Name: Sharisse O’Carroll
School: University of Tulsa
3120 E. Fourth Pl.
Tulsa, OK 74104
Phone: (918) 606-2866
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com
Home Page: http://www.law.utulsa.edu/faculty_staff/index_html
Summary Description: "Lawyers Helping Students; Students Teaching Lawyers: Bridging the Gap Through Popular Media to Improve Professionalism in the American Legal System."
PR course: My program involves a professionalism/ethics Presentation. In lieu of an essay portion on the final examination, the students participate in a team project with approximately five other students. Each team reads one book and watches one movie (one about civil law, one about criminal law) and prepares a twenty minute presentation conveying the contents and meaning of the book/movie, describing how the book/movie affected them, identifying the professionalism issues, and asserting whether there is a need to improve the court system/ improve access to the courts/ improve the image of lawyers/ improve the professionalism of lawyers and judges/ and how these goals can be accomplished. The students learn what professionalism means from the film and book, and also learn how to practice professionalism through the actual assignment:
1. They learn to be effective communicators. The objective of the presentation, in addition to educating, is to enthrall. The presentation may include interviews with judges/ attorneys/ bailiffs/ jurors/ man or woman on the street /students/ government officials /others. The presentation also may include interviews with the actual participants in the book and the authors, if feasible, and may include personal observations and participation in actual cases (in or out of court).
2. They learn to communicate effectively with brevity. They must learn to respect the needs of their audience while simultaneously serving their clients. Accordingly, the presentation is limited to twenty minutes.
3. They learn to be cordial team players. Attorneys must simultaneously accommodate the needs of their many clients, the vagaries of opposing parties and counsel, and the expectations of the court. Students learn that although contentious discourse has its place, lawyers must also be negotiators and problem solvers. The team must cooperate in deciding how the presentation will be made - all team members are not required to participate in the actual presentation, but all team members must share equally in the preparation and decision-making of the presentation and must treat each other professionally and respectfully in the process.
4. They learn to budget their time effectively. In addition to preparing the presentation, the students are required to submit in writing as a team (signed by each of the team members) one 3-5 page summation describing the efforts each individually made in completing this project. The submission includes a personal observation from each team member about how the student was affected by the book/movie, and how the student benefitted personally from the project.
5. They learn to work to the best of their abilities. Lawyers are competitive, but competition requires more than just skill - it requires thoughtfulness, creativity, industriousness, and preparation. Each team is expected to consider the project a competition with the other teams. The winning team will make its presentation to the Bench & Bar Section of the OBA at the annual convention in November.
The students do not receive a letter grade for this project, but cannot pass the course if they do not adequately participate in this project. Their participation in this project is factored into their final grade based upon a final examination.
This project is being offered during the current academic year. I was appointed chair of the OBA Professionalism Committee this year. A goal of the committee is to require law schools to provide more professionalism instruction. In that regard, I have submitted proposals to the law school that have not materialized which included establishing a mentoring program, creating a two hour elective course in professionalism (in addition to the required three hour PR course which I have taught for 13 years), and providing more professionalism instruction in the first year and substantive courses. In the interim, I decided to take the initiative and created this program as part of my PR class to provide even more professionalism instruction than I have previously included.
Expanded Program Description (Optional):
This program serves as a substitute for a mentoring program in that members of the OBA Professionalism Committee judge the “competition.” Thus the students gain valuable insights and guidance from members of the committee. In addition, the “winning”team will give the presentation as a CLE seminar for lawyers and judges for one hour of professionalism credit at the OBA annual convention in November. Thus the program “bridges the gap” between lawyers and law students, and the lawyers actually learn from the students.
Even in the earliest stages of developing this program, students have become more aware of professionalism issues. For example, a student who has been observing attorneys in court noticed the benefit of adequate preparation. Another student observed that the firm she works for was litigious regarding a lucrative corporate client, and she was concerned that although this benefitted the firm financially, it might not be in the client’s best interest. The project serves as a substitute to a mentoring program, in that members of the OBA Professionalism Committee participate as judges of the students’ presentation, and students benefit from their guidance and insights. The project also serves in a “bridge the gap” capacity between law school and practice, since the “winning”student team will give their presentation at the OBA annual convention in November for the Bench & Bar section of the OBA for one hour of professionalism credit which is an alternative to the one hour of ethics requirement in Oklahoma. (The students are very enthusiastic about their opportunity to “teach” lawyers!) I would like to arrange for the students to present the program for ABA seminars as well.
Finally, I can not express how valuable this competition has been for teaching professionalism. The inspiration for my program came from reading the materials provided by the NIFTEP website.
Furthermore, in conjunction with the professionalism presentation program, I developed a “Professionalism Agreement” modeled after the professionalism points described in the winning submission by the Franklin Pierce Law School. In order to participate in the presentation, my PR students are required to sign this agreement. I am also using this agreement in my first year writing course so that I can provide more professionalism instruction to my first year law students. The feedback I have already received from students indicates that by initialing and signing this agreement, they realize how important these issues are and that they are not to be taken for granted, overlooked, or forgotten.
I developed this program in anticipation that I might be able to offer it as part of a two hour Professionalism law school course and I still believe the program would be perfect for this and will continue to lobby for such a course. Since this was not available to me, I have made it part of my Professional Responsibility course. With this program, the students learn professionalism through the substantive part of the program as well as the procedural. From the substance they should develop an overall understanding of the justice system and the need to continuously work to improve it; they should realize that attorneys must provide sound advise to avoid harming their clients, they should determine that lawyers must perform competently and diligently; and they should realize that prosecutors have an ongoing duty to seek justice. From the procedure they should learn to negotiate and cooperate, to respect others and compromise as needed, to be industrious, to prepare and budget their time appropriately, and to develop skills such as creativity, originality, and luminosity.
Supporting Materials:PR syllabus which includes Professionalism Presentation instructions (pdf)