The last two weeks have been hectic. My first week at the Law Without Walls ConPosium in Miami and then back to Brighton for the annual meeting of the Socio-Legal Studies Association meeting where I had organized the legal profession stream of papers.
The difference between the two couldn't have been more startling. LWOW was innovative, sparkling and creative. SLSA was academics sitting in rooms talking for hours on end.*
A word about the rooms--our building was "intelligent" and "green", ie. every so often the windows would open and close of their own accord; lights would switch on and off puzzling us. For the first day we feared the doors would lock and not let us out.
So how did the LWOW ConPosium work out? Well, you could wait until May 6 and read the Time magazine report but that's a bit long to wait.
The ConPosium was structured around presentations by the students of their projects of worth. For these the selected LWOW students were paired up so they had to collaborate not compete with each other--something unusual for law students. Each team was given 50 minutes to pitch their project. You can see how it was put together here.
The founders of LWOW chose an unusual approach to evaluating and assessing the students' work. Each presentation was prefaced by a thought leader creating a context for the work in 5 minutes. Compression focusses the mind.
The students then had 25 minutes to showcase their work in whatever way they chose via Powerpoint, song, dance or poetry. As each pair had been mentored during the previous three months by an academic and a practioner member of the faculty, their project had to reflect these diverse interests.
The final stage was the "judging" which was done by a panel of academics, practitioners, and entrepreneurs. This last group gave an unusual twist to the projects because these people were concerned to see if the projects of worth could be viable in the "real world".
Over two days we watched and critiqued 11 presentations. I was blown away (sorry but the cliche works) by the creativity and imagination shown by the students powered by a fierce intelligence. Students from China, the UK, the US, and Europe crossed cultures to produce original ideas. The titles alone will give you the idea.
There was a winner but I know it sounds corny as every project had the potential to win and all the students (and faculty) came away knowing they had participated in something very special.
One final thought: every participating law school contributed much but the University of Miami School of Law is to be applauded for its imagination and daring in instigating LWOW. The founders put in enormous amounts of effort to ensure LWOW would succeed. And truly finally, Michele DeStefano Beardslee and Michael Bossone are to be congratulated for their unstinting and tireless dedication towards LWOW. Without them there would be no LWOW. I am honoured to have been part of the first phase of LWOW.
*I had one session at SLSA which consisted of three PhD students presenting their research. Wonderful seeing researchers tackling their first projects and working through the methodological and theoretical barriers. They will get there.