Wednesday, April 25, 2012
As most of you probably know, Washington & Lee emphasizes skills in the third year of law school. James Moliterno has recently posted a portfolio on the Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Website, which describes W & L's Litigational and Transactional Immersions. The portfolio is very detailed, so it is worth reading as a whole.
He summarizes the courses as: "There are two immersion courses in our new 3L experiential curriculum, which is required of all students. The fall two-week immersion is litigation oriented while the spring two-week immersion is transactional. The two immersions are offered as one portfolio because both are required of all 3Ls as part of W&L’s third year curriculum and because they share the same overall structure and teaching methodology. While each of the immersions provides the respective foundations upon which the rest of each semester is built, each is separate from the other as well as separate from the rest of the practicums, clinics and externships subsequently offered each semester of the third year."
"The two-week Litigation Immersion occurs in the fall of students’ third year. Each student represents either employer or employee in a simple, wrongful discharge matter. Throughout the Litigation Immersion, students play the role of the “clients”, and also represent a client in a separate but similar case. Students were told in advance that their experiences in the immersion program would be free-flowing, and somewhat more realistic and unpredictable than their prior law school experiences, with new issues arising and changes of course taking place as the litigation developed."
"During the two-week Transactional Immersion in the spring, each student represents either buyer or seller in a friendly, business transaction: the purchase of a small, family-owned manufacturing business (the “deal”). Throughout the Transactional Immersion, instructors play the role of the “clients” (buyer or seller), with pairs of student “lawyers” being assigned to represent their client, working with a pair of students representing the other side. Students were told in advance that their experiences in the Immersion program would be free-flowing, and somewhat more realistic and unpredictable than their prior law school experiences, with new issues arising and changes of course taking place as the transaction developed."
He notes, "When students learn law in this and other experience-based courses at W&L, they learn law as lawyers do rather than as students do. They learn law to solve a client’s problem or provide a needed service. That is how lawyers engage law. Students, by contrast, learn law to take an exam. That, too, has value, but the transition to a lifetime of engaging law as lawyers do is necessary for adoption of the professional role and mind-set. This is what a third year of experiential education accomplishes."
I especially like Professor Moliterno's comment on experential education: "Experential education is not, as some would belittle it, merely skills teaching. Instead, it is the primary vehicle for professional enculturation and a valuable vehicle for teaching law and theory. Learning by doing is more than mere activity-based exercises. Learning by doing is a role transition, in this instance from student to lawyer. Guided activities in role allow students to test and adopt the professional role, with the guidance of an expert mentor and teacher."
Kudos to Washington & Lee for their immersion programs and emphasis on skills.