Clinical Law Prof Blog

Editor: Jeffrey R. Baker
Pepperdine University
School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Time for Summer Writing

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.   
  8. 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; wbinford@willamette.edu) and I will try to help you brainstorm or get you matched with a mentor.
  9. 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. 
  10. 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!

 

 

 

May 22, 2014 in Books, Conferences and Meetings, New Clinical Faculty, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

But How Do I Teach...?: Poverty

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 chagangr@iupui.edu.  We look forward to hearing from you!

April 22, 2014 in Games, New Clinical Faculty, New Clinical Programs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)