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Santa Clara Law Review




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 lawyer’s 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 speaker’s and the listener’s 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 speaker’s meaning.

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University of Santa Clara School of Law

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