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Center on Professionalism adapts to pandemic conditions with innovative virtual fall programming

November 25, 2020

In late September, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Center on Professionalism (COP) kicked off its fall programming, adapting it to function entirely in a remote, online setting.

COP provides practical programming grounded in real-world experiences to teach the competencies and qualities students need to stand out in their professional careers – from success mindsets and technological knowledge to the essential social and emotional intelligence skills professionals need to excel in modern legal practice.

While 1L students are required to participate in one of four COP Professionalism Cohort Meetings throughout the year, COP also offers programming and other educational opportunities that are open to all students. Adapting to current COVID-19 restrictions and remote learning, COP has adjusted its usual live-event programming to function entirely online.

“We’re using a tool that’s new to us called Beyond the Classroom, which is a platform that lives in Canvas,” said COP Director Joseph Glyn. “It allows us to stream live programming, record it and post it later, or post anything that was pre-recorded. We’re working with tech coach Craig Brodie to create multi-part series that would normally be done in one live, in-person session.”

Glyn says it is not mandatory for students to attend live, allowing students more flexibility at a time in which schedules are already generally more difficult to manage. Beyond the Classroom has also allowed for other innovative programming tweaks like integrated quizzes, bookmarked and timestamped sections of recorded sessions for efficiency, and additional professional resources to make the most of the current situation.

Aptly, the theme for COP’s programming for this year is Connecting in a Disconnected World, with September’s kickoff focused particularly on listening skills and perspective taking. Famed author and thought leader Daniel Pink introduced a pre-recorded program on Perspective Taking, explaining why this skill was essential for law students to learn.

The program also featured a fireside chat with 3L Casey Stewart, whose tangible experience learning the habit of perspective taking and active listening in the Mediation Clinic provided valuable insight for 1L students. Students could also participate in virtual exercises to help them measure their ability to spontaneously adapt to another’s perspective and apply that skill in a realistic situation.

Additionally, COP presented four programs to introduce students to the importance of developing their listening skills. One of the four programs was about “Active and Empathetic Listening,” with Abby Tolchinksy and Ellie Wertheim L’97, founders of Family Mediation LLP in New York City and Westchester County.

Lecturer in Law Tiffany Southerland L’11 led a session dedicated to “Demonstrating Listening on Virtual Calls,” while Brooklyn Law School Professor Heidi Brown explored how introverts can use their “quiet assets,” like active listening, to bring innate strength to the legal profession in “Exploring the Introverted Lawyer.”

Students also learned how to listen to their own bodies in “The Mind-Body Connection.” Krista Larson, Director of Employee Well-Being at Morgan Lewis, explained mental fatigue and its unique connection to the body, while fitness expert Carlise Bonds (virtually) demonstrated light stretching and exercise motions.

Replacing live events with virtual programs is a difficult challenge, but COP has been making the most of the current situation, utilizing technology to offer its programming to students in an innovative, evergreen package that directly addresses these timely issues of communication and connection in a mostly remote world.

“We’ve received positive feedback from students who have the flexibility to still engage with the programs on their own schedule,” said Glyn. “We’re very transparent in terms of how much time students can expect to spend on programs, and that’s something that’s generally praised. We’re making the best of this situation.”

Read more about the Center on Professionalism’s programs and initiatives.