Friday, November 17, 2017
As a clinical teacher, how much of your self do you share with the students you are supervising? What effect does that sharing, or lack of sharing, have?
Thanks to a thought-provoking session at the Northwest Clinical Conference earlier this month, led by the University of Montana’s Eduardo Capulong, and Kim Ambrose and Lisa Kelly from the University of Washington, I have been mulling over these questions for the last few weeks.
In their session, titled Teaching Professional Identity and Values through Narrative and Our Own Stories, Professors Ambrose, Capulong, and Kelly, asked participants, including myself, to think about how law professors are perceived by our students. Then they asked us to look inward with a partner, sharing how we saw ourselves first and then how our students saw us.
The question is, when do you self-disclose with students, and what are the risks and benefits? In many ways, in a clinical setting we are asking students to become reflective lawyers. We ask that they constantly assess their goals, their progress, and what they bring to the lawyering experience. In a way, with self-disclosure, we are modeling for students what we ask them to do in terms of being introspective and self-aware attorneys.
One faculty member at my institution recently recounted an experience with a student years ago. The student was having panic attacks in class and requested to sit by the door. Rather than simply saying “yes” and moving on, this Professor shared that she too had the same anxiety challenges. She gave the students two options – “sit by the door, or, sit in the front row so that when I am struggling, you can help me out and we can support each other.” This message communicated to the student that she was not alone—that she and her Professor are on a learning journey together. The Professor humanized herself and made clear to the student that someone who struggled with anxiety can be a lawyer, and, eventually even a law professor.
With students struggling with statutory interpretation, do you share that in law school you in fact bombed the exam for course you are now in fact teaching because you neglected to closely read the statute? Do you share experiences of professional failure or struggle? How much do you share with students regarding your own career? Would you ever share the anxiety or stresses associated with promotion, tenure, renewal of your contract, or funding?
On an even more personal level, in many of our clinics, we introduce students to the concept of secondary or vicarious trauma or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Studies show that raising awareness of the issue can actually lower the chances of manifesting secondary trauma symptoms. In teaching this topic, do you share your own experiences with trauma? Does this empower students to do the same, or, can it pressure them to reveal experiences they would rather not share? In the moments where I have decided to share my own past trauma with students, I have felt that it has empowered them to think about how their own trauma experiences influence their lawyering and approach to working with their clients.
Do you share personal losses, such as the loss of a family member or a pregnancy? In the past year, I have been open with my students about the fact that I am grieving the loss of my beloved father, who passed away after battling with pancreatic cancer nine months ago, just two days after his 60th birthday. That openness has actually enabled me to be there for my students, one of whom lost her father not long before. Because she knew I faced the same new reality, she shared with me when her mid-semester evaluation was scheduled the same day as her father’s birthday. This semester, another student tragically lost a sibling. She was initially reluctant to even share the fact of the death, for fear of being given less meaningful clinic work, but after she did disclose, the fact that she knows about my own loss means I am able to connect with and support her in these difficult times in a more genuine way.
When, how, and with whom to share is definitely a question and a question that will be resolved differently at different times. This summer, when teaching a five week refugee law course, I did not disclose to my students, in standing up to teach the day after a miscarriage, what I had endured. One week I was pregnant and looking forward to growing my family, one week later, standing behind the same lectern, I was not. They had no idea. At that time, of course, the loss was too raw and I hadn’t done any processing myself. But, several months later, in discussing the topic of pregnancy with students during a long car ride to a detention center, it felt inauthentic to refrain from sharing with my students that I too had lost a pregnancy a few months earlier. What feels right and enables connection in one moment will not always in another.
In the personal arena, as a parent, do you share the joys (and challenges!) of parenting? Does this present as unnecessary bragging (or whining?) or is it helpful insight and modeling being a working professional parent? On this line of sharing, I have erred on the side of sharing when a student asks or seems interested. I was pregnant and then delivered my first child as a clinical teaching fellow at Georgetown. Students obviously knew that I was pregnant and then that I had a small infant. A couple of female students wrote in my evaluations how much they appreciated our discussions of work-life balance and parenting and how it gave them hope for figuring out how career and family could work together.
Obviously, self-disclosure is context and situation dependent, but I appreciated the way in which Professors Kelly, Ambrose, and Capulong opened up this conversation. Does sharing some of our personal journeys make us vulnerable to our students? Will they judge us and think less of us as “Professors?” Or, are we normalizing conversation around difficult topics and reducing stigma associated with so many experiences we have in life. Are we making ourselves more approachable and relatable? In sharing, are students more likely to share what is happening in their own lives with you? Is this a positive development, or are you crossing the line into quasi-therapist/friend? Is that so dangerous in the end – hierarchy and grading aside, are we not just human beings interacting inside and outside of the classroom in all the messy and confusing ways that human present?
In practicing self-disclosure, are you actually working to humanize a profession that is so often disconnected from emotion? Given that lawyers are prone to self doubt, drug and alcohol abuse, stress and over work, could self-disclosure by leaders in the profession, including law professors, work to undo some of those complicated and negative dynamics? Can self-disclosure help to humanize professors to help to undo some of the ways in which law school is an environment rife with the challenges posed by implicit bias and stereotype threat?
I think I tend to self-disclose more than average, and increasingly wonder whether this may introduce an unhelpful dose of casualness into the professor-student relationship. It’s possible that bringing our more authentic and complete selves to the table could potentially undermine students’ respect for us. This may be of particular concern for young professors of color and women who face documented biases in the classroom due to gender, race, sexual orientation, class, age, or other differences. As a female law professor in my mid-thirties, I know students find me more accessible and less intimidating than my male and older colleagues. In disclosing tidbits of my personal or professional struggles here and there, am I encouraging a lack of respect? Am I crossing lines in a way that undermines my students’ ability to hold me in the same category of “professor” as some of my colleagues? Or, am I actually humanizing myself and enabling students to relate to me more easily human to human?
In conclusion, I have reached none, except that it is worth us asking ourselves, as clinicians, where we draw our lines and when, and what effect that may have. It is also worth opening up conversations with one another to understand how self-disclosure has played out, particularly across race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and other differences.
For myself, I am often a fairly open book. But, that book will be opened to various pages as and when I feel appropriate. There may sometimes be pages I wish I had not shared in that moment, but I am willing to experiment with self-disclosure because I believe that the potential gains in truly connecting with students outweigh the risks.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Clinical Professor Sarah Sherman-Stokes was recently featured in the Washington Post offering her opinion on the devastating impact of new policies on immigration judges. The Trump Administration's stance on undocumented individuals has led to an explosion in the number of cases. Immigration judges already carry exceedingly large dockets, nearly three times the amount of district court judges trying civil cases. These judges are now losing critical training conferences essential to ensuring fair trials for noncitizens.
The full piece is available here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/immigration-judges-were-always-overworked-now-theyll-be-untrained-too/2017/07/11/e71bb1fa-4c93-11e7-a186-60c031eab644_story.html?utm_term=.348ef2c965ee
Monday, April 3, 2017
A few weeks ago, I had a moment. I suppose you could call it a “teaching moment,” since it occurred in the classroom, but really, it felt more like a moment, moment. You know, the kind where the world seems right, even if just for a few minutes. When somehow it all falls into place with stunning alignment and grace and we are a taught a lesson; the kind that resonates deeply in the body, like ancient knowledge that you can’t quite name or fully grasp but you know it when you see it.
At 10:00 pm the night before the first ever REEL (Re-imagining Excellence through Empowering Leadership) Conference, I quickly agreed to jump in and teach a 45 minute workshop on restorative justice when one presenter cancelled. My audience would be teenage boys, who attend the Kingston YMCA alternative education program. Most of the boys live a very difficult reality; they come from garrison communities where violence and retribution are the norm. Looking back, I realize the arrogance and potential foolishness of my haphazard decision, but I’m glad I didn’t have that awareness at the time, as my second-guessing could have easily turned into a “no.” One lesson I will most certainly take with me from my time here in Jamaica is that sometimes I just need to get it done, loosen the choke hold of that perfectionist bent, settle on “some is better than none,” and handle it.
After the haze of the late-night, last minute decision wore off, I acknowledged how stunningly out of my depth I would be. My Americanness, including my comparative wealth, which allows me augmented “safety” and “control” over my environment was directly at odds with the boys’ lived experience. The story I played in my mind was one of doubt: am I going to be able to convey, and in such a short amount of time, an alternative to retribution, another potential way of being in the world, a chance for possible repair instead of reprisal and the creation of more harm. Is that even possible? Is it even my place to try?
Luckily, another story simultaneously played. I’ve attended enough Clinical Law Conferences to have developed a fairly sturdy (even if at times tentative) trust in the power of teaching techniques, and so I would rely on those. Tactile learning, a circle and intuition would be my guides. In the classroom, I was adamant that the chairs, which were in rows had to be in circle. This meant the 20 minute task of re-arranging them prior to the boys arrival, but put those chairs in a circle we did (it must have seemed silly to everyone -- even to myself to a degree -- but I just knew we needed to see each other). Once everyone walked into the room, I patiently but diligently stuck to the format. I made all of us, including the teachers, sit inside the circle and we removed all empty chairs. We started with my request “tell us your name, your favorite junk food (a universally important question) and what you want to be in the future.” Pulling this information was difficult, the boys did not have much confidence or practice in speaking this way. I had to ask several times for quiet, push through the snickering, re-direct, constantly re-affirm the importance of each person’s response and ask countless times for everyone to speak up. And though there were fleeting moments of wondering whether this was the best use of our time together, I felt a strong pull; the act of naming and staking a claim on the future felt important and so even though it was a little tenuous, the circle held.
Next, I had the boys pretend to be actors (victim, police, community members, judge, offender, lawyers, etc.) in both the traditional and the restorative justice systems, using physical space and proximity to illustrate the concepts. The method seemed effective and we had fun. On the grand scale, I moved the room from the immediate “I would shoot his family dead” response to a consideration of “maybe” when asked if anyone would be willing to listen to the offender’s story. I considered this a success, but I’m kind of a glutton; I wasn’t satisfied, I pretty much always want more and because it just didn’t quite feel like enough or like it was done, I scrapped the script and started talking from the heart. It was messy, but it provided the opening we needed.
First, I acknowledged my privilege and then we talked…about anger, about witnessing horrific events, about endless cycles of violence, and about how as a society we instruct people not to do harm often through the use of state sanctioned forms of harm, control and force. The teachers, feeling more confident in this space, joined in, and together we validated feelings and passed along information about the effects trauma can have on our lives. We did our best to try and affirm the worth and dignity of everyone in the room (the future firefighter, graphic designer, lawyer, the one who likes KFC, Lavonte, “Tony,” and the one I ran into at the bus station…) Looking around, I could tell the boys heard it, many even appreciated the sentiment, but there was still a disconnect, a gap that I was desperate to, but didn’t have the words or experience or time to close.
And then it happened, as it often does, at the last minute, when you’ve got nothing left…
One of the teachers, who had been participating and asking questions throughout the workshop (which if I’m being honest, unnerved me a bit because of our tight time frame and because I thought “this is a workshop for the boys, not the teachers”) raised her hand again just in time for the final comment. By her insightful questions, I could tell that she was working through something and so even though the questions took us a little of “my course,” I had done my best to provide space and answer them.
And so in those last minutes of our time together, Ms. Taylor closed us out and brought us home. And somehow, she did it, she managed to fuse it all together: my words, their words, my knowledge, and their lived experiences. She spoke in the way that only a Jamaican woman could, only in a way that someone who has worked for a long time to gain trust and garner respect could, and only in a way that a mother who intimately knows suffering could.
She opened up and told us her story. It was a deeply personal story, one that I’m not sure her colleagues even knew, filled with pain, loss, restitution and redemption; one of those stories where the universe delivers both the poisonous sting and the antidote simultaneously rolled into one bitter-sweet pill. She was restorative justice personified. And we were stunned and silent; the room reverent as the energy shifted and stilled. We heard and finally we understood the power of forgiveness and the healing that can bring. I have no doubt that her story has wedged itself into the hearts of those young men the way it flowed directly into mine. And as we go forward to maneuver the difficulties of this life, I know we will all hear her words echoing inside us, providing us with choices which we couldn’t see before, a wider spectrum of possibilities that now exist in all our worlds.
And so I learned once again about the real value of restorative justice and why I do this work, and I learned once again about myself. Ms. Taylor’s lesson was the re-enforcement of what so many have tried to teach me over and over again...trust the process, trust yourself, check your ego at the door along with those western, hierarchical methods of learning, get out of the way, and just be the bridge, let it simply be an honor to be the conduit that facilitates the real knowledge residing in all of us.
 The nature of poverty in the garrison constituencies in Jamaica, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/095624780501700207
Thursday, October 27, 2016
In this annual season of program updates, I am happy to share news from Pepperdine about our continuing efforts to expand and improve the programs of clinical and experiential education. This has been a busy year of new projects and curricular reforms.
As I noted here, in 2014, Pepperdine became the first school in California to proactively adopt a version of the California State Bar’s TFARR proposals. Our current 3Ls will be the first class to graduate with a requirement of 15 units of experiential education and 50 hours of pro bono service. This year, we refined that requirement to accommodate student demand and to balance other important experiences in law school. Now, students must complete 15 units of experiential courses or their equivalent, and the equivalent may include limited legal work outside of credit bearing courses. Here are more details on our new experiential learning requirements.
The 50-hour pro bono requirement has driven exceptional student demand for clinics and practicum courses, in addition to co-curricular pro bono opportunities. We are constantly working to generate and promote pro bono opportunities for students. For example, with generous grant support, we have developed an excellent partnership with OneJustice to offer multiple Rural Justice Bus trips throughout the year to underserved areas of Southern California. These limited-scope clinics focus primarily on veterans services in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. We have developed these trips largely for 1Ls, so they can have early live-client experience before they are eligible for clinics, externships and practicums. Some are meeting clients under supervision within weeks of beginning law school. Here are more details on the pro bono requirement.
In the wake of the ABA’s dramatic revisions to field placement standards at the beginning of this semester, we undertook a thorough examination of our externship program (timely as the ABA just completed a site visit last week). After provisional experiments this semester, and considering significant student demand, Pepperdine now permits paid externships in addition to our typical, unpaid placements in judicial, governmental, public interest, and corporate offices. In Los Angeles, this is especially advantageous for our students working in entertainment, media, and sports practices.
Our students may take up to 22 units of out-of-classroom credit during law school, which includes all field placement courses, and they may take up to 10 units of externship credit per term. These full-time externships are common for students working in federal circuit court their second year, and they are essential for our Washington, DC Externship Semester. Here are more details on the externship programs.
In 2016, we launched two new clinics. In the Restoration & Justice Clinic, students represent victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in Los Angeles. Prof. Tanya Cooper has developed important partnerships with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and CAST LA to advocate for clients of gender-based crimes, seeking remedies and orders to ensure liberty, safety and empowerment for our clients.
On the foundation of an IRS grant, we launched the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic in downtown Los Angeles. This clinic has a particular focus on ESL clients in downtown and East LA. In its first full semester, the clinic had a full wait list within days of opening registration. Under the exceptional direction of Supervising Attorney Isai Cortez, the LITC is thriving on Skid Row alongside the Legal Aid Clinic.
Now with six standard JD clinics and three clinics in the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, Pepperdine offers about 160 seats in clinical courses each year, accommodating about 80% of all law students by the time they graduate.
Here are more details on all of our clinics: Community Justice Clinic, Fair Employment & Housing Mediation Clinic, Investor Advocacy Clinic, Legal Aid Clinic, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, Mediation Clinic, Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic, Restoration & Justice Clinic, and Special Education Advocacy Clinic.
New Practicum Courses:
To increase live-client courses, and to offer more specialized practice areas, we have developed several practicum courses in fruitful collaboration with excellent partners. Practicums give us a platform to innovate and experiment, especially when institutional resources are tight. These are exciting works in progress.
Practicums are field placement courses in collaboration with partners in focused practice areas, reserved for Pepperdine students who apply directly to the partner agencies. The partners provide supervision in practice, and law professors provide academic framing and guided reflection. Presently, we offer three active practicum courses with others in development.
The Employment Law Practicum is our newest practicum course. Students work with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County in its Workers’ Rights Clinic. Their work involves individual representation, policy research, and program development in immigrant communities.
We also work with the great lawyers at NLSLA in the Veterans Law Practicum (Los Angeles). Students represent veterans in diverse controversies, applications, and appeals for benefits in LA area Veterans Administration offices through NLSLA's Veterans Initiative.
In the Veterans Law Practicum (Ventura), our largest and longest running practicum course, students work with the Ventura County Public Defender to represent clients in Veterans Treatment Court, a collaborative court with restorative justice, diversionary sentencing, and rehabilitative programs for veterans.
We have set an ambitious standard that every student will graduate with diverse, intensive practice experience with live-clients and committed experiences in public interest practice. This is a demanding expression of our mission and pedagogical priorities, and it creates perpetual challenges to improve existing programs and to expand into new forms, partnerships, and practice areas. We have all hands on deck, from our dedicated clinical faculty, to adjuncts and supervising attorneys, to doctrinal faculty who are taking on faculty advising, imagining new clinics, and integrating experiential components into their courses.
This is an exciting season for clinical and experiential education at Pepperdine. Like so many schools, we are pressed between rising demand for clinics, externships and experiential learning and intensifying pressures in enrollment and budgets. We have had a full year building these programs to better serve our students, clients, and communities.
Thursday, July 2, 2015
The dean of the Willamette University College of Law announced today that the university has hired Terry Wright as the law school's new Externship Director. Willamette began a complete renovation of its externship program ten years ago, which increased the number of credits students can earn, the variety of placements available, and added a more rigorous academic component. Willamette's clinical law faculty played key roles in this expansion and overhaul.
Most recently, Professor Gwynne Skinner both taught and supervised the Externship Program, while further redesigning it to increase enrollment and add a full-time offering. She did this over a two-year period while directing her human rights, immigration, and refugee law clinic and teaching non-clinical courses. Professor Skinner also chaired the search committee that resulted in the recommendation of Professor Wright as the law school's first permanent Externship Director.
Professor Wright is a Willamette alumna who taught in the clinical law program in the late 1980's. She then moved to Lewis & Clark where she spent the next 25 years as a popular and highly respected Clinical Law Professor. She has been a leader in the clinical community for decades, especially in the Northwest. The Willamette community is thrilled to have Terry Wright return home!
Sunday, May 3, 2015
I am very pleased to announce that Tanya Asim Cooper is joining the faculty at Pepperdine University School of Law this summer to design, launch, teach and direct the new Restoration & Justice Clinic. In the new clinic, Tanya and our students will provide legal services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other gender-based crimes. She will build collaborative relationships with professionals in Southern California to facilitate comprehensive services for our clients and to provide experiences in multidisciplinary practice for our students.
Prof. Cooper joins us from the University of Alabama where she has led and taught the Domestic Violence Clinic with extraordinary clinicians and where she was instrumental in expanding the local task force on domestic violence. Before teaching at Alabama, Tanya trained in the clinics at American, and taught in the clinics at UDC. She is a great fit at Pepperdine. We are thrilled to welcome her back home to California, and I can’t wait to see her great work to come.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
The Northwest clinical law community often views itself as one of the most happy and energetic groups in legal education. It is easy to see why they are such a jubilant group. First, they work in a natural setting that rivals some of the most beautiful regions in the world (within a short drive of a rugged forested coastline, the volcanic Cascades, and wine country world-renowned for its pinot noir). Second, the social justice-minded cultural values of the Northwest closely align with core values of clinical legal education, which creates a natural environment for clinical opportunities integrated with the larger community. Third, the region allows room for personhood and pioneering individuality in a way that is well suited to clinical educators trying to inspire their students through transformative professional experiences.
However, not even the breathtaking setting of the Columbia River Gorge could distract the Northwest clinical community from the somber mood that hovered over the group’s regional conference this past weekend. From the group’s first gathering at Friday’s reception, all were mindful and reflective of the recent unexpected decision to close one of the oldest and most respected clinics in the Northwest, the Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic. That closing threatens the continued participation and contributions of three of the most well-respected and valued clinical faculty in the Northwest: Mark Peterson, Richard Slottee, and Terry Wright. Their expected absence in years to come, as well as the planned retirement of Larry Weiser of Gonzaga after 33 years, could mark the end of an era in the Northwest clinical community.
Despite the pall in the air, the conference moved forward with presentations and discussions from a variety of new as well as experienced faculty from Seattle University, University of Washington, Gonzaga, University of Oregon, Lewis & Clark, University of Montana, the University of British Columbia, and Willamette. The community learned about new clinics at the University of Oregon and the University of Washington, examined models of collaborating with volunteer attorneys, externships, legal writing faculty, and law librarians, considered the ethical challenges of representing children in law school clinics, and provided feedback on a book Deborah Maranville is co-editing on legal education. A new organization was even created to support externship directors in the region. All in all, it was a productive conference.
The group has already scheduled the dates for next year’s conference: October 2-4, 2015, at Sleeping Lady in Leavenworth, Washington (http://www.sleepinglady.com/). Before they left though, the conference participants did something that this group rarely does. They entered a formal session, discussed the tragedy unfolding at Lewis & Clark, and unanimously agreed to express their deep concern over the decision to close the Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic to the Lewis & Clark administration, the AALS Section on Legal Education, and the ABA Section on Legal Education. When those letters are available, I will post them here. In the meanwhile, I encourage you to contact our colleagues at Lewis & Clark with any suggestions or insights you have that may be helpful to them in these deeply disturbing circumstances.
Monday, August 4, 2014
Today, Prof. Terry Adamson joins Pepperdine’s clinical faculty as our new Director of Externships. Prof. Adamson has been a valuable part of the law school’s community for years, as an adjunct, coach and, most recently, as our Distinguished Jurist in Residence. She is a former Commissioner for the Los Angeles County Superior Court where she served for nearly 20 years. She was a prosecutor for the Los Angeles County District Attorney after law school at the University of San Diego.
Terry has a teacher’s heart and loves our students. She is an excellent, practical lawyer, and she has cultivated a vital network of friends and colleagues in Southern California. With our Prof. Harry Caldwell, she is the author of CRIMINAL PRETRIAL ADVOCACY.
We are working to expand and improve experiential learning at Pepperdine, with new programs, new space and new faculty. Terry is a vital part of our school and brings new depth and focus to our field placement program. As you have opportunity, please welcome her to the clinical community.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
By now, most of us have donned our academic regalia for commencement and wished our new alumni well on their bar preparations and the launch of their legal careers. Time to take a deep breath, plan your well-deserved family vacation, and drop off that seven-pound load of professional clothes at the dry cleaner (finally!). We now have twelve weeks ahead of us before we start ramping up for the Fall 2014 semester.
Twelve weeks? Not coincidentally, twelve weeks is just enough time to write a high-quality law review article. Now you might think that as clinicians we are not bound by scholarship obligations, and at your school you might be right technically, but the fact remains that we have chosen to work in a profession in which scholarship, not practice, is the coin of the realm. Thus, regardless of your school’s published criteria for the advancement of clinical faculty, you should consider using a substantial portion of your summer for scholarship so that your purse is full of academic currency.
If you want to get "rich" this summer, academically speaking, here are ten basic tips for productive writing:
- Even though classes may have ended, do not change your schedule. Go to the office every day, all day and write. Our academic associate dean here at Willamette once told me that the first step to being a productive writer is putting your backside in your chair and keeping it there.
- Block your time and be disciplined. I remember reading that we are only highly productive for a few hours per day. Identify what those hours are for you and schedule your writing blocks during those periods. During your writing periods, turn off email and close the Internet browsers. ALWAYS. Do not open them until your writing time has ended. Use the other four hours or so for less demanding work such as reading, researching, and answering emails.
- Quantify your writing. Some professors I know mandate that they write a certain number of words per day. Others require that they write for a certain length of time. Regardless of how you measure your output, set quantitative writing goals and allocate sufficient time to achieve them.
- Set qualitative writing goals. It is not enough to write a lot or even regularly. You must improve your writing through researching, outlining, developing, drafting, revising, proofreading, and external editing and feedback. Develop a 12-week writing plan that includes all of these stages to ensure that your work is high-quality. A resource to help you can be found here.
- Don’t wait for days of uninterrupted time. They will never come, or at least, not very often. Even during the summer, requests for letters of recommendation and bar references continue to stream in, some clinic cases are still active, and many of us are engaged in summer teaching, supervision, and are presenting at conferences. Do not let these prevent you from writing this summer. When I first joined the academy, I read a book about how to be a successful professor. It referenced a study that showed that professors who worked on their scholarship every day, even for just one hour, were far more likely to get tenure than those who wrote in blocks of uninterrupted time. So write every day.
- Ask for (and offer!) help. I suspect that many doctrinal law professors are introverts and many clinical law professors are extroverts (which is what makes our conferences such a riot!). The consequence of this is that we may need to develop writing partnerships or even writing support groups with whom we can talk about our writing, set goals, exchange drafts, and hold one another accountable.
- Write your first draft from your own ideas. One of the criticisms of my early academic writing is that my voice did not come through. I was lacking confidence and so would hide behind third-party authorities and quotations from “experts.” The suggestion of Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School, for overcoming this very common characteristic in emerging academic writers is that we should write the first draft without reference to resources. Simply write your own ideas down and then build out from there. That way, your voice and ideas form the core of your piece.
- Tap into your passions. At a workshop for new clinical professors, I remember being in a working group about scholarship led by Philip Schrag. An intelligent young woman said that she did not have any expertise or ideas to share in scholarship. Professor Schrag spent just seven minutes asking her about her experiences and background and identified 3-4 topics for law review articles based on her interests and experience. Don’t undervalue your ideas and experiences. If you need to brainstorm, call someone. If you don’t know whom to call, call or email me (916-719-7796; firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will try to help you brainstorm or get you matched with a mentor.
- Remember that the prime submission cycles are August and late January/February. Plan to submit your summer work during those periods for the best placement. ExpressO is a popular portal for submitting law review articles to numerous journals simultaneously.
- If you would like to present your article in a supportive and scholarly workshop before submission to a law review, consider applying to the Clinical Law Review’s Writers’ Workshop to be held at NYU Law on September 27, 2014. The deadline for applying is June 30. More information and the application can be found here.
Now, enjoy your summer and write on!
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
This section, “But How Do I Teach…?: TOPIC” will focus on a different skill, area or lesson for clinical teachers and others alike to consider using/adapting for their teaching needs. The first focus topic is that of poverty – a situation that most clinical clients find themselves in when they seek our services.
A recent article by Steven K. Berenson (titled Preparing Clinical Law Students for Advocacy in Poor People's Courts (43 New Mexico Law Review 363 (2013)) highlights that teaching students about poverty, and practicing in poor people's courts, often falls on the shoulders of clinical faculty given the clientele we serve. While this may be true, do we teach poverty in clinics? In larger settings? Why/why not? If so, how? For newer clinicians, unless you have had training on this issue, highlighting it as a topic for your clinic may seem daunting. We know that poverty exists, but how do we convey understanding and suspension of judgment to our students (not forgetting that some of our students might have personal familiarity with poverty)? What follows is an overview of a basic poverty lecture and an interactive exercise for you and your students to work through, even if you teach this regularly.
What is poverty? Poverty is recognized really as two main types – generational and situational. Generational poverty occurs when your client is poor, their family has been poor, their family’s family has been poor – in other words, poverty is all they know. Situational poverty occurs when you have a client who might have been middle or upper class, but due to debt, foreclosure, medical bills, etc. they are thrust into poverty due to their situation and their circumstances.
Offered here is a proposed classroom exercise that has been run with great success the last several years in a clinical setting. The platform for discussion comes from an interactive poverty simulation known as Spent (link follows below). Allow about an hour for the exercise. When introducing poverty to students, defining the two main types as noted above offers a great general context for the types of clients they may be faced with. With each form of poverty comes its own challenges, judgment and client expectations. To get the students to work through the obstacles faced by our clients, have them pair up with a laptop, pad of paper and a pen. Direct them to the Spent scenario as listed below, and tell them to work through the entire thirty days of the scenario, keeping track of their choices as they go, giving them about 20 minutes to a half hour to do so. At the end of the exercise each pair reports back on how much they had left at the end of the month, and what the easiest and most difficult choice was and why. Once everyone is done, a group discussion can be held for 20-30 minutes. All monetary outcomes are written up for comparison, and each pairing is asked to reflect on the above and give their general impressions of how it felt to survive in poverty. The amounts each pairing ends up with will vary dramatically, as will their impressions of their ability to survive. Most students end up trying the scenario again within the allotted time frame “to try and win” without success – which is also a great lesson in itself – how exactly does one “win” in poverty? Great question. And fuel for more discussion. If you have never completed Spent for yourself, spare a half hour to reconnect with some basic situations and dilemmas.
Additional Resources: The newly released textbook Poverty Law, Policy & Practice by Juliet Brodie, Clare Pastore, Ezra Rosser and Jeff Selbin (available via Wolters Kluwer or Amazon). Simulations include the Poverty USA Tour (available at http://www.povertyusa.org/the-state-of-poverty/poverty-usa-tour/) and Spent – an interactive simulation putting you in survival mode for 30 days in Poverty (available at playspent.org/playspent.html). Lastly, Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days Series, Episode 1 makes for excellent watching as Morgan and his fiancé try to survive on minimum wage for 30 days.
Have ideas/exercises/topic suggestions? We would love to hear them! Please send any suggestions to email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you!