Director of Academic Achievement
The Office of Academic Achievement (OAA) is a learning resource center dedicated to preparing students to succeed in the classroom, on exams and ultimately, to pass the bar. The OAA is committed to serve AJMLS students and alumni. We work to sharpen academic skills such as critical reading, critical thinking, logic and analysis, and writing. We also help students broaden their understanding of doctrinal material and to achieve academic goals.
Law school is difficult, as it should be. However, there are very specific academic skills that the OAA begins strengthening immediately to ensure that students succeed in law school and realize their potential. Assistant Director and professor, Erika Walker-Cash and I are here to help students in that endeavor.
What is Expected
Professors require that students learn to read, to think and to write like a lawyer. Students are required to:
1. read critically and carefully, to learn the “black letter law” (both the laws and rules for the interpretation of laws);
2. logically analyze facts and determine which rules of law apply;
3. consider the public policy issues raised by legal issues; and ultimately,
4. formulate responsive answers and convey legal analysis in writing.
How Do You Get There?
We recognize that incoming students do not yet have these new academic skills. As a law student, it is their responsibility to utilize their resources and develop these skills. There are specific strategies and techniques for successfully reading, thinking and writing like a lawyer. These techniques can be developed and strengthened with instruction and practice.
AJMLS and OAA have created a curriculum and set of programming that will enable students to succeed in law school:
1. Professional and Academic Success Seminar (P.A.S.S.)
This first semester skills course will cover the basic skills that students need to succeed in law school. Students will learn effective techniques for critical reading, case briefing, identifying legal issues, identifying and sorting legally significant facts, breaking rules into smaller elements, analyzing whether a rule can logically be applied to a set of facts, organizing course material for studying, and organizing and writing law school exams.
2. Saturday Morning Study Groups (S.S.G.)
The Saturday Study Groups provide students an opportunity to gain insight into your faculty’s expectations. Faculty provides a hypothetical or problem set for students to work through in small groups. Every Saturday students meet with their classmates to review techniques for resolving legal challenges in one of the first-year courses: Property, Contracts, Civil Procedure and Torts. Students are randomly assigned to small groups and work together to resolve the problem(s), and the discussion is facilitated by an upper-class Academic Achievement Fellow, selected for their outstanding performance in the subject area. The Saturday Study Groups provide students an opportunity to monitor their learning BEFORE the final exam.
3. Individual Counseling
All students are encouraged to meet with a member of OAA faculty to develop an academic success plan. We provide academic support with time management, learning style, organizational challenges, critical reading and responsive exam writing issues. We can also help students formulate thoughtful questions about their course work for their faculty office hours.
These resources are necessary for a student’s academic and professional success. Law school learning is unlike any academic experience, students will have to actively plan and monitor their own learning in a new way. We provide students with guidance, access to academic resources and an academic support system. The OAA encourages students to take full advantage of their P.A.S.S. class, the Saturday Morning Study Groups, and to use the individual support. The best strategy for students is to start early, work hard, use the resources well and to work with OAA!
Kimberly W. D’Haene
Director of Academic Achievement
Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School