Sunday, May 29, 2022
Did you know that the collective noun for a group of magicians is an “illusion?” I believe that Academic Support Professionals are the magicians of law school academics, not because we engage in sorcery, but because we do so much hard work behind the scenes that it seems like things just happen.
Last week, I was lucky to be able to share the tricks of the trade (with the best community of colleagues ever!) at the 9th Annual AASE Conference at the lovely St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas and on Zoom! I already knew that ASP folks are the hardest-working, kindest, and most generous people. I was also aware that we are supreme innovators. In short, the brain power in the sessions at our conference could have provided enough energy for the entire state of Texas. And it would have been a clean, renewable source of power!
It was amazing to be in the company of people who truly understand the work—and the flip side of doing so much important work often without having job security or recognition. I know that I am extremely fortunate that my law school is supportive and offers long-term contracts with options for more security, as well as funding for scholarship and conferences. Yet, academic support and bar prep are often seen as—oh wait, actually, we are often not seen at all…
At a faculty meeting last week, after what I consider a big win that added a DEI course graduation requirement, we moved on to an agenda item that tangentially dealt with tenure policy. During this discussion, a tenured, doctrinal faculty member referred to people who had our (ASP and other non-tenure track) faculty status as “faculty with a small f.” As in, essentially, lower case “f” faculty should very clearly not be allowed to vote on tenure policy changes. Yes, I had a big F reaction to that. That was more than just rain on my parade, it was a full-on blizzard: cold and windy. Following my glorious moment in the sun, I was returned to my cubby crumpled and dirty like a kindergartener’s lunchbox after recess.
It is moments like this that make a national conference of all the law school thaumaturges even more imperative for the survival of our profession. We need to work together to collectively ask that the curtain be pulled back so that our doctrinal colleagues can see the work that is often going on out of their sight. There is no magic in what we do, just a lot of hard work that should be transparently visible.
A huge thank you to Afton Cavanaugh and the team at St. Mary’s for solving the huge logistical puzzle that this hybrid conference must have presented!! It was glorious and I am truly enriched by the endless magnificence of this community. I am already looking forward to next year’s 10th annual AASE conference at Santa Clara Law.
And finally, did you know that the collective noun for a group of doctrinal professors is known as a “pomposity?”
 Texas is huge! I knew it was big before, but I really had not understood it until I was there.
 A presumptively renewable contract-but not tenure.
 I was the leader on this effort, and I am crazy excited that it really happened!
 Silently-but I am originally from the Bronx. I’ll just leave it at that.
 Those who don’t already know-there are always going to be allies in every school!!
 May 23-25, 2023-save the dates!
Friday, May 20, 2022
The Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University seeks applicants for the position of Associate Director of Bar Programs. This position presents an opportunity to become a member of a vibrant and supportive law school community that embraces innovation and advancement. The posting is located here.
The Associate Director will report to the Director of Academic Success and will assist in designing and implementing the bar preparation aspects of Pace’s well-established Academic Success Program.
Create and implement programs for bar exam success, including workshops, classes, peer support programs, and individual counseling.
Teach classes for third-year students preparing for the bar exam.
Work in the summer and winter Supplemental Bar Skills Program, including teaching and grading written work.
Oversee and train alumni mentors who work in the post-graduation bar exam mentorship program.
Provide administrative support to the department and the Director, including student tracking and data analysis assessing the efficacy of bar programming.
Implement new services relevant to enhancing our students’ performance on the bar exam. Work closely with JD and LL.M students, and law faculty.
Perform other such duties as assigned from time to time.
J.D. degree, law firm, or similar experience.
Excellent writing and speaking skills.
Membership in at least one bar, a strong academic record, and a desire to work closely with students and faculty.
Prior academic support experience, teaching experience (e.g., legal writing), membership on law review or moot court, and counseling skills are preferred.
Thursday, May 19, 2022
After a couple of very difficult years for our students, ourselves, and the world, author Elizabeth Bernstein writes: "Now, it's time to push ourselves outside our comfort zone." Bernstein, E., "It's Time to Restore Excitement to Your Life," Wall Street Journal (May 18, 2022). But how?
Well, Bernstein suggests taking a few chances in your life to be, well, different, challenged, growing, or, to put it in my own words, a bit quirky. That doesn't mean that you have to quit your job and go tackle Mount Everest but it does mean that change requires, well, change. It requires us to take a courageous step to try something new. And, because that something is new, it will be uncomfortable. But living a life of comfort is not necessarily the best life of all, for us or our students, because living in comfort means that we are not being challenged and growing.
As a start, Bernstein suggest picking out some small adventures. Perhaps having a conversation with someone that you're uncomfortable with (for me its bosses). Or perhaps it's saying hello to the person behind the counter at the coffee shop and asking them about how they are doing. Maybe its just a smile (because a smile is never, frankly, just a smile). Those little things, you'll never know for sure, might be just what the "doctor ordered" to help someone else have a bit of a brighter day.
You see, adventures are not meant to be lived alone. Or, as someone from church recently told me, love without relationship is no love at all. So, love boldly. Live courageous. And, if you see me at the upcoming AASE conference, feel free to invite me to share in an adventure with you. I could use a helping hand. We call could, I suspect. (Scott Johns).
With the move to the Next Generation bar exam, here's an interesting chart, produced using data from the ABA and printed by the State of California, that might caution about placing too much trust in numbers to do the hard work of measuring competency to practice law.
So let's take a closer look. What do you see? On the horizontal access, we see cut scores for the jurisdictions varying from low too high. On the vertical access, we see attorney discipline rates corresponding with those jurisdictions. Except for the two outliers, North Dakota and South Carolina, the chart suggests that bar exam cut scores have no apparent relationship in lowering rates attorney discipline claims. Or, as the State of California put it:
What the scatter plot shows is that attorney discipline – as measured by private and public discipline per thousand attorneys – appears to have no relationship to the cut score. With so many states using 135 for their cut score, the details of the Figure can be somewhat difficult to tease out. The big picture, however, is clear. At a cut score of 135 the rate of attorney discipline ranges from a low of 1.9 per thousand in West Virginia to 7.9 per thousand in Tennessee. Looking across the entire range of cut scores we see strikingly similar rates of attorney discipline in states with cut scores from 130 – Alabama – all the way to 145 – Delaware. California’s rate of discipline (2.6 per thousand) is just over one-half (55 percent) the rate of discipline in Delaware (4.7 per thousand). Given the vast differences in the operation of different states’ attorney discipline systems, these discipline numbers should be read with caution. But based on the data available, it raises doubts as to whether changing the cut score would have any impact on the incidence of attorney misconduct. As with the research conducted by professors Anderson and Muller, this measure of “misconduct” is admittedly limited to cases where misconduct is detected, reported, and sanctioned. There is however currently no better measure of the actual incidence of attorney misconduct or, more importantly, of public protection.
Granted, as California recognizes, attorney misconduct is perhaps a poor proxy for whether bar exam cut scores relate to attorney competency. But make not mistake. Bar exam cut scores, by nature of their very arbitrariness, likewise are imperfect proxies for measuring attorney competency.
Why is this important?
Well because state supreme courts are now in pitched conversations about whether to adopt the s0-labeled "Next Generation" bar exam. The chart below suggests caution because it's easy to place confidence in numbers, more confidence that they deserve, like a friend who has betrayed one's trust. As a person trained in mathematics, count me as a skeptic. Just picking a number out of "thin air," as the range of cut scores suggest, doesn't compute, in my book, as the proper way to judge whether one is competent to practice law. So as jurisdictions contemplate big changes to a possible next exam format in several years, let's hold them accountability for the math. Our students and the public at large deserve nothing less. (Scott Johns).
 Final Report 2017 Studies, The State Bar of California, available at: https://www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/reports/2017-Final-Bar-Exam-Report.pdf (last accessed Sep. 16, 2021).
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Voting is now open! I encourage all AASE members to vote for our slate of candidates, as well as bylaw changes. To view the full list of candidates and cast your vote, visit this link: https://associationofacademicsupporteducators.org/nominations-2022-2023/
Voting is completely anonymous, however, you must be logged into your AASE account to vote. Don’t forget to scroll to the end so you can vote for ALL positions, as well as our bylaw changes.
Voting will close on Tuesday, May 24th at 6pm Eastern/5pm Central.
Also, as a reminder, there is still time to register for the AASE conference next week - in person or remote! Afton Cavanaugh has done such an amazing job planning everything, and it is sure to be a phenomenal time. If you have any questions, let us know! I'm so excited to see many of you! Register here: https://associationofacademicsupporteducators.org/events/2022-ninth-annual-aase-conference/
Monday, May 16, 2022
I am on the precipice of turning in all my final grades for the spring. I am looking forward to taking a much-needed break before my summer class begins…on Wednesday. What will I do with my abundant “free time” besides walking the dog, feeding the children, laundry, and saving the universe? I’ll probably go through the survey I sent my summer students and pull out the important information to prepare for class.
For the past few summers, I have taught a class for incoming accelerated JD students which is basically a law school success bootcamp. We only meet for six sessions and the class is one credit (pass/fail), but these students are taking their first semester of law school (with a different curriculum than non-accelerated students) over the summer. They will have midterms around the time we are having BBQs, so they need to be quickly brought up to speed. There isn’t a lot of time, so I carefully plan the syllabus and try to get to know students ahead of time by posting a survey.
I always like sending a survey to students before class begins (accelerated or not) because that way I can ask for pronouns and nicknames early. I’ve recently rephrased my nickname question from: “I should call you,” to, “What would you like me to call you?” I did this mainly because every semester at least one student would write their cell phone number in the box below when I used the former phrasing. It did make me wonder if they really wanted me to phone them and I was disappointing them by just chuckling at how literal they were being.
I try to ask some fun questions, like TV shows they have recently loved and whether they have food allergies (I like to bake for my students without harming them). I also ask if there is anything I need to know about them-and offer both some multiple-choice options and a blank box for “other.” They can check all that apply. One of the choices I offered this summer was, “I have recently been abducted by aliens and enrolling in law school was a condition of my release.” I got 11/21 checks on that box, so I am thinking this will be a fun group. I also got some important pieces of information: I have a lot of students who have been out of school for a while, a bunch have children or parents they are caring for at home, one is pregnant, and one has a degree in musical theater (which is great to keep in mind for when I finally get to stage “ASP: The Musical”).
My final survey question was new for this class. Since we have limited time together, I want to be sure I can offer as much support as possible (support is our middle name, after all). So, I asked, “My most pressing question about this class, or law school in general, is…” and put a text box below for their questions. Here are a few of the questions I got (almost every student who answered the survey had one):
- What is the most important thing to do to succeed?
- What are some common mistakes or missteps you see your students take?
- What proactive steps can I take to ensure that I have a job right after graduation in the field of law I prefer?
- My interests and enthusiasm regarding a particular field/area of law are still quite varied. Is there a typical semester or point in time where most undecideds choose a specific path?
- Will I still be able to have normal life?
- When is a reasonable time in one's law school-career for their anxiety level to decrease to a normal level?
- Are we gonna live?
These are not questions that can be answered with a shrug and a joke about the traditional law school answer being, “it depends,” even though it might be the right answer to some of them. The last three questions in particular need to be carefully addressed at the start, middle, and finish of classes, semesters, and years in law school. A simple: “no”, “maybe never”, and “holy sh*t, I really hope so” just aren’t going to suffice.
So, to roughly paraphrase Phineas and Ferb, I know what I am going to do tomorrow.
 Yes, again, can you believe it? I should really go through the survey question on TV shows and pick something intended for adults….
Sunday, May 15, 2022
Congrats to everyone graduating across the country. Obtaining a J.D. is an amazing accomplishment. You should celebrate your victories, but for most of you, the J.D. is not your final hurdle. You still have 10 more weeks of preparation and one more test. Don't get distracted now. Finish strong on this last obstacle.
I know many students looked at their bar prep schedule and saw a little time before full time studying begins. My advice is to start bar prep early. Every major course pre-recorded all the lectures, so you can start the full course right after graduation. Don't wait until June. You need to study approximately 400 billable hours. Spreading it over 10 weeks increases the likelihood of completing the work. You can also spend extra time on your weak areas later in bar prep if you are ahead.
I hope everyone enjoyed graduation. Congratulate yourself on your accomplishment. Also know, you have the grit to pass the bar. Most of you completed most of law school online or in a hybrid format. You experienced social upheaval while navigating a pandemic. You already overcame obstacles for the opportunity to take the bar exam. Seize your opportunity and finish the summer strong. Good luck!
Monday, May 9, 2022
Two out of my three children are “adults.” One lives on her own in another city, one comes home for college breaks, and the third is a junior in high school. People ask me how I feel about having an empty nest in a year or so, and I tell them this: I am not done parenting, we are just moving into a new phase. I field texts about how to do laundry, or whether to purchase a t-shirt, or even with pictures of dogs in New York that look like our dog here in Massachusetts. I get a lot of cooking and baking questions. There is still a lot of parenting happening, it is just different (and sometimes long-distance). This is where we are with our students after they cross the stage at Commencement.
I love the way graduation is titled in a way that suggests both an ending and a beginning. For our students, it is the end of law school and the beginning of their life….as bar applicants. And hopefully, after that, the beginning of their life as licensed lawyers. While we will all wear our uncomfortable garb and silly hats later this month (or maybe you already have?) to celebrate our students’ achievements thus far, it isn’t the end of the relationship we will have with them.
For our colleagues who are engaged in bar prep, very late July will be when the nest is temporarily empty. The rest of us are hopeful that students will still e-mail, ask for recommendations, or even stop by-although there has been less stopping by lately because of the pandemic. There is still a lot of supporting happening, it is just different (and sometimes long-distance).
So, for anyone feeling like their law school nest is empty, you will be happy to know that there are approximately 105 days until orientation (that is just one more day than Phineas and Ferb got for their summer vacation). And then we commence once again...
Sunday, May 8, 2022
American University Washington College of Law is seeking an Associate Director of Academic Advising & Policy Development. Due to an internal re-organization, this position will join the Office of Academic Excellence and report to the Assistant Dean of Academic Excellence. We are excited to expand our team and look forward to combining our efforts to increase the position’s capacity to support the WCL student experience.
The link to apply and position summary are below.
The Associate Director of Academic Advising is the sole academic advisor for WCL’s 1100 JD students. The person in this position will be responsible for conducting individual academic advising appointments; designing, creating, and delivering programs on academic planning, course selection, and selecting between/among co-curricular activities; and working with the Dean of Students and the Office of the Registrar to assist students in academic jeopardy. In addition, the Academic Advisor is responsible for the development and execution of the 1L Compass program, which serves to orient students to law school in general and WCL in particular.
Friday, May 6, 2022
OCU School of Law is conducting a search for an Assistant Director of Academic Achievement to start on August 1. This position will have an opportunity to teach classes, provide voluntary workshops, and work individually with at-risk students. The Department will have 3 ASPs with programming from pre-matriculation to bar passage. The position description and place to apply is copied below.
Posting and Application Portal: https://jobs.silkroad.com/OKCU/StaffCareers/jobs/1270
The Assistant Director supports the Academic Achievement department to train law students for the rigor of law school, the bar exam, and the practice of law with academic workshops, courses, and individual coaching. The Assistant Director will primarily design and implement workshops for students from pre-matriculation through the second year, supervise Academic Fellows, and provide individual tutoring throughout law school and preparation for the bar exam.
The Assistant Director reports to the Director of Academic Achievement and collaborates with the Student Success Team in other law school departments. The Assistant Director is a member of the School of Law staff. Qualified candidates will be eligible for a faculty appointment as an Instructor.
The planning start date for this position is August 1st.
Duties and Responsibilities:
Demonstrate an attitude that reflects the mission and values of the University and School of Law.
- Collaborate with the Director of Academic Achievement to refine, improve, coordinate and direct the program of academic achievement including, but not limited to the summer admissions program, the academic support program, and the bar preparation program.
- Design and implement academic support programming for first-year students, including skills workshops, the academic fellow program, and outreach to at-risk students.
- Collaborates as a member of the Student Success Team to provide programming and support for the overall goal of improving student success.
- Work with the faculty to integrate academic support programming into first-year classes.
- Coordinate and provide tutoring to students in one-on-one and group settings.
- Develop, coordinate, evaluate, and monitor remediation/study plans and activities for individual students.
- Develop, evaluate, and administer the Academic Fellow program, including supervising the academic fellows.
- Coordinate with other departments on student success initiatives, including implementing individual student success plans.
- Teach skills-focused courses as assigned by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
- Other duties as assigned.
- Excellent academic record (transcripts will be submitted with application materials)
- Superior written, oral, and interpersonal communication skills (writing sample will be submitted with application materials)
- Excellent organizational skills
- Demonstrated proficiency with technology including MS Office Suite, Internet, common software/applications, and the ability to acquire new technology quickly
- Commitment to working with a diverse population of students, faculty and staff
- Sensitivity to students with varied learning styles, disabilities, backgrounds, etc.
- Ability to work under pressure
- Ability to build and maintain a rapport with students
- Skill in presenting information, presentations and delivering instruction
- Ability to collaborate effectively with School of Law faculty and administrators
- Proficiency at project management, planning, and developing goals.
- A Juris Doctor degree from an ABA-accredited law school is required.
- A minimum of six months of experience is required. Experience should be in the areas of academic advising, academic support, teaching (adjunct instruction accepted), and/or tutoring within an ABA-accredited law school.
- A suitable combination of education and experience may be substituted for minimum requirements.
Tuesday, May 3, 2022
Did you see the headlines yesterday? In these ongoing unprecedented times, the fact that a draft of a Supreme Court opinion was leaked ahead of the decision is mind-blowing and surprising. The fact that the current U.S. Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade given the opportunity is not. It is exactly like a tornado or tsunami warning: we can see it coming, and although we cannot be certain about where and when it will hit, it is going to hit. So here we are, huddled and waiting for the storm.
I’ve spent years telling my students that the belief in the rule of law is akin to a collective leap of faith, an almost spiritual way of looking at it. I have explained how the last administration made that leap a riskier venture. Today, the chasm we now need to navigate is wider and may even have sharks swimming in the murky area below. Sigh.
I will admit to thinking that the Roe decision was unnecessarily convoluted when I read it in Con. Law. The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t usually give such numerically bright line rules (the fertile octogenarian, anyone?). I thought such an important case should be clearly written and easily understood, but I loved what it stood for-I loved its place in the timeline of Griswold v. Connecticut, Eisenstadt v. Baird, Planned Parenthood v. Caseyand on to Lawrence v. Texas. But, in all honesty, the right to abortion was barely holding on after Casey, and here we are today.
My first reaction was to ask Amy Coney Barrett to turn in her uterus. I thought she should be banished from the sisterhood for her role in this-and then I stopped. Why am I blaming the only woman who signed on to this? Don’t get me wrong, she is not going to be invited to my birthday party this year (or any year, ever), but my hope that she was one of our own on the inside just because she is a woman wasn’t fair either. Assuming anything-- about anyone-- just because of their gender isn’t right. So, I will despise her actions exactly as much as I despise the actions of the four other justices who have purportedly signed onto this abomination.
I distinctly remember my eldest daughter asking me about abortion when she was about eight (she routinely asked me about really deep things at very inopportune times, usually while I was driving-which as you may know is already a fraught venture in Massachusetts). And I distinctly remember sitting on the edge of her bed, explaining what it was, and telling her that she would never need to worry about it because her body belonged to her.
And now I am a liar.
 Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
 Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965).
 Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972).
 Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey,
505 U.S. 833 (1992). This was the beginning of pulling the teeth of Roe out.
 Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).
Sunday, May 1, 2022
The AALS Section in Balance in Legal Education's General Programming Committee are excited to invite you to participate in the Section's second-annual six-part Summer Speed Idea-Sharing Presentation Series.
Each session will feature a collection of brief presentations highlighting different successful approaches to the implementation of the new ABA Standards for Legal Education, specifically Standards 303(b) (professional identity formation), 303(c) (cross-cultural competency, bias, and racism), and 508(b) (law student well-being resources). The speed presentations will be by Q&A and conversation.
The first session in the series will be Tuesday, May 3 @ 4 pm ET.
Natalie Netzel, Assistant Professor of Law and Co-Director of Clinics, Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Speakers & Presentations:
- Janice Craft, Director of Professional Identity Formation and Assistant Professor of Legal Practice
- Faculty Advising and Professional Identity Formation
- Larry Krieger, Clinical Professor and Co-Director of Clinical Externship Programs, Florida State University College of Law
- Creating a Vision of Possibilities for Joy in the Law
- Lynn Lemoine, Dean of Students, Mitchell Hamline School of Law
- Creating a Community of “Mutual Care”
- Jerry Organ, Bakken Professor of Law and Co-director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St. Thomas School of Law
- Client Counseling Scenario with Reflection
- Katrina Robinson, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Oregon School of Law
- Cross-Cultural Competency Exercise
The links for registration are in the google group.
Assistant Dean of Academic and Bar Success
The Charleston School of Law seeks applications for a full-time Assistant Dean of Academic and Bar Success, responsible for the following:
Prepare and teach a set curriculum for academic and bar success, including orientation and a combination of some of the following courses: Academic Skills (a required 1L course), Legal Skills (a required 2L course that focuses on the MPT and career-focused skills), and Bar Preparation (a required 3L course). Grade and provide feedback to students.
Provide post-graduate bar support and programming, which includes supplemental workshops and one-on-one meetings with graduates as necessary.
Meet with and assist students on academic probation, who are at-risk, or who otherwise seek assistance with success in law school.
Provide leadership in adapting our curriculum and academic success initiatives given rising admissions credentials and the anticipated rollout of the NextGen bar exam in 2026.
Supervise 3 full-time and 1 part-time academic support professionals (who teach a mix of the courses listed above), as well as several adjunct professors and student fellows.
Serve on the Dean's Executive Leadership Team.
Qualifications, Requirements, and Preferred Experience:
A Juris Doctor degree is required.
Bar licensure (active or inactive) in a U.S. jurisdiction is required.
Prior experience in academic support and bar support is required.
Prior experience supervising other academic support personnel is preferred.
Experience teaching academic and bar success courses, such as 1L academic
skills, MPT courses, and bar preparation courses, is preferred.
Knowledge of the NextGen bar exam is preferred.
Good interpersonal skills and a commitment to student success are required.
Experience interpreting and using student success data to drive decision-making
Familiarity with the relevant ABA standards is required.
Complete applications consist of a cover letter and resume. Please send application packages as a single PDF to:
Human Resources Administrator Charleston School of Law
By email to: email@example.com
Or by mail to:
P.O. Box 535 Charleston, SC 29402 Attn: Laura Morse
Review of applications begins immediately. For fullest consideration, please apply by May 15, 2022.
Friday, April 29, 2022
The University of Toledo College of Law seeks to hire an Assistant Professor of Legal Writing, whose courses will focus on academic success and bar preparation. In addition to the nine-month faculty appointment, this person will also serve as the Director of Academic Success and Bar Preparation, making this a 12-month position. The person selected will be responsible for overseeing programs and teaching classes to provide academic support and bar preparation to our students.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, but priority consideration will be given to candidates who apply by May 20, 2022. Inquiries can be directed to Professor Nicole Porter, Chair, Appointments Committee at Nicole.firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications must be submitted through this website.
Tuesday, April 26, 2022
Law schools have not yet fulfilled the Carnegie Report’s call for more formative assessment. One reason for falling short is conflicting narratives about what is “good” formative assessment. One specific narrative seems particularly troublesome: That the only legitimate method for providing formative assessment is for the instructor to sit down with each student and explain their errors. This post pushes back on that narrative.
- Self-critique is more effective than we appreciate.
Most would agree that individualized feedback from an instructor, the expert both on the subject and the way the student will be graded, is most effective. But especially when using a model answer or quality student answer, allowing students to compare their work against the ideal version, doing so not only assists with doctrinal comprehension, legal writing, and exam skills, but also builds metacognitive abilities. Having the capacity to determine one’s own weaknesses is crucially important, as demonstrated by countless studies showing the performance-enhancing effect of improving metacognition.
The assumption that all feedback must come from the instructor certainly undercuts the mission to improve students’ metacognition. When students find themselves professorless during bar study, they will scramble around helplessly if they have absorbed the legal education fable that only professor knows best. Moreover, new lawyers will certainly struggle in the early years of practice when they need to run to the partner/ division chief/ client to do the metacognitive work for them.
Although some students certainly will do a poor job of self-critiquing (“I mentioned res ipsa loquitur just like the model did! I should get full points!”), this is no reason to underappreciate self-critique. First, in my experience, most students DO figure out their weaknesses from this process. While before the self-critique process they think their C-minus should be an A-minus, seeing the student essay that booked the course tends to leave them thinking otherwise. Second, even if the student still does not see the problems, this is where academic support faculty come in. In partnering with doctrinal faculty, academic support faculty can meet with underperforming students and comment not on the law but on the student’s metacognition. This method distributes personnel resources in a way that makes robust feedback more possible, fosters metacognition, demonstrates to students the valuable connection between doctrinal and academic support faculty, and frees up time for doctrinal faculty.
- Calcifying the status quo.
A particular danger with the solely instructor-based feedback narrative is that it preserves the status quo. We all know that formative assessment is lacking in legal education. The principal argument against remedying that problem is that individualized feedback is so time-consuming that one can accomplish little else. When those inclined to pursue efficient formative assessment are then met with the chorus of voices claiming that self-provided feedback is inadequate, they throw the baby out with the bathwater, dismiss formative assessment, and turn back to the same one-final-exam process used since 1877. Therefore, creating this strict dichotomy between individualized feedback and self-provided feedback makes the perfect the enemy of the very good and leaves students with nothing instead of at least something.
None of this is meant to say that instructor-led feedback is unnecessary or inferior. Feedback from course instructors is crucial. But when that type of formative assessment is not feasible, self-critique is a solid option.
There is a lot more to discuss on this subject. Unlike almost all other graduate programs, why do we think that TAs providing feedback is an unspeakable heresy? Why do we almost never use summative assessment as formative assessment by improving the process of post-semester self-critique? (FYI, simply letting students see their exam answers does not accomplish this goal.) Why do we see testing only as formative and summative assessment but not as a learning tool in-and-of itself?
Unfortunately, the time constraints on writing about the time constraints of formative assessments are such that I have to stop tying now. Ironic.
Louis Schulze, FIU Law
 Self-critique without a model answer is possible, too, but I concede that having a model answer is preferable. To those who would avoid providing such an answer because doing so would take time to write or risk being imprecise, I would argue that a simple solution is to release the strongest student answer.
 Metacognition is the process of assessing one’s knowledge: Do I really know the felony murder rule, or do I just think I know it? As I tell my students, it is like hovering over one’s knowledge and objectively scrutinizing one’s real comprehension.
 See generally J.A. Gundlach & J. Santangelo, Teaching and Assessing Metacognition in Law School, 69 J. LEGAL EDUC. 156 (2019) (reporting on empirical study of first-year law students, finding that students who demonstrated strong metacognitive skills were more likely to perform well).
Monday, April 25, 2022
This semester I changed up my assessments for my undergraduate law class. In the past, I had done oral arguments as a final assessment, but after witnessing paralyzing anxiety from more than a couple of students last semester, I decided that I was assessing mental health rather than legal argumentation skills. No one should be graded that way. So, this semester, students are writing a judicial opinion (pretending to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice) in the case of Carson v. Makin. This is a fun case for my undergraduates because it took place here in the First Circuit (nearby in Maine) and it is about high school (also temporally nearby for undergrads). The case is about Maine’s program for students in very rural areas that do not have a local public high school. Maine’s law allows parents to choose another public school in a different district, or a private school so long as the private school meets certain criteria in terms of state required curriculum, attendance, and our sticking point: that the school is “non-sectarian”. The case is a great example of free exercise clause litigation and students are really getting into it, but the very complicated issue of standing is one I have had to take off their plate because it is a bit too much for students who have not taken a course in Federal Courts. Essentially, the plaintiffs are parents who would like to send their kids to sectarian schools but because of the Maine law, they haven’t even tried to use the tuition assistance program. The schools that the parents want to send their children to have not agreed to follow Maine's other requirements either. So, you may be asking, how have they been injured? The attorneys for Maine asked this as well, in more than one case, and each time the District Court and First Circuit found that there was standing because, “[T]he plaintiffs’ injury in fact inheres in their having lost the “opportunity.”" It seems a little like tap dancing in the rain to find standing here, but there it is: a lost opportunity is sufficient injury to get the case before a court.
This decision made me think that we may be injuring our students who are on Academic Warning, Probation, guided curriculum, or whatever your school might call it. We do, of course, intend to help these students in terms of bar readiness and supervision to prevent further academic mishaps. We have a compelling academic interest in having students take this path. Our studies and experience show that it works. I really have no doubt that our process does improve our students’ chances overall. To that end, we have students take bar tested courses like Evidence, Commercial Law, Family Law, and Trusts and Estates once they have a GPA below a certain threshold.
But…these students are required to take another set of large, grade-curved classes that tend to have one high-stakes summative assessment at the end. This might be where things initially went wrong for them, so more of it may just dig the hole deeper for some. We also occupy their schedules with required courses that monopolize their time and credits each semester. Students in academic difficulty do not often get the green light to take a credit overload. There is less space, after satisfying the requirements, for courses that are not bar tested and may have alternate assessment schemes. Students who do well in their first year can then go on to choose courses that allow them to keep up or substantially improve their already good GPAs. Students flagged for warning or probation after the first year have a much harder time moving up in class rankings in subsequent years. Students in academic difficulty know that on-campus recruiting is not going to even consider them. Clinical opportunities may also be lost because of scheduling or because of academic status or both. Some students really need to take the engine apart and put it back together to understand how it works-and some students need to see what lawyering really is to reignite their underlying enthusiasm for continuing in law school. There is a hopelessness we are creating because these opportunities are lost.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that we abandon this process altogether. We do students a grave disservice if they are misled throughout law school to believe that they are on track for bar passage only to fail. We similarly do students no favors by continuing to take their tuition money when law school is clearly not for them. Perhaps, though, we can re-evaluate our methods. There are no easy answers here-just a request to be mindful of students who feel that they are drifting further away even as we are throwing them a lifesaver. They don’t want to just survive; they want the opportunity to get back on the ship.
 Carson v. Makin, 979 F.3d 21 (1st. Cir. 2020)
 Me. Stat. tit. 20–A, § 2(1) (2022).
 Carson, 979 F.3d at 26.
 Id. at 30 (citing Eulitt v. Me. Dept. of Educ., 386 F.3d 344 (1st. Cir. 2004)).
How’s my citation? Call 1-800-Bluebook to report it.
 Is this ideal for bar passage? Perhaps not.
Sunday, April 24, 2022
Loyola Chicago is seeking an Assistant Director of Academic Success and Bar Programs. You can find the posting here. The details are below.
- Counsel individual students to help them improve study and exam-taking skills, specifically those students that may be at risk.
- Assist in overseeing the First Year Academic Tutors
- Assist in developing and teaching academic support program for first year second semester students.
- Providing individual academic counseling to all students and alumni preparing for the bar
- Researching and implementing the most current best practices for bar preparation
- Serving on the Bar Exam Success Committee
- Develop and maintain a high level of knowledge about academic support and bar preparation programs, techniques, and methods.
- Track student success and academic performance for students in academic difficulty and at-risk students.
- Assist with supplemental bar prep program
- Assist with collection and organization of data for long-term assessment of: (a) student participation in Academic and Bar Success programming and course offerings, (b) individual student academic and bar exam performance, and © Loyola University Chicago School of Law retention and bar passage rates.
- Perform other duties in support of the Academic and Bar Success program as assigned by the Director
Friday, April 22, 2022
Thursday, April 21, 2022
Sometimes, if truth be told, we often feel out of place. That was never truer than when - a few years back - I interviewed for my first law school academic job, hoping to earnestly pursue a career as a legal writing professor. As those who know me know, that didn't pan out. But for perhaps not the reasons that you might image.
The interview trip started off uneventful. I flew across the country and the law school put me up in a very nice hotel just a block from campus. All seemed well, that is, until the next morning - the day of the interview.
With an early start, I had a nice breakfast and went back to the room to suit up, so to speak, for the interview, dressed in my finest linens (not really that fine but the best I had). Shirt, socks, pants, etc. With just shoes to go, I sat down on the bed and grabbed my two black shoes. The first one went on smoothly but not the second. You see, I had mistakenly grabbed two black shoes...for two left feet.
Panicked, I tried my best to take a few steps around the room, most uncomfortably. But the show had to go on. So I tumbled out the hotel, hailed a taxi for what was supposed to be a quick walk to campus to try to save my feet as best as possible, and made it to the law school on time for my all-day interview, as you might imagine, a bit tussled.
Frankly, the interview went much better than I expected, that is, until the library tour.
You see, libraries, at least to me, are like big canyons of exploration, with shelves upon shelves of books. With normal shoes, navigating such canyons ought not be too cumbersome. But with two left feet, I wasn't sure I could maneuver. I might just find myself boxed in by an apparently impenetrably canyon. That's because left shoes point right, making right turns quick tame. But if forced to turn left, I thought, I might just have to put myself in reverse and back out. Well, to cut to the chase, I survived the library tour no worse for the wear. All right turns as had it.
Then came lunch.
Now, for those of you not in academics, the lunch talk is whether one gathers before the faculty, with the faculty munching while you are talking, presently some fabulously creative and elucidate lecture on some astonishing topic of interest to legal educators. I gathered my balance and took off full steam ahead with my topic, but I couldn't help notice the stares. Lots of them. And not quite at me at all. Rather, the faculty seemed entranced at staring at my feet.
Not one to be stared at, I just didn't quite know what to say, so I just finally blurted out that, "yes, I have two left feet." Needless to say, in a crowd of academics, that didn't seem to even get a nibble of laughs.
I ended up, to my surprise, getting a job offer but needless to say went elsewhere. But I did learn something important about myself. Not to take myself too seriously. That's it's okay to not be perfectly put together (I never am). That I've sort of made peace with myself that I am just, well, quirky, as one person recently told me.
And I think that is quite good to know because, if the truth be told, there are no ordinary people. There are no normal people. We are all, in some ways and in marvelous ways, out of place but right in place where we belong. As CS Lewis put it, we are all extraordinary.
So as I share this story, I hope it helps you to be at home wherever you find yourself, and that it helps you help others be at home too in your presence and in your communities too. That's something extraordinary wonderful to share with each other. (Scott Johns).