The best presenters don’t structure their presentations by thinking, What’s the next point I should make? Instead, they decide, What’s the next question I want them to wrestle with?
-Page 88, Fast Company, by Dan Heath & Chip Heath, authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.
Kevin, Having graduated law school in 1970, your book refocused me on that very mixed experience. Currently teaching advanced mediation, I try as hard as possible to think about the students—not my presentation. A few quick generalizations for law students stimulated by your book:
1) Don’t think you’re studying cases—you are studying people in tough situations. Always find the human connections. Listen for the underlying story/drama.
2) What is the impact or importance of what you are studying? Find it? Without a sense of importance focus is hard to find.
3) Learn that law is about working with people. The practice will be minimally about law and in large part about relationships, perspectives and emotions. Don’t let rational thinking be the only definition of thinking like a lawyer. You will be a counselor for most of your clients. Their feeling and your understanding them will make them your customers and often friends for life.
4) Get out of the class and get involved. Learn why this stuff matters and how it can help. We are a service profession, start serving. Clinical programs allow students to feel and be useful—as Kevin writes say yes and participate. My students are challenged and find satisfaction from their participation in mediations. Nothing can be better then realizing that you can use your new skills, combined with your decency and common sense to help people during tough situations.
5) For yourself within your school take advantage of moot court and other challenges—you will learn to stand on your feet—find greater depth in your analysis and gain confidence. Also law school can feel cold until you are involved with your classmates—you need friends. Help others and they will help you. This was true when I was in school and it is true today in practice. I am always open to assisting other lawyers and I have found them always open to assisting me.
Kevin for me it was working for the appellate defenders while in law school and participating in Moot Court which allowed me to tolerate and then thrive. I went on to have a trial and now a mediation career, both have been extraordinarily rewarding.
Your concepts of “showing up” and “stewardship” are right on the money.
University of Detroit Mercy School of Law
The current BusinessWeek cites new research talking about how it’s not all right-brain skill that lead to success. The article doesn’t talk specifically about lawyers, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand how this research applies to law school. Here’s a quote:
“A new study concludes that social skills can be a better predictor of future earnings than test scores are. Christy Lleras, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign sociologist, analyzed data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988, tracking 11,000 students from 10th grade until 10 years after their high school graduation. Her work, published in September’s Social Science Research, found that pupils described by teachers as conscientious, motivated, and able to relate well to peers and adults earned an average $3200 more yearly than those with equally good test scores but poorer social skills. Lleras says many socially adept students were helped by joining in team sports or other activities. It makes sense, she says, that in a service economy, ‘people with social skills will be much better equipped to navigate.’”
I spent some time today adding a bunch of functionality to the site. Gotta love WordPress!
You’ll notice a newsletter sign-up, a poll, my Tweet stream from Twitter, the ability to email posts to your friends or bookmark them easily, the ability to add my post to your Twitter or Facebook page, and there’s some other stuff that will be coming soon.
So, sign up for the email newsletter, vote in the poll, etc.
I’m still working on an accurate articulation of my goal, but I will say this:
A significant portion of proceeds from the Fuel the Spark projects will be given to support helping people (especially young people) recognize and then Fuel their Spark. I think one way to make this happen is to support programs that promote right-brain thinking skills (art, music, writing, relationships, etc.).
That’s pretty broad of course, and it’ll become more focused as I talk to people around the country.
Hi Kevin ~
I finished reading your book last night and I’m so glad you’ve written it! It’s a much needed look at a more holistic picture of law school and what draws people to the law and what can potentially feed or drain them.
You’re absolutely right that people are often drawn to law school because they want to change or fix something in the world. It’s the call to action. Oftentimes that “change” thinking can take us out of being in the moment, because we are working toward what we believe will be a better future. It can stop us from seeing the perfection of now. Your book offers a path to balance future desires with the awareness of the present moment. This is crucial to practicing wholistic law and to living a more integrated life overall.
Your book emphasizes the organic or functional relation between the parts and the whole, instead of the tunnel vision that many people experience in law or medicine. I applaud your passion for getting these concepts out to this population at an early stage in their relationship with the law. Your perspective is essential to shifting the day-to-day experience that we have with the law, in order to create a world that works for all.
Thanks so much, Kevin, for sharing it with me.
With grace and love,
Maureen K. McCarthy
Engaging the Soul @ Work
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Summary of the Findings and Recommendations from Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law (2007)
Click on the image or the title to download the PDF.
This report discusses some of the important changes that need to happen in the legal profession. Here are a couple sample paragraphs.
“The profession of law is fundamental to the f lourishing of American democracy. Today, however, critics of the legal profession, both from within and without, have pointed to a great profession suffering from varying degrees of confusion and demoralization. A reawakening of professional élan must include revitalizing legal preparation. It is hard to imagine that taking place without the enthusiastic participation of the nation’s law schools. Law school provides the single experience that virtually all legal professionals share. It is the place and time where expert knowledge and judgment are communicated from advanced practitioner to beginner. It is where the profession puts its defining values and exemplars on display, and future practitioners can begin both to assume and critically examine their future identities.”
And, listed as one of the “Two Major Limitations of Legal Education”
“Law schools fail to complement the focus on skill in legal analyses with effective support for developing ethical and social skills. Students need opportunities to learn about, reflect on and practice the responsibilities of legal professionals. Despite progress in making legal ethics a part of the curriculum, law schools rarely pay consistent attention to the social and cultural contexts of legal institutions and the varied forms of legal practice. To engage the moral imagination of students as they move toward professional practice, seminaries and medical, business and engineering schools employ well-elaborated case studies of professional work. Law schools, which pioneered the use of case teaching, only occasionally do so.”
My friend Don back in Iowa sent me these images from an email that’s going around. Of course he knows I’m a lawyer, and he also knows I’m a former Republican (now registered “unaffiliated”), and he was trying to pull my chain. I guess this post is proof he succeeded.
Granted, this can be interpreted either way – as a supporting vote for either Obama or McCain. However, the email itself was definitely meant to communicate that McCain/Palin is a better choice because they are NOT Lawyers.
Of course I’m biased by being a lawyer myself. You can’t get through law school without having a pretty thick skin relative to lawyer jokes, but this one is more important. I wouldn’t hire a doctor that had not been to medical school. It seems only logical that qualifications for being “hired” to support and maintain the Constitution and the other laws that are the foundation of our society MIGHT include some actual education relative to the subject… law school comes to mind.
The problem evidenced here is bigger than just the political debate. It goes to the heart of the failing reputation of the legal profession. This one is squarely on the lawyers. It’s squarely on the law schools. And it’s going to be on the law student.
I wrote my book Fuel The Spark: 5 Guiding Values for Success in Law School and Beyond as a tool and a catalyst to start making this change. I’m not the only one that wants to EARN the respect of the general public again. We do that one lawyer or law professor or law student at a time.
It was such a pleasure to read your book! You said it was short, but you didn’t say it was packed with a potent integration of your personal experience, wisdom from the great spiritual traditions, and thoroughly practical recommendations for living happily as a law student and lawyer. You really said a lot in that short book.