Changing the Construct: Promoting Cross-Cultural Conversations in the Law School Classroom
Law Review Article
diverse campus environment, campus climate
Promoting cross-cultural awareness should be an important aspect of professionalism training in legal education. Cross-cultural awareness is essential to our students as they prepare to practice in an increasingly diverse domestic and international legal marketplace with competence and confidence. At the very least, faculty should help students avoid becoming the next lawyer or judge to be sanctioned for culturally off ensive behavior. More broadly, early and repeated faculty attention to cross-cultural issues can improve the learning environment for all students while they are still in law school. Although such training can be diffi cult and uncomfortable for both the professor and the students, it is far better for our students to make mistakes within the safety of the classroom, where the ramifications of their errors will not be career ending, and better if by learning from mistakes students develop cultural competencies that will serve them and their clients in their future careers. In short, promoting cross-cultural awareness is part of our obligation to educate our students in professionalism. Accordingly, this article provides a blueprint for incorporating these valuable but challenging discussions into the law school classroom.
Part II of this article identifies the pedagogical and institutional advantages of infusing legal instruction with discussions designed to promote crosscultural awareness. Part III discusses how to create an effective and safe classroom environment for conducting cross-cultural discussions by assessing the classroom climate, establishing a respectful and approachable relationship with students, and developing the cultural literacy and emotional knowledge to lead cross-cultural conversations with sensitivity and openness. Part IV explores specific techniques and best practices for promoting cross-cultural conversations that raise or implicate diverse cultural assumptions and expectations. Part V suggests techniques for dealing with student resistance and classroom incivility, and Part VI concludes the article.