Teaching Empathy Through Simulation Exercises - A Guide and Sample Problem Set

43 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2008

See all articles by Barbara Glesner Fines

Barbara Glesner Fines

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law

Date Written: November 19, 2008


For over a decade, legal educators (particularly clinical faculty) have argued for the importance of teaching empathy as a critical component of legal education. Both the Carnegie Report and the Best Practices study have emphasized that legal education's instruction in skills - including lawyer-client relationship skills - requires greater attention. While some might argue that empathy is a skill that cannot be taught outside the context of clinical representation of clients, this simulation problem proceeds from the assumption that empathetic understanding of the client's situation is a skill that can be addressed in a variety of settings. Indeed, if empathy is left unaddressed in the classroom, legal education may further the divide of mind and heart and leave students with a message that what they learn in the classroom is an intellectual exercise of little real relevance to what they will do as an attorney.

Professional responsibility courses are an especially appropriate classroom in which to address empathetic understanding of the client, as a key component in exploring the attorney-client relationship and the attorney's duty of communication. This role play is designed in the context of a bar admission problem. While the problem can be used to explore the substantive standards for admission to practice or the impact of law regarding disabilities on that process, the primary goal of this exercise is to explore how it feels to be a client. By placing the students in the role of a law student bar applicant - a situation that nearly every law student can imagine - the role play makes it easier for students to internalize the feelings and perspectives of the client. The role play includes instructions for attorney and client, documentary evidence, and a research memorandum on applicable law. Also included is an edited version of the actual case which is a basis for the problem.

Keywords: Legal education, Empathy, Lawyer-client, Attorney-client, Relationship skills, Professional responsibility, Communication, Carnegie, Best Practices

JEL Classification: I20, I21, K10, K19, K30, K39, K40, K49

Suggested Citation

Glesner Fines, Barbara, Teaching Empathy Through Simulation Exercises - A Guide and Sample Problem Set (November 19, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1304261 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1304261

Barbara Glesner Fines (Contact Author)

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law ( email )

5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
United States

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