Teaching and Assessing Active Listening as a Foundational Skill for Lawyers as Leaders, Counselors, Negotiators, and Advocates
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Our students will be more effective leaders, counselors, negotiators, and advocates as they deepen their ability to actively listen. As a professional and interpersonal skill linked closely with a lawyers success, our students ability to listen should demand our attention as legal educators. This attention is worth the effort because studies indicate active listening is not a static ability: we can teach students to be better listeners. But active listening is missing from most law schools learning outcomes or curricula, or it is only included as an undefined element of effective communication. Consequently, it is a critical lawyering skill that is routinely not being effectively, independently taught and assessed. This article introduces the Active Listening Milestone Rubric for Law Students, which is a stage-development or milestone model in competency-based education. The rubric includes four sub-competencies, which are defined using expertise drawn from listening experts and studies then explained in the context of the practice of law: 1) Active listeners assess and accurately allocate resources necessary to the conversation; 2) active listeners work to create a shared understanding with the speaker by considering both the speakers and the listeners lenses and how they may differ; 3) active listeners work to increase shared understanding with the verbal and nonverbal cues; and 4) active listeners move to a response only after fully exploring and understanding the speakers meaning.