‘Not just another gabfest’

by Paul Maharg on 18/10/2010

Elizabeth Chambless's phrase, her ambition for the conference, and it summed it up.  So many legal ed conferences end up as gabfests.  Part of the intellectual buzz of legal education, for me at any rate, is the practical buzz of doing, planning, executing great ideas that are part of the great tradition of innovation in education.  So kudos to Elizabeth and David for pulling it all together so well.

I have to confess, though, that at the end of Day 1 I was having doubts.  The title, Future Ed 2: Making Global Lawyers for the 21st Century, focused on the globalisation theme, which fitted well with the Program on the Legal Profession, and the Center on Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry, both at Harvard Law School.  And thanks to that in-depth expertise, and it being Harvard, there were some first-rate panellists, and analyses. But little interaction except for the formulaic question session at the end of each panel.  I wasn't really sure if the format was working.  

Day 2, by comparison, was an explosion of vitality and creativity with the brief presentations of proposals throughout the morning.  That format worked well, and it's something I'll take away from the conference as a useful device for future conference planning.   The discussions of proposals were less dynamic, but the Technology Group certainly came up with something that I think the conference organisers shd be happy with.  The links between Day 1 & 2 were tenuous, though certainly there.  A number of the morning's proposals addressed globalisation directly, many indirectly.  But they went beyond the theme of this conference, and the last (April 2010, in New York – New Business Models for U.S. and Global Legal Education).  There was a welcome emphasis on method and design — how we might achieve some of what was talked about in Day 1.  Conference endings are a good indication of how it's going — glad to leave?  sad to go?  Definitely sad to go — Day 2 could easily have extended into another day.

 The next stage is implementation.  Our proposal was an experiment in experiential learning, one that fused the techniques of Standardized Client with SIMPLE, to produce a feasible, flexible, cost-effective heuristic that would increase student learning — a world first.  We'll be working on that in coming months, at U of New Hampshire, Northumbria and Strathclyde.  Our first planning meeting was dinner directly after the conference — foodfest, then to work.

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