Reflections on Using Narrative Theory and Storytelling Practice in the Clinic Seminar
THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF CLINICAL PEDAGOGY Bryant, Milstein & Shalleck, eds., Carolina Academic Press, Forthcoming
12 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2012 Last revised: 1 Jan 2013
Date Written: April 12, 2012
My particular teaching philosophy and approach rely on an exploration of both narrative theory and the practice of storytelling. Most, if not all, of my clinic classes — regardless of their official content — involve discussions about what stories are and what makes them “good” (persuasive, compelling), both substantively (the “what” of the story) and technically (the “how” of the story). That’s the narrative theory. In addition, my students spend a lot of time constructing and deconstructing stories, focusing on their elements — both the “what” and the “how ”— and on the choices that resulted in the story’s substance and structure. That’s the storytelling practice.
The exercises I describe in the essay, as well as those I use in other classes, build on each other, moving the students up the educational spiral of narrative theory and storytelling practice. By the end of the semester, if it’s been a good one, the students are talking in the language of story in every class. Using this language, and the ideas it represents, they begin to see themselves as more powerful in relation to the law, recognizing it as only one among many elements in the stories lawyers hear, construct, and tell. They have identified the tools they need, and how to use those tools, to engage in this kind of effective lawyering in contexts other than the clinic seminar. They have gained the confidence to wrestle with the law in these other contexts, and to have it fit into their clients’ lived realities, rather than funneling their clients’ lived realities into what they understand the law to require. They have, in other words, become better lawyers.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation