As soon as one walks through the doors of Eckstein Hall, she is likely to hear any number of initialisms and acronyms: ASP, AWA, CPC, CREAC, FGP, IRAC, LGL, MLM, MVLC, NSLI, OTI, SBA, and SSP, just to name a few. Some may already be conversant with Washington, D.C.’s “alphabet soup” (primarily made up of federal-agency abbreviations). Here at Marquette Law School, we have our own version.
For those new to our community, I’ve included at the bottom of this post a glossary of the above terms. Perhaps it might help ease the transition. But I’ll focus especially on the first and last of the list: ASP and SSP.
The Academic Success Program or ASP—where a pair of upper-level students lead weekly review and skill-building sessions for each first-year doctrinal course—is a core feature of the 1L experience here. I say “here” because you won’t find a program like ASP at every law school. In fact, some preliminary research, looking at supplementary academic programs across 199 U.S. law schools, yielded only about 20 other law schools that hold sessions akin to those of our ASP program.*
Each Marquette ASP session lasts 45 minutes—often over the lunch hour, but sometimes necessitating an even earlier start to the day than the course schedule requires. With three sessions per week (one for each doctrinal 1L course each semester), that amounts to two hours and 15 minutes of time that students might otherwise spend reading, talking, sleeping, networking, applying to jobs, or doing any number of other worthy and valuable things. Time is a precious commodity in law school, and we suggest to our 1Ls that they spend 135 minutes of their week attending ASP.
And they do so—with roughly 79% of the entering class of 2023, for example, attending 10 or more sessions in their first semester. Neither the Law School nor individual faculty members require 1Ls to attend ASP. Rather, first-year students are self-motivated to do so because of the opportunity to review, clarify, and—critically—apply the material taught in the prior calendar week’s classes.
As you might surmise, though, it’s not the numbers that make the program special. It’s the people. (If you’ve read the prior two posts in this series, you might also begin to sense a theme.) Our ASP student leaders are selected not merely based on their successful performance in the course during their own first year. Their selection is guided by their desire to be a resource to first-year students, their intellectual humility and professionalism, and their willingness to sacrifice some of their own upper-level course preferences to be able to sit in on every class meeting of the doctrinal course. The upper-level ASP student leaders observe the classes, work with faculty members, prepare for the sessions, present, and self-assess. These impressive student leaders receive credit for their time and work, but, if I had to guess, I think most would do it even without that. Such is the pride that ASP leaders take in their work, having remembered the benefit they reaped from the program when they were 1Ls.
On the other end of the alphabet, we find the Student Success Program or SSP. We regard ASP and SSP as an integrated series, with each intended to complement the other.
SSP features regular fall-semester workshops that aim to provide a foundational understanding of how to “do” law school. SSP starts with videos in our online Pre-Orientation program. The videos walk a student through how (and why) to read a case in law school. Unfortunately for our students, I’m the star of those initial sessions. But things quickly take a turn for the better, as—for the remainder of the semester—our upper-level SSP student leaders take the helm to plan, rehearse, and present as many as eight workshops on topics ranging from synthesizing notes to outlining to exam writing.
SSP, too, is an entirely voluntary program, and yet, this past fall, attendance at the sessions averaged over 75% of the first-year class. It might not hurt that we offer participating students a free lunch, but I prefer to think of that as simply an added bonus.
ASP and SSP are not the only paths to academic enrichment; classes are, of course, at the heart of the law-school experience, and faculty and staff routinely work one-on-one with students to discuss content and individualized learning strategies. But ASP and SSP provide students with another important and informal setting for learning, not to mention built-in mentorship from leaders eager to help. Thus, for Marquette law students, ASP and SSP really are key terms.
ASP – Academic Success Program: Weekly skill-building sessions, led by upper-level student leaders, for each first-year doctrinal course
AWA – Appellate Writing and Advocacy: Upper-level workshop course offered annually in the fall semester; a prerequisite for participation in the Law School’s Moot Court Program
CPC – Career Planning Center: Located in suite 240, the CPC provides programming, resources, and one-on-one advising to Marquette law students as they pursue their professional goals—from internships to post-graduate employment.
CREAC – Conclusion, Rule, Explanation, Application, Conclusion: A common organizational structure used for writing legal briefs and memoranda; typically taught in the Law School’s first-year Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research courses
FGP – First Generation Professionals: Student-run organization that brings together students of all backgrounds who are the first in their families to attend law school; one of the largest student-run organizations at Marquette Law School
IRAC – Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion: A common organizational structure used when writing law-school exam answers; explained and discussed in depth at SSP sessions
LGL – Law Governing Lawyers: Marquette Law School’s required course in professional responsibility and lawyer ethics
MLM – Marquette Law Mentorship: Marquette Law School’s official mentorship program, which pairs new law students with volunteer upper-level mentors
MVLC – Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics: Legal-advice clinics organized by the Law School, serving especially the Milwaukee community, and staffed by volunteer attorneys and Marquette law students; law students can start volunteering with the MVLCs and other pro bono opportunities as early as the summer before their first year of law school
NSLI – National Sports Law Institute: Affiliated with the Marquette Sports Law Program, the NSLI awards the Sports Law Certificate to graduating Marquette law students who complete the associated curricular requirements.
OTI – On the Issues: As one of a series of events hosted by Marquette Law School’s Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education, OTIs bring leading community voices to Eckstein Hall to discuss important and timely policy matters.
SBA – Student Bar Association; With its entire membership elected by the student body, SBA sponsors important law school initiatives as well as annual events, including Barristers’ Ball.
SSP – Student Success Program: A series of fall-semester workshops that cover the basics of how to “do” law school; led by upper-level student leaders and offered annually to first-year students; shamelessly proudly serves lunch
* My sincere thanks to Abigail Nilsson for her exhaustive (and likely exhausting) research on this topic.