Where I’ve been

You may have noticed that Listen Like a Lawyer has been dormant for a while now. I haven’t posted anything new since 2018. That’s because I’ve been swamped with two major projects: co-authoring a book on legal literacy for professionals who work in law-related services, advocacy, or otherwise “adjacent” to lawyers; and teaching the legal ethics survey (Professional Responsibility) course. The work required to write a book while teaching, and to prep a new course, have made it impossible to write new posts.

Both projects are informed by the reading and writing that went into this blog from 2013-2018.  The book project is called Legal Literacy and Communication Skills: Working with Law and Lawyers, coauthored with Mark Edwin Burge of Texas A&M University School of Law and forthcoming from Carolina Academic Press in early 2020. It’s a legal research and writing text customized to the needs of students and instructors in Juris Masters, Master of Jurisprudence, Master of Legal Studies, and other such programs. These programs are relatively recent endeavors by law schools to educate professionals who work on legal matters and alongside lawyers in business, healthcare, education, advocacy work, and many other endeavors.

The interesting listening challenge with explaining this book and this degree program is perceiving the explicit or implied lack of understanding or resistance to the idea. Many lawyers are basically like: “What? Why would someone go to law school and not get a license to practice law?” My experience with legal masters students is that they have no interest in practicing law, but want to be more educated and skillful and empowered in dealing with lawyers and performing their professional roles when legal issues are involved. These legal masters programs are based on the premise that legal knowledge is not an all-or-nothing endeavor, and not the exclusive domain of lawyers and paralegals. Professionals who deliver law-related services—a category explicitly mentioned by the Model Rules of Professional Conduct as services that relate to but do not entail practicing law—should be educated about the “law” part in law-related services. I could go on and on, but maybe you’ll pick up a copy of the book when it’s available later this year. There’s also could Mark Edwin Burge’s forthcoming article Access to Law or Access to Lawyers: Masters Programs in the Public Educational Mission of Law Schools, 74 U. Miami L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2019).

The other project that has overwhelmed my time is teaching Legal Profession, which encompasses Professional Responsibility (i.e. the MPRE) and the structure and framework of the legal industry and profession more generally. People have said to me, “Oh I bet that’s an easy prep; it’s pretty self-contained and there’s not a lot of material.” And I really beg to differ with that. Some of the doctrinal issues are fairly self-contained, but when various bar associations are changing their rules and pondering such changes on a weekly basis, when lawyers are challenging the very existence of mandatory bar associations on constitutional grounds, and when the implications of lawyering for the public good are being questioned and examined in the media on a daily basis, teaching legal ethics in 2019 does not seem narrow and self-contained in any way. One of my big influences in the course has been the idea of the different “hemispheres” of law practice, and we talk in class a lot about communicating with sophisticated clients versus consumer/“one-and-done” clients. Listening to understand if your client understands is certainly part of fulfilling one’s ethical duty to the client.

So it’s been an extremely busy year. Lots of ideas for listening-related posts have bubbled up, but it has not been possible to post steadily while also keeping up with those very big long-term projects. I miss the 800-1200 word framework and being able to explore news and current discussions as they occur. I’m still tweeting at @listenlikealwyer, with the tweet stream available on this blog’s home page. And the blog itself continues to receive quality search traffic, with many posts remaining helpful and relevant. Thus the blog will remain up and searchable for the time being.

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