Mocking Up the Practice of Law

Now that I’m spending my days building landing pages instead of drafting briefs, I’ve learned to appreciate the value of a mockup — described by Wikipedia as “a scale or full-size model of a design or device, used for teaching, demonstration, design evaluation, promotion, and other purposes.”

Mockups are damn useful, in general, and downright essential in manufacturing, design, computer software and many other fields. What about law? Do we use mockups in legal education and practice? Should we use them more? Should we use them differently?

We do use them, of course. Moot court and mock trial are two examples from law school. Some big law firms have deposition and trial training programs. Others have negotiation workshops, mediation training, and mock client counseling sessions. These are all pretty useful. They were important training experiences in my own career.

But I think we can do much more with mockups in legal education and training.

We need to do more mockups, and we need to make them smaller and more specific. Perhaps instead of “mock trial,” we should have mock “reluctant witness direct examination,” mock “pompous expert witness cross-examination,” mock “witness who contradicts her deposition testimony” and mock “get your key document admitted into evidence.” Instead of a massive, intensive moot court program focused on one very complicated constitutional issue, why not do several, short programs, where students have a couple of days to wrestle with more mundane legal problems and then have to stand in front of a mock judge and advocate for a weak position? What about giving students an hour to analyze a contract and then have them a counsel a mock client on the risks arising from the language?

Law firms should do the same thing. Create dozens of “mockups” of everyday lawyering experiences and encourage (require?) associates to confront those challenges repeatedly until they become second-nature.

The key is to give students and new lawyers lots of small, “mocked-up” opportunities to hone the skills they will need to become successful, marketable, billable attorneys. There will be failure, lots of it, but that’s a good thing. With real clients confronting real problems, failure is not acceptable. Ever. The beauty of a mockup is that it accelerates the process of failing and the learning and improvement that results from failure, all without adverse consequences.

One of the things we’re doing at Mootus is “mocking up” legal argument. We’re  giving law students and new lawyers abundant, free opportunities to engage actively with legal issues and to hone some of the skills needed to be successful lawyers. It’s not enough just to learn how to read cases passively. You need to learn how to use those cases to advocate for or against particular positions. The best way to learn is to do it, over and over and over again, and Mootus is designed to make that learning easier than it’s ever been. So give Mootus a try, and please let us know what you think.