As with the law itself, law students are always changing. And law professors should regularly consider how those changes will impact the classroom and our pedagogical approach. For our year-long Legal Writing course, the law students of 2021-22 surprised us with the careful and nuanced way they thought about language. Our 1L students were more interested in parsing the meaning, effect, and approach to potentially offensive language than any students we had taught before. We learned a lot from them.
Theme is vitally important in persuasive advocacy, whether written or oral. It took me several jury trials and a few seasons coaching high school mock trial to feel like I understood how to persuasively use a theme as a lawyer. Thus, I wanted to develop an exercise that helped first-year law students begin to grasp the idea of using a theme to advocate for their client. I created an exercise using opening statements from prominent criminal jury trials.
The Power of Vulnerability in Promoting a Sense of Belonging: The Perspective of a First-Generation American
- Vulnerability in the Classroom
Students who feel vulnerable because of their backgrounds may struggle in law school. Even smart and competent students can be defeated by a lack of self-confidence caused by a feeling that they do not belong in a world dominated by a more privileged class. I have found that being vulnerable and sharing my own experience with exclusion can help bridge the gap between students from different backgrounds and foster inclusivity and a sense of belonging.
“If It Learns Easy, It Taught Hard” Applying Lessons from Practice to the Lawyering Skills Classroom
The end of the academic year is a natural time for reflection. As I complete my fifth year teaching Lawyering Skills at Boston University School of Law, I am taking time to reflect on my experience. I came to teaching mid-career, after practicing in the litigation group at a Boston firm for fifteen years. I enjoyed mentoring and training junior associates, so teaching was a logical next step. As I reflect on my work as a Lawyering Skills Instructor, I realize that many of the lessons I learned in practice also apply to teaching.
Last year, I faced a double challenge: teaching a synchronous, online, required advocacy course and doing it at 8:00 a.m. During the long, northern, Idaho winters, an 8:00 a.m. class meant that we met in the dark for most of the semester. During the first class, my students were visibly sleepy and participation was low. During the second class, I knew what to expect and tried to inject more energy into my teaching, attempting to liven up the students. The result: I succeeded, but was exhausted by 9:15 in the morning.