Archive for November 17th, 2009

Book Review: Movie Therapy For Law Students (and pre-law, paralegal, and related majors)

Buck, Sonia J., Movie Therapy for Law Students (And Pre-Law, Paralegal and Related Majors).  Bloomington, IN, AuthorHouse, 2009, soft bound, 194p. 

Book Review by Christine I. Hepler, Associate  Director, Garbrecht Law Library, University of Maine School of Law

 Movie Therapy for Law Students is an excellent resource that should be included in every academic law library.  I say this for two reasons.  First, the faculty could use this book to facilitate classroom discussion.  Learning the law is often done through the use of hypotheticals.  This book provides law professors with interesting hypotheticals that keep the students engaged in the class and the material being taught.  Second, this is a great resource for students who want to review the concepts they are learning in the classroom.  As suggested by the author, law students can now turn their movie watching into a guilt free review session.  Furthermore, I suggest that law professors get to work developing new hypotheticals for their classes.  Pop some popcorn and enjoy the movies!

I was drawn to Movie Therapy for Law Students, written by Sonia Buck, for a two reasons.  First, the author is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law where I am the Associate Director of the Garbrecht Law Library, as well as a proud alum (Class of 1996).  Sonia Buck was a 1L when I returned to work at the University of Maine School of Law after a seven year stint in Southern California.  I remember Sonia and the other members of the Class of 2005 fondly.  They were a fun class filled with very smart, but more importantly, genuinely nice people.  Second, I came across this title after I had just returned from the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting.  At the annual meeting I attended a session on teaching techniques used to keep students engaged during the class.  Part of that session included the use of scenes from the movie Fracture to teach some concepts in legal research.  Sitting at this session reminded me of when I was a law student.  Like most law students, I found it very difficult to watch any television programs or movies that involved some aspect of the legal system without putting my new found knowledge to use.  My constant refrain was “They can’t do that,” whether it was L.A. Law, Law & Order , The Firm, or Twelve Angry Men.  I was instantly curious about the lessons I could learn from the movies included in this book and wondered how I might be able to use them in the classes I teach.

In Movie Therapy for Law Students, Ms. Buck compiles an interesting mix of movies to discuss, including classics like 12 Angry Men and To Kill A Mockingbird, as well as current favorites like Erin Brockovich, My Cousin Vinny, and The Firm, covering legal concepts in several areas of law, such as business law, criminal law, criminal procedure, civil procedure, contracts, evidence, torts, family law, intellectual property, and ethics.  Each entry in the book provides the reader with a brief description of the movie’s plot, and a detailed analysis of the legal issues involved in the movie.  The author provides clear headings at the beginning of each new issue she discusses, making it easy to switch gears with each new issue.  Furthermore, the author provides ample citation to applicable rules and case law to support the assertions she makes.  After discussing the issues, she then provides the reader with applicable “Exam Tips,” for either law school exams or the bar exam.  I often found myself wishing I had these tips when I was in law school!

In addition, Ms. Buck made this librarian proud with the finding aids she included in her book.  In addition to a Table of Content, Ms. Buck included a list of the movies by subject matter, and an alphabetical listing of the movies discussed in her book.  Law professors and law students are busy people, without a great deal of time to waste.  These two features make it easy to jump through the book to find all of the movies on a particular legal topic.  This makes it easier for professors to find movies that discuss the issues in which they are interested and law students are provided with a movie guide from which they can choose only the movies that discuss the issues they need to review. 

We live in a society that loves to go to the movies.  Movie Therapy for Law Students has renewed my interest in legal movies and there are many movies discussed in Ms. Buck’s book that I cannot wait to watch.  As professors, the ultimate goal is to find methods to better convey the concepts we wish to teach.  Using movies to teach them legal concepts and strategies will keep the students interested in the discussion topics and they will learn more.  Maybe I will come across some issues about legal research that I can convey in a more interesting fashion, rather than by just standing in the front of the room lecturing the students.   I better get to work developing my new hypotheticals.  See you at the movies!

Christine Hepler is associate director at the University of Maine School of Law Donald L. Garbrecht Law Library in Portland.

November 2009

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