An Easy Way for Your Students to Learn More about Actual Legal Practice

The new academic year will begin soon (yikes!) and you may be finishing your syllabi for the fall semester.

If you want to help your students get a better understanding of the real world of practice in a wide range of courses, you can include a Stone Soup Project assignment in your courses by having students conduct interviews and/or observe court proceedings.

In some courses, you might assign students to interview lawyers or professionals that lawyers often work with.  In many courses, you might assign students to interview friends or relatives to get clients’ perspectives, which is too often missing in legal education.  Stone Soup has been used successfully in clinical and externship courses as students conduct focused interviews of supervisors or clients.

Last year, the project has engaged about 1000 students in 40 classes covering 12 subjects, taught by 32 faculty from 25 schools in 3 countries.  This is an understatement because some colleagues have essentially used Stone Soup assignments for years, well before the Stone Soup Project started, and they aren’t included in these figures.  Although faculty used Stone Soup mostly in traditional ADR courses, they also used it in other courses including in access to justice, evidence, externship, and trusts and estates courses.

This post provides links to resources that make it easy for you to use a Stone Soup assignment.

This post describes how faculty could use Stone Soup assignments in 1L courses and includes model assignments tailored to contracts, property, torts, civil procedure, and criminal law courses.  In contracts, property, and torts classes, students may be able to interview friends or relatives about their experiences.  In civ pro, students (perhaps in groups) can interview lawyers about strategy in handling pleading, discovery, motions, or other civ pro issues.  In criminal law, students can observe court proceedings in criminal law matters.  This post suggests that faculty require students to do interviews in these courses (or court observations in criminal law courses) but not require students to write papers or be graded on these assignments.  It explains why – perhaps counterintuitively – students could get a lot of benefit from doing these assignments very early in a course, before they learn the legal rules.

This post suggests ideas for faculty to use Stone Soup assignments in 2L and 3L courses, with specific suggestions for administrative law, bankruptcy, business organizations, commercial transactions, consumer protection, employment discrimination, evidence, family law, insurance, interviewing and counseling, labor law, landlord-tenant law, pretrial litigation, professional responsibility, real estate, tax, and trusts and estates courses.  You could use Stone Soup in other upper level courses as well.  As with 1L courses, you may want students to conduct interviews or observations early in the course and without requiring students to write papers.

This post collects faculty assessments of their Stone Soup experiences, including the assignments that faculty used and discussion of what worked well and what they might do differently in the future.

Here’s a table identifying characteristics of Stone Soup courses and providing links to faculty assessments of the courses.  For each course, the table shows the class size; whether the assignment was required, an option, or extra credit;  paper length (if any); due date; percentage of the grade allocated to the assignment (if any); and whether the assignment was discussed in class.

This post provides specific suggestions based on faculty assessments.  Here’s some key advice based on faculty’s experiences.

This post provides a complete set of documents to help you plan a Stone Soup assignment.  It includes: (1) guidance in developing these assignments, (2) a general model for an interview assignment, (3) guidance for students in conducting and summarizing interviews, (4) a model invitation for an interview, (5) a summary of professional ethics rules about confidentiality (indicating that professionals can discuss case information if they don’t include information that could reasonably identify the parties), (6) model paper format, (7) two sample grading rubrics, and (8) a consent form for students who want to share their papers publicly.

This post includes exemplary papers from negotiation (5), trusts and estates (3), and evidence (3) courses.  These papers can give you ideas about what you might want students to do in papers for your courses and you could suggest that students might use certain papers as models for the kind of analysis you want them to do.

If you would like to use a Stone Soup assignment in one or more of your courses next year,  please email me to let me know which course(s) and semester(s) so that we can include you in an updated roster of Stone Soup faculty.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss how you might use Stone Soup in your courses, feel free to email me.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer.


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