Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Welcome Guest Blogger Kristi McCart

Law school is a process.  Many people struggle through the first year and that's normal.  That's what's expected--it's kind of the entire point of 1L year.  The best analogy I can think of is it's like you are learning to swim and your swim instructor throws you in the deep end and just tells you to swim.  You're expected to figure out how to do it yourself--with an occasional guiding hand provided by your professors and ASP.  2L Kristi McCart describes the moment when she figured out how she needed to approach law school to be successful:
 Law School Doesn't Click for Everyone.

A few fortunate students understand law school and how to take tests the first day of classes. A couple more students understand after their first or second round of exams. After a full-year of classes, some students still cannot grasp the concept of law school and how to succeed.  I found myself in this group.  While I got mediocre exam scores, I felt unprepared for most exams.

I did not get my "Ah-ha!" moment until two weeks into my second year of law school.  It was not until Professor Homer and the ASP Grad Fellows gave my Legal Methods class a learning test called VARK. VARK provides students with detailed learning approaches based on their specifc learning type.  For the longest time, I thought I learned best visually; if it was written on the board or put in front on me, I would retain it.  Based on VARK, I found I am a kinesthetic learner, meaning I learn best by doing: working through hypos and applying rule statements and issues to real-life problems.  This discovery of my learning type made a world of difference. 

This second year, I better allocated my time from memorizing outlines to doing practice exams for each professor.  Instead of waiting to do outlines one week before exams, I had outlines completed in advanced so I could focus on answering multiple hypos and re-writing practice exams.  Because these approaches were better suited for my learning style, I was able to study more effectively and efficiently.

Once a student knows how to study, they can start focusing on how to produce an "A" exam.   During the first year, the Legal Writing professors constantly tell students, "When conducting your analysis, always state the legally significant facts plus why."  Well, this sounds simple enough.  In reality, it is simple once you master the skill, but it is difficult to master the skill when the only time it is practiced is on exams.  Legal Methods provided a judgement-free, grade-free environment to perfect these skills.  I found it was a lot easier to make mistakes during the learning process when my entire semester grade was not at stake.

All in all, do not feel ashamed if your first year grades are not above-average.  There is still time to do a self-assessment and find which approaches lead to your most effective and efficient studying. Contact the staff ASP and take advantage of the resources available now.  You'll thank them in the end.  Good luck in your law school endeavors. 
 Thank you Kristi!  The improvements you've made and your ability to self-assess is amazing!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Guest Blogger!

 ASP is happy to welcome a few guest bloggers for the next few posts!  These guest bloggers will be current students which should give you greater incite to the ASP experience. 

Many first and second year students are reluctant to ask for help--and that's okay.  You probably went to law school because you have a strong Type-A personality; and your strong sense of self led you to believe that your personal study methods were and will always be fine and dandy.  Many students, even after a semester or two of dissatisfaction with grades, are STILL reluctant to ask for help.  This is why first years are encouraged to come to ASP from the get-go.  This is also why students are encouraged (or sometimes required) to take Legal Methods I, a course designed to improve the law school skills we know you have.  If you did not have those skills, you would not have been admitted.  ASP is here to help you develop those skills.  Here is Guest Blogger Erin Langdorf-McKinley's take on her experience with ASP and Legal Methods I:

I have to say that at first, I was not thrilled to be in Legal Methods I. I figured I would just go and listen to what they have to say, but not try. I thought I did everything first year fine and they couldn’t help me. I was wrong. The extra practice of writing essays and taking multiple choice tests did help. The feedback on each essay told me something new and showed me where I needed to work harder. I learned that I needed to take it slower on MC and read the call of the question first and read every answer choice before I picked one.

I also changed the way I studied. First year, I did the majority of outlining during the couple days leading up to finals. I also studied in a study group of four the whole time; I studied from 9am to 10pm for three weeks straight. This method, I found out, was not helpful. I liked the study group aspect, but by the end of finals, I was wiped.

During this last set of finals, I had finished all of my outlines a week before finals started. Instead of cramming long days for the whole time, I worked until about 5pm and then headed home, watched some of my television shows, went out a little, went to the gym. I didn’t stop my life for finals. Instead of a group of people, I studied with one person and did more practice exams. I felt a lot less stressed and more relaxed going in.

Before Legal Methods I was happy with a 2.7 or 2.8 in a class. After Legal Methods I, my GPA for Fall 2011 went up significantly and my CGPA went up as well. I know that at first, some people (including myself) might be hurt or upset to be in Legal Methods I, but don’t fight it. It helps and the professors know what they are talking about.

A special thank you to Erin for her candid account of her experience and her amazing ability to improve her GPA and legal skills overall!