Precise and Concise: The Class Daily Briefing (CDB) Exercise
Posted: 12 Dec 2015 Last revised: 7 Jan 2016
Date Written: December 10, 2015
This article will describe, theoretically situate, and analyze five years of implementation of the Class Daily Brief (CDB) exercise in law classes at Georgetown and Ohio State.
The CDB trains students to be simultaneously precise and concise in written and oral briefings to clients, principals, supervisors, and other busy and demanding senior leaders. Precision and concision are in tension: be highly descriptive and you write too long, but if you write too short you can lose content. By using the right words and only those words, precision and concision can reinforce each other.
The written brief is strictly limited to one or two pages. The oral brief is delivered under variable, realistic, often uncomfortable informal practice conditions -- wherever in real life one might find themselves briefing someone important. These informal practice settings range from a traditional conference room or classroom setting to the telephone, skype, in the hallway, walking down the stairs, in a taxi, a noisy public setting, or outdoors in the elements (we've made good use of rain, snow, wind, and heat). The time available (ranging from 30 seconds to 30 minutes), location of the discussion, and the identity and personality of the person to be briefed varies without warning. Recipients of the briefing have included U.S. Senators, presidential advisors, agency senior leaders, law firm partners, judges, policy experts, lobbyists, reporters, and generals and admirals, in addition to law faculty.
The substantive grist for the mill is the latest real world developments related to the course's focus, since the last iteration of the CDB was delivered. Over its five year life in three different classes at two law schools, the CDB's focus has ranged from federal legislation, to national security, to Ohio law and policy.
The CDB builds skills in writing, speaking, editing, issue spotting, prioritization, analysis, resilience under aggressive questioning, adaptation, responsiveness, integrity and error correction, and follow-up. The exercise builds teamwork by requiring two students who have different substantive responsibilities to collaborate on the written and oral portions and produce a single product for which they are jointly responsible in full. The skills the CDB develops are transferable to any practice setting, legal or non-legal.
Students receive both formative and summative feedback and evaluation. They receive a numerical score and 1-3 pages of tailored written feedback and evaluation promptly after each briefing. This allows iterative improvement over the course of two to seven briefings per student throughout term.
Students describe the CDB as both stressful and some of the best training they receive in law school. A frequent recipient of the briefing praised the briefing in a recent article (James E. Baker, Process, Practice, and Principle: Teaching National Security Law and Knowledge that Matters Most, 27 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 163, 175 (2014)).
Keywords: experiential learning, briefing, writing, legal education, legal writing
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation