We are already 8 weeks into the spring semester! Deadlines may be starting to pile up. Your beginning-of-the-semester optimism may have worn off. And, the weather bouncing between winter and spring does not help. Consider the following tips to obtain optimal learning:
- Keep a positive attitude to affect your learning positively. It is hard to keep your focus and perform at your best if a cloud is hovering over your head. Negative thoughts, grumpiness, and sniping at others all expend energy in unproductive avenues. Not only do other people want to avoid you when you exude negativity, but you waste your own time by moaning, groaning, and whining.
- Focus on manageable tasks to increase motivation. It is easier to get motivated to do small tasks rather than large projects. Decide to read one case when you do not feel like reading any of your Property cases. Decide to write two paragraphs when you do not feel like writing an entire paper draft. Decide to outline one sub-topic when you do not want to outline an entire topic. Decide to do 5 multiple-choice questions when you do not feel like doing practice questions at all. After you get started and finish one small task, you are likely to be ready to do another small task.
- Focus on what you can control rather than what is controlled by others. Reality is that you do not determine whether you will be called on in class, whether you will have a mid-term exam, whether your paper will have one or six draft deadlines, or whether you will have a multiple-choice or essay final exam. So, stop stewing about things you cannot control. Instead, focus on what you can control and take control of those things: your time management; your stress management; your timetable for review; your outlining schedule; your reading schedule; your schedule for practice questions; your asking the professor questions and more.
- Use the many services that are available to you to improve your situation. Ask questions during the professor’s office hours. If you are a 1L, talk to your Academic Fellow. Meet with the writing center to improve your grammar and punctuation skills. Make an appointment with Ms. Ballard for study strategies and tips. Meet with a University counselor if you have test anxiety, personal problems or other issues that are making it hard for you to concentrate on your studies. Go to the doctor if you are sick rather than self-treating and not getting better. Getting assistance keeps you from feeling so alone in your situation and begins the work of solving problems.
- Do not focus on your bad choices last semester, last week, or yesterday. If you have procrastinated or studied inefficiently and ineffectively or fallen into any of the other common student difficulties in studying, accept responsibility for those bad choices; but then, focus on today. You cannot change what has already happened, but you can change how you study today and tomorrow.
- Take advantage of your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses. Evaluate the areas within a course: what areas do you understand and what areas are you confused about still. Then, spend additional time on the weak areas to improve your understanding while you review material that you know well.
- Do not blame someone else for your difficulties. It is not the professor's fault that you cannot do the practice problems if you did not study the material thoroughly. It is not the professor’s fault that you got a low grade when other students did better on the same exam. It is not your study group’s fault that you do not understand the material if you have not taken the initiative to attempt learning it yourself before study group. It is not your spouse’s problem that you are behind in your reading if you have not set up a structured study schedule that allows sufficient study time as well as family time.
- Stop resisting positive change. Ask yourself whether you are having problems because you are clinging to ineffective and inefficient ways of studying. You need to realize that nothing will change for the better if you refuse to make changes. Knowing that you need to change something and still not changing it will accomplish nothing positive in your life.
- Remember that you begin to earn your reputation as an attorney while you are in law school. Ask yourself whether how you are acting today will place you in a positive light with your classmates and professors. If not, then reconsider the behavior BEFORE you act that way again. Being difficult to work with on an assignment may translate into a reputation that you will be considered difficult to work with as an attorney later. Being lazy in law school may translate into a lack of referrals as an attorney because your former classmates will not be able to trust you to do a thorough job. Being mean-spirited or gossipy or arrogant in law school may translate into personal characteristics that mar your reputation later as a new attorney.
The Moot Court Board wishes to congratulate Duffy Trager, Rachel Carmona, and Maria Mourad for winning the NYU Law School Immigration Law Moot Court Competition last weekend. The team was coached by Professor Enid Trucios-Haynes. The victory is the school's first in the competition, though UofL finished second two years ago.
The team defeated competitors from Stetson, Howard, California-Davis, and Harvard in the preliminary rounds before defeating Maryland in the semi-finals and Georgetown in the championship round. The finals judges were Edith Brown Clement of the 5th Circuit, Maryanne Trump Barry of the 3d Circuit, and William Fletcher of the 9th Circuit.
Dual degrees approved for Brandeis law students are: Master of Business Administration/Juris Doctor; Juris Doctor/Master of Divinity; Master of Science in Social Work/Juris Doctor; Juris Doctor/Master of Arts in Humanities; Juris Doctor/Master of Arts in Political Science; Juris Doctor/Master of Urban Planning; and Juris Doctor/Master of Arts in Bioethics and Medical Humanities. (More information is in the Law School Student Handbook.)
Several Brandeis students pursuing dual degrees have agreed to host an information session on Thursday, February 25, at noon, in Room 175. Dean Bean will also be on hand to answer questions. All interested students should plan to be there!
Street Law, Inc. is a national non-profit organization that provides practical, participatory education about law, democracy, and human rights. Street Law began in 1972, when a small group of Georgetown University Law Center students developed an experimental curriculum to teach high school students in Washington DC about the practical aspects of the law and the legal system. The program evolved and today a Street Law textbook and curriculum is used throughout the country.
On 9/11, Joe Gutmann, a prosecutor in Louisville, decided to make a difference in a new way. He left the prosecutor’s office to teach at Central High School in Louisville. In 2005, he was asked to serve as the coordinator of Central’s Law and Government Magnet program, and he began using the Street Law materials for the sophomore magnet students. In 2007, law students from the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law began assisting in teaching the curriculum at Central under Joe Gutmann’s supervision. Building on the partnership begun in 2001 between Central and the Brandeis School of Law, law students were approved to receive public service credit for their Street Law work. Each year about 15 to 25 law students are involved in the program (in addition to many others who teach law magnet courses for juniors and seniors).
Each year, Street Law honors a teacher at its Annual Awards Dinner. Nominees must “educate students in an exceptional manner” and “use Street Law materials.” Joe Gutmann meets both criteria, and he is being recognized in Washington DC on April 28, 2010 as the Street Law Educator of the Year.
One of his nomination letters noted that
his dedication and commitment goes above and beyond to ensure that students are guided and that they learn. He gives them “tough love.” He makes sure they have the opportunity to attend special events. He works on giving them the tools to succeed. He is a tireless advocate for his students. The Central students who are in his class and the law students who teach in the Law Magnet think highly of Joe. The admiration and affection and respect … students have for Joe…doesn’t stop when they graduate. [R]eturning students …still come to him for help and advice (and to share good news about how college is going).
This award recognizes that exceptional teaching and commitment. Joe is always quick to acknowledge the various partnerships that make the Central High School’s Law and Government Magnet Program and his work successful. These include the partnership with the Brandeis School of Law, the long standing Summer Internship Program sponsored by the Louisville Bar Association, the University of Louisville University Community Signature Partnership support through UofL’s Office of Community Engagement (including the Seven Habits of Highly Successful Teens program), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.
As a way to beat the winter doldrums, the faculty and staff at the law school hosted two Mardi Gras celebrations for out students. Serving lemonade, nachos, and king cake, the parties took place at 11:30 a.m. and at 5:00 p.m. on tuesday, February 16. Music from Professor Longhair played while faculty and staff served up fun and refreshments. Having found the baby in the king cake, Barbara Thompson was crowned the afternoon queen. Barbara was on hand that evening as well, when she and James Fischer led a parade for the second party.
Thanks to all who shared in the fun!
Surprise to see the party.
Students enjoy some nachos while the music plays.
Students settle in near the king cake.
While Dean Urbach leads a congo line.
Barbara Thompson: Our benevolentMardi Gras queen.
Students ejoyed the festivities.
On February 11, Nancy Vinsel and Alex Davis presented Professor Leibson with a check for $1040 in exchange for his coveted golf hat signed by PGA Champion, Byron Nelson. The money that they and their classmates in Leibson's Section 1 Torts class raised will go towards student scholarships.
When created correctly, an outline will become your primary, and possibly only, study aid for exams. While law students create outlines in order to have an aid from which to study, it is through the process of creating an outline that you actually learn the law. Because outlining is a process that continues throughout the semester, you need to begin now. Why? If you wait to work on your outlines until the end of the semester, it is unlikely that you will have enough time to complete them prior to exams. Listen to your professors and to your colleagues that received A's and B's last semester - start your outlines early!
Here are some things to keep in mind as you work on your outlines for each course.
- View your outline as your master document for studying. Your notes and briefs go “on the shelf” once you have outlined a section. Your casebook is no longer your focus for completed sections.
- Make sure your outline takes a “top down” approach. The outline should encompass the overview of the course rather than “everything said or read” during the semester. Main essentials include: rules, definitions of elements, hypos of when the rule/element is met and not met, policy, arguments that can be used, and/or reasoning that courts use.
- Cases are usually mere vehicles for information unless they are “big” cases. Cases generally convey the main essentials that you need for your outline and are not the focus.
- Condense before you outline. If you include “everything said or read” in your outline, you will need to condense in stages to get to the main essentials that you actually need for the exam. If you condense before you outline a section, you will save time later.
- Use visuals when possible. If you learn visually, then avoid a thousand words when appropriate and use a diagram, table, flowchart, or other visual presentation for the same information.
- Review your outline regularly. You want to be learning your outline as well as writing it. The world’s best outline will not help you if you do not have time to learn it before the exam.
- Condense your outline to one piece of paper as a checklist. A checklist includes only the topics and sub-topics. Use acronyms tied to funny stories to help you remember the checklist. Write the checklist on scrap paper once the exam begins. For an open-book exam, the checklist should start your outline.
“They might even be better,” says Urbach, who will submit the new statistics in March. “But we still have some really terrific candidates from the May 2009 class who are without adequate employment. These graduates would be employed easily in any other economy.”
The law profession is not immune to tough economic times, she says, and the job of lawyer is by no means “recession proof.” So how has the law school maintained these strong placement numbers in such a challenging job market?
“For one thing, the large law firms have been most affected by the recession,” Urbach says. “They have cut back on hiring. But 53 percent of our graduates get jobs at firms with one to 10 lawyers. These firms have been less affected for the most part.”
Especially as the diversity of its student body has increased, the law school has recognized the need to connect students
with employment opportunities in diverse legal areas, geographic regions and workplace settings. Graduates in 2008 were employed in 14 states and three countries. Practice areas included private practice (58 percent), business and industry (12 percent), government (16 percent), federal judicial clerkships (1 percent), state judicial clerkships (6 percent) public interest (3 percent) and academic institutions (4 percent).
But the tighter job market has forced the school’s career services professionals to change the way they do things. For one, the school has been working harder in untapped Kentucky markets like Frankfort. Fort Knox is another focus as it continues to grow as military base realignments across the country consolidate more soldiers and support personnel to the area.
“It’s not that we have ignored these places in the past,” Urbach says. “We just haven’t made them a priority. Now our counselors are trying to develop a pipeline into these areas for students who want to practice law in Kentucky but are having trouble finding something in Louisville.”
Urbach says graduates also are accepting more part-time jobs and contract work—some working multiple jobs. She says UofL students are resilient and many have accepted positions that are not ideal as a way to maintain and improve skill, but keep them competitive for when the economy picks up.
Also, the law school is looking constantly at ways to create opportunities for legal professionals in emerging areas like green initiatives/technologies, stimulus money and the retirement of baby boomers, Urbach says. In December, she accompanied law school dean Jim Chen to Washington, D.C., to meet with several representatives of federal agencies as well as UofL law graduates working in the D.C. area.
“Again, the idea was to create a pipeline for our students,” Urbach says. “It was a productive trip.”
But Urbach always comes back to the students when discussing the reasons for the law school maintaining its strong placement percentages during tough times. “We have terrific, hard-working students. I like to call them entrepreneurial.
“And they are also well trained. Because we are a small school, our students receive individual attention. In addition to being expert educators, our faculty takes a sincere interest in every student.”
Urbach adds that the law school’s mandatory public service program gives students opportunities to have real-world experiences early in their law school careers.
“This and the character and work ethic of our students makes them excellent candidates in any job market,” she says. “I am really proud of how they have risen to the challenges of these challenging times.”Source: UofL Magazine (Winter 2010, p. 39)