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Monday, May 27, 2013

A Retrospective Look at EATS 2013

Having just returned from the 2013 Educating Advocates/Teaching Skills Conference at Stetson University College of Law, I can once again report that EATS was an excellent experience. I was able to rekindle friendships with some of my favorite people and make friendships with people I'd never met before. The content was phenomenal. As always, I left invigorated and full of new ideas and plans for the future.

I knew the week would be good when I walked down to the lobby of the Loews Don Cesar Hotel, a glorious pink stucco palace and the most picturesque hotel in which I've ever stayed, the first morning of the conference. If you've never seen the Don Cesar, here's a beach-view photograph from a beach on the Gulf of Mexico (I didn't take the picture, but I like it). I think it's very difficult to feel unhappy at the Don Cesar.

There, I was greeted by my good friend and co-blogger Hugh Selby. As per tradition, Hugh presented me with a couple of Cherry Ripe bars, an Australian candy bar. Several years ago, I read about Cherry Ripe bars on a website. I asked Hugh if he liked them, and he replied that they were "bloody awful." To prove it, he brought one to the States the next time we were scheduled to teach together. I thought they were great--if you like coconut, cherry and chocolate, you'd enjoy them, too. Hugh may be a post-cynical curmudgeon with a bleak view of life and humanity, but he's a good friend who always remembers to bring a supply of Cherry Ripe bars with him. If you'd like Hugh to send you some, contact him through his contact information on the blog. Tell him I sent you.

In this blog post, I'll discuss a few highlights of the conference. I also have commitments from several presenters to convert their presentations into blog posts that will be posted over the next few weeks. Nearly all of the plenary sessions of EATS were video-recorded, and those videos will be available on-line within a fairly short time; Charlie Rose will post an announcement on the blog with a link when they are ready.

So, on to the conference itself.

Wednesday, May 22

Courtroom Communications Lawyers Often Get Wrong. Ms. Lara Dolnik of Dolnik Consulting, LLC, shared research and insights about how core moral values affect jurors' decision-making processes. She referenced the research of Jonathan Haidt and others on the subject and recommended watching Haidt's TED talk on the moral roots of liberalism and conservatism, a link to which is here: http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html. Ms. Dolnik applies these insights about core values to the juror selection process. After introducing us to the concepts involved, she then conducted an exercise using an accident between a car and a truck to see how moral values drive juror decisions in the case--and how that might affect case analysis, voir dire, and case presentation. I found her presentation fascinating (as a group, we demonstrated every single one of the characteristics and viewpoints she had just introduced us to a few minutes earlier). I plan to read Haidt's book, watch the TED talk, and participate in some of the online research regarding morality at http://www.yourmorals.org/.

21st Century Advocacy Scholarship. This was a panel discussion chaired by Megan Chaney of Nova Southeastern. The other panelists included Gwen Stern of Drexel and Megan Canty of Loyola-Chicago. I thought this was a particularly valuable panel, because it included both term faculty without contractual writing expectations and tenure-track faculty who must publish to obtain tenure. They discussed the challenges of producing scholarship while still devoting sufficient time to teaching, developing programs and coaching competition teams. They also presented information about different types of scholarship, ranging from traditional law review articles to case files. Megan Chaney suggested forming an AALS section on trial advocacy. She also proposed persuading a top-tier law school to host a trial advocacy symposium and publish the proceedings in the school's law review. I believe we will hear more about this innovative proposal in months to come. In fact, before the conference ended, we heard that Peter Alexander, dean of Indiana Tech School of Law, was willing to spearhead the AALS section application process for a trial advocacy section. The panel sparked a lively discussion about scholarship and skills faculty, a recurring theme at EATS every year.

Ethics and Competitions: Where We Have Been, Where We Are, and Where We Should Go. This was an all-star panel discussion chaired by Eddie Ohlbaum. Dave Erickson, Bobbi Flowers, Jay Leach and Susan Poehls were also on the panel. Everyone agreed that Eddie's Model Rules for Mock Trial Competitions have started to make a difference in the culture of trial competitions, even at competitions that have not actually adopted them. Nonetheless, challenges remain, largely driven by the fact that there are schools with a culture of cheating, and at present, there are no mechanisms in place to penalize or remove the incentives to cheat.

Teaching Advocacy in an Overseas Environment. This was a truly international panel, with presenters from the Czech Republic (Petre Vanecek), France (Michael Da Lozzo), Australia (Graeme Blank), Hong Kong (Jack Burke) and the United States (Peter Hoffman and Steven Schmidt). Peter Hoffman, who has taught advocacy all over the world, in a variety of different systems, nicely summed up the unifying principle of this panel: although there are universal advocacy principles that apply in any system, we must respect different cultural traditions and avoid cultural imperialism when invited to teach advocacy in another country.

Using Acclaim in Advocacy Programs. The last presentation of the day was from a company called Connect for Education, demonstrating its Acclaim personal video capture software. This software permits both students and instructors to upload high quality videos and provide time-stamped annotations on the video. In an advocacy teaching environment, this would permit a student to post a performance video and the instructor to provide on-line critiques that are linked to the actual spot in the video being critiqued. A link to the software page is here: http://onmusic.connect4education.com/?page_id=84. I feel this software may very well help revolutionize advocacy teaching by providing a reliable platform for asynchronous performances and critiques.

Lifetime Achievement Award

In the evening, Professor Susan Poehls of Loyola University in Los Angeles received the Lifetime Achievement Award. I'll let Charlie comment more about this award and Susan in a separate blog post.

Thursday, May 23

Developing a Superior Advocacy Teaching Methodology and Managing an Advocacy Program. Dean Stephen Easton of the University of Wyoming spoke about why law schools should continue to offer trial advocacy programs in an era of fewer jury trials. Hugh Selby's presentation focused on his recent post in this blog, http://advocacyteaching.blogspot.com/2013/05/is-it-advocacy-appreciation-or-advocacy.html. Lou Fasulo talked about how to manage a large advocacy program, working with adjunct faculty, law school administration, the local bar and students to achieve stellar results. Finally, Adam Shlahet led a discussion about how to select good trial team coaches by striking the right balance between teaching ability, experience and heart.

Blending Doctrine and Skills in the Classroom. This was really two separate panels rolled into one. In the first, Jay Leach and Carey Bricker of McGeorge, with the help of two Stetson trial team members, demonstrated a direct examination listening exercise they've developed for their students. I hope one or both of them will blog about it and permit us to post the superb explanatory handout they created for the presentation. The second panel comprised Peter Alexander and me. I spoke about integrating advocacy principles and exercises into traditional doctrinal courses, and Peter followed up by explaining how he builds an evidence course around several mini-trials that are based on nursery rhymes.

Creating the 21st Century Law School: Doctrine, Skills and Service. Given the precarious state of legal education, this panel, chaired by Bobbi Flowers, generated some of the most enthusiastic discussion and debate of the entire conference. Nancy Schultz talked about how to work within the faculty self-governance process to effectuate change and gave sound practical advice regarding leadership, committees and individual stakeholders in evaluating and voting on proposals. Wes Porter spoke about the connection between ideas and leadership. He also recommended involvement in the Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers initiative at Denver University, where he has a portfolio for his first-year White Collar Crime in Practice course that has been recognized by ETL as an innovative course.

In the afternoon, conference participants divided into groups to create and film teaching scenarios. Those scenarios will be available online.

Teaching in the Moment: Developing Your Critiquing Methodology. The final full-fledged panel of the conference, this one featured Gillian More, Jude Bourque and the Honorable Robert McGahey. Each of them focused on different aspects of critiquing students. Gillian emphasized the importance of a disciplined system in which the instructor engages in active, accurate listening and is able to be a well-rounded and multi-faceted mentors to students. She tied her presentation in with timeless principles about persuasion from Aristotle and noted that these still form the basis of effective advocacy today. Jude Bourque spoke about being able to adapt to the outside concerns and pressures a student might bring into the classroom. And Judge McGahey brought everything together by reminding us that our teaching will only be successful when our students understand that their courtroom advocacy skills have a tangible effect on the lives, property and liberty of their clients.

Friday, May 24

On-Paper to In-Person. Joshua Karton, the high priest and shaman of advocacy teaching, worked with participants Friday morning. For those unfamiliar with Josh's innovative program, the following link from the Texas Trial Lawyers Association does a superb job of summarizing the goals and approach of his teaching: https://www.ttla.com/index.cfm?pg=semwebCatalog&panel=browse&ft=SWOD&bb=aut&aut=7895&ltr=E.

All in all, this was a great conference. I look forward to posting blog pieces from various conference presenters in the days and weeks to come. If you weren't able to come this year, make sure you include EATS in your plans for next year.

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