“Just pick up the phone” is an ages old axiom that mentors have delivered to mentees in the legal practice industry ever since, well, the proliferation of the telephone. But how does that advice work today, in the experiential legal education space, where students have rarely ever used their mobile device as a telephone and the social norm is that an unsolicited phone call is a signal of a dire emergency?

This presentation will propose that discussing when and how to make a professional phone call or even have an in-person conversation is still relevant, if not important, to experiential legal education.

There is perhaps no better example of this assertion than the struggle our legal clinics face in motivating our students to utilize the reference library and librarians as a resource. Many clinic students face “first step” problems in researching legal issues in their cases, and will sit for hours struggling electronically while positioned mere seconds from trained professionals who could help them significantly, for free, if they would initiate a conversation.

This presentation will highlight past efforts between law libraries and transactional clinics at Penn Law and Duke Law to bridge that workflow gap. It will suggest solutions that legal educators can use with students to reemphasize the value of communicating in real time with a human resource.

Dangerously, it will also play its own devil’s advocate and note that, especially in the area of communicating with regulators and municipalities, social media may at times be a more effective method of communication than endless telephone hold times.


Michael Murphy
Clinical Professor of Law (Teaching), Supervising Attorney, Start-Up Ventures Clinic