Simulated practice is a major element of the Law degree at Sheffield Hallam University, but is typically only practical in the final stages of the programme. It was felt that there would be significant benefit to introducing realistic, simulated practice at a much earlier part of the course, and that the benefits would be maximised by using a role-play to set the scene at the start of the process. Other institutions have used similar activities, with professional actors playing the part of the client in an initial meeting; however, it was felt that having students play the client would create an opportunity for cross-disciplinary working and benefit a wider range of students.
The Law tutor made contact with the Performance department and advertised for students to play the part of the client in the simulated activity. The selected Performance students attended a training session to learn the script, when and how to divulge information, etc. prior to the simulation exercise, and the Law tutors made use of the experience of the students to refine the script and make it more realistic. After the initial role-play exercise, the Performance students were no longer involved in the activity and the Law tutors took on the role behind the scenes, such as through written correspondence.
The Law students initially found the simulated activity challenging, but they engaged completely in the process and some have stated that it directly contributed to their acceptance on placements or training contracts. The Performance students have also cited the employability benefits of the activity, particularly as many organisations use professional performers for role-play during staff training. The collaboration has brought benefits to both groups and the activity is intended to continue in future years.
You can read more about this approach by reading the two-page case study entitled: Encouraging ‘Rehearsal for Life’ through cross-disciplinary role-play.