Suggestions for Using Multi-Stage Simulations in Law School Courses
8 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2013 Last revised: 29 Jul 2014
Date Written: July 28, 2014
This brief guide provides suggestions for using multi-stage simulations. The suggestions in this guide are based on my experiences described in my article, Lessons From “Teaching Students to Negotiate Like a Lawyer” (which is available on ssrn). Using multi-stage simulations, when well planned and implemented, can make a significant contribution to legal education. Faculty using multi-stage simulations should tailor the number, length, and content of these simulations to fit their teaching goals, considering the range of teaching methods that they want to use in a course.
Simulations can be helpful because they require students to enact the role of a lawyer (or someone working with a lawyer, such as a client) and apply relevant knowledge and skills. Simulations create dynamic interactions that are not predictable simply based on the facts and law in a matter as students must also cope with the moves of independent actors. In courses focusing on doctrinal issues, even brief simulations can provide opportunities for students to practice legal skills while absorbing lessons about legal doctrine.
Most law school curricula include simulations of litigation activities such as interviewing and counseling clients, conducting depositions, trying cases, and making appellate arguments. Simulations are a staple in “alternative” dispute resolution courses, where students regularly participate in simulated negotiations, mediations, and arbitrations. Many simulations require students to enact a single stage of a process. In negotiation and mediation courses, for example, simulations typically focus exclusively or primarily on “final” negotiations of disputes or transactions.
Faculty have used multi-stage simulations to teach a variety of courses including general legal practice, pre-trial litigation, professional responsibility, environmental law, and white collar crime. Multi-stage simulations make it easier for students to get into their roles, enable them to deal with complex situations, focus on specific stages in a process, see connections between various stages, and generally have a more realistic experience. Multi-stage simulations in a negotiation course might include: (1) conducting an initial client interview, (2) negotiating a retainer agreement, (3) developing a good professional relationship with the counterpart lawyer, (4) working with the counterpart to plan the negotiation process, (5) conducting factual investigation, (6) conducting legal research, (7) preparing clients for negotiation, and (8) conducting the final negotiation. Faculty can decide how many stages to include. There are complementary advantages and disadvantages of single-stage and multi-stage simulations and thus faculty may wish use a combination of both types. This guide provides practical suggestions for developing and using multi-stage simulations. The suggestions address what stages may be particularly helpful and how to make simulations work as well as possible.
Keywords: simulation, single-stage simulation, multi-stage simulation, teaching, learning, pedagogy, teaching method, negotiation, mediation
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