Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Director of Law Success Position at St. Mary's

The Director will be responsible for overseeing the entirety of the Law Success Program and the 14 instructors working in the program, as well as the 6-hour Legal Communication, Analysis, and Professionalism course, the second- and third-year curricular offerings, and extracurricular programming. The application deadline is March 15. Link to the information and application is Director of Law Success.

March 5, 2019 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 4, 2019

Managing Spring Break

Thoughts of Spring Break conjure images of beaches, tropical paradise, and non-stop fun.  Family and friends think the break requires no studying or school work.  For many 1Ls, the reality is setting in that Spring Break is nothing like undergrad spring break.

Spring Break for 1Ls can be daunting.  Many schools have one of the large LRW assignments due at the end of March or first of April.  Classes have mid-terms, and outlines begin lagging behind.  The number of tasks seems overwhelming.  I will suggest a few ideas to ensure the most effective Spring Break.

  1. Rest. I know everything I just listed makes Spring Break seem like another non-stop week.  However, this is the last major break of the semester.  For 1Ls, you won’t get another long break until May.  If you have class on Fridays, then you have a 9 day break.  I suggest taking 2-3 full days off.  Enjoy friends and family.  Do non-law related activities.  Depending on your location, enjoy the weather.  Just don’t worry about law school.
  2. Catch up on outlines. Spend 1 day on each substantive law course outline.  The 1Ls at my school only have 4 substantive law courses because they have LRW II.  Wake up early and treat the day like a normal law school day with approximately 8 hours of work.  Complete 2 tasks when working on the outline.  Create the large synthesized outline with the case illustrations, and begin the small skeletal or attack outline that shows the process for analyzing each issue.
  3. Work on the major LRW assignment. Students should definitely plan to spend time on the LRW assignment.  Creating a good research plan and starting the process is great.  However, the mistake I see many students make is to spend 7-9 days delving deep into LRW.  While I believe LRW is one of the most practical classes in law school, the time tradeoff may not be beneficial.  7-9 days on 1 class probably won’t have as big of a statistical impact on GPA as spending time on each class.
  4. Complete practice questions and seek feedback. Either spend a full day or the hour at the end of each substantive law day writing answers to practice questions.  Contact your professor or Academic Support person to get feedback on the answers. 

Spring break is a great time to catch up.  My suggestion is to spend time on each class getting ready for the stretch run.  You can make adjustments based on how far along you are in each class.  If you are already caught up on some (or all) your outlines, then spending more time on LRW would work.  Be flexible, but make sure you are ready for each class going into the last month.  Hopefully, you can catch some of the fun as well.

(Steven Foster)

March 4, 2019 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Recap of AccessLex Regional Workshop

I attended the Houston session of the 2019 AccessLex Institute Regional Workshops for Law School Administrators. The workshop title was "The More You Know: Delivering Student Success." The one-day workshop was very interesting and worth attending.

This workshop topic is being repeated three more times in different locations: March 19 (Boston), March 21 (New York City), March 26 (Chicago). You can find out more about these events at the AccessLex website under the events tab:

The workshop covered a variety of topics - some directly related to academic support and bar while others gave interesting information that provided institutional and higher education context. The workshop was attended by a diverse group of law school administrators from academic affairs, admissions, financial aid, academic support, bar preparation, career services, and more. The speakers from AccessLex Institute were very knowledgeable and well-prepared. There was plenty of time to ask questions and for members of the audience to comment and share.

The first session presented by Keinan Thompson updated us on the political landscape and legislative proposals. It gave a big picture context to our discussions for the remainder of the day. I had not been following the Prosper and Aim proposals at all closely, so this session gave an interesting background on the Congressional hot spots.

Laura McGhee then discussed the diversity pipeline and its impact on legal education. As the coordinator for my law school's pipeline program with a local high school, some of the data in this session was familiar, but the LSAT and merit scholarship information was particularly interesting. Also some of the resources on the AccessLex website may be helpful to readers: Roadmap to Enrolling Diverse Law School Classes; Diversity Pipeline Research Grant information.

The third session led by Tiffane Cochran was on the importance of data (even for non-data persons) was good information on sources. The Technology Tour over the lunch period also provided addition information on websites that could be helpful for data. AccessLex's Analytix is just one of the databases discussed.

Rob Hunter's session on Raising the Bar was a good reminder for those of us in academic support and bar preparation and a good primer on the challenges for others in attendance. Remember that AccessLex is now providing the Raising the Bar newsletter that is a good resource for ASP/bar professionals.

The financial aid session that Lyssa Thaden presented was informative for context regarding our students' financial challenges. Although I had worked in financial aid a number of years ago, the landscape has changed greatly. I benefited from the information about the student loan ins and outs. You may want to visit the website to learn about the Max financial education program and its resources if you are unfamiliar with that extensive information and partnership.

If you have a chance, make sure you check out resources and events from AccessLex. Many of you will remember Sara Berman, our ASP/bar prep colleague for many years, who is now the Director for Programs for Academic and Bar Success at AccessLex. (Amy Jarmon)


March 3, 2019 in Bar Exam Issues, Diversity Issues, Meetings, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Teaching and Learning Podcasts and Other Information

The weekly teaching newsletter from The Chronicle of Higher Education included information on a list of podcasts on teaching on the Agile Learning Blog written by Derek Bruff, the Director of Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching. The podcasts and other resources on the blog are focused on higher education in general. However, a number of topics are pertinent to any learners and any teachers. You can check out the podcast list and blog at Agile Learner List of Podcasts. (Amy Jarmon)

March 2, 2019 in Learning Styles, Teaching Tips, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 1, 2019

Good News about Learning to Learn

All of us in academic support spend a large portion of our time helping law students learn how to learn. We offer orientation sessions, workshops, and entire courses to help students. Students confide regularly that they received A and B grades in prior education without having to study. For many of them cramming and memorization were the main staples of those study hours. So, it is good news that some colleges and universities are beginning to focus on the science of learning and making sure their students learn how to learn. The post on  Inside Higher Ed is Teaching the Skill of Learning to Learn.

March 1, 2019 in Miscellany, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Bravo! Magnificent! Herculean! Congrats Feb 2019 Bar Takers!

For those of you that just tackled the bar exam this week, here's a few words of congratulations and a couple of tips as you wait for bar exam results.

First, let me speak to you straight from my heart!

Simply put...

Bravo! Magnificent! Herculean!

Those are just some of the words that come to mind…words that you should be rightly speaking to yourself…because…they are true of you to the core!

But, for most of us right now, we just don’t quite feel super-human about the bar exam. Such accolades of self-talk are, frankly, just difficult to do. Rather, most of us just feel relief – plain and simple relief – that the bar exam is finally over and we have somehow survived.  

That’s because very few of us, upon completion of the bar exam,  feel like we have passed the bar exam. Most of us just don’t know.   So now, the long “waiting” period begins with results not due out for a number of months.

So, here’s the conundrum about the “waiting” period:

Lot’s of well-meaning people will tell you that you have nothing to worry about; that they are sure that you passed the bar exam; and that the bar exam wasn’t that hard…really.


Not that hard?


You know that I passed?


There’s nothing for me to worry about?

Let me give you a concrete real life example...

Like you, I took the bar exam. And, like most of you, I had no idea at all whether I passed the bar exam. I was just so glad that it was finally over. But all of my friends, my legal employer (a judge), my former law professors, and my family kept telling me that I had absolutely nothing to be worried about; that I passed the bar exam; that I worked hard; that they knew that I could do it.

But, they didn’t know something secret about my bar exam experience. They didn’t know about my lunch on the first day of the bar exam.

At the risk of revealing a closely held secret, my first day of the bar exam actually started out on the right foot, so to speak. I was on time for the exam. In fact, I got to the convention center early enough to get a prime parking spot. Moreover, in preparation for my next big break (lunch), I had already cased out the nearest handy-dandy fast food restaurants for grabbing a quick bite to eat before the afternoon portion of the bar exam so that I would not miss the start of the afternoon session of the bar exam.

So, when lunch came, I was so excited to eat that I went straight to Burger King. I really wanted that “crown,” perhaps because I really didn’t understand many of the essay problems from the morning exam. But as I approached Burger King, the line was far out of the door. Impossibly out of the door. And, it didn’t get any better at McDonalds next door. I then faced the same conundrum at Wendy’s and then at Taco Bell.

Finally, I had to face up to cold hard facts.  

I could either eat lunch or I could take the afternoon portion of the bar exam. But, I couldn’t do both. The lines were just too long. So, I was about to give up - as I had exhausted all of the local fast food outlets surrounding the convention center - when I luckily caught a glimpse of a possible solution to both lunch and making it back to the bar exam in time for the afternoon session – a liquor store.  There was no line. Not a soul. I had the place to myself. So, I ran into the liquor store to grab my bar exam lunch: two Snicker’s bars. With plenty of time to now spare, I then leisurely made my way back to the bar exam on time for the start of the afternoon session.

But, here’s the rub:

All of my friends and family members (and even the judge that I was clerking for throughout the waiting period) were adamant that I had passed the bar exam. They just knew it!

But, they didn’t know that I ate lunch at the liquor store.

So when several months later the bar results were to become publicly available later that day, I went to work for my judge wondering what the judge might do when the truth came out – that I didn’t pass the bar exam because I didn’t pack a lunch to eat at the bar exam.

To be honest, I was completely stick to my stomach. But, I was stuck; I was at work and everyone believed in me. Then, later that morning while still at my work computer, the results came out. My heart raced, but my name just didn’t seem to be listed at all. No Scott Johns. And then, I realized that my official attorney name begins with William. I was looking at the wrong section of the Johns and Johnsons. My name was there! I had passed!   I never told the judge my secret about my “snicker bar” lunch. I was just plain relieved that the bar exam “wait” was finally over.

That’s the problem with all of the helpful advice from our friends, employers, law professors, and family members during this waiting period. For all of us (or at least most of us), there was something unusual that happened during our bar exam. It didn’t seem to go perfectly. Quite frankly, we just don’t know if we indeed passed the bar exam.

So, here’s a few suggestions for your time right now with your friends, employers, law professors, and family members.

1.  First, just let them know how you are feeling. Be open and frank. Share your thoughts with them along with your hopes and fears.

2.  Second, give them a hearty thank you for all of the enriching support, encouragement, and steadfast faithfulness that they have shared with you as walked your way through law school and through this week’s bar exam. Perhaps send them a personal notecard. Or, make a quick phone call of thanks. Regardless of your particular method of communication, reach out to let them know out of the bottom of your heart that their support has been invaluable to you.

3.  Finally, celebrate yourself, your  achievement, and your true taking time out - right now - to appreciate the momentous accomplishment of undertaking a legal education, graduating from law school and tackling your bar exam.  

You've done something great; something mightily significant!  Congratulations to each of you!  (Scott Johns).

February 28, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Golden Ten Minutes

One of my colleagues, a lawyer with impressive credentials and accomplishments, claims that one simple practice helped him move from mediocrity to excellence in law school. "I started reviewing my notes every day after class."

What??? It can't be that simple. Wouldn't it be better to read a hornbook -- or two or three -- to thoroughly understand the nuances of the subject? And to follow up with a few law review articles, integrating their insights into the notes that you spend all Saturday retyping? If something intervenes this Saturday to interrupt this deep dive into doctrine, you're sure to catch up next Saturday, or certainly by the next weekend. Except that, for most of us, life intervenes continually. We rarely, if ever, have the time to to accomplish our over-ambitious goals. So that makes it important to follow the KISS principle my engineer father taught me ("Keep it simple, stupid"). As Steven Foster noted earlier this month in his post, Compounding Effect in Law School, small, easy-to-implement practices can yield impressive results over time. So I'm a big fan of reviewing class notes using the technique of "transforming notes" that Dennis Tonsing sets out in 1000 Days to the Bar.

Here's my approach, which adds some tweaks to the method Tonsing describes.

First, commit to reviewing your notes for each class every day before you leave the law building. Making the commitment to staying in the law building to do the review reinforces how important class review is -- in essence, it makes the review a short continuation of class. In addition, it's a great practice to review all today's classes before starting to prepare for the next day's classes.

Second, commit to spending 5-10 minutes for every class you attended each day. That is, you will never spend less than 5 minutes per class, and you will never spend more than 10 minutes per class. Why no more than 10 minutes per class? Because if you stretch out the process of reviewing notes, it will become a chore: the perfectionism monster will rear its ugly head, you'll try to make things perfect, then you won't be able to review the notes before you have to pick up the kids or the dry cleaning, and you'll fall off the wagon. Consistency is more important here than perfectionism. In addition, this keeps the total time devoted to daily review manageable on even the heaviest of class days.

I like using 3X5 or 4X6 notecards for transforming notes. With one card for each class, you immediately get a visual confirmation of how much you're learning, instead of your class review being buried in a thick, over-burdened notebook. Notecards force you to handwrite, which is time-effective and engages the visual, oral, and kinesthetic senses. They are wonderfully tactile and great for kinesthetic learners. Going through a stack of them is an easy way of incorporating spaced repetition into one's study. Perhaps most importantly, the limited space helps reinforce the limited time and limited scope of the review. There's room for fun, too: many of my students have used different colored cards for each class, or use stickers to reward themselves for a job well done.

Now, set your timer (using your favorite technology) and start.

Spend about 2 minutes reviewing your raw notes from class. If you've left gaps, fill them in; if you've written something wrong, correct it.

Now spend 2-3 minutes summarizing your class on the front of your notecard. On the top, write your header: the class date and a sketch outline of where you are in the subject. This helps make sure that you're always putting things into perspective instead of just learning random rules in a vacuum. So, for example, I might write "3/2 -- Crim/Defenses/Excuses/Duress" or "11/17 -- K/Remedies/Legal/Reliance." This visual header also helps later as you build outlines.

Use the rest of the front of the notecard to summarize the most important things you learned in class, including terms of arts, important policies, rules, and exceptions. Think of this as your elevator speech or preparing to answer the question of friends or family, "What did you learn in school today?"

Five minutes to go, and you still have lots to accomplish. Flip over the card -- you'll use the whole back. Draw a line down the middle, leaving a little space on the top. In your remaining time, you'll be asking yourself 3 questions:

How does this connect to something I already know?

What don't I understand?

What ambiguous fact scenario could the professor use to test my understanding of this material?

First, it's time to strengthen your neurological connections to this new knowledge by making a connection and writing it down -- this takes only a few seconds. Make a conscious effort to think about how what you learned today connects to something you already know -- from a previous class in this subject, from another subject, or from something you've experienced or read about. For example, you might think "Duress reminds me of all those old gangster movies where the crook has his gun in somebody's back;" at the top of the page, you might jot down "James Cagney" or "old gangster movie." Your connection doesn't have to be deep or profound at this point: you're just building extra pathways in your brain to what you learned today.

Next, move on to "What don't I understand?" Give yourself several minutes here: it's common to think at first that everything is perfectly clear, then on deeper reflection to realize you have points of confusion. Jot down these questions now, while class is fresh; chances are you'll forget them later. For now, writing the questions is all you need. You can return to them later to get answers -- from the casebook, from a peer who made a good observation in class, from a secondary source, or from the professor. But you can't get the questions answered later if you don't remember them.

Still two minutes to go! Now tackle what for most students is the hardest part of your class review. "What ambiguous fact scenario could the professor use to test my understanding of this material?" It's tempting to give yourself a pass by sliding into rules: "Oh, she'll want to know if we understand the difference between duress and necessity." But you can best test your understanding of the material and flex your analysis muscles by trying to come up with an actual fact scenario. For example, you might think "Duress requires unlawful and imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to person or third party that a reasonable person wouldn't be expected to resist. So gunpoint = duress, squirtgun ≠ duress, what about a cast iron skillet? Or what if the bad guy is threatening to post information on Facebook that could put the victim's friend in danger of being shot by a gang?" Your hypo doesn't have to be perfect -- it just requires you to engage the class material to try to figure out nuances and hard cases.

That's it! Think of all you've accomplished in ten minutes: you've put the day's class into context, summarized the most important points, connected it to your existing knowledge or experience, identified your points of confusion, and started problem-solving. That's a lot! The first few days of reviewing like this are deucedly hard, but if you stick with it, you will find this daily review sharpens your mind and helps you understand and use the law you've covered in class.   

(Nancy Luebbert)

February 27, 2019 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 25, 2019

Good Luck on the Bar

The bar exam starts for nearly everyone on Tuesday, so I want to start with Good Luck to February takers!!  By this time, you should be finished or nearly finished studying.  Only in rare cases will studying do anything after this point.  You need to rest and relax.  You studied 2 ½ long months.  Obviously, no one knows what will actually happen on the exam, but you put yourself in the right position to be successful.  All you could do up to this point is study hard.  Now, believe what you did put you in a position for success! 

I have a few tips for the next couple days:

  1. Get a good night’s sleep.  You want to be as mentally fresh as possible tomorrow morning.  You don’t want to finally wake up after a few questions because every point counts.  Be mentally ready to start on question 1.
  2. If you have trouble getting your mind going in the morning, take 5 minutes to look at EASY bar review material.  This is especially true on the MBE.  If on the BARBRI test, you struggled with the first 10 questions, do 2-3 really easy questions in the morning.  Don’t grade them, because that is not what matters.  You just want your mind working when you get into the exam.
  3. Gather everything you need for the exam tonight and place it by your front door.  Include, pens, pencils, any food or drink allowed in the exam (you may want to keep that in the refrigerator), erasers, pencil sharpeners, etc.  You don’t want to rush around tomorrow morning.  Eliminate as much stress now as possible.
  4. Re-read the information from the bar examiners.  Know what time you must be at the exam location.  Also, know what items are allowed/prohibited.  You don’t want to take something into the exam that is prohibited.  You also don’t want to miss out on items you could take into the exam. 
  5. Eat good meals.  Unless you never do it, eat a decent breakfast.  Don’t eat too much artificial sugar because you don’t want to crash in the middle of the test.  Plan a good healthy lunch.  Don’t overeat because you will get tired during the second half of the exam. 
  6. Relax tomorrow night, and don’t worry about studying.  You are going through an exhausting 2-3 days’ worth of testing.  You must take every break opportunity you can.  Your mind will be exhausted by the time you complete the exam, so conserve enough energy to make it through the entire process.  I suggest watching a bad movie that requires absolutely no thinking. 
  7. If you are staying in a hotel, don’t forget to pack all your items the day before you plan on checking out.  You don’t want to rush around packing the last morning of the exam.  Either have someone check you out or leave your things at the bell desk in the morning.
  8. Do everything you can tonight to make the next few days as stress free as possible.  If you need help or ideas, feel free to contact me.
  9. Keep your energy up during breaks.  After lunch, walk around the exam location to keep your blood flowing.  During other breaks, do some stretches.  You shouldn’t get too comfortable and relax until the day is finished.  You don’t want your mind thinking the day is complete until you finish the exam. 
  10.  When you wake up tomorrow morning, tell yourself “I will pass the bar today!”  Be assertive and believe it.  Confidence alone can get you points on the exam.

Remember, you graduated law school and have the ability to pass the exam.  Now, go execute your strategy!

(Steven Foster)  

February 25, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Congratulations to Scott Johns on Another Top 10 Badge

TexasBarTodayTopTenBadgeCongratulations to Scott Johns for being awarded another Top 10 Badge by Texas Bar Today for Thursday's post recommending Big Picture Perspectives for going into this final weekend of bar prep. Way to go!

February 23, 2019 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 22, 2019

Multi-Tasking in Online Courses

Students using their electronics to multitask in the classroom has been discussed regularly. Everyone has stories about students surfing the Web, instant messaging, and more during class. Many professors have banned laptops because of the distractions to individual learning and to others.

With the move for more online law courses, multitasking may reach new frontiers. Inside Higher Ed posted this week regarding a recent study on multi-tasking during undergraduate online courses. As we often see, there is dispute as to the methodology of the study and comparability of the groups studied. The post is Online Students Multitask. 

February 22, 2019 in Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Big Picture Perspectives for The Final Weekend of Bar Prep: "See It--Do It--Teach It"

Next week, thousands will be headed to convention centers, etc., to show case the handy-work of their bar preparation efforts for the past two months.   In preparation, bar takers have watched weeks of bar review lectures, worked hundreds and even thousands of bar exam problems, and created myriads of study tools, checklists, and flashcards.  

Nevertheless, with one weekend to go, most of us feel like we aren't quite ready, like we don't really know enough, with all of the rules - to be honest - tangled and knotted up in a giant mess in our minds.  

Yet, let me say this up front.  Despite how most of us feel, this weekend is not the time to learn more law.  Rather, it's time to reflect on what you've learned, to let it live in you, to give it presence within you.  But, how do you do that?

Well, as I heard in a recent talk about medical education, I think we've got something important to learn from the medical schools that just might help with bar prep, too.  You see, apparently, despite all of the massive amounts of information available from the learning scientists, the philosophy of training doctors boils down to just three very simple steps: "See it--Do it--Teach it."

Here's what that means for the upcoming bar prep weekend:  For the past several months, you've been focused on "seeing it" and "doing it."  You've been watching lectures, taking copious notes, reading outlines, and working problems.  In short, you've been busily learning by seeing it and doing it.  

But, for most of us, despite all of that work, we aren't quite sure (at all!) whether we are ready for the real bar exam because we haven't yet taken the last step necessary for cementing and solidifying our learning; namely, we haven't yet "taught it."

So, that's where this weekend comes in.  

Throughout this weekend, grab hold of your notes or study tools or checklists or flashcards, pick out a subject, and teach it to someone.  That someone can be real or imaginary; it can be even be your dog Fido.  But, just like most teachers, get up out of your seat, out from behind your desk, and take 30 minutes per subject to teach it to that someone, from beginning to the end.  Then, run through the next subject, and then the next subject, and then the next subject, etc.  Even if you are by yourself, talk it out to teach it; be expressive; vocalize or even dance with it.  Make motions with your hands.  Use your fingers to indicate the number of elements and wave your arms to indicate the next step in the problem-solving process.  Speak with expertise and confidence.  And, don't worry about covering it all; rather, stick with just the big topics (the so-called "money ball" rules).

What does this look like in action?  Well, here's an example:  

"Let's see. Today, I am going to teach you a few handy steps on how to solve any contracts problem in a flash.  The first thing to consider is what universe you're in.  You see, as an initial consideration, there's the UCC that covers sales of goods (movable objects) while the common law covers all other subjects (like land or service contracts).  That's step one.  The next step is contract formation. That means that you'll have to figure out if there was mutual assent (offer and acceptance) and consideration.  Let's walk through how you'll determine whether something is an offer...."

I remember when I first taught.  I was hired at Colorado State University as a graduate teaching assistant to teach two classes of calculus.  But, I had a problem; I had just graduated myself.  So, I didn't really know if I knew the subject because I hadn't yet tried to teach it to someone.  As you can imagine, boy was I ever scared!  To be honest, I was petrified.  Yet, before walking into class, I took time to talk out about my lesson plan for that very first class meeting.  In short, I "pre-taught" my first class before I taught my first class.  So, when I walked into the classroom, even though I still didn't quite feel ready (at all) to teach calculus students, I found myself walking in to class no longer as a student but as a teacher.  In short, I started teaching.  And, in that teaching, I learned the most important lesson about learning, namely, that when we can teach something we know something.  

So, as you prepare for success on your bar exam next weekend, focus your work this weekend on teaching each subject to another person, whether imaginary or real.  And, in the process, you'll start to see how it all comes to together.  Best of luck on your bar exam! (Scott Johns).

February 21, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


The second semester of law school can be a roller-coaster of emotions. Pulled this way and that by grades that don't match one's initial expectations; by advice coming from lawyers, upper-division students, and popular culture; by competition, whether real or imagined; and by the expectations of friends, colleagues, family, and professors, it is easy to turn from healthy self-critique to unhealthy self-criticism. Even students who avoid the trap of identifying themselves with their GPA can be pitiless self-critics, mentally inflating minor flaws (in anything from their legal writing to their resumes to their social skills to their professional attire) into gross deficiencies that they fear will torpedo their incipient legal career.

It's exhausting and counter-productive to be our own worst enemies.  We can break the cycle by learning the difference between self-criticism and self-critique, and by practicing self-compassion.

The difference between criticism and critique is one of viewpoint. Self-criticism is emotional and negative: it involves finding fault with oneself or one's work. In contrast, self-critique is neutral: it involves objectively evaluating one's performance. In my first semester in college, I was lucky enough to have a professor who demonstrated the difference. When Professor David Lagomarsino handed back my first history paper, every paragraph was covered with red ink. The thesis of the paper had logical deficiencies, word choices were suspect, sentences were verbose, paragraphs were loosely organized, and the research did not necessarily lead to the conclusions drawn. Reviewing the detailed and copious comments on the first page, and the second, and the third, I began to suspect I had chosen a college far beyond my intellectual capacity. Then, on the last page, I saw the grade -- an A -- and overall comments that indicated I had written a quality paper. From Professor Lagomarsino's rigorous critique (followed by many similar critiques over the next four years), I learned that my reasoning and writing were generally good, but they could be immeasurably improved by dissociating my ego from my work product. It was the most valuable lesson I learned in college.

Practicing self-compassion is an excellent way to move from self-criticism to self-critique. In essence, self-compassion turns the Golden Rule inside out: we practice treating ourselves with the same kindness and consideration that we would extend to a friend or a colleague. For example, if a friend handed us a draft of their legal resume where the first job description was opaque, we wouldn't respond by saying, "This resume is terrible. You'll never get a job with this." Instead, we might ask, "Would an average lawyer understand what your responsibilities were in this job? Is there any way of redrafting the description so someone without a botany background would understand it?" This would be a compassionate way of critiquing the work product to help our friend create the best possible resume. Likewise, self-compassion allows us to critique our own performance (whether on exams or oral arguments or legal resumes), knowing that we are building up rather than tearing down. By consciously practicing self-compassion, we can quiet the carping voice that bullies and belittles us (and, research shows, actually impedes our ability to achieve our goals) and replace it with positive self-talk that helps us to achieve our goals and maintain a healthy attitude and balance in school, work, and life.

(Nancy Luebbert)

February 20, 2019 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Food for Thought

Law school is nutritionally disruptive.  This was common knowledge at my law school, where my classmates and I joked about having gained 15 pounds while we were getting our JDs.  We all felt we understood what had happened.  For three years we had chained ourselves to our desks, abandoned physical exercise in favor of mental anguish calisthenics, and frequently resorted to fast food or prepared meals to minimize time spent in the kitchen.  Some of us still managed to blow off some steam in a bar from time to time, but otherwise, culinary matters took a back seat to our studies.  The resulting excesses -- weight gain, or manic caffeine intake, or bingey sugar highs -- were seen almost as a badge of honor, like pulling an all-nighter to get a memo in on time.

As far as I can tell, things are still the same today.  Law students beset with too many tasks and not enough time have to find ways to make time or to soothe stress, and meals and snacks offer convenient opportunities to do so.  Not every student makes unhealthy choices, and many of those who do face few ill effects beyond the need for a new wardrobe.  But now, watching from the other side of the lectern, I can better see that food issues can have noticeable or even serious impacts on some students' academic performance:

  • While gaining weight often seems to be no more than a nuisance, to some students, such changes can be associated with actual effects on mental state, such as decreased stamina or alertness, or negative moods.  The weight gain may not be the cause of these changes -- it can sometimes be an effect of lifestyle changes in diet and exercise that can be the source of changes to mental state.
  • Sometimes dietary changes specific to certain substances -- such as increased intake of alcohol, caffeine, or sugar -- can have particular effects on behavior or mental state, such poor judgment, fatigue, agitation, or distractibility, that can have negative impacts on critical reading, time management, attention to detail, and other keys to success in law school.
  • Sometimes the problem is not so much too much food or the wrong kind of food, but too little food.  Students facing shaky finances may find their food budget the easiest thing to cut.  Other students may not eat enough food -- or at least not enough healthy food -- because of loss of appetite due to stress.  Food deprivation can lead to distraction, disrupt blood sugar levels, and affect memory and attentiveness.

When we work with students, especially one on one, we have opportunities to observe whether some of them are perhaps inordinately affected by dietary issues.  In some cases, we may need to enlist the help of others.  For example, if financial insecurity is manifesting in a poor diet, a referral to Financial Aid may be appropriate.  Encouraging students to seek help from physicians or mental health professionals may also be wise when food issues are leading to serious primary health concerns.  But sometimes our students just need a little grounding, a little reminder that they have to take care of themselves while they take care of their studies.  A few helpful tips can include:

  1. Eating smaller meals (or healthy snacks) over the course of the day, rather than pigging out on one big meal at the end of the day after classes are over, can help moderate calorie intake and lessen variations in blood sugar levels.
  2. Planning ahead for the day or even the week can help to insure steady, healthy eating while minimizing time spent in preparing or obtaining food.
  3. Buying and carrying around healthier snack alternatives can help forestall binge purchases of high-sugar and high-fat snacks during breaks between classes or study periods.
  4. Scheduling meals with classmates (for study purposes) or friends and family (to stay connected) can be a good way to make efficient use of the time that you have to spend eating anyway, so that good food doesn't seem so much like an expendable indulgence.

When they are stressed out about studies and papers and exams, taking care of themselves may be the last thing on students' minds.  Helping them see how beneficial and easy healthy eating can be may help some students' academic performance.

(Bill MacDonald)



February 19, 2019 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Food and Drink, Science, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 18, 2019

Modeling Successful Behaviors

We all dream of new projects that could progress our programs, improve studying, or change our lives.  I think about the article I want to finish, but find allocating time to research difficult.  Adding more practice questions or additional study time is difficult.  Many people look to others lives and wonder how successful people achieved success.  We can model some of our behaviors from successful people to maximize our own potential.

I read an article last week from titled “8 Things Successful People Never Waste Time Doing.”  Cynthia Bazin said successful people don’t:

  1. Get Sucked Into Social Media
  2. Go Through the Day Without a Plan
  3. Do Emotionally Draining Activities
  4. Worry About Things They Can’t Control
  5. Hang Out With Negative People
  6. Dwell on Past Mistakes
  7. Focus on What Other People are Doing
  8. Put Themselves Last in Priority

She proceeds to quickly discuss how each of these activities can waste time and derail progress towards our goals.

Professors, law students, and attorneys could take this advice to improve productivity.  The majority of us probably spend too much time on social media.  While those apps have some advantages, the downfall is the amount of time spent using them.  30 minutes less on an app could be another article about a research topic, a practice question, or a response to client concerns.  30 minutes at night could be reading an inspiring book or quality time with family.  Consider limiting social media, screen time, or both to improve productivity.

Creating a good plan for the day is something I need to do more.  I fall into the trap of trying to solve every problem immediately and divert my attention constantly.  A better plan could ensure I get through my research. 

Check out the article.  Pick one area to save time and the one task to insert into the saved time.  Efficiency makes a huge difference in what we accomplish.

(Steven Foster)

February 18, 2019 in Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Congratulations to Scott Johns on a Top 10 Badge

TexasBarTodayTopTenBadgeKudos to Scott Johns, a Contributing Editor, for being recognized by Texas Bar Today as one of its top 10 blog posts. If you missed his post on February 7th , you can find it here: Bar Success Tips for the Final Two Weeks.

February 17, 2019 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Guest Blogger Kirsha Trychta: Takeaways from the LSAC/NCBE Recent Conference

Takeaways from “Best Practices in High-Stakes Testing” Conference

On February 7–8, 2019, the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the Law School Admission Council co-hosted a conference entitled “Best Practices in High Stakes Testing: What Legal Educators Need to Know.”  The conference consisted of a welcome reception on Thursday evening, three plenary presentations on Friday morning, and a choice of breakout sessions on Friday afternoon.

After Friday’s opening remarks—which included a nod to academic support pioneer Paula Lustbader—psychometrician Gage Kingsbury explained the difference between admissions testing and licensure testing.  Admissions testing is characterized by its lack of a minimum “passing” score and its need for a high level of reliability across a wide range of performances.  (Here, the LSAT.)  Meanwhile, a licensure exam typically follows a program of instruction, and includes a pre-identified passing score.  In addition, a licensure test must possess a high reliability that the pass/no pass line is properly drawn.  (Here, the bar exam.) 

Both types of exams should possess not only a strong case for the validity of their use, but also the fairness of their use.  Validity, in this context, means that the test is being used for an appropriate purpose.  (Validity is not the same thing as reliability; reliability is the likelihood that the examination will produce consistent scores over time for all takers in the normal range of performance).   Fairness, however, is more complicated.  Most psychometricians agree that a test need not ensure that all subgroups (e.g. Caucasians and Latinos) score the same, but that the test should be equally reliable and equally valid for all subgroups. 

Dr. Kingsbury highlighted how the term “high stakes” is frequently misused by the testing community.  Almost every test is high stakes for someone; the key is to recognize for whom.  Is the test high stakes for the test taker, the testing agency, the educators, the community, or some combination of stakeholders?  The more stakeholders who are impacted by the results of the examination, then the higher the stakes.  Moreover, a real issue arises when the examination is high stakes for one population, but not for another.  For example, a statistical “terminal disaster” occurred with the “No Child Left Behind” testing model because the examination was very high stakes for the educators, but a no-stakes examination for the test taker. 

He concluded with a quick tip: When crafting high stakes examinations, drafters should pay attention to how much information is being tested per minute of examination—the answer to this question will aid the drafter in determining which testing format (e.g. essay, multiple-choice) is best equipped to achieve the drafter’s goal.

Next, Professor James Wollack of the University of Wisconsin-Madison discussed the “Implications of Standardization: Test Security for LSAT and Bar Exam.”  More specifically, his talk focused on exam cheating in the academic setting.

Shockingly, 68% of undergraduate students nationwide admitted to cheating at least once during the academic year.  Of those who admitted to cheating, 85% believed cheating was essential to their academic success, 90% didn’t believe they would get caught, and, in fact, 95% did not get caught.  To put all these numbers in perspective, a website which enables students to purchase original pre-written term papers and projects receives 8,000 unique hits each day.

In the admissions test context, over the last decade (virtually) all the major testing industries (e.g. SAT, ACT, MCAT, GMAT, TOEFL) experienced documented incidents of cheating.  For example, one student foolishly placed a craigslist ad seeking a surrogate to take his LSAT exam for him.  Additionally, across the licensure credentialing industry, cheating is widespread (e.g. radiologist, school bus drivers, sommeliers, and the list goes on).  Regarding the bar exam, a member of the NCBE disclosed that six different jurisdictions reported “testing irregularities” regarding 30 different candidates last year on the bar examination.

Professor Wollack identified five factors that impact whether a person will cheat on an examination: (1) the stakes of the examination, (2) the examinee’s predisposition, (3) the perceived need to cheat, (4) the opportunity to cheat, and (5) the perceived punishment if caught.  Specifically, potential cheaters begin by weighing the pros/cons of cheating, asking themselves questions like: “Will an important decision be made with this particular test score?  Will I get a benefit for a good score?  Will I likely be punished for a bad score?”  The examinee will then weigh those answers against his or her own personal moral compass.  Generally, society is becoming more and more tolerant of cheating.  Third, the student will likely weigh their perception of how well they will perform on the exam relative to the target score without cheating.   Essentially, they will ask themselves, “Can I pass without cheating?”  He stressed that this step is tied to the student’s own self-assessment or perception and is not based on actual objective indicators of success.  Fourth, the student will assess whether there will be an opportunity to cheat.  Do the test conditions allow for fraud?  Professor Wollack stressed that anything proctors allow in the testing room is an area of vulnerability.  In fact, there is an entire industry devoted to cheating enabled clothing (e.g. earbuds designed as earrings, cameras in glasses and shirt buttons).  Cell phones, however, are the single biggest threat, especially students who utilize a two-phone system: a decoy phone voluntarily surrendered to the proctor at the start of the test and a secreted cheater phone.  Lastly, the student will weigh their perception of what will happen to them if caught against the potential for reward or gain. 

The definitive source for test administration guidance, including security standards, is the “Joint Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing” manual.  The book explains that the examinee’s behavior is influenced by many environmental and administrative factors.  Therefore, examiners are wise to manage these conditions thoughtfully.  The manual explains, that when designing a test, developers should adopt a comprehensive approach to test security at all phases of the test, beginning at test development, and continuing through messaging with candidates, delivery, post-exam web monitoring, and statistical detection for indicia of test fraud.  When a departure from any protocol occurs, the departure must be meticulously documented to ward against fraud.

In response to an attendee’s question, Professor Wollack advised that it was worthwhile to share large scale grading rubrics and testing outcomes with students (especially for purposes of formative assessment), without fear of jeopardizing the test security.  Meanwhile, granular level rubrics should be safeguarded, if the test is going to be re-used again in the future.  He concluded his presentation by quoting Julie Andrews, suggesting that amateur [test proctors] practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.”

Immediately before lunch, panelists William Adams  (ABA Deputy Managing Director), Gage Kingsbury (psychometrician consultant), and Mark Raymond (psychometrician at the NCBE) discussed ABA Standard 314 and explained “How Formative and Summative Assessments differ from a Standardized Admission Test (LSAT) and a Licensure (Bar Exam).”  The panelists outlined the need for various types of assessment and explained the pros and cons of the different types of assessment.  Much of what was mentioned in this hour is very familiar to academic support professionals but was undoubtedly helpful to the other folks in the audience.  The most popular piece of advice during this hour came from Dr. Raymond.  He suggested that to draft quality “distractor” answers to multiple-choice question, the professor should first ask the question as an open-ended response question.  Then, on a later test administration, take the most popular wrong answers supplied by the students and use those responses in the newly-converted multiple choice question. 

After the lunch break, attendees could choose from four breakout sessions: formative assessment, LSAT scoring, bar exam scoring, or fairness issues in standardized testing. 

In the bar exam scoring session, Kellie Early began by describing the three major components of the exam.  She then explained how each multiple-choice question undergoes a three-year vetting process, which includes soliciting feedback from recently barred attorneys.  (As an aside, the LSAC also uses a three-year timeline for launching new questions on the LSAT.)  Meanwhile, essay questions are not vetted in advance of a testing administration because they are too memorable and thus subject to security breaches.  All MBE and written questions are selected for inclusion on the examination in the 8 to 18 months before the exam administration.  The examination booklets are formally printed about two months prior to the administration and shipped to the local jurisdictions in the final month. 

Next, Douglas Ripkey explained the difference between the terms raw score, scaled score, equating (MBE), and scaling (written component).  Equating refers to the statistical process of determining comparable scores on different exam forms, while scaling is the process of placing written scores on the same scales as the MBE.  To equate the MBE, the NCBE relies upon a subset of previously used questions (a.k.a. equators) to establish a baseline of proficiency over time for each testing group.  To scale the written component, the NCBE relies upon the belief that there is a strong correlation between performance on the MBE and performance on the written components.  First, one must determine the mean and standard deviation of MBE scores in the testing group.  Next, one must determine the mean and standard deviation of the written scores.  Lastly, using z-score statistics, the NCBE “rescales the essay scores so that they have a mean and standard deviation that is the same as the MBE mean and standard deviation.”  He likened the process to converting Fahrenheit degrees to Celsius degrees, with each measurement system using shared anchor points such as the temperature at which water boils and water freezes.  Mr. Ripkey concluded by stating that statistically speaking all applicants could “pass” the bar examination in any testing administration.

In the last hour of the conference, participants could choose from workshops exploring formative assessment techniques, the future of the LSAT, the future of the bar exam, or fairness issues in standardized testing. 

In the fairness workshop, Dr. Mark Raymond (psychometrician at the NCBE) and Ben Theis (test developer at LSAC) explained how high-stakes test makers handle fairness concerns.  Typically, test developers look for bias in three places (i) at the test question level, (ii) at the test score level, and (iii) at the decision level. 

LSAC employs two separate dedicated “fairness” reviews, one by an external committee and one in-house.  Once the questions are included on the pre-test section of the LSAT, LSAC tracks the question’s statistical analyses.  The developers are using the “pre-test” section of the LSAC to vet these questions with a diverse testing group.  Then they look for “residual” differences or “DIF” on a scatter plot.  Plainly stated, individuals with the same objective criteria (male, aged Y, with X degree) should both perform equally well on the exam.  If they don’t, then the developers look to see if race or gender could account for the statistical difference.  LSAC employs a “presume unfairness” mentality for any questionable item.  If the item exhibits any unfairness qualities, the item is discarded permanently without further evaluation,

LSAC revealed that minorities are over predicted on the LSAT.  In other words—more frequently than is true for other populations—the minority student’s LSAT score suggests that the student will perform better in law school than they do.  While more research is needed, the findings suggest that for some reason minority students are under performing in law school despite solid LSAT scores. 

To summarize, this one-day conference exposed the numerous attendees (including law school deans, faculty, academic support and bar exam specialists, and admissions personnel) to a solid foundation in the hot topics associated with standardized testing in legal education. 

(Kirsha Trychta, Guest Blogger)

February 16, 2019 in Guest Column | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 15, 2019

Assistant Director Position at Oklahoma City

Posting Link

Assistant Director of Academic Achievement

Tracking Code


Job Description

Position Summary: 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.    

Essential Functions: 

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

Physical Requirements: 

  • Must be able to bend, stoop, and reach.
  • Manual dexterity to efficiently operate a computer keyboard and other business machines.
  • Near vision sufficient to read written communications and computer display screens.
  • Adequate hearing to communicate effectively in person and by phone.
  • Must use computer keyboard at least four to six hours per day.

Work Conditions:

  • Work is primarily indoors, but requires the incumbent to be in an outdoor environment when traveling between campus buildings or off campus.
  • Standard office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, but evening hours are also required.
  • Occasional attendance at weekend events is required.
  • Off-campus, state and regional travel is required.
  • Incumbent will be exposed to frequent noise caused by telephones and office machines. 

Required Skills

License to practice law in one of the United States or the District of Columbia

  • 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.

Required Experience

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.

Job Location

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

Position Type


Position Grade


FLSA Status


Benefit Eligibility

Available at full-time university rates

Position Closing Date

Open until filled

Additional Required Application Materials

List of Professional References, CV or Resume, Cover Letter

Special Instructions to Applicants


Scheduled Hours

Standard office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday; some overtime may be required.

Number of months per year

12 months

February 15, 2019 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Correction to NKU Postion Link

We have been notified that the link we were given to the Director of Student Success Initiatives position description last week (posting on Saturday, February 9th) was incorrect. The correct link is Director of Student Success Initiatives NKU.

February 15, 2019 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Learning from the Charcoal Burners

Never let it be said that the stuck-in-bed-flat-on-your-back flu doesn't have its consolations. For me, there was the comfort of a kitty snuggling next to me and of the faithful dog taking his post by the bedroom door. There was the sure knowledge that being infectious gave me a temporary pass from committees and meetings, and that my sluggish mental condition made it unthinkable for me to tackle reports, spreadsheets, or even e-mails. But perhaps the greatest consolation was the ability to unabashedly indulge in one of my great pleasures, reading children's books.

I was lucky enough to have close at hand Alison Larkin's splendid audio recording of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons. For those unfamiliar with this gentle classic, Swallows and Amazons follows the simple adventures of the "Swallows" or four Walker children (and their friends and rivals, the two Blackett "Amazons") as they sail, explore, camp, and meet "the natives" during their summer holiday in the English Lake District. In Chapter 13, the Walker children took an expedition to the west shore of the lake, where they met the local charcoal-burners, "Young Billy" (in his 70s) and "Old Billy" (in his 90s).

For those unfamiliar with this ancient craft, charcoal burning is the practice of carbonizing wood so that it will produce hot, clean-burning charcoal. First, woodcutters would carefully choose the correct fuel, wielding their axes to cut down huge piles of branches, small trees, and undergrowth. Then they would carefully layer these woody materials (taking into account the moisture content, diameter, density, and other characteristics), cover with an airtight layer of earth and moss, and build a controlled, slowly-burning fire which would last for days or weeks. Charcoal burners had to tend their piles night and day -- too little oxygen and the fire would smolder and expire, leaving only charred wood; too much oxygen and the fuel would be entirely consumed, leaving nothing but ashes.

In our novel, when the Walkers arrived at the charcoal-burners' encampment, they spied Young Billy carefully tending his charcoal mound:

A man with a spade was patting the mound and putting a spadeful of earth wherever the smoke showed. Sometimes he climbed on the mound itself to smother a jet of smoke near the top of it. As soon as he closed one hole another jet of smoke would show itself somewhere else. . . .

A big puff of smoke rolled from the burning mound.

"Look there," said Young Billy. "Can't leave him a minute but he's out. . . ." He picked up his spade and went to the mound, where a small tongue of flame was licking a hole from inside. He put a spadeful of earth on the hole and patted it down. . . . "We want ours to burn good and slow," said Young Billy. "If he burns fast he leaves nowt but ash. The slower the fire the better the charcoal."

The charcoal mound is a good metaphor for life. Holes will always pop up, given the vicissitudes of life. We may be on top of our law school studies, but there are dirty clothes in the laundry hamper or we haven't made it to the dentist this year. And as soon as we patch one hole -- for example, we create a good system for doing the laundry as we study criminal law -- another hole pops up: maybe now we haven't changed the oil in the van or we forgot to pick up the dog's medication.  How many times have we berated ourselves for not being in complete control of our lives? Prudence suggests it's wise to accept that holes not only can crop up in our lives, but will pop up. Accepting this, we can forgive ourselves for that most human of conditions -- not being perfect.

Moreover, the charcoal-burner Young Billy is as good a mentor as one is likely to find anywhere.  If we are hard-working and conscientious, we'll create excellent charcoal mounds (a/k/a outlines/case briefs/appellate briefs/lesson plans/curriculum proposals . . . ). And if our mounds are the result of so much good work, we naturally think we ought to be able to light them on fire and walk away, secure in the knowledge that our efforts will result in excellent charcoal with no further effort on our part. But even the best-laid plans need tending. There is no moment of perfection in which we can be secure and rest on our laurels. Rather, a hole will develop even in the best-created mound, meaning that we will need to pat down a spadeful of earth to make our mound secure -- and this will happen again, and again, and again. In his 70s, Young Billy was the most patient of professionals. However good his mound, he knew holes would develop. Rather than grow frustrated or angry, he paced himself, patting earth against one hole, then patiently patting over the next hole as it developed; in this almost meditative approach, he knew that his patient, consistent practice would over the long haul create consistently good charcoal -- and a good life in which he could be both excellent in his craft and a good neighbor to friends and curious children alike. And that's a pretty good recipe for being a lawyer, too.

(Nancy Luebbert)


February 13, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 11, 2019

Compounding Effect in Law School

If I offered you a choice between 3 million dollars today or a penny today with double the amount each subsequent day for 31 days (ie - .01 today, .02 tomorrow, .04 next days, etc.), which would you take?  In a small experiment, over 90% of people took the lump sum.  A penny doubled every day over 31 days will net over 10 million dollars.  However, that choice doesn’t beat the 3 million lump sum until day 30.  Day 31 is when it crushes the lump sum by over 7 million dollars.  The reason is the compounding effect.

The compounding effect is a common strategy for financial planning.  Starting to save for retirement at age 20 makes a huge difference.  Darren Hardy in his book The Compounding Effect applied the theory to life beyond finances to argue all of us can make dramatic changes in our careers and how we live.  He argues the small choices we make consistently are the foundation for dramatically changing our life. 

Small choices seem trivial.  One of my favorite examples in his book relates to weight gain/loss.  He illustrates the choices of 3 hypothetical people.  1 person continues to do the same thing he has always done.  He is the constant.  1 person decreases calories by only 125 calories a day.  125 calories is the equivalent of a bowl of some cereal or a can of Dr. Pepper.  The last person increases calories by 125 calories a day.  The small decisions didn’t seem to make much difference in the first 6-12 months.  Only small variations in weight.  However, from month 12-18, the first person is losing weight and the last person is gaining significant weight.  By the end of 2 years, the first person loses 30 pounds while the last person gains 30 pounds.  There is a 60 pound difference based on 1 coke a day!

The weight example and other examples in the book illustrate the difficulty of applying the compounding effect to our lives.  Choosing to not drink a coke today will not change the scale tomorrow.  Eating 1 donut or a meal at Chik-fil-a will not change the scale tomorrow.  We don’t perceive the benefits or consequences of small choices immediately, so many people choose the more fun donut.  Over time, 125 calories can snowball from weight to other areas of life, like health problems and relationships with friends and family.  The good news is the good choices snowball as well, and we should start considering what small changes to make in law school.

Law school epitomizes the problem of no immediate positive reinforcement.  Reviewing course material today doesn’t produce a grade.  Doing practice questions each week won’t have an immediate impact.  Playing the Xbox or going out with friends provides the immediate dopamine rush without the perception of consequences. 

Small changes now can make an impact at the end of this semester and future semesters.  I want to provide numerous examples and tips for improvement.  However, just as my pastor said yesterday, if I give you 4 things to do, you will do none of them.  If I give you 1, then you may do it because you can easily integrate 1 thing into your routine.  Hardy encourages the same thing.  Start small.  Pick 1 small thing to improve learning.

My suggestion is a small review each night.  Learning literature indicates we immediately begin forgetting material.  We can improve retention with immediate review within 24 hours and periodic review throughout a semester at progressively longer intervals.  Each night, review the material from that day and the previous day.  Summarize the information into your own words and think about where it fits in the outline.  Don’t spend numerous hours on this task.  Start small and move up. 

Compounding makes theoretical sense.  However, many of us make small choices that are compounding negatively.  Choose something small today to compound in the right direction.  Remember, you will not see immediately results.  Consistency is what will produce the outcome you desire.

(Steven Foster)

February 11, 2019 in Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (1)