennially wonderful toy that still sells well, 75 years after that first accidental demonstration.  What I find inspiring about this story is not just the fact that James observed something new and thought it was worth considering simply because it was new, and not just the fact that he pondered the possibilities of the new phenomenon without knowing exactly where they would lead him.  What's inspiring for me personally is that James recognized that he would have to put in some serious work to make a spring that could walk, and that he undertook all that effort without a clear end result in mind at the start.  He experimented for over a year, using different types of steel-alloy wire wound in coils of various sizes and tensions, and as he worked, he and his wife worked out what they wanted their end product to be: a toy with a name that connotes graceful movement and with properties that would allow it to stride down inclined planes and stairs. 

James continued working on warships, because that was his job and it mattered.  But during his off hours, he kept testing and measuring and winding and cutting, and with his wife planned how to package and market and sell his new invention, until finally in November of 1945, a couple of months after the end of the war, experimentation and application came together in a demonstration at Gimbel's Philadelphia department store -- a Slinky, walking down a ramp set up in the middle of the store, surrounded by children and parents.  Within 90 minutes, James sold out his entire inventory.

Sometimes, in academic support, in the midst of putting out fires and ministering to students in distress and trying to build stable platforms that will keep our students steady even in rough seas, we might notice something out of the ordinary -- an odd pattern to student responses, an exercise format that isolates a particular skill, a certain stimulus that alters behavior or affect -- perhaps something that most other people would not recognize as unusual.  We don't have to discard such observations if their usefulness is not immediately obvious.  Sometimes, it makes sense to start refining a tool first, and then take advantage of that time spent in development to uncover what the tool might best be used for.

(Bill MacDonald)

October 23, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Are you being sabotaged by perfectionism?

A perfectionism epidemic has broken out at most law schools across the country. It is the time in the semester when many students spin their wheels in studying because perfectionism has them in its grip. First-year students suffer acutely; but upper-division students are not immune. 

The symptoms may vary, but the underlying perfectionism is there. Here are some of the symptoms I see regularly:

  • Spending an exorbitant amount of time preparing for class because "I don't understand every bit of every case yet."
  • Copying large chunks of case language into a case brief because "I may not state it as well as the judicial opinion."
  • Getting less than 6 (in some cases way less) hours of sleep each night because "I haven't finished everything to the standard I want."
  • Feeling paralyzed about starting course outlines because "I have never outlined before and may get it wrong."
  • Filling tome-like outlines with total trivia because "I may leave out something important."
  • Avoiding practice questions because "I don't know everything yet."
  • Abandoning completion of practice questions because "I didn't get them all right."
  • Despairing over an average grade on a quiz because "I should have gotten an A."
  • Continuing to research after the exact same sources are found because "There may be something out there that I missed."
  • Procrastinating because "It won't be perfect and starting late gives me an excuse for it being less than perfect."

Perfectionism makes people miserable. No human will ever be perfect. Our students come with histories of success: high grades; superb recommendations; trophies; accolades for A-Z. Many of them have minimum experience with being less than perfect (or at least appearing perfect). Consequently, it is hard to settle for excellent or very good instead of perfect.

One of my law professors warned me my first semester of law school that I would never feel that I had done everything that could be done. There would always be one more case I could read, one more edit of a draft I could do, one more practice problem I could complete, one more study aid I could check, and so forth. He warned that perfect was not the goal - the best I could do under the circumstances for that day was all I could ask of myself.

He was right - not only about law school, but also about legal practice. We could spend 24/7 and still feel as though there was more we could do.

We need to put aside perfectionism before it gives us sleepless nights, ulcers, migraine headaches, and more physical souvenirs. We need to refuse perfectionism's cocktail of shame, guilt, worry, frustration, and depression.

So, let's embrace accomplishing what we can to our best ability today under today's circumstances:

  • Set a realistic number of goals for today.
  • Prioritize those goals as very important, important, least important and finish them accordingly.
  • Set a realistic time allotment for each goal and stick to it rather than push for perfect.
  • Recognize today's circumstances and work realistically within them: deadlines, appointments, personal illness, etc.
  • Refuse to equate your human imperfections with failure.
  • Make a new "to do" list for tomorrow and realize tomorrow is another day to do your best.
  • Get a good night's sleep: you will be more alert, focused, and productive for tomorrow's tasks.

(Amy Jarmon)

October 20, 2018 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Lawyers in Academic Support: Part I

One thing that distinguishes law school culture from that of many other professional schools is the high percentage of people in student services who already possess the degree most of their students are trying to obtain.  I have never done an exhaustive analysis (but woo hoo! Research opportunity!), but in my personal experience the majority of people working in law schools in the areas of Academic Support or Career Services are law school graduates, and so are a fair number of people working in areas like Admissions and Libraries.  A quick dive into the Internet suggests that medical schools and business schools do not hire their own graduates for student services at nearly the same frequency.  In fact, when I checked out the staff of five med school Academic Support units and five law school Academic Support units, no one in the med school units possessed an M.D., but each member of the law school units possessed a J.D.

There are no doubt many forces pushing towards this odd result for law schools.  One that is practically taken for granted is the idea that someone who already possesses a J.D. is far better positioned than anyone else to really understand what new J.D. students are actually going through.  Part of this assumption is perfectly practical: people who already have their law degree have presumably already learned all the elements unique to the practice of law.  We can “think like a lawyer”; we can wield IRAC without effort; we understand federalism and common law and stare decisis and all the idiosyncrasies that our students have to contend with while navigating the rigors of study, time management, and exams.  This is not to say that non-lawyers couldn’t provide wonderful support to law students.  There is just a general belief that lawyers have a head start on understanding the context into which everything fits.

At the same time, law school alumni are apt to think that they can understand what law students are going through because the alumni were students once, too.  We remember the dread of our first cold call in class; we remember plodding through civil procedure and constitutional law; we remember trying to juggle classes and law review and OCI all at the same time.  Like military veterans of different eras, maybe we didn’t fight on the same battlefield, but our students don’t have to tell us what it’s like, man.  We know.

Except . . . we don’t always know.  We know a lot of things, to be sure; for me, not a day goes by that I don’t relate some student’s challenge to one of my experiences in law school.  Education is always a boon.  But the longer I do this work, the more I find that I have to work to find out what my students’ present experience is really like.  This is in part because law school is always changing and evolving.  Each class’s relationship to electronic research, for example, is just a little bit different from that of the previous class.  Economics change, student populations change, hot button issues change.  But these big changes, I think we do a fairly good job of staying on top of.  In fact, sometimes it seems Academic Support is ahead of the curve, and can help bring other members of the law school community – for example, those whose specialties do not change much from year to year – up to speed on them.

What I really find myself having to pay more attention to each semester is my students’ day-to-day realities.  Some of the mistakes I made when I first started providing academic support came about because I was taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach, and only with experience did I realize that it was really more like “one-size-fits-me”.  I was teaching to my experience in law school.  

Now, I am no longer satisfied knowing what classes my 1L students are taking each semester – I need to ask their individual professors for their syllabi, so I can know what topics they are hearing about each week, so I don’t assume that their Torts professor started off, like mine, with intentional torts, and therefore so I don’t pose a hypothetical that half my class can’t answer.  I try to participate in student club events, like fundraisers or dinners, so I can hear about mundane practical issues – things like parking and child care and the timing of holidays – that I never thought about in school, but some of my students have to.  I talk to other faculty and staff to find out the schedule of moot court and mediation competitions, visits from employers, and off-campus learning opportunities – stuff I was not particularly interested in myself when I was in law school – so I can better understand why a particular student might be coming to talk to me about a certain writing or time management issue.  I seek opportunities to listen to students who come from different locations, cultures, and economic circumstances, so I can be aware of what going to law school now is like for them.

Being a lawyer means having been a law student, and having been a law student can be a tremendous advantage when your job is to help other law students.  But having been a law student does not mean you have been all law students. 

(Bill MacDonald)

October 2, 2018 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Miscellany, Professionalism, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Your Academic Health Maintenance Organization

I used to be so jealous of the Financial Aid Office.  Nobody on campus seems to have any trouble understanding what they do for students.  If you have financial issues, they are there to aid you.  That's some spot-on branding right there.

In contrast, and for various historical, linguistic, and cultural reasons, those of us working in Academic Support often have to make more effort to get students, colleagues, and alumni to understand the full range of what we do.  Our roles in the law school community are relatively new, and have been for the most part continually evolving over the past forty years or so; neither circumstance breeds familiarity.  The names chosen for our departments vary from institution to institution -- Academic Support, Academic Success, Academic and Bar Support, etc. -- which I think both reflects and compounds the inherent inability of trying to convey all we do in only two to four words.  And in some cases people jump to conclusions about what we provide because of defensive or dismissive stereotypes -- like "Oh, you are here just to help the weaker students" or "All you care about is bar passage rates".

This year, I started using a new model to help my law school community understand and talk about what Academic Success has to offer.  I introduced this during Orientation, when I asked our incoming 1L students: When do you go to your doctor?  It did not take much coaxing to get them to agree that sensible people go to the doctor for lots of different reasons -- some dire, and some propitious:

  • When you are in a lot of distress, maybe even an emergency situation, your doctor can help keep you from suffering or dying.
  • When you have a cold or, say, a sprained ankle -- something you might live with, sure, but why suffer needlessly? -- your doctor can help you feel and perform better.
  • When you feel a little “off” but you're not sure why, your doctor can test for things like anemia or allergies, and diagnose and treat such afflictions before they snowball into major problems.
  • When are feeling fine, and you want to keep from getting sick, your doctor can give you a checkup to confirm that all is well, can advise you about what preventative medicines might be wise, like a flu shot, and can make sure that you have access to them. 
  • When you are thinking about undertaking something new (like a new exercise or diet regimen), your doctor can help make sure you do it right and maybe even give you some advice on how to do it better.

In the same way, there are many situations in which it would make perfectly good sense for a law school student to seek help from Academic Success:

  • When you are in crisis, you might be recommended or even required to meet with me, so I can try to help you avoid academic catastrophe.
  • When you feel you are struggling with a particular task or subject, Academic Success can help you get a better handle on things and help you perform better.
  • When you are worried about your progress or preparedness, but you can't put your finger on why, Academic Success can review your work and then provide some diagnosis, feedback, and assistance.
  • When things seem to be going well, but you know that new challenges (like your first set of 1L final exams or the Bar exam) are on the horizon, Academic Success can help confirm that you have developed a firm foundation and can help you map out what steps you should take to prepare.
  • When you are thinking about undertaking something new (like moot court or a part-time job), Academic Success can help you make sure you have a plan in place to make sure your studies continue to go well, and may even have some suggestions to help improve your performance.

In other words, one way of thinking about Academic Success is as a kind of Academic HMO.  Sure, we are here to help students in distress, and there is no more shame is seeking our help than there would be in going to the emergency room if you were having trouble breathing.  But that doesn't mean you have to wait until you're gasping and blue to come see us!  Just as with physical health, academic health is often best maintained, and at the least cost, when symptoms are addressed early, before they turn into crises.  And with our knowledge and experience, we can even advise students who are in good condition about how to continue to improve while avoiding potential dangers to their academic well-being.

I like this metaphor, not only because it provides an easily-understood conception of Academic Support to incoming students, but also because it conveys an appropriately broad image of the services we provide (and the clientele to whom we provide them) to upper class students, faculty, and alumni who might otherwise have a more narrow view of us.  It is too soon to tell if this explanation will lead to a change in the use of Academic Success here, but at least now, with a vivid, coherent way of explaining what I do, I feel a little bit less envious of my Financial Aid colleagues. (Bill MacDonald)

September 25, 2018 in Advice, Miscellany, Orientation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

How Undergraduates Think About Law School

Inside Higher Ed had a post this week reporting on a AALS and Gallup study that looked at what undergraduates consider when they are mulling over the option of law school. Some of the findings are expected after the ongoing discussions during the drop in applications. Other findings are interesting, especially those about first-generation students, information down the educational pipeline, and male/female differences. The post is found here. It includes a link to the AALS web page on the report. (Amy Jarmon)

September 23, 2018 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Is your school interested in being a conference host for AASE?

Hello, ASP colleagues:

As we begin planning in earnest for next summer’s conference in Seattle, AASE’s Executive Committee is beginning to think about subsequent conferences, including a diversity conference in the fall of 2019, the AASE Annual Conference in 2020, and beyond.  From our first conference, we have been fortunate enough to partner with amazing host schools, and we want to make sure we have every opportunity to continue that streak.   

We are trying to identify schools to host future conferences, large or small, and we need your help.  Whether you have considered hosting a conference before or not, we would love to hear from you.

To this end, I am writing to ask you to e-mail me if you think your school might be a good site for a future conference.  It is okay if you are unsure if your school would be a good fit—we will follow up with you to get further details and/or to answer any questions you might have. 

We look forward to hearing from you soon!



Russell A. McClain


AASE: Association of Aademic Support Educators

September 15, 2018 in Meetings, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 25, 2018

It's That Time of Year Again: Beloit's Mindset List for Freshmen

Every fall for a number of years, Beloit College has published a list for incoming freshmen as to what their life experiences have been. Many of the things that their professors remember as part of the culture and history of our everyday lives are beyond the ken of the new freshmen. It is a good reminder as to why law students may look at us blankly when we use examples containing cultural references they are unaware of from their own experiences. To read the Inside Higher Ed post on this year's list for the Class of 2022 freshmen, go to the following: 2018 Beloit List. To see lists for prior classes of entering freshmen who are now our own students, you can go to this link: Prior Lists for Entering Freshmen. (Amy Jarmon)

August 25, 2018 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The ASPer as "Parson"

When I was growing up, the Random House Unabridged Dictionary held the place of honor in our home.  Lying resplendent on a huge dictionary stand, it invited a curious child to spend hours poring over exotic new words and exclaiming over the origin of familiar words.  Even many decades later, it is a treat to cap off a pleasant evening by perusing my dictionary to contemplate words and their etymology.

Thus is was that, several years ago, I learned that "parson" -- that lovely and rather antiquated term for a Protestant minister -- derived from the Middle English persone for "person."  Intrigued, I did a little digging.  Not surprisingly, some explanations for why a minister / priest / vicar / curate / rector (choose your favorite term) would be referred to as a "person" were lengthy, theological, and dull.  But I stumbled across one article that resonated with me.  The parson's calling, this interpretation suggested, was indeed to just be -- a person.  In a society where people were defined by pedigree, social rank, and how they made a living, the parson's role was to be a person to everyone in the parish, high or low, rich or poor.  Performing rites like baptism, weddings, and funerals was really just a way of being a person in relationship with others -- welcoming the birth of a child, celebrating the ties of love and family, and mourning with the bereaved.  The hallmarks of a parson, this article concluded, were listening much, grounding advice in the individual's particular circumstances, and always treating others as individuals worthy of respect.

I long ago lost this article about the parson as a professional "person," but it influenced and still guides the way I approach the profession of academic support.  I believe our highest and best calling as ASPers is to be a "parson" -- that is, to give primary emphasis to being a person in relationship to our students.  As ASPers, we have the training, education, and experience to help our students succeed.  But as Steven Foster pointed out last week, we can share our expertise best if we establish a relationship with our students first.

Moreover, we are often most effective when, by deep listening, we give students leave to follow their own best instincts rather than trudging along doing what they have convinced themselves they "should" do.  I think, for example, of the times struggling students have confided they are having trouble concentrating because a loved one is dying several hundred miles away.  Sometimes the best response is, "Don't you want to go home to be with your family?  I can help arrange things with your professors."  Given permission to honor their responsibilities as human beings, when they return to school they are then ready to concentrate and learn.

Listening much, grounding advice in the individual's particular circumstances, and always treating others as individuals worthy of respect are the hallmarks of an academic support professional -- the "parson" of the law school.  (Nancy Luebbert)

August 22, 2018 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Start Out Fall Semester Right with Wellness and Balance

It is very easy with the excitement and busyness of a new semester to develop some bad habits or lose some good ones. First-year students especially are likely to feel pulled in a million directions by the new experiences and expectations of law school. Not only do 1Ls need to learn new study strategies, but they often need to cope with a new city, first apartment, and increased responsibilities for daily chores. 2Ls and 3Ls may have gotten out of the study-life routine over the summer while they slid into a 9 to 5 summer clerkship routine of evenings and weekends off.

It does not take long for the workload to become a bit overwhelming, and for life-law-school balance to get out of whack. Students start burning the proverbial candle at both ends. Before long, late nights, junk food, and caffeine jitters seem unavoidable. A downward spiral begins: stress, fatigue, lack of motivation, sadness, and more.

By implementing some simple steps for wellness and study-life balance at the beginning of the semester, law students can avoid that overwhelmed feeling and the downward spiral. Consider these steps as "preventative medicine" for law students:

  • Set up a weekly routine with blocks of time marked off for study tasks for each course (class prep, outlines, review, practice questions, other assignments) as well as for life's tasks (laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, errands). If you are married or have children, life tasks may include family dinners, bedtime stories, and other tasks. By having repetitive blocks already scheduled to cover all of these tasks, you see where you will get things done.
  • Enter 7-8 hours of sleep per night into your schedule blocks. Proper sleep combats fatigue, stress, depression, and lack of motivation. Proper sleep increases focus, concentration, productivity, retention/recall, and mental agility.
  • Enter blocks into your schedule for meals. Proper nutrition combats fatigue, stress, depression, hypoglycemia, and more. Proper nutrition supports brain function. Planned meal times aid digestion and relaxation.
  • Enter blocks into your schedule for exercise. Exercise not only has physical benefits, but it does wonders for combating stress. You only need 30 minutes 5 times a week to get the boost.
  • Enter blocks into that weekly routine for "down time" when you have permission to relax fully because you have already completed the other tasks for the week in the scheduled blocks. Most law students want the most down time Friday and Saturday nights, but it varies with lifestyle. Knowing you will have time off provides greater motivation to get things done to enjoy guilt-free time off. Scheduled down time also allows spouses and children to plan fun activities with you.
  • Complete meal prep on the weekends as much as possible. You will save time during the week while avoiding the temptations of junk food. Cook a main entree that will last several nights in a crockpot. Cut up raw fruit and vegetables for healthy snacks during the week. Make sandwiches ahead in single-serve containers to grab and go. Portion out nuts, raisins, trail mix for energy snack packs.
  • Group errands together by location. Grocery shop when the store is less crowded. Spread laundry or cleaning over several different days or weeks (Saturday clothes laundry and Sunday sheets and towels laundry; dust one Saturday and vacuum the next Saturday).
  • Use a "to do" list to prioritize the tasks for the time blocks you have in your schedule for the day. The class prep for Contracts block translates to "read pages 28-41 and complete problems 5-7" on your daily list. You know exactly what tasks need completion and lower your stress as you cross tasks off your list.
  • Take small breaks throughout the day to practice relaxation, meditation, or mindfulness. These mini-breaks can rejuvenate your body and mind.

If you take control over these basic areas of your life, law school falls into place and allows you balance. You do not have to fall victim to the often-heard rant that "law school does not allow time for anything else." (Amy Jarmon)


August 19, 2018 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Contamination of Student Assessment

An interesting post on Inside Higher Ed by Jay Sterling Silver (St. Thomas Law) arguing that professors who factor class attendance, participation in/preparation for class, and extra credit in their grading are not being fair to students in this age of outcomes assessment. The link to the post is below. (Amy Jarmon)


August 18, 2018 in Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Can Older Non-Traditional Students Fit In? Absolutely!

Most of our law schools are seeing more non-traditional students arriving in our first-year classes. For many law schools, non-traditional students are still in a minority within the classroom when only a full-time program is available.

Those who are in their late 20's or early 30's tell me that they "feel different" and worry whether they have forgotten how to study and whether they will be accepted by those straight out of undergraduate education. And, because they have had jobs through which they were recognized for leadership and competence, they often state they feel a bit incompetent initially as they grapple with different law school study strategies. They may also have spouses and children to consider as they balance law school and life which makes their experience different from most younger students.

But even with these differences, many of the non-traditional students in these age groups will not "stand out" to their classmates as particularly older once they don the casual law student dress. They will blend pretty seamlessly into the whole. (And even when they show up with children in tow, many law students who are missing their own younger siblings, nieces, and nephews will delight at the chance to babysit while mom/dad goes to class or attends a meeting.)

The over-40 non-traditional students are the ones who most often have conversations with me about whether they will "fit in" and whether they will be "outsiders" among their much younger classmates. Today it is not unusual for law students to start in their 40's, 50's, or 60's after first careers. Most of them look older physically - they have earned those wrinkles or gray hairs. Even donning casual garb will not hide the fact that they are older. Their concerns about remembering how to study and feelings of initial incompetence are usually double or triple compared to their non-traditional colleagues in their 20's and 30's. After all, most of these older students have been out of a classroom for 20 years or more and were the supervisors and managers who "knew how to do it all" in past careers.

The good news is that older non-traditional students do fit in and are welcomed by members of their first-year class. Older non-traditional students often remark that "it is all about attitude." Here are some tips for transitioning from older non-traditional students with whom I have worked:

  • Make the first move to be friendly. Law students who are much younger may not know how to start the conversation because they see you as more accomplished and worldly.
  • Be humble about your accomplishments. You have garnered lots of accolades, titles, and professional recognition in your prior non-law life. Unless you are put on the spot with a pointed question, understatement is probably best initially to put others at ease.
  • Use your experience to be a role model for collegiality, not competition. Be supportive, encouraging, and helpful when you can. Ask for help when you need it. Let others know that you consider yourself one of their colleagues and value collegiality.
  • Participate in class with relevant examples from your experiences when those comments can add to the discussion or move the class forward. Be careful not to gratuitously tout your expeiences, however.
  • Volunteer in class when others do not, but do not become the "crutch" allowing your fellow students not to prepare because they know you will always be prepared. You may indeed know the answers most days, but they need to be challenged to participate as well.
  • Join law school organizations and participate in some of the events of your 1L class. You may have less free time because of family commitments, but devote some time to law school life outside the classroom.
  • Your main cadre of friends may be other older non-traditional students, but stay open to friendships with a variety of students. Law school organizations, study groups, and other opportunities will be available to expand your friendships.
  • Realize that, depending on your actual age, you may become a "big brother/sister, mom/dad" figure for some of your classmates. That is actually a compliment. Your experience and advice are being recognized. You may be just the mentor that someone younger needs.
  • Be yourself. If jeans and a T-shirt are not your style, dress as you are comfortable - even if it is dressier than your colleagues. If loud parties are not your thing, avoid them and join in at other times. If family outings are your relaxation, ask others to meet your family and join in the fun.
  • Be sensitive to your law school's etiquette. Some professors call everyone "Mr" and "Ms" and want to be addressed as "Professor" no matter the student's age category. Other professors use first names freely with older students (or all students). Let the professor/administrator indicate the desired form of address to avoid an unintentional faux pas.
  • Be patient with yourself as you master legal study. Do not compare yourself to "quick, young minds" or lament "I wish I did this years ago." You are learning a new language, a new way to think, a new way to write, and a new way to be tested. You are reviving academic skills that might be rusty and learning new study strategies.

Law school over-40 can be a wonderful ride. Many legal concepts link to your practical life experiences: apartment leases, real estate purchases, car loans, employment contracts, income tax returns, drafting wills, and more. You challenge yourself to new ways of seeing the world around you. You discover specialty legal areas and possible legal career paths you never knew existed. You have a break of sorts between careers. You meet classmates who will be life-long friends and professional colleagues. (Amy Jarmon)

August 12, 2018 in Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Can Growth Mindset Interventions Help?

Education Week posted this week about a new analysis of 10 studies dealing with growth mindset interventions for those age 7 to adulthood. The analysis suggested that teaching students how their brains change over time may help them understand that intelligence is not static but can be developed. The Canadian research noted increases in motivation, academic achievement, and brain activity. The link to the post is Education Week, and the correct link for the new study is Trends in Neuroscience and Education. The results of this Canadian research are contrary to a previous U.S. study (mentioned in the post) that found growth mindset interventions were not effective and that some earlier studies had not followed best practices: Science Daily. (Amy Jarmon)

August 11, 2018 in Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Please help! It's Not Too Late to Complete the AASE Survey!

Law school contacts who had not completed the survey for AASE for their law schools prior to the AASE conference were emailed in June with the information on the restructuring of the survey to make it easier to complete. The new deadline was set for 11:59 p.m. on Friday, August 10, 2018. All schools should still use 2017-2018 information to complete the survey.

Thank you to the 60 law schools that have completed the survey already! A list of the schools that had completed the survey by Wednesday, August 1st is below. If your school completed after that date and is not listed, thank you for your completion!

If you do not see your school on the list of completed schools, please ask the ASP/bar person at your school to complete the survey. The data collected will be most useful if a high number of law schools complete the survey.

Remember all information from the survey will be reported in the aggregate; no individual school's information will be identified. Also, if there is a question that you are unable to answer, just leave that question blank and complete the remainder of the survey.

Problems in completing the survey? If your ASP/bar person has changed over the summer, we can re-send the survey to the new person if you notify Amy Jarmon of the change. If you have other problems or questions about the survey, we can also help you with those. Just contact Dr. Amy L. Jarmon at for any assistance you need to complete the survey for your school.

Best regards,

Amy L. Jarmon, Chair AASE Assessment Committee, Texas Tech School of Law


Law Schools Completed as of 8.1.18:


Benjamin N. Cardozo

Brigham Young



California Western

Case Western Reserve

Catholic University

City University of New York

Cleveland Marshall


Florida International

Golden Gate


Indiana - McKinney

Loyola - Los Angeles

New England

New York Law School

North Carolina Central


Northern Illinois

Oklahoma City



Rutgers - Camden and Newark

Santa Clara


Seton Hall

Southern Illinois


St. John's

St. Louis

St. Mary's



Texas Tech

Thomas Jefferson

UC Davis

UC Irvine

UNT Dallas

U of Chicago

U Denver

U of Florida

U of Houston

U of Idaho - Boise and Moscow

U of Kansas

U of Louisville

U of Massachusetts

U of Miami

U of Minnesota

U of Nebraska

U of Nevada Las Vegas

U of New Mexico

U of North Carolina

U of Pittsburgh

U of Tennessee


Washington U

West Virginia U






August 7, 2018 in Miscellany, Program Evaluation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 4, 2018

New Study Disputes a Commonly Held Student Belief Regarding ADHD Drugs

It is a commonly held student belief among many non-ADHD undergraduate and graduate students that ADHD drugs will help them improve focus as well as their performance and neuro-cognition. Illegally obtained ADHD medications are used by non-ADHD students to get a competitive edge. Inside Higher Ed recently posted about a new study that suggests that this student myth about performance is inaccurate.

The pilot study was small and needs to be replicated. Increased focus and attention from the medications did not translate into better reading comprehension or fluency and actually negatively influenced working memory. Elevation of mood and physiological effects were what would be expected with these drugs. The hyperlink to the post (which includes a link to the study itself) is New Study. (Amy Jarmon)

August 4, 2018 in Disability Matters, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 20, 2018

Has your school completed the AASE survey yet? Reminder: August 10th deadline

Law school contacts who have not completed the survey for AASE yet for their law schools were emailed in June with the information on the restructuring of the survey to make it easier to complete and on the new deadline. The new deadline is 11:59 p.m. on Friday, August 10, 2018 – please use 2017-2018 information still.

If you were previously contacted during April to fill out the survey and did not have time to do so, please check your inbox (and junk mail folder) for the email about the survey that was sent during June.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Amy L. Jarmon at

Best regards,

Amy L. Jarmon, Co-Chair AASE Assessment Committee, Texas Tech School of Law

Karen M. Harkins, Co-Chair AASE Assessment Committee, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

July 20, 2018 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Don't Forget: Extension of the AASE Survey Deadline to August 10th

Law school contacts who have not completed the survey for AASE yet for their law schools were emailed in June with the information on the restructuring of the survey to make it easier to complete and on the new deadline. The new deadline is 11:59 p.m. on Friday, August 10, 2018 – please use 2017-2018 information still.

If you were previously contacted during April to fill out the survey and did not have time to do so, please check your inbox (and junk mail folder) for the email about the survey that was sent during June.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Amy L. Jarmon at

Best regards,

Amy L. Jarmon, Co-Chair AASE Assessment Committee, Texas Tech School of Law

Karen M. Harkins, Co-Chair AASE Assessment Committee, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

July 15, 2018 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Some Miscellaneous Resources

Over the semester, I collect resource suggestions from law students, faculty members, ASP colleagues, and my browsing of the Internet. Here are some apps and websites that may be helpful to you or your students:

Procrastination Killer - a free software that uses the 10 minutes of focused work - 2 minutes of break time repeated 5 times an hour to produce 1 hour's focused work; the task does not have to be completed in 10 minutes and can be spread over time to accommodate longer tasks; knowing one has to focus for only 10 minutes will (at least in theory) get the procrastinator working; the hope is that regular use of the app will change the procrastinator's habits, and the person will no longer take breaks every 10 minutes

Rescue Time - the free lite version tracks time in websites and apps, allows you to set goals, issues weekly email reports on your website/app time; keeps a 3-month report history; for the premium paid version with a free 14-day trial you gain: tracking of time away from the computer; blocking of distracting websites; alerts on achieving daily goals; more reports and filters, and unlimited report history

Freedom - blocks apps and websites; can sync across devices; one-month, yearly, and forever pricing levels

Planner Pad Organizers - suggested to me by Kathy Thompson at Roger Williams; this weekly planner has pages divided into a top categorize section to list everything that needs to be done during the week in categories of your choosing, a prioritize section to distribute those tasks across daily lists, and a schedule section that looks like a regular daily planner calendar where you enter task time each day interspersed with your appointment/meeting slots; the planner also has monthly and yearly sections and other features for notes, expenses, and contacts.

Sleep Cycle - suggested by a student; this app monitors your sleep cycles during the night and then uses an alarm that "snoozes" over a 30-minute period to wake you before your set alarm time; the "how it works" page on the website explains the reasoning behind the app and how to use it correctly

If you have apps and websites that you recommend for resources, please send me suggestions. (Amy Jarmon)



July 14, 2018 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)