Practice, Practice, Practice
A New Way of Teaching
Johanna Coolbaugh is
a partner at the Seattle
firm of Karr Tuttle
Campbell practicing in
estate planning, probate,
and wills. She was one
of six faculty chairs who
helped design the entire
Primer series and she developed and presented for
Track Two: Trusts and Taxes. For her it all began with
saying yes to a rather unusual volunteer request:
It took me a minute to process what [the WSBA was]
asking for because it was so unusual and it was a lot
of work, because it isn’t preparing for your two-hour
session; it’s really contributing to a more holistic pro-
cess. It was also really exciting for me because I was
able to work with brilliant attorneys and work on a
product that would be so helpful for new lawyers. I
remember as a new lawyer not really knowing where
to go on the most basic of things like, where do I go to
file things at the courthouse?
In creating each track of the Primer, development
teams paired a seasoned attorney with a newer attorney.
The pairings were imperative in designing curriculum
that balanced the need for difficult concept construction
with the fundamental starting level of the attendees.
Coolbaugh was the Subject Matter Expert Chair; she
was paired with Nicholas Pleasants, the New Member
Chair. She described how helpful it was to have that
type of pairing in the development phase. “I think he
By Ana LaNasa-Selvidge
In 1960, Edgar Dale theorized that humans retain more information by what they “do” than by what hey hear or observe. His work led to what is now called the Cone of Learning (see chart on page 10).
Today this learning-by-doing approach is also known as service learning or experiential learning. Last fall
WSBA’s new member programs piloted an educational series with this concept in mind.
The WSBA Practice Primer takes a substantive area of law and develops three learning tracks split into
nine two-hour sessions, each building upon the last. The same fact pattern is used throughout all nine
sessions; homework is assigned and reviewed at each class, and participants go through all nine sessions
over the span of three months. Completion of all nine sessions provides attendees with an educational
foundation and a primer to practice. The first Primer focused on estate planning basics. The following are
interviews with faculty and attendees.
learned a lot through preparing the materials, and I
learned a lot in reviewing Nick’s materials because
there were information gaps. It made me think, Oh
newer attorneys wouldn’t think of this, so we need to
draw attention to this issue."
The Primer used a specific fact pattern involving
two fictional clients, Martha and George, for all nine
sessions. See sidebar. Homework was another unique
feature of the Primer in that participants could claim
CLE credit for it. Coolbaugh had never assigned homework before, so that was an interesting task for her.
We gave people an irrevocable trust agreement exercise and said, Here is your fact pattern, here’s your
form, now draft Martha and George’s form. At the beginning of the next session we went through a model answer and discussed drafting choices. If people
don’t have a mentor in their office, it’s really hard to
get that type of feedback and redline.
Roughly 80 percent of attendees signed up for all
three tracks over the course of a three-month period.
By the time they started Track Two, Coolbaugh
observed that people had really started bonding.
“People weren’t hesitant to ask questions and they
asked really good questions and they were really
engaged with the material,” she said. “It was a totally
different vibe than any CLE I’ve been to. That is not
always the case at a lot of CLEs. People have their lap-
tops up and they are typing away. As a presenter I don’t
know if people are actually paying attention, but these
attendees were really engaged.” © G
WSBA's Learning Tracks