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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Reflective Self-Analysis: A Great Way to End a Law School Trial Advocacy Course

Another trial advocacy semester at Southern Illinois University School of Law has ended.  We held our final trials last weekend at the Jackson County Courthouse in Murphysboro, Illinois, and it was gratifying to see the progress the students have made as advocates during the past fourteen weeks.  They've worked hard, and our gifted trial ad faculty of experienced attorneys and teachers played a considerable role in shaping their growth and development.

There is one remaining requirement for the semester: a guided self-analysis memorandum.  I started requiring this memorandum a few years ago so the students would be required to think carefully and critically about their final trial performance.  I identify several subject areas and ask them to answer specific questions about their preparation, performance, professionalism, and even their opponents.

From my perspective, this is a valuable exercise.  First, it helps students begin the habit of careful and critical self-analysis.  Second, the use of guided topics and specific questions largely forestalls such introspective answers as "this was a great experience and I learned a lot that will help me in my future life."  Third, I get a view of what goes on behind the scenes as the students prepare for trials: the witnesses who don't show up, the partners who refuse to meet and plan, the unexpected logistical challenges that occur when they discover the local county courthouses are not as well-equipped as the law school moot courtroom.  In turn, I use this information to help my own-self-evaluation of my performance as an instructor and course manager.  I've made a number of changes to the course as a result of trends identified in these memoranda.

I've included a copy of that memorandum with this blog post.  You can download it from Scribd if you'd like.  Feel free to use it, modify it and suggest improvements.

Good luck as you finish your semester and start planning the next one!

TrialAd Self Evaluation

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