Monday, May 27, 2024

Animal Farm (and the 11th Annual AASE Conference).

I am just now coming down from the high of attending the 11th Annual AASE Conference last week, hosted --in the most gracious way-- by the University of Idaho College of Law in Boise. As one might expect, it was an incredibly collegial and informative academic conference. I know I have mentioned how academic support folks are by the far the kindest, most generous, and scholarly academicians. It is refreshing to be in room after room with colleagues who just get “it.”   “It” is how to get students to: attend workshops, participate in bar review, pay attention to how they learn, and create processes that are efficient and effective. But “it” also is: how to get doctrinal faculty to: attend workshops, keep an eye on students who are falling behind, keep an eye on students who may learn differently. “It” is finally the collective[1] search for information about the NextGen bar exam and whether your jurisdiction will adopt it (and if so, when).

One of the social events at the conference was a dinner and drinks at the Zoo. I mean, who doesn’t love a Zoo?[2] There were giraffes, zebras, lions, and a red panda who I think should have their own Instagram account. It was Tuesday, so there were tacos. It was a different and fun way to build community and enjoy a lovely evening in Boise.

However, I have to wonder if our monkeying[3] around trying to get a handle on a test that we do not know a lot about-including whether it will actually be a thing in many of our jurisdictions- is just caging up the academic support predator that would love to set its sights on this prey by getting to know it (and actually figuring out if knowing it is necessary).

We spent a lot of time talking about the NextGen bar exam together. There were wonderful sessions about how to get ready, or adapt, or prepare students for the NextGen bar exam. In fact, every presentation about bar readiness (and some that were not) discussed the NextGen bar exam. One example was a great presentation about how to use Professional Responsibility as a golden ticket for teaching skills for both the UBE and NextGen bar exams. Another talked about teaching IRAC from a NextGen perspective. We had amazing presentations about how to use AI to Draft Next Gen practice questions, how to prepare students for the new legal research components of the NextGen exam, creating rubrics and learning objectives based on NextGen foundational skills, and more.

But what if after all this careful planning and preparing for NextGen, we, like Columbus, do not find ourselves in the destination we had planned to reach? What if the unknowns we are so carefully trying to infer[4] have been calculated incorrectly? We may already have, or are about to welcome, students who could be taking this bar exam and we have been left with penumbras and emanations.  We have become like Academic Support Ninja Warriors[5] who are trying to get to the goal without knowing exactly what challenges lie ahead. Some of this is the NCBE not being entirely forthcoming about the exam, and another piece of it resides in jurisdictions who have not shown their hands either. Together, that leaves us no better off than the animals in the Zoo: we are at their mercy in terms of getting fed the information we need, and then we wonder if all our hard work to know more than we have been currently told is going to end up being merely entertaining -- but not freeing in any way.

A very special thank you to Karen Wellman and her amazing team at U. of Idaho and the AASE Executive and Programming teams for making this another memorable conference. We are lucky to have each other on this quest. AASE will be posting all the materials and slides from the conference-look in your emails and on the website for more information.

And finally, I am crazy excited that all these amazing people will come to me next year. We will see you in Boston for the 12th Annual AASE Conference-Suffolk University Law School, May 2025!

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] But not universal, some jurisdictions have committed with clear timelines in place.

[2] Yes, the animals there may not love it, but bear (get it?) with me for a moment.

[3] The puns will be fast and furious-please feel free to groan-or just shoot me an email that says, “UGH!,” I deserve it.

[4] And asking ChatGPT to help us infer as well.

[5] Which will be the name of my second ASP themed band.

May 27, 2024 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Meetings, Professionalism, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 22, 2024

AASE Registration

AASE's Programming Committee is asking that everyone who plans to attend this year's AASE Annual Conference register soon because the AASE Yeti Travel Mugs are going quickly!  Yes, each attendee receives an AASE branded YETI mug to commemorate our 11th AASE Conference but it's first come, first served based upon REGISTRATION. 
 
General Conference Program is attached as well as information about the pre-conference Scholarship Workshop. 
 
Outlook-A yellow a

March 22, 2024 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 11, 2024

Getting to No

Can we stop for a minute and discuss how much fun, “I’m Just Ken” was last night on the Oscars? It was pink, sparkly, and joyful. And, like my scholarship (as noted in a prior blog post), delightful, but insufficient for the win.[1]

I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted (and maybe, therefore, a bit cranky). I am teaching four classes this semester, have a regular load of one-on-one students, am enmeshed in both writing and presenting topics, and have other committee, university, and non-university tasks waiting. Not to mention writing for this blog.[2] This spring “break” will be full of obligations, but also some much needed downtime.

As much as I love the book, “Getting to Maybe[3],” being successful in law school is a matter of doing smart, efficient things to get others to say “yes” to you: yes to an A, yes to a clerkship, yes to a job.

I need a book that teaches me how to say no.[4]

One of the downsides of the job security status most academic support folks find themselves in is the unspoken but real subtext of not being able to say no to requests from supervisors and colleagues. This, coupled with my desire to do some of the things ordinarily not available to academic support folks (like chairing committees and participating in leadership institutes) makes us (me, at least) very busy.  It is like begging to sit at the grown-up table, but your feet can’t reach the floor in the big chairs. You are grateful to be there, so you cope and insist you do not want the chicken nuggets the kids are having.

But let’s be clear: since we are sitting at the grown-up table, we are often then asked to do things that tenured, doctrinal faculty would not be asked --or would never agree-- to do. I need a way (besides retirement) to get myself off (or pushed closer to the bottom of) the “usual suspects” list of folks who can be relied on to do various jobs.  

Yet, I have a hard time thinking of myself as someone who wouldn’t be reliable or diligent. I would argue that academic support folks are constantly proving their worth by showcasing these attributes. We are also kind and generous people (I see you!) who wouldn’t want to let someone down even if it is above and beyond our bandwidth and paygrade. I think the pandemic has also made some formerly solid boundaries much more permeable.

Therefore, I propose we start finding a “no buddy.” This can be someone we see at work, a colleague we know through our ASP community, friends, partner/spouse, or really anyone. We can text that person, “I said no!!!” and they will respond, “I am proud of you!!!”[5]

I’ll start: last Friday, a student asked me my next availability for a meeting since they were unprepared for our late Friday afternoon before spring break meeting, and I said, “after the break.” Essentially, saying I wouldn’t meet with them during the break. Y’all: I said no!!!![6]

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] Which is not to say Billie Eilish and her lovely brother did not deserve the win-they truly did.

[2] Which actually gives me great joy! Really!

[3] It really can be a game changer for students! https://cap-press.com/books/isbn/9781594607349/Getting-to-Maybe-Second-Edition

[4] I am not advocating for a book that teaches others how to say “no” to me. I don’t think there is a need for that text. See, Tenure, not happening.

[5] Yes, the exclamation points are required.

[6] And I am proud of myself. And I still feel a little guilty….

March 11, 2024 in Advice, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 2, 2024

AASE Registration Open

Outlook-A yellow a

March 2, 2024 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 26, 2024

Lost and Found

Today, I will have two former members of the United States House of Representatives come and speak to my undergraduate class as part of an amazing program called Congress to Campus. I am always incredibly excited to have these gentlemen (and so far, they have only sent me white men) come and speak to the class. More importantly, I am fervently hoping my students have questions for them[1]. I have provided their biographies; we have discussed checks and balances and separation of powers, and they should know what Congress does (and cannot do) well enough to be curious about what differs between the textbook and the reality in terms of the Federal Legislature. I think I have done my job (we’ll see, of course) of piquing their curiosity.

But that leads me to a broader question in teaching: how do we nurture curiosity in all of our students? I am not sure the first year of law school, in general, does that. Where is the adventure in the Commerce Clause? The cliff-hanger in Adverse Possession?[2] What happens when students lose their sense of wonder about law? And notice, I say when and not if, because I think the vast majority of students do (at least temporarily) lose their sense of wonder about six weeks in to the first semester, and again just about now in the second.

Part of the issue is that 1L students do not get choices. They cannot choose their classes, professors, or schedules. I don’t think that changing this entirely would be a great plan since (among other things) 1L subjects are bar tested and finding doctrinal faculty to teach 1L classes is hard enough without a popularity contest built in.[3]

I once read in a parenting book that offering your toddler choices-where you, as the adult, control all the options-prevents meltdowns. For example, offering a blue cup or a red cup (you have both ready) is easier than giving a blue cup and then trying to explain that all cups are the same in the end. You still control the options, but they get to make a choice. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying our students are toddlers, but they may similarly feel that they have very little control over their education in the first year (and beyond depending on your law school’s policies and requirements).

We are currently planning to offer an optional 1 credit Pass/Fail elective to students in their 1L spring after we freed a credit when we semesterized[4] all of our 1L classes. We have discussed this at length and even had our faculty vote (in favor) of making it happen. I am thinking the classes we offer need be something interesting enough to combat the idea of just enjoying the semester without that extra credit. It needs to feed and restore curiosity. Granted, at the moment the only times available for such classes are late on Thursday evening or early Friday morning, so not primetime, therefore I am not certain our first foray will be representative of what we could do with this credit. But we shall see. One member of committee suggested we try Accounting for Lawyers. Since I wonder if that will attract any students, my curiosity is already piqued.

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] God knows I have questions about the governance of the country recently, but this isn’t about me.

[2] Although an elemental test in 1L Property is always nice to see….

[3] And the logistics would be difficult. We have an incoming 1L class at or near 400 students, so that would be chaos for us.

[4] It turns out this is not a word-but indulge me here.

February 26, 2024 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Naked and Afraid

I’m being dramatic of course: I am fully clothed and just a bit rattled. I am writing this entry on Thursday, Feb. 1st for publication next Monday, Feb. 5th. Today is the day that the faculty votes on whether I will be offered an additional five year contract, or I will be out of a job on July 1st. To be crystal clear, I am not really expecting to be shown the curb today. I feel valued at my school, and I think they would feel a loss if they let me go. I believe this. Intellectually, I know this isn’t going to be an issue, but emotionally, I must say that it doesn’t feel great to have such an important decision seem so completely out of my control.

Part of this feeling of vulnerability may stem from my first gen background. My parents worked in the garment industry and my maternal grandparents worked as a milliner and a produce buyer. I am the first woman in my immediate family who knows how to drive, went to a four year college, and then on to law school. For me, having control of how I am perceived and discussed is therefore really important. I would never say I am self-made--my family was wildly supportive-- but I also do not want to be unmade by others.

I think one of hardest parts of this process is seeing the Committee memo that essentially lays me out bare circulated not once, but twice to everyone (including me). I am glad there will be no paper copies circulated both for the trees and the possibility of it moving beyond our faculty (which I know is also very possible, if not even easier, via email, but somehow paper seems like more of a security risk, which only goes to prove my addled state). Everyone gets to know about my course evaluations, syllabi, PowerPoint slides, and scholarship. And the folks who get to vote to keep me or not include:

  1. People who have known me since July 2023;
  2. People who have been here for a year or two but haven’t met me at all;
  3. People who are actually leaving at the end of the semester;
  4. People who have been unprofessionally rude to me in Committee meetings;
  5. People who have said no to a tenure track possibility for ASP; but then there are also:
  6. Amazing colleagues I have known for over 20 years;
  7. Amazing colleagues in my ASP department;
  8. Amazing colleagues I consider friends (these past three are not mutually exclusive categories);
  9. Fabulous colleagues who support changes in ASP status; and
  10. Wonderful administrators I am not sure can vote but have always been quite supportive.

In short, a lot of my jury may not consider themselves my peers. And they will get together in a big room (and I am not going to be there as per tradition) and talk about me and then they get to decide if I can continue doing this job even if some of them are uncertain what it is. The fact that I need to do this every five years (although when I started it was shorter intervals) is frustrating. If my position doesn't merit tenure-which I understand is a long investment in me by my school--then why so much repeated scrutiny for something that clearly isn't considered all that important? I know this lesser status is a construct, but a process that is a reminder of this status over and over can't be the best practice. I have been through this more than seven times already.

So, when quotes from my course evaluations are circulated far and wide, I feel particularly exposed (although they were all positive quotes). When someone comments (again, positively) on the quality of my slides, I feel invaded. And when I am told that my scholarship is nice but not tenure worthy, I am livid, because tenure is not even on the table.

The only thing on the table is me.

(Liz Stillman)

**UPDATE**:  My contract was in fact renewed by the faculty on Thursday and nice things were said about me during that meeting. I am, although still slightly salty about the process, very pleased with the result.

February 4, 2024 in Miscellany, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 3, 2024

MWCASP/SWCASP Workshop

Please join us in St. Louis, MO for the Joint One-Day Workshop of the Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals and the Midwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals, hosted by the Saint Louis University School of Law on Friday, March 8th, from 9:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. CST, with a welcome dinner the evening of Thursday, March 7th.

The theme of this year's Workshop is Practical and Innovative Techniques to Approach Teaching and Advising for the Next Gen Bar Exam and the Next Generation of Lawyers. We have an exciting program and selection of speakers for you (see attached) and are excited to spend the day sharing ideas with our colleagues from the Southwest and Midwest regions - and beyond!

The conference will be hosted in person at the Saint Louis University School of Law. However, while we are excited to return to an in-person workshop this year, we also will do our best to record the workshop for those unable to travel to St. Louis.

Thanks to our generous sponsors, AccessLex, BarBri, and Themis, there is no registration fee, but we ask that you please register using this link so that we can adequately prepare: https://forms.gle/YTGyHB8zm6WdkGL78

Due to unexpected flooding at our original hotel, we are unable to provide a room block for workshop participants. However, there are a number of hotels nearby, including the following options:

Tru by Hilton St. Louis Downtown (~$123 per night, .2 miles walk)
 
The Last Hotel 4-Star Boutique Hotel (~230 per night, .4 miles walk)
 
21c Museum Hotel St Louis (~$230 per night, .4 miles walk)
 
We hope we get to "meet you in St. Louis" in March!
 
2024 SWCASP/MWCASP One-Day Workshop Planning Committee
Toni Miceli, Saint Louis University School of Law
Petina Benigno, Saint Louis University School of Law
Steven Foster, Oklahoma City University School of Law
Megan Kreminski, University of Illinois Chicago School of Law

February 3, 2024 in Bar Exam Preparation, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 17, 2023

SWCASP & MWCASP Call for Proposals

Call for Proposals: SWCASP & MWCASP Joint One-Day Workshop

The Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals and the Midwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals are now accepting proposals for presentations at their Joint Workshop taking place in-person at the Saint Louis University School of Law on Friday, March 8, 2024. We welcome proposals from presenters in the Southwest or Midwest regions and beyond! While we are excited to return to an in-person workshop this year, we also will try to record the workshop for those unable to travel to St. Louis.

The theme of this year's Workshop is Practical and Innovative Techniques to Approach Teaching and Advising for the Next Gen Bar Exam and the Next Generation of Lawyers. The Workshop Planning Committee seeks presentations focused on:

  • What we can do to prepare the students entering our classroom that don't have the same skills as previous classes;
  • How to advise students in the face of the many unknowns that accompany the adoption of the Next Gen Bar Exam; and
  • How to advise and support faculty in moving forward with their own teaching in a way that embraces the changes presented by the bar exam and legal practice.

Preference will be given to presentations that are both interactive and contain Lessons or Presentations in a Box (where the presenter provides all of the information and materials necessary for attendees to leave the session prepared to deliver the lesson or presentation on their own).

Proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis, with all acceptances going out by the week of February 12, 2024. To apply, please complete the proposal SUBMISSION FORM by January 31, 2024. The Submission Form requests the following information:

  • Name and Email of Presenter(s)
  • Title of proposed presentation
  • Brief description of your proposed presentation (under 100 words)
  • Desired length of presentation (25 minutes or 50 minutes)
  • Brief description of the interactive elements of your presentation
  • Brief description of the materials you will provide to participants to take home with them from your presentation

If you have any questions about your proposal, please do not hesitate to contact one of us. Information on hotel blocks and workshop registration will be forthcoming. As always, there is no fee to attend this workshop.

We look forward to receiving your proposals!

2024 One-Day Workshop Planning Committee

Toni Miceli, Saint Louis University School of Law

Steven Foster, Oklahoma City University School of Law

Megan Kreminski, University of Illinois Chicago School of Law

December 17, 2023 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 27, 2023

We Are the Champions, My Friends

Lately, a list-serv I have subscribed to has been a hotbed of political group-wide emails. It is not a political list-serv, so this volley is something of a surprise. The emails are about the war between Israel and Hamas-and they have been ugly. Am I a coward for not engaging in the group email chain but rather writing about it in a blog entry? Perhaps, but I contend that the professionals (that I suppose I can call colleagues) on this list-serv are engaging in behavior that they are absolutely free to engage in but is also demeaning and chilling. One thing some posters on the list do is launch personal attacks.  Others basically argue that if you do not agree with them, it is because you are ignorant and uneducated about the subject area, so they offer a lot of links--some from questionable sources-and one, in a total twist of fate, written by my sister-in-law (a reputable source!). The same email accusing people of being essentially unintelligent is signed, “Yours in Solidarity…” Um, I am not going to actually agree with you that I am an imbecile because I don’t see things exactly as you do, so that’s a big nope on the solidarity.

Some of these posters could learn a lot from Academic Support folks about how to be collegial. That is why I am thankful this year for the amazing community of ASP folks who are the champions:

  1. We share well. ASP conferences are the best because we share everything. We share materials, techniques, statistics, joy, triumph, frustrations, and passion.
  2. We care about each other. I have had more people in this community inquire about my family in Israel than I ever anticipated. It actually brought me to tears.
  3. We care about our students. We always use the possessive when we talk about them-they belong to us and while we cannot help every single student, we would if we could (and they came to office hours, just saying).
  4. We celebrate and uplift each other’s work. Think of the work Louis does on this blog every Tuesday to announce recent scholarship-and that is just one example of how we amplify the community.
  5. We respect each other. We would never call each other names or require acquiescence to be deserving of solidarity.
  6. We are family. We know each other. We welcome newcomers with offers of help and materials.
  7. And even if you don’t agree with the above points, I still think the world of you and your intelligence and accomplishments.

Happy end of classes!

(Liz Stillman)

November 27, 2023 in Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Meetings, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 30, 2023

NECASP Conference Call for Proposals Extended to November 3!

Request for Proposals: Presentations and Scholarly “Works in Progress”

Northeast Consortium of Academic Support Professionals (NECASP) Conference

Friday, December 15, 2023, 11am-3pm ET, in-person and via Zoom

Hosted by the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

 

NECASP will be holding its annual one-day conference this December. We are excited to return to an in-person conference this year, although we will still be including a remote option to accommodate those participants and presenters unable to travel to New York. Our topic this year is ASP Expanding our Reach: Are We Reaching Out and Are We Reachable?

 

Description: In order to adjust to the ever-changing needs of our students, it’s imperative we do a yearly audit of our messaging and our services to our students. So, this year, let’s get together (in person!!!) to discuss ways we can ensure we are reaching out to all of our students consistently and make sure we are accessible to them.

 

We welcome a broad range of proposals –from presenters in the Northeast region and beyond –and at various stages of completion –from idea to fruition. Please note that we may ask you to co-present with other ASP colleagues depending on the number of proposals selected. Our conference will be in-person on the Pace Law campus in White Plains, NY; however, we will have a Zoom option and will consider proposals from both in-person and remote attendees. If you wish to present, the proposal process is as follows:

 

  1. Submit your proposal by NOVEMBER 3, 2023, via email to Danielle Kocal at [email protected]
  2. Proposals may be submitted as a Word document or as a PDF
  3. Proposals must include the following:
  4. Name and title of presenter
    b. Law School
    c. Address, email address, and telephone number for presenter
    d. Title
    e. If a scholarly work in progress, an abstract no more than 500 words
  5. Whether you will be attending in-person or remotely
    g. Media or computer presentation needs
  6. As noted above, proposals are due on October 27, 2023. The NECASP Board will review the proposals and reply to each by November 17, 2023.


If you have any questions about your proposal, please do not hesitate to contact one of us, and we look forward to seeing you at our conference!

 

Information such as hotel blocks and zoom links will be forthcoming. As always, there is no fee to attend this conference.

 

 

 

 

 

2023-24 NECASP Board Members

 

Chair:   Danielle Kocal, Director of Academic Success The Elizabeth Haub School of Law / Pace University, [email protected]

Vice Chair:   Erica Sylvia, Assistant Director of Bar Success & Adjunct Professor of LawUniversity of Massachusetts School of Law, [email protected]

Treasurer:   Stephen Iannacone, Director of Academic Success, Cardozo Law, [email protected]

Secretary:   Elizabeth Stillman, Associate Professor of Academic Support, Suffolk University, [email protected] 

 

October 30, 2023 in Meetings, Professionalism, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 9, 2023

Annual North East Academic Support Professionals (NECASP) Conference-Call for Proposals

Request for Proposals: Presentations and Scholarly “Works in Progress”

Northeast Consortium of Academic Support Professionals (NECASP) Conference

Friday, December 15, 2023, 11am-3pm ET, in-person and via Zoom

Hosted by the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

 

NECASP will be holding its annual one-day conference this December. We are excited to return to an in-person conference this year, although we will still be including a remote option to accommodate those participants and presenters unable to travel to New York. Our topic this year is ASP Expanding our Reach: Are We Reaching Out and Are We Reachable?

 

Description: In order to adjust to the ever-changing needs of our students, it’s imperative we do a yearly audit of our messaging and our services to our students. So, this year, let’s get together (in person!!!) to discuss ways we can ensure we are reaching out to all of our students consistently and make sure we are accessible to them.

 

We welcome a broad range of proposals –from presenters in the Northeast region and beyond –and at various stages of completion –from idea to fruition. Please note that we may ask you to co-present with other ASP colleagues depending on the number of proposals selected. Our conference will be in-person on the Pace Law campus in White Plains, NY; however, we will have a Zoom option and will consider proposals from both in-person and remote attendees. If you wish to present, the proposal process is as follows:

 

  1. Submit your proposal by October 27, 2023, via email to Danielle Kocal at [email protected]
  2. Proposals may be submitted as a Word document or as a PDF
  3. Proposals must include the following:
  4. Name and title of presenter
    b. Law School
    c. Address, email address, and telephone number for presenter
    d. Title
    e. If a scholarly work in progress, an abstract no more than 500 words
  5. Whether you will be attending in-person or remotely
    g. Media or computer presentation needs
  6. As noted above, proposals are due on October 27, 2023. The NECASP Board will review the proposals and reply to each by November 17, 2023.


If you have any questions about your proposal, please do not hesitate to contact one of us, and we look forward to seeing you at our conference!

 

Information such as hotel blocks and zoom links will be forthcoming. As always, there is no fee to attend this conference.

 

 

 

 

 

2023-24 NECASP Board Members

 

Chair:   Danielle Kocal, Director of Academic Success The Elizabeth Haub School of Law / Pace University, [email protected]

Vice Chair:   Erica Sylvia, Assistant Director of Bar Success & Adjunct Professor of LawUniversity of Massachusetts School of Law, [email protected]

Treasurer:   Stephen Iannacone, Director of Academic Success, Cardozo Law, [email protected]

Secretary:   Elizabeth Stillman, Associate Professor of Academic Support, Suffolk University, [email protected] 

 

 

 

October 9, 2023 in Meetings, Professionalism, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 25, 2023

Invisibility

Many of you probably received an email from AALS last week with a link (and “unique PIN”) to a “Faculty Survey.”  The email said,

The Association of American Law Schools is interested in your experiences as a law school faculty member. AALS wants to know more about you, your career trajectory, current workload, time allocation across your various responsibilities, and perceptions of tenure. We are asking you to take part in the American Law School Faculty Study…

The survey itself, being conducted by an outside vendor, (NORC) has the following preamble (again, the bold is in the original):

“This survey focuses on the experiences of individuals who currently serve in the position of law school tenured, tenure-track, long-term contract, clinical, or legal writing faculty.”

It is a well-established canon of construction that, “the expression of one thing implies the exclusion of others (expressio unius est exclusio alterius).”[1] So, the preamble alone should have made it clear to me that ASP and Bar Prep faculty members were not their intended audience-and yet, it was sent to all of us. If I had not checked off “long term contract,” my survey would have ended right there. Luckily, a colleague alerted me to this before I started, and I was able to voice my displeasure at being intentionally excluded as part of my response. Otherwise, I would have remained invisible.

As we know from the AASE Survey last year, not all of us could click on long term contract and avoid being entirely canceled from being considered faculty by an organization that our institutions are likely members of and actually has an Academic Support Section[2]. In fact, only 26% of AASE respondents are on multiyear contracts and 17% have presumptively renewable contracts. 47% of respondents are at-will employees and another 11% have year to year contracts.[3] This means that less than half of our ASP colleagues would be eligible to participate in this survey. Surely, our experiences are as relevant as other traditionally non-tenured faculty such as clinical and legal writing. While there has been progress in tenure for these other groups, ASP tenure (or tenure track) is currently unavailable to 92% of professionals who responded to our survey.[4]

My esteemed colleague, Matt Carluzzo, who is Assistant Dean of Students and Academic Success at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law responded to NORC with an email where he expressed his disappointment and went on to say, “[M]any law schools still see and accordingly treat ASP as an afterthought - something necessary, but still very ‘other’ … I was initially disappointed (though not surprised) when there was no "academic success/support" option listed on the opening page.  I was genuinely shocked, however, when upon selecting "Other," I was instantly directed to the curt, "Thank you for your time today" completion screen.  Apparently this survey is not for ASP professionals.  This is hard to interpret as anything other than yet another example of ASP being either unintentionally overlooked, or intentionally excluded…Your website says that AALS ‘hired NORC to learn more about law school faculty hiring, voting rights, tenure policies, and other key issues[5].’  In my opinion, this is a key issue that is blatantly overlooked and/or ignored.  Any doubt, disbelief, or resistance to this idea is contradicted by the old cliche: the proof is in the pudding.” I could not have said it better. We await a response from AALS, NORC, and perhaps even the AccessLex Institute (who was another sponsor of the survey).

In the meantime, I am convinced that when clicking “other” brings you to a dead end, it is not a good look for an organization that claims that their “...mission is to uphold and advance excellence in legal education. In support of this mission, AALS promotes the core values of excellence in teaching and scholarship, academic freedom, and diversity, including diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints, while seeking to improve the legal profession, to foster justice, and to serve our many communities–local, national, and international.[6]” I would also add that the introduction to the survey expresses AALS’s interest “in examining the work-life balance and career trajectories of law faculty.”[7] 

If the opinions of legal writing and clinical faculty merit consideration, ASP faculty opinions should not be overlooked and disregarded. While the doctrinal faculty that seem to be the target of this survey do not always know all that we do in ASP, they no doubt are glad it is done.  Their students certainly are. We should be seen and heard. We deserve-—no, wait—we have earned better.

If AALS truly wants to know more about the “career trajectories of law faculty,” why not study the folks who have nowhere to go but up?

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] https://judicature.duke.edu/articles/a-dozen-canons-of-statutory-and-constitutional-text-construction/

[2] However, there were some issues about ASP’s inclusion at the AALS conference this past January as well, see, https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2023/01/academic-support-programs-should-be-included-in-us-news-rankingsmaybe.html

[3] Please feel free to contact any of us who serve on the AASE Assessment Committee for the full survey report: https://associationofacademicsupporteducators.org/committees/assessment/

[4] See, note 3.

[5] https://www.norc.org/research/projects/2023-american-law-school-faculty.html

[6] https://www.aals.org/about/mission/

[7] https://www.norc.org/research/projects/2023-american-law-school-faculty.html

September 25, 2023 in Meetings, Professionalism, Program Evaluation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 28, 2023

AASE Must Have Materials

I was extremely grateful to see everyone at AASE.  It was my first conference since 2020, and I had a blast.  I learned so much from the presenters, so if you couldn't make it, I wanted to pass along quick synopsis of presentations to go grab the materials.  Before I make my list, I will apologize to those not on the list.  There were great presentations not on my list that I didn't see (others may blog about those).

 - Bridging the Gap by Tina Benigno, Melissa Hale, and Toni Miceli - They did a great job explaining a few different ways to conduct a pre-matriculation program.  Tina and Toni have a great program.  The information on how they did it is useful.

- 10 Tools for Academic and Bar Success Educators by Erin Crist, Debbie Shapiro, and Dawn Young - I loved this presentation because they reminded me of the different ways to help students learn material.  They demonstrated 10 teaching techniques.  Many people, or at least me, tend to use techniques that work for them.  I know I use one of the techniques on their list nearly every class because I like it.  This made me think of other ways to teach similar concepts but with a different technique to reach different students.  Their handout was really good.

- Measuring Hope by Paula Manning - Watch her SSRN page for an upcoming article about hope.  She argues that many of the concepts we teach (Growth Mindset, Self-Regulated Learning, etc.) have hope as an underlying theme.  She used a specific academic definition of hope and showed how it could impact our students.  

- Consciousness Raising by Marta Baffy - Marta explained how using language learning techniques in law school classes could help our students understand new concepts.  Her exercises were great.

- NCBE Session - This will end up being a full blog post at a later time, but I didn't want to completely ignore it.

- Teaching Like NextGen Happened by Kris Franklin - She discussed a world where everything was awesome, and we taught students how to do lawyering tasks in all classes.  Programs used curriculum maps to support learning outcomes.  She talked about how to conduct classes with those skills, then encouraged participants to write a book to compete with hers.  I will probably just stick with trying to integrate her materials into my class.

- Outsourcing Self-Regulation by Marsha Griggs - Watch her SSRN page for an interesting article that argues the judiciary is outsourcing the regulation process when courts rely so heavily on an outside agency to license attorneys.

- From Mayhem to Magic by Ellen Douglas and Kristin Lasker - They demonstrated a great tool for departments to use to collaborate on projects.  Their powerpoint information will be good if you are looking for better organization and project management.

- MBE Analysis by Scott Johns and Ashley Cetnar - They did an interesting experiment with two different ways to approach MBE questions.  One side of the room only had the call of the question and answer choices, and the other side only had the facts with the call of the question without answer choices.  It seemed both sides did equally well answering the question.  

- Ludic Pedagogy by Bryce Woolley - Bryce discussed Ludic pedagogy (which is similar to games in the classroom), then he demonstrated how he used a branching program to create a choose your own adventure game for a bar exam question.  This would take significant time, but the resource looked engaging.

I could not attend everything, but I loved everything I attended.  When the materials are on the AASE website, I highly suggest going through all of them.  I can't wait until next year (with potentially more potato stress balls).

(Steven Foster)

May 28, 2023 in Professionalism, Publishing, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 22, 2023

Best Practitioners

Greetings from Santa Clara, California, and 10th Annual AASE conference! The sun is shining, and it is amazing to see everyone-the people I have missed in our pandemic years as well as people I had not met in person before today (like the amazing editor of this blog, Steven Foster!)

Here are the things I've learned so far (today was the day for "newbies" to learn the ins and outs of Academic Support):

  1. There are palm trees here-but they are not indigenous to this area. But they are so pretty swaying in the wind. I know they'd not survive a New England winter, but I wouldn't mind giving a try....
  2. ASP People are the best people-actually, I already knew that, but proof of this fact was undeniable today. We are the kindest, most generous, and collegial academics out there. And if you argue with me about that, I'll most likely ask you for your sources and then have you frame a counterargument because that is what we do, but I won't be thrilled about it.
  3. Although I am far from a newbie, I was bolstered by listening to the most respected folks I know tell me what their process is, and even more exciting: it is my process too!!! Which is not to say I didn't learn amazing new things, but I am so happy I am engaging in best practices. Phew!
  4. We are doing world class scholarship and lifting each other up with it. This is wonderful!!
  5. I cannot wait to see what else (and who else!) I will encounter tomorrow.

I am looking forward to spending more time learning from, as well as hanging and laughing with the amazing community. We value each other when we aren't universally valued in other realms. we are family.

(Liz Stillman)

 

May 22, 2023 in About This Blog, Meetings, Professionalism, Program Evaluation, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 15, 2023

Double Digits!!

Happy Monday! Our conference begins in about a week, and it is a big one (double digits!). Please see the note below from Afton Cavanaugh about a cool project that we are undertaking to commemorate our 10th Anniversary. We need your input-having a national organization is an important step towards our professional goals, so we should celebrate its longevity and our dreams for the future together.

My personal countdown of school lunches left to prepare (ever, since my youngest is graduating in a few short weeks) is a 9 to go. More on that next week.

(Liz Stillman)

Hi Everyone -

I am working on putting together a short slideshow for the AASE Business Meeting to commemorate 10 years of AASE. I have pictures to add to the slideshow, but I would love to add quotes and short video snippets of no more than 10-20 seconds that answer any of the following questions:

  • In one sentence, what has AASE meant to you?
  • What word or phrase would you use to describe the AASE community?
  • In 1-2 sentences, tell us about something you learned from a past AASE conference that you have used in your role?
  • In 1-2 sentences, tell us how a member of AASE helped you.

Please address only one question per video. You may upload multiple videos though. These videos do not need to be fancy, the only thing you should ensure is that you record in a well-lit area. Upload your video to this folder: AASE Memories

You can also answer one or more of these questions on the word document located here if you prefer not to create a video: Quotes.docx

You may also email me, but videos are often too big to send via email. If you record via Zoom and make the file downloadable, you can email me the Zoom recording link. I won't be able to use everything I receive, but we can add everything with the conference materials so that you can see what anyone that shared had to say. 

Best,

Afton Cavanaugh
Assistant Dean of Law Success 

Service Professor in Law

St. Mary’s University School of Law
                                                                      

May 15, 2023 in Meetings, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Survey reminder no. 3,564,722

Last week, we sent out another email with the individual and institutional survey links to all AASE members. If you didn't receive it, please email me at: [email protected] and I'll get it to you!

The data that we amass as a result of this survey will help our profession know a number of things:

  1. Who we are: who are the ASP professionals in our nation's law schools
  2. What we do: so, so much, but more specifically we will have information on what classes we teach, workshops we offer, bar prep (during and after law school), orientation programs...really everything we offer to our students.
  3. How we are valued, classified, and compensated. This cannot change if we do not know the baseline.
  4. How we spend our time in these roles, doing all this work.

 As promised (threatened?), here is a limerick for the occasion:

There once was a survey from AASE     

That didn’t take up all that much space

It asked for the info we need

To help us succeed

In making our tenure track case!

The deadline to answer (APRIL 14TH!!!) is TOMORROW!!!.

Please do not make me resort to sonnets.

(Liz Stillman)

April 13, 2023 in Meetings, Professionalism, Program Evaluation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 3, 2023

Have I Mentioned the Survey(s)?

You and I both know that I have mentioned it (a number of times). Last week, we sent out an email with the individual and institutional survey links to all AASE members. If you didn't receive it, please email me at: [email protected] and I'll get it to you!

The data that we amass as a result of this survey will help our profession know a number of things:

  1. Who we are: who are the ASP professionals in our nation's law schools
  2. What we do: so, so much, but more specifically we will have information on what classes we teach, workshops we offer, bar prep (during and after law school), orientation programs...really everything we offer to our students.
  3. How we are valued, classified, and compensated. This cannot change if we do not know the baseline.
  4. How we spend our time in these roles, doing all this work.

 I have even composed a Haiku to inspire you to respond (I think we forgot to add poetry as a category of ASP work on the surveys, but nonetheless):

Please take the survey,

the data will help us all,

as professionals.

The deadline to answer (APRIL 14TH!!!)is coming sooner than you think. Please do not make me resort to limericks.

(Liz Stillman)

 

April 3, 2023 in Miscellany, Professionalism, Program Evaluation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 13, 2023

Numbers Game

Academic Support and Bar Prep educators are among the hardest working people I know. We are selfless student supporters. We are scholars. We are generous with our work, praise, and time. As a group, we would probably be voted “Most Likely to go Above and Beyond” in a fictional law school yearbook. However, one accolade we are not going to get in this fictional yearbook (at least at this moment) is “Most Likely to get Tenure.”

We need to go above and beyond on our own behalf to gain the job equity, security, and salary that recognizes the work we do.  We need to take a small fraction of our focus and use it for ourselves and each other.

In about two weeks, you will get two surveys from AASE. One is for you individually, and the other for your institution. If you are the director of your program, you should fill out one of each, if not, please only fill out the individual survey and nag your director to fill out the institutional survey for your school. If you don’t see the survey by April 1st, please contact AASE at: [email protected] and we will send you the surveys.

Here’s the thing, we all need this data. We need to know who we are and how we are doing as a group. We need to know what job security looks like for us --or if there is any at all. We need to know how much we are being underpaid compared to other groups of law school faculty. Knowing what we all do both in and outside of the ASP realm is important. Knowing what we teach, how often, and when we teach it, is incredibly valuable information. I know it seems intrusive, and my mother would often say that asking about salary is just “tacky,” but our institutions will be looking for this information when we propose a change.

Data is how the legal writing community successfully waged their tenure battles. Numbers seem like unlikely armaments, but at the moment, they are the tools we need. When the results of the survey are presented at the AASE conference in May, please do not be the person listening and thinking, “they haven’t captured my situation.” We want to capture you (not in a kidnapping or any other creepy way, you know what I mean….hopefully…).  We want the team photo of "ASP educators with tenure" to be big enough to need a full page spread in future yearbooks.

Getting the appropriate and earned equity, security, and pay for our community will be a numbers game. Please play.

(Liz Stillman)

March 13, 2023 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Program Evaluation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 23, 2023

Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

It is that time of year when ASP folks are inundated with students who have had an epiphany about their study habits -- usually brought on by grades that were less than stellar. It is also the time of year when students with grades that our law school is concerned about are told to come visit ASP. These students all have a few Cs and have been told that this GPA might not be good enough to continue after the first year. They are frightened, chastened, and often need the tissues and the chocolate I've stocked for this season. I have a general plan for working with these students-almost a template: go over the bad exams, let's see where the deficiencies are (not phrased that way!), and let's get started with building the skills to avoid them for the next set of exams. If the issue is output (lack of IRAC, multiple choice questions that were confusing, etc., time), I get them started on practice questions ASAP. If it is input (didn't outline, didn't study efficiently, missing classes, other distractions), I get them started on building better habits and practice. If it was a mental health issue, or some outside trauma, I ask if they are in a better place, make sure that they are getting help, and then send them to practice (but very gently). I'm sure you do something very similar. This is the bread and butter of ASP. Time-proven technology that is individualized for each student.

But (you knew there would be a but), what do you do with the students who come to you with very good grades? Recently, before I even got a chance to email the 1Ls who will be notified that they should be seeing me, another first year student asked to meet with me to discuss improving their grades. Their grades were: A, A-, A-, and the dreaded B+. I had some good advice about improving their social life--i.e., don't complain to anyone else about these grades--that I kept to myself. I also did not want to dismiss the student with a "those are great grades, whatever you are doing, keep doing it." Although, I will admit this was my first thought along with, "do you realize that there are students here who would kill for those grades????" All I could think of was that Michael Jackson song, "[k]eep on, with the force, don't stop. Don't stop 'til you get enough1." Sigh.

Yet, I would never turn away a student who asked for help-even if my knee jerk reaction was that they did not need it. So, I followed the protocol-I told them to go talk to the professors and ask what was good, what might have been better on the exams,  and then to come back to me so we can start working on those things. I warned them that the professors might be seeing students with lower grades first so that they would need some patience.  I'm guessing I'll see them again by late February-hopefully.

In a way, I respect this student's drive, and in another way, I am a little concerned about it as well. So rather than act as a surly gatekeeper to the ASP resources in this situation, I thought it might be a good idea to keep an eye on this student to remind them every now and then that the goal is learning. I fully understand that if their grades are worse in the spring, I might be considered the reason. 

Academic support is more than academic. We all know it, so while this student may not need academic help, they do seem to need support. So, if I am their personal Stuart Smalley2 who helps them see that they are good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, they belong in law school, maybe that will be enough.

(Liz Stillman)

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yURRmWtbTbo
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuart_Smalley#:~:text=%22I'm%20good%20enough%2C,%2Ding%20all%20over%20yourself.%22

January 23, 2023 in Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Meetings, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 9, 2023

Academic Support Programs Should be Included in U.S. News Rankings...maybe

Happy New Year ASP Blog Readers! We are back!

Earlier today I was in a meeting with colleagues who told me that several publishers had not brought ASP/Bar Prep publications to the AALS meetings because, (and keep in mind that this probably hearsay squared), “AALS is for doctrinal faculty.” AALS abolished the distinction years ago, but perhaps that message has not reached all sectors. And while I could easily lament another occasion where academic support is overlooked and excluded, today I have another proposition.

I have written in the past about how U.S. News Rankings count the work of academic support and bar prep professionals (bar pass rate!!!), but they do not evaluate the programs themselves. This is, I have argued, essentially taxation without representation.

Recently a few schools that probably do not sweat the bar pass rate (let’s be honest here, it is always going to be in the over 90% area for them), have decided not to engage in rankings. These schools just don’t need the credential to boost their marketability or community standing. They already have all the name and prestige recognition they need. They just shuffle among the top tier like a tableau of rich invitees at a Gatsby event. But, as I tell students fairly often, 90% of the class in not in the top 10%. So too for law schools -- as a vast majority of schools are not invited to the West Egg shindigs.

After attending an amazing conference organized by the New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals where we discussed job security, equity, and even reached for the brass ring of tenure, I am convinced that having academic support programs ranked by U.S. News might be a step in the right direction.

Here are my top three reasons:

  1. This would be another metric for schools looking to gain status, meaning that schools that really do need a boost can get one, and
  2. It might shift a power dynamic to a successful (and therefore ranked) academic support program’s professionals to seek better job security (contracts where they are at-will employees, presumptively renewable contracts for those on a year-to-year contract, and tenure down the road.) A school that gains prestige because of a ranked ASP program would want to protect that asset.
  3. ASP professionals work extremely hard-we teach more, we meet more, we write as much (if not more), and we are often asked to take on responsibilities that are similar to doctrinal, legal writing, and clinical faculty. We deserve the recognition-beyond the amazing way we honor each other in our community.

But there are some downsides:

  1. More scrutiny doesn’t always reveal only good things. We might put folks with very little job security in a more precarious position and introduce metrics that are not necessarily indicative of quality academic support. This might turn out to be another area where BIPOC professionals are not fairly evaluated.
  2. ASP will now be tethered to raising or maintaining a ranking--which is not the point of ASP. This might distract us from our students, who are the reason we do what we do.
  3. Being tied to the bar pass rate more directly may not be fair since some of the variables that control bar pass rate are not within the control of ASP. We cannot overcome a poorly admitted class, or a pandemic, for example.

I invite debate on this idea. I would also happily invite the beginning of a national movement of ASP professionals to work together toward more equity and job security. If we take any page from legal writing, the one I believe is foundational would be that we gather our data and work together.

(Liz Stillman)

January 9, 2023 in Miscellany, Professionalism, Program Evaluation | Permalink | Comments (0)