Saturday, December 20, 2014

Be the Best at Getting Better

Successful Growth Requires that You "Outlearn" Your Peers

I've spent the last few days catching up on blog posts, my favorite shows on Hulu, and the New York Times, all of which I missed while spending a week in Dubai on vacation.

One blog post really stuck with me as I was working on my goals for next year.  In a post called, In 2015, Be the Best at Getting Better, author Dharmesh Shah talked about the simple commitment of being the best at getting better.  He explains:
[C]ommitting to a one-time goal like learning to code or dropping 10 pounds can get lost amid the rush, assigned a lower priority, or just become uninteresting after a time. 
A commitment to becoming the best at getting better requires only a fundamental admission that you’re not perfect and a desire to outlearn your peers on a daily basis.
I love that!  I can handle that sort of personal and organizational commitment for 2015.  I can apply it to all my goals -- whether well-being, manifestation, or love.

Brian Balfour, VP of growth at HubSpot, first talked about the concept in terms of growth in his blog posting here.   He writes:
With any company or product you can set all sorts of goals and dreams. But at the end of the day there are thousands of variables that you can’t control. 
Specifically in growth:

1. Customer acquisition channels are always changing.

2. Competitors are always are always entering the market.

3. The needs and desires of your target audience are always evolving.

What you can control is yourself and your team. You control how effective your team is, how well you know your channels and customer, and the rate at which you are improving. Focus on what you can control, being the best at getting better.
He also has good advice on reflecting back on any effort to grow -- whether successful or not.  The process leads to more learning that you can implement in the next experiment. 

He also lists a number of strategies that help employees at HubSpot grow.  The company clearly invests in its people as a competitive strategy.

My law school can commit to the concept of being the best at getting better.  So, can my faculty colleagues.  And, just as importantly, so can our students. 

How can you be the best at getting better? 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Goal Reminding Words for 2015

Live with Heart

Last Year’s Words

A year ago, I shared the three words I wanted to represent my goals for 2014. They were: Robin, Launch, and Wealth. 

So, how did I do? Robin was a bit of a miss. I had wanted it to remind me to work towards greater fitness. But, year-long problems with my orthotic shoes, which compensate for a fused ankle and heel, made regular exercise difficult without access to an indoor swimming pool.

Yes, I launched my web-based mediation training program – Mediation with Heart -- and got terrific feedback from enrolled students. Now, I need to implement my marketing program in connection with it.

Yes, I generated more wealth and cash flow. I also shared more of that wealth with others throughout the year.

Words for 2015

It’s time to select three words for 2015. Surprisingly, this process has not come easily this year. 

Well-being came early to mind – both emotional and physical. I recently completed a book recommended by my massage therapist, Debbie Jackson at Serenity Now, called The HeartMath Solution by Doc Childre and Howard Martin. The authors make a compelling case for enhancing emotional well-being as a way to protect heart health and our happiness. They encourage us to listen to the wisdom of our heart because it “links us to higher intelligence through an intuitive domain where spirit and humanness merge.” 

So how do I want to implement my heart’s wisdom? I’d like to solve my shoe problem, get back into a regular fitness program, continue my meditation and yoga practice, and practice regularly the techniques of Freeze-Frame, Cut-Through, and Heart Lock-In that the authors describe in The HeartMath Solution.  I've noticed that when I practice these techniques, I shift from fear-based focus on my own needs to a loved-based focus on the needs of others, especially my students.

Manifestation also resonates with me this year. After completing the Gold Mastermind coaching program with Christine Kane this past summer, I became more mindful of the need to complete several pending projects and obligations. I tend to abandon projects if I become bored with them. But, my path of growth requires me to recognize when I avoid wrapping up projects and, instead, finish them strongly. 

I want to complete several law review articles (including one on bat deaths at Appalachian wind farms), two more tax returns, and a bunch of sewing projects. I want to organize and further implement my business coaching materials. I’d like to design a new website for my training program.

And yes, love also resonates. This semester, I very consciously decided to teach “the shit” out of my students. How I interact with them is one thing I can control at a time when my little law school struggles with a changing market for law graduates and, thus, the market for law students. But, the students now attending ASL – no matter how small the class is at this time -- want to be there, and I need to provide the best service possible to all of them. 

That service also comes from the heart. I love our students. They work hard to create a better life for themselves and their families. I also want to extend love and support to my very hard-working faculty colleagues, to our supportive and dedicated staff, and to our beleaguered Administrators and members of the Board. I hope they find a safe path for the law school so it continues to serve its mission, the SW Virginia community, our students, and our alumni. 

Some folks, including Christine Kane, suggest picking one word for the year. In that case, “heart” seems to be the word for 2015.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Peacemaking in Ferguson -- My Heart Goes to all St. Louisians

My Home Town's Journey

This recent communication from my mediation community touched me deeply.

From: Sandy Heierbacher [mailto:sandy@NCDD.ORG]
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 8:11 AM
Subject: [NCDD-UPDATES] What can the dialogue & deliberation community do after Ferguson?

Message to the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation community, from NCDD’s Director...

Hi, everyone. Many of us are reeling from the events in Ferguson. Some of you may be involved in protests in your own cities right now.

Last night, President Obama addressed the nation after it was announced that Darren Wilson would not be indicted. In his remarks, I couldn’t help but think he was talking about the work that many of you do. The juxtaposition on the split screen of Obama encouraging protestors to stay peaceful on one side, and tear gas canisters being thrown by police in riot fear [sic?] on the other side was bizarre. But what Obama talked about was not.

He talked about America’s long-standing struggle with race relations and racial inequity, and how despite considerable progress being made over the years, much more work [needs] to be done. He emphasized the need for criminal justice reform and for stronger police-community relations. He mentioned that there are communities that have been able to deal with this in an effective way.

Here is a quote that I’d like to draw your attention to:
But what we want to do is to make sure that we’re also focusing on those who can offer the kind of real progress that we know is possible, that the vast majority of people in Ferguson, the St. Louis region, in Missouri and around the country are looking for. And I want to be partner with those folks, and we need to lift up that kind of constructive dialogue that’s taking place.
We know one of his strategies is to work with the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS), which has offices in 15 locations across the country. CRS provides mediation, dialogue, and reconciliation services for communities in crisis, and is interested in finding ways to partner with NCDD members who can potentially increase their effectiveness and reach.

NCDD has actually been working with the Community Relations Service to plan meetings in late January between NCDD members and CRS staff in as many of their offices as possible. If you are interested in participating, read the post at and then send an email to and letting us know you’d like to join in. This opportunity is limited to supporting members of NCDD, so you may need to join or get your dues caught up. We’d also love your ideas about what you’d like to see happen at those meetings.

But there are things you can do immediately as well.

We’ve blogged about some of our members’ top resources for addressing racial conflict and inequity through dialogue and action at Please share this post widely so people will understand what Obama meant when he said “we need to lift up that kind of constructive dialogue that’s taking place.”

And please put these resources to use! If your community needs to have a conversation NOW, and you’re concerned that you don’t have enough time at this point to organize a dialogue-to-action project or a national issues forum quickly and effectively, I’d suggest you start by holding one or more Conversation Cafes.

Conversation Cafes are super-simple 90-minute dialogues that anyone can host. They are great tools to use for rapid response, and in organizing a Conversation Cafe you may very well be able to find more people interested in working with you to organize a more in-depth dialogue process that can lead to collaborative action.

Everything you need to host a Conversation Cafe can be found at or at

Please share this message with others if you find it helpful. And good luck with all the important work you are doing! You all are so needed in this world.

Sandy Heierbacher

Director, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation • @ncdd & @heierbacher

The 2014 NCDD conference has been storified! Check it out at

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Advice for Solo Practitioners

Keeping Track of Good Advice

Several of the bloggers I follow write on solo practice.  I want to start aggregating their advice in one of my posts.  So, here I go:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Debate Begins on Reason for Drop in National Bar Passage Rates

Graduate Competence or 
Design and Scoring Problems?

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported the onset of a debate about the surprising drop in bar passage rates on a national basis.  It said: 
A steep decline in bar exam scores on the most recent test has led to an outbreak of finger-pointing over who’s to blame for the downward swing. 
In a sharply worded letter, the dean of Brooklyn Law School on Monday reproached the head of a national bar exam group for suggesting to law school leaders that their graduates who took the July exam were less prepared than students who sat for the test in previous years. 
The dean’s letter came in response to an October memo by Erica Moeser, the president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, addressed to law school deans across the country in which she defended the integrity of the group’s exam and raised concerns about the ability of the would-be lawyers who took it.
She continued: “While we always take quality control of MBE scoring very seriously, we redoubled our efforts to satisfy ourselves that no error occurred in scoring the examination or in equating the test with its predecessors. The results are correct. . . All point to the fact that the group that sat in July 2014 was less able than the group that sat in July 2013.” 
Brooklyn Law School Dean Nicholas W. Allard fired back on Monday with a letter to Ms. Moeser. He said he found her assertions unconvincing and demanded a “thorough investigation of the administration and scoring” of the July 2014 exam. 
“We don’t know what evidence you have to support this surprising (and surprisingly disparaging) claim, but we do have evidence about our own 2014 graduates, and it tells us precisely the opposite: their credentials were every bit as good as our 2013 graduates, if not even better,” he wrote. 
Ms. Moeser couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday. 
Ms. Moeser’s letter didn’t cite specific scoring data for the exam given in July. But it gels with figures released by states showing significant declines in the passage rates for many of them. 
The overall passage rate for the Texas exam given in July, for example, was 11 percentage points lower than last year’s results. Idaho, Iowa, Oregon and Washington were among other states reporting sharp drops. 
The passage rate for Brooklyn Law School graduates who took the bar for the first time in July was nearly 10 percentage points lower than last year’s rate, Mr. Allard told Law Blog. He said the median LSAT score for the 2013 and 2014 cohorts was 163 in both cases. A private institution in downtown Brooklyn, Mr. Allard’s law school enrolls about 1,000 full-time students.

“What is her basis for saying the students are less able? I think that’s offensive. I don’t believe it,” Mr. Allard, who is also a senior partner at Squire Patton Boggs, told Law Blog on Monday.

November 16, 2014 Update: Another point of view.  And, another.

November 20, 2014 Update:  Story about dip in bar pass rates at all Texas law schools. Chart in linked story. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Filling the Needs of Rural Clients

Another Gap 
Created by 
Retiring Baby Boomer Lawyers

Over the last several years, several state and local bar associations have focused on under-served clients living in rural areas.  Twenty percent of the U.S. population resides in rural counties, but only two percent of law practices locate there.  

The October 2014 issue of the ABA Journal re-visits the topic again, profiling a number of lawyers practicing in rural North Dakota and South Dakota.  The article, Too Many Lawyers? Not Here. In Rural America, Lawyers are Few and Far Between by Lorelei Laird, gives a general overview of the situation, identifies a number of resources, and suggests the adaptations to rural practice required of young lawyers. An associated podcast is here.

Additional states -- including Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska, Vermont, Montana, New Hampshire, and Maine -- have started various types of programs designed to encourage younger lawyers to practice in rural areas.  

Other resources on this topic include:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

ASL Lion's Club Shrimp Boil and Corn Hole Tournement

A Touch of New Orleans 
the Kentucky Derby Melded for a Charitable Cause

Several years ago, our Dean, Lucy McGough, joined us after having lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana most of her academic career.  Soon, events linked to that history came to campus. First, came the sale of home-made gumbo to raise funds for a local charity.  Then, ASL had its first shrimp boil.  

Last month, the local chapter of the Lion's Club sponsored  the second shrimp boil on campus along with a corn hole tournament designed to raise money for its many worthwhile projects.  The local organization especially focuses on the needs of the low-income residents of Buchanan County who need eye exams and eyeglasses.  

I profiled the Lion's Club as a student organization here.

Students and faculty at ASL enjoyed a meal of spicy shrimp, sausages, corn, and potatoes. Many of the students participated in the corn hole tournament.  Josh Kinzer, the President of the Grundy Chapter of the Lions Clubs International, explained that the event raised awareness about Lion's Club projects. 

Micah Bailey, an ASL 3L student, brought his lovely wife and son. He said: "It was a great opportunity to meet other students and mingle with the faculty members.  The turnout was amazing, and we could not be more pleased with the student body participation." 

In a small town like Grundy, students quickly learn how they can create their own fun while serving the community through many community service projects. I blogged about ASL's award-winning community service program here.

Love you all so much!  You are lovely and big-hearted.