Simulated Clients @ Chinese University of Hong Kong

by Paul Maharg on 29/01/2015

Been travelling recently, so not much posting.  To Hong Kong in early December, training Simulated Clients for the Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, organised by Elsa Kelly.  Spent four intensive days on scenario and assessment standardisation, with 10 clients.  The sessions were attended by Matthew Cheung and Martin Doris.  Martin and I go back to Strathclyde U. Law School, where we worked on Induction programmes, so it was great to see him again.  Working with Elsa, Matthew and Martin ensured that the training programme could be replicated by local staff, for new SCs, and for refresher training on the two scenarios we used.  The clients will be used on five programmes in the Faculty.

Why SCs?  Because amongst many other things, the method challenges the following:

  1. Curriculum methods.  The learning of skills such as interviewing has always been problematic for law schools, undergrad or postgrad.  Are they to be integrated?  Learned in special units or modules?  Pervasive?  In which places or space – where should it take place?  Clearly the holy trinity of library, lecture theatre and seminar room are not satisfactory spaces.  Schools with professional programmes build small customised spaces for the activity, but often not enough, and still not the sort of spaces that real clients are interviewed in real offices.
  2. Hollowed-out skills rhetoric
    The SCs are real people, in part trained to be themselves in an artificial situation.  The tensions between enacting rather than acting, and between client and judgment (by the client of the interviewer) creates a dynamic that enables students to be much more immersed in the skills of client interviewing than in any situation other than the real one.
  3. Conventional forms of regulation by regulatory bodies
    The SCs assess performance.  Academics oversee their training, and the validity, reliability and fairness of the judgments they make, but the initial call is made by a lay person, not an academic. This may well be a new thing for at least some regulators.
  4. The role of regulator, as encourager of innovation & radical reform
    If it is a new thing, and it works well, why should regulators not encourage all law schools to use the heuristic as much as possible? Can we use the substantial literature on simulated patients from medical education research to persuade them of this?

As always I’m taken aback by the technologization of everyday life in HK.  Here’s a taxi driver with what was for me a record number of phones arrayed in front of him, plus one on his lap he was plugged into, with maybe another in his door pocket – in addition to the usual taxi fare kit.  Awesome.

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