UConn Law Survey On Student Engagement

Starting March 30, UConn Law students will have the chance to provide feedback to the UConn Law administration as part of the law school’s participation in the Law School Survey of Student Engagement, or, “LSSSE.”

LSSSE is a nationwide independent research project that provides participating law schools with the ability to learn about which educational practices students find most effective. The survey, which will be tailored specifically to UConn Law, provides student respondents with a series of questions pertaining to their academic and extracurricular lives at UConn Law.

Assistant Director of Student Services Jennifer Cerny said UConn Law will utilize the responses to check in with students and measure their level of on-campus engagement.

“This survey gives us insight into the student body and helps our law school figure out the best ways to reach students and better meet their needs,” she said. “It takes into account everything from how students use services on campus, to engagement in (and out of) the classroom, to providing data to justify programs and campus initiatives”

The survey contains questions inquiring about a range of topics, from a student’s frequency in participating in the classroom to a student’s personal and professional development. Students may answer these questions from a spectrum of answers, ranging from “very much” to “very little.”

In addition to the pointed survey questions, students will also have the opportunity to fill out an additional, open-ended comments section. Cerny urged students to take the time to fill out this section.

“The most helpful part of the survey is the comments students write about their experience at UConn Law.” Cerny said. “We want valuable, honest feedback about the law school.”

Cerny said once the law school collects the anonymous responses, members of UConn Law’s administration read every comment and use these comments to gauge where improvements to the law school are most necessary.

UConn Law first participated in the survey in 2011 and had a response rate of 64.8%, surpassing the national average of 52% Cerny said she hopes to surpass that number this year.

“It’s really important for every student to take the time to do the survey,” she said. “This is one of the few ways to offer feedback about one’s overall experience completely anonymously.”

Cerny said UConn Law made a number of changes in response to the feedback it received during the 2011 survey.

“It is easy to justify big changes on campus with the power of the student body behind the changes,” she said. “To help us make these changes happen, everybody needs to participate.”

In addition to using the data as a way to collect useful feedback about our campus culture, it also serves as a tool to compare UConn Law with similar law schools.

“We are able to compare ourselves to both our peer schools and the other 189 law schools that participate in LSSSE,” Cerny said. “That’s the global idea of the survey.”

Students that complete the survey will be entitled to a yet-to-be-determined giveaway. Cerny said, however, students should also be incentivized by the desire to provide their anonymous feedback about how to improve the UConn Law experience.

Survey invitations will be sent on March 24, with the actual survey period running from March 30 through April 16. For more information about the LSSSE, students may contact Jennifer Cerny or visit http://www.lssse.iub.edu/.

 

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Initial Symposium Proposal Stirs Up Student Leaders

By Jaime A. Welsh

Last semester, Dean Fisher created a Symposium Committee to look into student journal symposia at the Law School. The committee was comprised of Professor Alexandra Lahav and Professor Peter Siegelman.

Fisher explained that his goals are “to achieve symposia of the highest quality, to conduct them in a way that will bolster the reputation of the journal and the law school, to give students the opportunity to work with scholars and thought leaders of the highest caliber, and to give journals the ability to choose the topic on which they want to conduct a symposium.” The current discussion’s focus is on how to best accomplish those goals, Fisher continued.

On January 16, 2015, the Editors-in-Chief (EICs or individually, EIC) of the Connecticut Law Review, the Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal, and the Connecticut Journal of International Law received an email from Professor Alexandra Lahav outlining the recommendations of that committee. The Symposium Committee also distributed a more detailed memorandum of its recommendations to the faculty that same day.

The Symposium Committee recommended “that law journals choose symposium topics proposed by the faculty for the next three years” and that the faculty member whose idea was chosen would “select and invite all participants,” leaving the students to “handle the logistics” and publication. If there were not sufficient topics proposed by the faculty, or if the law journals did not select one of the proposed topics, then there would be no symposia that year, continued the Symposium Committee. The Symposium Committee’s memorandum also provided that, due to the time and commitment that would be required, the faculty member making the proposal would be awarded a small stipend for his or her work on the symposium.

These recommendations were in addition to a change in procedure that occurred in March of 2014. Last year, the Dean issued a new symposia procedure where every symposia had to have a faculty sponsor, and every symposia topic had to be approved by his office. That procedure was universally accepted among all the journals, Fisher noted. “Looking at our history of symposium, the very best symposia succeed because there is a faculty member who is personally invested in . . . recruiting the very best speakers,” explained Fisher.

The Symposium Committee’s memorandum to the faculty noted that its recommendations were based on meetings with members of two of the student journals, faculty polling, independent research on the symposia of the last ten years, and an investigation of symposium practices at other law schools. The Symposium Committee described the benefit of its proposal as “reduc[ing] problems of low quality invitations and publications, while still allowing students to have some autonomy and buy-in as to the choice of topic.”

The Symposium Committee’s proposal would not apply to the Connecticut Insurance Law Journal symposia, which “are scheduled and organized by the Insurance Law Center acting in conjunction with other Law School faculty,” explained its EIC Jeff Mastrianni.

The remaining student law journals each expressed concern over the impact that the Symposium Committee’s proposal would have if adopted by the faculty.

“We agree that there needs to be some oversight and that the goal is to produce the best product and that the faculty can be intricate in improving the quality of the symposia. However, there is educational value in the students putting these events on and that goal would be best served if faculty assisted the student leaders rather than supplanting them,” said CJ Schoenherr, the EIC of the Public Interest Law Journal.

“Placing responsibility for topic selection with the faculty deprives students of ownership over the symposium; it strips away creative control to leave us the grunt work. While the assistance of faculty is greatly appreciated and we look forward to working with them on symposiums going forward, it must remain assistance and no more,” said Spencer Hill, the EIC of the Connecticut Journal of International Law.

Connecticut Law Review has been the most involved in discussions surrounding the Symposium Committee’s proposal. Editor-in-Chief Drew Hillier emphasized that the Connecticut Law Review has been an entirely student-run organization since it published its first issue fifty years ago—a symposium issue. He said, “The Connecticut Law Review was founded by students who edited a portion of the Connecticut Bar Journal. They wanted the autonomy to select the content that they edited. That student autonomy has led to success, as we are ranked twenty-sixth among hundreds of law reviews according to Google Metrics. Our rank shows that our members are perfectly capable of selecting quality topics and authors without the committee’s proposed restrictions.”

A central and historical component of serving on the Connecticut Law Review is the ability to select the journal’s content, especially crafting the symposium issue, Hillier explained. “Employers want more from students than the ability to handle the ‘logistics’ of a symposium, like ordering flowers or hiring a caterer. The research, judgment, and writing skills that students gain by selecting symposium topics and authors make our editors more useful to future employers and clients. It would eliminate our character as a student-run journal and impair the educational opportunity that membership on the Connecticut Law Review provides if we were to delegate the tasks of researching topics and selecting our authors,” Hillier stated.

Connecticut Law Review’s position remains “interested in ensuring that if we have a symposium, that [the] panelists are top quality writers. Our primary concern is the written work, which represents one-fifth of our work product for the year,” said Wesley Cain, EIC-Elect of Connecticut Law Review.

The leadership of Connecticut Law Review met with Fisher, Lahav, and Siegelman to discuss the initial proposal on February 6, 2014, which was the “the soonest available date after [the Connecticut Law Review’s] elections so that [its] new symposium editors could be included in the conversation,” explained its Co-Symposium Editor Laura Ann Keller.

At that meeting, “Professor Lahav explained that there was faculty dissatisfaction with past symposia at the Law School, as well as unaccountability of professors that provide topic ideas,” said Keller. Lahav noted that the Symposium Committee’s recommendations were based on “an appendix of evidence that showed a history of bad past symposia,” continued Keller. Unfortunately that appendix has not been made available to journals or students.

Prior to that meeting, the leadership of the Connecticut Law Review also attended a Student Bar Association (SBA) meeting to express its concerns about the proposal. “Members of the SBA General Body took an interest in the issue as many believed that preserving journals as student run is an important component to the academic experience,” stated SBA President Jim Anderson. On February 3, 2015, the Student Bar Association (SBA) unanimously voted to adopt a statement of position regarding the proposed changes to student-run academic journal symposia.

The SBA’s statement recognized that “the members of the SBA ha[d] received negative feedback from student constituents regarding proposed changes,” and affirmatively supported the position of student journal leadership. The SBA’s statement then “urge[d] the administration and faculty of the School of Law to reconsider the proposed changes and to maintain the student-run nature of the academic journals’ symposia, thereby preserving a source of great value for students and the institution alike.”

The strong student support on behalf of law journal symposia remaining student-run extended to the 1L class, as well. One hundred and six members of the 1L Day Division at the Law School signed a February 5, 2015 letter to the faculty that detailed the educational benefits for law journal members who pursue and research various symposia topics. The letter then called for an open dialogue between the faculty and students, so that they “can work closely together, while allowing future journal members the academic freedom previous years have enjoyed.”

Cain met with Fisher on February 9, 2015 to discuss “ways that we could tweak that proposal to alleviate the journals’ concerns,” Cain said. The Connecticut Law Review’s primary concern was that it wanted language added to the proposal stating that the journals would listen to the faculty’s proposals but that each journal would retain the opportunity to pick a student proposal, explained Cain.

Subsequent to these events, Fisher attended the February 10, 2015 SBA meeting to discuss the potential changes and allow all students the opportunity to ask questions. In a subsequent meeting that Keller and Co-Symposium Editor Liz O’Donnell had with Fisher, Fisher explained that he was “trying to make a system in which faculty were held more accountable,” but that nothing could be decided until the faculty’s next meeting on March 6, 2015.

As of the date this article went to press, the journals have “not yet received an updated proposal in writing in response to our concerns,” said Keller.

Fisher has stated that “nothing formal and written is being adopted yet” and that “we will see how the discussion goes.” Currently, the student law journals have a green light to choose any topic, but they must obtain a faculty sponsor for that topic and there must be agreement between the journal and the faculty sponsor on the panelists who are invited.

The Law School Foundation Board of Trustees allots $10,000 per year for each law journal’s symposium. However, Fisher noted that there are certain symposia that are of such a quality that $10,000 is not sufficient, and that “we [as a Law School] may decide that we need to concentrate our money on fewer and better quality events.” Fisher added that last year the journals became aware that “it is not guaranteed that every journal will do a symposia every year.”

Diary of a 3L

By: Sarah Jane Ricciardi

Graduation is right around the corner. In a little over two months, we will be vigorously shaking hands with Dean Fisher and waving a fond farewell to UConn Law. After speaking with some of last year’s graduates, it has come to my attention that being a “grown-up” may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. I’ve spent the last three years whining about law school, but maybe it is time to really appreciate the best parts of being a law student.

The Schedule. This is literally the last time you will be able to enjoy sleeping in on a Tuesday and day drinking on a Thursday. And forget the $6 matinee at New Park Ave. When you’re a “grown-up,” even your weekends are shot. Saturdays will be for laundry and grocery shopping. And Sundays will be for sleeping and catching up on work before your Monday morning meeting. Fun will be restricted to Friday night happy hours, complete with fried apps and fruity-tooty cocktails. See below.

Your Waistline. While law school isn’t great for your overall fitness, it has to be better than a M-F job where you literally sit on your lazy bottom for 10 hours a day. Sure, you eat a lot of pizza and Chinese food in law school, but you also have time for afternoon gym sessions. As a “grown-up,” you’ll be lucky if you pass a gym on your drive to the drycleaners. Worst of all, do you know what offices are famous for??? Birthdays. And do you know what birthdays mean??? Cake…. And cookies… and donuts … and maybe even double fudge brownies – occasionally with sprinkles. No one brings “birthday salad” to work. Maybe hummus. But probably not.

Email. Law students receive a lot of email. The only people to receive more? Lawyers. Your smartphone in law school was a wondrous device that provided you with endless hours of Candy Crush. As a “grown-up,” your phone is evil incarnate. The “ping” of an incoming email will be tantamount to a close-range gunshot.

Stress-Free Lifestyle. Yes, law school is stressful. But which is worse: turning in a research paper a day late or filing a brief 4 minutes late and losing your client’s case and probably your job? What about pulling an all-nighter once a semester during finals or pulling an all-nighter once a week because you aren’t hitting your billables? Face it: a B- in Intellectual Property is way better than being held in contempt for utter incompetence.

So enjoy these last few months of freedom. The bar exam is looming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael King, Class of 2012 Alumni Spotlight

By Brian Metter

Attorney Michael King is a 2012 graduate of UConn Law and is currently an associate at Shipman & Goodwin, where he practices primarily in the area of Business Litigation.

Prior to attending law school, King received his Bachelor of Arts from Providence College in Political Science and Spanish. While at Providence College, King played goalkeeper on its Division 1 soccer team. He describes that experience as having built his leadership skills and contributed to his time management ability. He also worked for the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights dealing with discrimination claims, which initially sparked his interest in law. Then during the spring of his senior year, he interned at the Public Defenders Office in Providence.

After graduating from Providence College, King worked for Travelers Insurance in its Special Liability Group. In that capacity, King was exposed to litigation related to toxic torts and environmental cleanups, which solidified his decision to attend law school. King was happy to be accepted to UConn Law, as he knew he wanted to practice in Connecticut and was aware of its strong reputation in the state.

While in law school, King participated in a number of internships and clinical opportunities. For his 1L summer, King served as a judicial intern for the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, working for Judge Bryant. He was also a legal intern for the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General in the Department of Public Safety. As an intern in the Attorney General’s Office, King got valuable hands-on experience dealing with claims against the Department of Corrections and State Police, and remembers the thrill of arguing a motion to dismiss.

During King’s second summer, he worked as a summer associate at Shipman & Goodwin. He stated that he felt very grateful and lucky to have landed the position at the firm, as he feels there is something special about working at Shipman. He described his summer experience as kind of an eight-week interview, where he worked on a variety of interesting projects while getting to know the people that he is fortunate to now call his colleagues.

King was also a member of the Connecticut Law Review, and served as the online publications editor for Volume 44. King also stated that his “best memory while at UConn [Law] was working for the Asylum Clinic.”

After graduating from law school, King served as a judicial law clerk to both the Honorable Christine E. Keller and the Honorable Carmen E. Espinosa at the Connecticut Appellate Court.

King now works as a full-time associate in the litigation department at Shipman, and feels great going into work every day.

 

 

 

Op-Ed: Late Grades and Grade Changes; Students Up In Arms

By Nina Pelc-Faszcza

Regular stress and anxiety surrounding fall grade releases was met with even more hostility at the beginning of this semester, when rumors began to circulate that students were receiving incorrect grades and the registrar was not being prompt with posting grades in general.

We all understand that grades are extremely important. Students have to apply for summer jobs, after-graduation jobs, and time-sensitive, prestigious clerkships; we want to show our parents and friends; and, maybe most importantly, getting grades provides us with a sense of closure, a feeling that we can finally put the past behind us. However, in the process of grade-posting madness, life and human error is bound to happen.

Grade posting at UConn Law is a multi-step process involving both professors and the registrar. A simplified version of the process is as follows: law professors will hand-write the grade of each student next to his or her name on a class roster, the registrar will input those grades manually into the system, and then the registrar will post them after double checking that the right grades have been assigned to each student. (Another fun fact: the registrar does check to make sure classes on the B median are graded appropriately).

As one can imagine in a system of hand-written grades and manual input, the occasional error is bound to happen. It sometimes does happen that grades are interchanged in the input process, or that, in an effort to post grades sooner and stifle the widespread anxiety (such as over a weekend when a professor decides to submit his or her grades at 4:59pm on a Friday), grades are posted without being double-checked. For the few students who are affected, you are rightfully annoyed; these mistakes should not happen.

But in the grand scheme of things, we are all humans capable of making mistakes. Have you ever sent an email that you read maybe twenty-five times to avoid looking incompetent, only to notice right after you hit send that you misspelled the person’s name or missed a “the” in the middle of a sentence? (Or even worse: hitting “reply all” by accident!) Have you ever re-read your writing sample after submitting it, noticed a glaring typo, and wondered how you (and the six people you had proof-read it) could have ever missed it? Yes, that is called human error, and it happens to the best of us. In the end, we will all receive our grades (usually the ones we deserve) in due time, and all is well.

As for the matter of some grades being posted well past the January 24th deadline (which seemed a bit late to begin with), this is attributable to our professors and the (usually) unforeseen and understandable circumstances that they face. The registrar will almost always post grades within twenty-four business hours of receiving them, and will nudge any professor who disrespects the deadline. Professors are people too; we expect them to abide by deadlines as we must abide by theirs, but a teensy bit of slack should be given. Grading, especially for large doctrinal classes, is not as quick and easy as one may think.

And for those of you with multiple-choice scantron exams who did not receive your grades until the very last minute and thought, “This is ridiculous! How lazy can my professor possibly be?!”: you can sleep more soundly at night when I tell you that nine times out of ten this is done on purpose. Professors oftentimes submit such grades early but make the strategic decision to delay the reveal so that you are not left staring at and obsessing about that one grade in isolation for three weeks until the rest of them come out. But for those professors who are just inexplicably late, well that’s just rude.