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Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

The AALS Poster Project: A Story of Collaboration and Atomizing Facts

Margaret M. BarryLeigh GoodmarkMargaret E. JohnsonCatherine F. KleinLaurie S. KohnLisa MartinAmy Myers, and Jane K. Stoever presented the poster, A Story of Collaboration and Atomizing Facts (Download Collaboration):

Collaboration

Margaret M. Barry is a professor at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, where she has taught in its Families and the Law Clinic since its inception in 1993. She has published articles such as Clinical Legal Education in the Law University: Goals and Challenges, 11 Int'l J. Clin. Legal Ed. 27 (2007). Leigh Goodmark is a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, where she is the Director of its Family Law Clinic and the Co-Director of its Center on Applied Feminism. She has published articles such as When is a Battered Woman Not A Battered Woman? When She Fights Back, 20 Yale J.L. & Feminism 75 (2008). 

Margaret E. Johnson is a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, where she is the Co-Director of the Center on Applied Feminism. She has published articles such as Avoiding Harm Otherwise: Reframing Women Employees' Responses to the Harms of Sexual Harassment, 80 Temple L. Rev. 743 (2007). Catherine F. Klein is a professor at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, where she is the Director of Columbus Community Legal Services, the umbrella organization for the law school's live-client clinical program. She has published articles such as Justice Education and the Evaluation Process: Crossing Borders, 28 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y 195 (2008).

Laurie S. Kohn is a Visiting Associate Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center, where she is the Co-Director of the Domestic Violence Clinic. She has published articles such as The Justice System and Domestic Violence: Engaging the Case but Divorcing the Victim, 32 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 191 (2008). Lisa Martin is a Clinical Associate at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, where she teaches in the Families and the Law Clinic. She has published articles such as Using Fact-Finding to Combat Violence Against Women in Ghana, Uganda, and the United States: Lessons Learned as a Clinic Student, Clinic Supervisor, and Practitioner, 7 Geo. J. Gender & L. 349-56 (2006). 

Amy Myers is a Practitioner-in-Residence at American University Washington College of Law. She teaches Women & Law: Domestic Violence, the Domestic Violence Clinic and the Domestic Violence Clinic Seminar. Jane K. Stoever is a professor at the Seattle University School of Law, where she teaches Domestic Violence Law and the Domestic Violence Clinic. She has published articles such as Stories Absent from the Courtroom: Responding to Domestic Violence in the Context of HIV and AIDS, 87 N.C. L. Rev. 1157 (2009).

Here is their description of the poster:

This poster represents the collaborative work of domestic violence and family law clinical law professors in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore Metropolitan Region.  Together, we regularly meet and discuss all aspects of our clinical programs.  The most recent meeting sparked a discussion of how best to teach the lawyering skill of investigating, exploring and theorizing around the “facts” – not conclusions or assumptions.  We borrowed the phrase atomizing facts from a UB colleague Danny Shemer.  In this approach, we identified two ways in which we attempt to accomplish the same goal.  These two goals are presented in the attached electronic copy of the poster.  The first approach uses a children’s book, Measuring Penny by Loreen Leedy.  This book illustrates the various means by which a school-age child can measure her dog rather than simply by inches and pounds.  Using this as a starting point, the clinical teacher is able to have students think about how they can measure various “facts” in their cases – thus helping to break each fact into its most organic, “atom-like” unit.  The second approach uses an ambiguous photo that has multiple interpretations.  The one displayed is of a man lying on a bed while a woman stands by the doorway.  Among other interpretations, this picture could be of a man who is dead having been killed by the woman, or a man who is passed out from drinking too much and a woman who is injured by previous violent acts by this man.  To teach atomizing of facts, the professor first has the class generate different case theories or stories of what has happened in the picture.  Then the class picks one of the stories.  From that story, the professor leads a discussion where students generate facts in support of the story and facts that undermine the story.  With each fact suggested, the professor asks follow-up questions to make sure the students are focusing on “atom-like” facts, and not simply conclusions or bundled facts.  For instance, if the students state that the man is asleep, the professor asks for the facts that support that conclusion and continues to push the students to break apart each conclusion for the underlying facts, such as man is lying on bed, man’s eyes are closed, the bed covers are unmade, etc. 

As a group we agreed to try these various approaches to atomizing facts and promise to have some interesting feedback to offer attendees to engage with our poster about our successes and less than successes in teaching this concept!

-CM

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