Faculty Spotlight: Jean Sternlight

Friday, April 16, 2021
Jean Sternlight

What's the most important thing you are working on right now?

I am working on an article called “High Tech Dispute Resolution” that discusses how psychology can help lawyers make choices among alternative technological means of dispute resolution communication. Once Covid-19 is behind us lawyers will need to decide when to mediate/negotiate/litigate via Zoom, in-person, or using text messaging or e-mail or phone. Together with my co-author, Professor Jennifer Robbennolt (U. Illinois), I analyze the differences between communication modalities to help lawyers consider impacts on things like rapport, assessment of credibility, emotion, and justice. We will also help lawyers figure out how to use these technologies most effectively, in light of the psychology. 

What have you read, listened to, or watched recently that has influenced you or your work?

I love listening to podcasts, particularly when I can’t sleep at night. Either I learn something good from the podcast or else it puts me to sleep. It is a win either way. My current favorite podcast is “No Stupid Questions.” It features a conversation between Prof. Angela Duckworth, who is famous for her work on grit, and Stephen Dubner, one of the co-authors of Freakonomics. I like it not only because they are very knowledgeable about psychology and economics but also because they have a great rapport with each other and are often very self-deprecating. 
When students ask you what they should read outside the required textbooks and other law-related books, what do you suggest?

On the rare occasions when I am asked that question I usually suggest that students instead spend that extra time getting outside – going for a hike or a bike ride or playing frisbee golf. Reading is great, and reading literature helps build empathy, but I think most law students would benefit even more from getting outside and getting some exercise. Lots of studies show that outdoor exercise helps the brain as well as the body. 
What is it about being a law school professor that inspires or motivates you?

I love seeing “my” students transition from being scared 1Ls, to accomplished upper class law students, to real lawyers making this world a better place. I can’t believe how quickly time flies. Sometimes I read about a local judge or legislator and realize I can still remember where they sat in civ pro. But if I remember them being scared in class I promise I will never tell.  

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