(November 2012) UConn Law has adopted a “practice-based learning” requirement which will ensure that all students have at least one intensive, carefully supervised, live lawyering experience before graduating from law school. The new requirement, which takes effect with the class entering in fall of 2013, was voted on by the faculty in spring 2012. Fewer than 20 other U.S. law schools currently have a similar requirement.
“The Law School has long been a leader in experiential legal education,” says Interim Dean Willajeanne F. McLean. “We were an early pioneer in clinical education, and students today can choose from a very broad and diverse range of clinics and externships.
“These programs offer an essential supplement to classroom-based learning. By adopting this requirement, we are signaling our continuing commitment to preparing our students to practice law, and to do so competently and ethically,” McLean says.
Students will be able to satisfy the new requirement in several different ways. First, they can enroll in any of the Law School’s 15 faculty-supervised clinical programs including the Criminal Clinic (est. 1969); the Tax Clinic (est. 1999); the Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Law Clinic (est. 2007), which is part of a state economic development initiative; an Asylum and Human Rights Clinic (est. 2002) that helps refugees from torture and persecution gain political asylum; and a Mediation Clinic (est. 1994) that helps resolve disputes between landlords and tenants as well as other matters.
Clinical programs also include externship clinics in which students are placed with non-profit public interest organizations, state agencies, judges and justices, and legislators.
A second way in which students will be able to satisfy the new requirement is through an individual externship. In order to qualify, such an externship must be certified as providing high-quality legal supervision, and the student must work at least 14 hours per week in the placement and participate in an accompanying seminar.
A third way to satisfy the requirement will be to enroll in a course that includes a substantial component in which students participate in teams or as a group in one or more live lawyering projects.
The new practice-based learning requirement was proposed by the Curriculum Review Committee, which was constituted a year ago to conduct a multi-year, comprehensive review of the Law School’s curriculum and recommend changes to it.
The Lawyering Process Program is a required two-semester, 5 credit program. It is a unique program that is among the most ambitious in the nation because it teaches students interviewing, counseling and negotiating skills, in addition to legal research and writing. By teaching practical and interpersonal lawyering skills as an integral part of the law school’s first year curriculum, the Lawyering Process Program helps to prepare students for law practice, and for the wide range of clinics and experiential learning opportunities available to students in their second and third years.
During the first semester, the Lawyering Process Program focuses on legal research and two essential types of legal writing: predictive writing (how to prepare clear and concise office and research memoranda), and persuasive writing (how to write briefs and motions). Students are also taught how to conduct legal research effectively using electronic and print resources. The Lawyering Process course is taught in small classes, affording students the opportunity to learn in an intimate environment. Students have multiple opportunities to meet with Lawyering Process faculty for individual conferences.
During the second semester, the Program's focus shifts to developing and honing a student’s interviewing, counseling and negotiating skills, often through intensive simulations involving adjunct faculty, who provide individualized feedback to students. A unique feature of the second semester is that, in each section of the Lawyering Process course, these interpersonal skills are taught in different practice contexts, to take maximum advantage of the experiences and strengths of the Lawyering Process faculty, all of whom have considerable experience as practitioners. For example, one professor teaches interviewing, counseling and negotiating skills with a focus on public interest lawyering, another professor teaches these skills (as well as contract drafting) in the context of business transactional lawyering, a third professor emphasizes the ethics and strategies of negotiating, and a fourth teaches the skills with an emphasis on ethics and counseling. Once students learn these practical lawyering skills, they are well prepared for the upper-class clinical and experiential learning opportunities available to them at the Law School.
All first year students take Moot Court. Between the first and second semesters of the first year, during January, first year day students take Moot Court. At the end of the second semester, during June, first year evening students take Moot Court. Moot Court is an intensive program in oral and written argument. Students learn how to write legal arguments and then practice making oral arguments in simulated appellate level cases, with supervision and feedback provided by practicing lawyers who are adjunct faculty members at the Law School.