Monday, October 1, 2012
I was intrigued by Michelle Bryan Mudd's recent post on the use of blogging in land use clinics. This was in large part because I have just implemented a similar blog site with my clinic here at the University of Idaho, although to slightly different effect and purpose than the one operated by Prof. Mudd at Montana.
Here is how I came to use blogging in my clinic. Last year, I started the Economic Development Clinic at the University of Idaho's Boise campus, which often entails substantial land use issues. Most of my students come to the class with very little experience in land use or economic development theory, much less real world examples of successful strategies for achieving those ends. As a result, I started a requirement last year that each student write a bi-weekly 250-word essay on an economic development tool that was of interest to the student. They in turn shared this essay with the other students and presented the substance of the economic development tools used in our weekly class meetings. I found the student essays remarkably well written, and the essays seemed to engage the students because the essays allowed the students to go beyond our specific clients and learn about the greater panoply of approaches out there that were in line with the students' interests.
This year, I decided that the essays were too good to keep internally. With the students permission, I started a blog called Idaho NEXT, at www.idahonext.com, which focuses on economic development in Idaho and the surrounding region. Essentially, what I have done is take the student essays from last year and put them in the digital age. While I might be overselling it, I think the students love this approach. It makes it feel more real to know that the "essays" are now "blog posts" and out there for all to see, not just their crusty professor and other students. And moreover, in a place like Idaho that is not saturated by news media coverage, I believe that this site will eventually become of value to the community as a resource for new ideas. I also believe that a social-media presence is an important skill for lawyers to perfect. According to the most recent ABA report, 22 percent of lawyers now work in firms with a blog. That means that the ability to communicate in the blogosphere in a professional manner that also does not jeopardize attorney-client relations is increasingly a part of being a practicing lawyer, and I believe, increasingly a necessary part of the training of lawyers.
Kudos to Prof. Mudd and her students for producing such an excellent website, and I hope to hear of more examples of clinics using blogs or websites soon!