Stone Soup Assessment: Carrie Kaas’s Externship Course

It would be hard to be more enthusiastic about Stone Soup than Carolyn Wilkes (Carrie) Kaas, the Co-Director of Quinnipiac’s Center on Dispute Resolution, Director of Experiential Education, as well as Director of Concentration Programs in Family Law and Civil Advocacy and Dispute Resolution.  These days, she also teaches Quinnipiac’s Externship Program.

Like a number of colleagues, she previously had assigned students to do interviews.  The Stone Soup Project prompted her to do this more systematically.

She wrote a wonderfully thoughtful and detailed analysis of how Stone Soup worked in her externship course last semester, which really is worth reading even if you don’t teach externship.  Here are some highlights.

Carrie assigned students to do two interviews of their externship supervisors.  One interview was about the future of the legal profession and the other was about lawyers’ role as public citizens.  Before conducting the interviews, students read publications about these issues, which improved the quality of the interviews.  Students wrote 2-3 page papers after the first interview and an analysis of the second interview was part of a 5-6 page final reflection paper. Here is material she provided to students explaining the assignments.

After the first set of interviews, students discussed them in class, which provided a much broader understanding of how lawyers view the profession.  Carrie wrote that students “learned that none of the experienced supervisors – who are in the thick of practice — have done much reading or study of the global trends of change (as presented in the assigned reading) and many were wary of changes.  I helped the students focus on how much their generation is going to have to keep track of these trends and embrace the future—harness technology, develop new business models, etc.”

She wrote that this discussion was a “[g]reat use of class time.  If I had left it as only a writing assignment, they would have had no idea of what the other supervisors thought, nor any way to evaluate and compare the quality of their supervisors’ responses.  We left class with a much more comprehensive understanding of the breadth of practice, the scope of change, and the variety of opinions.”

“By requiring each student to bring this ‘data’ back to class, all the students learn about the perspectives of experienced lawyers (and judges and mediators) in many types of practice settings.  Thus, in addition to what they learn from the particular legal work they are doing in their own externship, they are also ‘studying’ the legal profession across practice settings very different from the one in which they are placed.  This is an explicit learning outcome of the seminar portion of our externship course.”

Because the final papers were due at the end of the semester, they didn’t discuss them in class.  Given the rest of Carrie’s experience, I assume that this also would have been a great discussion, but one can only do so much . . . and she plans to discuss this in class in the future.

She wrote that the Stone Soup assignments “improved the time and energy students put into the topic and thus, has improved their understanding.”

In the externship, students had ready-made interview subjects – their supervisors – which made it easy to arrange the interviews.  Carrie wondered whether it would be hard for students to find lawyers to interview.  She serves on a state bar professionalism committee and many committee members have asked how they can help, so she thinks that many of them would eagerly agree to be interviewed.

In other courses, students generally have been able to find interview subjects, though some have needed some help from their instructors to arrange interviews.  If you assign students to conduct interviews, it’s a good idea to have a plan to solicit interview subjects if needed.  You may have a network of friends who would be happy to do this.  You might also tap into your school’s alumni or contact bar associations, associations of DR practitioners etc.

Here’s a link to other course assessments as well as a summary of Stone Soup experiences and general advice based on this semester’s courses.

Carrie will be one of the presenters at the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Legal Educators Colloquium in our program, Lessons From the Stone Soup Project and Ideas for the Future.

 

 

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