Law, College of


Date of this Version



NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL LAW REVIEW, VOLUME 61 (2016/17), pp. 119-157.


Copyright (c) 2016 Brett C. Stohs.


Client assignments are among the most important factors that affect a student's experience in a live-client transactional law clinic. Student "attorneys" are presented with meaningful opportunities to engage with and learn from clients by applying their still-developing professional bona fides to real people with legal challenges. As a result, decisions regarding allocation and distribution of client matters are among the most important pedagogical decisions transactional clinical faculty make. By taking into account the unique and sometimes complex individual characteristics of each client and student, clinical faculty can optimize these allocations and maximize achievement of important objectives. Mind mapping can help clinical faculty untangle this complicated web of information.

Mind mapping is an analytical and organizational tool characterized by interconnected branches of ideas and topics, creating a radiating network of related concepts. For generations, it has been used by creative minds to visualize and analyze complex systems of information. Recent improvements in technology have married the time-tested structure of mind mapping with the flexibility of tactile user interfaces common to modern electronic devices. Using these applications, creative instincts can be unleashed to collect, organize, and analyze complex and frequently changing information, resulting in better, more intentional matchings to optimally serve the needs of clinic students and clients.

In Part II, I explore the importance of well-matched client assignments in achieving desired objectives within live-client transactional law clinics. I recount my experience designing an entrepreneurship clinic that satisfies those objectives in light of recent literature regarding common objectives in transactional clinic design. In Part III, I establish how mind mapping fosters the creative analysis of complex information. I provide a basic primer on mind mapping, describe its characteristics vis-a-vis other mapping techniques, and highlight how recent advances in technology create new opportunities for its application to clinical teaching and administration. In Part IV, I connect the topics of Parts II and III by detailing my experiences applying mind mapping to assignments in a transactional law clinic. After briefly highlighting the details of my early experiences with mind mapping software, I explore in detail how digital mind mapping simplifies the collection, organization, and analysis of information about client matters to enable better decision-making about client matter assignments. I conclude with a summary of key successes and self-critiques, avenues for future improvement, and opportunities for expansion of mind mapping into other areas of clinical teaching.