By Samantha A. Moppett
An IBM poll of more than 1,500 CEOs revealed that creativity—not intelligence—was the most crucial factor for future success. This shift from intelligence to creativity as the most valuable trait has been attributed to the unprecedented challenges and frantic pace of change today.
This is especially true for lawyers and law students, who need to recognize this phenomenon and strive to maximize their creative potential.
With this in mind, I have begun to engage in fostering creativity in my legal research and writing students.
Here are 4 ways I’ve tried to foster creativity in my legal writing classes:
- Encourage students to take risks and reassure students that it is OK to make mistakes. Creative individuals are willing to take risks because they view failure as an opportunity to learn. I periodically share mistakes that I have made and reflect on what I learned from that experience. In addition, I have my students submit multiple journal entries throughout the year in which I encourage my students to embrace and discuss mistakes that they have made.
- Provide instructive and informative feedback on legal research and writing assignments that is focused on improving the student’s performance. This type of feedback, in contrast to feedback that communicates ineptitude, supports creativity. I frequently provide oral comments via a personalized podcast rather than extensive feedback in the margins that tends to have an alienating effect on students.
- Integrate humor and playfulness into the legal research and writing instruction to develop a creative climate. For example, I use song excerpts to illustrate points and create games to review citation and research.
- Incorporate numerous opportunities for students to collaborate with their peers because collaboration, something that is not common in law school, helps to cultivate an environment conducive to creativity. For example, at the beginning of the semester students are placed in “firms” of approximately three to four people and the students work collaboratively with the firm members—as they will in practice—on projects both in and outside the classroom.
Fostering creativity in law students allows professors to be creative as well!
Samantha A. Moppett is a Professor of Legal Writing at Suffolk University Law School. For more on Suffolk’s legal writing program, visit suffolk.edu/law/lps.