What is academic support? Maybe you already know, or think you know what Academic Support is. Maybe you took advantage of Academic Support in college or high school, or maybe you hadn’t heard of it until you started law school. Regardless of your previous exposure, you need to know about Academic Support in law school, even if you blew away the LSAT and got into a T14 school – but especially if you didn’t.
Academic Support, alternatively Academic Success, programs (ASP) teach skills that are essential to being a good law student. Identifying and mastering these skills will improve your academic performance. You may already have a strong grounding in basic study skills – after all, you graduated college and were admitted to law school – but, as you know, law school is different from undergrad, so it’s crucial to refocus and refine your skills in the unique law school environment. All law students can benefit from ASP.
ASP is a growing field. Most law schools provide it in some form, and its significance is increasing as law school applications have fallen, LSAT scores at most law schools have dropped, and some law schools are struggling to raise their bar pass rates. So when you get an email or see a flyer about an ASP event at your school, take advantage of it.
Here are some common types of programs and offerings:
- Orientation may include ASP by another name. This may be the first place you brief a case, or the first time you hear the mysterious term “outlining.” These skills are key ASP components, but they may have seemed like just another baffling hour of orientation standing between you and the welcome barbecue.
- Workshops. Have you been invited to a workshop on class prep or outlining? Attend it, even if it’s not mandatory. Often the strongest students will take advantage of extra workshops. Good students make smart use of resources. It’s not a sign of weakness to attend. Go.
- “Early warning” programs. At some law schools, students are flagged for ASP after receiving their first graded assignments. These assignments may come as early as orientation, or in the perilous month of October in the form of a legal writing assignment or midterm. If you’re formally flagged, you may be required to meet with an adviser or to attend workshops or other programming. Even if your school does not have an early warning program, a weak performance on your first graded assignment should serve as a personal “heads up” that you need to be proactive in improving your skills.
- Classes. At some law schools, students who earn a GPA below a certain level after one or two semesters may be automatically enrolled in a required ASP class. If this happens to you, don’t panic. Take advantage of the opportunity. There is a strong correlation between GPA and bar passage, so now you’re on notice that you need to raise your GPA not just to stay in school, but to increase your odds of passing the bar. Go in with an open mind and a good attitude. It may hurt, but it’s for your own good. And look around – you’re not alone.What will you learn in an ASP workshop or class? In a word: skills. These skills transcend subject matter and will help you succeed in all your classes.
- Case reading/briefing. How do you extract a rule from a case? How do you distinguish the holding from dicta? And how do you write a case brief that is concise and useful both for class prep and, later, for outlining?
- Note taking. Sure, you’ve been taking notes throughout your academic career. But law school classes are different from undergrad classes; optimal law school note taking is different, too, especially in a heavily Socratic class. You want to learn to take notes effectively.
- Outlining. This is an essential skill unique to law school. There is no better way to organize and synthesize varied sources of information: case briefs, class notes, commentary, etc. into a unified whole. The sheer process of outlining helps you master the material and is even more important than the final product. You need to learn how to do this.
- Exam studying. With an overwhelming amount of material, limited time, and the likelihood that your course grade rests entirely on the final exam, you need to study effectively and efficiently.
- Exam taking. See Exam studying, supra. See also IRAC. This is important.
- Time management. This is one of the biggest challenges for most law students. Poor time management is the cause of many a disappointing grade. It’s pretty hard, as a 1L, to estimate how much time you should study for an exam or how long it will take you to write that legal writing memo.
ASP can help you succeed in law school. Take advantage of it!
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- How to Make the Most Out of Academic Guidance in Law School
- Want to Get Good Law School Grades – Become a Self-Starter
- Free Law School Resources
- How to Think Like a Successful Law Student
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