Review: Injecting Law Student Drama Into the Classroom

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By Gerry Hess from Gonzaga University School of Law

Paula Schaefer, Injecting Law Student Drama Into the Classroom: Transforming an E-Discovery Class (or Any Law School Class) with a Complex, Student-Generated Simulation, 12 Nevada Law Journal 130 (2011) [Read fulltext (135 KB PDF)] (Reprinted with permission of the author)

“Without the simulation, students would insist that they would never falsely answer an interrogatory. But with the simulation, they find out first-hand that vigilance is needed to prevent this from happening in practice.”

Professor Paula Schaefer invites us to help students navigate the distance between law school and practice by including a complex simulation in our courses. A well-designed complex simulation addresses some of the weaknesses of simple simulations and provides some of the advantages of clinical work. Unlike a simple simulation, which lacks the authenticity of practice, a complex simulation exposes students to “the environment in which the lawyer would encounter [a] task – the knowledgeable people the lawyer would interact with (clients, witnesses, experts, other lawyers, etc.), the type of matter (multifaceted business dispute, employment discrimination case, business merger, etc.), and the quantity and type of information the lawyer would consider.”

In her article, Professor Schaefer provides a model that readers can transfer to other courses. She describes her approach of engaging “student-characters” in generating e-discovery material and “student-lawyers” in working through the e-discovery process. For example, “students are not permitted to file a complaint (or answer interrogatories or file a motion) without seeking client input.” By thoroughly explaining how she designs a complex simulation, she helps us adopt her approach; by connecting her model to the theory of learning, Professor Schaefer convincingly argues why we should.

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