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Psychology and Lawyering: Coalescing the Field

University of Nevada Las Vegas
William S. Boyd School of Law
Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution

Psychology and Lawyering: Coalescing the Field

Friday, Feb. 21 and Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014
UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law
Las Vegas, Nevada

Notification of Conference and Call for Proposals

In recent years both academics and practitioners have increasingly begun to recognize that the field of psychology has a tremendous amount to offer practicing attorneys. Traditionally, those who connected law and psychology focused primarily on juries, trials, and criminals’ states of mind. But today, researchers are broadening their focus to examine the ways in which psychology can be of use to a wide variety of common lawyering practices, including interviewing, counseling, writing, negotiation, and ethical conduct as well as attorney satisfaction and business success. For one example of this work see Jennifer K. Robbennolt & Jean R. Sternlight, Psychology for Lawyers: Understanding the Human Factors in Negotiation, Litigation, and Decision Making (ABA 2012). 

This growing field draws broadly from cognitive and social psychology pertaining to memory, judgment and decisionmaking, and persuasion; developmental psychology examining attachment theory or social and emotional development; clinical psychology relating to counseling, meditation, and communication; neuroscience as it relates to economic and moral decision making, emotion, and communication; and organizational psychology as it relates to the structures of legal practice. Legal researchers have come to this interdisciplinary field with varied backgrounds, including from clinical work, legal writing, alternative dispute resolution, pretrial litigation, family law, immigration, transactional practice, criminal law, health law, and many more.     

Yet, while many are interested in the field of psychology and lawyering, this area has not yet fully coalesced. To date no conferences, listserves, or sections of organizations focus primarily on the potential contributions of psychological research to lawyering. Thus, while some in the growing field do exchange ideas and papers, others miss out on opportunities to benefit from each others’ ideas and experience.

Our goal in hosting this conference is to begin to fill this void – to bring together a broad range of academics in both law and psychology to focus on the many insights empirical psychological research can provide to law students and practicing attorneys. The focus will be on lawyering rather than law, in that we will examine how knowledge of psychology can enhance the practice of law rather than how it can inform substantive law (though the latter is also an interesting and important question). We will also consider how best to teach this material to law students. And, the conference will include a discussion of next steps we might take to further advance this field. 

We welcome proposals (250 words or less) from prospective presenters from law, psychology, or other disciplines who wish to present on how insights drawn from psychological research can be applied to help lawyers better represent their clients. (Presenters will be expected to pay their own expenses, except that UNLV will provide some nice meals.) Please submit your abstract electronically as a Word document or PDF to Jean.Sternlight@unlv.edu by July 15, 2013. Include a title and your contact information as well. The Nevada Law Journal has offered to publish approximately ten papers arising out of this conference. Please let us know if you think you might be interested in this publication opportunity. Final papers would be due in the summer of 2014.

Finally, if you are interested in attending the conference but prefer not to make a presentation, please let us know that as well. We will need panel chairs, attendees, and quite likely commentators. While there is no conference registration fee, attendance will be limited. You can reserve a spot by registering here: http://law.unlv.edu/registration-LawPsych2014. We will be providing more details on the conference, accommodations and other matters closer to the date.

If you have questions please contact:

Jean R. Sternlight
Saltman Professor of Law & Director Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution
University of  Nevada, Las Vegas Boyd School of Law
Jean.Sternlight@unlv.edu
(702) 895-2358

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