Oct 17 2008

Law School Dress Codes

Published by under Miscellaneous

Generally, it appears there are few, if any, law school dress codes, especially regarding informality. Many students begin law school dressed like they did in college. Students often learn quickly, however, that the same is not true for the world of law practice, particularly law firms. Lawyers, it seems, have uniforms. While the uniforms — suits — do not have team insignias, they are the calling card of lawyers nonetheless. It is interesting to see how the uniforms start infiltrating the classroom in the second year, especially when law firm interviewing begins. By the third year, no one looks twice when a student shows up in business attire. Perhaps this is just another way the law seems to creep up on us and “change our way of thinking.”

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May 08 2008

Hopes and Fears

Published by under Inspiration

Thursday, May 8, 2008, 10:39 AM –
Posted by Gerry Hess

One of my colleagues organized a meeting of all the faculty members who will teach first-year students next year. The purpose of the meeting was for us to discuss our goals for first-year students and to explore ways to collaborate to achieve those goals.

I was hopeful. I was skeptical. My hopes and fears were realized.

Some of the meeting descended into faculty whining about students – indifferent work ethic, failure to listen, deficient writing skills, etc. I think these faculty members needed to get these comments out before moving on to more productive matters. The semester had just ended and my colleagues were feeling a bit of burn out.

However, I believe that my colleagues care about their students and work hard to be effective teachers. Much of the meeting reflected my colleagues’ commitment to their students’ learning.

We explored what level of analytical sophistication we should expect from students by the end of the first semester.

We agree that we needed to help students integrate their learning in their first year courses.

We discussed our obligation to give feedback to students in the first semester of law school and committed to giving a midterm exams (graded or practice) in October.

I left the meeting with hope. We had taken a small step to collaborate for the benefit of our students. We had reaffirmed the need for us to support one another’s efforts to help our students become effective lawyers.

Big changes start with little actions.

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Apr 17 2008

Catching Preconceptions about Students

Published by under Advice

Thursday, April 17, 2008, 01:11 PM –
Posted by Sophie Sparrow

Over the past few years I have visited 2L and 3L students doing full-time externships. Most of these 2L and 3L externs I have never taught before. At each visit I have been impressed by the students’ professionalism and performance. The students are savvy about how their experience fills in the gaps left from classroom instruction. They notice where they need to improve; they realize how complex law practice is. In short, they learn many lessons that are taught, but not necessarily learned, in law school.

The supervising attorneys note areas where the student externs can improve, but they also almost always comment upon how much the students have contributed and grown over the course of the externship. Supervising attorneys praise externing students for their work-ethic, ability to take constructive criticism and interest in making the most of their externship experience.

When I return to the law school, I rave about how exciting and inspiring it is to see students on the cusp of their profession rising to the challenge and doing so well. I tell any colleague who will listen about how uplifting it is to see 2Ls and 3Ls engaged in their work and excited about their future opportunities.

Contrast this to the response I sometimes get: “You saw THAT student? THAT student is doing a good job?” followed by comments that in another course THAT student was unprofessional, unprepared, disengaged, etc.

As the parent of two teenagers, I take great comfort in the phrase that “the best indicator of who your children are is how they behave around others.” I realize it is a lesson I need to apply to students. Our students are who they are with others, not just in our class. The next time I get frustrated with a student who is unprepared or unprofessional, I am going to try not to fall into the trap of only seeing that side of the student, but instead to envision the student in a suit, working for a supervising attorney and doing a great job.

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