In addition to housing the School of Law’s innovative legal skills curriculum, the Office of Law Success and its faculty offer services for all law students.
- Assistance with basic law school skills, such as briefing cases, outlining and exam preparation
- Instruction in bar exam skills
- Support for academic issues
- Skill improvement for and on various areas of law study
- Academic advising
“The Law Success Program overshadows programs in many law schools that are remedial in their philosophy with a program that is supportive, forward-looking and intended to serve every student, no matter how strong or how prepared. It reaches not just some small portion of the class, but the whole class.”
Dean Stephen M. Sheppard
The Office of Law Success also offers course advising to all law students prior to each registration period. Students may utilize these appointments to ensure they take the courses needed to pass the Texas Bar Exam, learn about the material covered in a particular course, and learn more about the professors and exam formats.
The Office of Law Success offers individual appointments to all law students Monday through Friday. Students may utilize these appointments to take practice exams for their current courses, discuss methods to improve academic performance, obtain feedback on course outlines, or to ask other questions. Daytime and evening appointments are available. To schedule an appointment, students should contact their assigned Law Success Instructor.
Personal Concerns or Learning Disabilities
While the Office of Law Success focuses primarily on academics, it is understood that performance is often affected by outside circumstances. For this reason, students are encouraged to take advantage of the University’s Student Psychological and Testing Services.
210-436-3135 Main number
210-825-3622 After-hours emergency number (answered 24/7 during the academic year)
Law Success Curriculum
St. Mary’s Law is committed to the success of every one of its law students. Thus, the St. Mary’s Office of Law Success ensures that each student has the skills to succeed in law school and in practice. The Office of Law Success accomplishes this through an innovative curriculum that spans students’ entire legal education.
The Access Group Center for Research & Policy Analysis announced in 2015 that it had awarded a $125,000 grant for legal education research for the St. Mary’s Law Success Program. The program helps inform first-semester law students of their strengths and weaknesses before they receive their first law school grades and enables them to track the growth of those skills through school to graduation and the bar exam.
Instruction for skills mastery
Through the Law Success Curriculum, each student receives three years of extra-curricular instruction and testing in the skills and values the student must demonstrate to perform well on law school exams, professional exams and in legal practice — focused particularly on students’ strengths and weaknesses.
St. Mary’s Law Success Instructors are full-time teaching attorneys who prepare law students in the skills required to learn and apply the knowledge taught in the traditional law school curriculum.
The training hones skills appropriate for each year of law school, starting with the building blocks of lawyering: reading, writing, editing, logical analysis of an argument and a strong ethic of work performance. Law Success Instructors explain, assess and explain again those skills.
Further, the Law Success Program conducts innovative assessments of student performance so that students and faculty can then focus on the particular skills each student must work most to develop.
Law Success Program Timeline
Students at any stage of this timeline are welcome to stop by and visit the Law Success faculty to discuss academic issues or to improve their skills, for and on various areas of law study, or simply to chat with their assigned Law Success Instructor.
Incoming Law Student Orientation
The Law Success Program begins with a required week-long 1L Orientation. Along with programming planned by the Office of Admissions, the Office of Law Success presents lectures on subjects including legal writing and editing, critical thinking and logical argument, understanding and synthesizing the law, reading and briefing cases, getting the most out of class, a mock class and law school study skills.
All students complete a battery of skills assessments that measure critical thinking, writing, and evaluation. This assessment produces performance indicators on the incoming 1L’s initial skill levels. Students then work individually with their Law Success Instructors to improve and strengthen critical areas.
Fall 1L Year
- Introduction to Legal Methods: All 1L students take Introduction to Legal Methods. This required course covers critical topics for a legal education, including critical thinking, legal analysis, rule synthesis, professionalism and evaluation. Specifically, Introduction to Legal Methods accomplishes the following objectives:
- Familiarize students with the structure of the legal system, including different court structures and timelines
- Hone skills related to critical thinking, learning ability, reading comprehension and analytical reasoning
- Develop the abilities and confidence necessary to take law school exams, including issue-spotting, organization, writing and analysis
- Improve ability to locate legal rules and apply those rules to relevant facts
- Recognize the importance of professionalism – including etiquette, judgment and discipline – in the law school environment, as well as the link between professionalism in the academic environment and professionalism in practice. Introduction to Legal Methods relies heavily on formative assessment of student skills. Students receive feedback and review these assessments in depth with their Law Success Instructors.
- Workshops: All 1Ls are required, as part of their Introduction to Legal Methods curriculum, to attend skills-based workshops throughout the first semester. These workshops focus on note-taking, course outlining, exam preparation and other important study skills.
- Coaching and Skills Remediation: Law Success Instructors are available for all 1L students for the purpose of academic coaching and skills remediation. Law Success Instructors help students identify points at which students are struggling and can present targeted plans to help students work on critical skills.
Spring 1L Year
- Advanced Legal Methods: All 1L students take Advanced Legal Methods. This required course builds on the critical topics covered in the fall semester, including introducing more advanced legal analysis techniques. Students will also consider the trajectory of their legal career in law school and beyond.
- Coaching and Skills Remediation: 1Ls ranked in the bottom of their class will meet with their Law Success Instructors throughout this semester and complete assignments designed to help develop the foundational skills that may have impacted their success in the Fall. After completing the assignments, the students are then asked to come into the office for individual appointments to review their completed work.
Summer Before 2L Year
2L Orientation: This program is mandatory for rising 2Ls. Through this program, students work to assess and then improve their critical thinking skills, reading and writing skills, and work ethic. This orientation program will be taught again over the Christmas Break for those in the Evening Program. All 2L students will also meet with their Law Success Instructor to review the results of work produced during the 2L Orientation.
Fall 2L Year (Fall and Spring)
- Experiential Legal Analysis: All 2L students take Experiential Legal Analysis. The goals of this required course are to learn and practice trial court writing through the production of many complete documents over the course of the term; to help students hone more advanced intellectual and professional capacities, particularly in legal reasoning, as they begin upper-class coursework; and to introduce students to the Multistate Performance Test so that they may maximize the benefit of their upper-class experience in anticipation of that test. Students use abbreviated libraries of legal texts and office files of evidence and court documents to prepare multiple trial court briefs and related documents under timed and non-timed conditions.
- Coaching and Skills Remediation: 2Ls are encouraged to meet with their Law Success Instructor to work on the skills covered at 2L orientation and continue to improve their analysis, writing and study skills.
Summer Before 3L Year
3L Orientation: This program is mandatory for rising 3Ls. Through this program, students work to assess and then improve their readiness for the bar exam and law practice. Students will also work with Career Services to assess their job search strategies. This orientation program will be taught again over the Christmas Break for those in the Evening Program. All 3L students will also meet with their Law Success Instructor to review the results of work produced during the 3L Orientation.
3L Year (Fall and Spring)
Students participate in the following programs depending upon their graduation date.
- Essay Advantage (Voluntary): The Essay Advantage Workshop is presented by Barbri to help students build the skills required to succeed on the essay portion of the bar exam. The workshop is held on the weekend to ensure availability for the Evening Students.
- Bar Preparation Class (Mandatory as described below and voluntary for others): The Bar Preparation Class is a for-credit course that is mandatory for students in the bottom 50 percent of their class, but also open to others. This course teaches techniques to help students succeed on all portions of the bar exam. This course is offered as a day and evening course to accommodate Evening Students’ schedules.
- Raise the Bar Program: This program serves as a supplement (not a replacement) to a student’s traditional commercial bar prep course. As part of Raise the Bar, each bar taker will be provided with
- A designated Law Success Instructor to assist them as they study
- Practice essays given under exam conditions
- Substantive review of practice questions by St. Mary’s School of Law professors
- Personalized feedback on assignments
- Graduation Exam (Mandatory): In the future, all students will be required to complete a graduation exam (currently in development), to gauge each student’s abilities as they begin bar review.
Contact the Office of Law Success
Law Success Instructors
- Zoe Niesel
Assistant Professor of Law and Director of Law Success
- Joshua Childress
Law Success Instructor
- Jennifer SprengLaw Success Instructor
- Stephen PerezLaw Success Instructor
- Afton CavanaughLaw Success Instructor
- Patricia Solano
Law Success Coordinator
- Ileana VelazquezLicensed Professional Counselor
Departmental contact information
Read more about the origin and goals of the Law Success Program, nationally unmatched in size and scope.