Dispatch from the Crossroads (of innovation and reform)

Setting:   Seattle.  It’s sunny and warm.  Mt. Rainier beams down on us like a wise and indulgent grandfather.   We’re all set for 42 hours of thought, discussion and plotting revolution in and of the legal academy.  And that’s what we do. 

Random observations:   lots of men here.  Lots of suits here.  Lots of men in suits here.  I don’t think we’re at a clinical conference anymore, Toto.  And indeed not.  One of the great things about this workshop was the absence of the distinction between clinical and non-clinical teachers:  we were all there just as teachers; it really didn’t matter of what.  And boy, do we all love teaching! And talking about teaching.  And thinking about how to do it better.

Less Random observations (a.k.a. more serious thoughts):  the word of the day for me was Intentionality.  Second place:  goals.  And of course the two together:  being intentional about goal-setting; being intentional about goal-reaching; being intentional about how/whether we were achieving our goals. 

The Best Practices Implementation workshop, entitled “A Consultation:  Best Practices Meets Reality,” was just one opportunity to engage in this recursive dialogue.  The session focused on challenges to curricular innovation at the William S. Boyd School of Law at UNLV.  Faculty from that school described some of their curricular innovations and explained some of the issues that have affected and are affecting their efforts.  Then members of the Best Practices Implementation Committee along with members of the audience discussed the extent to which the concerns raised by the UNLV folks might be addressed by using principals set forth in the Best Practices book.  We were able to boil down these principles into the “Three M’s”:  Mission, Methods, and Measure.  In other words:  do you have a mission and what is it? What methods are you using, and are they consistent with your mission? And, finally, what system are you using to measure how effective your methods are in meeting your mission?

The Best Practices conversation was robust and complex (despite a lot of people in a very very hot room), and we are left with threads of questions and ideas for further dialogue about how to use the Best Practices framework as a tool for implementing and assessing real reform in law schools.

Another less random observation:  lots of attention was paid to new programs, new schools, new ways of doing things (and by new, I’m thinking about anything five years or less).  One of the interesting conversations I would like to continue having in hallways and faculty meetings — and then at more conferences like this one — is how do we keep doing this stuff, even if we’ve been doing it already for 5 or 10 or 30 years? How can we learn both from the new programs and also from the programs that have been around the block a few times? How do we keep innovating in the face of pressures not to — whether they be internal or external — once we’ve been up and running for a while?

Go check out the materials at http://files.law.washington.edu/open/crossroads_conference/ and mark your calendars for Crossroads III, which rumor has it might be taking place in Indiana.


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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for the update on the productive conference! I’d love to hear if new “successes” were discussed. By success, I mean a better integration of theory and practice in more traditional courses or a thoughtful expansion of problem solving/lawyer prep opportunities.

    I think Professor Maranville also raises an excellent point about “new” as the sexy term coming out of Best Practices. In some ways, schools which did nothing innovative for years appear to be “ahead of the crowd” by announcing as “new” programs and courses already institutionalized at schools with longstanding commitments to preparing students to be competent client centered lawyers. I think the challenge for schools which have marched for some time on the continuum of Best Practice theory and models is: 1) to breathe fresh energy into rooted programs and 2 ) to update the branches and leaves in language and tools more suited to this generation of law students.

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for the wonderful conference. I recently purchased a book which teaches Tag games,Ice breakers, Group problem solving… and the book is ” no props”. It’s really great….
    Ice-Breakers & Group Games That Work ‘No Props: Great Games with No Equipment’ by Mark Collard

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