Thursday, March 10, 2011

Working in Collaborative Groups – The “Two Pizza” Rule

Many graduate students don’t care for group projects, especially when a grade depends on the work of others.  However, being able to collaborate and work well with colleagues is an important skill for law students to master.  Once students enter the “real world” as practicing lawyers, they will need to learn to work on group projects and be viewed as valuable contributors.  Often, it is these “soft skills” that may end up tipping the decision on whether to hire a summer law clerk as an associate.

A recent article in the Journal of Legal Education discusses the richness that group work can bring to the law school classroom.  “Studies demonstrate that group work by students will generate higher levels of participation, greater learning, and better products.”  William J. Rich, Balance in Legal Education: Pervasive Principles, 60 J. Legal Educ. 122, 126 (2010), citing Gerald F. Hess, Heads and Hearts: The Teaching and Learning Environment in Law School, 52 J. Legal Educ. 75, 94 (2002).  “Students who gain that understanding will be equipped to take those experiences into the firm, government, or corporate environment…and to gain greater success in their lives as professionals.”  Id.

The size of the group can certainly have an impact on the group culture and ultimate success.  A recent post on The Scholarly Kitchen about the efficiency of working in small groups discusses a rule that provides a great visual and understandable philosophy.  The “two pizza” rule (attributed to Amazon CTO Werner Vogels) is a concept that project team groups should include no more people than can be fed by two pizzas.  Maybe serving two pizzas would make the group work more interesting to law students!


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