School of Law 1 Camino Santa MariaSan Antonio, TX78228 +1-210-436-3011 School of Lawlogo St. Mary's University

Support for Law Success

Academic Advising

Associate Dean Amy Hardberger meets with student.

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. First-year students learn basic law school skills, such as briefing cases, outlining and exam preparation. Students approaching the bar exam receive bar exam skills instruction.

Students at any stage in their law school careers 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.

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.


Individual Appointments

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.

Study Group Appointments
Appointments for study groups who want to learn new methods of group learning or simply want to improve study group productivity are also available. Daytime and evening hours are available. Contact Patricia Solano at 210-431-4340 or to schedule an appointment.

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.

More background on the Law Success Program is available here.

Sample reports

Here is a sample of the current Law Success Program assessments and instructions for students to access their charts through Gateway.

Assessments score reports will be eventually be distributed through ExamSoft. Here is a sample of the ExamSoft score report.

Additional information

More background on the Law Success Program is available here.

Law Success Program Timeline

Incoming Law Student Orientation

First years students taking their oath

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

  1. Introduction to Legal Methods: All 1L students take Introduction to Legal Methods.  This course covers critical topics for a legal education, including critical thinking, legal analysis, rule synthesis, case briefing, professionalism, and evaluation. Specifically, Introduction to Legal Methods accomplishes the following objectives: (1) familiarize students with the structure of the legal system, including different court structures and timelines; (2) hone skills related to critical thinking, learning ability, reading comprehension, and analytical reasoning; (3) develop the abilities and confidence necessary to take law school exams, including issue-spotting, organization, writing, and analysis; (4) improve ability to locate legal rules and apply those rules to relevant facts; and (5) 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 review these assessments in depth with their Law Success Instructors.
  2. 1L Exam Preparation Lecture (Voluntary): All 1Ls are invited to attend a presentation by professors in the 1L Curriculum that covers the best practices for exam preparation.

Spring 1L Year

1L Fundamental Skills Program (Mandatory): 1Ls ranked in the bottom third of their class are required to attend this workshop during their spring semester. This workshop includes four hours of lecture and several hours of assignments. After completing the assigned curriculum, the students are then asked to come into the office for individual appointments to review their completed work. They are also required to attend a separate appointment to discuss and receive advisement on their selection of courses for the upcoming semester.

Summer Before 2L Year

2L Law Success Program (Mandatory): This program is mandatory for rising 2Ls who rank at or near the bottom 50 percent of their class. This program consists of pre-coursework, a three-day, in-class workshop, and three weeks of post-coursework. The curriculum was created and implemented with the help of Barbri. Through this program, students work to improve their critical thinking skills, reading and writing skills, editing skills and work ethic as they are required to meet strict deadlines. This program will be taught again over the Winter Break for those in the Evening Program and those who are unable to attend over the summer.

Fall 2L Year

  1. Follow-up from Summer Law Success Program (Mandatory): Follow-up for the 2Ls includes individual appointments and an online workshop and assessment. Appointments and workshops provide additional opportunities to improve the student’s skills. The assessment results will allow the law school to further diagnose student skill deficits and target means to foster improvement as a cohort and for individual students. (Part-time students will take this program over the Winter Break)

  2. 2L Fundamental Skills (Mandatory): 2Ls in the bottom 10 percent of their class are required to meet with the Office of Academic and Student Affairs at least three times.  The purpose of the meetings to is provide one-on-one assessment of each student’s skills followed by customized academic advice and follow-up.

Spring 2L Year

Follow-up from December Law Success Program (Mandatory): Follow-up for the 2Ls includes individual appointments and an online workshop and assessment. Appointments and workshops provide additional opportunities to improve the student’s skills. The assessment results will allow the law school to further diagnose student skill deficits and target means to foster improvement as a cohort and for individual students.

Summer Before 3L Year

The 3L Law Success Program (Mandatory): This program is mandatory for rising 3Ls who ranked at or near the bottom 50 percent of their class. Barbri created and teaches the program. This program consists of two days of intense work focused on the Multistate Performance Test portion of the Texas Bar Exam, ending with all students in the program completing a practice MPT under testing conditions. The program will be offered again in December for Evening Students and those who were unable to attend over the summer.

3L Year (Fall and Spring)

Students participate in the following programs depending upon their graduation date.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 20 percent of their 3L class but 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.
  3. Graduation Exam (Mandatory): All students will be required to complete a graduation exam, currently in development, to gauge each student’s abilities as they begin bar review.

Office of Law Success

Zoe Niesel
Service Professor and Director of Law Success

Sherry Clegg
Law Success Instructor

Joshua Childress
Law Success Instructor

T.K. Floyd

Jennifer Spreng
Law Success Instructor

Stephen Perez
Law Success Instructor

Patricia Solano
Law Success Coordinator

ileana Velazquez
Licensed Professional Counselor

For more information:

Office of Law Success
Raba Law Faculty Building, Room 106-E

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