Teaching Methods of the Center for Applied Legal Studies
[This information is distributed to students enrolled in the Center for Applied Legal Studies, as part of their “Office Manual,” when they begin to work in the clinic.]
Some of the most important relationships this semester will develop between students and advisors in case team meetings. While these are not the only relationships that call for intensive thought, they are surely some of the most distinctive features of clinical education. In case teams, the students rather than the advisors are expected to lead the work. Case team meetings offer a very special opportunity for education. The unusual nature of the student/advisor relationship motivates us to spell out as explicitly as possible our roles as advisors in case team meetings: what we hope to do — and perhaps more vividly, what we hope not to do — in working with you.
A note and a caveat are in order at the outset. First, clinical education is very different from both classroom education and legal practice. What we do in case team meetings consists largely of structured dialogue, not a lecture or a barrage of commands. We advisors ask (and answer) lots of questions, and our purpose is at least as much to stimulate your thinking and reflection as it is to move the case forward. It may take three or four meetings before you are used to this routine. We have written this chapter to make it easier for you to understand our goals and methods.
Second, it is anomalous to write about “advisors’ roles,” precisely because much of what we propose for the student/advisor relationship is subject to discussion and possible alteration by the case team. We hope that discussion of roles will be a recurrent feature of case team operation. This chapter, therefore, constitutes the first, not the last, word regarding our respective roles.
In the chapter on Objectives of the Clinic of this manual, we have set forth some of the goals of the Clinic as a whole. Later in this chapter, we will be talking about students’ goals for case team work. At this juncture, therefore, it seems reasonable for us to state more specifically our own goals as they relate to case teams, and to indicate how they affect the methodology that we favor.
A first and key goal is to help you learn to be responsible lawyers. We believe that people learn best in an environment in which they have responsibility for what they are doing. Therefore, we sometimes hold back on giving advice, or remain silent when we might otherwise intervene, to make space for you to speak and act. In this way, law school clinics are fundamentally different from most law firms. Giving you space in which to learn is of enormous importance to us.
A second goal is to affect your approach to handling cases and solving problems generally. We have identified, in the chapter of this manual describing our institutional objectives, several goals other than those traditionally identified with an attorney’s routine, that all of us can work on in the Clinic. The “methodology” we have developed in our clinical work is to practice law in slow motion — to provide the practitioner with time and support for closely examining each decision that arises in the course of practice. This process helps you see the range of options that exist, and helps you learn to question your own assumptions about what to do in a particular situation.
We take decisions that appear small and insignificant — e.g., what to say in a phone call to another lawyer asking to stipulate the admissibility of a document — and encourage you to plan them in great detail, anticipating every possible twist and turn and looking at the consequences of each sentence to be spoken. Then, after the phone call has been made, you might analyze it in equal depth — looking at all the factors that affected the result. What did you do when opposing counsel asked a question about your client during this preliminary contact? Did you follow the lawyer’s lead out of deference to greater experience? What determined which law student representatives made the call or, if both representatives were on the line, who did most of the talking?
How was the call affected by the representatives’ fear that the other lawyer would refuse the requested stipulation? And so on, until we have examined every corner of the event.
Thoroughness is key to good lawyering. In every meeting we will try to identify questions that might not yet have occurred to you about your cases. (Our purpose in doing this is not to make you feel that you’ve somehow failed, but to help you scramble up the next rung of the ladder of excellent legal practice.) This methodology means that the Clinic work is different from ordinary law practice, in that much time is allowed for study. You will have many fewer cases than a practicing lawyer, and will spend far more time on them than you would in practice. This means that despite your relative inexperience you can offer first-rate representation, and that you can use your cases as learning tools without any sacrifice of your client’s interest. (Should an apparent conflict arise between education and service, this, too, would become an object of careful study and decision-making.) This experience will be a reference point when you work in a setting in which you have more cases and less time for reflection.
A third goal, encompassing several of the objectives specified in the first chapter, is to teach about collaboration. Collaboration usually produces better results than solo work. Collaboration can be great fun, and it can be difficult, but by studying the process of working with other people, one can become more skilled in collaborating. Many issues about how to divide up or delegate work, how to cope with differences in style or work habits, and what to do when you reach an impasse, can be better resolved by conscious examination. Therefore, in case team meetings we will ask questions about how the partnership is working, and will often make comments or ask questions about the work of the case team. We propose to explore these matters with you not only when there is a “problem” in the sense of a partnership dispute that must be resolved, but also when things are going well, and we can try to discuss the reasons for that success and how you can replicate it in future practice. By mid-semester, each member of the partnership will hold a special individual meeting with the pair’s advisor(s) to evaluate how well the partnership is working as well as the overall work of the team and progress on goals.
A fourth goal — and perhaps the most difficult and serious of our goals as teachers — is to help you explore and perhaps to challenge your professional values and choices. We hope to help you see the power that you will have as lawyers to affect society, and to inspire you to use that power on behalf of under-represented people and groups. We would like to foster your sense of public duty — to encourage you to view your professional responsibilities as including some public interest work. When possible, we prefer to represent people with low incomes in the Clinic in part because affluent clients do not need free legal assistance, but also because we believe that representing clients who cannot afford to pay for counsel offers better opportunities to examine one’s values as a lawyer and to understand the vast opportunities that exist in practicing law to help people whose needs are greatest. We will not attempt to direct your decisions about your careers, but we would like to spend time talking about the ethics and politics of lawyering, and about the consequences of choices about whom to represent and how to represent them.
We believe that you will find it helpful if, at the very outset of your work, you identify a few priority learning goals for your work on your cases and in our case team meetings. Therefore, we ask each of you to bring to your first case team meeting a Goal Identification Form (Attachment A), copies of which will be given to you at the end of the first class (Orientation) and electronically in the CALS Box and on Canvas, on which you specify some important goals in these areas. We encourage you to put some real thought into articulating these goals, which you will share with your colleagues and case team. Of course you will discover new goals during the semester, and you may achieve or abandon some of your initial goals. We welcome revisions of your goals at any time. Meanwhile, committing goals to writing will help us to emphasize certain aspects of your work as we talk with you over the semester, and it will help you to measure your own progress in the Clinic.
The process of identifying and refining individual goals is a fundamental focus of our work. Explicit concern with goals is an appropriate starting point for almost any enterprise or task. There may be many occasions during the semester when progress on case matters, or on educational matters, requires that you first step back and ask why you are undertaking a particular action.
The range of goals available to you in the Clinic is vast. The point of identifying some priorities at a very early date is to encourage you to think carefully about exactly what you hope to accomplish through your participation in the clinic, and to provide a framework for making deliberate, self-conscious choices among competing objectives.
On the Goal Identification Form, we ask you to focus on general goals concerning your development as a lawyer and a professional. We assume that everyone in the Clinic wants to develop basic practice skills such as interviewing and oral advocacy. The Form allows you to specify two or three of these practice skills for emphasis, but you will have opportunities in the Clinic to gain some experience in all of these basic skills areas. In addition, we ask you to state a few personal goals, and to identify factors that might inhibit you from achieving them.
The task of selecting a small number of personal goals may prove very difficult. We have included, as Attachment B to this chapter, a partial list of possible personal goals. It is intended to stimulate your imagination, and to help you realize the array of possible activities open to you this semester. We hope you will use it, not as an exhaustive checklist from which to select, but to spur your own creativity. We would also like to be clear that we regard the goals you specify on your forms to be only those goals that, in your view, merit particular emphasis — not the exclusive agenda for your activities.
As you select personal goals, you might think about both the short term and the long term. How might you challenge yourself in CALS by making desirable but difficult changes in your work habits? And also: what goals might you embrace now that will help you to have, throughout your life, satisfaction and happiness both at work and at play?
After you have selected your personal goals, the next section of the form asks you to identify the “obstacles” that might impede your accomplishment of them during your CALS semester. The purpose of this section of the form is to prompt some additional introspection, exploring whether, for example, a tendency toward “perfectionism” might interfere with a goal of improving collaboration skills, or whether your prior successes at “last minute” cramming might now obscure your new commitment to advance planning. The more carefully you can identify the behaviors or attitudes that might sabotage your pursuit of the selected goals, the better the odds of your being able to succeed.
Finally, the form asks you to select one goal and propose some specific actions you will undertake, immediately, to begin your pursuit of it. Again, specificity and concreteness will probably pay off here: instead of saying, rather abstractly, that you will “pay more attention” to the behavior or idea in question, can you identify any discrete actions, perhaps some externally-observable or even quantifiable actions, that will help you focus? What particular steps can you undertake, especially starting within the next couple of weeks, to begin practical work on this goal?
Not every goal, of course, will lend itself to this type of precision in a short-term implementation plan, but if you think about it creatively, you might develop something that would help convert a general, abstract “wish” to improve something into a workable plan. For example, in the past, some students have found value in combating time management difficulties by committing to prepare, and to share with case team partners, a detailed daily “to do” list, or a journal that records how much progress was made on anticipated activities. Similarly, students who wanted to ensure that they pay attention to interpersonal dynamics might agree to schedule a weekly one-hour conversation devoted exclusively to that topic. Other steps, which might in some sense seem “artificial” can likewise help start you down the path toward your goals: to pursue an interest in “becoming more creative,” for example, you might commit to doing one routine thing differently every day; to become more comfortable at public speaking, you might undertake to speak at least three times in the first hour of the next few CALS classes.
For purposes of Part 4 of your Goal Identification Form, you need select only one of your goals and develop an “early action plan” for it.
The CALS Case Team Method: Introductory Description
The CALS Case Team Method is a system designed to teach students to plan, act, and reflect on work in a very rigorous way. The remainder of this chapter describes the Method. A formal statement of the Method appears after this introductory description of it. Please read carefully both this introductory description (which tells you
why we use the Method) and the formal statement (which tells you in detail how we plan to work with you). Unless you propose and we agree to changes in the formal statement, we will expect you to act consistently with it.
The CALS Case Team Method includes two major parts
Part I includes procedures that we have found, based on our experience with case teams over a long time, to be very useful for advancing the learning of most students. In fact, many of these procedures were suggested by previous students. In general, these procedures explicitly encourage certain kinds of relationships between students and advisors and discourage others, in the interest of helping you to make the transition from students who have (in most cases) long been dependent on direction from instructors, to lawyers who can work as independent and interdependent professionals.
We recognize, however, that what works well for “most students” may not work as well for you. Therefore, we present these procedures in Part I to you not as a system that is cast in stone for your case team, but as proposals for at least our first few weeks of work together, subject to serious review (in whole or part) at any time you find that a change would be helpful. In such a review we may ask probing questions about why you want to make changes in how we work together, and what alternatives you have considered. If you have thought carefully about what you want and why you want it, however, you will probably be able to persuade us to make the change. In that event, we might ask you to put it in writing, just as we have put in writing the procedures that we think are useful.
In a sense, these writings (our stated Method, together with any changes we mutually make) are “learning contracts,” not in the sense that they are always fully negotiated, but in two other senses: they are efforts at careful, full disclosure of what we expect and how we work, and they can be negotiated and individualized if you want to make modifications.
To help you understand the thinking that has gone into the particular procedures detailed in Part I of the formal statement of the CALS Case Team Method, we have developed three paradigmatic relationships that we try to avoid, and three that we seek to foster. They outline some of the things that we feel least, and most, able to offer you this semester.
Paradigms We Discourage
A. Bosses. Fundamental to our pedagogical technique is a profound reluctance to tell you what to do. We consider authoritarian direction to be, in most instances, a grossly ineffective method of education, and we also anticipate that, quite
early in the semester, you will become so close to the cases (to both the facts and the particular law involved) that we would be ill-placed to override your judgment.
B. Partners. We also don’t want to be your partners regarding case-related matters. The clients are fundamentally your clients and case matters are fundamentally your responsibility. We think of a case team not as people working equally on a case but as two people (the students) working on all aspects of the case and meeting frequently with one or two others (the advisors) who have some other defined and limited relationship to the matter. This does not mean that we want to deter you from asking questions (we underline this because some students have misunderstood this point), using our experience, or otherwise discussing case matters with us. In fact, there are no areas we would exclude from a case team’s mandate — we are perfectly willing to discuss all aspects of your cases in as much detail as you would like — but it should be clear that the primary responsibility for making decisions (including the decision about how to use the advisor) is yours. And, as you will see when you read the formal statement, we think that it is often useful for us to propose turning a question back to you, not because it was wrong of you to ask, but because we think you can learn a lot from deciding whether you really want an immediate answer (if we happen to have one) rather than an opportunity to work out the problem for yourselves.
C. Leaders. We think that in general it is desirable for you, rather than us, to exercise primary leadership within the case team meetings over matters such as what the agenda should be for a meeting, what preparatory work should be undertaken by each member of the case team prior to the next meeting, etc. In our view, control over the agenda — beginning with the first case team meeting — is one of the most important forms of power a person may exercise in that setting. For that reason, the agenda will be your responsibility. We would like, however, to have the option to suggest additions to your agenda for any particular session.
Paradigms We Encourage
A. Resources. One role that we want to fill is that of serving as resources on a variety of topics. Each of us has certain strengths, skills, experience, expertise, etc. that we hope you will feel free to draw upon, and we will strive to fill roles within the case teams that will allow all of its members to take advantage of each other’s resources. Incidentally, advisors and students who are not members of your case team (and the office manager) may also have special expertise or experience that make them useful resources.
B. Catalysts. Although we as case team advisors do not want to do your work for you, we do want to be able to assist you. We would like our roles to include helping you to pursue your individual goals. We can help you to identify and refine unarticulated goals, to develop a plan for achieving them, and to highlight behavior that advances or is inconsistent with or destructive of stated goals. We can also help you become a better planner by asking you hundreds of questions about your decisions and actions; questions that you are increasingly likely, as time goes on, to begin to ask yourself.
C. Consultants on interpersonal issues. We would also like to help you to learn about interpersonal issues which involve your work as a lawyer. The Clinic is a particularly good setting in which to study six such relationships: those that you will have with us, with your partner, with your client, with witnesses and potential witnesses, with opposing counsel, and with adjudicators. In addition, the Clinic is a place in which you can examine your feelings about the practice of law. These issues are easy, but costly, to ignore. Unless you tell us otherwise, we believe we have a special burden to encourage you to think about these issues.
Advisors and Clients
As noted, we consider the cases to be your cases, not ours. But our role is far from minimal. As “catalysts,” we will raise hundreds of questions about your work and we’ll also make suggestions from time to time. Our purpose is to stimulate your thinking, not to make decisions for you, so you may always question our suggestions. Also, as professional advocates and educators, we have a responsibility to ensure that the clients are being adequately represented. Part I of the Case Team Method therefore includes a statement authorizing us to intervene in your case under certain limited circumstances. To that extent, we serve as your safety net.
This is not a comprehensive safety net. This standard is deliberately designed to discourage our intervention in a situation in which we simply feel that we would do the job differently from or better than you. At a hearing, for example, we will act only as observers and will not ordinarily speak to the judge. We will, however, be available to consult with you, at your option, during any recess. We will give you the freedom to do the cases your own way, even if the process produces anxiety. We are confident, because of the structure of the Clinic and the quality of our students, that our standards of representation are higher than those of most practicing attorneys. Therefore, we can afford to allow you a great degree of freedom to make decisions and take action on your cases. You may learn much more from reflection on a “mistake” than from any amount of prior direction.
Although you will take full responsibility for your case, there may be times during the semester when we might step in to give the team greater direction, input, or focus. During these times, we (your advisors) may tell you that we would like to become more active in our role with you because we feel that it is necessary to give you some suggestions which could include advice about priorities that we believe that you should consider, legal theories that you may be overlooking, and case-related time commitments that you may be over- or underestimating that may affect your case.
There may be other times during the semester when you want the advisor to step in and give the team greater direction, input, or focus. During these times, we encourage you to talk about this in your case team meeting, where you and your advisor can decide how involved your advisor should become and for how long your advisor should step in to give greater direction. There is nothing wrong with asking for more guidance – in fact, it is certainly more responsible to tell your advisor that you need more help or that you need your advisor to help you make certain decisions than to remain quiet when your case might be at risk. On the other hand, sometimes students mistakenly think they need their advisor to “make decisions for them” when, in fact, they are in a better position to make the decision than their advisor and when their case is not at risk; the advisor for these students may encourage them to continue making all of the decisions and continue working on the case with little extra input from the advisor.
In your first case team meeting, you and your advisor will discuss the CALS teaching style and the circumstances during the semester when you or your advisor may want your advisor to play a more involved role in your case. Although it may seem too early to discuss your relationship in detail, we believe that it is important for you and your advisor to begin to think about your choices concerning this role. In addition, it establishes an open dialogue to continue discussing these issues later in the semester if you need to do so.
We have considered alternatives to this educational model. For example, the advisors could be the ones principally responsible for the cases, with the students acting as our clerks or assistants. Or the cases could be yours, but we might intervene frequently, directing your actions and trying to prevent any errors, and helping to ensure a more “efficient” procedure for handling the cases more the way an ordinary law office might.
In this Clinic, we subscribe to the principle of student responsibility because we believe that this model offers the richest learning opportunities. There may be times when you feel we are withholding from you; when you feel it is “artificial” for us to encourage you to pursue answers yourself, rather than simply resolving the issue for you. It may be useful to keep in mind that CALS – unlike law firms, government agencies, or other places you may work – is fundamentally an educational institution and its mission is to help you learn. There might be situations in which the client’s interest could be better served by another method of operation, but that reasoning would, at the extreme, compel us, as the experienced professionals, to do all the significant work, while the students did little. Such an arrangement would hardly be educational and would thus disserve both your interests and the interests of your many, as-yet-unknown future clients for whom you will need to call upon the expertise you develop in this Clinic and elsewhere. The balance between client service and student education is a difficult one to strike, but in CALS you will be afforded a large degree of responsibility.
A few discrete limitations on student authority have already been discussed. We will not, for example, permit serious damage to clients nor will we abandon our responsibility for requiring you to make hard choices. Other limitations are specified in both parts of the formal statement of our method and in the substantive law manual that you will receive. Still others could emerge from discussions within the case team. Nevertheless, while we will hold you to high standards of practice, the CALS Case Team Method is designed in part to accord you more power than you exercise in other parts of the law school and probably more power than you will exercise in the early years of your professional life.
The relationship between partners is likely to be more immediately familiar than the relationship between partners and their advisor, because you have probably worked in close collaboration with a partner on some prior project. However, there are some obvious differences between your prior collaborations and this one.
First, although you may have worked jointly with lab partners or other peers in college or in a work setting, it may have been quite some time since you had a partner that you did not help to choose. In CALS, partners are assigned through a random process at the first class. Second, you probably have had few prior working collaborations involving as many hours per week as an asylum case will require. Finally, the importance of the case to your clients imposes distinctive stresses on any partnership.
For the vast majority of students, the partnership experience is a deeply enriching and rewarding one, producing not only extraordinary learning but also many life-long friendships. We hope that you will find your partnership relationship to be one of the best aspects of your CALS experience.
We should note, however, that virtually all partnerships involve some degree of conflict, resulting from inevitably imperfect meshes in schedules, different working or writing styles, contrasting ideas about how much work should be spent on the case, different theories about what should be done on the case, or personality clashes. Sometimes conflict can become more serious and protracted. In addition, partnerships may face issues related to gender dynamics, race, or ethnicity, among others.
If you and your partner do have conflict, we hope that you will recognize that a certain amount of it may accompany any intense working relationship, that any such conflict itself presents learning opportunities (because similar issues may well arise in your future legal work with others), and that whether any conflicts become more or less serious, and whether you learn from them, are matters that are at least in significant measure in your control.
We offer the following suggestions in case of conflict. First, we encourage you to see the conflict as an opportunity rather than a problem. Schedule some time to talk about it before it becomes a significant issue. Sometimes, trying to work things out away from the office, in a social setting, may help. Often, a frank conversation is all that is needed to change the dynamic of a problematic working relationship.
If that isn’t sufficient, you should consider asking others to assist you. You are invited to put interpersonal issues on your case team agenda at any time. The advisors do not regard having conflict as a “problem” to be taken into account in grading, though they would regard it as a problem if a partnership with a protracted conflict did not seem to be trying to resolve the conflict, particularly if the problem was having negative consequences for a client or for other participants in the Clinic. In other words, if you are having conflict and you are worrying that it might affect your grade, the worst thing you can do is to try to sweep it under the rug.
If you so desire, you could also ask other students, or even former students, to help you to work things out. Of course, we do suggest that a decision to seek the assistance of advisors, students, or former students be made mutually, so that the consultation does not become still another source of conflict. On the other hand, once in a while a student is very unhappy because the conflict is so troubling, and the student’s partner does not want to discuss it with anyone else. Under these circumstances, the student who wants to bring up the subject with advisors might consider the approach that you will find in one of the explanatory notes in Part I, Point 8, of the formal statement of the Case Team Method.
In addition, assessing how the members of the team are working together could be part of any case team meeting or of the self-evaluation meeting that each of you will have with your advisor(s) by mid-semester.
The First Case Team Meeting
Please note that our Method requires considerable student preparation for the first case team meeting, including (1) gaining an initial understanding of the Method, as described here and more fully stated in the remainder of this chapter; (2) filling out the Goal Identification Forms and giving a copy to your advisor and partner at or before the first meeting; (3) considering, with your partner, what you want to accomplish in the first meeting and what case-related and other issues you want to discuss; (4) reducing those aspirations to writing by developing a jointly-written agenda for the first meeting, and bringing copies for the advisor; and (5) planning how to lead the first meeting to work through that agenda in one hour (one way to do so might be to allocate time periods for each topic).
Although you are probably excited about jumping into your case, the first case team meeting should be focused on (a) getting to know each other, (b) your interest in the teaching goals of the clinic (listed in the “Objectives of the Clinic” chapter of this manual), (c) your goals (identified in your Goal Identification Forms), (d) scheduling a regular time to meet, and (e) any plan that you may already have for a first contact with your client (that is, a contact to schedule your first interview). Questions and discussions about interviewing, fact investigation, strategy and legal theory can be the focus of subsequent case team meetings.
Part II of the CALS Case Team Method specifies what we expect of you, and of ourselves, with respect to case handling. For example, it includes mandatory deadline information, certain steps you must undertake in each case, and record-keeping requirements (maintaining your files in accordance with the Clinic’s standard procedures is a matter that is of some importance to us institutionally as well as valuable to clients). Of course you and your advisor may agree that you will do more than the minimum standards require of you; these standards are set forth in this statement of our Method to inform you of what we regard as the “bottom lines” of responsible law practice in this Clinic environment.
THE CALS CASE TEAM METHOD: FORMAL STATEMENT
Part I: Procedures Governing Advisor-Student Relationships
This part of the CALS Case Team Method describes procedures governing the working relationships between the law student representatives and the advisor in the team. It also explains why the advisors suggest each of the proposed relationships. As is more fully described in the introductory description, the advisors are willing to discuss suggested changes to these procedures at any time.
1. Prior to each case team meeting, the students will discuss thoroughly with each other the issues they expect will arise in the meeting and, if decisions have to be made, the students will make at least tentative decisions before the meeting.
This procedure requires students to be prepared for each meeting and, by insisting that students canvass options and reject inferior ones, empowers them to make effective decisions. Case team meetings will be more valuable to students if discussions of issues begin by focusing on particular action plans, whether or not those plans are modified as a result of the meetings.
2. Students will develop and execute a written agenda for each case team meeting, although the advisor may propose additions to it when the meeting begins. The agenda will describe, at least briefly, each of the issues to be addressed, and copies will be distributed to the advisor no later than the beginning of each case team meeting. Each agenda should include the date and names of the students at the top of the page.
In the advisors’ experience, most groups meeting to work on complex legal projects are more effective if they plan an agenda carefully. A formal agenda also helps a group to complete its work within any applicable time limits. In addition, a written agenda allows all members to understand what has to be accomplished so that time is appropriately allocated to each item. Students rather than the advisor should prepare the agenda, because they will best know what issues (regarding both cases and other matters, such as interpersonal relationships or questions arising in class) need to be addressed in a meeting. The advisors have found that for most teams, fairly detailed agendas specifying particular issues are most likely to produce meetings in which most, if not all, student concerns may be addressed.
If this procedure doesn’t seem to work well, some variants that some students might want to consider proposing include: providing more or less detailed agendas; giving the advisor the agenda a day before the meeting so that the advisor can better prepare for the meeting; providing agendas only orally; requiring time segments to be assigned to each agenda item in writing; numbering each item in the agenda, etc.
The team should also decide whether members will use laptops or other mechanisms for taking notes during meetings.
3. At its first meeting, the case team will schedule a regular meeting to take place, for one hour, during each subsequent week. When they believe it is necessary, students or the advisor may propose an additional, “specially convened” case team meeting.
Over the years, most case teams have met for an hour a week, with one or two special or extended meetings during crunch or crisis periods. The advisors are not wedded to that schedule, but more frequent meetings tend to reduce students’ independence, and longer ones seem to be less efficient, covering the same ground in more time. Advisors have tried shorter meetings with some teams, but once the cases start going at full steam, an hour seems necessary.
Student partnerships may certainly ask for extra meetings when necessary. But we also ask students to respect the advisors’ time and bear in mind that they all have other responsibilities, such as teaching other classes, scholarship, and occasionally traveling out of town for professional obligations.
4. All members of the case team should be present at all case team meetings either in person or by speaker phone, unless other arrangements are agreed upon in advance, or an unforeseen event precludes the attendance of a member. In the event that a meeting is held without all members, it should be tape recorded for the absentee. This paragraph is also subject to the explanation stated in the text following Paragraph 7, below.
At case team meetings, something is likely to happen that will affect the future of the case. The attendance of each member is important so that a member doesn’t get left out of a critical process of evaluating students’ decisions or helping students to modify the direction they are taking. If a member can anticipate a necessary absence (e.g., for an out-of-town job interview), he or she should discuss it in advance so that the group can consider whether to reschedule the meeting or adopt some other plan. The procedure provides that a meeting can go forward without a member in the unusual case of a sudden, unforeseen absence (e.g., a member is stuck in a Metro shutdown).
5. The advisor will not make decisions for law student representatives or tell them what to do on their cases, except in a rare instance of imminent error that would seriously damage a client.
This is the “student control with safety net” procedure discussed in the introductory remarks in this chapter. In the advisors’ view, it maximizes student learning by giving law student representatives control over their cases. The advisor will ask many questions to help students evaluate their planning and the execution of their plans, and if asked they will give their own opinions, but they will almost never divest students of the power to make final decisions.
6. Before and during case team meetings, law student representatives will give explicit consideration to which questions of law, procedure, and strategy they want their advisor to try to answer informally, and which questions they want to research independently.
Asking questions is often a good way to do research on legal and strategic issues. Research through personal conversations, electronic mail, and telephone calls can often avoid long and inefficient searches of books and databases. We encourage students to pose questions often, to advisors as well as to each other and to people with knowledge or expertise outside of CALS. When we are asked questions, we will answer them to the best of our ability — which is often a very limited ability, because case-related questions frequently require more particularized information than we possess. At the same time, all conversation-based research can be hazardous. Apparent authorities provide a surprisingly high proportion of erroneous information, or information as to which other authorities disagree. In addition, asking for information from some authorities (e.g., public officials) may prematurely lock those authorities into positions that turn out to be adverse to CALS clients. Posing questions to CALS advisors may present both of those risks to some degree, but it may also present a different kind of hazard as well: pre-empting student opportunities to sharpen research skills by using other types of sources. For these reasons, we encourage students to feel free to ask us questions but to be conscious of possibly superior methods of obtaining information.
7. Significant case or case team issues that students wish to discuss with the advisor may be discussed only during regularly scheduled or specially convened case team meetings. Any other issues may be discussed with the advisor outside of such meetings. (Significant case or case-team issues involve decisions materially affecting the direction or outcome of a case or the direction of the work of the case team or of the student partnership).
This provision attempts to draw a line (although there are of course borderline situations) between the occasions when it is productive for one or both students to make casual inquiries of an advisor (e.g., by dropping by the advisor’s office) and those on which casual discussions, without all members being present, might do more harm than good. The idea is that to the extent that an advisor is used as relatively ministerial resources (e.g., “do you know of a good book about the human rights situation in Honduras?” or “what time does the clerk’s office at the Immigration Court close?”), little harm is likely to arise from casual questioning (although even here, a student who wanted to learn how to find resources might elect to work on the problem independently) rather than waiting for the next case team meeting. On the other hand, with rare exceptions, all case team members should ordinarily be present for discussions of strategy or most interpersonal problems; again, the purpose of this procedure is to avoid leaving one member of the team out of the decision-making process. If there is a genuinely urgent need to have a “special” case team meeting between two regularly scheduled ones, the advisor will try to be accommodating, but may be unavailable on short notice, and the advisor sometimes disagrees with students about the urgency of the need.
There have been exceptional times in the past, however, when students have not been able to overcome their interpersonal problems by working them out together or in case team meetings. In these extreme circumstances, it may be appropriate for either student to talk with the case team’s advisor individually about interpersonal issues that are affecting the partnership and the case team.
If you decide to talk with your advisor individually, it is preferable that you tell your partner in advance that you are going to have the discussion and disclose the general terms of what you want to talk about with the advisor (for example your anxiety or vicarious trauma). In rare cases where you cannot disclose the reason for the meeting with your partner in advance, you and your advisor should discuss during the meeting how to tell your partner about the meeting. The reason that we impose this requirement of notifying your partner is so that your partner does not think that you and your advisor are talking about him or her in secret. You might encourage your partner to speak with your advisor as well. When you meet with your advisor, you should explain the issue you are confronting and offer as many possible solutions as you can devise.
In extremely rare instances, one or both student partners may have conflicts with their case team advisor(s) that cannot be worked out in case team meetings, either because the members of the team tried and failed to resolve the issue(s) in those meetings or because the students had reservations about raising those issues with the team’s advisor(s). Should that happen, the students might, after serious reflection, decide to discuss the matter with one of the other advisors, though for the reason explained in the previous paragraph, it would be preferable if they first notified the case team advisor that they were doing so.
8. When appropriate, time will be spent in case team meetings on discussing how the team is working together and how the members feel about the work, issues that are easy to overlook in the heat of litigation. In addition, these issues could be addressed during the self-evaluation meetings that will be held by mid-semester.
You and your partner will be working closely together so it is very important to discuss any interpersonal issues that occur during your collaboration. As discussed earlier, we encourage you to talk about issues relating to team work frequently with your partner and in your weekly case team meetings. Such issues may include division of work, collaboration-related conflict, communication, gender dynamics, etc.
9. The last five minutes of each case team meeting will be devoted to an evaluation (not of the case itself, but of the team’s work on the case, the team’s learning, the value of that particular CTM, or any other worthwhile reflection), led by the student members.
At the end of each case team meeting, the group should pause to conduct a brief evaluation. This can be the time to address the meeting itself (often a good idea if there have been any problems of miscommunication or hard feelings in the meeting), the events of the previous week, the flow of the whole semester, or anything else. How well all members of the team are working together can always be discussed during this period, especially if there are any problems. This procedure was suggested years ago by students who found that future case team meetings often were more useful if each meeting was evaluated before it ended, with effective modes of work or problems explicitly noted. In the advisors’ experience, frank evaluations also help to prevent problems from continuing to the point where they become much greater in magnitude and more difficult to resolve.
10. The advisor and students will balance the occasionally conflicting needs for confidentiality and sharing as follows:
(a) Case matters. All members of the case team are encouraged to share case information freely with other members of the Clinic. Outside of the Clinic, the members of the case team may discuss the general subject matter of the cases, but will not reveal to anyone, including other Clinic clients, information from which their clients’ identities could be deduced.
(b) Interpersonal matters. Unless agreed otherwise, students may discuss the nature and content of case team meetings with anyone. The advisor may discuss these matters only with other advisors and the office manager.
This procedure is intended to correct the tendency of some students to keep interpersonal matters to themselves excessively, at the expense of their learning. It also assures students that the advisor will not share with other students, without advance consent, what happens during their case team meetings.
11. By mid-semester, each member of the team will meet individually with the team’s advisor(s) for self-evaluation. At one of the last case team meetings, there will be a substantial evaluation by the entire team of the work of the case team. This discussion will begin with self-evaluation by the student members.
The purpose of the early self-evaluation is to explore how well the team is working on the teaching goals of the clinic and on the individual goals set by each student. These purposes are more fully explained in Attachment C to this chapter of the manual.
The purpose of the final evaluation meeting is to provide an occasion, at the end of the work of the case team, for summing up and evaluation. Team members may evaluate what they learned, how their values and skills changed, and how well they applied their skills to preparation, execution, and evaluation of their case work. This is also a good time to assess progress on goals. They may also evaluate the effectiveness of their advisor and of CALS as a teaching institution.
The final meeting is also an occasion for identifying what, if anything, students learned in CALS that might be valuable to them in their next jobs or future careers.
For suggestions on preparing for the last case team meeting, see Attachment D at the end of this chapter.
Part II: Substantive Standards for Case Handling
This part describes CALS’ minimum requirements with respect to case handling and specifies students’ and advisors’ obligations. Unlike Part I, this set of procedures is one that advisors regard as both mandatory and relatively non-negotiable in that it incorporates the standards and procedures that advisors think enable them to advise students adequately and to protect the Clinic’s clients. But the advisors use the words “relatively non-negotiable” only to distinguish their views with respect to this part from their views with respect to Part I; students are certainly welcome to raise any issue with advisors and to try to persuade them to change their minds.
1. Case load. Each student partnership will handle, during the semester, at least one substantial case. A “substantial” case is one involving client interviews, strategic planning, legal research, fact investigation, and an oral appearance. We know that cases occasionally “wash out”; (e.g., the client repeatedly fails to appear for an initial interview or leaves the country). If this happens, the advisors will try to assign a replacement case until the partnership has a substantial case or it is too late in the term to take on a new case. Although each team has a substantial case, the type and number of issues that they must research and prepare vary widely.
2. Case completion. Cases are assigned randomly at orientation. (Very rarely, if a conflict of interest arises, or for other good cause, advisors may permit students to transfer a case to other students who do not yet have full case loads.) Students will represent the client until the conclusion of the case, or the conclusion of the semester, unless some unforeseen circumstance necessitates early withdrawal. Students will be responsible for making and executing all decisions relating to the case. Unless the hearing schedule prevents it, students will complete all case work, and all the actions necessary to close out (or transfer) the case file, by the date of the last CALS class of the semester. However, Clinic students are generally expected to remain available for fulfilling Clinic responsibilities through the end of the examination period. For more information consult the chapter on Carryover Cases in this manual.
3. File maintenance. Students will keep files orderly and constantly up-to-date in accordance with the guidelines stated in the chapter of the Practice Manual on Case Files and the memorandum included in each case file. All oral or written contacts pertaining to a case with anyone outside of CALS (including all unsuccessful efforts to make contact) must be documented in the Journal of Action. Thus, any contact with the client, a witness, a court clerk, opposing counsel, a potential expert, etc. must be recorded. Other entries in the Journal of Action (such as the completion of a particular research project) may be made at the option of the students working on the case. Everything should be word processed. The Journal of Action must be updated immediately after each recordable event. This should be done on-line, in the Journal of Action file for the case (in the CALS Box) so that it is immediately accessible to both partners and the advisor(s). At the end of the semester, the Journal of Action should be printed out and placed on the left side of the paper file for the case.
4. Required steps. Students will proceed expeditiously in all cases as soon as they are assigned. In working on cases, some steps are required by CALS, and others are optional or open to your own creativity and ingenuity. The required steps and deadlines are specified in the Practice Manual and in the chart of deadlines in the Assignment Manual. They include:
(a) Preparing to interview a client, and conducting the interview, within a very short time after the case is assigned (as specified in the Assignment Manual), unless that proves impossible for reasons beyond the students’ control;
(b) Writing a case plan, including a detailed calendar showing deadlines for all anticipated future work on the case, and submitting this document to the advisor within the time limits specified in the Assignment Manual. Thereafter, the students will revise and update the case plan and calendar as necessary, indicating new research or significant developments in the case. The final iteration of the case plan will be a hearing plan, as described in the Practice Manual;
(c) Meeting CALS’ filing deadlines as specified in the Assignment Manual and the Practice Manual. This includes showing the advisor the complete collated and tabbed submission for the Immigration Court before the documents are due, and meeting the time frame specified for this purpose in the Asylum Submission Deadlines chapter in the Practice Manual;
(d) Researching fully the facts and law of a case;
(e) Holding a mock hearing (moot) before the actual hearing in a case;
(f) Drafting a brief;
(g) Keeping the client fully apprised of developments in the case;
(h) Submitting to their advisor, with sufficient time for review, comment, and revision, proposed final copies of any documents that will be sent to any DHS office or Immigration Court ; and
(i) Complying with the requirements in the Office Manual regarding Office Administration and Case Closeout Procedures.
5. Advisor responsibilities. The advisor will:
(a) Listen to or view a recording of the students’ initial interview with each client or, in special circumstances, attend that interview;
(b) Periodically review the case file;
(c) Ensure that s/he is present as an observer at all hearings or other formal proceedings;
(d) Read and review any briefs, affidavits, proposed exhibits, motions, and any other documents prior to their formal use by the students;
(e) Offer feedback to students on all oral and written work;
(f) Assist in mooting each case at least once prior to hearings or Asylum Officer interviews;
(g) Undertake such additional action as may be mutually agreed to in the course of case team meetings.
In any case teams with two advisors, these responsibilities may be delegated to one of them.
6. Advisors’ collective responsibility for intake and withdrawal. All of the advisors and the office manager participate in the intake of new clinic cases. All of the advisors will participate in any decision about what to do if a client is contemplating discharging the Clinic or if there is reason to consider withdrawing from any ongoing case.
7. Court rules and ethical requirements. Students will comply with all appropriate Court Rules and Rules of Professional Conduct.