October 19, 2007
Should law schools support/cultivate an on-line notes archive?
In this post at the Conglomerate, Lisa Fairfax talks about a company that sells "professional typed notes for daily class lectures" to undergraduates. Lisa (and commentors) explores whether a similar market could develop for law schools student notes.
The post has me thinking about whether law schools ought to formally and officially support and cultivate an on-line notes archive for its students. Such an archive could provide helpful (and needed?) assistance to students who get sick or otherwise end up missing multiple classes. moreover, law schools developing a notes archive could urge students to use the archive as a supplement, rather than a substitute, to robust class participation. And schools could stress that these archives would provide a better study aid than expensive commercial products that cannot be professor-specific.
My sense is that there is always an informal note sharing network that students help create (and regularly tap into) in various ways. But these informal networks cannot provide nearly the assistance or quality control that could exist in an archive formally and officially supported by a law school.
Finally, I think the creation of such an official archive could help justify a professor's decision to ban laptops from the classroom. If students have ready access to an effective notes archive, it seems a lot less problematic to bar students from using a computer to take notes in class.
Posted by DAB
September 22, 2007
Adjuncts, Visitors, and Innovation
Because we have a small standing faculty, my school (Baylor) uses a number of adjunct professors to cover elective classes. These adjuncts are often experienced practitioners from Austin and Dallas who have expertise that we need in narrow subject areas. Over the past year, I have been talking to these adjuncts and their students, and found some surprising trends. While they are generally very good teachers, they seem to rarely take chances. Most use very traditional teaching and testing methods, and stick closely to a textbook.
This observation matches the memories I have of visiting professors who taught me as a law student. With a few striking exceptions (such as Catherine MacKinnon), most seemed to use only the most traditional methods. It's understandable that they would be this way, of course-- many were auditioning for a job and fearful of making a mistake.
The cost of this conservatism by the "outsiders" in our midsts is that we are not seeing innovation from some of the most logical sources. Perhaps we need to more often give them permission to try different things, and lessen the risk of being unconventional.
-- Mark Osler
July 11, 2007
What Pedagogic Value Does Podcasting Have?
In a comprehensive survey of the latest academic studies on the impact of podcasting on learning and teaching, Ashley Deal, a researcher in the Office of Technology for Education & the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence at Carnegie Mellon University, found that podcasting follows the pattern of many campus technology innovations.
"As with any educational technology, whether and how podcasting impacts the quality of the learning experience and/or educational outcomes depends largely upon how the technology is put to use," Deal wrote.
So, does podcasting enhance education? "The answer to that question depends entirely on the educational context, including goals and appropriate learning activities, and on how the tool is implemented," said Deal.
"Podcasting does not contain any inherent value. It is only valuable inasmuch as it helps the instructor and students reach their educational goals, by facilitating thoughtful, engaging learning activities that are designed to work in support of those goals."
Download the white paper (PDF). -- Joe Hodnicki
May 21, 2007
A Primer for New Teachers
According to Howard Katz (Charlotte) and Kevin Oneill (Cleveland-Marshall) "no article ... has ever furnished detailed and comprehensive advice on how to teach a law school course — from choosing a book and designing a syllabus to orchestrating the classroom experience to creating and grading the final exam. That's the aim of their new article, Strategies and Techniques of Law School Teaching: A Primer for New Teachers, which is available on SSRN. -- Joe Hodnicki
May 15, 2007
Teaching Law as a Community of Practice
Last week I had the privilege of attending the inaugural meeting of the Negotiations Pedagogy at Program on Negotiation (NP@PON), "a new venture dedicated to improving the way people teach and learn about negotiation." NP@PON will be undertaking research, curriculum development, training and networking among those interested in negotiation pedagogy.
The all-day event featured two negotiation teachers who presented their innovative teaching approaches. Stephen Weiss of the Schulich School of Business (York University) in Toronto presented on "mega simulations;" Gerry Williams of J. Reuben Clark Law School (Brigham Young University) presented on video-annotation technology. Chris Dede, Harvard Graduate School of Education, commented from an educational perspective.
Aside from the content, what excited me most about this gathering was the way a community of practice (negotiation teachers) came together to teach each other about the craft of teaching. What's more, this group is committed to following through with responding to community needs, several of which were identified in small group discussions at the end of the event. Other ongoing support activities will include workshops/conferences, a literature review, briefing papers, and newsletters.
I would love to hear about efforts like this in other areas of law teaching. Do these kinds of conversations happen at AALS and similar venues, and are there systems to support work beyond the meetings? Who is out there convening these conversations?
- Gene Koo
presentation: New Skills & New Learning for Tomorrow's Lawyers
As you all know from earlier posts, I spent the autumn researching legal technology and education, examining how a changing practice environment affects what, and how, law schools should teach. The Berkman Center for Internet & Society, with LexisNexis, published the results as New Skills, New Learning: Legal Education & the Promise of Technology.
I will be presenting these findings and facilitating discussion about what legal educators (and others) can do to respond to emerging challenges at an upcoming Berkman Center luncheon:
Your participation as a law school innovator would be very welcome. Please RSVP if you can attend. Hope to see you next week!
- Gene Koo
May 13, 2007
Urging exam (and paper) innovations
Posts by Dan Solove at Concurring Opinions and by Ethan Leib at PrawfBlawg provide insights on an important question for any would-be law school innovator. Dan poses the question in the headline of his post when he asks "Should We Get Rid of the Law School In-Class Essay Exam?"
My answer is simple: YES! I see very few pedagogical benefits from a traditional in-class exams (especially closed-book exams). I think inertia, status quo biases and administrative convenience are the only reasons that traditional in-class exams persevere. (Even more than essay exams, multiple-choice exams seem to place administrative convenience even higher in the scheme of evaluation priorities.)
Ethan asserts that "'issue-spotting' over the course of a very compressed time period is [a skill] that lawyers actually use." I suppose I can recall a few times getting a call from a client or fellow lawyer that called for a quick off-the-cuff analysis, but never was I asked to respond in the timeframe and form of an in-class exam. (I often tell students that they risk a malpractice suit if they ever try to respond to a complicated legal problem in the manner we ask them to respond during an in-class exam.)
Except in my first-year criminal law course, I never give a traditional in-class exam (and, were it not for the administrative headaches I would create for students and colleagues, I definitely would change to a take-home exam in my first-year course as well). For various classes, I have assigned 48 hour take-home tests, one- and two-week take home tests, traditional research papers and non-traditional written projects (such as the white-paper assignment in my death penalty course this term). Though creating and grading non-traditional exams and paper assignments is not easy, the pay-off is usually exceptional. Perhaps more importantly, I can justify to myself and to my students how the exam/paper experience further develops real lawyering skills rather than just being a "who-can-show-off-while-reading-and-writing-quickly" contest.
Perhaps just to generate some comments, I challenge readers to provide any truly satisfying pedagogical justification for in-class law school exams. I also encourage readers to report on exam innovations that perhaps could replace in-class exams as a law school norm.
Posted by DAB
May 07, 2007
Are Law Schools Failing to Teach Logic?
According to Senior US Circuit Judge Ruggero Aldisert (and two of his law clerks), law schools no longer teach logic in Logic for Law Students: How to Think Like a Lawyer (SSRN) -- Joe Hodnicki
May 02, 2007
Bias in EvaluationsA new study finds racial bias in calling fouls on the basketball court in the NBA. Here is the NY Times characterization:
A coming paper by a University of Pennsylvania professor and a Cornell University graduate student says that, during the 13 seasons from 1991 through 2004, white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players. Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics, found a corresponding bias in which black officials called fouls more frequently against white players, though that tendency was not as strong.The NY Times quotes Yale Law Professor Ian Ayres (author of the brilliant book Pervasive Prejudice) on the study:
“I would be more surprised if it didn’t exist,” Mr. Ayres said of an implicit association bias in the N.B.A. “There’s a growing consensus that a large proportion of racialized decisions is not driven by any conscious race discrimination, but that it is often just driven by unconscious, or subconscious, attitudes. When you force people to make snap decisions, they often can’t keep themselves from subconsciously treating blacks different than whites, men different from women.”
Note that this study seems to reveal discrimination even conducted in the most public of settings--with high definition video cameras recording all movements amidst the scrutiny of millions of, often highly expert, independent fans.
Law professors, of course, are not immune to societal biases. Thankfully, most law school grading is conducted through blind-graded exams. Yet, there are a significant number of assessments that are not performed without knowledge of the student's identity. These include: seminars, legal practice courses, independent studies, and student participation components of grades.
What can be done to ameliorate the potential problem? I expect that education is an important component of the response. We should understand our own potentials for bias and seek to weed it out.Anupam Chander
April 30, 2007
Teaching New Teachers: From Book Selection to Final Exam
Howard Katz (Charlotte) and Kevin Oneill (Cleveland State) have deposited Strategies and Techniques of Law School Teaching: A Primer for New Teachers in SSRN. The author's believe their article is the first to provide "detailed and comprehensive advice on how to teach a law school course — from choosing a book and designing a syllabus to orchestrating the classroom experience to creating and grading the final exam." -- Joe Hodnicki
April 17, 2007
Teamwork in law schools
One finding of my recent research is that lawyers are working in larger and more complex teams than ever -- teams that cross national, cultural, and organizational boundaries. My impression -- backed by relatively little data -- is that law schools remain largely individualistic. (Well, I have some data -- the LSSSE study reports that 88% of law students do not frequently work together with other students on projects during class).
I believe that law schools should promote and develop teamwork skills among students as part of the preparation they provide for practice. Business schools make this an explicit focus of both their teaching and pedagogy. I can think of supporting team development in at least three different ways:
- Explicit team-building, e.g. classes (whether credit or extracurricular) that teach teamwork, leadership, etc.
- "Hidden curriculum," e.g. orienting day-to-day classwork around teams of students working together to achieve goals. This could take place in traditional classes, clinical programs, or official/quasi-official activities like law journals.
- Organic grassroots, e.g. study groups and student interest organizations.
Some of the specific team-related skills students will need to have as practicing attorneys include:
- Multidisciplinary action. For example, Stanford's simulation-based curriculum throws law students into teams with students from other schools to solve problems that are designed to be multidisciplinary in nature.
- Technology-supported communication/coordination. Today's teams are complex partially because technology enables them to be. Yet working on a team through email or document management systems is a different skill than working face-to-face.
- Hierarchy. Law firms and most other employment settings are not egalitarian, yet most of the teams that students work in during school are flat or relatively flat. (The heirarchy that does exist, in classes, tends not to be in the context of teams). Students' ability to play both member and leadership roles in teams will be critical to their future careers.
How important is teamwork to your teaching and your goals? Are you using teamwork in the classes you teach? What other opportunities do you see for doing so? When is it appropriate and when is it not? Are you confident that you can manage a team-centered class and support the process (e.g. providing resources to resolve team conflicts)?
-- Gene Koo
Simulations, part 3: how we know what we know
You can't teach what you don't know. Good simulations demand a clearly-articulated framework that describes the learning outcome for participants and enable a teacher to evaluate, using objective criteria, students' progress towards expert practice. And to do that, we need to understand what best practice looks like.
In New Skills, New Learning, I recommend establishing centers for research and innovation, echoing Recommendation F of the MacCrate Report. We are reaching a point in social science when research into practical skills can produce empirical evidence for better and worse ways of doing things. I can't think of any institutions better situated than law schools to carry out that investigation.
Negotiations / ADR is, in most schools, primarily taught through simulations, many of which are on sale at the Harvard Program on Negotiations' Clearinghouse. Supporting this library is an extensive R&D operation that involves continuously researching best practices and refining how effectively their simulations convey those practices as knowledge and the technology of negotiations evolves.
Likewise, Bringham Young University's Larry Farmer and Gerald Williams (law) and Raymond Robinson (dance) have developed a new approach to teaching performative skills like interviewing and counseling (and dance). While the technology is impressive, I'm particularly excited by Farmer's work studying and codifying best practices for the skills of interviewing and counseling:
In the 90s we set up a clinic that I used with my Interviewing & Counseling class, and we watched lawyers come in -- we did that for 8 years, and we debriefed afterwards. I came out of that with a clear understanding of what skills lawyers had, and a substantial understanding of the skills they universally lacked. [The next step was to] conceptualize the process and structure it to control the [harmful] mental states that lawyers have: making assumptions before sufficient data, ignoring client goals and objectives.
Hardnosed, emprical research like this would be ideal building-blocks of a true "American Institute for the Practice of Law." As CLEA recommended in 2005, it is time we revisit and commit to that recommendation.
- Gene Koo
further reading on simulations
- Feinman, Jay M., Simulations: An Introduction, 45 J. Legal Educ. 469 (1995).
- Maranville, Deborah, Infusing Passion and Context into the Traditional Law Curriculum Through Experiential Learning, 51 J. Legal Educ. 51 (2001).
- Milstein, Elliott S., Clinical Legal Education in the United States: In-House Clinics, Externships, and Simulations, 51 J. Legal Educ. 375 (2001).
- Part 1 of this series
- Part 2 of this series
April 10, 2007
Law School Innovation: Banning Laptops in Class?Link: David Cole - Laptops vs. Learning - washingtonpost.com. David Cole, courageous as always, has banned laptops in class. He explains in the Washington Post:
[M]y first-year students were a bit surprised when I announced at the first class this year that laptops were banned from my classroom. I did this for two reasons, I explained. Note-taking on a laptop encourages verbatim transcription. The note-taker tends to go into stenographic mode and no longer processes information in a way that is conducive to the give and take of classroom discussion. Because taking notes the old-fashioned way, by hand, is so much slower, one actually has to listen, think and prioritize the most important themes. In addition, laptops create temptation to surf the Web, check e-mail, shop for shoes or instant-message friends. That's not only distracting to the student who is checking Red Sox statistics but for all those who see him, and many others, doing something besides being involved in class. Together, the stenographic mode and Web surfing make for a much less engaged classroom, and that affects all students (not to mention me). I agreed to permit two volunteers to use laptops to take notes that would be made available to all students. And that first day I allowed everyone to use the laptops they had with them. I posed a question, and a student volunteered an answer. I answered her with a follow-up question. As if on cue, as soon as I started to respond, the student went back to typing -- and then asked, "Could you repeat the question?" When I have raised with my colleagues the idea of cutting off laptop access, some accuse me of being paternalistic, authoritarian or worse. We daydreamed and did crosswords when we were students, they argue, so how can we prohibit our students, who are adults after all, from using their time in class as they deem fit? A crossword hidden under a book is one thing. With the aid of Microsoft and Google, we have effectively put at every seat a library of magazines, a television and the opportunity for real-time side conversations and invited our students to check out whenever they find their attention wandering. I feel especially strongly about this issue because I'm addicted to the Internet myself. I checked my e-mail at least a dozen times while writing this op-ed. I've often resolved, after a rare and liberating weekend away from e-mail, that I will wait till the end of the day to read e-mail at the office. Yet, almost as if it is beyond my control, e-mail is the first thing I check when I log on each morning. As for multitasking, I don't buy it. Attention diverted is attention diverted. But this is all theory. How does banning laptops work in practice? My own sense has been that my class is much more engaged than recent past classes. I'm biased, I know. So I conducted an anonymous survey of my students after about six weeks -- by computer, of course. The results were striking. About 80 percent reported that they are more engaged in class discussion when they are laptop-free. Seventy percent said that, on balance, they liked the no-laptop policy. And perhaps most surprising, 95 percent admitted that they use their laptops in class for "purposes other than taking notes, such as surfing the Web, checking e-mail, instant messaging and the like." Ninety-eight percent reported seeing fellow students do the same.Of course, not bringing a laptop will make outlining more difficult--and some may be concerned that for open book courses they might lose out on the stenographic nature of laptop notetaking. We can do our own unscientific--largely anonymous--poll here. Would it be better if laptops were banned? Do any students leave their laptops at home because they find that they learn more without one? Anupam Chander
March 27, 2007
The Carnegie Study: impressions and responses?
The Carnegie study's out, and I'm curious about your reactions to it: Does it capture the most important issues facing legal education today? Do you and your students agree with its conclusions and recommendations? What doesn't jibe?
More importantly, what happens next: What changes will come about as a result of this report? What can we, in our different roles, do to advance the parts of the study we feel are true and compelling?
- Gene Koo
March 22, 2007
Lawyers as leaders
Over at the The Yale Law Journal's Pocket Part I saw this interesting essay entitled "Lawyers as Leaders" by Ben W. Heineman, Jr., who is the Distinguished Senior Fellow at Harvard Law School's Program on the Legal Profession and formally served as the General Electric Company's Senior Vice President and General Counsel. The essay has a lot that should interest would-be law school innovators:
In this Essay, I argue that graduates of law schools should aspire not just to be wise counselors but wise leaders; not just to dispense "practical wisdom" but to be "practical visionaries"; not just to have positions where they advise, but where they decide. Put another way, I wish to re-define (or at least to reemphasize) the concept of "lawyer" to include "lawyer as leader." The profession and the law schools should more candidly recognize the importance of leadership and should more directly prepare and inspire young lawyers to seek roles of ultimate responsibility and accountability than they do today.
March 09, 2007
The Competition Question
As I prepare a mock trial team for the National Ethics Trial Competition next week, I have been wondering about the educational value of interscholastic moot court and mock trial contests. Obviously, I think there is some value in them, or I wouldn't be involved, but I would concede it is a complex question. The contests are necessarily artificial, and (except for client counseling competitions) cut out one of the most important aspects of legal work-- interaction with a client.
With my teams, I try to give them freedom to developing their own examinations, openings and closings, while I guide them only on the process to do so. It often is a great teaching opportunity, as while the competition system is imperfect, it is closer to the practice of law than much of the rest of law school.
Due to good coaching and a dedication of resources, there are powerhouse schools that do very well in competition year after year, such as South Texas and Stetson. Intriguingly, there is little overlap between top-ranked academic schools and the top-ranked competition schools; I have never seen Yale involved in a national mock trial competition. I would imagine this is because those schools do not have a focus on practical trial skills. That fact conceded, though, I would imagine that some of those schools might want to use teams to satisfy those students in their midsts hungering for more practical experience.
-- Mark Osler
March 07, 2007
Examining and reforming student evaluations
My OSU colleague Deborah Jones Merritt has this fascinating and provocative new piece posted at SSRN about student evaluations. The piece is entitled "Bias, the Brain, and Student Evaluations of Teaching," and here is the abstract:
Student evaluations of teaching are a common fixture at American law schools, but they harbor surprising biases. Extensive psychology research demonstrates that these assessments respond overwhelmingly to a professor's appearance and nonverbal behavior; ratings based on just thirty seconds of silent videotape correlate strongly with end-of-semester evaluations. The nonverbal behaviors that influence teaching evaluations are rooted in physiology, culture, and habit, allowing characteristics like race and gender to affect evaluations.
The current process of gathering evaluations, moreover, allows social stereotypes to filter students' perceptions, increasing risks of bias. These distortions are inevitable products of the intuitive, "system one" cognitive processes that the present process taps. The cure for these biases requires schools to design new student evaluation systems, such as ones based on facilitated group discussion, that enable more reflective, deliberative judgments. This article draws upon research in cognitive decision making, both to present the compelling case for reforming the current system of evaluating classroom performance and to illuminate the cognitive processes that underlie many facets of the legal system.
In addition to being interested in reader reactions to this article, I would also be eager to hear suggestions for innovate ways for law students to effectively evaluate and help improve law teaching.
Posted by DAB
February 21, 2007
Interesting items around the blogosphere
More than a few posts on law school dynamics around the blogosphere merit the attention of would-be law-school innovators:
- From Law Prof on the Loose, check out Changing Law School
- From Dorf on Law, check out Student Happiness
- From Legal Theory, check out Novak & Pardo on Faculty Publications
- From PrawfsBlawg, check out Faculty Self-Government and the Problem Colleague
February 05, 2007
Simulations, part 2: a how-to guide
Among the Carnegie study's many recommendations, perhaps the most sweeping and difficult to implement is that legal education “integrate” rather than “add” elements of skill and values. (Tacking ethics courses onto the MBA curriculum, the authors note, is an example of a failed “additive” strategy). It’s a smart way to bypass the common refrain that law schools aren’t “trade schools” because, when properly integrated with traditional law school goals, skills-oriented learning needn’t lack for intellectual rigor or substantive relevance .
Simulations offer an ideal method of integrating skills- and values-oriented learning with doctrinal courses: they operate from a rigorous intellectual framework, they offer consistent and relatively predictable learning goals, and they provide objective evaluation criteria. After the jump I'll describe my own experiences developing training programs for practicing lawyers, broken down into the four steps of research, establishing a framework, creating the experience itself, and developing evaluation criteria.
[see also Simulations, part 1]
Step 1 : Research
Intellectual rigor begins, of course, with research – not at the library, but in the setting to be emulated. Ideally, this might involve an ethnography (especially when the practice is not well-understood) or an “expert-novice” comparison.
In a course I helped develop a few years ago targeting new legal aid attorneys, we sat down with about five well-respected supervising attorneys and asked them to identify key skills that their new lawyers lacked. One such skill turned out to be conducting the initial client interview. Unable to undertake field research (limited time and ethical barriers often makes that hard to do), we relied instead on our informants' collective wisdom. Through discussion and reflection, we arrived at the components of interviewing that were particularly troublesome for novice practitioners. One of them was structuring the interview to spot the viable legal issues present.
Step 2: Establish the framework / learning goals
We then set out to identify exactly what proficient attorneys do differently than novices during the initial interview. (Again, we did this through discussion with our expert panel, not field research, which is considerably less resource-intensive but also potentially misleading or incomplete. In this case it turned out fine, I think.) It turns out that, towards the latter stages of the interview, experts use a technique we dubbed “funneling”: asking a series of questions that narrow from open-ended to yes/no with the goal of confirming or rejecting possible avenues of legal action. Novices, by contrast, tend to “sieve”: ask disconnected questions without a strategy in place, often going in circles.
Step 3: Create the experience
This is what most people would consider the fun part of the design. Here the designers create and assemble the scenario itself, creating facts, rules, characters, motivations, and all of the other elements of story that give the simulation realism and vitality. Probably the easiest way to accomplish all of this is to base the story on a real-life story. Most of the work would then be a combination of gathering facts and removing distracting elements. Key criteria for whether such elements have relevance or not include whether they advance the learning objectives (substantive and skills) as well as whether they add to the credibility and fun.
It's hard to figure out how much detail should go into a scenario. Unsurprisingly, we found that students who lacked substantive knowledge (e.g. recent college graduates lacking legal background) struggled with the simulation as a whole when it assumed familiarity with certain laws, however generic and abstracted. (Students unfamiliar with the law didn't know what information to seek or why). At the same time, a colleague who works on creating curricula for Harvard's Program on Negotiation let me in on a trick: when teaching pure skills, too much substantive familiarity can lead participants to reject the “reality” of the simulation. Thus, running real estate takeover scenarios with our poverty lawyers helped them focus on the skill, not nitpick inaccuracies in the scenario. (They did complain that the alien nature of the scenario made the specific skills less transferable, which is something we'll have to investigate).
Returning to the idea of “integrating” skills with knowledge, I'd like to emphasize that the intellectual rigor of a simulation does not turn on this stage alone. I have seen some complex simulations that deploy sophisticated facts, characters, etc., but lack the framework that's developed during steps 1 and 2. Without that framework in place, students will not know what skills they should be learning, and instructors will not know how to provide consistent feedback to hep get them there. At best, a rigorously constructed scenario lacking a skills framework serves as a rather expensive, albeit fun, fact pattern.
Step 4: Develop evaluation criteria
Objective evaluation standards are the final proof of a rigorously-developed learning experience. In simulations centered on the substantive topic, one area of evaluation might involve, for example, measuring the outcome against some “optimum” and then reviewing the contributions or mistakes each participant made in getting to that outcome. (In many of HPON's simulations, for example, the debriefing guidelines list various options that players might come up with, providing a measure of the total value that the negotiators might have created in the process. New learners of the HPON framework often are surprised by how much value they leave on the table, showing them the way to more advanced negotiation skills).
In terms of evaluating the skill demonstrated by each participant, the framework developed in steps 1-2 return again. A well-defined contrast between “novice” and “expert” provides a natural yardstick against which the instructor can mark the progress of the student. Often, these measures are qualitative, using a rubric to gage skill attainment. For example, one rubric might examine how well the student asks followup questions; a “expert” rating might correspond with “Questions follow a defined strategy as it also accommodates new information provided by the client” while a “proficient” rating might correspond with “Questions generally follow a defined strategy, but attorney loses control when unexpected information arises.”
Conclusion: This is hard work
I hope the preceding description of how one goes about developing a simulation that truly integrates legal skills with substantive knowledge can help dispel the notion that focusing on skills in the law school setting will degrade the curriculum's intellectual content. Taking a research- and fact-based approach to simulations, and specifically learning what the actual skills are that expert lawyers deploy in their practice, would infuse the endeavor with the kind of credibility that is needed to pass muster with a rightfully suspicious law faculty.
In my next post I'll touch a bit more on how simulations might fit into law schools on a systemic level.
-- Gene Koo
February 01, 2007
Linguistic Analysis of the Socratic Method
Wisconsin Law Prof Elizabeth Mertz's new publication, The Language of Law School: Learning to "Think Like a Lawyer" (Oxford, Feburary 2007), is the first detailed anthroplogical linguistic analysis of the intellectual transformation commonly referred to as "learning to think like a lawyer." Professor Mertz bases her linguistic study on tape recordings from first year Contracts courses in eight different law schools. She shows how all these schools employ the Socratic method between teacher and student, forcing the student to shift away from moral and emotional terms in thinking about conflict, toward frameworks of legal authority instead. This move away from moral frameworks is key, she says, arguing that it represents an underlying worldview at the core not just of law education, but for better or worse, of the entire US legal system which, while providing a useful source of legitimacy and a means to process conflict, fails to deal systematically with aspects of fairness and social justice. The latter part of her study shows how differences in race and gender makeup among law students and professors can subtly alter this process.
Of interest, perhaps, to law professors who are examining the current state of legal pedagogy. Cross posted on Law Librarian Blog. Joe Hodnicki