Academic Success Program
The Academic Success Program (ASP) at the Duncan School of Law has gradually developed over time in response to the needs of the students at the law school. It is comprised of mandatory and discretionary courses and programs. At its core, the Academic Success Program is designed to help students: (1) prepare for law school classes; (2) prepare for law school exams; and (3) take law school exams. As such, the program is centered around the process of legal education, defined broadly as: (1) the acquisition of legal knowledge; (2) the internalization of legal knowledge; and (3) the ability to apply legal knowledge.
The process of acquiring knowledge begins as soon as students read cases or assigned readings for their law school classes. After acquiring the “initial bite” of knowledge from their readings, their knowledge is refined in class through lectures, discussions and the Socratic Method. However, students often must seek other outlets to refine their knowledge in addition to the classroom experience, whether it be through secondary source materials (typically in the form of treatises, hornbooks and study aids), interaction with other students (typically through the use of study groups) or by interacting with their professor on a one-to-one basis during office hours.
As knowledge is acquired, it must also be internalized. Course outlines, case briefs and class notes are tools often used by students to help them recall information. Recorded lectures and flash cards are other tools used by students to internalize information. If students do not actively seek to internalize knowledge they acquired, the knowledge will be lost.
The final process of a legal education is the application of knowledge. Application of knowledge occurs in a number of ways. Most noticeably, students will apply the knowledge they acquired and internalized in the form of a law school exam. However, students will also need to apply the knowledge they acquired and internalized through the course of law study on the bar examination.
This process of legal education closely matches the process the lawyering process, where by lawyers acquire knowledge though primary and secondary sources of legal information, refine their knowledge through careful deliberation, and apply the knowledge to a client’s specific legal problem.
The Duncan School of Law’s Academic Success Program keeps this process in mind when attempting to develop students’ abilities to learn the law and think critically. It is designed to provide students the tools they need to do their best in law school and beyond.
All entering students are introduced to the study of law through Bridge Week. Bridge Week is a week-long mandatory course for all first year law students. It meets each evening in the week prior to the fall semester. There, students are introduced to the process of legal knowledge acquisition and are instructed on the use of tools available to them in law school to acquire, internalize and apply the law in their courses and beyond. Bridge Week begins with an overview of legal education and an introduction to the way in which the American common law system functions. Students are introduced to judicial opinions, their various parts, and instructed as to how to deconstruct judicial opinions and extract the relevant information contained within them. Students are also introduced to classroom and library technologies which they will be expected to use throughout the learning process. In the middle of Bridge Week, students become involved in a mock Torts class based on cases they were assigned to brief during Bridge Week. Students are later introduced to the process of course outlining and are introduced to the IRAC format of legal writing. Bridge Week also includes lectures from the faculty on topics ranging from time management to the avoidance of plagiarism, demonstrations by the librarians as to how to use various educational resources, and roundtable discussions by upperclassmen tools and tips for succeeding in law school.
Academic Success Program I
The Duncan School of Law’s Academic Success Program continues with Academic Success Program I (ASP I), a mandatory, non-credit bearing course which meets twice a week for the duration of the semester. In ASP I, students are provided further guidance in reading and briefing cases. Students receive their initial formal instruction in synthesizing legal rules. They are taught ways to better manage their time while in law school. They are instructed on the proper use of commercial study products. Most importantly, they are instructed as to how to apply the law to facts through the IRAC method through a step by step process.
Students are also given instruction on parsing statutes, interpreting statutes, and extracting policy from judicial opinions. They are introduced to various methods of legal reasoning. Much of the second half of the term concentrates on writing through the use of writing labs and the software Core Grammar for Lawyers (an online learning tool designed to help law students, pre-law students, paralegal professionals, and practicing attorneys acquire the grammar and punctuation skills that are prerequisites to successful legal writing.) Students are also provided further instruction on the use of learning technologies such as CALI and the law school’s Libguide study guides. Students are also provided a number of practice exams to help further their ability to apply the law to factual problems.
Academic Success Program II
In the second semester of the curriculum, students are also offered the opportunity to enroll in Academic Success Program II (ASP II), a non-credit bearing course, mandatory for all students in their second semester of law school who fail to achieve a GPA of 2.320 in their first semester, but available for all second semester students. The course meets twice a week for the duration of the semester and covers such topics as proper class preparation, time management, outlining, flowcharting, writing essay exam answers and answering multiple choice questions. The course also includes classes on improving legal writing and legal citation.
Academic Success Program III
All students who find themselves on academic probation after their first year of law school must take Academic Success Program III (ASP III), a non-credit bearing course which meets once a week for the duration of the semester. This course is also available to all students regardless of academic standing. The topics covered in ASP III include: time management, outlining, flowcharting, writing exam essay answer and answering multiple choice questions. Students are given multiple practice exams in an effort to resolve their weaknesses and use their strengths.
Bar Examination Skills
The final part of the Academic Success Program is a Bar Examination Skills course. This course, which is mandatory for all students with a cumulative GPA below a 3.000, is designed to improve legal analysis, writing, and study skills in preparation for taking the Bar Examination. It assists with developing and practicing test taking strategies and skills. It also provides a familiarity with the methodology of the exam. Multiple essays are completed and critiqued during the course. Multiple choice strategies and practice exams are also be covered.
In addition to the Academic Success Program courses, the Duncan School of Law offers students with the opportunity to meet with writing tutors. The law school has retained a number of tutors who meets with students individually to help them become more effective writers throughout the course of the academic year.