Monday, January 4, 2016

Innovations in Immigration Law Teaching & Lawyering: Professors Juliet Stumpf and Stephen Manning’s Transformative Immigration Law Seminar

Jstumpf Smanning

The next post in our Innovations in Immigration Law Teaching & Lawyering series (prior posts here, here and here) features Juliet Stumpf, Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark Law School and attorney Stephen Manning, Director of the Innovation Law Lab and Partner at Immigrant Law Group PC in Portland, OR.  Professors Stumpf and Manning teach the Transformative Immigration Law Seminar, a 3-credit upper-level course that blends theory, practice, and technology.  Blog readers may be familiar with the instructional videos created for the Transformative Immigration Law Seminar, available through the immigration law page of LegalEd, the great resource that facilitates flipped learning in law school (created by Prof. Michele Pistone).

  1. What are the goals of the Transformative Immigration Law Seminar?

The heart of the course is engaging students in using the tools of change: contributing to litigation in the form of draft amicus briefs, creating authority through writing scholarship or policy or practice briefs, engaging in administrative policy-setting, and exploring the use of nontraditional authority such as social science literature.  The course exposes students to aspects of lawyering that move beyond traditional litigation but nonetheless comprise work that lawyers do as matters of practice.  At the same time, the work that the students do positions them to think comprehensively and outside the box about how law evolves and what role they can play in its evolution. 

The course also requires students to complete an intensive collaborative writing project on an unfolding area of law.  The writing projects have three goals: they engage students in the real-world transformative work on a live issue, they provide students with a well-researched, thoroughly revised written product, and they gain important skills in collaborative work by writing as a partnership and giving and receiving peer feedback.      

Finally, the course invites professionals engaged in transformative work--lawyers, activists, judges, social scientists, law professors--to spend 20 minutes in conversation with the students about the work they do.  Our goals are two-fold: to bring in seminar guests who are at the forefront of their fields to describe their vision, their motivation, and their work, and also to connect students interested in transforming law with the people who are actually doing it.   

  1. In what ways is the course different from or similar to a traditional law school seminar?

It is similar to a seminar in that it meets in a classroom for an extended, intensive period.  It provides an in-depth exploration of a chosen area of law.  Like a seminar, students draw on research and scholarship to deepen their understanding of that discrete topic.  And they write, and receive lots and lots of feedback on their writing.

It differs from a seminar in that the course has one foot in the real world.  It is structured to permit students to shift their focus from the project they are doing to reflecting about how their projects fit into a larger multi-faceted effort to transform a social issue.  This is one of the skills we want our students to be able to use later in their practice: the ability to toggle one's perspective from doing something well to seeing how what one is doing fits into a larger picture of legal evolution.   

Some of the student projects are "published" -- either filed as amicus briefs or as blog posts.  Other projects inform the litigation and policy conversations surrounding the chosen issue.  For example, two of the amicus briefs our students drafted in the first year of the seminar were revised and filed on behalf of AILA in BIA litigation.  We are also interested in nontraditional vehicles for legal change and pedagogy.  Last year, a series of blog posts on the detention of female-headed families appeared in Oxford's Border Criminologies blog.  The series gave one pair of students a chance to connect social science research with legal advocacy, and at the same time create legal authority–the blog posts themselves–that can be cited by other scholars or litigators or legal actors.

  1. How do you incorporate technology into the seminar?

Technology is critical to the seminar. Since there is no prerequisite for the seminar, some students come in with very little knowledge of immigration law. To get them up to speed quickly, we use a "flipped-classroom" model in which students watch a short, information-packed video that supplements the reading in the same way as the mini-lecture that many of us do in our classes. That frees up class time so that we can move directly in class to applying what they've learned.  So far the seminar has focused on detention law, so many of the videos are focused on providing the fundamentals of detention law. We use a program called Videoscribe, which is like a technological erector set for creating whiteboard videos.  But you could achieve the same goal by using a voice-over on your PowerPoint slides. 

We also use technology to bring our speakers into the classroom.  We use Fuze, which is basically a more stable version of Skype, to video conference our speakers onto the big screen in the seminar room using their laptops.  That has given our speakers the flexibility to join us from wherever is convenient.  Judge Paez joined us from his chambers at the Ninth Circuit, but others have Fuzed in from wherever they are on travel, or from home.  The one issue technology has not been able to solve is the time change: Professor Mary Bosworth generously agreed to speak to us at 10 PM her time from her home in Oxford.     


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