Thursday, September 23, 2021

Taking Control

My mind is a chatterbox, running constantly, whether at work, at home, in the car, or walking.  There seems to be no escape from the clamor of attention that my mind asks of me.

Often, I'm brainstorming ways to improve what I do for my job.  But more often, it's just worry, plain and simple.  

To be frank, that's because I just feel a lot like an imposter.  What do I really know?  How can I really contribute?  So I stay ultra-busy.  However, I can guarantee you, I am not being paid to work 24/7.  

Yet it seems like I do.  Perhaps you do too. Work-life is out of control. Worry-life too.

Let me ask you a question that I'm asking myself.  

Why do I have this constant itch to check my phone, my email, my messages?  

In order to answer this, I thought I'd have a mythical conversation with Socrates, returning to our modern world today, who crosses our paths today.

-------------------

Worry Wart: Wow. That is a strange costume. It almost looks like something straight out of ancient Athens and you too.

Socrates: That's because I am.

Worry Wart: You are what?

Socrates: I am Socrates.

Worry Wart: Come on.  I admit that you look like the genuine article but what is you gig?

Socrates: What do you mean gig?

Worry Wart: You know, what's your deal? 

Socrates: Deal?

Worry Wart: Your stick?

Socrates: Oh, that's my walking stick.  You know I am getting a bit old.

Worry Wart: No, I mean what are you doing here, at our law school?

Socrates: I'm doing what I always do, observe, question, and learn.

Worry Wart: Okay.  I'll play your little game.

Socrates: Games have very little to do it.

Worry Wart: What's the it?

Socrates: Thinking.  So shall we begin?

Worry Wart:  Fine.  Let the "games" begin. Oh, I"m sorry, let the "thinking" begin.

Socrates: May I ask you about the slim box in your hand?  You seem to keep rubbing it or something.  Is it your good luck charm?

Worry Wart: Oh no. It's my phone, a pocket phone. It lets me communicate with others and, as you say, to observe, question, and think.

Socrates: What are you thinking about?

Worry Wart: Oh I'm just checking my email?

Socrates: Email?

Worry Wart: Just a phrase of speech.  It's just a fancy way to say checking letters that are sent to me straight to my phone, sort of like an old parchment back in your day, without the delay.

Socrates: I see.  But you keep checking it quite frequently? Are you expecting a letter?

Worry Wart: You never know.

Socrates: That's what we are here to fine out.  What we know.

Worry Wart: Ok, I'll answer your question.  I'm a professor, perhaps like you, and I've got a lot of students that I work with, and you just never know when they might need my help.  And, I work in a big organization, a school, with lots of communications from the administrators and supervisors and my colleagues too.  You just never know when someone might write an email, I mean a "letter," that will need a quick response from me.

Socrates: Seems tedious and tiring to me, to always be alert, waiting for what might never come.

Worry Wart: That's the way that we do it in this modern age.  No time to waste.  

Socrates: But aren't you wasting time, constantly touching your phone to check your, what do you call it, emails?

Worry Wart: I hadn't thought about that. I didn't even realize that I was checking my phone constantly.

Socrates: Now we are getting somewhere.  The path to learning begins when we realize that we know so little, about ourselves and especially about others.

Worry Wart: Excellent point, Socrates. But what do you suggest I do?  You never know. There could be an urgent message at just this moment and I will miss out.

Socrates: What do you suggest?  Are you missing out on other tasks, perhaps even more important, why you wait on a letter that might never come?

Worry Wart: I hadn't thought about that too.  Let's see. But I am so busy.

Socrates: Why are you so busy?

Worry Wart: That's easy. Because I have so much to do.

Socrates: And, why do you have so much to do?

Worry Wart: That's easy. Because I am so busy.

Socrates: It seems like we've gone in a big circle. I'm beginning to wonder whether your phone is a device that makes you go in a circle, wandering aimlessly from task to task, worried that you might miss something important. Why don't you try being "un-busy?"

Worry Wart: If it were only that easy.  But you are a person of ancient ways.  The modern world is the way of bustle and hustle.  If I don't stay busy, I am at risk of missing something, or worse, being replaced.

Socrates: By another phone?

Worry Wart: Oh no, by another person with a phone.

Socrates: So is you're real worry that you are replaceable?  Just a cog in a big machine that can easily be switched out for a new version?

Worry Wart: I suppose so.  But I wonder if it's something else, this strange tendency that I haven't noticed before, this constant itching, to always be touching and looking at my phone. I wonder if it's fear.

Socrates: If so, we can find out.  What might you be afraid of?

Worry Wart: Hmm. This is a bit embarrassingly and humbling.

Socrates: The truth often is.

Worry Wart: I might just be afraid of myself, to be alone, to be quiet, to be present with myself. In short, to be real.

Socrates: So what might you do about that?

Worry Wart:  I might just have to switch off this phone, or put it away, or even better yet, remove the emails from my phone so that I am just not so tempted to always be looking at my phone for the latest messages and news.

Socrates: Hmm. Go on, please.

Worry Wart:  Well, that seems like it might just be a concrete start out of this maddening electronic circle that seems to have me roped into tangles.

Socrates: Indeed it does seem so.  But I'm not sure what concrete is, though I've heard of Crete.

-----------------------

Notes to Reader:

(1) And that's what I just did.  I just removed my work email from my smartphone.  It's not my work phone after all, anyhow.  

(2) I got this idea of a hypothetical conversation with ancient Socrates when I stumbled onto a book at my local bookstore by philosopher Peter Kraft, entitled "The Best Things in Life," which involves the tale of a mythical Socrates visiting a college campus asking people about their lives. (Scott Johns).

 

 

September 23, 2021 in Advice, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

AASE "Good and Necessary Trouble" Diversity Conference Registration Is Now Open!

Are you ready to get in some good and necessary trouble? 

City University of New York School of Law is pleased to host the 2021 AASE Bi-Annual Diversity Conference “Good and Necessary Trouble” from Thursday, October 14 – Friday, October 15, 2021. In consideration of geographic diversity, the conference will be held from approximately 12:00pm - 5:00pm EST each day.

Conference registration is NOW OPEN! Conference fee is $25. Register for the conference here

Diversity-Conference

September 22, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Sometimes in this space, I focus on new scholarship.  Other times, I focus on the classics.  Classics are the pieces that make up the canon of academic support best practices.  Today is a classics day.  

1.  R. Flanagan, The Kids Aren't Alright: Rethinking the Law Student Skills Deficit, 15 Brigham Young Univ. Educ. & L. J.  (2015).

From the abstract:

This article explores the decline of fundamental thinking skills in pre-law students and the challenges facing law schools admitting underprepared students during a time of constrained budgets and declining enrollment. A growing body of empirical research demonstrates a marked decline in the critical thinking and reasoning skills among college graduates. The causes for the decline are interconnected with other problematic changes on undergraduate campuses: 1) a dramatic decrease in student study time since 1960, examining research which suggests that undergraduate students spent 1/3 less time studying in 2003 than they did in 1961; 2) a consumerist orientation among college students, resulting in a diminished focus on learning; 3) grade inflation at undergraduate campuses, resulting in grade compression and an inability to distinguish between exceptional and ordinary students 4) a decline in undergraduate students choosing to major in liberal arts that provide the foundation for early success in law school. Declines in study time, grade inflation, and changing patterns in student class choice have created an undergraduate learning environment that is less rigorous than undergraduate education fifty years ago.

This article challenges law schools to examine the adequacy of traditional support programs when incoming classes require systemic and sustained academic assistance. Law schools have traditionally helped academically underprepared through academic support programs, however, traditional ASPs are not equipped to provide broad-based and comprehensive assistance to large numbers of law students. Law student underpreparedness is a “wicked problem,” so complex that singular solutions are impossible. Law schools admitting substantial numbers of students with lower-levels of academic preparedness need to ask themselves questions to determine how to best address these challenges. The broader legal community should reflect on these questions because the answers will require all stakeholders to invest in changes to undergraduate education as well as legal training.

E. Bloom (New England), Teaching Law Students to Teach Themselves: Using Lessons from Educational Psychology to Shape Self-Regulated Learners, 59 Wayne L. Rev. 311 (2013).

From the abstract:

Amidst current concerns about the value of a legal education, this article seeks to identify ways in which law schools and law professors can take steps to maximize the learning experience for their students. The article focuses on cutting-edge strategies that will help a diverse population of law students become self-regulated learners. Drawing on the work of educational psychologists, it describes ways to help students adapt to the demands of the law school learning experience and then outlines specific strategies for teaching students to regulate their motivational beliefs, their resource management practices, and their approaches to mastering the material. Throughout, the article emphasizes the importance of these skills for success both as law students and as lawyers. Finally, checklists are provided to help law professors build a culture of self-regulated learning in their schools.

R.A. McKinney (UNC), Reading Like a Lawyer (Carolina Academic Press 2012).

From the publisher:

The ability to read law well is an indispensable skill that can make or break the academic career of any aspiring lawyer. Fortunately, the ability to read law well (quickly and accurately) is a skill that can be acquired through knowledge and practice. First published in 2005, Reading Like a Lawyer has become a staple on many law school reading lists for prospective and admitted students. The second edition includes the same critical reasoning and reading strategies, accompanied by hands-on practice exercises, that made the first edition such a success. It adds a valuable new chapter on a growing challenge for this generation of legal readers: how to read material that is presented on a screen with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

(Louis Schulze, FIU Law).

September 21, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 20, 2021

Zoom Plus

One of the ways we support our students who are on academic warning or probation is to require them to take a second-year course in Legal Analysis and Methods. The title is vague enough to appear on a transcript without stigma to the student and, as a side benefit, it also gives us a lot of latitude in what we teach in the course. In my section of Methods, I teach study and exam skills as well as a smidge of legal writing, a dash of argumentation, and a bissel[1] of statutory construction/interpretation.  I also conference with students one-on-one towards the beginning of the semester to check in on an ungraded “getting to know you” assignment and to try to understand how they got stuck, I mean were fortunate enough to enroll, in this class.

I had a set “script” for these conferences. At the beginning of each conference, we discussed the ungraded assignment (there is written feedback for everyone as well). I thanked each student for doing a great job in our simulated legislature class last week (seriously, the Massachusetts legislature could learn from them).  Then, I asked about the other classes they are taking to see where there might be stress points.

Finally, I ask about the elephant in the room, “How do you find yourself on Academic Warning/Probation?” I intentionally use the passive voice. If a student says they had some “personal problems,” I do not ask for details, I just ask if the issues are resolved (or resolving), and if our Dean of Students’ office is aware of them just in case they need some higher power intervention. If a student says they had issues on exams, I make a note of the type of exam it was for future classes on exam skills. Now granted, I knew some of the students coming into these conferences because we met regularly last year. Other than now knowing how tall they really are and confirming that they do indeed have legs, I didn’t need to hear how they got here, but I did need to know how they were doing now.

This year, like all years, I take notes of these meetings. As I flipped through the legal pad for these conferences after meeting with my 22 students, I saw one word show up at the end of my notetaking for every single student, “Zoom.” This was the always part of the answer to how they found themselves in academic trouble.

Zoom or remote learning wasn’t the whole problem for most students: it was Zoom plus. Students told me that last year was not academically successful because of Zoom plus: ADD, ADHD, anxiety, dyslexia, having COVID, having a family member with COVID, having a chaotic living situation, having a bad internet connection, and so on. But remote learning was, as one student put it, “at least 30-40% of the issue.” Everyone in the remote learning situation-those of us teaching and the students learning- were all trying our best. The bottom line is that remote learning does not work for everyone. These students were concerned that when they take the bar, they will not have learned enough in their first-year classes to get them into a passing range. They felt that they were building their law school houses on weak foundations. This is a valid concern. Going through two (or three for evening students) more years of law school feeling like you are perpetually trying to overcome a deficit will also take a toll on confidence.

I am not saying that remote learning is universally negative either. I had students last year that thrived in a remote learning environment, as well as students who were very nervous about returning in-person because of the pandemic.  Remote learning allows broader access for students; I think that is the promise of remote learning going forward.  A student can, for example, attend a law school in a place they cannot afford to move to (like Boston) or attend school when health or family issues might otherwise prove an insurmountable barrier. And this is not even close to a complete list of pluses.

Yet, the students who preferred remote learning are just simply not the students I am seeing in academic distress right now. I am not asserting that my 22 student class is a representative sample of all law students but they are mine to teach and I need to know where things fell apart for them before they came to me. The current in-person situation has pluses and minuses as well. Students report that are much happier to be back in-person--but also stuck in a position of navigating the 2L curriculum with a 1L understanding of law school culture. Some of them have spent less time in the building than the 1L students who came to school before classes started for orientation-- a few more cracks in the foundation that will need filling. One student thought that being called an upperclassman was laughable because they felt they had very little to offer the incoming class in terms of wisdom and “the ways” of law school. And yet, they hoped that the expertise they did have was, and would continue to be, obsolete. I hope so too.

As academic support folks, we know there have always been (and will most likely be) students who are in academic distress. Some have had family issues, relationship issues, a failure to understand the time investment etc., but it seems that today’s students have all of these troubles plus Zoom.

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] Bissel means just a little bit in Yiddish, https://www.dailywritingtips.com/the-yiddish-handbook-40-words-you-should-know/

September 20, 2021 in Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Meetings, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 19, 2021

This Year's Explanation?

Another year, another set of results to explain away.  The NCBE released the national MBE mean last week, and the change over the last 2 years is massive.  The NCBE ignored 2020 results, and just compared to 2019.  The "changed test" and "different sample size" is an easy explanation.  The explanation also ignores a nearly 6 point drop from last year's July MBE score.  Excuses abound, but if the test is reliable and easy to scale (or they could have used the same test as 2019) the 6 point drop is inexcusable.  2020 graduates dealt with the immediate impact of a pandemic and social unrest.  My rudimentary understand of the LSAC reports indicates 2020's graduates had worse LSAT scores than 2021 and 2019.  Why the anomaly in scores?

I will humor the NCBE for my next query.  If 2020 is an outlier and we ignore those statistics, the 2019 comparison also doesn't make sense.  2021 results were .7 points lower than 2019.  I may be wrong, but I believe 2021 graduates had much larger numbers of the high scoring LSAT takers in the pool.  They should have been closer to 2020 scores than 2019.  If the LSAT correlates to MBE scores (which both the LSAC and NCBE claim it does), then why did the 2021 national MBE mean drop?  "Less able" test takers is no longer an acceptable answer.

I have a number of theories, and the real answer probably includes numerous factors.  Most of my theories revolve around the fundamental thought that the MBE tests more than the ability to practice law. 

2021 graduates endured longer COVID-19 interruptions.  They may have been tired of zoom and online education, and bar prep is primarily online.  The online fatigue may have led to less work.  

Students may have worked at law firms more last summer.  This thought comes from anecdotal conversations, but some jobs decreased in 2020.  When those jobs came back, students did what they could to keep jobs during uncertain times.  That may have included working at firms more and on bar prep less.  They could also make this choice because working is more fun than bar prep, and they didn't get to work as much in the previous year.  Students may have also been in harder financial times from not working the previous year.  

I could give many reasons, but overall, I believe students did less bar prep work last summer.  However, should the MBE really be a test of commitment over 10 weeks?  Why should students be required to devote that amount of time to a test regarding the jurisdiction of nowhere?  RAP, the rule of sevens, common law burglary, and many other rules provide an obstacle to practice.  The test seems to assess someone's ability to financially and emotionally devote extreme time to a task for 10 weeks.  Is that really what we should assess to become an attorney?  The NCBE's creation of a testing task force implicitly confirms the MBE is a poor instrument, but they continue to administer it.  Shouldn't we stop using a poor instrument even if the alternative isn't ready?  Many questions, but my guess is all we will hear is *crickets*.

(Steven Foster)

 

September 19, 2021 in Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Year's Explanation?

Another year, another set of results to explain away.  The NCBE released the national MBE mean last week, and the change over the last 2 years is massive.  The NCBE ignored 2020 results, and just compared to 2019.  The "changed test" and "different sample size" is an easy explanation.  The explanation also ignores a nearly 6 point drop from last year's July MBE score.  Excuses abound, but if the test is reliable and easy to scale (or they could have used the same test as 2019) the 6 point drop is inexcusable.  2020 graduates dealt with the immediate impact of a pandemic and social unrest.  My rudimentary understand of the LSAC reports indicates 2020's graduates had worse LSAT scores than 2021 and 2019.  Why the anomaly in scores?

I will humor the NCBE for my next query.  If 2020 is an outlier and we ignore those statistics, the 2019 comparison also doesn't make sense.  2021 results were .7 points lower than 2019.  I may be wrong, but I believe 2021 graduates had much larger numbers of the high scoring LSAT takers in the pool.  They should have been closer to 2020 scores than 2019.  If the LSAT correlates to MBE scores (which both the LSAC and NCBE claim it does), then why did the 2021 national MBE mean drop?  "Less able" test takers is no longer an acceptable answer.

I have a number of theories, and the real answer probably includes numerous factors.  Most of my theories revolve around the fundamental thought that the MBE tests more than the ability to practice law. 

2021 graduates endured longer COVID-19 interruptions.  They may have been tired of zoom and online education, and bar prep is primarily online.  The online fatigue may have led to less work.  

Students may have worked at law firms more last summer.  This thought comes from anecdotal conversations, but some jobs decreased in 2020.  When those jobs came back, students did what they could to keep jobs during uncertain times.  That may have included working at firms more and on bar prep less.  They could also make this choice because working is more fun than bar prep, and they didn't get to work as much in the previous year.  Students may have also been in harder financial times from not working the previous year.  

I could give many reasons, but overall, I believe students did less bar prep work last summer.  However, should the MBE really be a test of commitment over 10 weeks?  Why should students be required to devote that amount of time to a test regarding the jurisdiction of nowhere?  RAP, the rule of sevens, common law burglary, and many other rules provide an obstacle to practice.  The test seems to assess someone's ability to financially and emotionally devote extreme time to a task for 10 weeks.  Is that really what we should assess to become an attorney?  The NCBE's creation of a testing task force implicitly confirms the MBE is a poor instrument, but they continue to administer it.  Shouldn't we stop using a poor instrument even if the alternative isn't ready?  Many questions, but my guess is all we will hear is *crickets*.

(Steven Foster)

 

September 19, 2021 in Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 17, 2021

Director of Bar Success at Albany Law School

Albany Law School seeks applicants to direct and expand its bar success programs. The Director will administer and assess the existing bar success programs and recommend additions and modifications to the programs The Director will also develop, coordinate, and implement school-wide initiatives to improve bar passage, including workshops, courses, and meetings with students, graduates, the Director of Academic Success, and faculty. The Director will teach two for-credit bar preparation courses and provide feedback on student work product. 

Qualified candidates will have a J.D. with strong law school credentials and admission to the practice of law. The position requires knowledge of legal theory, analysis and writing, and other skills necessary to succeed in law school and on the bar examination.  Preference will be given for experience in academic support and bar preparation programs, administrative and supervisory experience, law teaching experience, counseling and tutoring experience, knowledge of learning theory, understanding of disability and multicultural issues, and ability to build rapport with students having academic challenges.  This is a full-time (12-month) non-tenure track, renewable contract position with the rank of Assistant or Associate Professor of Bar Success.

Application Instructions

To apply, please submit cover letter, curriculum vitae, and the contact information for three references.

Questions about interviewing for these faculty positions should be directed to Kelly Lussier, Executive Assistant to the President and Dean, at kluss@albanylaw.edu .

September 17, 2021 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 16, 2021

A Primer on Creating Study Tools

Recently, Professor Liz Stillman (Suffolk Law) provided excellent guidance and encouragement on creating study tools. Stillman, L, "Seasons of Law," Law School ASP Blog (Sep. 12, 2021).

If you are wondering what that might look like, take a quick dash over to Suffolk's Law's academic support materials. https://www.suffolk.edu/-/media/suffolk/documents/law/academics/academic-support/acadsupport-creating-an-outline_pdftxt.pdf?la=en&hash=2678C2FDA2AAF306EDC4BF80613AD174A77679B0

In just a flash, you'll be able to get the big picture view along with concrete guidance on how to best create your own study tools in preparation for upcoming midterm exams. (Scott Johns).

September 16, 2021 in Advice, Learning Styles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ominous, says a Bar Exam Article

Hat tip to Professor Chris Newman (University of Idaho School of Law):

The NCBE has released information about the median MBE score on this summer's July 2021 bar exam (140.4) and it is down significantly from the July 2020 median MBE score (146.1) and down a bit from the previous national cohort taking the July 2019 bar exam (141.1). Sloan, K, "Ominous early signs emerge for July 2021 bar exam pass rates," Reuters (Sep. 15, 2021).

As a closer look, the NCBE posted a graph depicting the median MBE scores for the past several years:

July 202 MBE Mean Score Increases

https://www.ncbex.org/news/national-means-july-mbe-august-mpre/

Because it is likely that so many bar takers either just barely fail or just barely pass bar exams, small differences in scores can result in dramatic differences in pass rates, with Reuters reporting that of the 9 states reporting July 2021 bar exam results, only 1 state had an increase in bar passage.  Reuters.  The article suggests, quoting in part Professor Derek Mueller, that widespread technical difficulties, pandemic fatigue, and perhaps a loss of learning effectiveness with the significant transition to online learning may be contributors.  Reuters.

One fact stands out to me.  Small changes in median MBE scores ought not be indicative of attorney competency issues because, to be repetitive, they are only small differences.  But, because most bar exam cut scores center around the median MBE score (and because most bar exams scale the written scores to the MBE scores), small differences can lead to big impacts.

September 16, 2021 in Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

AALS Section on Academic Support - Call for Award Nominations

It is that time of year again when we want to honor our members! We are seeking nominations for two awards. Please submit nominations by October 25th, 5pm EST, to mhale@luc.edu. The nomination should include a letter that describes why the section member should be honored. You can submit a nomination for one, or both, awards.

Legacy in Leadership Award.  This award is given to a person who is a senior member of our discipline and has made outstanding contributions to the academic support profession throughout their career, including building and evolving the discipline of academic support. 

Trailblazer Award.  This award is given to a person who is inspiring change in the academic support profession today and catapulting us forward to a stronger tomorrow. 

To be eligible for an award, the nominee must have made significant and/or long-term contributions to the development of the field of law student academic support, through any combination of the following activities: 

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

All legal educators, regardless of the nature or longevity of their appointment or position, who have at some point in their careers worked part-time or full-time in academic support are eligible for the award.  Law schools, institutions, or organizations cannot receive an award.  Prior year or current year Section officers are excluded from being selected as an award winner.

September 15, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 13, 2021

It's OK for Some Schools, But Not Yours

Like all mornings, an email from the Chronicle of Higher Education landed in my Inbox today.  One of its articles bore the following picture: 

Like all pic4

Immediately, I noticed something troubling:  Unlike the other three quotes (not pictured), the visual specifically named only FIU.  Thus, out of the thousands of schools around the nation that for decades have pursued USNWR rankings, this picture chose to call out and specifically name only a school enrolling a majority of students who are nonwhite.*  In fact, several of the schools discussed in the article are those where a plurality of students are People of Color.  To make matters worse, above their article that implicitly chastises a school serving mostly students who are nonwhite, the authors affixed the heading “Privilege.”

Really digest that for a second:  The heading “Privilege” above the name of the only singled-out school, the majority of whose students are nonwhite.

Apparently, when such schools use the exact same methods as less diverse schools to improve their students’ opportunities, the method is derided as out-of-line.  And, while the article raises important issues about rankings, the choice to address those issues in this way is deeply problematic.

But today's example is just one instance of the biases, insults, and micro-(and not so micro) aggressions many of our students constantly experience:  The insinuations that their successes are somehow artificial; the assumption that they are “less well-prepared for law school” than their peers at other schools (despite their 159/160 LSAT median and 3.69 UGPA median); off-hand comments by academics specifically noting their race; my colleague Raul Ruiz being introduced at a conference as “Paul ROO-izz” and without the “professor” title accorded to other panelists.  And, today, FIU's movement in the rankings is deemed nefarious while majority- or plurality-white schools garner praise for their genius.  

In making these observations, I have to acknowledge my own white-male privilege.  My career path did not include the obstacles facing many of my students, obstacles instantiated by the brazen biases signaled by the headline above.  But I sincerely hope that I am correct in believing that this privilege should not preclude me from loudly objecting to the conditions that impede my students’ success. 

Because in law school academic support, that is precisely what we do.  Let’s do it loudly. 

(Louis Schulze, who proudly teaches at FIU.)

 

*  I purposely omit the term “minority-majority school.”  As detailed abundantly, many note that the term frustrates the goals of equality.

September 13, 2021 in Diversity Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Take Time to Fully Heal

The sun was beating down on us, but that wouldn't stop the intensity.  We weren't keeping an official score, but every possession matters in driveway basketball.  However long the game lasts, you don't let up on defense.  I didn't care that I was playing against an opponent 29 years younger and 19 inches shorter.  My son would not get his shot off.  I was in great defensive posture and moving my feet.  Any little league coach would be proud of my defense.  I was step for step with him when I feel a pop.  I crumple on the asphalt and scream in agony.  I am in some of the most pain I have ever felt.  

My sports experience is similar to events that happen to all of us.  Bar results are coming out, and some people don't pass.  That is excruciating.  Some students aren't allowed to continue with law school.  Academic Support Professionals will work with someone and they don't succeed.  Most students get a bad grade.  That list is the tip of the iceberg.  Many of us have events in our personal life that are painful.  My biggest suggestion is to learn from my mistakes and fully heal from the experience.

After getting help back inside with almost no weight on my ankle, here is what I did:

  1. Used WebMD to self-diagnosis a grade 2 sprain instead of going to the doctor
  2. Lightly rested it, and then played golf 3 days later
  3.  Ice it some but not enough
  4. Continue to overuse it, ie - caddying 18 holes (for the son who caused the injury) prior to fully healing

My actions are not what I tell my students or my friends.  I would tell anyone to take the time to fully heal from whatever pains you.  Go to someone for advice.  If it is a bad grade or not passing the bar exam, seek out your Academic Support Professional.  As an ASPer, if you are struggling, seek out colleagues.  We all need help sometimes.  WebMd is a poor substitute for medical advice.  Don't make the same mistakes I did with what you are going through.  Seek help from others and take the time to fully heal before putting full weight onto the next event.

In case you are wondering, he still didn't score.

(Steven Foster)

September 12, 2021 in Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (1)

Seasons of Law

A supermarket I go to occasionally has a little maze of seasonal items right at the entrance. This is a tricky way to entice you to purchase these colorful things at the beginning of your shopping trip when your cart is empty and/or perhaps a way to mollify any small child you have brought with you with something small to play with on the journey. Yesterday, when I arrived, I saw a sea of orange and black: candy as far as the eye could see. There were also some decorative scarecrows and rust colored “hardy mums,” (which I consider a challenge, but more on my lack of gardening skills in another post). In the middle of the maze, I saw a single display of popsicle shaped window clings, Whiffle bats, sunscreen, some mismatched kickboards, and s’mores skewers-all 50-75% off. Summer was on sale-despite the fact that there is at least another week of it on the calendar. I sighed and realized that we had actually already been in school for almost four weeks and the time had come for the seasonal shift from merely briefing cases to…(please read each of those periods as dun, dun, dunnn respectively): OUTLINING.

Now that students have covered at least one full topic in each class, the time has come for them to take those case briefs and carefully written class notes and knit them into a nice cozy outline for December exams or, more urgently, upcoming midterms. This is also a good time to start because it intersects with students learning how we use and talk about cases in their legal writing courses. The magic formula of how we use cases in memos and briefs: FHR (facts, holding, reasoning) is how they can incorporate the components of their case briefs into their outlines. This is really a win-win because they are practicing using the FHR formula for outlining in legal writing and vice versa. 

Now, I know you have probably discussed outlining at least twice already with students. We do it in a pre-orientation module, during orientation itself and have a class on it planned for the coming week. The number of times I say, “your outline should be rules based rather than case based” could be a drinking game at this point (not that I condone drinking while outlining as either effective or efficient).

How can we best communicate the message that it is currently prime outlining season to our students? I thought of the buzzer at the beginning of a swim meet heat, a ribbon cutting or even a giant banner, “START OUTLINING NOW!!!!” Maybe I should stand in front of the law school with a sandwich board that says, “Ask me about outlining-I’m not just an ASP professional, I’m a client!” Maybe we should perform, “Outlining the Musical,” with such tunes as:

“525,600 pages,

525,000 pages more,

525,600 pages

How do you make sense of a course in the law?”

Or even,

“Oh, it is time to start ‘lining,

Time to take a little of the briefs we’re writing,

Time to take time,

Because it’s already fall--exams are in just no time at all….”

(sincere apologies to Rent and Pippin).

Yet, we all know that no matter how or how often we sound the alarm at this point in the semester, we will still be talking with students who are just getting started in November. And while we will silently groan and do an internal face palm, we will advise those students to move as quickly as they can to ideally finish their hastily organized (but nonetheless helpful) outlines when classes end.

I expect that the next time I will need to think about getting students to begin outlining, the supermarket entrance will be aglow in red, pink and white: candy as far as the eye can see -- except for the candy canes in the center on sale.

(Liz Stillman)

September 12, 2021 in Exams - Studying, Miscellany, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 10, 2021

Academic Success and Bar Preparation Position at Southwestern Law School

SOUTHWESTERN LAW SCHOOL
ACADEMIC SUCCESS AND BAR PREPARATION
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF LAW

Southwestern Law School invites applicants for an associate professor position for administration, counseling and teaching in the Academic Success and Bar Preparation Office to commence July 1, 2022. In this position, the chosen applicant will work closely with Assistant Dean for Academic Success, Natalie Rodriguez and other members of the department in the creation, administration, implementation and teaching of programs and courses as part of the academic support and bar preparation course curriculum.

Duties and responsibilities may include but are not limited to any of the following:
-Working with the Faculty of Academic Success and Bar Preparation Office to research, design, implement and manage academic and bar support programs, including pre-matriculation programs, first-year programs and pre and post-graduation bar preparation programs
-Teaching in the academic and bar support programs and courses
-Meeting with students individually and in small groups regarding academic and bar performance issues. This includes identifying and/or creating additional materials that would support a student’s individualized academic or bar improvement plan.
-Supervising student teaching and research assistants
-Assisting with additional services to enhance the academic and bar success of students
-Identify additional opportunities to support or enhance the Office’s offerings and/or developing materials

Required Qualifications:
- J.D. from an ABA accredited law school
- Bar admission, admission to the California Bar or a UBE jurisdiction preferred
- Experience in academic support and bar preparation preferred. Other teaching experience such as legal writing instruction will be considered
- Ability to work with a variety of people from diverse backgrounds, including students, staff and faculty
- Ability to counsel, critique and guide students to self-improvement through a professional, rigorous, respectful, supportive and reliable commitment to them, including creating individualized materials
- Ability to work as part of a collaborative team of faculty in the Academic Success and Bar Preparation Office while having the ability to be a self-starter and self-manage individual work product
- Availability to teach and/or meet with students in the evening and occasional weekend, especially during bar preparation seasons
- Imagination, innovation and desire to grow into responsibilities in areas of mutual interest and need
- Understanding of, and ability to work for, the mission and goals of Southwestern Law School
- Professionalism and ability to work with confidential information

This is a full-time, year-round position with faculty voting rights. The salary is competitive. The successful applicant will also receive a competitive benefits package provided by Southwestern Law School.

Applicants should submit the following:
- Cover letter describing (a) prior teaching experience; (b) other relevant experience; and (c) aspirations for future legal education work
- CV
- Contact information for three professional references

Applications should be addressed to Senior Associate Dean Doreen Heyer at academicadmin@swlaw.edu. Review of applications will begin in mid-September. Initial interviews will be held via Zoom, although we anticipate that finalist interviews will be held in person.

September 10, 2021 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 9, 2021

"VIM" Learning

My daughter gave me a book entitled Renovation of the Heart by theologian Dallas Willard.  One section caught my eye in particular when the author talked about learning.  He used the acronym VIM, stating for vision, intent, and method. Willard asks about how to learn a language, say French or Arabic or Tagalog.

Now that got my attention because I took French (got a D) and Spanish (mostly A's).  But I can't speak either language.  

In realty I failed.

Willard says that to learn a language you've first got to have a vision for it.  That means reflecting on how learning a language will enhance your life and the lives of those around you.  It means visualizing how by learning that language you'll be able to understand and relate to others in ways that you never could but for learning that language.

Second, Willard says that you've got to be intentional about learning the language.  That means that you've got to do more than just want to learn the language.  You've got to make up your mind to purposefully pursue learning the language.  Intent is acting upon your vision to learn.

Finally, Willard suggest that you've got to engage in the method of learning language.  Just having an intent and a vision isn't enough.  Learning a language takes lots of practice with lots of mistakes and growing pains along the way.  To be frank, it takes courage because it feels so unnatural.  It's risky.  It's humbling.  And yet it can also be delightful because you're growing into a different person because of the experiences that you are having in learning. But you've got to approach learning methodically.

Now I know why I failed at learning French and Spanish.  I had the vision.  And, I had the methods.  But I didn't really intend to really speak those languages. I just wanted to learn enough to get by, which means - at the end of the day - that I didn't really learn.

For those of you just embarking on law school, the law has its own language so to speak.   On those days were you find yourself struggling motivationally, you might take a few moments to ponder how the subjects that you are taking can enhance your future service as an attorney. You might reflect on how to be more intentional in your learning.  And lastly, take some to think about the methods that you are using to learn.  Are you practicing the law as a learner or are you really just going through the motions of learning?  It's hard work but rewarding work because what you are learning today will someday be life changing for others.  And that's an important lesson to lean into. (Scott Johns).

 

 

 

 

 

September 9, 2021 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0)

To Be a Better Teacher -- Try Being a Student

I've read a lot of articles and books about teaching and learning.  But, as others have pointed out, reading is not really learning.  So, if I'm honest, they've not tended to lead to better teaching. However, I recently joined a small class as a student.  That's when the lessons, principles, and methods that I've read so much about began to take root in me.  In particular, I started to notice something special about how to teach because I was no longer the teacher but the student who was learning and growing.

I loved this teacher's method because the teacher would read a portion of text and then asks us what we saw.  In other words, it was learner-centered teaching. The star of the action was not the teacher but us as our teacher guided us by asking us to see, learn, think, create, reflect, interpret, explain, test, hypothesize, analogize, critique, extrapolate, and create meaning.  And, the best part of this class has been that we've been doing all of this as a group in community with each other.  Not in competition but in cooperation in which each voice adds to the whole of what we learn.  And, one of my favorite moments is seeing my teacher takes notes as we converse about what we see in the text.  That suggests to me that if I am not learning from my students, they aren't learning either.  It's absolutely thrilling to be a student guided by such wonderful teaching.

So, if you feel stymied in your role as a teacher, you might see what you can learn by joining a class as a student.  It's a lesson that is guaranteed to produce results.  

Oh, and as a side note, some of my worst classes as a teacher have been when I over-prepared so much that I left no room for my students to learn.  I'm not saying don't prepare, but teaching requires us to listen, to reflect, and to learn with our students.  It's a conversation in relationship with each other.  And, that's risky because it means that, if we are honest, we don't have all of the answers or even all of the questions.  And that's okay. We don't have to be perfect as teachers - being present in learning with our students is more than enough.  (Scott Johns).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 9, 2021 in Advice, Learning Styles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Academic and Bar Support Scholarship Spotlight

A plethora of recent scholarship to report:

1.  B. Templin (Thomas Jefferson), Integrating Spaced Repetition and Required Metacognitive Self-Assessment in a Contracts Course (2021).

From the abstract:

This article provides an example for doctrinal law professors to integrate metacognitive exercises into their courses in order to increase student retention and understanding of the material as well as improve exam test-taking skills. Teaching metacognition is traditionally the domain of law school ASP departments. However, when ASP methods are supplemented with required exercises in a doctrinal course, student performance can improve measurably.

2.  S. George (Suffolk Law), The Law Student's Guide to Doing Well and Being Well (Carolina Academic Press, 2021). 

From the abstract:

The ABA and most state bar associations have identified a wellness crisis in the legal profession, and called for educating students on how to better cope with the challenges of law school and practice. At the same time, students must learn how to maximize their brain health so that they perform well in law school and on behalf of their clients in practice. The same way musicians would tune their instruments, or chefs would sharpen their knives, law students must sharpen their minds. This book aims to help students “do well” in their ability to learn, and “be well” in the process, by exploring the deep connection between brain health and wellness.

3.  A. Soled (Rutgers) & B. Hoffman (Rutgers), Building Bridges: How Law Schools Can Better Prepare Students from Historically Underserved Communities to Excel in Law School, 69 J. Legal Educ. 268 (2020).

From the introduction:

This article discusses the needs of law students whose circumstances—including but not limited to economic status, race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or educational background—disadvantage them in relation to their classmates whose privileged environment better prepared them for law school. This article first discusses factors that affect academic performance at law school. Second, it illustrates prelaw school and law school programs that target the needs of students from historically underserved communities. Finally, this article proposes ways law school faculty and administration can help these students succeed in law school and in their careers.

4.  K. Testy (Washington), Advancing an Evidence-Based Approach to Improving Legal Education, 69 J. Legal Educ. 561 (2020). 

From the article:

Student-centeredness should not be a remarkable idea for legal education.
Yet, some educators resist student-centeredness on the grounds that such an
approach sounds too much like “the customer is always king.” Under this
line of thought, faculty members instead see their role as the expert with the
duty of deciding what the student needs. As one of my faculty colleagues once
explained to me, “Dean, you pay me to mold them, not to listen to them.”

In my experience, however, students usually do know what they need; we
can learn a great deal by listening

(Louis Schulze, FIU Law)

September 7, 2021 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Diversity Issues, Publishing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 6, 2021

A Proclamation on Labor Day

Labor Day is a holiday where we celebrate workers, an off-shoot of the industrial revolution and the labor unions that formed to help workers get fair treatment and to prevent child labor in the  19th Century. It started as a bit of a grassroots idea that caught on in some industrial centers, but it only became a Federal holiday in June, 1894 when Grover Cleveland signed it into law after hugely bungling his response to the Pullman Strike earlier that year. Before that, only Oregon, Colorado, New York and Massachusetts had their own versions of the holiday. We owe those labor unions a lot: weekends, paid holidays etc.  

But what about the labor of academic support and bar prep folks? Sometimes it seems that our status is unclear. Are we labor or management? We tend to operate at the junction of faculty and staff.  Sometimes we are faculty adjacent (as the Gen Z folks would put it). Sometimes, the people we work with have absolutely no idea what we do and seem pleasantly surprised that the school has people who “do that.” Bar prep folks work all summer and finish up just in time for a few scant days of rest before orientation kicks in. By this time, academic support folks have already planned and possibly conducted orientation classes. For people who do both, there is no break. Except, perhaps, for today.

So, in that spirit, I am calling for a celebration of Academic Support and Bar Prep folks, so:

A Proclamation:

Whereas, Academic Support/Bar Prep (“AS/BP”) folks are the first and last people students will know in law school, and;

AS/BP folks teach students to be successful by teaching (among other things) case briefing, outlining, study skills, exam skills, exam IRAC, legal writing templates like IRAC and CREAC, the MBE, MPTs, and  MEEs, and;

AS/BP folks will track students down or be tracked down for all of the above and many other questions, issues, crises and panics, and;

AS/BP folks relish student success and suffer student failure at a deep, deep level, and;

AS/BP folks may not be faculty or tenured faculty, and may not have job security for more than a year at a time, and;

AS/BP folks are the people that will meet a student at a rest stop on the Mass. Pike (or insert your favorite Interstate here) at 2:45 a.m. to turn over a form that needed a non-electronic signature;

It is therefore ordered that on this and every following Labor Day we shall celebrate the labor of these individuals.

To my colleagues in this venture: I hope this is indeed a day of rest, and for those who will be celebrating later today and tomorrow: Shana Tovah.

Now we just need to fill up the tank, head out to the rest stop, and get this baby signed.

(Liz Stillman)

September 6, 2021 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 5, 2021

AASE Diversity Conference Call for Proposals

Drawing on the spirit of the late Congressman John Lewis and the origins of academic support, the 2021 Association of Academic Support Educators Bi-Annual Diversity Conference will bring together colleagues committed to the intersection of diversity, equity, inclusion, status, legal education, and academic support. In this collegial and collaborative environment, colleagues will have an opportunity to meet, reconnect, and share ideas surrounding pedagogy, scholarship, and professional growth.

The mission of the AASE Diversity Committee is to work collaboratively to advocate for and support diversity in law schools, to encourage academic support programs to engage in practices that promote and support diversity, to promote the recruitment and retention of diverse academic support professionals, and to provide resources that enhance knowledge and encourage understanding of diversity. The Committee honors ASP's traditional role in supporting racial diversity in law schools and endorses a broad definition of diversity, that includes but is not limited to race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, ethnicity, physical or mental disability, and socio-economic status.

The diversity committee welcomes proposals on diversity and inclusion related topics that are relevant to legal education and academic support. The committee seeks proposals that describe the presentation and its goals in detail. Our assumption is that a clear and detailed proposal today will lead to a stronger presentation at the conference.

Proposals should be submitted via e-mail to Haley Meade, host chair, at haley.meade@law.cuny.edu. The diversity committee will only evaluate proposals submitted through this method.

September 5, 2021 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Academic Success Position at University of Idaho

THE UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO COLLEGE OF LAW seeks to hire a full-time clinical faculty member to teach academic skills courses, develop and administer academic support and advising programs, and implement relevant policies, in collaboration with the College’s student services team. The position is a fiscal-year appointment with faculty voting rights and associated faculty governance responsibilities. The faculty member will design, implement, and promote activities to help all College of Law students achieve their full academic and professional potential through academic skills, bar preparation, and advising programs, as well as through individualized academic counseling and advising. Applicants must have a J.D. from an accredited school or the equivalent, a distinguished academic record, and at least three years of practice, teaching, or clerking experience. Preferred qualifications include three or more years of experience in student affairs, academic success, or related job duties; passage of a bar exam in any state; teaching and/or tutoring experience in highly specialized fields, preferably law; experience working calmly and respectfully with students or others in crisis; and ability to work collaboratively in creating and delivering programming and advising related to academic success. As a land grant law school, the College is committed to public service and to providing an accessible and high-quality education in an inclusive environment. This position is located in Boise, one of the fastest-growing and most livable cities in the country, with a vibrant downtown and close proximity to natural beauty and outdoor recreation. Information about the College is available at https://www.uidaho.edu/law. Interested candidates should submit an application, including a statement of demonstrated commitment to fostering an inclusive community, at https://www.uidaho.edu/human-resources. Please direct questions to search committee chair Benji Cover (bcover@uidaho.edu). Priority will be given to applications received by September 15, 2021. The University of Idaho is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer.

September 4, 2021 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)