Category Archives: Excel in Law School

In the Age of Corona: online skills lessons –a dream come true

AALS 2016, after CALI’s early morning breakfast meeting, I found myself in the elevator with Deb Quentel.  CALI’s newly released set of skills lessons trace back to that elevator!  Deb and I talked then and then at length when I returned to South Florida.  I shared how excited I was about the lessons, tracking and assessment opportunities. I incorporated CALI lessons right away into 2L and 3L courses in the ASP department I directed at NSU, and I spoke with Deb about ideas to create skills lessons –for all law students including 1Ls. I did not have the bandwidth then to develop them, but I held on tightly to the ideas.

Fast forward to the CALI annual conference in 2018. I sat  with John Mayer and we talked at length.  I suggested CALI consider developing law school ASP skills lessons, and encouraged CALI to apply for an AccessLex Grant to fund the effort. The rest, as they say, is history. The Law School Academic and Skills Lessons are live! Thank you, CALI. And, thank you, AccessLex!

These lessons will allow ASPers nationwide to expand their reach and their offerings to students. As all of us who are or have been in the ASP trenches know just how important it is to have quality resources for our students. These are also all online so perfectly adaptable to the shift to online learning that the pandemic forced on us and that you all have embraced heroically. And, as if all of that were not enough, what I am most proud of is that these are not only the highest quality (and editable by faculty who use them), they are free to law students in CALI member schools. This project thus serves the invaluable purpose of democratizing reliable supplements. Already stretched financially to intolerable levels, with the negative economic ripple of this pandemic, the importance of free quality study and skills resources simply cannot be overstated.

So again, thank you John, Deb, Sara, and everyone at CALI. Thank you Allie, Laura, Nicole, Courtney, Renee, Melissa, and Steven — the faculty authors.  Thank you to all the peer reviewers. And, thank you AccessLex for supporting this project.

And, thanks to legal educators across the country. Our collective support of law students is vital, now more than ever, to maintain our nation as one governed by the rule of law.

In the Age of Coronavirus: Online Teaching Resources –a growing list

All posts on this blog are my own; they do not represent any institution.

Compiling list below with resources for online teaching and learning, from messages exchanged by faculty as the nation’s law schools have gone online, overnight. Recalling a 2008 interview in the California Bar Journal, December 2008: “The curriculum includes live classes, assigned reading, video lectures, essays and tests in 11-day modules. “Other than eye contact and body language, the discussion is, in many ways, quite similar to that of a traditional law school classroom,” said Concord professor Sara Berman. And Berman, a UCLA School of Law graduate herself, sees advantages to a virtual classroom: The interaction is based solely on the discussion’s content, not on the student’s gender, race or looks, for example. Students don’t have to commute. They can review archived classes. And they gain extra experience in written communication.”  

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Miscellaneous Resources on Online Teaching and Learning*

*Not endorsing any of the resources below; just listing them.

https://www.cali.org/books/distance-learning-legal-education-design-delivery-and-recommended-practices (published guide.)

https://www.law.du.edu/online-learning-conference/conference-schedule  (Videos embedded in conference schedule)

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2020/03/assessment-in-online-law-school-classes.html

 

Thoughts for Law Professors Contemplating Moving to Virtual Classes, By Allie Robbins, March 10, 2020, https://passingthebar.blog/author/smashthebar/

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2020/03/online-learning-resources-and-tips.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2Fxoma+%28Law+School+Academic+Support+Blog%29

 

 

https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/advice-online-teaching

Will update list, and again, not endorsing any of the above resources.

All posts on this blog are my own; they do not represent any institution.

The Age of Corona Virus: July Bar Exam??

All posts on this blog are my own; they do not represent any institution.

A group of us who have been involved in lawyer licensing and legal education for many years lay out options for bar admission in the current context at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3559060.

 

The Age of Corona Virus –One Week In and the World has Gone Online

Blog post is my own and does not represent any institution.

I began blogging a decade ago when I was a senior faculty member and assistant dean at the nation’s first fully online law school, founded with legal education pioneers just before the turn of the 21st century. I taught law school online and online bar review for two decades before migrating to more traditional law schools and to the nonprofit world.

My early blog posts centered around helping law students to form and maintain positive growth mindsets, preparing for and achieving success during law school and while studying for and passing the bar exam.  Eventually, they became the foundation for what is now Bar Exam Success: A Comprehensive Guide, (Bar Exam Success: A Comprehensive Guide (for law students with audio book) –a book I hope will continue to infuse optimism and a host of practical tools to help students succeed in the face of the today’s many great and unforeseen challenges.

This past week, thousands of law professors began a crash course in online teaching.  I have never been more proud of legal education –and I have been an unapologetic advocate for legal education my entire career.

Law faculty nationwide have joined teachers the world over, adapting overnight, bringing content, energy, wisdom, and collaborative spirit to shaken students. In many instances, faculty are teaching much more about survival, connectedness, and how to stick together during times of crisis than they are even about their individual subjects.  Learning is hampered (understatement) when students are consumed by fear; thus, professors stepping up to provide reassurance will continue to be an essential part of teaching in our new world.

And, how law faculty have united in supporting one another!  Last week, law faculty were posting detailed instructions on Zoom, voice-over power points, and even how to conduct moot court and oral arguments online.  They answered each other’s questions at all hours of the day and night, freely sharing tips and strategics for success. They were each other’s moral support and tech support –on top of the extraordinary work being done by actual law school and university IT departments and law librarians (often tech experts in their own right).  Everyone pitched in.

The word “heartwarming” doesn’t begin to express the depths of my admiration and appreciation.  Law schools are essential to a nation governed by the rule of law.  We will need new lawyers more than even in the months and years to come. Lawyers will need to step in to help individuals, small and large businesses, and government agencies to rebuild.

As we move through this crisis, into entirely uncharted waters, let us strive to continue full support for one another, and pledge an unwavering commitment to education and the arts (more on that in future posts), which have persisted even in the most heavily war-torn societies.

We need education more than ever in our time of crisis.  Let us do whatever is necessary to continue supporting those who are teaching our future workforce.  We will need today’s students (tomorrow’s leaders) to be as informed as possible –and we will need them to be nimble and ethical critical thinkers.

All posts on this blog are my own; they do not represent any institution.

Took a simulated exam and feeling like $%$##@@!$

Have you taken any simulated exams yet?  Did you score way below what you think you need to pass? Did you take a simulated bar exam and walk out of the room with that “Huh???” look all over your face?  Do you feel like the last thing in the world you are ready for now is the real exam?
Take a big, deep breath, hang on, and hang in there! Many have been right where you are –dazed and scared, taking the scores on a simulated exam like a cannon to the gut, and yet on they went to PASS the Bar Exam just a week later. You CAN too.
1. You don’t have to take the real thing until the end of this month. You have a 17 days more days to study. Think of all you were able to learn in one day before certain finals! There is so much you can still get clear in these last weeks.
2. Your simulated exam may have been harder than the real exam.
3. The real thing is a PASS -FAIL test; you don’t have to get an “A.”
4. Use the simulated exams to help with strategies on how to pass the real thing.
  • Did you budget your time well? If not, watch the clock more carefully and limit your time per question.
  • Were you tired after lunch? Perhaps you can eat a bit less and take some of that lunch hour to walk a bit and burn off some stress or listen to some motivating music.
  • Did you “blank out” on any questions? If so, get a plan ready to work through a temporary “brain freeze” should one occur during the exam!
  • Most important, do not get psyched out. Simulated exams help you by providing an opportunity to make necessary adjustments before the real thing.  Simulated exams  are not necessarily a referendum on how you will actually perform next week. They are, however, an opportunity to get lots of useful information. Use that data wisely, and use these two weeks to improve!

July is here: your bar exam is just a few weeks away!

It’s here. This month that you looked forward to from the first day of law school is finally here. You may be feeling dread or fear or fatigue.  Likely you are not yet excited.

Notice the word “yet.”  Trust that you will be.  Give bar prep your full attention, focus fully for the next three weeks, and you will most likely come to the point when you feel if not downright excited then certainly empowered by all the knowledge in your head.

Picture yourself as a runner finishing those final laps.  You will be ready to cross that “finish line.”

You will be ready to write intelligently on any topic they throw at you.  You will be ready to say, “Bring it on, Examiners. Bring any topic and I have something to say.  I can break the issues down, recite the main rules, and, based on a careful reading of the facts determine a logical outcome to each issue presented.”

You will be ready to read each multiple choice question carefully, with curiosity, delving in to the call to figure out precisely what the question is, then seeking the facts to match up to law that is in your head so that you can rule out the wrong answers and bubble in the best one.

You will have more law memorized than at any other time in your life.  And, if you let it, that feels good.  Threads of legal rules that seemed to be picky irrational details finally make sense. You see how it all fits together. You see parallels between legal rules and policies in numerous areas of law that previously had been “siloed” in your brain in only own course, associated with only one professor.

Stay focused these next three weeks, though.  This is not the time to let up.  Today is.  Take today, July 4th, off.  Recharge your batteries.  Then, get in and soak up every bit of knowledge you are now ready to learn.  You are primed.  The rules have context now, so they will stick.  Memorize.  Know key rules just as well as you know your favorite passwords.  (Say them out loud, sing them, write them out 20 or 50 times.)

Think of how much you learned in three days before certain final exams.  These three weeks are the bar exam parallel to those three days.  Embrace them and enjoy this process.  You are strong and getting stronger.  You will go in there and be prepared to do your best.  And, that is a great feeling.

Graduates: look to the hard work ahead with gratitude.

I attended a lovely graduation ceremony this past week, as I’m sure many of you did.  Huge smiles from graduates, their families, faculty, and administrators.  It’s all seems worth it on this big day. And, it is.  Do not be put off by the fact that there is more work ahead.  (For law students, your biggest test (the #barexam) is yet to come. Embrace that as good news –as an opportunity to learn more and rise to the challenges ahead.)

Do not let the idea of further effort diminish all that you have done to get to this point.  Those of us who have work to do are lucky!  Incredibly lucky.

I just learned about a college graduate who walked this past week and will never walk again. She died in an accident  –while her family was visiting for graduation festivities.  She was and will remain a shining star in the hearts of all who knew her.  I cannot believe that I will never have the chance to hug her again, to follow her career and see her shine.  She will never have the chance to work. Her career was taken from her, as was her life, at 22.

I don’t have the right words.  I doubt there are any.  My heart goes out to her family and friends. She will be missed dearly.

So, to all my students and readers, to anyone facing a bar exam this summer, to those studying in summer school, to the many engaged in summer jobs or internships, to all who just graduated and are looking for jobs –let us collectively be thankful that we face work ahead.  The fact that we get to work means we are alive.  And let us support one another in the process.

Tragedies remind us that the road ahead may be cut short at any moment; let’s make sure that each step we take is filled with purpose and gratitude.  And, let none of us be discouraged by the fact that some of those steps will be challenging.  How lucky we are to be here to face challenges….

Five Powerful Ways to Engage with Law School Learning without losing yourself

New law students often raise their hands in class to share their personal opinions about cases.   I’ve heard professors respond ruthlessly, “I don’t care what you think.”  I will sometimes explain,  “What matters, for class discussion and exams, is what the court decided and why, and not what your personal views are.”  (I frequently tell my law students that I don’t want see anything written in the first person –not on law school exams and not on bar exams.)

So how to stay engaged when your opinion doesn’t matter?

  1. Your opinion does matter, just not for class or exams.  My classmates and I argued outside of class for hours every day, about what we thought about cases, about how we might have decided them if we’d been the judges –you name it.  So, talk with classmates –before and/or after class!
  2. Go to office hours.  Ask your professor his or her opinion of the court’s decision in a particular case, and discuss yours.
  3. Teach what you are learning to a friend or family member who is not in law school and share your feelings about what you are learning.
  4. Write in the margins of your casebook what you think of a case.  Don’t just “book brief” in the margins.  Add your reactions, in your own words.  (Read a fabulous case tonight with students about the foreseeability of a particular injury. One of the court’s splendid lines reasoned that simply because an injury had not previously resulted from the particular action in question did not mean the injury was not foreseeable.  I told the students that I wrote in my margins something like, “Yup.  Makes sense to me.  Just like when we tell kids not to play with matches.  They may not have gotten hurt before, but it’s totally foreseeable that they’ll get burned one of these days.”  My students who were parents especially appreciated the editorial.
  5. Read newspaper and law review articles that critique the area you are studying.  You will find this stretches your brain and helps you see even beyond the thoughts or reactions you had.  You may find support for your own views.  You may find arguments that oppose your opinions. You may find you see things in an entirely new light altogether.  Whatever you discover content-wise, the process itself will help train your critical reading and analysis skills.

Bottom line, your opinions and your feelings may have no place on law exams, but they are vital to your humanity. Keep them alive.  Just keep them in context!

Starting Law School this Fall? Get ready to arrive at well-reasoned, factually supported conclusions!

Gave an Intro to Law School of sorts recently.  I illustrated the difference in credibility of a baseless “feel-good” statement and an analysis that explicitly shows how provable facts support each part of a rule leading to a logical conclusion.

Think about these examples.  You don’t need to be a lawyer or law student to see the differences.  They don’t purport to prove elements of rules; they simply help demonstrate how using facts as opposed to fluff helps support credible logical conclusions:

Friend A says, “You are great! ”

Friend B  says, “You are great because you are loyal, reliable, and funny.”  First, I say you are loyal when I recall the many times you defended me even when lots of others did not.  You have never once doubted me.  Second, your reliability is clear; you are always on time.  When you say you will do something; you follow through on your promises.  And, I can always count on you to answer my calls or texts.  Third, you are funny.  You tell jokes that make me laugh out loud. You make silly puns that bring smiles to my face. You have  a quick and clever wit.  Everyone enjoys your sense of humor.  To sum up, as I said before, you are, “GREAT!”

OK –aside from the fact that Friend B is a bit long-winded, isn’t Friend B more credible??  Don’t you feel like Friend B is not just blowing hot air but actually means what he or she is saying?

Restaurant Critic A writes: “Nouveau Resto that just opened on Main Street is fantastic.  I am the best restaurant critic in town and I say New Resto rocks. Go eat there.”

Restaurant Critic B writes: “Nouveau Resto that just opened on Main Street is fantastic.  I rated the restaurant on 1) the taste of the food, 2) food presentation and decor in the restaurant, and 3) on service. On all counts, I gave Nouveau Resto 5 stars, the highest rating on my newspaper’s restaurant rating scale.  I gave the taste of the food a 5 because every dish was made with fresh ingredients, seasoned well, and cooked to the correct temperature.  Myself and the five people dining with me all ordered different dishes and each of us found our selections to be delicious. No one had any leftovers.  As to food presentation and decor in the restaurant, both were clean and inviting.  There is no clutter at Nouveau Resto –not on its plates, nor in its dining room. The plates are all solid white with the colors of each dish creating a work of art on each plate. The napkins and table cloths –mostly a crisp white, with a minimalist border of beautiful blue accents that match a lovely blue theme in stylish artwork on the walls. The lighting is modern and bright.  Last but not least, the service is impeccable.  The waiters did not hover, but they were there to answer every question, refill drinks, and check in to see if we were satisfied and/or needed anything more after every course was served.  The were polite and knowledgable about the ingredients in every dish and about the wines on the wine list.  As I said, Nouveau Resto is fantastic –an excellent addition to the cuisine in our city.

Again, a bit longer to read, but isn’t the review of Restaurant Critic B more believable?

These are two simple illustrations, but I hope they make a point: conclusions that are well grounded in fact are typically more credible than baseless or unfounded claims.  And, credibility counts –especially for new lawyers-to-be!

 

Juggling Work and Finals: a few practical tips to rise to this tough challenge

Many college and graduate school students must work while studying.  A couple of thoughts.

  1. When you get your syllabus, calendar midterms and finals, and ask your employer if it’s possible to work fewer hours (or take off entirely) during the weeks prior to those exams in exchange for working additional hours once exams are over.
  2. Don’t wait until after work when you might be too tired to study.  If you have to work while in intense study mode, put in an hour or two in the morning before work, an hour at a lunch break, and an hour or two after work.  You will get 5 hours a day in this way, without having them all crunched in when you are perhaps too burned out to focus.
  3. Use “work” as time off from studying and studying as time off from work –at least during finals.  During those high gear weeks before finals (or months if studying for the bar, boards, or a big standardized test), eliminate or reduce if possible any responsibilities other than work and studying. Obviously if you are the sole caretaker of young children or elderly parents you cannot “eliminate” those responsibilities –but try if possible to get someone or hire someone to help out or act as your “relief pitcher.”
  4. Though work and studying will (and should) take nearly all your focus, continue if at all possible to exercise, sleep, and eat well.  Brain work takes a great deal of energy.  Your focus, your ability to learn and retain information and to think clearly will all be enhanced by effective self care.

These simple few suggestions in no way imply that juggling work and studies is easy, especially if you also have familial responsibilities.  But hopefully these tips will help make the trying task a bit easier.  Keep up the good work and hard work, and draw on your internal motivations to rise to this admittedly very tough challenge.