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)

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

The New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Request for Proposals


RFP Deadline Extended to November 8

Request for Proposals: Presentations and Scholarly “Works in Progress” New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals (NECASP) Conference Friday, December 9, 2022, 10am-3pm ET via Zoom Hosted by the Suffolk University Law School (Zoom link to follow)

NECASP will be holding its annual one-day conference online this December. Our topic this year is “Strengthening Our Core: Attaining Equity for Academic Support and Bar Professionals.” We will gather online to share and explore ideas with ASP colleagues on issues surrounding the attempts towards attaining parity in status in academia for ASP and Bar Professionals.

We welcome a broad range of proposals –from presenters in the New England 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.

If you wish to present, the proposal process is as follows:

  1. Submit your proposal by 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, via email to Philip Kaplan at [email protected]
  2. Proposals may be submitted as a Word document or as a PDF 3. Proposals must include the following:    

            a. 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

            f. Media or computer presentation needs

4. As noted above, proposals are due on November 8, 2022. The NECASP Board will review the proposals and reply to each by November 17, 2022.

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!

2022-23 NECASP Board Members:

Chair: Phil Kaplan, Associate Professor of Academic Support Suffolk University, [email protected]

Vice-Chair: Brittany Raposa, Associate Director & Professor of Bar Support Roger Williams School of Law, [email protected]

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

Secretary: Erica Sylvia, Assistant Director of Bar Success & Adjunct Professor of Law University of Massachusetts School of Law, [email protected]

(Liz Stillman)

November 2, 2022 in Meetings, Miscellany, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 24, 2022

Spooky Season

Here are some reasons why this is, in fact, the scariest time of year for all the folks haunting the hall at a Law School:

  1. Bar results- have come out (or are coming out soon). Sigh. It is usually a roller coaster of: “wow, I am so happy for you,” followed by a dip into, “let’s get organized for February….” For some ASP folks, this is an annual employment evaluation. I have written about how unfair this is in the past. It is still terrifying. 
  2. Midterms -both the elections and the exams. This is likely the first exam our students will encounter and it will blow them away regardless of the warning and advice we have given them. The exams will be, despite our spoilers about them, truly unexpected. Like the elections, I guess we need to wait and see where the blame will fall on those…
  3. The loss of focus/motivation- first year students have forgotten why they wanted to be lawyers and have hit a wall in terms of their ability to focus on the material or the light at the end of this tunnel.
  4. The loss of sunlight- I did remind myself in late June to relish the days where the sun seemed to set after 9:00 p.m., and then, of course, didn’t. I miss it now though-and the darkness early in the morning doesn’t help either. Also, this is going to get worse before it gets better. And colder. And snowy….(if you are from a place where the cold/wet/snow thing does not happen, you may sit there smugly, but I don’t want to hear about it.)
  5. The way time speeds up- Thanksgiving is in a month. A month. How was the month of September over 3 years long and October is just a blink?
  6. Bugs- COVID, flu, malaise, colds. My personal favorite is when a maskless student comes right up to me before, during, or after class and tells me they are not feeling well. If I could back up and disappear into the whiteboard, or even scale the walls like Spiderman, I would….
  7. Mental Health- see numbers 3, 4 (ok, all of them) above as contributing factors. This is the time of year when already existing (and new) symptoms of mental health ailments surface. No one currently in law school has had a smooth course of education over the past years, and a return to normal-ish processes is a lot for everyone, but we should be taking strong precautions to preserve mental health similar to the way we protect ourselves from item 6 above.
  8. Everything everywhere all at once- (not the movie) see items 1-7 above and add: commuting, family stuff, over-extension (I see you my ASP friends), exhaustion, grading, etc. etc. etc.

I’d love to say that candy is our salvation here, but alas my primary care physician says that is not true. But what does she know-she’s only a doctor…

(Liz Stillman)

October 24, 2022 in Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Theory, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 29, 2022

I see, you see, we all see....

Today is our first day of classes. As someone who has taught for about two weeks already, it seems anti-climactic, and I am already tired. I also feel like the e-mail floodgates have opened-today I’ve heard from students, colleagues, and administrators that I haven’t heard from since we took refuge from a thunderstorm together at commencement. I already have homework for a committee meeting next week (yeah, really). Sigh. I feel like I will need the time I have this long weekend to just catch up-and we’ve barely started.  So, to those of you out there who have already begun classes, are about to, or cannot even tell what day of the week it is, I want you to know I see you.

I see the people who thought every day last week was Monday. This week will be all Mondays too-but next week there will be no Monday and that will prove confusing as well.

I see the people who want to trip the doctrinal faculty members who are just rolling in today and asking what we taught the 1Ls in orientation (maybe come and see for yourself next year!?)

I see the people who always wonder why the week before elementary and high school begins is week two of law school. #outofsync

I see the people who are excited to hear voices in the building after a long, quiet time. A new year is so thrilling.

I see the people who are frightened to hear voices in the building after a long, quiet time. An old pandemic is still scary. Monkeypox? Really??

I see all the ASP professionals out there who will do everything in their power to make this a great academic year for new and returning students and I hope more than anything else, that everyone at your institution sees you too.

I see a year ahead that will be part "same old, same old" and part new and shiny. And I am not yet sure what I am hoping will be the prevalent circumstance.

After assigning all the police officers under his supervision their various duties for the day, Sgt. Phil Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues[1] would always say, “[L]et’s be Careful out there.” 


(Liz Stillman)


[1] If you are too young to have ever even heard of this show, I see you too-but I am not pleased 😊. Or, for you MCU fans, ASP Assemble!!!

August 29, 2022 in Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

No regrets

As I sit here in my grungiest shorts and t-shirt--having taken off my adult style orientation outfit—I can pretend summer isn’t yet over for a minute. It has been a great summer and I am sad it is ending, and with it the promise of great academic productivity. Where did the time go? Summer always seems like an almost endless swath of free time stretching before you after graduation, but unlike Phineas and Ferb, I didn’t actually have “one hundred and four days of summer vacation.”[1]  I had maybe a week or two (if you string the days together) of completely unstructured time, so again, where did my time go from graduation until now?

  1. I went to a conference in a state I do not live in and carried my laptop with me (rather than living in it for the conference). It was amazing to be with Academic Support people in person again. It was good to see the ASP family.[2]
  2. I taught a boot camp type class for incoming accelerated students for six weeks. One of those weeks I was at the conference, so teaching in a hotel room was a new (and sort of exciting) thing for me. The highlight was showing my class The Alamo and the Federal Courthouse I could see from my window.
  3. I found out that a friend had been diagnosed with lung cancer. I helped them deal with a surgery postponement and then the actual surgery (to the degree I could offer any help there, which is extremely doubtful). I baked and cooked and crossed the street with my offerings. When they asked me to take them for a walk after the surgery (evidently walking is the key to recovery), I asked if I should bring the 6 foot or retractable leash. They laughed-we walked. Every day until the pathology report and next surgeon’s appointment came and brought the one bit of good news that one could hope for in this situation—that it was over.
  4. I went for a beach-y vacation with the whole family in a super quaint place that you need to take a boat to—and I survived the trip with my trusty behind-the-ear patch. I even survived the trip home immediately following a huge thunderstorm. Seriously, those patches are magic.
  5. I supervised three students’ independent studies for their legal writing requirement.
  6. I taught a week-long class for another group of starting students.
  7. I watched the two children who were home for the summer work incredibly hard at their jobs. I am crazy proud.
  8. I watched the one child who lives in another state continue to do amazing work in her job. She even interviewed the Secretary of Labor for an article she was writing from our house. The same house where she learned how to write. When she is more famous, I can answer all the press questions, like how tall was she in 2004?? I am crazy proud.
  9. I went to my exercise class more often than usual. I picked up our farm share, went to the local pool, joined the long line for ice cream at the new local place (and ordered the same flavor each time because summer seems long enough to explore the whole menu), and ate outdoors.
  10. Finally, I researched, outlined, and began writing an article which I now plan to finish before Halloween (deadlines that involve candy are much easier for me).

So, while the last entry was what I was hoping would be the most productive part of my summer “vacation,” it was not.

I have no regrets.

(Liz Stillman)



[2] Shout out to the AASE Conference in San Antonio!!

August 23, 2022 in Professionalism, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 13, 2022

But do you like me, do you really like me?

My Law School course evaluations arrived without warning or fanfare in my inbox Saturday afternoon. The subject line, “spring 2022 course evaluations” popped up on my phone while I was sitting at the optometrist’s office picking out a new pair of glasses that would (ironically) make reading things on my phone easier. I had received my course evals for my undergraduate course a few weeks back and they had come, pre-read by the department chair, with her encouraging words that slowed my heartbeat a bit before diving in. But the law school ones just showed up as an attachment: unannounced, and to be honest, panic inducing. I wasn’t ready. We tell students when the grades will be released, so perhaps a similar warning may be warranted. As it was, I held my breath and clicked.

To be fair, I had thought the semester had gone well (there are always a few students who are unreadable, but they didn’t seem hostile), so I should not have started to sweat when this email appeared. But I was grateful for the air conditioning at the eyeglass shop, nonetheless.  Although the literature is a bit all over the place, there seems to be a grudging consensus that, “… student evaluations as currently constructed are strewn with gender and racial biases. Instructor attire and weight has impacts on student evaluations, too. In short, there is a lot of noise in student evaluations that have nothing to do with teaching and everything to do with student biases.”[1]  I also think that the anonymous on-line iteration of course evaluations has made students a little more, um, blunt.

I have had evaluations that commented negatively on my snacking (I was pregnant, and it seemed better to eat my baggie of Cheerios rather than puke on students), my sense of humor, and my clothing choices (which honestly felt more like body shaming). It all feels a little middle school-ish to me because this is the documentation of what people might be saying behind your back. I also remember my favorite comment of all time, “Condragulations Professor Stillman, you are a winner.” Using a RuPaul’s Drag race reference made me feel really seen and I treasured it.

Are some evaluations biased or just plain mean? Probably. But discounting them entirely also negates the good ones (luckily far outnumbering the bad, I’m sure). I also need to read them to know if I am connecting with students. I want to be sure that I am respectful of opposing viewpoints (not my strong suit, really). If I don’t care what the students think (about some fundamental things, not my wardrobe per se), then I am not teaching for the right reasons. If the evaluations can legitimately assess my teaching, then this is information I need. If not, they give students power over non-tenured faculty that they do not deserve.

Evaluations are truly a double-edged sword. Make no mistake though, they may still be a weapon.

(Liz Stillman)



June 13, 2022 in Professionalism, Program Evaluation, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 29, 2022

An Illusion

Did you know that the collective noun for a group of magicians is an “illusion?”[1] I believe that Academic Support Professionals are the magicians of law school academics, not because we engage in sorcery, but because we do so much hard work behind the scenes that it seems like things just happen.

Last week, I was lucky to be able to share the tricks of the trade (with the best community of colleagues ever!) at the 9th Annual AASE Conference at the lovely St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas and on Zoom!  I already knew that ASP folks are the hardest-working, kindest, and most generous people. I was also aware that we are supreme innovators. In short, the brain power in the sessions at our conference could have provided enough energy for the entire state of Texas.[2] And it would have been a clean, renewable source of power!

It was amazing to be in the company of people who truly understand the work—and the flip side of doing so much important work often without having job security or recognition. I know that I am extremely fortunate that my law school is supportive and offers long-term contracts with options for more security,[3] as well as funding for scholarship and conferences. Yet, academic support and bar prep are often seen as—oh wait, actually, we are often not seen at all…

At a faculty meeting last week, after what I consider a big win that added a DEI course graduation requirement,[4] we moved on to an agenda item that tangentially dealt with tenure policy. During this discussion, a tenured, doctrinal faculty member referred to people who had our (ASP and other non-tenure track) faculty status as “faculty with a small f.” As in, essentially, lower case “f” faculty should very clearly not be allowed to vote on tenure policy changes. Yes, I had a big F reaction to that.[5] That was more than just rain on my parade, it was a full-on blizzard: cold and windy. Following my glorious moment in the sun, I was returned to my cubby crumpled and dirty like a kindergartener’s lunchbox after recess.

It is moments like this that make a national conference of all the law school thaumaturges[6] even more imperative for the survival of our profession. We need to work together to collectively ask that the curtain be pulled back so that our doctrinal colleagues[7] can see the work that is often going on out of their sight. There is no magic in what we do, just a lot of hard work that should be transparently visible.

A huge thank you to Afton Cavanaugh and the team at St. Mary’s for solving the huge logistical puzzle that this hybrid conference must have presented!! It was glorious and I am truly enriched by the endless magnificence of this community. I am already looking forward to next year’s 10th annual AASE conference at Santa Clara Law.[8]

And finally, did you know that the collective noun for a group of doctrinal professors is known as a “pomposity?[9]” 

(Liz Stillman)



[2] Texas is huge! I knew it was big before, but I really had not understood it until I was there.

[3] A presumptively renewable contract-but not tenure.

[4] I was the leader on this effort, and I am crazy excited that it really happened!

[5] Silently-but I am originally from the Bronx. I’ll just leave it at that.

[6] (I had a little fun with google on this…)

[7] Those who don’t already know-there are always going to be allies in every school!!

[8] May 23-25, 2023-save the dates!


May 29, 2022 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Meetings, Professionalism, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Balance in Legal Education Presentation Series

The AALS Section in Balance in Legal Education's General Programming Committee are excited to invite you to participate in the Section's second-annual six-part Summer Speed Idea-Sharing Presentation Series.

Each session will feature a collection of brief presentations highlighting different successful approaches to the implementation of the new ABA Standards for Legal Education, specifically Standards 303(b) (professional identity formation), 303(c) (cross-cultural competency, bias, and racism), and 508(b) (law student well-being resources). The speed presentations will be by Q&A and conversation.

The first session in the series will be Tuesday, May 3 @ 4 pm ET.


Natalie Netzel, Assistant Professor of Law and Co-Director of Clinics, Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Speakers & Presentations:

  • Janice Craft, Director of Professional Identity Formation and Assistant Professor of Legal Practice
    •  Faculty Advising and Professional Identity Formation
  • Larry Krieger, Clinical Professor and Co-Director of Clinical Externship Programs, Florida State University College of Law
    • Creating a Vision of Possibilities for Joy in the Law
  • Lynn Lemoine, Dean of Students, Mitchell Hamline School of Law 
    • Creating a Community of “Mutual Care”
  • Jerry Organ, Bakken Professor of Law and Co-director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St. Thomas School of Law
    • Client Counseling Scenario with Reflection
  • Katrina Robinson, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Oregon School of Law
    • Cross-Cultural Competency Exercise

The links for registration are in the google group.

May 1, 2022 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Save the Date for NY Area Academic Support Workshop

New York Law School will be hosting a virtual NY Area Academic Support Workshop on Friday, May 13, from 1:30 to 4:30 PM ET. You can RSVP by clicking HERE

In the tradition of this workshop, you should expect the virtual gathering to be interactive and to provide opportunities for attendees to share ideas and questions for collective exploration.

This year’s workshop will revolve around a discussion of the following four articles:

  • Ruggero J. Aldisert et al., Logic for Law Students: How to Think Like a Lawyer, 69 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 100 (2007).
  • Russell A. McClain, Bottled at the Source: Recapturing the Essence of Academic Support as a Primary Tool of Education Equity for Minority Law Students, 18 U. Md. L.J. Race, Religion, Gender & Class 139 (2018).
  • Victor D. Quintanilla & Sam Erman, Mindsets in Legal Education, 69 J. Legal Educ. 412 (2020).
  • Christopher J. Ryan, Jr. & Derek T. Muller, The Secret Sauce: Examining Law Schools that Overperform on the Bar Exam, __ Fla. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming), available at

If you’re interested in leading the discussion of one of these articles, please indicate as much in your RSVP form responses. No later than Thursday, April 21, the workshop’s organizers will notify those individuals who will be leading each discussion—the organizers expect to designate teams of three to five individuals for each article.

The workshop’s organizers suggest that each team work collaboratively to prepare the following in advance of the workshop:

  • A brief description of the article under discussion, and what’s useful or novel about it;
  • An explanation of how workshop attendees might use one or more points from the article in their own work, whether that’s teaching, meeting with students, collaborating with faculty, etc.
  • An exercise, through which the team will lead the other workshop attendees, that helps everyone better understand one or more points from the article, whether or not they’ve also read it.

The goal is to not just talk about these articles, but to explore how the ideas affect us and the work we’re doing to promote our students’ academic and bar success.

Zoom meeting link to follow (by email) for those who RSVP by Monday, May 9.

April 17, 2022 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 3, 2022

The Kids' Table

Remember Thanksgiving when you were a kid? The adults sat at one table with endless access to the stuffing and gravy while you sat with your cousins wondering why the potatoes never got to you. The kids’ table was a fixture, but when I was middle school age, I was certain I should be allowed to join the adults and enjoy the power of the serving spoon. Perhaps Academic Support has entered that part of our growth as well.

The 2023 Best Law Schools list was recently published by U.S. News & World Report.[1] In determining these rankings, U.S. News looks at numerous factors in determining how and where schools are listed. According to U.S. News, they, “evaluate institutions on their successful placement of graduates, faculty resources, academic achievements of entering students, and opinions by law schools, lawyers and judges on overall program quality.”[2] From time to time the importance and proportional value of the various criteria are tweaked. This year, for example, the value of Bar Passage was increased, with U.S. News noting that, “[a] key change for the 2023 edition involved U.S. News more comprehensively assessing the bar passage rates of first-time test takers. “[3] The actual overall value this year was 0.03 as opposed to previous years when it was 0.0225. This doesn’t seem like a big change in the scheme of math but consider that bar passage is valued more than the acceptance rate, student-faculty ratio, and debt at graduation.[4]

The U.S. News rankings also include programs within law schools in the areas of (among others): Business/Corporate Law, Clinical training, Constitutional Law, Contracts/Commercial law, Dispute Resolution, Legal Writing, and Trial Advocacy.[5]  Academic support is neither considered in the overall rankings nor ranked independently as a program.

Just to be clear, I don’t like rankings: I even volunteered to be on a subcommittee that is examining our internal student ranking system. Yet, I understand that without a very complicated mathematical algorithm based on a long list of both objective and subjective criteria, law schools cannot brag, fundraise, um, see how we are doing overall. I get it: law schools need a way to be assessed.

But here’s the rub: I am a parent of a child with learning issues who had an IEP all the way from kindergarten through to college.[6] They were “othered” by going to the learning center, they were sometimes bullied, and they came home feeling that they were intellectually inadequate often especially in the middle school years. I spent a lot of time explaining to her how school only measured certain types of intelligence while overlooking many others. Howard Gardner’s work on multiple intelligences was something we could both cite over the years to remind ourselves that school assessment isn’t the sum of who we are.[7]

In the same way that schools tend to only assess a very limited number of student intelligences, I would argue that ignoring Academic Support Programs in ranking law schools similarly overlooks something important. Even worse, by assessing the consequential outcomes of good Academic Support programs--like employment rates and most obviously first-time bar passage rates--without looking at ASP itself means that ASP professionals are truly the unseen factotum[8] in law schools. We are taxed without being represented[9] because all the things ASP touches are considered or ranked, but ASP programs are not considered in any part of the formula.

There are, of course, some major downsides to having ASP ranked or considered in ranking without more job security (like tenure!). I wouldn’t want to outsource my yearly work evaluations to U.S. News especially if I had a contract that was up for renewal frequently (or worse yet, not have one at all). Nor would I want to be assessed based on criteria that I cannot control, like admissions decisions. Like all coins, this one has two sides.

And yet, wouldn’t it be nice to sit at the adult table sometimes?

(Liz Stillman)




[3] Id.

[4] Id.


[6] Where she is a junior who is regularly on the Dean’s List (my bragging).


[8] This is a real word. And so much fun!

[9] Since my law school is located in Boston, this is a required complaint.

April 3, 2022 in Bar Exam Preparation, Current Affairs, News, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 13, 2022

WCCASP Call for Host School

Organizers of the 2022 WCCASP conference are reaching out for calls for a host school.  Southwestern hosted this conference last year, and we had so much fun! As we "pass the baton" to a new host school, please contact Jackie Rogers at [email protected], and she will be happy to share last year's conference information and materials with you. 

March 13, 2022 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 7, 2022

Capital T

Tenure. For the most part, tenure is not even a consideration for Academic Support folks. A vast majority of us are not eligible for tenure-or as one person in a committee meeting once said, we are “untenurable.” Ouch. Taking this in the light most favorable to the colleague, perhaps they meant that under current University rules, there was a not a track for ASP folks to get there-which is true. Where I work, this leaves ASP faculty in a strange place: we could apply for presumptively renewable contracts, but we would essentially have to fulfill the requirements of tenure to get them. So, we can aspire to a form of “tenure light” which is about one-third as filling as real tenure. We were left (almost) alone in this place when legal writing and clinical faculty joined the tenure track. Other than the head of our library, we are the only faculty members who have contracts voted on periodically by the entire faculty. We are the exception now-not the rule. We are invited but also basically encouraged not to attend meetings about appointments (we cannot vote on those). We are (happily) placed on committees and even have positions of leadership on them (quite happily), but we are also always aware that everyone we encounter will be voting on our contract the next time it comes before the faculty. That can be scary sometimes. I am lucky that I feel supported by the administration at my school and that my roles are valued-but sometimes I have to wonder, why not? Why not have tenure for ASP?

What would ASP tenure take away from any other person on the faculty? If we can fulfill the requirements, it honestly does not dilute the importance or status of tenure. Certainly, the folks who have tenure should not be arguing that it would reduce our work ethic or load, because after all, they would not want anyone to think tenure has done that for them. It would not reduce our commitment to the Institution because, again, tenure didn’t do that to them, right? So where is the harm? Is the hierarchy--and it is a thin one since we are basically alone in this tier--that important?

What would ASP tenure give a law school? Having ASP faculty who feel valued, appreciated, and secure could bring a myriad of benefits to any law school. First, it tells students that their success is a priority for the school from admission to the school through admission to the bar. Second, our availability to form tighter relationships with students is also instrumental to their success. Students are more engaged when they are seen and heard by faculty members. Finally, tenure would recognize that ASP faculty are scholars and writers. Sure, we have tissues, coloring pages, and candy in our offices, but we write and engage in the same level of scholarly pursuits as anyone with or hoping to get tenure (for example, I am actually writing as we speak). There are many more advantages to tenured ASP faculty--too many to list.

Legal writing and clinical faculty got access to tenure because a wave of schools across the country agreed. It is time to get the national ASP tenure wave started-with a capital T that rhymes with P and that stands for Progress.

(Liz Stillman)

March 7, 2022 in Miscellany, Professionalism, Publishing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 4, 2022

AASE Call for Proposals Extended to Feb. 14th

The 9th AASE National Conference  will be held both in person and virtually May 24-26, 2022. The 9th Annual Conference is hosted by St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. 

The theme for the May 2022 Conference is "Making Waves, Breaking Barriers: Building Better Lawyers." We welcome proposals on the usual topics – Diversity, Mental Health, Bar Prep, Academic Success, Online Learning (*usual topic as of last year*), etc. – in alignment with the theme.

We will be accepting proposals until February 14th.  Submit your conference proposals HERE.  

February 4, 2022 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 24, 2022


Yesterday, I came across a tweet from someone who must be either law school legal writing or clinical faculty where they pointed out that a school’s faculty might very well have an atmosphere of “cordial hypocrisy[1]” depending on how doctrinal (and I assume tenured) faculty treat their legal writing or clinical colleagues. Various sources define “cordial hypocrisy” as having a pleasant demeanor towards each other in a way that seems like trust, but actually having an underlying distrust[2]. It is a no-no in the world of leadership and team building.

As someone in ASP, I see this cordial hypocrisy every day. We can be trusted to get a lot of work done, ensure our students’ success, and create curriculum for numerous classes, but we are not always (institutions obviously vary) able to, for example, teach some doctrinal courses, enjoy tenure, or even be considered faculty in some cases. I find that doctrinal professors are (usually pleasantly) surprised about what we do (or can do) despite the billboards and parades we organize to tell them.

Last week, I was in a committee meeting where I advocated strongly for the inclusion of ASP (and career development) in a new, potentially required, course devoted to student wellness. I really believe that these topics go hand in hand. After I made my point (concisely, I promise) that ASP assistance is never required until things have gone terribly awry (which is why embedding ASP into a required class would be a great thing), the facilitator of the meeting asked if anyone else had anything to add who hadn’t yet spoken. I was dismissed. My point was deemed not even worthy of comment or response-I mean even Ariana Grande said, “thank u” before she went right on to “next.[3]”  Was this brush-off permitted because I was merely ASP faculty and had no leverage in that moment to rectify it? I should note that this is not a common occurrence at my school, I was honestly surprised. You could see me mouthing, “wow, really?” because I had politely muted myself after I spoke. I guess any “cordial hypocrisy” I had enjoyed up until then ended when I didn’t agree completely with the facilitator. It was a blatant and public kiss-off and it stung. A lot.

I deserved better. We in ASP deserve better. We deserve respect, job security, and recognition for all we do. We deserve the time it takes for other members of the faculty to learn about what we do. We deserve to be as genuinely trusted by our colleagues as we are by our students.

And ASP surely deserved to be listed in that tweet.[4]

(Liz Stillman)

[1] Term attributed to Charles Feltman from:



[4] I did tweet a reply that said we should not overlook ASP faculty, and the poster agreed.

January 24, 2022 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 17, 2022

True Education

On this (very rainy in Massachusetts) Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we as law educators need to remember that every fight for civil rights was only a fight because there were lawyers on the side of denying civil rights. The people advocating for denying rights were trained lawyers who had been to law school (or the equivalent in some states) and were admitted to the bar to practice law. They had been taught basically the same subjects we teach students today. As we educate this new generation of lawyers, we need to be sure to remind them that lawyers, above all, should seek justice (which is not the same as law) and truth (again, not the same as law). Law is just a tool we can use to walk these paths.

Martin Luther King noted that, “[t]he function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” Nelson Mandela added that, “[e]ducation is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

The same way a construction worker, a surgeon, or a Jedi knight would be carefully trained to use equipment safely, we need to make sure our students know the consequences of unsafely operating the tools we are giving them -- as much as they know how to use the power.

As we start our new semester tomorrow, and while I am still reeling about the events in a Texas Synagogue this weekend, I renew my vow to engage in true education. Lawyers have an almost sacred relationship with truth and justice that should not be dismissed or forsaken. We need to teach our children well that, “[i]njustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." (Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963).

MLKin Boston rain

Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Boston Common in 1965-also in the rain.

(Liz Stillman)

January 17, 2022 in Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 17, 2021

South Florida Regional ASP Call for Proposals

The Second Annual South Florida Regional ASP Conference is scheduled for Friday, January 28, 2022, at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law, it will be held virtually. Please save the date.  Conference registration will be sent out in early January.

They are calling for proposals for the program, which will have two tracks.

Track One: The focus is on “Innovative Academic Support Programs for 1L Students.”  What unique programs have you created to help 1L students begin their law school career?  Your program could involve a pre-Orientation course,  the fall semester, the winter/spring semester, a collaborative program you developed with faculty colleagues, or a special program that you have created to focus on developing specific skills for 1Ls. The idea is to showcase your innovations that help 1L students!

Track Two: “Effective Use of Technology Tools for Academic Support.”  This can include technology aimed at all law students (1L, 2L, 3L and part-time) and/or bar takers, and could include, for instance, the following categories:

  1. Show and Tell:  “How to” use technology such as apps, learning management systems, or other tech tools.
  2. Content:  Course assignments, assessments, videos, and similar tools that use technology to deliver content to your students.
  3. Bar Exam Prep: Technological Apps or Programs you provide to supplement the commercial bar courses.
  4. Brainstorming Session: If you want to host a brainstorming session that is technology-focused and interactive, you can put that program together for the conference.

Proposals:  Please send your proposals to:  Elena Rose Minicucci at: [email protected] on or before Friday, January 7, 2022.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, or Assistant Dean Susan Landrum at [email protected]

December 17, 2021 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 8, 2021


Today is International Tongue Twister Day (I am not making this up just for blog content, I promise).[1] A tongue twister is defined as, “a word, phrase, or sentence difficult to articulate because of a succession of similar consonantal sounds.” [2] I would submit that all the different roles we play in academic support are difficult to articulate as well.

Like many codified rules in the United States, the term “Academic Support” is vague. How can we define what we do? We help students access the curriculum in law school but that is still vague. We conduct orientation classes. We teach students how to prepare and study in their doctrinal classes. We help students prepare for midterm and final exams-and then the Bar exam. We help students with legal writing projects. We offer counseling that borders on therapy. We listen, we plan, we give feedback, we lend books and shoulders and pens. We offer candy and tissues and respite. We also learn from and help one another as professionals. I once helped a student pick out bridesmaid dresses. We are something different to every student we work with (a friend, a mentor, a nag, a chocolate supplier….).

Our support is seamless mainly because there is no clear beginning or end to what we do that can be stitched together. And, sometimes, what we do is both important and invisible. We are not quite the same as other faculty members in ways that are obvious and some that slip below the radar.

So, on this Monday of the week that Bar results will be released here in Massachusetts and other states nearby, I offer this tongue twister to remember what the folks in Academic Support do:

Academic Support professors profess to assist pre-professionals become professionals using practices that produce prosperity.

Say it 5 times fast and have a particularly pleasant day!

(Liz Stillman)




November 8, 2021 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 30, 2021

NECASP Request for Proposals

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

New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals (NECASP) Conference December 10, 2021, 10am-3pm ET via Zoom

Hosted by the University of Massachusetts School of Law – Dartmouth (Zoom link to follow)

NECASP will be holding its annual one-day conference online this December. Our topic this year
is “Fostering and Maintaining Inclusive Communities.” We will gather online to share and explore ideas with ASP colleagues on issues surrounding the expansive role of ASP in promoting diversity and inclusion that includes, inter alia, retention efforts, designing embedded programming that creates inclusive communities, programming for various socio-economic backgrounds, bar support for diverse student bodies, and fostering diversity in different regional locations. We welcome a broad range of proposals – from presenters in the New England 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. If you wish to present, the proposal process is as follows:

  1. Submit your proposal by November 1, 2021, via email to Amy Vaughan-Thomas at [email protected]

  2. Proposals may be submitted as a Word document or as a PDF

  3. Proposals must include the following:

    1. Name and title of presenter

    2. Law School

    3. Address, email address, and telephone number for presenter

    4. Title

    5. If a scholarly work in progress, an abstract no more than 500 words

    6. Media or computer presentation needs


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!

October 30, 2021 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 25, 2021


I was a social psychology major as an undergraduate and I remember studying the psychological theory of gestalt, which is defined as “something that is made of many parts and yet is somehow more than or different from the combination of its parts.”[1] Basically, if I had known about outlining back in those days, I would have written the rule as: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As bar exam results trickle in from parts near and far, I think it worth revisiting this idea with both students and colleagues.

To students who have passed the bar, I would say, “Wonderful! Remember, there is more to you than this one credential. As an attorney, you will bring your whole self to the table and that will always be more than the sum of your parts.” To the students who have not passed the bar this time, I might say the same thing. I do not want to be dismissive of how meaningful this one credential is for them after a three (or four) year journey that has already been fraught with confidence crushing moments. I don’t want to toss out, “oh well, maybe next time” either because right now, I think these students may see “next time” as a craggy mountain to climb without any safety gear in truly inclement weather.  I also know that social media means that students will know about their classmates’ successes almost immediately and silence will be interpreted as failure. Literally. There really is no good answer other than “I’m sorry. How are you doing?”

I also worry about my colleagues who have poured every ounce of what they have into students to help them pass the bar (regardless of whether the students were willing vessels or not) and now have someone else’s success or failure be determinative of their worth. Is this how we value professionals?

When a football team loses a game, media outlets tend to blame everyone on the team-not just the quarterback or coaches, but the team as a whole: offense, defense, big guys, little guys. Even when one player makes an egregious error, the sportscasters tend to find additional reasons for the loss-even the weather or altitude can be roped in. When the team wins, the press is similarly wide in praise, as seen here by today’s Boston Globe after the Patriots won a home game yesterday, “[e]veryone went home happy Sunday. Mac Jones got his first 300-yard game and hit a 46-yard deep ball. Damien Harris rushed for 100 yards. Eleven players made a catch, and five different players got in the end zone. The defense created two interceptions…Smiles all around.”[2] And remember, these guys probably each get paid more than all the ASP folks at a regional conference combined.

So, when bar results are good, ASP folks are part of the overall winning team with smiles all around. But when bar results are not what we are hoping for, why do our ASP colleagues not get the same level of camaraderie? Why aren’t we always a team at that moment also? ASP folks, and particularly those who do bar exclusively, need to be given the grace of gestalt. So I say to you, regardless of the bar results at your school, you are more than the sum of your parts. As an ASP professional, you bring your whole self to the table and you are mighty.  

Judging someone’s competency or job security based on the performance of other people at a task that is not entirely knowable is something that is far above our pay grade.

(Liz Stillman)




October 25, 2021 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 23, 2021

WCCASP Registration

Southwestern Law School is pleased to host the 2021 West Coast Consortium of Academic Support Professionals (WCCASP) Conference on Friday, Nov. 5th, 2021 from 10:00am-5:00pm PST. The conference will be held virtually, via Zoom. Conference registration is NOW OPEN! You can register for this free conference here. WCCASP 2021 Registration

Now in its 10th year, the WCCASP Conference provides a thought-provoking and stimulating forum for academic and bar support educators of all experience levels to share practical ideas and best practices that advance teaching and learning.  This year’s theme is “Success in the New Norm: Academic and Bar Support Edition,and we have assembled thoughtful and targeted presentations from educators throughout the country to share their expertise in bar prep and academic support in our new environment.

October 23, 2021 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)