Sunday, May 8, 2011
On Thursday Pace Law School hosted the conference Practically Grounded: Best Practices for Skill Building in Teaching Land Use, Environmental, and Sustainable Development Law. John Nolon and Patricia Salkin organized this event to advance the discussion they started with their recent article Practically Grounded: Convergence of Land Use Law Pedagogy and Best Practices, published in the Journal of Legal Education (2011). The conference was ably sponsored by the Pace Law School's Land Use Law Center for Sustainable Development and the Kheel Center on the Resolution of Environmental Interest Disputes; and Albany Law School's Government Law Center and the Center for Excellence in Law Teaching.
The conference brought together a diverse group of people from across disciplines and the legal profession. Among academics, there were land use and environmental law profs, as one would expect, but also a number of scholars who brought their particular expertise and experience in legal education and the best practices movement. There was also some great participation from practitioners and students at the event. A lot of great ideas were shared. Here's a quick rundown of the presentations:
After the introduction by Profs. Nolon and Salkin, the first panel was an overview discussion of the context of skill and value teaching in law schools and a very helpful discussion of the (much-discussed but less-well-understood) Carnegie Report and Best Practices Report. Mary Lynch (Albany Law, and also editor of the Best Practices for Legal Education Blog), Jill Gross (Pace), and Vanessa Merton (Pace) conducted this informative discussion along with a humorous role-playing excercise.
The next panel was "Clinics and Values." Our own co-blogger Jamie Roskie (Georgia) presented "Values as Part of the Clinical Experience," exploring the role of values in student land use clinical work. Michael Burger (Roger Williams) gave an interesting take on intrapersonal intelligence and advocacy in "Psychological Intelligence as a Lawyering Skill: Integrating Students' Values into Doctrinal Analysis of Environmental Law & Policy."
Panel 3 was "Stakeholders and Role Playing." Karl Coplan (Pace), in "Teaching Environmental Law Skills Through Interest Group Role-Playing," blew many of us away with how extensively he uses role playing exercises in a capstone environmental law class. Andrea McArcle (CUNY) spoke about her fascinating newly-designed course in "Learning in Context: Land Use and Community Lawyering."
The next panel was on "Research and Writing." Dwight Merriam (Vermont Law; Robinson & Cole LLP) presented "Out of the Nest: Getting Students Published" from his intensive land use writing seminar. Yours truly (South Texas) then spoke about "Research and Writing as Best Practices in Teaching Land Use."
The fifth panel featured two of our recent guest-bloggers on "Science and Other Disciplines." Jessica Owley (Buffalo) discussed an innovative project called "Distributed Graduate Seminars," where six universities have cooperated to teach an interdisciplinary course on conservation easements. Jon Rosenbloom (Drake) showed how he engaged his students in real local policy issues in "Now We're Cooking! Adding Practical Application to the Recipe for Teaching Sustainability."
Finally, we heard about "Problem Solving." Michael Lewyn (Florida Coastal) discussed his approach to livening up a seminar course by getting students to see practical applications in "Experiential Learning through Field Trips and Seminars." Keith Hirokawa (Albany) closed with "Teaching Law from the Dirt," which discussed his use of and class visit to a real local development project.
The papers were all very interesting, and will be published online in a forthcoming issue of the Pace Law Review.
This was a really enjoyable conference and, I think, a very important one too. It was absolutely fascinating to learn about so much innovation and creativity that is actually taking place in (and outside of) our classrooms. One of the common themes--proceeding from the organizers' Practically Grounded article--is that land use is uniquely suited to the application of the best practices movement. But I think that any field could profit from a discussion like this. It's a great time to be teaching land use.