A Jewel in Our Midst

Throughout the history of legal education, there has been a consistent call for greater levels of experiential learning and especially clinical education in the law school curriculum. This call has received renewed strength in the Carnegie Report released in 2007. It reminds us again of the importance of building skills for lawyering, for serving as counselors to those who seek our assistance.

Marquette University Law School, for over thirteen years, has been polishing a gem that provides our students with a rich opportunity to some of the very skills required to be an effective lawyer (you might remember the list from the first blog…communication, listening, writing, negotiation and time management, to list only the top five survey responses). This gem is the Small Claims Mediation Clinic.

The Small Claims Mediation Clinic is housed in the Milwaukee County Courthouse and provides pro se litigants an opportunity to access student-led mediation services in an effort to resolve the disputes themselves. This program was the brainchild of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske and I have had the honor and privilege to work with Janine at the Clinic for several years and have served as the faculty member for a number of semesters.

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Bias Beware

A friend sent me a recent blog post from the “Legal Skills Prof Blog” (who knew?) that she thought might be of interest to me in light of my current endeavor at blogging. The post briefly discusses the “negativity bias,” one of the many cognitive biases that can result from our unconscious use of heuristics. It reminded me of how significant these mental shortcuts are to us.

At its simplest, the negativity bias causes us to feel the sting of a negative experience or loss to a much greater degree than a positive. (Think of the bad customer service experience that never seems to diminish, while a good one, while nice at the time, quickly fades into oblivion.)

The author then goes on to ask whether or not this might provide a lesson in terms of pitching the best legal arguments. I have certainly seen the “parade of horribles” work to encourage parties in mediation to find a solution rather than continue the pain of the dispute at hand. I think the greater lesson is that as lawyers, we should be aware of the use of heuristics and the cognitive biases that may result from the unknowing misapplication of heuristics by an individual in evaluating information and then using this information to make a decision.

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The Top Five Skills Necessary to be a Lawyer

Hello to the blogosphere! Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Joanne Lipo Zovic, and I am a 1999 MULS grad. By way of background, my current (and very schizophrenic) professional life is comprised of a small private practice, work on a court-appointment in Chapter 128 cases, and teaching both at MULS and UWM and some private training (my teaching is all in the field of Negotiations). This rather unique work life reflects my deliberate effort to have flexibility in order to fulfill my most demanding job as a mother of four teenagers. Crazy as it may appear, it works . . . most of the time.

When I was contacted about being an alumni blogger some time last year, I paused for a brief moment and then said yes. Like the bliss of pregnancy and the denial of eventual childbirth, blogging seemed painless. However, . . . it began to feel uncomfortable as February began to loom.

What could I possibly write about? And more . . . what can I write about that would be at all interesting to the readers, whoever they may be. I was reminded of the scene in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” where Steve Martin’s character chides John Candy’s character as Candy blathers on and on endlessly. Martin advises Candy that when you tell a story, you should try to have a point because “it makes it so much more interesting for the listener.”

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