C|M|LAW Legal Writing Professor Karin Mika, presented Demarginalizing Diverse Members of the Legal Writing Classroom, on December 1, 2012, at Washburn School of Law, at the Legal Writing Institute’s One Day Workshop. Mika presented as part of a panel, “Student Populations: Diversity and Academic Support Matters.” The focus of her presentation was on law faculty not assuming students are familiar with all references their professors might make in the classroom. She also spoke about teaching for sightless students. With respect to references students might miss, Mika discussed being aware that students do not always have the knowledge base their teachers think they have. Students thus spend a lot of time not understaning what their teachers are saying. Mika pointed out the situation of an Asian student who was embarrassed in her first class of law school because she was unfamiliar with the story of The Three Bears. She also related the situation from former C|M|LAW Dean Geoffrey S. Mearn’s first year at the law school when Mika asked her Legal Writing students if they had any questions following their initial orientation session. Mearns had spoken at the orientation session about the Oklahoma City Bombing. The first question a student asked was, “Who is Timothy McVeigh?” Most of our current students were too young to remember the Oklahoma City Bombing, but they were embarrassed to say anything until Mika offered them the opportunity to ask. She also discussed how we often formulate fact situations or exam questions around our favorite shows, books, or movies, but that sometimes our favorite shows, books, and movies are quite foreign to students and the scenarios become more confusing than helpful. She pointed out that fun themes are fine, as long as all the students understand the context.
With respect to teaching sightless students, Mika first remarked that all visually challenged students were not alike. Some have access to helpful technology, but recently sightless students may still be wading around in a sightless world. She talked about being attentive to the disadvantages of the sightless student both inside and outside the classroom and how it is best to provide materials in advance as much as possible, in addition to providing all classroom materials in some form of typed format that could be sent to the visually impaired student after class. Mika also talked about being very descriptive in class and acknowledging the limitations of the visually impaired student while limiting activities that exclude those who can’t see, such as impromptu fill-in-the-blank exercises. Finally, Mika said that it was almost impossible to expect visually impaired students to do well on anything related to citation without help that amounted to more than would be allowed for other students.
Mika also presented on December 8, 2012, at another Legal Writing Institute One Day Workshop at Willamette School of Law. Mika’s presentation was titled Opportunities in and preparation for work in nonprofit law. In that presentation, Mika noted that students can find a niche by focusing on non-profit regulatory compliance and by having a skill to sell in the expanding field. She said that the non-litigation courses would be helpful. She discussed Enron and the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley Act which changed the nature of corporate law and forced corporations (non-profit and otherwise) to be attentive to many more regulations and ethical considerations than previously existed. She stated that this change resulted in the need for many more attorneys specializing in compliance matters, which would be added to the generalists and other specialists that non-profit corporations already needed (ranging from those specializing in personal injury, to business contracts, to insurance law, to employment law, to intellectual property law, and most any other field). Mika noted that most non-profit corporations might have a “gatekeeper” as in-house counsel, but generally farmed out a lot of their work to law firms. She noted that various law firms were setting up non-profit practice groups because non-profit work was an expanding field. Toward this end, Mika suggested taking courses that required various types of legal drafting.