A Webinar with David M. Zlotnick, Professor of Law, Roger Williams University School of Law
May 25, 2011

Sponsored by a fellowship from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, Professor Zlotnick created a course that explored the potential for mindfulness theory and practice to help aspiring lawyers make a career in trial work more humane and sustainable. In this webinar, he will provide some background on how trial advocacy is typically taught in American law schools and will then walk attendees through the various ways in which mindfulness theory and practice were integrated into the course. This webinar should be of interest to teachers of all kinds of experiential learning, those who teach in professional schools, and those whose courses involve student presentations, as some of the exercises were also designed to ameliorate public speaking anxiety.

Education, especially professional education, is also a socialization process. Budding trial lawyers often come to law school with an ideal trial lawyer in mind, often drawn from TV or the movies. Even if this model is a positive one, the donning of a pre-conceived persona often leads to a loss of authenticity, to the personal and professional detriment of the student. Thus, Professor Zlotnick's course also focused on maintaining authenticity. To demonstrate this aspect of the course during the webinar, attendees will watch a video clip from a class meeting. In this session, a law student with an already well-developed “trial lawyer persona” was asked to shed some of that protective armor and discover how to be a truer version of herself in front of the mock jury. However, rather than revealing a resounding success, the clip shows how difficult this endeavor can be and how it requires experimentation and courage from both students and teachers.

After the video, there will be time for discussion of the clip and how some of the exercises from the course could be extended to other settings.

About the Instructor:
David Zlotnick is a Professor of Law at Roger Williams University School of Law. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he clerked for a federal appellate judge, worked as a white collar defense attorney, and served as a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. He took time off from academia to become the founding Litigation Director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums and to pursue federal sentencing research as a Soros Senior Justice Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the George Washington University School of Law. Professor Zlotnick's work on sentencing issues has received coverage in a variety of media including Rolling Stone, BBC Television, and The New York Times.

Professor Zlotnick teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Trial Advocacy. In 2008, he was awarded a Contemplative Practice Fellowship by the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. His mindfulness training includes retreats with Jack Kornfield & Tara Brach, a lawyers’ program at Spirit Rock, and an eight-week Mindfulness Based Stress Relief program at Brown University. He is a graduate of the Prison Dharma Project’s Path of Freedom training and leads meditation sessions for inmates in Rhode Island. His own practice includes vipassana meditation and yoga, running and biking, and sometimes most importantly, surrounding himself with friends whose humor constantly remind him not to take himself too seriously.

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