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Hi there. Today I want to celebrate the inauguration of our new first year course: Practice, Problem Solving and Professionalism or “P3” for short.
Two years ago, a task force of our law faculty concluded that we needed to provide our entering law students with a clearer understanding of how they might use their instruction in legal theory and doctrine in practice. Our first-year students study a lot of court of appeals opinions, and this provides a very important foundation for critical thinking skills. But the vast majority of disputes—well over 90 percent—are settled without any trial, much less an appeal.
The practice of law really takes place outside the courtroom, with lawyers working not only as advocates, but as problem solvers for individuals, for business entities and government agencies.
So our faculty designed and approved a new first-year course with four objectives:
1. To put legal education in the context of actual practice
2. To reinforce basic skills of legal analysis taught elsewhere in the curriculum
3. To introduce our students to basic dispute resolution and problem solving
4. To inspire students about their future role as lawyers in society.
An additional goal to see if we could accomplish these objectives with a course that was used varied teaching methods, used different assessment tools, and presented a fun learning experience in the first year.
The result was P3, and the new course is now underway for our 1Ls.
I invite you to take a look at the multi-faceted program described in the detailed syllabus, but today I simply want to highlight three intriguing features of the course:
The first is the use of "adventure learning." This is something more than role-playing. Outside of class, groups of three or four students will negotiate a transaction or a dispute. When they reach a deal, they will discuss it within the group and reflect on it in writing.
That segues into the second interesting feature: the requirement that students maintain a written journal throughout the class, which accounts for 60 percent of their final grade. For example, in one assignment, students will select a case from one of their doctrinal courses, indentify the interests of the parties involved, and discuss how the dispute might have been resolved through another process. This journal promotes continuous evaluation, reflection and self-critique—all essential habits for any successful professional. The journal is also a refreshing new way to assess student performance.
The third feature is the involvement of our law alumni. Three Hamline alums are assisting our law faculty as adjunct instructors in the course: Ken Morris '92, Cary-Miller-Dolan '95(correct year) and Lateesa Ward '91. And, of course, I am grateful for their willingness to contribute their time and efforts to this new course. There are numerous other alumni who will volunteer to be interviewed by P3 students as part of another assignment in the class. That's how our law students gain perspective and get connected within the profession.
I want to congratulate and thank the three Hamline law professors who are responsible for designing and teaching the course. Professor Bobbi McAdoo took the lead in pulling the course together, working with Professors Jim Coben and Sharon Press. All three are teaching sections of P3. It is no accident that each has at one time directed Hamline's preeminent Dispute Resolution Institute, now ranked second in the nation by U.S. News. Professor Press is the current DRI director.
To close let me quote Professor McAdoo's promise for P3:
"We're giving our students the tools to
be leaders, advocates and problem-solvers
with a broad grasp of the practice of law
and an understanding of the breadth of
opportunities that awaits them."
Thanks for listening. See ya' next time.