Saturday, June 18, 2005

Making Contracts Relevant

Robert M. Lloyd, Lindsay Young Distinguished Professor of Law at the University Tennessee_1of Tennessee College of Law, recently (Spring 2004) published an interesting article in the Arizona State Law Journal (36 Ariz. St. LJ. 257) - interesting to me, and I hope to y'all. 

My interest was piqued by these opening sentences: "The traditional first-year contracts course is a disaster.  There is almost nothing in the course that bears any relation to what lawyers really do.  Rather than teaching students what good lawyers do in representing parties to contracts, we just show them a lot of usually unsuccessful arguments that can be made where somebody screws up."

Professor Boyd offers "Thirteen Lessons for the First-Year Contracts Course" that relate directly to "what lawyers really do."  (Example - Lesson Ten: Perjury Does Occur - And the Good Guys Don't Always Wear White Hats.)

Most Academic Support folks don't teach Contracts - so why did this article appeal to me?   As an advocate of the concept that "The Practice of Law Begins Now" (in law school), I maintain that the more we can tie students' Firematchesacademic experiences to "what lawyers really do," the more we can keep the passion to practice (professionally) burning ... or in many cases, ignite the fire.

Do you remember your Criminal Law professor who actually defended criminals for a living for two decades? ...your Torts professor who had prevailed in some significant jury trials? ...your Constitutional Law professor who recounted her several arguments before the Supreme Court?  "War stories" (when artfully intertwined with doctrinal lessons) can enchant and inspire students.

Here's another novel thought: Could it be that infusing practical and useful information and exercises into presentation of substantive material will actually help our students become the lawyers they want to be?

Those of us in Academic Support  (a) who teach doctrinal subject matter and/or (b) who engage in pedagogic philosophy discussions with those who do, ought to maintain a bibliography of articles along these lines.  Send me some. 

As Ellen and I construct the left-side panel of this blog (to be introduced within weeks) we are hoping to build an electronic resource library/bibliography choc-fulla' info, links, articles and opinions of interest to our AcSup community members.  This - actually preparing students for "The Practice" through skills training and mastery, as well as through introduction of practical and useful substantive material - is one of the subjects we will feature.  (djt)

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