Carolinas Colloquium brings together legal writing community

Dozens of legal writing and legal research faculty members from law schools across North and South Carolina shared best practices and personal stories of teaching during a pandemic when they convened for a biennial conference hosted this year at Elon Law.

It may not have been billed as a reunion, but after more than a year apart, it sure felt like one for a tight knit community of law professors.

Dozens of legal writing and legal research experts from North and South Carolina gathered June 24 at Elon Law in downtown Greensboro for the 2021 Carolinas Colloquium. And, without a doubt, they sure were happy to see each other.

From left: Associate Dean Sue Liemer of Elon Law, Associate Dean Kathleen McLeod of Elon Law, and Law Library Director Nichelle J. Perry of N.C. Central University School of Law.

More than 60 people registered for the biennial program. Nearly half attended in person, with others opting to participate via Zoom sessions that streamed sessions in real time.

“It was wonderful to see so many colleagues and exchange so many great ideas about teaching legal research and legal writing,” said Sue Liemer, Elon Law’s associate dean for academic affairs. “Bringing our community together again after such a difficult year of teaching, and to have some of those difficult conversations that we can’t necessarily have so productively in other spaces, was important.”

The colloquium featured presentations on topics that ranged from digital grading to seeking real-time formative assessments to teaching professionalism as a key element of legal communication.

LexisNexis sponsored the daylong conference, which included refreshments and lunch, plus an optional tour afterward of the International Civil Rights Museum located three blocks from Elon Law.

Assistant Professor Tiffany Atkins L’11 of Elon Law (left) and Associate Professor Brenda Gibson of Wake Forest University School of Law.

“It was good to reconnect and hear about everybody’s experiences over the past year and a half and to feel the excitement of being able to meet in person again and to think about going back to some sense of normalcy,” said Professor Laura Graham, director of legal analysis, writing, and research at Wake Forest University School of Law. “No two legal writing programs are the same. Each person from their program brings certain ideas and certain suggestions that we can assess and take what we think will work to make our own programs better.”

Craig T. Smith, a clinical professor of law and the incoming associate dean of academic affairs for the University of North Carolina Law School, described the 2021 Carolina Colloquium in one word: “Exciting.”

“We just have not had the chance to talk face-to-face without a screen, and feel the energy of the room, and respond to one another in other ways, and laugh together, and get that sort of infectious feel,” he said. “In legal writing, you’re trying to teach a huge number of incredibly difficult skills and ideas, so we’re eager to learn from one another. And that’s the thing about this community. People are so dedicated to serving others and serving them well.”

Craig T. Smith, incoming associate dean for academic affairs and a clinical professor of law at UNC Law.

Nichelle J. Perry, the law library director at North Carolina Central University School of Law, noted how the Carolina Colloquium was an ideal size for resuming in-person professional development.

“This was the perfect segue into conferencing because with just North Carolina and South Carolina law schools, it was not too big!” she said. “Plus, we pretty much all know each other and we’re comfortable with each other.”

And the value of attending conferences such as the Carolinas Colloquium?

“We learn from each other … which is incredibly important,” Perry said. “We support each other wholeheartedly – and everybody is very willing to share and be open about their experiences.”