Take One: The World Premiere of an Exciting New Resource on Pop Culture Pedagogy

Have you ever wondered what Star Trek could teach you about the U.S. Constitution or how an episode of The Good Wife could demonstrate best (or bad) practices during e-discovery? You’ll find the answers in an exciting new teaching resource — The Media Method: Teaching Law with Popular Culture, (Carolina Academic Press 2019).

Editor Christine Corcos of LSU School of Law has compiled twenty-seven interesting chapters chocked full of wonderful ideas for using pop culture as a fun vehicle to teach legal concepts on a vast array of diverse topics. She compiled works from law professors around the globe who integrate everything from poetry to comic books into their teaching.

While legal legend and author of Reel Justice, Michael Asimow, discusses how the lived experience of a lawyer often differs from its portrayal on the big screen, Deborah Ahrens shares how musical theater impacts her approach to covering difficult criminal law topics with her students. Other chapters showcase how to use pop culture as a vehicle to study Torts, Property, Civil Procedure, Evidence, Environmental Law, Professional Responsibility, and Constitutional Law. Nancy Soonpaa, JoAnn Sweeny, Sha-Shana Chricton, Terri LeClercq, and many more highlight creative ways to incorporate pop culture into Legal Research and Writing, including exercises focused on timely and important social justice issues. In Magical Thinking, Kelly Collinsworth explores how pop culture may be an equally effective vehicle to introduce college students to legal analysis.

My chapter — Pop Culture Pedagogy — explores the potential benefits and downsides of using pop culture in the law school classroom. I’ve included an excerpt of pages 68-69 below, although citations have been omitted:

Pop culture surrounds us. We lead “media-saturated lives” infused with influences from film, television, social media, and other aspects of pop culture. For better or worse, these influences significantly impact how we view ourselves, our profession, and our world. Our tech-savvy law students are particularly susceptible to these influences. Thus, if legal education hopes “to survive these pop culture ways of knowing and meaning, it too must transform.”

Prompted in part by calls for law school reform from the bar, legal educators struggle to find innovative ways to effectively reach the increasingly diverse and globally minded digital natives flooding our classrooms. This chapter suggests that when properly used, “pop culture pedagogy” may provide one such innovation — an “ideal medium” to “complement” black letter law and thus better promote learning and engagement, particularly with regard to professionalism.

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As used herein, “pop culture” refers broadly to “the body of intellectual or imaginative work in which human thought and experience are recorded.” As such, it encompasses cultural references that derive from traditional and non-traditional print media, including poetry, blogs, and graphic novels, as well as the so-called “public arts,” such as film, radio, television, video games, music, social media, and other Internet sources.

Likewise, “pop culture pedagogy” refers to teaching both with and about pop culture. For example, a Trial Advocacy professor teaching with pop culture might assign a chapter from Mauet’s Trial Techniques regarding how to draft and deliver an effective closing argument. In class, the professor could show film clips of closing arguments from A Time to Kill and Ghosts of Mississippi and ask students to work in pairs to draft a short reflection paper explaining which closing argument was more compelling and why. An Appellate Advocacy professor seeking to reinforce how citing authority enhances an advocate’s credibility at oral argument might show the scene from Law Abiding Citizen when accused killer Clyde Shelton cites a case in support of his contention that he be granted bail. In part because opposing counsel is unfamiliar with the cited case and provides no authority to counter it, the judge proceeds to grant Shelton’s motion even though his citation was a ruse.

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With the advent and widespread availability of new technology, pop culture has increasingly become an integral part of the human experience. Millennials – individuals born between the early 80s and mid 2000s — are indisputably the most “connected” generation in history, constantly bombarded with a vast array of cultural texts through which they construct meaning about themselves and their world.

Today’s law students undoubtedly consume more mass media than prior generations. With an IPhone in hand, AirPods in their ears, and an Apple Watch on their wrists, they experience the world amidst a backdrop of technological distractions, mentally multitasking every minute of the day. Given the sensory overload to which students constantly subject themselves, educators grapple with how to more fully engage them.

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I ultimately conclude that “pop culture pedagogy provides an easy and inexpensive way to bring [the] world into the classroom and share a glimpse of it with our attorneys-in-progress.” (p. 93)

To learn more about how you can teach law with pop culture, purchase a copy of the book from Carolina Press, Amazon, or other retailers. That’s a wrap!

 

Do you use pop culture as a vehicle to teach legal doctrine or skills? If yes, share your good ideas at teachlawbetter.com, and we might just post them. 

 

 

 

 

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Getting Them at Hello: Creative Teaching Techniques and Exercises to Engage New Law Students

By: Professor Lynn Su and Professor Anne Goldstein

The first few weeks of law school can be both thrilling and terrifying—an avalanche of reading, Latin lawyer lingo, and exacting methodology for thinking and writing about the law. This world of intellectual challenges takes place in an unfamiliar setting. Not only are students meeting new people and getting accustomed to a rigorous academic schedule, but many have also left behind the comforts of home, relocating to a new city, state, or even country to embark on the study of law. Forging into the unknown is fraught with great possibility and a bit of trepidation.

Because they are on the frontline of teaching first-year law students fundamental lawyering skills, Legal Writing professors can work to capture students’ imaginations and demystify the law school experience.  Legal Writing is likely to be the course with the lowest professor to student ratio in the first year of law school and typically continues for two semesters. Teaching small groups of first-year students for a full year, Legal Writing professors are uniquely well positioned to ease students’ transition. Continue reading “Getting Them at Hello: Creative Teaching Techniques and Exercises to Engage New Law Students”

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Why Legal Writing is ‘Doctrinal’ and, More Importantly, Profound

By: Professor Hal Lloyd 

So as long as we must use the questionable term “doctrinal” when referring to law school courses, I challenge everyone (including law professors who teach legal writing) to stop directly and indirectly referring to legal writing as a “non-doctrinal” course. Use of “non-doctrinal” can be code for “lesser” thereby suggesting that legal writing has lesser import than other law school courses. Erroneously so marking legal writing as “lesser” damages legal education across the board. It damages students and law professors not teaching legal writing by suggesting that legal writing and the theory, skills and insights taught by legal writing merit less of their time, which in turn increases the odds that both students and other faculty will remain ignorant of the critical knowledge and skills that legal writing teaches. It also damages law professors teaching legal writing because it invites disparate treatment such as lack of tenure, lower pay, and lack of equal respect. As a result, law professors teaching legal writing encounter greater difficulties in publishing scholarship, difficulties which deprive us all of the scholarship so silenced or deterred. Such erroneous code also ignores the profound subject matters addressed in legal writing courses today.

Such erroneous code further ignores fundamental principles of semantics and fundamental insights of modern cognitive psychology embraced by legal writing courses today. For all of these reasons, the term “doctrinal” should be replaced with “meaningful” when referring to courses and “proper subject matter” when referring to course content.

To learn more about this issue, read the full article. Continue reading “Why Legal Writing is ‘Doctrinal’ and, More Importantly, Profound”

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Bridging the Gap Between Substance and Skill

By: Abigail L. Perdue

So often I hear first-year law students admit to allocating less time to Legal Writing because it “matters less” than other “substantive” courses. Nothing could be further from the truth.

After all, Legal Writing is a substantive course. “Substantive” is defined as “possessing substance, having practical importance, value, or effect.” Doesn’t Legal Writing clearly meet this definition? For example, in my first-year Legal Writing course, students emerge with a deep understanding of key concepts in employment discrimination law from disparate impact to hostile environment sexual harassment. But as in the practice, they don’t just acquire substantive knowledge; they apply it in a practical way.

So too must a competent attorney bridge the intellectual gap between substance and skill.  An attorney must not only intimately understand the nuances of the relevant legal doctrine but also be able to effectively apply that knowledge in practical ways and communicate it effectively, both orally and in writing, to legal and non-legal audiences. Thus, Legal Writing matters because it empowers students to do just that. Continue reading “Bridging the Gap Between Substance and Skill”

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Speed Editing

By: Abigail Perdue

“I feel the need . . . the need for speed.” – Top Gun

Apparently fictional fighter pilots and forward-thinking Jewish rabbis have that in common. The widespread modern phenomenon of speed dating purportedly began in the late nineties when an innovative Jewish rabbi organized the first speed dating event as an efficacious way for busy Jewish young professionals to meet and mingle (Kennedy 2013).

Speed dating soon became so popular that its model was exported to the business world. Speed mentoring events sprang up across the country, and after attending a particularly impactful one, I brainstormed how to implement “speed editing” in my writing classes. Speed editing simultaneously achieves multiple learning goals from encouraging collaboration to demonstrating how to work effectively under tight time constraints. It teaches students how to thoughtfully give and receive constructive feedback and further hones their editing and oral communication skills. Here’s how it works.

As our time on an assignment module draws to a close, I provide a brief overview of the effective editing techniques we have already discussed and then dedicate the remainder of our 1.5 hour session to speed editing. This generally occurs in one of two ways, each of which I will discuss below.
Continue reading “Speed Editing”

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