and the Workplace
This course developed out of Sturm’s work first as a plaintiff’s
employment discrimination lawyer and then as a scholar using field
research to develop innovative approaches to workplace equity.
Sturm's background prompted questions about the adequacy of conventional
approaches, which rely unduly on courts to develop and enforce
universal rules for complex problems. It also led her to experiment with problem-oriented teaching and learning, and to collaborate
with practitioners in developing and running the class.
The course uses interdisciplinary and inter-professional approaches
to workplace equity issues. These broader perspectives more accurately
reflect the considerations lawyers face in addressing workplace
issues. They also expand students' conception of law and lawyering to take account of informal and organizational roles. The course also challenges the “lone ranger” image
that sometimes emerges from the traditional Socratic classroom, and introduces
the importance of collaboration across disciplines, positions,
|"I’ve realized that there
are more steps to ‘fixing the problem’ than I
thought. The answer isn’t always to ‘fix the problem.
A lot of variables are involved—like what caused the
problem and how to prevent future problems."
Sturm created and co-taught the class with a clinical faculty
member at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Alan Lerner.
The faculty also had the assistance of a former practicing lawyer
who was making a transition into teaching. This lawyer worked
as a teaching fellow to help assemble materials, construct scenarios
and role plays, and facilitate smaller group sessions.
[For another description, click here to download Alan Lerner, Law & Lawyering in the Workplace: Building Better Lawyers by Teaching Students
to Exercise Critical Judgment as Creative Problem Solvers, 32
Akron l. Rev. 197 (1999)] [download
The class was offered as an elective to 30 students during the
second semester of their first year of law school. By the second
semester, many students had already been socialized to adopt uncritically
a pure litigation-oriented, adversarial model of lawyering. Through
interdisciplinary readings, simulations, role plays, and interactions
with practitioners, the course disrupted the frameworks students
had passively internalized and stimulated students to rethink
the lawyer’s role in addressing workplace equity problems.
|"The Law and Lawyering class challenged
us to look beyond the strict legal issues. Behind the legalities
were real problems involving unequal opportunity, social stereotyping,
professionalism in the workplace. We discovered the importance
of focusing on the underlying disease to effectively relieve
the recurring symptoms."
The course focused its inquiry around two specific workplace
contexts (a police department and a law firm), positioned students
in varying roles within those contexts, (in house counsel, partner,
police chief, union representative, community member, black employee
affinity group etc), and pushed participants to think critically
about the role of law and lawyers from the perspective of those
different roles, values, and contexts. We developed interdisciplinary
materials to give students a sense of the political, organizational,
and cultural dynamics of those contexts. Students then read assigned
legal cases with new understanding. Role plays, simulations, and
discussions called upon students to interact at different decision
points and to employ a range of skills, from traditional advocacy
to mediation to institutional design to public persuasion. Academics
from other disciplines and practitioners participated in the class,
often enacting their real-world roles in the class room or critically
commenting upon students’ role plays.
See resource page for course
syllabus, procedures, and sample lesson plans.
Assignments And Evaluation
The course tailored the writing assignments and assessment process
to its goals. Students wrote newspaper editorials, participating
in selecting in house counsel for a police department, designed
a sexual harassment policy, grievance procedure, and organizational
change process for a law firm, conducted a mediation, and participated
in redesigning a selection and recruitment process for a police
department faced with both a challenge by white officers to its
affirmative action policy and a challenge by black applicants
to its selection criteria. Because of the variety and intensity
of interaction with students, faculty got to know them and their
writing quite well. This provided faculty with considerable information
upon which to base an evaluation of class participation. After
faculty brought in a creative expert on constructing evaluation
processes, they redesigned their own structured and shared assessment
of participation. They identified and applied common criteria
independently and then collectively to take account of their disagreements
and potential biases.
Students seemed literally to expand their professional and analytical
horizons. The interdisciplinary, theory/practice integration,
when it “took”, opened them up to ask really interesting
questions, to think dynamically about legal problems, and to take
seriously the prospect of developing legal roles that could address
underlying problems. This experience provided a foundation for
rethinking approaches to teaching Civil Procedure, as well as
to developing a new field research seminar at Columbia.
|"Luckily, now I have a better idea
of what other skills I must have to succeed in the real world.
It gives me much needed hope to know that there are jobs out
there that entail more than just pushing paper around and
pulling out black letter law. What a relief!"