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ABA Journal

Don’t Ban Laptops in Law School Classrooms

Last week, I saw the article on the ABA Journal website where Suffolk law professor Steven Eisenstat argued that law schools should ban laptops in the classroom because writing notes by hand increased comprehension. He cited a study that suggested that students using laptops would type everything the professor said compared to students who took notes by hand and only had time to summarize the main points which improved comprehension. (In this study, laptop users didn’t have access to the internet or other distractions.)

I'm a monkey! by H.L.I.T. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’m a monkey! by H.L.I.T. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

While I agree with Professor Eisenstat that law students shouldn’t be stenographers (or surf the internet excessively during class), there are many reasons to allow laptops in the classroom.  Laptops provide access to helpful resources in the classroom.

I admit that I am not a fan of the Socratic Method. It’s an inefficient way to teach and learn, especially in cases that are so old that part of the challenge is understanding the basic vocabulary. When I took Constitutional Law as a 1L, my professor set the bar high for us and incorporated aspects of the case that weren’t in the case book – like the surrounding historical context. I often had a split screen during his class: my class notes were on the left and the Wikipedia page about the case we were discussing was on the right.

(Footnote: I think we should do away with the Socratic Method in general and adopt a lecture + discussion model instead. A professor will let a student go off in the wrong direction for half the class before saying that everything we’d discussed for the last 30 minutes was completely wrong. How does that help comprehension?)

Two thousand seconds left in today's class by H.L.I.T. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Two thousand seconds left in today’s class by H.L.I.T. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Additionally, having a laptop in class also gives you access to your classmates who can message you if you didn’t quite catch what the professor just said or if you need quick clarification. I took Criminal Procedure from a professor who was very old – and I mean old. If he was late to class we would worry he was dead in his office and he did pass away the following semester. He did not project his voice well and he tended to meander when talking about cases. It was handy to message my friend across the room, “Has he gotten to the holding yet?”

Moreover, sometimes you need to be able to respond to emails swiftly. Some opportunities are first-come-first-served so if you don’t respond fast enough, you could miss out. I remember one time my classmate and I both got email invitations for on-campus interviews. Most of the time slots were when we were scheduled to be in class, but since we responded immediately, we were able to get the only 2 slots that didn’t conflict with our schedules.

Furthermore, law students are adults! They should be able to decide for themselves whether they’ll use their laptop in class. If a school wants to encourage students not to use laptops in class, that’s fine, but don’t ban them.

I also wonder if this study is similar enough to the law school experience for the results to be applicable. The study was conducted with undergraduate students and I doubt the lecture they were presented used the Socratic Method. When it comes to studying the law, I often didn’t fully understand the concepts presented in class until the end of the course when all the pieces snapped together when I created my outline to study for the final. That’s when I could pare down my notes and describe the key concepts and identify what the professor would likely care about on the final exam.

This is what happens when you require students to take notes with pen and paper – Three Years of Law School Doodles by H.L.I.T.

SALK Day 208: David E. Mills

Today is my last day of Sponsor A Law Kid!!  My final sponsor of this adventure is David E. Mills of The Mills Law Office.    His recent claim to fame is being among the few lawyers who have had the privilege of arguing a case before the United States Supreme Court.  He obtained a 9-0 decision in Ortiz v. Jordan earlier this year.  I love that he’s done so much, and yet he’s still a down-to-earth person who works out of his apartment in Cleveland, Ohio.  He asked me to relay the story behind him becoming my final sponsor.

David E. Mills, courtesy of Mills Law Office

I announced Sponsor A Law Kid on November 16, 2010.  The idea came to me somewhat on a whim, and I had no idea if it would work.  My friend in the blogging world told me to “put out a blog post and see what happens.”  At that time, I had been blogging for less than a year and I was happy to have a few dozen people visit my site a day.  It took a few days, but Above the Law and the ABA Journal websites each ran a story about my endeavor and my numbers started to climb rapidly.

And then the comments started.  People who didn’t know me and wouldn’t know me from Adam, visited my site and left comments claiming that they were embarrassed for me and that I was lazy, undedicated, and begging for money.   It was hard to approve those mean-spirited comments.  I did not expect that level of negative backlash from the legal community.

I had over 3,000 hits in the first 10 days after I announced the program, including David.  He saw the post about Sponsor A Law Kid on Above the Law.  He thought my idea was interesting, and he was curious to see what people’s reactions were.   David had no intention of buying a day.  However, when he visited my site, he was so appalled by the unwarranted insults towards me and was so impressed with the way I calmly responded to them, that he offered to buy my most expensive day.

I’m so grateful for all the support I’ve received for this program.  Now that Sponsor A Law Kid is over, we need to find new endeavors to support, like the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.  Cleveland has a very special place in my heart, and this is a fantastic organization that provides a wide variety of legal resources for people who can’t otherwise afford legal representation.  It is staffed by wonderful people who work tirelessly for their clients.  They embody what the practice of law is supposed to be.

Sponsor A Law Kid was my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is David E. Mills.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

SALK Day 8 – Amanda Ellis – The Social Media Connection

My sponsor today is Amanda Ellis, attorney recruiter and founder of Amanda Ellis Legal Search.  Her firm assists associate level attorneys in finding jobs.  She is also the author of The 6Ps of the Big 3 for Job-Seeking JDs, a book that provides a detailed overview about how attorneys can use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to develop business or find a job.  She also maintains a blog on this topic with tips and her appearance schedule.  Many professionals are afraid of social networking sites.  Her book does a great job of instructing professionals on how to use these sites and tips for having a professional presence online and building relationships with others.  I’m looking forward to implementing some of her suggestions on how to use LinkedIn to find a job in my upcoming search for post-graduation employment.  When Ellis sponsored today, she asked me to share one of my success stories of being a law student and using social media.  I thought I would tell the social media history of Sponsor A Law Kid.

One thing I’ve learned about networking through social media is that it is a process, not an event.  It’s about building relationships and seeing each connection and conversation and a potential stepping stone.

In January 2009, I was a 1L who had just finished her first semester of law school and did not stick out in a crowd.  I attended the first Global No Pants Ride in Phoenix.  I was intrigued by the boldness of Jeff Moriarty for planning such an event and decided that I wanted to meet him.  I purposely stood next to him on the ride and struck up a conversation with him.  By the end of the day we were “friends” on Facebook.  Through Jeff, I heard about Ignite Phoenix, and presented on the legalities of participating in public pranks at Ignite Phoenix #5.  One of the other presenters at Ignite was Kade Dworkin.  Kade and I kept in contact and about a year later, he started his own podcast called Meet My Followers where he interviewed his Twitter followers.  I was on his podcast and listened to his other shows.  One of his guests was Jason Sadler, founder of I Wear Your Shirt.  As I listened to Jason discuss how he makes a living by wearing shirts and creating content, I was inspired to use my blog to fund my final semester of law school.  In November 2010, I launched Sponsor A Law Kid.  This campaign has opened the door for me to connect with attorneys all over the country and opportunities to be a guest blogger for other websites.  It took almost two years and at least seven steps from participating in a prank to being mentioned on Above the Law, The Nutmeg Lawyer, Blind Drunk Justice, and ABAJournal.com.

Twitter is my primary modality for networking.  It is how I create and maintain connections with people in the legal community.  Along with connecting online, I try to connect with as many people as I can in reality through attending events and inviting attorneys to coffee or lunch.  I have stronger connections with people that I have met in person than with people I only know online.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school.  Today’s sponsor is Amanda Ellis.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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Twitter – The Untapped Resource for Law Students

I joined Twitter about 16 months ago.  I originally joined to keep in touch with my friends while I was in Missouri with the U.S. Army JAG last summer.  Since then, it has become one of my primary networking tools.  It is the easiest way I know to start a conversation with someone.  I’m surprised by how few students at my law school are using it.

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A few months ago, Twitter helped me break the ice with Sam Glover when he spoke at my school.  Recently, it helped me create a connection with Tim Eigo and Arizona Attorney Magazine.  I don’t know how he found me, but he started following me in August and said that he liked this blog.  I went on LinkedIn and the Arizona Bar Association website to confirm his identity and then started a conversation with him.  That led to a lunch and hopefully this is the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship.

Twitter has given me the ability to connect with a vast number of people, entities, and information that I otherwise would not have the time to seek out on my own.  It is the main way that I keep up with developments in the legal profession.  It also helps me stay informed about what my friends, local businesses, and celebrities are doing.

Online Best Colleges.com and Rasmussen College published their lists for the Top 100 Legal Twitter Feeds.  These are all wonderful people to follow.  Like them, I also want to acknowledge some of my favorite legal people and entities on Twitter who consistently post informative and entertaining content.

I also want to give props to Erin Biencourt, a 2L at Arizona State University, who is new to Twitter.  She claims that she needs me to give her Twitter lessons because she’s still figuring out how retweets and replies work.  She’s doing better than she realizes because she’s already overcome the biggest hurdle just by becoming part of the conversation.

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