Experiential Learning Resources

Looking to add experiential learning to your law school course but not sure where to start or what to add? There’s a list for that!

As we start another school year, let me take this chance to mention the list of experiential learning resources that I maintain and update on an ongoing basis. You can access it here:

goo.gl/59KlUP

In the list, you’ll find experiential learning resources sorted by topic, including books, articles, simulation ideas and examples, and links to numerous databases that host even more materials.

Don’t see a resources that you are familiar with? Or have an idea that isn’t on the list? Send it to me! I update the list regularly, and I’d love to add your materials so the international community benefits from your ingenuity.

I should highlight especially that the list includes the ABA Guidance Memo on experiential learning. As we enter a year of site visits that will address, among other topics, the revised 303(a)(3) and 304 standards on experiential learning requirements and simulation courses, you’ll want to be familiar with that memo’s recommendations.

Hope to receive your list suggestions soon!

Learning and Teaching – the Progression

I have become interested in progression and ordering lately.  Not so much with chickens and eggs, but more with respect to progressions used in the classroom.  Traditionally, I would start a class with a case and deploy it to open up an area of substantive law, utilizing questions, problems, canons of interpretation, and other cases to explore the meaning of concepts presented in the initial case or topic. The substantive areas depended on the course and ran from appurtenant easements (Property Law), to impeachment by prior untruthful acts (Evidence), to searches incident to lawful arrests (Criminal Procedure). My interest in ordering made me aware of the fact that I approached each class with a duality of teaching and learning.  Teaching usually was first in my progression.  The spotlight was on me as the teacher; I opened and conducted the class and then ended it when time ran out. I had many assumptions.  I assumed student motivation existed; that students started, followed, and ended the class with me; that students had effective practices of adding information to their understanding; and that students readily retrieved the information when needed.

But I wondered what would happen if I reversed the norm of ordering?  What if I placed learning first in the progression, especially in reference to motivation?  Motivation in law school is a lot like a roller coaster (at least it was for me) – it ebbs and flows quite a bit, sometimes within the same day. Motivation is often invisible to the classroom, but weighs heavily on learning.  Early in the first year there is a surfeit of it, and by the third year, well, lets just say there is not as much of it.

This reversal of progression, with learning first, changed a lot for me in the classroom.  In the past year or two, it has allowed for more variation, for greater focus on student improvement, for more experiential “doing” as part of basic courses, and for more direct consideration of student motivation.  For example, in this new progression, students fill out cards explaining what motivates them to learn the most and the least. Students also start each class by indicating where we are in the tapestry of subject matter – something they were used to me doing.  Since experiences often are helpful motivators, many more experiences are blended into the course — students now interview real world participants in law (e.g., police officers in a Criminal Procedure course) or Evidence (trial lawyers) and create short but deep PowerPoint presentations or videos in all courses about a point in the course that was worth further exploration.  These presentations served to recap what people had learned and to offer a combined “outline” of sorts for exam preparation.  Further, classes now end (at the students’ request) with a brief synopsis of what we did, to see if everyone finished around the same place.

In all, I found that focusing on learning generally, and motivation in particular, were very worthwhile.  I enjoyed the new way of guiding the course even more than I did the old.   There were different assumptions made, but I think they were more accurate.  Priorities can inform progression.

Life balance: Our students recognize false promises and are demanding real changes based on a value set.

The millennial worker is an educated consumer armed with details about the global economy. They acquire knowledge that provides factual comparisons of how similar professionals work-life is balanced in other countries versus the many demands of the American lawyer.

In externship classes, students hear about the work life of attorneys in various office settings and explore how their values may merge in the professional world. Even more interesting, the students who gain an international perspective and further enlighten the class. For example, I recently had a student return from an internship in a Sweden.

The student shared:

“I have a desk that can be raised and lowered so I can stand and work. My work phone is an iPhone and there is free lunch here every day! We only work until 4 pm and the attorneys are only required to do 1000 billable hours per year!!! It is all about streamlining and efficiency here.” The student further remarked about the clear message that is sent when a society endorses such a model: We want you to be happy and produce quality work.

As a legal educator, how do you defend the 2100 billable hour or the underfunding and understaffing of government offices? How do we arm our students with grit and resilience for more than the first few years, but a lifetime of sacrifice?

Students interning or externing at law firms or other placements quickly notice the deficient message our American profession endorses. Over and over again, I hear in my classroom students remark about the inadequate time lawyers have to invest in family or pursue individual interests.

So, why are less people deciding to become lawyers? Because, the millennial worker is focused on community values, family, and life balance and our profession continues to pay lip service to such values. The time for reform is now. Reform not just focused on legal education, but the profession as a whole. If we do not readily restructure our value set, work habits, hiring practices, funding sources and curricula, we will lose the next generation of brilliant change makers. Both our profession and society crave such reform, specifically to foster leaders who will pursue justice, uphold government, adhere to the rule of law and build community.

Even Law Professors Need to Laugh

For a break from polishing your article or prepping for fall classes (assuming you’re through watching political convention coverage), try viewing the original Australian version of Rake. This series features Richard Roxburgh as a deeply flawed but appealing barrister. Get through the first two episodes (I did not like the first one) and you might be hooked. The show is biting, bawdy, and profane, but well-written. It could help you laugh your way through the last part of summer. Also, for the technologically skilled, you may find useful clips for teaching purposes – many along the lines of “what not to do.” Students can develop momentum in learning to critique lawyering performances by starting with on-screen characters. This quirky and comedic drama provides vivid scenarios for stimulating discussion. Or just enjoy the show!cleaver_rake_e345_Master

Finding Meaning

As national and international events continue to develop in uncertain and unsettling ways, educating the next generation of lawyers continues to be obviously and critically important. What should our laws be, how are they interpreted and enforced, how are our leaders elected, and what can be done to move toward justice? Legal education prepares leaders to contribute (wisely, we hope) to all aspects of civic governance – and yet – the institutions that provide legal education are still finding their way.

Word got out that most graduates do not become rich law firm partners within 7 years, or ever, and this is among the reasons why far fewer people want to attend law school. The boom and eventual bloat in legal education shouldn’t have been about the money, but, for many, it was. Now some large firm salaries have recently increased, in perhaps a hopeful sign of a rebound. But Professor Frank H. Wu’s comments resonate:

I have nothing against a young person declaring that they wish to make money — of course they do. My point is if that is the primary consideration in your career choice, there are better methods for doing so. Joining a profession in which you represent someone else entails making a sacrifice in the name of principle.

Society needs members of the legal profession who embrace the significance of their noble, helping role, apart from whether it brings wealth (and even though in many cases it won’t). Likewise, legal education needs students who seek potential meaning in their work, and also faculty, staff, and administrators who recognize that educating new lawyers might be more of a helping profession than a ramp toward remuneration. The disruption of the past several years has taught us that lesson, but without this underlying nugget of optimism:  As described by Will Storr in his recent New Yorker article, maybe Aristotle’s prescription for the good life was on target. Preliminary findings show that being engaged in meaningful work improves health and lifespan. Guiding our institutions and untangling the current state of affairs provide serious opportunities for lawyers to take on and benefit from this vital, meaningful work.

The Campaign for Full Citizenship for All Full-Time Law Faculty

I’ve just returned from the Legal Writing Institute’s Biennial Conference held in Portland, Oregon.  With hundreds of attendees presenting on a variety of topics in workshops, panel discussions, coffee sessions, and a plenary, I am more inspired than ever to incorporate new and innovative teaching ideas into my course, produce scholarship that contributes to our field, and continue to serve my law school as we navigate implementation of the ABA’s new standards.  I want to thank all who contributed to the event for sharing their knowledge.

There was, however, one overriding issue which tempers this enthusiasm and inspiration:  the continued battle legal writing faculty face in striving for equal status within their law schools.  While it is true that many have made positive strides, the empirical and anecdotal information shared over the course of the conference shows that there is still far to go.   The Legal Writing Institute (“LWI”) the Association of Legal Writing Directors (“ALWD”), and the Society of American Law Teachers (“SALT”) have formally adopted a policy statement on full citizenship for all faculty.  Here is the text of the statement:

The Legal Writing Institute is committed to a policy of full citizenship for all law faculty. No justification exists for subordinating one group of law faculty to another based on the nature of the course, the subject matter, or the teaching method. All full-time law faculty should have the opportunity to achieve full citizenship at their institutions, including academic freedom, security of position, and governance rights. Those rights are necessary to ensure that law students and the legal profession benefit from the myriad perspectives and expertise that all faculty bring to the mission of legal education.

LWI launched a campaign for individual signatures which began at the conference and will continue.

A recent article also discusses the impact of the lack of full citizenship for a group of faculty who are largely female: Stars Upon Thars: Law Schools Use ABA Standard 405(c)’s Tenure Like Security of Position to Discriminate Against Female Legal Writing Faculty, 34 Law. & Ineq. 137 (2016) by Melissa Weresh from Drake Law School.  This article addresses the potential for exploitation of law faculty members who hold ABA Accreditation Standard 405(c) status (“reasonably similar to tenure”) and the likelihood that such exploitation will have a disparate and discriminatory impact on a predominantly female cohort of law faculty.

After attending multiple sessions which discussed the push for full citizenship, as well as the possible discriminatory impact of the lack of this citizenship, I’m left wondering: what message are we sending to female law students about the role of women in law school and the  practice of law?

 

 

 

Seeing Black: Unconscious Bias and Pro Bono Lawyers

ABA Center for Pro Bono Exchange

Lillian Moy Lillian Moy

The events of the last year in Ferguson, Staten Island and Baltimore have focused the public and the legal community on racism and unconscious bias in the criminal justice system, particularly in policing. Seeing Black, an article by Jennifer Eberhardt and three other psychologists, discusses their research and findings that many law enforcement officers “see black” resulting in their unconsciously seeing criminal activity and criminal defendants. It’s not much of a leap to conclude that others in the justice system, including lawyers, also unconsciously and automatically “see black.” and may make negative judgments about key aspects of our work, e.g., the credibility of your client or a key witness.

I cannot explain unconscious or implicit bias in this blog. I commend to you this video which talks about one community’s study of implicit bias and their attempts to mitigate bias in their juvenile justice system. In the…

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