Meeting with the "Partner"
The first memo, one of three to date, described my initial meeting with the "clients," Fatma and Mohammed Alhamad. They own a specialty chocolate shop at three different locations in Doha. A competitor is using the same trade name and a similar logo. The trade name is "The Chocolate Drops."
The second memo provided some background information on the competitor and the competing product line, store, trade name, and trademark. The third memo asked the students, playing the role of "junior associates," to attend a meeting with me, playing the law firm "partner." You see, I need to give them their legal research and writing assignments.
Next week, the will get another memo from the "senior associate," Maryam, who will describe the chocolate industry, which I learned uses child labor on cocoa farms in Africa. Students will focus on this client simulation for the remaining weeks of the semester.
I try to dole out the client file in a way similar to actual practice. It evolves over time as a lawyer does more factual research.
I want them to begin to understand how the law and facts interact. I want them to begin to think of the facts that they need in order to make a case for trade name and trademark infringement under Qatari law.
In the last lab of Week 4 (painfully scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday), my male students met with the partner (me) to discuss the assignment. I gave them a scaffold for listening to the meeting. Afterwards, they summarized the meeting for a possible score of 2 points.
First, I had to explain the staffing structure of law firms. Many of them did not understand the concept of a law firm partner and won't experience law firm practice until their externship during their last semester as an undergraduate law student. I drew a pyramid and then explained that the work flows down from partner to junior associate; the money flows up from associate billings to partner profits. They got that and smiled.
Of course students were nervous. I doubt any other law school class creates this type of active learning exercise for them. Last semester, I noticed that by the third meeting with a guest role-player, students got very good about asking questions.They now understood the game and its purpose. We will see if these new students also gain confidence over the arc of the course.
Next week, they interview the "client," who is played by my friend and colleague, Jessica. Later still, they will interview a "confused consumer" played by my driver, Ashif. I love how these role-players interpret the roles. They often make me laugh out loud in class with delight at their creativity. Ashif was a little off-balance when he first faced a room of lovely Qatari women. Even so, he did a terrific job. In fact, last semester, one student thought it was all real.
In the meantime, I got some blazingly smart questions from about five male students who are emerging as intellectual class leaders. Today, I will send them an email showing them I was paying attention. I love to see brains work.
Next week, I meet with the female students to give them their assignment. I hope they are equally engaged with the simulation.