If there's an advocacy topic you want to see discussed, or about which you wish to contribute, contact one of the blog administrators - see the list on the right side of this page. Lonely thinking changes nothing, sharing your thoughts may start a trend.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 2: EATS 2012

It is a beautiful afternoon in Gulfport.  Day two of the 2012 Educating Advocates conference is nearly over, and what a great day it has been.  This is the premier advocacy teaching conference in the country for a reason: advocacy teaching seems to attract some of the most interesting and creative people you'll ever meet.  I always find this conference energizing, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to attend and participate.  I leave with new ideas for improving my classes, eager for the chance to try new things with my students.

As I write this, Joshua Karton, the high priest/shaman of teaching advocates to become human beings, is working his magic with this year's group of new attendees.  In another room, a group of conference veterans has just finished identifying a number of common advocacy teaching problems (and suggested solutions) that will become problem-solving vignettes for the entire conference tomorrow.

A few highlights from today's presentations.

1.  Trial Competitions.  The morning began with an all-star panel on the topic of Eddie Ohlbaum's Model Rules of Conduct for Mock Trial Competitions (MRMT).  The panel consisted of Bobbi Flowers (Stetson), Eddie Ohlbaum (Temple), Jay Leach (McGeorge), Lee Coppock (Stetson) and Dave Erickson (Chicago-Kent).  All of the panelists have coached championship teams and thus brought a tremendous amount of credibility to the discussion.  This was not, in other words, a collection of perennial losers grousing about the general unfairness of life (I offered to moderate such a panel, but Charlie felt the credibility of his conference, and perhaps his law school, would suffer if I did so, and so he rather sensibly declined; also, Hugh and I had already participated in panels, and the other person we would have brought on the panel could not get funding to attend the conference).  All of the panelists coach teams to win ethically and have experienced considerable success doing so.  And all of them have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in trial competitions.

The MRMT, which have been the subject of several blog entries and comments in the past (available here and here), were used in a number of competitions this past year (I am going to ask Eddie's permission to post these rules in the Documentary Resources page on this blog).  The panel reported on the rules and led a lively discussion of cheating, whether the rules are necessary, what other types of rules might work, the role of competition committees and protests, and other similar topics.

Eddie memorably summed up the need  for a 30-page code: "We have 30 pages of rules because there are at least 60 pages of ways to cheat at a trial competition."  Eddie identified a laundry list of ways to cheat in a Powerpoint presentation.  I will not post it here because of the possibility that it contains methods that some villainous coaches or nefarious students may not have thought of; there is no sense handing ammunition to an enemy.

To say that this was a lively discussion would be to mingle cliche with understatement.  The panel and the audience were fully engaged, with all sides of the issues (other than the pro-cheating crowd; no one ever defended that position) zealously advocated and debated.  I think it is fair to sum up the session as follows: (1) we all agree there is a problem with cheating and unethical behavior going unpunished or even rewarded at trial competitions; (2) there are a variety of approaches to solving the problem, including better competition files,  the MRMT, positive incentives, negative incentives, naming and shaming cheaters, competition bans for cheaters, stronger competition protest committees and effective protest procedures, and the like; (3) in practice, the MRMT have worked remarkably well and have been fine-tuned to reflect the experiences and feedback from the competitions; (4) other approaches, especially better case files such as the one used in South Texas's competition this year, have also worked; and (5) the increased attention to this issue is making a difference.

2.  Technology in Advocacy Teaching.  The second panel of the conference devoted to this topic, this one was moderated by Hugh Selby (Australian National University) and included Tom Stewart (St. Louis University), Lou Fasulo (Pace) and the Honorable Robert McGahey (Denver judiciary, University of Denver Sturm College of Law).  Tom Stewart began with a presentation about teaching evidence using a law firm model and treating the students as associates in his firm (with Tom as senior partner, of course) rather than the traditional student-professor relationship.  Tom has obtained a fellowship to design and teach this course using an experimental classroom at St. Louis University.  The classroom is designed to facilitate a different model of teaching and includes some absolutely amazing technology and equipment.  The heart of the course, though, is Tom's course design, which is truly innovative and about which I am sure we will hear more in future blog posts from Tom.

Lou discussed innovative uses of technology at Pace.  The first was permitting students to record their best performances on SD cards, with those performances graded.  In other words, the student could refine, retape, record and redo the assignment until satisfied with their performance, in much the same way students are permitted (and encouraged) to rewrite papers.  This best performance would then be graded.  This is a different model than the typical advocacy model, which grades a particular performance at a set time, regardless of whether that is the student's best work.  Taking advantage of some new video equipment at the school, Lou now gives his students the opportunity to conduct live, real-time critiques of their peers in the courtroom.  The courtroom performance is fed to a monitor in the jury room.  As the advocate in the courtroom is performing, Lou leads his students in a critique of the performance.  They cannot be seen or heard by the advocate in the courtroom.  Lou also has begun encouraging his far-flung student body to practice their advocacy performances with each other outside the courtroom through the use of Skype, Google Plus, and other technologies.

Bob McGahey gave a judicial perspective on technology and exhibits in the courtroom.  Like Michelle Joiner in yesterday's panel, he emphasized the importance of the fundamentals, not only to cover for technology failures, but also to ensure the best and most effective use of technology.

3.  Exhibit View.  There's a new trial software suite, Exhibit View, that includes a traditional PC software suite as well as an IPad app.  Bill Roach of exhibit view gave a presentation on the software.  Bill is going to write a blog post on the software (and his views of the conference) in the next few days, so I will say only that this looks like a great piece of software.  I'm going to obtain it, use it and teach it to my students.  It's intuitive, easy and affordable.  The company's website is www.exhibitview.net.  Visit the site; I'm confident you'll be impressed with the software.  I'm particularly excited about the IPad app.

Until tomorrow, all the best from Florida!

No comments:

Post a Comment