An interesting and critical story about the use of Powerpoint.

Perhaps I am just a bit too “old school”, but in my teaching I have resisted using Powerpoint (or any of the other versions whose names I do not even know).  Though, I admit to having given in  at conferences where I now routinely use such slides.  In my defence I started using Powerpoint at conferences after I found myself consistently addressing audiences that were completely or significantly EFL (English as a foreign language)  – a consequence of my extensive activity in Asia.  For that sot of audience, Powerpoint seems to be of some assistance (though even there I would be happy to be persuaded otherwise).

While I always had a gut reaction about learning and teaching that relied extensively on technology, and Powerpoint in particular, it is heartening to have my gut feeling somewhat vindicated by this story (and its own internal links).

Colin Picker

The teaching year has just started here, and for me personally, the teaching of a brand new course.

Beginning something offers the chance to see what we are doing as teachers of law close up, because for at least some period of time, it is not natural; it needs repeating and (re)getting used to.

Traditionally, legal education has been about training students to ‘think like a lawyer’; to develop supreme skills of analysis, meticulousness, reasoning and persuasion. Writers have identified the values that guide these skills, some of which, they argue, are harmful to the well-being of lawyers, the clients they serve, and their communities.

Indeed, for just and effective legal practice, what’s needed in legal education is a greater emphasis on broader cognitive, social, practical and ethical skills – indeed, an increased emphasis on competence and skills generally. Students also need opportunities to make these skills meaningful, in connection to others.

This isn’t ‘just’ the findings of a bunch of academics. The legal profession is beginning to support this thinking. The NSW Law Society is now restructuring its CPD program to reflect the contemporary reality that, as it states, these are not ‘soft’ skills, rather ‘fundamental’ ones that best serve the client. To do so, they’ve drawn on the analysis of Canadian lawyer and ‘legal futurist’, Jordan Furlong.

They ask, “So what exactly are the six new skills Furlong thinks need to be added to the [traditional] mix if we’re to create the complete modern lawyer?” They are:

1. Ability to Collaborate

2. Emotional Intelligence

3. Financial Literacy (adding a nice dimension to Colin’s recent post)

4. Project Management

5. Technology Affinity (um, not sure about this term and can hear the cries of gross commercialism from among more senior lawyers, – as with 3. – but it means being competent at using your computer, the internet and other mobile technology.)

6. Time Management

I would add ethics reflection and decision-making to the list. Also, I am fairly sure there are other aspects of justice and the law that, while more about substantive knowledge and attitudes, could be presented as related skills?

In any case, given its connections to mastery, social relatedness and the emotions of the individual, this set of skills has great potential to also support the well-being of lawyers and law students in ways that the traditional skills do not or do not do as fully. What do you think of the list? Whether we’re at the beginning of the year, or in the slightly wilder stage, does it seem like a useful and worthy guide for our teaching?

Justine Rogers

Critique of Australian Tertiary and Legal Education

In case you have not seen UQ’s James Allan‘s passionate critique of Australian tertiary education and law schools, here it is.

Some very good points, but it seems to me to be a bit one sided.  All university systems have annoying, silly and destructive aspects.   One could write just as strong and passionate attack on the other tertiary and legal education systems that Allan holds up as better systems (e.g., with respect to the US: the massive tuition; lack of post-tenure scholarship; the nonsense caused by use of the US News/World Report rankings;  grid-locked governance, and so on).  The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Nonetheless, it would be nice if some of the negative issues he correctly notes were fixed.

By Colin Picker

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