The Socratic Teaching Method – What the Clunk?
Law School Reform / 27 de agosto de 2017

I’ve had a couple (more than a couple…let’s say countless) conversations with law students about their classroom experience and the Socratic Teaching Method. Common words affiliated with their experiences are: HUMILIATION Fear of HUMILIATION Anxiety before facing HUMILIATION Confusion after HUMILIATION Crying in class leading to further HUMILIATION Anger hours later after processing public HUMILIATION Frustration knowing that next class will bring further HUMILIATION  So, what gives? WHY DOES THE SOCRATIC SLAP LEAVE US FEELING SO HUMILIATED? Isn’t the Socratic Method supposed to be a great teaching methodology?  Isn’t this THE symbolic classroom experience for law students to feel like real, rad, true grit law students?  C’mon!  Of course it is.  It’s supposed to make our classroom experience special.  It’s supposed to teach us to think analytically and find our own answers.  It’s supposed to carry on the tradition of that great old dude named Socrates for goodness sake! But, then, why the humiliation?  Is humiliation just a necessary part of the process?  I’m thinking no.  And, from what I hear from a little birdy attending a pretty nifty school somewhere over there, even his professors get frustrated with the Socratic Method.  It’s not just the students. REVISITING SOCRATES Let’s start with…

“Med Schooled”
Law School Reform / 27 de agosto de 2017

Dear Law Schooled,   Roughly speaking, medical school consists of two halves: The first half is learning theory in the classroom, and the second half practice in the hospital ward. In the first year of medical school, you learn about the normal body and its function, with courses bearing names such as Gross Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, and Immunology. By the second year, the curriculum shifts focus to things that can go wrong with people, and medical students learn Pathology and Infectious disease. During the third and fourth years of medical school, doctors-to-be are occupied with the clinical clerkships, which introduce the basic concepts of practice in the major concentrations within medicine. Students will “rotate” through many different clerkships, spending about two short months getting to know a little about Surgery, Internal Medicine, or Pediatrics for example. After the clerkships are done, the medical student chooses a specialty.   Sincerely,   Med Schooled     SOME THOUGHTS   Aside from the obvious, what makes a doctor so different from a lawyer?  Or more importantly, why is the basic structure of med school different than law school? Doctors, with an oath to “do no harm” to their patients, have mandatory clinical clerkships where…

The Value of International Students in Law School
Law School Reform / 27 de agosto de 2017

“Our world continues to become more global”.  ”We live in a global world”.  ”Globalization is an undeniable reality”. Considering the far-reaching effects of technology and its ability to shrink the globe, law schools need to prepare students not just for the “real world” but for the “globalized world”. What does this mean? It means law schools ought to consider the value of internationalizing schools.  It means law schools need to find a way to expose us to different cultures and languages and people so that we do not end up being completely ignorant and offensive ethnocentric neophytes when we meet a lawyer from another country who speaks five languages, knows more about our laws than we do, and not only has seen the latest Hollywood blockbuster but has seen it at an Imax in China. Students need to know how to work with individuals from different nations and backgrounds.  Period. What can law schools do to help prepare us for the “globalized world”? Here are a few suggestions: Encourage and set up more study abroad programs Better integrate international students into the general student population Develop programs allowing for more international students to attend LLM programs at our schools How…

Students have a right to be heard
Law School Reform / 27 de agosto de 2017

In the last Law Schooled podcast, student podcasters ask:  Should Law Students Get to Have a Say in Legal Education Reform?  While the podcasters provide valid reasons for why we should “have a say”, they don’t go far enough. We students have the right to be heard, and we should be active in shaping our own law school experiences and the direction of legal education reform. WHY? 1. We are consumers of a good.  That good is our law school education.  Some of you may say it was a worthless experience and some of you may always be grateful for having gone through it.  Regardless of your feelings about it, now or in retrospect, the fact is that you consumed a good (often costing hundreds of thousands of dollars), and you have the right to inspect that good, critique the good, and as individual stakeholders in the good, influence the development of the good.  In other words, you bought it or are in the process of investing more payments into it, and if you think your legal education can be improved, you have a right to be heard when it comes to your thoughts on how to improve it. 2. The world…

“Asking questions not only of others but of the self…”
Law School Reform / 27 de agosto de 2017

I had an email exchange with someone (not a law school student) the other day that raised some poignant issues relevant to us as law students. First, allow me to quote this person: “The other day, I attended Slavoj Zizek’s “God in Pain: Inversions of the Apocalypse,” part of the ALOUD author program offered through the Los Angeles Public Library. After what could only be a wonderful and invigorating discussion on God, belief and systems of belief (religions), the moderator, Jack Miles, made the perfunctory request for donations from audience members to support LAPL’s ALOUD and other free programs. Zizek enthusiastically picked up on the request and transformed it into a heartwarming argument for the support of such free programs, noting at one point that not only do these programs offer opportunities for cultural enrichment outside of the school system but it is exactly the need to counter the institution of education that support of and attendance to these free programs and forums – also completely open to the public – are so important. It may seem contradictory that Zizek, a tenured professor, would promote such a view, but, perhaps by way of (philosophical) explanation, Zizek also referenced Socrates, the…

Politics in the Classroom
Law School Reform / 27 de agosto de 2017

Perhaps, you’ve had a different experience than I have.  Well, of course you have, but let me share mine anyway (“listen to me, I’m a blogger!”). In the various courses that I’ve taken, I’ve noticed that professors bring politics into the classroom.  They often will (a) make clear their political slant, ask for challenges to the way this bias influences what they teach, and provide a clear structure for discussion (“I am X, Challenge me, Here’s how, and sure, let’s have lunch and you can adore me for being confident and comfortable in my own classroom”), (b) pretend they are apolitical arbitrators of the law, while insidiously infusing politics into what they teach (“Listen, kid, you say that out loud and you’re going to sound like a conservative nutcase in my class”), or (c) really think they are apolitical beings while accidentally expressing their political biases (“Oops, I’m pro-life, but that didn’t come out at all when I put up that picture of a fetus with nails”…) As a reflection, the professor described in (c) somewhat annoys me, but I feel sort of bad for her for trying to achieve the impossible – a political free zone in the classroom. …

Collaborative Exams: Horrifying and Brilliant
Law School Reform / 27 de agosto de 2017

A few professors on The Faculty Lounge described an innovation in giving out exams, aka “the collaborative exam”.  While reading the post, to be honest, I became incredibly anxious at the thought of something new yet entirely enthralled at the thought of something new! (ACK!  YAY!  HELP!  Ooo!  AH NOOOO!!!!  COOL.  NOT COOL.  COOL.  NOT COOL…) The general gist of the “collaborative exam” seems to be that the profs are giving students a chance to collaborate by allowing for discussion before the exam on topics or questions that will be asked on the exam.  The students then have a chance to make choices:  (1)  work alone and hope that individual knowledge surpasses the collective knowledge amongst peers, (2)  work with friends and hope that collective thinking leads to better knowledge (without, dissolving into distractions, beer pong, chit chats, etc.), or (3)  target students known to do well on exams and create super alliances. Interestingly, one or two profs seem concerned about flattening the curve because students will do better on the exam.  On the flipside, I’m thinking, cool, look at that, students (and maybe we could too) are actually LEARNING more if the curves getting flattened.  That is a GOOD thing, right?…

Do you “think like a lawyer”?
Law School Reform / 27 de agosto de 2017

A recent Law Schooled podcast included a section where the three student podcasters discussed the consequences of learning to “think like a lawyer”.  One student made an interesting point about being able to use this amorphous phrase as a justification for teaching methodologies. Short Clip from the Podcast that Inspired this post:  “Think like a Lawyer” All three students admitted to being clueless about what “think like a lawyer” meant, yet this is not the least bit surprising.  After looking into Reframing Legal Education’s “Wicked Problems” by Judith Wegner, it seems like professors and students generally do not agree on a single definition for “think like a lawyer”.  Here’s my take on this flurry of semantical, romantical fun. The phrase “think like a lawyer” cannot and should not be defined.  It should be tossed out altogether, and goals should be clearly stated. Some of the thoughts on what it means to “think like a lawyer” that both professors and students described in “Wicked Problems” do not overlap at all, and often they conflict to the point that when highlighted, they show a muck of a mess of a “Who’s on first? What’s on second?” Really?  Should our legal education, and especially first year curriculum,…

“I write better when I’m drinking” Wait! So, we were right all along?!
Law School Reform / 27 de agosto de 2017

Confession.  I’ve had these conversations with other students at various levels of schooling.  Kindergarten.  College. Law School.  It’s always the same: “I write better when I have a little to drink” or “I study better with beer” or “Five shots equals five cite checks” or ”I learn the alphabet faster when I have a bit of gin” LOL!  Yes.  Don’t deny it.  We all “L.O.L.” And then after we “L.O.L”, we slink off to our apartments to drink and write papers, isolated, cold, shivering, and alone. As it turns out, a new study (and we know we can always trust new studies), shows that drinking has a correlation to creative problem solving.  Professor Fruehwald, with yet another interesting post, highlights the good stuff: “Lead author Professor Jennifer Wiley of the University of Illinois at Chicago discovered that alcohol may enhance creativity problem solving by reducing the mind’s working memory capacity, which is the ability to concentrate on something in particular.”  “Research from thecurrent study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition also found that people who drank alcohol and had a blood alcohol level of 0.07 or higher were worse at completing problems that required attentional control but better at creative problem solving tests.”  “The…

Unicorns or Ligers? Law school for under $2500/yr with no curve?
Law School Reform / 27 de agosto de 2017

Once upon a time, in a distant and mystical land, law schools offered students affordable tuitions, a collaborative atmosphere, and training programs after graduation as part of the requirement to become an attorney. And, in this land, law students paid $2320.61 per year to get a law degree.  Aspiring lawyers entered law school right after high school, getting a bachelors and a masters, requiring at most only 5 years of tuition payments for both undergrad and law studies!  Plus, if a law student chose to work really hard, they could finish everything in 4 years! At these magical law schools, there was no curve, and students sent each other all of their notes from the semester with glee: “Want all of my notes from the semester?  Sure, no problem. Want my outline?  Of course.  Right away.  Sharing is caring after all”. The students studied to master knowledge of the material rather than to beat each other’s scores, and the motto was: “If I get a high score on the test, that’s great, but I really hope everyone else does well too!” By the time graduation rolls around and students consider their job options, they don’t choose a job to pay off…