Carrie Kaas and Mary Lynch’s Best Practices Presentation, or NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION

When in North Dartmouth (Massachusetts), go with the flow, and be creative.  That’s what Carrie and Mary did today, Oct. 15,  at their Best Practices presentation at Southern New England School of Law (SNESL).  They adjusted to a colossal late-night technological glitch (Mary’s laptop crashing prior to sending Carrie the slides!) without a hitch (or at least without their audience noticing the hitch).  None of us could tell that they had finished their preparation in the car on the way from Connecticut to North Dartmouth! 

While there was a bit of “preaching to the converted” with Justine Dunlap’s and my presence, several participants had never heard of the BP movement in advance of the meeting, and others had only engaged with it once, a couple of summers ago at an informal gathering at my house.  The level of participation was impressive, and included full-time faculty along with writing faculty, adjuncts, and graduate clinical fellows.  In addition, the participants’ willingness to engage the presenters’ requests — by breaking-off into small groups to address questions Carrie and Mary assigned us – indicated, may I suggest, a willingness to work both individually and cooperatively to improve how we do what we do at SNESL.  The questions Carrie and Mary asked us to address in our small groups included the following: (1) where people thought SNESL was, within the context of the BP movement, (2) what SNESL does well, and (3) where we can improve.  What was encouraging, given that the group has on the whole been working together for many years, was the level of enthusiasm in the small groups; it was difficult for our leaders to get us to break out of the small groups and return to the larger group to share our findings.  But when we did, there were some clear themes, which the presenters encouraged us to continue to address together  throughout the year.

While I can’t judge the level of enthusiasm with which the participants approached the event, it was clear that, while it lasted nearly 2 hours, several participants would have stayed longer had the room not been overtaken by students coming in to take a midterm (which, our presenters noted, was a positive sign, given that assessments were being done at mid-semester!).

 I’m writing at the end of this energizing day, before receiving the presenters’ feedback: a summary of both the responses to the small-group questions and anonymous responses we were encouraged to offer.  It may, then, be too soon to judge whether we at SNESL will use today as our starting point for a serious commitment to the Best Practices Movement.  But I do feel confident that, whether or not the group as a whole moves together into the Movement, some of us within the group will surely address our self-identified “could be improved” aspects (assessment being frequently mentioned) and, through that work, join with the Movement towards the future of legal education.

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