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Academic Success

“Success” means something different for every student, and the Academic Success Program is here to help you achieve yours every step of the way. Academic Success professors are committed to facilitating every student’s success during law school, on the bar examination, and in future professional activities. Our primary role in fostering student success is helping SIU students do three things:

  1. maximize their learning in law school,
  2. hone their intellectual and professional capacities, and
  3. master well-established lifelong professional learning strategies for law school and serving clients in practice.

Academic Success professors teach academic success and other skills courses and provide individual coaching to students in academic and professional matters available for students’ entire three years of law school. Some also teach and coach in the Bar Preparation program. Carefully selected upper-class students, the Taylor Mattis Fellows, serve as peer mentors to first-year students and lead structured Study Groups.

Academic Success Faculty

Jennifer Spreng
Director and Assistant Professor of Law

Kelly Collinsworth
Assistant Professor of Practice

Anna Vick
Assistant Professor of Practice


Before Classes Start

Our commitment to your success starts long before classes.  The Academic Support program offers extensive Orientation and pre-Orientation programming to introduce Southern Illinois University School of Law’s academic and professional expectations.  So even before Day One, we are already helping you hone the building-block analytical and reasoning skills law students and lawyers use every day so you can hit the ground running in law school.

Mastering Legal Education

Entering first-year students take “Mastering Legal Education,” a required course where they practice “learning like lawyers do.”  The course immerses students in two authentic, professional learning strategies rooted in the profession’s discipline-specific learning method, “legal reasoning” and provides ample opportunities to hone crucial intellectual and professional capacities.

The first strategy, “Prepare-Perform-Improve,” focuses on the high-impact, in-class experience (“perform”) and the legal reasoning activities before (“prepare”) and after (“improve”) that maximize the full learning value of every course. 

The second, the “Signature Method,” is a repeatable process of legal reasoning steps students apply to key course assignments and in studying for and taking examinations to improve the quality of their performance.

Because of Mastering Legal Education’s close association with the Lawyering Skills: Legal Writing course, students put these strategies in action with authentic, legal practice-oriented projects throughout the first year.  Academic Success professors also follow students’ intellectual and professional development carefully and with the help of upper-class Taylor Mattis Fellows, provide unusual individualized attention and feedback in legal reasoning, legal communication, and learning strategies and tactics.

Study Groups

Every first-year student receives a structured Study Group assignment shortly after the beginning of the Fall semester.  Taylor Mattis Fellows, carefully selected upper-class students, lead these Study Groups, which meet several times a term.  In Study Groups, first-year students and Fellows discuss practical concerns of law school learning and student life, such as briefing and outlining, examination tactics, work-life balance, stress management, co-curricular opportunities, and personal and professional development.

Upper-class Opportunities

Academic Success faculty continue to follow their Mastering Legal Education students into the second and third years.  They provide individualized coaching to all upper-class students seeking additional support with learning and examination strategies.  They also offer the Advanced Legal Methods and other supplementary required programs and advising for selected students.

Taylor Mattis Fellows

Taylor Mattis Fellows are carefully selected upper-class students who serve as Study Group leaders and mentors for first-year students.  Taylor Mattis Fellows have demonstrated high capacity for maximizing their learning in law school with proven methods and mindsets they want to share and model to others. 

Fellows work closely with students through the required first-year Mastering Legal Education course.  Fellows lead several Study Group meetings each term, provide peer feedback on assignments, and serve as peer mentors for first year students.  Some take on other projects that benefit first-year students’ intellectual and professional development.

Who is Taylor Mattis?

Taylor Mattis was a beloved, founding professor at Southern Illinois University School of Law where for decades she taught Property Law and Real Estate Finance and coached the Moot Court team.  In retirement she generously gave her name to SIU Law’s peer mentoring program, a signal feature of the Academic Success Program, that began in the mid-2000s.

Taylor Mattis 

Taylor Mattis was elected to the American Law Institute in 1987, served as advisor to Restatement (Third) of Property, and was an articles editor for the ABA publication Probate and Property. She wrote numerous influential law review articles and books on Property Law, as well as a widely used Moot Court Handbook. 

Her former students and colleagues would not be surprised to learn that even in her last days, she was still lecturing bedside attendants on the Rule Against Perpetuities.

March 01, 2019

Taylor Mattis- Class 1979