Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Some Strategies to Teach Reluctant Talkers About Law

Sarah_ricksAn article by Professor Sarah E. Ricks in the December 2004 issue of the Journal of Legal Education. (54 J. Legal Educ. 570 - click on citation, then scroll down through "publications" to find the link to the article)

Sarah E. Ricks is a member of the legal writing faculty and coordinator of the Pro Bono Research Project at Rutgers University School of Law - Camden.  Professor Ricks points out that oral communication skills are at the top of the list of important skills essential for beginning lawyers, and that recent law grads believe that their educations are deficient in that respect.

Professor Ricks posits that "learning to talk about law is important to success in law schol and later in law practice," and therefore, we ought to put more emphasis on oral communication skills.  She suggests how: affirmation, group experiences, advance notice of class participation, rehearsal opportunities, "low-risk" oral arguments, applause - and more.

"Talking about the law," Professor Ricks reminds her readers, "is an important way to think through a legal concept or problem."  How many of us in Academic Support have found that those students who need our help the most are often the most "intimidated" students when it comes to speaking in class.   

Citing the works of Lani Guinier, Stephanie Wildman, and Cathaleen Roach, Professor Ricks points to the isolation, fear, and even "acute psychological distress" among many first year students resulting from Socratic or Langdellian classroom questioning. 

Consider implementing some of the strategies suggested by Professor Ricks in your Academic Support (and other) classes.

Do you have any ideas along these lines you care to add to the "comments" below?


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