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MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR – JANUARY, 2021

Be Good.     Be Kind.     Be Gentle.     
Make the World a Better Place.

This is a phrase I used to say to my kids when I dropped them off at school, and yes, it lasted through their high school years, and yes, I was the embarrassing mom.  They are now 20 and 21 and making their way through their remote college years and figuring out who they are, and as they are both relatively healthy and interested in learning, I feel quite lucky.  I share that to emphasize the theme from the AALS Annual Virtual Conference some of us attended – The Power of Words.  While I thought I was just throwing out a corny phrase, I am struck that my daughter used it in her college application essay and my son just made me greeting cards with this saying on them (he is a Graphic Designer, if anyone has a lead on a job after he graduates, he and I would be eternally grateful!).  Our words matter, our intentions matter, our impact matters.

As we begin 2021, and can you believe we are just beginning 2021? It feels like it has been going on for about a year already…this is a moment, a semester, a year and a time when we need to take care of ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world, perhaps more than ever.  This year, we will be working to expand the work of our Section and we hope you will join is if you are able and want to connect.

The Section will be setting some ambitious goals through the work of the following Committees:

• Annual Program/Service Project
• Awards
• Collaboration
• Educational Enrichment
• Membership
• Newsletter/Communications
• Nominating Committee

If any of those sound interesting, please reach out and we will put you in touch with the Committee leaders.  They welcome your help as we aim to grow some new leaders and emphasize the importance of our work – supporting and strengthening our pro bono and public service programs at our law schools.  By learning and sharing what we are doing at our schools, we can collaborate to meet more unmet legal needs and advocate for more resources to bolster our students interested in pro bono and public service.

I am grateful to get to work with a great team on our Section Leadership. Please join me in welcoming/welcoming back:

AALS PRO BONO AND PUBLIC SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES 2021 OFFICERS

The 2021 Section Officers are:

• Chair, Sue Schechter, UC Berkeley School of Law
• Chair-Elect, Kiva Zytnick, The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law
• Secretary, Tonya Jupiter, Tulane Law School
• Treasurer, Bridget Fuselier, Baylor University School of Law
• Newsletter Editor, Stephen Rispoli, Baylor University School of Law
• Past-Chair, Sande Buhai, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles

The incoming and continuing to serve Executive Board members in 2021 (listed alphabetically):

• Tara Casey, University of Richmond School of Law
• Katelyn Cherney, Creighton University School of Law
• Anna Davis, UC Irvine School of Law
• Glory McLaughlin, University of Alabama School of Law
• Darcy McLean Meals, Georgia State University School of Law
• Nadine Mompremier, Columbia Law School
• Kelli Neptune, Howard University School of Law
• Pam Robinson, University of South Carolina School of Law
• Meredith Schnug, University of Kansas School of Law
• Angela Schultz, Marquette Law School
• Shawna Smith-Thornton, Texas A & M Law School 
• Jennifer Tschirch, Georgetown University School of Law
• Eliza Vorenberg, Roger Williams University School of Law
• Lauren Worsek,  Depaul Law School

And finally, a big thank you to Sande Buhai, Loyola Law School (LA), for her 2020 Chairperson-ship. Janet Heppard retired from the University of Houston Law Center to become judge of the 387th State District Court in Fort Bend County, Texas, a family court.  Go Janet!  Thank you and congratulations.

Imperfectly and gratefully yours,

– Sue Schechter

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Tribute to Deborah Rhode

By Sande Buhai

Many people and organizations have been writing about the passing of Professor Deborah Rhode this month. Our section would not exist without her.

Professor Rhode was the embodiment of all of the virtues that those of us who care about social justice and public service hold dear. We will miss her inspiring leadership. During her term as President of the AALS in 1998, she created a Commission on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities to help law schools improve their pro bono programs. One of its recommendations was the formation of our section. Professor Rhode was the embodiment of life-long learning and leadership. Not only did her efforts result in the birth of our AALS section, she also was founding chair of the AALS Section on Leadership and founding president of the International Association of Legal Ethics.

Professor Rhode was one of our most important leaders in the fight to improve pro bono participation in law schools and throughout the profession. She was also a leader in the fields of legal ethics, women and gender, and most recently on leadership training for lawyers and law students. She authored 30 books and an uncountable number of articles in the fields of professional responsibility, leadership, and gender, law and public policy. Her extraordinary scholarly and policy work was matched only by her character and commitment to social justice. 

Over the course of her career, she received many awards: our first Rhode Award, the American Bar Association’s Michael Franck award for contributions to the field of professional responsibility, the American Bar Foundation’s W. M. Keck Foundation Award for distinguished scholarship on legal ethics, the American Foundation’s Distinguished Scholar award, the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award for her work on expanding public service opportunities in law schools, and the White House’s Champion of Change award for a lifetime of work in increasing access to justice.

The world will miss her and her many contributions. In her honor, we should all strive to step up and be the role model that she was.

Photo of Sande Buhai, Loyola Law School

Sande Buhai (sande.buhai@lls.edu) is Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Public Interest and Pro Bono Programs at Loyola Marymount University, Loyola Law School

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Successful Conference Session Gives Food for Thought

By Angela Schultz

Over 200 people joined our January 6th conference panel, Calling Out and Leaning-in to Racial and Class Inequities in Experiential Learning Opportunities. The 90-minute session, moderated by Angela Schultz of Marquette Law School, featured discussion among three panelists:

  • Alexi Freeman, associate dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Denver Law;
  • Amada Rivas, director of externships at St. Mary’s School of Law; and
  • Michele Storms, executive director of the ACLU of Washington and former assistant dean for public service at the University of Washington School of Law.

Panelists discussed matters ranging from the personal to the professional, including sharing bits of their own life stories, personal identities, and on-the-job learning experiences when teaching about racism, intersectionality, and cultural humility.  Attendees used the chat to weigh in with questions, comments, and to share relevant resources. Comments included:

  • This panel is certainly helping engage my brain on how I can better raise diversity and inclusion issues with my students.
  • Georgia State University has a resource list intended to bring discussions of race and racism into core law school courses. See www.law.gsu.edu/racialjustice
  • Another great resource if the deans’ anti-racist clearinghouse page: www.aals.org/antiracist-clearinghouse/
  • I love the idea of including discussion about imposter syndrome in class. A great resource on this topic is Neha Sampat: http://www.genlead.co/
  • This is the most powerful and useful discussion on this topic I have ever heard.

Questions raised by the group pose some potential for future programming. For example:

  • How can we “reach across the aisle” and work with students who might think of diversity, equity, and inclusion as code for “liberal-leaning perspectives only”?
  • Can we find a place to share content of training and materials we use to raise these issues with our law students? Where do you make room for these sessions during the semester?
  • How do we keep conversations about racism from turning into “pity” for others? I sometimes worry my students perceive others’ trauma (the trauma of racism) more as their own various trauma. How are you talking about vicarious trauma with your students?

Members of the section board met for a business meeting after the session when the Chair of our section, Sande Buhai of Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, commented that in her 18 years on the section, this was our best conference session to-date.

Kudos to all involved.

VIEW THE RECORDED SESSIONS

Angela Schultz (angela.schultz@marquette.edu) is Assistant Dean for Public Service at Marquette University Law School

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AALS Section on Pro Bono Awards


Congratulations to Dean Erwin Chemerinksy, recipient of the Deborah L. Rhode Award and Pamela DeFanti Robinson, recipient of the Father Robert Drinan Award.

The Rhode and Drinan Awards were presented virtually on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, at 12:15 PM. Professor Seth Davis of Berkeley Law presented the Rhode Award to Dean Chemerinsky. Pamela Robinson received the Drinan Award from Dean William Hubbard, Dean of The University of South Carolina School of Law.

 Rhode Award – Dean Erwin Chemerinksy

Drinan Award

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Rethinking How to Promote Pro Bono in Law Schools

By Kiva Keane Zytnick

This article originally appeared in The National Association for Law Placement Bulletin, January, 2021, titled: From Persuasion to Personality Science: Rethinking How to Promote Pro Bono in Law Schools


“How can I persuade more law students to do pro bono?” I asked myself when I first began directing the Pro Bono Program at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. I thought about how to communicate all the reasons why law students should do pro bono work. I was a cheerleader: “It’s simply the right thing to do! There’s an access to justice crisis! The law school mission! It’s your professional responsibility! Networking! Hands-on experience!

Turns out, that was not the best approach.

Why Persuasion Isn’t the Most Effective Strategy to Engage Law Students in Pro Bono

Fast forward to January 2020 as I listened to Dr. Larry Richard (see Resources: Blog) talk about “The Social Science of Doing Good” (see Resources: Social Science) and deliver one “aha!” moment after another. Dr. Richard is a leading expert on the psychology of lawyer behavior and has spent years studying what kinds of people are drawn to the legal profession. I’ve participated in two discussions featuring Dr. Richard since then and each time his research and advice have given me more clarity about how I should approach CUA Law’s Pro Bono Program and our law students. This article will convey some of my takeaways about how law school professionals can better engage law students in pro bono (even during a pandemic) by working with, not against, their particular personality traits.

The first thing to understand is that people who become lawyers tend to be outliers. I know — eye roll, lawyers think they are so special — but personality-wise, it’s true! No other profession scores outside the norm in so many ways. Using the Caliper Profile, Dr. Richard has identified seven ways many lawyer personalities (and by extension, law student personalities) differ from the average person:

  1. High Autonomy. Lawyers do not like others telling them what to do.
  2. High Abstract Reasoning. Lawyers like analyzing problems and facing intellectual challenges. That also means that when receiving advice, lawyers are more likely to argue, scrutinize, and disagree with what they are being told.
  3. High Urgency. Lawyers are impatient. They want to be where they are going, not where they are right now.
  4. Low Resilience. Lawyers tend to feel wounded when they are rejected, which means that advice can feel off-putting or make them defensive.
  5. High Skepticism. Lawyers tend to be really good at looking for problems. That’s part of what makes them great lawyers, and it is a skill that is taught and emphasized perhaps above all others in law school. Unfortunately, in many other respects, skepticism is the enemy. High skepticism relates to high pessimism, which is also detrimental to resilience. Skepticism also undercuts relationships, which are necessary for basically every other aspect of success and happiness.
  6. Low Sociability. Related to skepticism and resilience, lawyers are less inclined to initiate connections with other people. They tend to be more private, guarded, and keep relationships on a cerebral level rather than an emotional level.
  7. Low Cognitive Empathy. Lawyers (particularly younger lawyers, as this is a trait that is dropping as Millennials and Gen Z enter the profession) are less skilled at being able to take the perspective of another person.

What this means for law school professionals directing pro bono programs is that many of our go-to strategies to engage law students in pro bono are working against law students’ innate personalities. Telling students why they should do pro bono? Bad strategy. Incentivizing students to do pro bono? Bad strategy. In fact, the whole mindset of convincing law students to do pro bono is unhelpful.

Using Psychological Strategies To Increase Law Student Pro Bono Engagement

Fortunately, in addition to identifying strategies that are less likely to be successful, social science also provides insights into ways law students may be more receptive to engaging in pro bono.

  • Role Modeling. Law students are more likely to engage in pro bono activities if people in formal leadership positions at their law school are engaging in pro bono. Law students look at leaders they admire and respect, such as professors and deans, to see if they make time for pro bono. To that end, it is critical to the success of pro bono programs to encourage and spotlight the pro bono efforts of those in leadership positions at the law school. Conversely, role models who do not prioritize pro bono can have a detrimental impact on a pro bono program. A culture of pro bono at all levels at the law school will make a big difference on student participation.
  • Social Proof. (Also known as “the bandwagon effect” or simply “peer pressure.”) Law students are more likely to engage in pro bono if they see their peers volunteering their time and legal talent. This is especially true for 1Ls— when suffering from uncertainty, humans are inclined to look to the behavior of their peers to figure out what they should be doing. Make sure students know about the good works their law student peers are doing and have done in the past. Even if it is not conscious, students will think “people like me do this, I should too.” FOMO (fear of missing out) can be a big motivator for law students. What is not motivating is pointing out how they are falling short— don’t say something like, “only 10% of our students are doing pro bono, c’mon you have to do better!”
  • Tell Stories. Humans are hardwired to learn through stories, so connect to the power of role modeling and social proof by telling stories about law school leaders and peers making a difference with pro bono. Using stories to share how pro bono at your law school has helped people also allows students to meaningfully understand why they should participate too.
  • Provide Experiences. Training and other behavioral simulations help shape the identity of individuals. When law students practice certain skills, it increases the likelihood they will internalize it and tell themselves, “I am the type of person who does pro bono.” Think about partnering with law school clinics and local legal service organizations to provide these experiences. For example, at CUA Law we partnered with our on-campus legal clinic faculty for a “Pro Bono Orientation” that included role-playing exercises about how to conduct an intake interview.
  • Build on Past Behavior. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Anecdotally, many of us know that oncea law student begins doing pro bono, they are more likely to continue. Identifying students who have a history of volunteerism prior to law school and connecting their previous experiences with pro bono opportunities available to them as law students is a good use of your time and resources. Remind them that they are “the type of person who does pro bono.”
  • Generate Positive Emotions. When people are in a good mood they are more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior, such as helping others. Positive emotions can be generated by being in a “transcendent” emotional state like awe, wonder, admiration, inspiration, veneration, or reverence. Connecting with others, giving, helping, and expressing gratitude also all generate positive emotions and put people in a mindset of selflessness, making them more likely to volunteer. There are lots of ways you could try to “prime the pump” and trigger positive emotions, putting your students in a receptive mindset before a pro bono pitch. Perhaps you could show students an act of goodness in a video clip, or have them take a moment to share something they are grateful for, or ask them to turn to the person sitting next to them and say something kind. Good food helps too (as every law school professional knows), and even something as small asking students to help pass out plates generates positive emotions.
  • Restore Disrupted Needs. People have a harder time satisfying the three basic human needs — predictability, control, and human connection— in times of stress and uncertainty. These needs are especially disrupted right now in the midst of a global pandemic and political upheaval, but law school produces stress and uncertainty uncertainty in the best of years. Helping students restore these needs will put them in a better mindset to take on pro bono work. For example, you can reinforce predictability by creating clear, precise goals and expectations for your pro bono program. You can help students cultivate a sense of control by focusing on what they have discretion over and giving them a set of choices on how to participate. Most importantly, you can foster social connections with your students through listening to them, thanking them, being authentic with them— and, of course, through the pro bono work itself.

In short, instead of telling students why they should do pro bono, focus on creating a law school culture where pro bono is not just something that they do, it is part of who they are and the community they belong to. The more people at the law school who engage in pro bono, from 1Ls to the Dean, the easier and more effective this will be. Allow students to feel the
impact of pro bono through stories and experiences. And don’t forget that law students are humans, and humans struggle in times of stress and uncertainty. Generating positive emotions and helping restore their sense of predictability, control, and social connection will help them be in a better place to give of themselves to others.

Kiva K. Zytnick (zytnick@cua.edu) is Associate Director, Pro Bono Program and Public Interest Law for the Office of Career and Professional Development at The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.

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Crush Your Next Virtual Presentation

By Gia Storms

This article originally appeared in The Harvard Business Review, January 06, 2021


My coaching client, an engineer named Carlos, is a magnificent in-person storyteller. He talks with his hands and tells lengthy, animated stories replete with humorous metaphors and plot twists. His wit and warmth used to be received positively.

But when giving presentations over video, Carlos’ stories tend to fall flat. His recent feedback reveals that he frequently trails on for too long, losing his audience amid unnecessary detail and failing to deliver succinct, concise communication.

Carlos is not alone. While virtual platforms help us connect with one another across distance, they also pose a challenge for leaders accustomed to presenting in person. Reading the room online requires more focus, and a digital environment makes it harder to comprehend nonverbal cues like tone, pitch, and body language. For example, when connecting with people in person, the human brain relies on microexpressions of the human face to interpret receptivity and inform judgment while communicating. In a virtual meeting platform, a presenter may only have access to a few faces (or none at all). Add to that remote work’s myriad distractions and inconsistent internet connectivity interfering with video and audio quality, and it can feel impossible to gauge your performance and reception in real time.

Leaders must tap into a different skill set to effectively deliver their messages and be engaging in a remote environment. Virtual venues require you to transition from reading nonverbal cues in the moment to getting curious about your participants before, during, and after presentations to ensure your message lands. Here are six ways to deliver well-received presentations when you and your audience are bound by the limitations of virtual communication.

Use the tech’s features. While certain video platforms can limit a presenter’s ability to engage with audience members’ faces in real time, built in-features like polls, chats, whiteboards, thumbs-ups, or raised hands can help you get and keep people’s attention. Incorporate these engagement tools early in the presentation to get people in the mood to participate.

Open with a story that speaks to your audience. Gather some information about your participants beforehand and build in a personal story that will resonate with them. Keep it short and specific to avoid meandering and losing them. Stories, anecdotes, and metaphors are proven to increase engagement — as long as they’re delivered with authenticity and vulnerability and clearly reinforce your desired message. If you’re not sure if your story is relevant, consider running it by a trusted colleague as you prepare for your presentation.

Solicit participation in advance. Research shows that facilitating meetings in an active way, including calling on participants to share, is key to increasing engagement and effectiveness. Give your audience an early heads-up that you’ll be asking for two or three volunteers to share during the meeting — this will help people stay attentive and poised to participate, and it will minimize their likelihood of multitasking or checking out. Also, before the presentation, ask a few selected people to contribute, then call on them early.

Be clear, be brief, and be quiet. Keeping your message concise, simple, and clear has never been more important than when battling the many distractions inherent to a virtual room. Keep lengthy monologues to a minimum, and don’t avoid silence. When you ask a question, wait confidently for someone to answer, rather than automatically interpreting silence as a lack of engagement. It can take longer for participants to digest and respond to information over video, so use the extra seconds as an opportunity to listen deeply before asking a follow-up question or calling on a volunteer.

Don’t discount nonverbal cues entirely. A 2007 study found that people can read information and emotions better if their body language and facial expressions are also on display. Before you present, encourage participants to have their cameras on, and identify one person to whom you’ll aim your delivery throughout your presentation. Watch that person’s face and body language for signals of how they’re receiving your talk. Head nodding, smiling, sustaining eye contact, and leaning in are good signs, while yawning, crossed arms, a stoic look, or eyes cast downward or sideways can signal disengagement and that you need to change your approach.

Follow up for feedback. After your presentation, solicit feedback from one or two trusted participants to see if you delivered your intended message successfully. If the meeting was recorded, watch the video, paying special attention to how participants responded to your attempts to engage them. Identify two or three techniques you can incorporate next time to improve your connection with the audience.

Before his next 200-person, virtual all-hands meeting, Carlos decided to take a new approach to engaging the room. In advance of the presentation, he asked three senior staff members he could count on to participate and contribute within the first five minutes. He asked his team for topics ahead of time in order to curb his tendency to deliver unilateral storytelling, and during the meeting, he opened up the floor for shares and chats, which led to an active discussion of the team’s concerns. As a result, his audience was more engaged and participatory than normal, and he got feedback that it was his best presentation so far.

Gia Storms is a leadership coach and member of The Boda Group. She facilitates team and executive coaching from Los Angeles.

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Book Review: No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us

By Rachel Louise Snyder – Reviewed by Eve Ross*

Bloomsbury, 2019. 320p. $25.20, hardcover. Also available as e-book or e-audiobook. Find it at a local library through worldcat.org. If purchased through bookshop.org, sales support independent bookstores.

Rachel Louise Snyder had traveled internationally as journalist, noting domestic violence as incidental to several stories she had written in Afghanistan, Niger, Honduras, and elsewhere, never quite connecting it as part of the same global epidemic as domestic violence in the United States.

She had believed a number of prevalent falsehoods about domestic violence. Among them: if it’s serious, there will be visible injuries; if it’s bad enough, victims will leave; restraining orders and shelters are adequate responses; and domestic violence is a private matter that only affects the people in a few unlucky households. Her research—interviews of victims and abusers, as well as statistical research—both counters those myths and reveals that domestic violence is profoundly connected to other societal problems, including homelessness and mass shootings.

Section One interrogates why domestic violence victims stay in abusive relationships. Section Two asks whether abusers can learn to be nonviolent. Section Three examines advocates and initiatives working to interrupt domestic violence. Along with the book’s sociological and journalistic underpinnings, legal topics both broad and specific are mentioned—criminal domestic violence courts, sentencing guidelines, the Violence Against Women Act, the O.J. Simpson trial, Crawford v. Washington, and more.

*Eve Ross, 2020. Reference Librarian, Law Library, University of South Carolina School of Law, Columbia, South Carolina.