LMC Fellows represent Elon Law at national conference

Tiffany Atkins and Drew Simshaw presented research on April 18, 2018, at the Southeastern Regional Legal Writing Conference hosted by Georgia State University and Emory University.

Two Elon Law faculty members shared details of their work in late April at an influential regional gathering of legal writing educators.

The 2018 Southeastern Regional Legal Writing Conference hosted by Georgia State University and Emory University on April 21 included presentations by Drew Simshaw and Tiffany Atkins L’11, two of Elon Law’s Legal Method and Communication Fellows.

Heather Gram, another Elon Law LMC Fellow, also represented Elon Law in her attendance at the conference.

At Elon Law, the Legal Method & Communication Program is woven through the first-year curriculum. The program’s approach to instruction was reinvented in 2015 when Elon Law moved to a seven-trimester, 2.5-year program, where students focus more deeply on fewer courses at any given time.

About the Presentations:

“Understanding the Endowment Effect: Helping Students Let Go of Those Irrelevant Facts”
Drew Simshaw

Simshaw discussed how psychological theories can help explain challenges law students and lawyers face when structuring the process of their legal writing. For example, if writers passively compile the facts, law, and legal theories that make up many forms of legal writing, they are likely to encounter what is known as the “endowment effect.” This theory from the economics field suggests that people overvalue things the moment they take ownership of them, resulting in an irrational attachment to the status quo. In legal writing, this can result in drafters resisting critical thinking and editing, which are essential to producing quality legal writing.

To help students understand the endowment effect, Simshaw conducts a fun 5-minute exercise through which many students realize that, for example, they would not pay $500 for a ticket to see their favorite band (because they would rather keep the $500 they own), but also would not accept $500 for a ticket they received for free (because they would rather keep the ticket they own.) In other words, whether a student would rather have the ticket or the money depends primarily on which is in their possession at the time.

Simshaw also discussed what intellectual property scholars call the “creativity effect,” in which artists overvalue something simply because they created it. In many ways, legal writers are artists, and can also overvalue their creations, sometimes resulting in a stubborn resistance to essential editing processes. Simshaw concluded his presentation by leading a discussion with participants about the relationship between these psychological theories, how legal writing professors can help students recognize the challenges they present, and how one’s writing process can be structured in order to overcome those challenges.

“Amplifying Diverse Voices in the Legal Writing Classroom”
Tiffany D. Atkins L’11

Atkins’s presentation explored the various strategies and methods for encouraging participation from diverse students in the legal writing classroom. Focusing on “cultural amplification” as a teaching tool, participants learned how to empower female students to find their voice, the importance of utilizing diverse writing prompts to include students of color and minorities, and finally, how to incorporate classroom technology and online platforms to engage introverted students.

About Elon Law:

Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, North Carolina, is the preeminent school for engaged and experiential learning in law. With a focus on “learning by doing,” it integrates traditional classroom instruction with course-connected, full-time residencies-in-practice in a logically sequenced program of transformational professional preparation. Elon Law’s groundbreaking approach is accomplished in 2.5 years, which provides distinctive value by lowering tuition and permitting graduates early entry into their legal careers.