Creating Tomorrow’s Change-makers: Using Alternative Media in the 1L Skills Classroom to Connect Students with Real Practice and Enhance Established Methods for Teaching Appellate Advocacy

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2022




Association of American Law Schools




Fostering that idea of lawyers as change-makers can be difficult in the typical 1L curriculum. The traditional, doctrinal law school classroom typically has a formula comprised of extensive textbook reading, the Socratic classroom, in which that reading is processed in a large group, and, finally, a cumulative, high-stakes exam at the end of the semester.6 That formula has largely not changed for decades.7 The lawyering skills classroom is often the only outlier from that formula for first-year law students.8 Even so, the skills classroom can be formulaic in its own right—introduction of an assignment, classroom instruction regarding needed skills to complete the assignment, a draft, a markup, a conference, additional instruction, and a final written work product.

While creativity certainly abounds in many legal skills classrooms, use of “alternative media” does not necessarily play a significant role. Barring the occasional clip of an appellate argument or a motion hearing, or a quick YouTube video or TED Talk on the periphery of a topic, “alternative media” is often missing from the mainstream skills classroom. For many instructors, there is simply not enough time to incorporate additional, seemingly optional, material because of the limited credits, and limited classroom hours, assigned to these courses.

Accordingly, in Part I of this article we define “alternative media” and provide some examples of ways in which it is already used in the law classroom. In Part II, we argue that, despite the time crunch, using alternative media inside and outside of the traditional classroom benefits law students and increases their skills learning for a variety of reasons supported by learning theory and science. In Part III, we discuss the prevalence of written and oral appellate advocacy instruction in the 1L skills classroom and outline established teaching practices in that area that largely do not involve alternative media.

Finally, in Part IV, we discuss two ways in which to introduce podcasts, our preferred version of alternative media, into legal skills classrooms to enhance appellate advocacy skills and create change-makers. One method involves the creation of a homemade podcast interview with an expert in appellate advocacy that complements traditional instruction, and one involves a professionally made podcast, In the Dark (Season Two), that strengthens the teaching of appellate advocacy skills by taking a deep dive into one compelling case and, specifically, the Supreme Court oral argument that ended over two decades of prosecutorial abuse. In both podcasts, students meet appellate lawyers who are change-makers and who use appellate advocacy as their primary tool in representing their clients.


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