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Small Teaching Idea

With all the discussion about law schools and teaching I thought I would share something that I tried last year and plan on trying again in my trademark class. Near the end of the semester, I called a partner at my old firm and asked for the cease and desist letter, complaint, and summary judgment motions from a live case. I had the class read the materials and then explain why certain facts were used in the complaint and the motions. In addition, I asked them to argue the case in class informally. (This year I will likely make the arguments more formal). The class seemed to connect the dry aspects of trademark law to the pleading. In addition, they started to see how likelihood of confusion as a mutli-factor test to know is nice but that applying and arguing it is a bit more challenging. Another interesting point was when one student started to argue theory/policy to question the way the motions presented their cases and how the law operated.

I am sure others have done similar things. For example, Mike Madison has offered me some great ideas on connecting theory with practice in the classroom that involve a law firm style assignment, but I will let him share those so I don’t lose something in translation. Luckily Mike writes quite a bit. So here are some related links with insights and thoughts on teaching, Teaching and Learning IP, Wikis for Collaborative Teaching, The Way We Teach, and Faculty Tech Fundamentals. Brett Frischmann has described to me a more formal but group-based, plaintiff, defendant, judge approach with writing and oral argument but again I’ll let him give the details so as not to lose nuances. In the non-IP context my colleague, Laura Berg, used actors and depositions to show students how to extract facts and use them. I may even try and use a case file to direct students towards gleaning key facts from the volume of information encountered in discovery.

What is interesting to me is that these folks talk to me about theory all the time and write well. The theory helps guide students regarding what to look for in a case and where arguments can be made. These types of assignments work because of the theory and teaching leading up to them.

So if anyone has suggestions or experiences of this nature, please share.

cross-posted at Concurring Opinions

2 thoughts on “Small Teaching Idea”

  1. Deven,

    I agree with Rebecca — great idea! I like to mix things up with in-class moot court arguments and related exercises. In Torts, I generally use a really long, fact-intensive problem from my casebook, assign students to teams to prepare arguments for each side (plaintiff and defendant), and then conduct mock arguments in class. Afterwards, the class breaks up into “juries” of 8-10 to decide the case, and then we discuss both the substantive issues raised in the problem as well as the legal process involved in making a decision. In IP and Cyberlaw courses, I often use actual cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court or a U.S. Court of Appeals and use the briefs and/or district court opinion plus other filings (EFF often has the documents available, which is really helpful.). The students work on one of three teams, a team representing appellant or appellee, or the judges (which requires leading the discussion in class after oral arguments regarding how to draft an opinion). In some years, students have even drafted opinions and presented them to the class. All of this has worked pretty well, but it is time consuming.

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