USC School of Law hosts 2013 Carolinas Legal Research & Writing Colloquium

(l to r) North Central Carolina School of Law's Nichelle "Nikki" Perry and Brenda Gibson talk with USC Law's Jan Baker and Rebekah Maxwell during the 2013 Carolinas Legal Research & Writing Colloquium.

(l to r) North Carolina Central School of Law’s Nichelle “Nikki” Perry and Brenda Gibson talk with University of South Carolina School of Law’s Jan Baker and Rebekah Maxwell during the 2013 Carolinas Legal Research & Writing Colloquium, held at the USC Law School.

The University of South Carolina School of Law hosted the Carolinas Legal Research and Writing (LRW) Colloquium on Friday, May 17, attracting almost 60 LRW faculty members from law schools across North and South Carolina.  They came to Columbia to learn about the latest developments in teaching legal research and writing, and exchange ideas about best practices.

“We’re a relatively small group, so this has been one of best turn-outs that I can remember,” said Jan Baker, assistant director of legal writing at USC, who helped organize the event with Rebekah Maxwell, associate director for library operations at the Coleman Karesh Law Library.

Presentations during the one-day seminar ranged from improving collaboration and resources among faculty, to using advertising principles and pop culture to teach legal writing.  Another popular topic dealt with effective ways to integrate technology into LRW courses.

“What’s nice about this colloquium is that it does a particularly good job of bringing together librarians with writing professors,” said Craig Smith, assistant dean for legal writing and academic success at University of North Carolina School of Law, who also praised the organizers for including information technologists in the discussion.

“It’s daunting now, the pace of change, in what students expect and want, and what the technological capabilities are. To have people present and say, ‘Two years ago I was here, look where I’ve come, here’s how I did it, and here are the steps you can take.’ To help people realize the hurdle’s not a mountain, it’s a hill, and I just need to step up. That’s just hugely helpful.”

Nichelle “Nikki” Perry, assistant director of the law library at North Carolina Central University School of Law, said she appreciated the opportunity to connect with other practitioners who all have the same goal of developing better LRW programs.

“It’s always good to see how people in your vicinity are teaching legal research and writing and gather ideas from there,” she said, noting that she hopes someday the colloquium might be able to expand further.

“We really cram a lot into one whole day.  In the future I hope that maybe we might be able

to do a day and a half, so we might have a little more time to do free flow of ideas.”

Started as an informal gathering amongst LRW faculty at Duke, University of North Carolina, and Wake Forest law schools in the late 1990s, the colloquium grew to include the University of South Carolina in 2000, when Lisa Eichhorn, associate dean for faculty development, joined the School of Law as an associate professor and director of the legal writing program.

It has since grown to include all law schools in the two states, and has become more formalized over the years. The location of the colloquium shifts from school to school, and this is the second time USC has hosted.

“We know that legal education is changing, but this is one of those professional skill areas for which the need will never change,” said Robert M. Wilcox, dean of the USC School of Law. “(LRW) is absolutely something you have to have high on your priority list if you’re going to have a good law school these days, and that’s why we’re proud to play such an important role in this colloquium.”

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