Monday, January 30, 2012

A Legal Skills Success Story

Beth A. Tomerlin has written a success story concerning the effect of new legal educational approaches on young attorneys.  The Practicality of Practicums: Thinking and Acting Like a Lawyer, One Class at a Time

"During my first few weeks at a civil litigation firm, fresh out of law school, I was asked to fill in for another attorney in the middle of a month-long deposition of a plaintiff in a lengthy case. This was incredibly intimidating, but I had an understanding of how to prepare, what to expect, and how to interact with the various parties in the room, thanks to a course I had taken while at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

That course, the Discovery Practicum, differed drastically from other traditional law school classes. As the name implies, the course focused exclusively on discovery rules, and we did not learn simply about the rules and the theory of discovery, we actually engaged in discovery. There was not a lecture component to the practicum; instead, students interacted with Prof. David Thomson, the materials, and each other. This provided the backdrop for students to fully engage with the law and facts of the case as one would in practice.

I believe courses like the Discovery Practicum will drastically change how law students understand law and procedure and will actually provide them with the skills necessary to practice law. After the Discovery Practicum, I felt I understood the basics of litigation and that I was armed with the skills to effectively begin my career. . . .

I was fortunate to attend a law school that provided a curriculum that was balanced between theory and practice. At DU Law, I found there were numerous opportunities to participate in a clinic or externship, and the law school offered practicum courses that mirrored the practice of law. . . .Law school may not have prepared me for every step, but my experience in the practicum certainly made those early steps a lot easier. I graduated from law school not only learning how to 'think like a lawyer' but also with a set of tools and skills to actually be a lawyer."

You can read the rest of the article here or in the Denver Bar Association: The Docket (February 2012).

(Scott Fruehwald)

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