Law Students Thinking

Michelle LeBaron

Professor of Law at the University of British Columbia and Director of UBC's Dispute Resolution Program

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A: Absolutely, I have one. I teach in a lot of different programs and one of them is an LLM program in dispute resolution.


A: LLM is a masters in law, there are for people who already have JDs who then go on to do advanced studies in law. They are extremely cognitively oriented and they've been quite adversarial in their approach because they've already been schooled in their JDs to be adversarial. They then come back to do LLMs and some of them are very experienced, but many of them are not as experienced in drawing. What I have them do is to get into groups of about six people and draw, and I have them draw about different subjects, depending on what I'm talking about. In one particular case, I had them exploring the concept of power, which I think is a particularly difficult concept to talk about and our literature is not as robust as I would hope. I asked them, "Please draw some conflict you've experienced, but don't put it in words, make it in an image that had power dynamics and power imbalance.

Q: So a bunch of LLMs and they were drawing

A: They were drawing about power. And one person really said, "I cannot draw, I don't know how to draw. I wouldn't know what to draw even if I could draw," and she drew nothing. And the way that this exercise works is that there are however many people in the circle, five people, and after three minutes of drawing you pass your drawing to the next person and so on. For three minutes each person has each picture and their job is that when you get each person's picture, the job is to add to the picture, so the person next to her got a blank piece of paper and their job was to try to understand what she was expressing and add to the picture. And every other person in that circle wrote on that picture, drew on her picture, they drew things that they tried to intuit and two things happened. One, she got back a composite picture, even though she had sent nothing, that in some way spoke to the very same situation she had been thinking of. Surprise, which speaks to intuition and mind. And two, they had a very useful discussion about the power of not playing. She didn't play and then she said that she didn't play and that she felt in a very powerless position, but other members of the group felt that she was extremely powerful because her not playing also created a particular dynamic in the group and it was a much deeper, thicker conversation about power than if we had read something analytic about power, I think. So for me that's an example of how getting out of our heads and our intellectual frames and doing something which seems really you know you can't immediately see the point or how it is that it makes sense can actually be quite useful.

Q: And the point of all the drawings and passing it around was for people to get a sense of

A: For people to get a sense of the nuances and dynamics of power that are depicted in their joint pictures, but also the process, because when I pass you my picture and you draw on it, there is an exchange of power and the very idea of you drawing on my picture and everyone else's is you stepping into a particular kind of power. And what I want people to do when they are thinking about intervening in conflict is to think about the power that they are taking to write on other peoples' pictures. So actually the metaphor is what I think is very interesting.