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Launchpad: Academic Skills Program Boosts Confidence, Propels Students to New Heights

Berkeley Law

December 5, 2023

Academic support initiatives aim to help all students, including those from underrepresented backgrounds, adjust to their new environment. But telling data and testimonials reveal how Berkeley Law’s Academic Skills Program (ASP) empowers students not just to survive law school, but to thrive in it.

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Early bonds

The week-long pre-orientation helps 40 to 45 1Ls each year. Beyond the concrete academic tools they acquire, students immediately begin forging community and building strong relationships.

“The most meaningful part of the program to me was meeting other people who had the same foundational questions and first-generation backgrounds as myself,” says Adnan Toric ’21. “There’s a special comfort in beginning law school with a group of people you can lean on. Law school is tough, but the pre-orientation program allows you to feel like you belong at Berkeley Law before classes even start.”

Toric later became an ASP tutor, an editor at two Berkeley Law journals, and directed the student-led Academic Empowerment Program. After two years clerking for a federal district court judge, he recently joined Cohen Milstein as an associate in its Philadelphia office.

During his pre-orientation, Toric recalls a professor known for being a tough cold caller conducting a mock class and demystifying the law school classroom dynamic, which made courses less intimidating when the semester actually began.

“The ASP is vital for students from non-traditional backgrounds to feel a sense of both confidence and community in law school,” Toric says. “Some of my close friends even now are people I met during the program as a first-year student and later working within it as a tutor. The program allows students to learn how to be law students, what is expected of them, and gives them a game plan to meet those expectations.

“All the better, their peers are the ones teaching them how to succeed. Who could be a better tutor than someone who just finished going through what you’re going through now? I think those are the reasons the program has been successful, aside from the wonderful guidance of faculty like Diana DiGennaro and Professor Kristen Holmquist.”

In January 2020, the program received a note about Toric from an anonymous student, which read: “I just wanted to drop off a quick thank you for your program. Before ASP I had no clue what a case brief or outline were. Many accolades to my mod’s tutor — Adnan Toric — for his infinite patience while helping me to discern the differences between holding/judgment/rule and what the heck an ‘issue’ was. His encouragement and down-to-earth advice were linchpins to my success last semester. Give the guy a raise! Sincerely, an appreciative student.”

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