Don’t Just Keep Swimming–Dive In

Another law school closed this week. I opened my Twitter feed today to search for newsy ideas for this post and discovered this story announcing the closure of Savannah Law School. The legal market has undergone tremendous change the last 10 years, and legal education is impacted in ways that are still unfolding. How do we sustain a system that sometimes seems built on shifting sands?

Years ago one of my students submitted an essay featuring the tag line “Just Keep Swimming” from the film Finding Nemo. It was a metaphor for her coping with a tough semester that included a major flood in our law school’s clinic space. I’ve reflected on that many times when I’m overwhelmed by my workload, or what I perceive–possibly wrongly–as student apathy, or the employment market for our new graduates, or any number of other #firstworldproblems. But as I pondered this somewhat existential question today in preparation to draft this post, a different approach came to mind. Like the turn of a kaleidoscope, my perspective changed to the metaphor of a deep dive rather than a slog-like swim.

The phrase “deep dive” is perhaps overused. I find it useful, though, when contemplating projects that require me to screen out distractions, focus on a goal, and exercise a bit of grace. Preparing to teach each class period is like that for me. I turn off my email, close the door, vigorously re-read the material and refine my notes. I get creative with PowerPoint and put myself in the shoes of the student–what images would bring this doctrine to life? Which sentence of a court’s decision captures its holding so perfectly that it deserves a spot on my slide?

We are educators of people who will contribute to our legal system’s continuing evolution. We have tremendous opportunities to shape their work style, expectations, and self-awareness as future lawyers. And our profession is self-regulating. After they graduate, they are largely autonomous.  We should dive into the sea of legal education every day with elegance and precision.  Drop us a comment–what does a deep dive look like for you?

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