Earlier this semester, Visiting Prof. Jamie Abrams facilitated an unusual learning experience for first-year students in her Torts/ILS class. They participated in a virtual deposition simulation with graduating dental students and faculty at the University of Louisville, where Abrams taught previously.
Thirty-three UB Law students — 21 1Ls and 12 upper-level students who were “second chairs” — deposed the dental students as expert witnesses in a dental malpractice case, utilizing a number of Zoom breakout rooms. The participants used case materials from Abrams’ book, Torts Simulations: Bridge to Practice, which was published in September by West Academic. Twelve attorney volunteers coached the students and provided live feedback during the simulation.
Abrams described the pedagogical value of the Oct. 28 simulation exercise. “My students were genuinely excited for the opportunity to do this and wildly exceeded my every expectation in their skill set and work ethic. It moves them from memorizing torts rules and into developing a fluency with the terminology and concepts. It also helps them bridge civil procedure, torts and lawyering skills, seeing them come together in one interconnected task of deposing experts,” she said.
“Our class worked through different drafting exercises in the weeks leading up to the event to help us prepare,” said 1L Fateh Tarar. “On the other side, the dental students worked with Professor Abrams for weeks preparing for the simulation as well.
“How many 1Ls can say they role-played as an attorney in a deposition with students from all over the country? My guess is, not many. This simulation gave me a peek into what it’s like to be a lawyer.
“As a 1L, you often find yourself reading a lot of cases and outlining for exams, which distorts the perception of what being a lawyer really means. The simulation allowed me to experience the rollercoaster of emotions, the intense preparation and quick thinking that lawyers face on a daily basis,” Tarar said.
Tyler Walch, another 1L who participated, was also enthusiastic about the experience.
“What a wonderful and worthwhile event! I left inspired and with an absolute sense of purpose. The value of learning by doing cannot be overstated; I will never forget the lessons learned from this simulation,” he said.
“In a way, it reminded me of my Army days, when my unit (20th CBRNE CMD) would conduct simulated war game exercises in Korea. In the Army, it was always stressed that we should train the way we intend to fight. That is analogous to how Prof. Abrams’ class went about preparing for and performing this dental malpractice simulation.
“Everyone learned [that day] – everyone. The dental students left knowing how to be plaintiffs as well as defendants’ witnesses. Everyone learned how depositions work! We 1Ls got incredible experience by learning actual hands-on lawyering skills; something I didn’t expect so early into law school – let alone via Zoom in the middle of a pandemic! I cannot overstate the value of this type of learning and of this simulation,” Walch said.
“The simulation felt more like on-the-job training than anything else. I got more out of this than I ever could by listening to a lecture and/or reading a book.”