Listening to Our Students: Fostering Resilience and Engagement to Promote Culture Change in Legal Education

Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Vol. 26, p. 81, 2022

U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2022-11

32 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2022

See all articles by Ann Sinsheimer

Ann Sinsheimer

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law

Omid Fotuhi

University of Pittsburgh – Learning Research and Development Center

Date Written: April 18, 2022

Abstract

In this Article, we describe a dynamic program of research at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law that uses mindset to promote resilience and engagement in law students. For the last three years, we have used tailored, well-timed, psychological interventions to help students bring adaptive mindsets to the challenges they face in law school. The act of listening to our students has been the first step in designing interventions to improve their experience, and it has become a kind of intervention in itself. Through this work, we have learned that simply asking our law students about their experiences and listening carefully to their answers helps create an environment that supports academic and professional growth.

The pandemic became an opportunity for us to listen even more deeply to our students. To successfully attend law school in the time of COVID, students had to navigate online classes, high degrees of uncertainty, rapidly changing socio-political circumstances, and threats to their own health and the health of their families, all the while coping with the routine stresses of law school. We came to understand that many law students displayed tremendous resilience with just a little bit of help, and we learned along the way how to more effectively help them. Educators, in a post-pandemic world, have an opportunity to bring about meaningful cultural change within our institutions and to humanize legal education more broadly. While the strategies discussed in this article reflect the specific culture at Pitt Law, our approach is relevant to all law schools.

Keywords: legal education, law school, One Ls, legal writing, adaptive mindset, growth mindset, resilience, psychology, wellbeing, student success, legal profession, lawyers, self-awareness, self-management

JEL Classification: K3, K39

Suggested Citation

Sinsheimer, Ann and Fotuhi, Omid, Listening to Our Students: Fostering Resilience and Engagement to Promote Culture Change in Legal Education (April 18, 2022). Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Vol. 26, p. 81, 2022, U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2022-11, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4086857

Ann Sinsheimer (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-1281 (Phone)
412-648-2648 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.pitt.edu/people/ann-sinsheimer

Omid Fotuhi

University of Pittsburgh – Learning Research and Development Center ( email )

200 Lothrop Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

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