Sunday, February 24, 2013

Leave Your Point of View at the Fact Pattern Door: Part 2 of 2 (Guest post by Seth Aiken, UMass Law)

In the first installment of this post, I suggested that for some law students, life experience and a strongly held point of view can get in the way of law school success. “Older” students, having lived and worked and experienced a little more than most of their peers can tend to let their own point of view and perceptions about the world interfere with legal reasoning. Rather than seeing the legally significant issues in a fact pattern, they focus on the implausibility of the facts and how unlikely or unfair a scenario seems in the context of their own experience or personal values.

With these students, my strategy is to have them start by adding a phrase to the beginning of the first sentence of every essay question, “On an island that you’ve never been to and where no visitors ever go…(essay question begins). I want them to remember that a fact pattern is a closed universe and that adding facts or injecting personal insights into it will only derail their best efforts.

Then I give my students five steps for looking at a fact pattern and drawing out the legally important issues:

  • Call of the Question – Start at the end of the exam and read the call of the question so you understand what you are being asked to do.
  • Acts – Rather than trying to spot and analyze whole issues, start instead by reading the fact pattern sentence-by-sentence and highlighting any act or failure to act by a party – anything someone in your fact pattern says, does, or chooses not to do.
  • Resist Judgment – You do not have enough information yet to know whether any of these acts give rise to a legally significant issue. Resist making any judgment about whether the act is relevant, worthwhile, good, bad or otherwise because all you know right now, is that somebody said or did something.
  • Elements – Assuming you studied and know all the elements of every issue you might be tested on, go to each act and consider if it could be one element of an issue. Remember, don’t skip or overlook an act just because it seems like a little thing. The seriousness or severity of the action doesn’t matter. Whether you think the action would lead to a legal action in real life doesn’t matter. What matters is whether that act in the fact pattern, taken at face value could satisfy one element of something you are being tested on. On the other hand, you don’t want to force an issue that simply isn’t relevant. Some facts ARE there to tempt you into a time-wasting, grade-crushing wild goose chase. In order to stay on target, ask:

a) Is the issue you’re thinking about within the testable universe? (i.e. DO NOT analyze a Criminal Law issue in a Torts exam.)

b) Is this issue relevant to the call of the question? (i.e. DO NOT discuss the rights of B vs. C when the question is asking only about the rights of A vs. B.)

c)  Are there other facts that satisfy each of the other necessary elements to make out this issue? DO NOT speculate about other elements based on your common sense or some past experience.

Success vs. Relevance – This is the fifth and final step I ask my students to think about because I want the word “success” to trigger a few different cautionary flags.

The success of the issue: Just because a complaining party has a weak case (weak elements) and is likely to lose doesn’t mean the issue isn’t worth raising. If you can make a good faith, “straight-faced” argument that each of your elements is supported by some fact or facts, it is probably a relevant issue, win or lose. In fact if you can make a good faith argument that MOST of your elements are supported by facts, you should raise the issue. Weak facts or a missing element bear on the success of an issue, but are never a reason to not raise it. Being able to explain to your professor why an issue fails is just as important as being able to show why an issue succeeds.

The successes a student brings into the exam:  You are walking into the exam with a point of view based in your life experience.  Your successes and accomplishments have equipped you to identify and solve many challenging problems, to relate to people and empathize with their circumstances. HOWEVER – here in this exam, you must leave those successes and accomplishments behind. Relating to the people in your fact pattern and empathizing with their circumstances will distract you from seeing what is relevant and keep you from engaging in effective legal analysis.

Seth-Thomas Aitken, UMass School of Law - Dartmouth

February 24, 2013 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Exams - Studying, Guest Column, Learning Styles, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Leave Your Point of View at the Fact Pattern Door: Part 1 of 2 (Guest Post by Seth Aiken, UMass Law)

For some law students, life experience and a strongly held point of view can be immense stumbling blocks to law school success.

I began to think about this last semester working with several students in my 1L class. Relative to the majority of law students, these students were older, which is to say they had lives after undergrad – careers, families, mortgages and other “grown-up” milestones. Each came to law school with a clear point of view, seeing his or her world through a lens of experiences, beliefs and ideals accumulated over years. One student had been a nurse and another was a university librarian. One had struggled with substance abuse and one student, already a working mother of four young children had recently earned her undergraduate degree.  When I met these students it was clear that each was rightfully proud of where they had been, or at least what they had overcome to get here. They remained very mindful of and connected to the lessons learned in former lives and seemed hesitant to loosen their grip on those memories for fear of losing themselves in the disorienting new world of law school.

As I worked with these students on ways to approach hypothetical fact patterns, I noticed that many had great difficulty issue-spotting. They focused rather on the implausibility of the fact pattern and how unlikely or unfair a scenario seemed in the context of their own experience or personal values. Most often, talking with a student about why he or she didn’t raise a certain important issue in his or her practice answer, I would find out that the student saw the issue, but chose not to raise it, deciding that in “real life” nobody would seriously go to court over those facts, or that it didn’t make sense to spend time discussing an action that would be obviously unsuccessful. Years of engaging in moral reasoning and practical life decision-making seemed to have handicapped these students’ ability to engage in effective legal analysis.

This challenge posed a difficult conundrum.  In order to support my students, I needed to connect with them, earn their trust and demonstrate that I sincerely understood and valued who they were and where they had come from to get here. On the other hand, I had to ask them to look past those valuable former-life lessons and experiences in order to develop the analytical flexibility required to succeed in the law.

So my compromise solution has been to adapt an essay exam strategy that capitalizes on the likelihood my students would focus on the story and the actions of the parties in a fact pattern before recognizing the legally significant issues.

I start with one general instruction:  Always, always always add a single phrase to the beginning of the first sentence of every essay question, “On an island that you’ve never been to and where no visitors ever go…(essay question begins).  I remind them that fact patterns exist in isolation, as if on an island. No facts can be added and no additional facts are needed. They must also be mindful of the island’s inherent hostility and distrust toward visitors, outside opinions or new perspectives. A student’s point of view and common-sense life lessons, while personally valuable and hard-won, will prove confusing and unwelcome if brought to the island and applied to the facts.  With this simple, starting prompt, I hope to remind students, whether they are prone to mix life experience with legal reasoning or not, to keep an objective mind about the fact pattern so that they, in turn, don’t  lose the objective of the exam.  The additional tools I give students to avoid this pitfall and others will follow in a later post.

 

Seth-Thomas Aitken, UMass School of Law - Dartmouth

February 22, 2013 in Guest Column, Learning Styles, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Does A Spoonful of Sugar Help the Medicine Go Down?

With apologies to Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, I want to talk about using food to increase student engagement.  Although I originally would think of candy, donuts, and cookies, I have expanded my horizons after having students with special dietary needs who needed alternatives. 

Some days my students in class or workshops seem to have the ho-hums.  Our Tutors have noticed the same thing when trying to encourage discussion.  In a more general manner, I want to encourage students to come use the resources of the office.

Here are some of the ways food can help to engage students in learning:

  • For an early morning class, I sometimes bring breakfast for my students.  As they munch and sip, they are more willing to participate in discussion.  They are more alert and brain-nourished than other days.
  • For the mid-afternoon doldrums, I keep a large snack box filled with individual packs of cookies, crackers, granola bars, trail mix, dried fruit, nuts, and other items.  I arrive in class with the box and let students pick an item for a snack.  The results are similar to my morning breakfast offerings.    
  • Several Tutors take bite-size candies to their weekly group sessions and reward students who ask questions or participate in hypothetical discussions with the treats.
  • When reviewing material for my final exams, I often have competitions with teams in my classes.  The rules are a cross of Jeopardy and Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.  Since I teach international law courses, the prizes are a variety of products from the countries involved in the subject matter.  For example, for EU Law, I find as many items as I can from the 27 (soon to be 28) Member States.  Students get more involved because they know everyone will get a prize, but there are bigger prizes for highest individual points as well as for highest team points.  
  • Whenever I hold make-up classes, I provide food.  I do so partially because the make-ups often have to be in the early evening and partially because it just makes it nicer for all of us - no growling stomachs and famished brain cells.  We get those ABA minutes with nourishment.
  • In the past, I had a candy bucket in the study aids library of my suite to lure students in with hard candies, chocolate, and gummy treats.  Many a student was willing to discuss a study issue with me informally while sorting through the bucket for a favorite treat - often leading to a later formal appointment.  Other students would ask if I would help them determine the study aid that matched their learning styles while they munched.  The stress reduction potential was always a plus, especially near mid-terms and exams.
  • Several faculty colleagues are known for providing homemade baking, snacks, pizza, or other food items for their classes.  Several seminar classes are known for regular dinner meals. 

How often I provide treats and what sorts of treats, depends on how flush I am at the time.  Most of these types of perks are out of my own pocket because of university accounting rules.  Some of my faculty colleagues with chaired professorships have hefty budgets with fewer restrictions. (Amy Jarmon)  

February 19, 2013 in Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Register Now for the 2013 Association of Academic Support Educators Conference

If you are planning to attend the inaugural AASE conference in Las Vegas this May, the registration page is now available.  The conference is being held May 28-30, 2013 at UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law.  The link to the registration page is http://law.unlv.edu/AASE2013 .

February 18, 2013 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

UDC Director of Academic Support Position

DIRECTOR OF ACADEMIC SUPPORT 

UNIVERSITY OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DAVID A. CLARKE SCHOOL OF LAW (UDC-DCSL) invites applications to fill the tenure-track position of Director of Academic Support.  We will consider exceptionally talented applicants at either the assistant or associate professor level. Candidates must demonstrate a record of strong academic performance and excellent potential for scholarly achievement.  The position will begin in July, 2013. 

We are looking for an experienced academic success professional who is familiar with the best practices in the field and interested in designing a state-of-the-art academic success program suitable for our mission. The mission of the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law is to recruit and enroll students from groups under-represented at the bar, provide a well-rounded theoretical and practical legal education that will enable students to be effective and ethical advocates and represent the legal needs of low-income District of Columbia residents through the school’s legal clinics.  UDC-DCSL is one of only six American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  UDC is the nation’s only urban, public land grant university.  UDC-DCSL is highly ranked: Top 10 in the nation in Law School Clinical Programs (US News and World Report, 2012); 3rd most diverse faculty (Princeton Review, 2012); 5th most chosen by older students (Princeton Review, 2012); 4th best environment for minority students (Princeton Review, 2012); and Top 20 most innovative law school (PreLaw Magazine, 2012). UDC-DCSL has a strong commitment to diversity among its faculty and encourages applications from minorities and women. 

The salary range for Associate Professor is $92,000 to $138,000. The salary range for Assistant Professor is $73,533 to $110,300. 

Although we will accept applications until the position is filled, we strongly encourage interested applicants to submit applications by March 5, 2013 for complete consideration. Interested candidates must apply to the UDC Office of Human Resources.  The web address is http://udc.applicantstack.com/x/detail/a2hbyxhaslr9.   Applicants should also send a cover letter and resume.  Contact:  Professor Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law, 4200 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Building 52, Room 315A, Washington, D.C. 20008.  wreuben-cooke@udc.edu.

 

February 13, 2013 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Director of Externships and Academic Success at U Arkansas - Fayetteville Position

Director of Externships and Academic Success 

The University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville is currently seeking a full-time Director of Externships and Academic Success, to begin August 15, 2013.  The Director will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the Externship and Academic Success programs. 

The School of Law has an active and growing Externship program, which currently includes the following categories of placements: Corporate Counsel, Criminal Defense, Criminal Prosecution, International, Judicial, Legislative, Other Governmental, and Public Interest.  In calendar year 2012, 118 students participated in externships.  The Director will be the primary faculty supervisor.  The Director will select and train field supervisors for each site, conduct site visits as needed, inform students of placement options; coordinate student application and registration; provide orientation, training, and on-going consultation to students; monitor student performance; and review students' written work.  The Director will also seek new externship opportunities, periodically review faculty policies and propose updates, and periodically update Program materials. 

The School of Law's Academic Success Program is in a transitional period.  It currently consists of special advising for students identified as at academic risk, a Teaching Assistant program in the first-year classes, and occasional workshop offerings.  In addition to overseeing those initiatives, the Director will develop and propose an effective Academic Success program for the School of Law.

Applicants must have completed a J.D. degree and have a minimum of three years of law practice or teaching experience. Preferred qualifications are five years of law practice or teaching experience, as well as strong teaching, organizational, and public outreach skills.  The salary range will be in the $60’s commensurate with education, background, and experience.  This is a non-tenure-track position, and will be open until filled.  To apply please send a letter of interest, current vita or resume, and contact information for three references. 

Contact: Terri Huckleberry, University of Arkansas School of Law, Waterman Hall, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701.  terri@uark.edu 479-575-6520. 

Which of the following best describes the position you wish to advertise? 

___ Position is tenure-track.

 ___May lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.

 XX May lead only to successive short-term contracts of one to four years.

 ___Has an upper-limit on the number of years a teacher may be appointed.

 ___Is part of a fellowship program for one or two years.

 ___Is a part-time appointment, or a year-to-year adjunct appointment.

 

 Will the person hired be permitted to vote in faculty meetings?

 ___  Yes

 XX   No 

 

The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range:

(A base salary does NOT include stipends for coaching moot court teams, teaching other courses, or teaching in summer school; nor does a base salary include conference travel or other professional development funds.)  ___$30,000to $39,999

 ___$40,000 to $49,999

 ___$50,000 to $59,999

 XX $60,000 to $69,999

 ___$70,000 to $79,999

___ $80,000 to $89,999

___ $90,000 or more

___ Part-time appointment paying less than $30,000 ___ Adjunct appointment paying less than $10,000

 

The person hired will teach legal writing each semester to a total number of students in the range: 

XX This is not a legal writing teaching position. 

 

What is the deadline for submitting resumes? 

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but we hope to schedule interviews to take place in March, 2013. 

YES.   I certify that my institution's nondiscrimination policy is in substantial compliance with the LWI nondiscrimination policy: "The Legal Writing Institute is committed to a policy against discrimination and in favor of equal opportunity for all of its members regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity." 

The University of Arkansas is an Affirmative Action/EOE institution committed to achieving a culturally diverse faculty.  We encourage applications from all qualified candidates, especially individuals who contribute to the social, ethnic, and gender diversity of our faculty and academic community. Applications will be accepted without regard to age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation or national origin. Applicants must have proof of legal authority to work in the United States.

 

February 13, 2013 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Job Opportunity: U Arkansas-Fayetteville Director of Externships and ASP

Director of Externships and Academic Success

The University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville is currently seeking a full-time Director of Externships and Academic Success, to begin August 15, 2013.  The Director will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the Externship and Academic Success programs. 

The School of Law has an active and growing Externship program, which currently includes the following categories of placements: Corporate Counsel, Criminal Defense, Criminal Prosecution, International, Judicial, Legislative, Other Governmental, and Public Interest.  In calendar year 2012, 118 students participated in externships.  The Director will be the primary faculty supervisor.  The Director will select and train field supervisors for each site, conduct site visits as needed, inform students of placement options; coordinate student application and registration; provide orientation, training, and on-going consultation to students; monitor student performance; and review students= written work.  The Director will also seek new externship opportunities, periodically review faculty policies and propose updates, and periodically update Program materials.

The School of Law’s Academic Success Program is in a transitional period.  It currently consists of special advising for students identified as at academic risk, a Teaching Assistant program in the first-year classes, and occasional workshop offerings.  In addition to overseeing those initiatives, the Director will develop and propose an effective Academic Success program for the School of Law.

 Applicants must have completed a J.D. degree and have a minimum of three years of law practice or teaching experience. Preferred qualifications are five years of law practice or teaching experience, as well as strong teaching, organizational, and public outreach skills.  The salary range will be in the $60’s commensurate with education, background, and experience.  This is a non-tenure-track position, and will be open until filled.  To apply please send a letter of interest, current vita or resume, and contact information for three references.

Contact: Terri Huckleberry, University of Arkansas School of Law, Waterman Hall, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701.         terri@uark.edu            479-575-6520 

The University of Arkansas is an Affirmative Action/EOE institution committed to achieving a culturally diverse faculty.  We encourage applications from all qualified candidates, especially individuals who contribute to the social, ethnic, and gender diversity of our faculty and academic community. Applications will be accepted without regard to age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation or national origin. Applicants must have proof of legal authority to work in the United States.

February 13, 2013 in Job Descriptions, Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Selecting Your Bar Review

If you have not already, it is important to think about signing up for a commercial bar review course.  In these economic times, many students ask me if taking a bar review is really necessary.  Resolutely, my answer is always yes, a bar review is necessary to achieve success on the bar exam.  Take your time to determine your options and how they will suit your individual needs.  Bar prep courses are an investment, but one that is wholly worth it.  Here are a few things to consider when selecting your bar review course.

 

  • Determine your learning style.  This may sound odd but I believe that knowing how you learn will help you select your bar review course.  There are a few resources online(VARK and An Index of Learning Styles) or you can purchase a KOLB inventory and complete it on your own.  Once you understand your learning style, you can ask the right questions and know what to look for when researching the bar review options in your jurisdiction.
  • Figure out where you want to be licensed.  Some bar review companies only offer courses locally, while others are available nationwide.  Once you have decided where you want to take the bar exam, contact the bar review providers that offer courses in those areas.  Contacting their offices directly will allow you to find out where, when, and how their course are delivered.  This will also familiarize you with the specific individuals that you will be working with during your eight week bar prep course.
  • Bar prep is a customer service industry.  It is expensive and you want to make sure that you are getting what you pay for.  Take note of the interactions you have with the representatives of the company.  Are they responsive to your questions, do they provide examples of their product for you to review, do they want to accommodate your needs, and are they friendly and accessible?  You want to have a good, no great, relationship with your bar review provider since you will be relying on them to help you take the most difficult exam of your life.
  • Speaking of cost, do not jump at the course with the lowest cost before truly considering whether it will be a good fit for your individual needs.  Yes, the price of the bar prep course is a consideration, but it should not be the only factor you consider.  Remember the saying, “You get what you pay for.”  Think about this when you research your options.  When you call their office to find out about the specifics of the course, you can also ask about whether they offer scholarships, payment plans, or cost saving employment opportunities.
  • Look at the actual materials and schedule that you will be using during your bar review.  This will help you decide whether their philosophy and pedagogy will meet your needs.  It will also give you a heads up on what to expect during bar prep. (Sometimes this is a huge eye-opener.)
  • Consider signing up earlier, rather than later, for a bar prep course.  I am treading lightly here because I know there is some debate about whether 1Ls should even be considering bar review but hear me out.  Bar review companies are very competitive.  By the nature of this competition, they offer promotions and extras to students when they sign up early for their bar review course.  These extras can prove to be helpful study aids during law school and can help students get a jumpstart on their bar preparation.  I advise students to take advantage of as many of the free extras as they can and only put a deposit down on a course when they have considered many of the above mentioned factors.

Lisa Young

 

February 12, 2013 in Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Personal Foul: Running into the Kicker

Civil Procedure. If you did not grow up in a family of attorneys or work as a paralegal or inherit the intuition of a soothsayer, Civil Procedure is the greatest mystery in the universe. You enter the Civil Procedure classroom with all of the context of a person who has never seen or played football in his life and you begin studying the rule book. Here is what it looks like to the average law student:

Let's begin with the personal foul that is called when a defender on special teams runs into the punter without touching the ball. The concept is simple: the punter is exposed to significant injury because of the requirement that he stretch his kicking leg as high as possible while the other leg leaves the turf, leaving him completely vulnerable to a hit against which he cannot defend himself. Of course, it is a foul to hit him while he is defenseless in mid-air.

The student, having never witnessed an actual game, has the following stupid questions:

1. Why is the punter kicking the ball in the first place? Answer: We will cover that later.

2. So, is the ball like a baseball, which I have seen, or is it more like a basketball, which I once saw on television? Answer: It is a football. Pay attention.

3. Okay, but why can he not just kick the ball, whatever it is, without someone running at him and hitting him, if hitting him is illegal? Answer: It is an adversarial system, a competition to determine who is right.

4. Okay, but the game seems to be about tackling. Why is the punter immune? Answer: If the defender touches the ball before he hits the punter, he can hit the punter so hard the punter never kicks again.

5. Okay, so the ball is the issue, not the punter? Answer: Are you not paying attention? The punter is protected so long as the ball has not been touched because we do not want punters to be injured; but if the ball has been touched by the defender, the punter no longer deserves any protection and can be hospitalized by the defender, primarily because the punter's job is to get the ball kicked into the air without its being touched by the defender so that the defender's teammate can try to catch the ball downfield and run it back as far as possible to gain the best possible field advantage on the other team in the hopes of throwing or running the same ball into the punter's end zone for a score that will make the punter a complete doofus for not having punted the ball into the coffin corner (we will talk about the coffin corner in more depth when we get to the coffin corner cases, but suffice it to say that the punter wants it in the coffin corner). Given that the punter must kick the ball into the coffin corner -- what? He has to kick the ball. What? Just accept the fact that the punter must kick the ball -- it has to do with downs, which we will talk about later -- just accept the fact, will you please, that the punter has to kick the ball, and the defense can try to disrupt that kick so long as the defense does not do so by running into the punter, unless the defensive player who hits the punter has touched the ball that the punter had. How tough is that to understand?!!!

When you graduate, you will be in a game where you have to punt, okay? Just trust me; it's going to happen. When it does happen, remember that the defender cannot run into your punter unless he has touched the ball that the punter kicked. Then, of course, he can hospitalize your punter. Even so, always challenge the call on the field (What? What do you mean, what is a call? Have you been paying attention at all?). Raise your hand if you don't know what a "call" is. It was in the first day's readings. Ms. Cartwright, can you explain what a "call" is? No, it has nothing to do with a cell phone. Mr. Blakely, do you have any idea what a "call" is? No. It is not a noise to attract birds.

You people cannot be serious about being lawyers. Has no one in this room any idea what a "call" is? Yes, Ms. Poindexter. Exactly. It is a decision by the referee, which cannot be overturned unless irrefutable evidence exists on the video replay that the call was, in fact, wrong. And where did you find that answer? Correct. Everyone turn to Tony Gonzalez v. Referees on page 442 of your casebook. Ms. Poindexter, can you read what the second full paragraph says about review of disputed calls during a game?

Thank you, Ms. Poindexter. Obviously, you have done your reading with some inquisitiveness and simple common sense. The rest of you might wish to emulate Ms. Poindexter's enthusiasm for the rules of this noble game to which all of you aspire.

For Monday, please read the cases covering the infield fly rule.

Riiiiingggggg!!!!!!!!!!. Yes?

Why don't the students understand football? You are the ASP person. What are you doing with your time?

It may be that the students have never seen a football game, so they are having a tough time seeing the context . . . .

I got it when I was in law school. Can't you do anything about this or are you just a cheerleader?

Dan Weddle

 

February 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What Students Should Be Getting from Class Discussions

The Socratic method does not always lend itself to effective note taking in the way a straight lecture might. Students can manage that problem by using the following list to spot important concepts as they arise during exchanges between professor and student. In fact, keeping the list on the desk as they take notes helps students focus on the discussion when they are not directly involved and helps make sense of the direction the professor is leading everyone.

 

•Key themes running through the course

•Accurately stated rules

•Corollary rules

•Exceptions

•Tests, definitions

•Precise understanding of the logic underlying the rules, their corollaries, and their exceptions, tests, definitions

•Key policy aims underlying each rule, etc.

•Essential steps in the logic of applying each rule, etc.

•Critical similarities and differences among rules, among tests, etc.

•Critical attributes of facts that satisfy or do not satisfy the rules, definitions, etc.

•Archetypal fact patterns that implicate each rule

 

February 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Profound Responsibility

Have you ever thought about how fragile our constitutional system can be? It rests on a compact among all of us to respect and obey the institutions our Constitution established and to challenge those institutions only through peaceful means. Remarkably, for most of our history, that compact has held; however, when individuals or states stand in defiance of the nation's constitutional institutions, our constitutional system threatens to unravel. Lawyers have a solemn obligation to preserve the rule of law against those who would break apart the compact that holds the nation together. We need to instill in our students that same sense of duty.

One hundred fifty years ago, the compact unraveled, of course, during the Civil War. It was restored only after the nation lost half a million lives.

A generation ago, it threatened to unravel again during the 1950's and 1960's, when the Supreme Court struck down segregation in the schools. The governors of Arkansas and Alabama personally blocked the entrances of schools in defiance of the Supreme Court's conclusion that "separate but equal" had no place in public education. Federal troops forced them to allow black students to attend the schools.

Today, a startling rise in militant groups threatens another unraveling. Claiming a superior interpretation of the Second Amendment, segments of the militia movement are saying they will defend their interpretation of the Constitution with armed resistance if necessary. Unlike peaceful gun rights advocates, these militant groups strike at the very foundation of the rule of law by elevating their own understanding of the Constitution above all others and glorifying civil war. They advocate -- whether or not they understand they are doing so -- anarchy, where everyone is a law unto himself.

We, as those who educate the next generation of lawyers, have a profound responsibility to help our students understand their duty to uphold the compact that keeps our constitutional system vital. We must inspire in them the sacred duty of our profession to preserve and foster a respect for law among their fellow citizens.

It is easy for students to become cynical about the law, especially if their first foray into the field has yielded disappointing academic results. We have a duty to fight that cynicism and keep our students' eyes on the larger picture -- the justice system lawyers uphold.

As we work with students, central to our efforts should be an emphasis on why they are mastering the skills we are teaching. We need to draw connections, for example, between what they are doing to prepare for class and what they will have to do to represent a client effectively. We should help them discover why particular courses are important and why they should work to master them whether they find them interesting or not.

Most importantly, we should deliberately foster in them an appreciation of the law itself as worthy of their best efforts. It is easy to play to their short-term motivations, especially when they are resistant to our advice. Valuable as that appeal may be, it should complement a more noble appeal to the rule of law as the heart and soul of our national identity and the special responsibility of the profession they have entered.

Dan Weddle

 

 

 

 

February 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)