Reminder: Proposals for Video Series on Teaching Methodologies

38th Annual Conference on Clinical Legal Education:

Leading the New Normal: Clinical Education at the Forefront of Change

May 4-7, 2015

Rancho Mirage, CA


The Planning Committee for the 2015 AALS Clinical Conference issues this call for professors to participate in a video series designed to capture the creativity and innovation that is a hallmark of our community. The video collection will feature ideas about teaching methodology for an audience of law professors. Participants will work with the Committee to develop their topics and videotape their talk on Monday, May 4, the day before the Clinical Conference.[1] The AALS has expressed a strong interest in embedding these videos on its website as part of an effort to convey more effectively the value of a legal education.

The new normal in legal education asks law teachers of all kinds to integrate practical lawyering skills and professional values into their teaching. These are topics central to our clinical teaching, and our community has the knowledge and experience to address them in interesting ways. We seek teachers who have developed thoughtful ideas about law school teaching and who want to spread those ideas to the broader community. We envision this project as a way to showcase you and the clinical community as leaders in teaching innovation and to inspire innovation by others. Starting this year, we mean to create a collection of short videos on law school pedagogy that can continue to develop over time and to foster further integration of active learning and practical skills in the law school curriculum. Topics could include:

  • 5 things every law professor should know about learning theory
  • the value of reflection in learning
  • beyond finals: 5 formative assessment tools for legal education
  • faculty teaching rounds: how they work and why you should host them
  • teaching collaboration
  • how to add a negotiation/mediation/interviewing/oral advocacy/drafting exercise into a law school course
  • how to make a simulation/role play successful
  • how to bring cross-cultural lawyering into a doctrinal course
  • top 5 tips for training externship field supervisors
  • what I’ve learned from being a law professor for __ years
  • 5 things I’ve learned about advising students

These topics are just illustrative; the value of this format is we can be open to ideas brought forth by participants.

The Clinical Conference represents an ideal time for taping. Each year, it draws us together for focused discussion of our roles and approaches as teachers and as lawyers. Taping at one time and in one location allows us to hire a professional videographer to assure a consistent look and solid production values. This year in particular, we are located in shouting distance of Hollywood, so our options are good.

Video format: We plan to produce up to 8 videos at the conference. We will consider proposals that address all kinds of teaching methods, including both clinic-specific methods and methods that integrate skills, values and professional development into other kinds of law school teaching.

The videos will each be between 5-10 minutes long, with a preference for shorter videos; studies show that shorter videos are more appropriate for an online format. The videos will be in the style of an interview, with a single person talking to the camera. You can view examples of this style, applied to substantive topics in immigration law, here.

Criteria for Selection: If you would like to take part in this project, please send a one-page summary of your video proposal to no later than March 16, 2015. In your proposal, please include the following information:

— your name and school affiliation.

— a working title for your video.

— a short description of the content you propose to cover.

— a short description of your goal for the video, including the impact you would like it to have and the takeaways that you will deliver to the viewer.

— a short statement of your relevant experience, including past experience with your particular topic, experience with videotaped talks and scholarship or presentations that relate to your proposal.

The Committee will review the proposals on a rolling basis with the goal of notifying the selected presenters by March 16, 2015. Participation as a presenter at the main conference does NOT disqualify you from participation in this project.

Commitment: We ask all people who we accept to make the following commitments:

— to participate in or review webinars that we will schedule before the conference on how to make an educational video.

— to develop an outline of your talk before the conference, in collaboration with members of the Planning Committee.

— to practice delivering your talk to others at your location before you attend the conference. We do not encourage speaking from a text, but instead encourage well-prepared spontaneity in your delivery. Practice can help you feel comfortable in this format.

— to be prepared to videotape your session on Monday, May 4. For many, this will require arrival at the conference location on Sunday, May 3. Please hold yourself available for that entire Monday. We will develop a schedule before the conference that gives each presenter a reserved time slot.

Taping: The talks will be videotaped at the conference hotel in 45 minute intervals from 9am-5pm on Monday, May 4, 2015. While the end-product will be roughly 10 minutes, you should expect to engage in multiple takes during your taping session.

This is a great opportunity to showcase your innovations to the legal academy. We hope you will consider putting in a proposal for the video project at the 2015 AALS Clinical Conference. If you have any questions, please feel free to email Michele Pistone,, or Alex Scherr,[1] The talks in this series will be videotaped during the first day of the Clinical Conference. They complement a growing collection of material about teaching methodology, including webinars organized by the Teaching Methodologies Committee of the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education.

Register for Webcast of Igniting Law Teaching Conference

Registration is now open for LegalED’s Igniting Law Teaching 2015. The conference is March 20, 2015 at American University Washington College of Law. It is also available for live viewing by webcast.  Here is the list of speakers, topics and schedule.

The conference will feature talks by 35 law school academics and practitioners from the US, Canada and England in a TEDx-styled conference to share ideas on teaching methodologies. LegalED’s Teaching Pedagogy video collection includes many of the talks from last year’s conference, which have been viewed collectively more than 5000 times.

The panels for this year include: Law Teaching for the 21st Century, Applying Learning Theory to Legal Education, The Art and Craft of Law Teaching, Using Technological Tools for Legal Education, and Pathways to Practice.

The Igniting Law Teaching conference is unlike other gatherings of law professors. Here, talks will be styled as TEDx Talks, with each speaker on stage alone, giving a well scripted and performed talk about an aspect of law school pedagogy. In the end, we will create a collection of short videos on law school-related pedagogy that will inspire innovation and experimentation by law professors around the country, and the world, to bring more active learning and practical skills training into the law school curriculum. The videos will be available for viewing by the larger academic community on LegalED, a website developed by a community of law professors interested in using online technologies to facilitate more active, problem-based learning in the classroom, in addition to better assessment and feedback.

We hope you can join us on March 20th, either live or virtually.

Using Portfolios for Assessment

A few years ago I started to use student portfolios as part of the end-of-semester evaluation of my students. I have found that portfolios can be an excellent vehicle both for the student’s own self-reflection and for providing summative feedback.

Here is how I use them. At the end of the semester, I ask each student to prepare a portfolio of the written work the student did over the course of the semester. In doing so, each student is asked to read the first and final version of the principal documents that the student drafted during the semester (in the context of my cases, these include the client’s affidavit, any witness affidavits and a brief).

I also ask them to bring the drafts and final versions to the meeting. During the meeting, each student is expected to have reflected on his/her writing, considered how his/her writing progressed over the semester, and point out 2-3 improvements that he or she made. They are also expected to use the drafts to illustrate the progress.

My students find that the act of assembling the portfolio and rereading their own written work serves as a reminder of how far the student has come in crafting a legal theory or developing a factual account of the relevant events or even about some of the obstacles that he or she encountered along the way and how he or she managed to overcome them. I like this method of assessment because it is mainly about self-reflection. Each student in learning from his or her own work. The portfolio is simply a vehicle to make that learning tangible. It is a wonderfully, tangible way to show someone how much he or she has improved over the course of a semester.

I was recently speaking with Larry Farmer from Brigham Young University School of Law. He mentioned that he uses portfolios too. But in his case, they are videos. At the beginning of his course on Interviewing, before any class has been conducted, he asks each student to conduct a mock interview, which is videotaped. The students then spend the semester learning about, practicing, and refining their interviewing techniques.

Then, at the end of the semester, they are asked to review that first interview and to reflect upon their own improvement over the semester. Like the written portfolio that I use, this one also uses a student’s own work to demonstrate learning and progress. I plan to try it next semester.

Are there other ideas out there? Do you use portfolios? If so, how? How can I improve my process? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

Law Students Need Mindfulness Training

A study published in the journal Science found that a majority of participants would prefer to give themselves mild electrical shocks, rather than be alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes.

Last summer, a tourist in Melbourne, Australia was so engrossed in reading Facebook on her smartphone that she walked off a pier. She couldn’t swim, but thankfully a passerby was paying attention and came to her rescue.

Reports like this no longer seem surprising, given the widespread debate over the distracting effect of the instant availability of information. The smartphone is most often blamed, as everyone from kindergarteners to grandparents seems to have one; checking email, texting, playing games, often at the same time. In a law review article and past blog on the topic of teaching this “smartphone generation” of law students, I discussed how the constant stream of information available and accessed by these students has weakened the part of the brain needed for deep focus and concentration. One antidote to this distraction is mindfulness training.

While mindfulness training is often associated with meditation, its purpose in education can be more broadly seen as allowing students to learn to focus. It is currently being taught in a small number of law schools as a stand-alone class (for credit or pass/fail), part of a clinic, simulation, or professional responsibility class, or part of an orientation or well being program within the law school. But mindfulness can easily be incorporated into any law school class, and needn’t be seen as requiring any special tools or training.

This year in my legal writing course, for example, I forced my students to focus and work on their memorandum mindfully. With phones and laptops put away, I spread the students around the room and allotted 30 minutes to work on a particular portion of their memorandum. I gave them a checklist to keep them focused on the task and no talking is permitted. After they completed their work, I asked them to reflect on what they were able to recognize in their writing that they may not have seen before. Many commented that 30 minutes felt like a long time and they could not believe how much they accomplished. I then asked them to reflect on how it felt to work in this focused manner, and compare that to how they might usually work—surrounded by people, technology, and an endless array of possible distractions. This end of class reflection was important because it encouraged the students to be mindful of their study patterns and habits. While I had lectured to them about working free of distraction, this exercise forced them to feel that focus.

There are many resources available in print and online with more information on mindfulness and exercises that can be used in any classroom. I encourage you to consider mindfulness—it not only benefits students, but allows for more mindful teaching as well.

-Shailini Jandial George

Starting with WHY — Building Curriculum for Clinic-wide Orientation

My clinical colleagues and I are planning to convert an Orientation that we currently jointly teach into a 2-credit Clinic Orientation module. The Orientation typically includes a mixture of joint classes and smaller individual clinic-focused sessions.

Since we are developing this new course from scratch, it provides an opportunity to think deliberatively about how we design the course and to clarify our objectives and learning outcomes. In light of the changes in ABA accreditation standards, including the need to define learning outcomes and to assess according to our stated objectives, I thought it could be helpful to document the process we are taking as we develop the course.

My faculty colleagues and I met for the first time this week to start brainstorming for development of this new Clinic Orientation course. We started by brainstorming about WHY we want to develop the course. (I was inspired to Start with Why by Simon Sinek. Here is his inspiring TED talk on that topic).

Here is what we came up with as to WHY we want to develop a new jointly-taught, credit-bearing, Orientation module:

  1. Students need to be able to do certain activities early in the semester/hit the ground running:
  • Interviewing
  • Office procedures
  • Reflection/self-critique
  • Professional responsibility 101 (when working with clients)
  • Research
  • Fact investigation (including reading/maintaining files)
  • Working with interpreters
  • Persuasion
  • Attention to cultural difference/ competency/empathy
  1. Explain the WHY of our pedagogy (explain clinical pedagogy to students)
  • Active and engaged learning
  • Direct responsibility – WHY? Autonomy, mastery, purpose
  • Collaboration – across the board, with team, fellow clinic students, students in other clinics, support staff, faculty
  • Acting for Lawyers
  1. Reinforce “one firm” culture – clinical courses are different, collegial, work together, spaces where you can learn while having fun!
  1. Service Mission of Clinics
  1. Set our expectations for students
  1. Efficiency of teaching resources

As we developed this list, our goal was to brainstorm and include as wide a scope of objectives as possible. We decided to leave for another set of meetings the tasks of thinking about how to achieve these goals and what the classes designed to achieve them would look like. Keeping the conversation on task was a challenge; the temptation was to move onto thinking about how or what. We found it easiest when we designated a person to draw us back to the WHY task when the conversation started to branch off into thinking about HOW or WHAT.

Our next step is drawn from the IDEO Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit. IDEO is a design firm. It looks at systems from a design perspective. I am excited to start applying their theories and practices to legal education. I’ll keep you posted as that project develops.

Teaching “Doing” as a Lawyer During Law School

In doctrinal courses, we are used to teaching students to think critically, an activity often referred to in the legal education domain as “thinking like a lawyer.” This thinking component is central to what lawyers do. But Lee Schulman, a co-author of the Carnegie Report (2007) and author of “Signature Pedagogies in the Professions,” in Daedalus 52 (Summer 2005)and a former professor at Stanford U. has observed that preparing students for the professions requires not only thinking critically, but also acting and performing with integrity. (Integrity is a nice way to describe ethics, using new vocabulary to wrap lawyering in a high standard.)

The ideas of action and performance are not new, but when held up alongside critical thinking, they create a nice trilogy of legal education outcomes. Acting is how lawyers interact with others, prepare, and behave while working, but not performing. Performing is when a lawyer is engaged in a law practice activity requiring competency, such as oral argument, examining a witness at a deposition or trial, or mediating a dispute.

Now that I have provided some background, my essential point in this brief blog post is as follows — If acting and performing are so important, we should be teaching students to do these things throughout law school, starting on the very first day of the first year of school, woven throughout doctrinal courses as well as clinical and legal writing offerings. Learning science supports this integration. In learning science, it has been shown that engaged learners perform better. Creating deliverables is a way to engage students in a positive fashion. Deliverables such as, “Do a direct examination of the plaintiff in this case,” or “Take a picture of an easement on real property and explain why,” or, “Write down ten questions you would have of the plaintiff in this case if you were able to ask them,” are just some illustrations of deliverables. Role-playing generally falls within the rubric of a deliverable, since students must give a performance as an attorney, judge, witness or other person – just not as a student.

Yet, it is hard to get out of our own way. After teaching for a long time, we develop habits that are difficult to shake, and taking risks with new approaches provides its own set of issues as well. But if legal education is really transitioning students through school into practice – and not just teaching discrete substantive segments – we probably ought to try doing something like this, even if only as a Beta test.

CSALE 2013-14 Survey of Applied Legal Education

The Center for the Study of Applied Legal Education’s (CSALE) 2013-14 Survey of Applied Legal Education is now available on CSALE’s website and on SSRN

The 43-page report provides the summary results of CSALE’s third triennial survey of law school clinics and externships and the faculty teaching in those clinical courses. Over 88% of ABA-accredited law schools participated in the survey, which included theMaster SurveyLaw Clinics Sub-SurveyField Placement Course Sub-Survey, and Faculty Sub-Survey.

CSALE can also provide free customized reports on questions in the surveys – contact or


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