Following on the momentum and success of the initiatives to enhance the traditional first-year experience,
the Southwestern faculty adopted several exciting curricular
innovations for the upper division.
Three new programs, Capstone Course, a January Intersession, and Floating Mini-Term courses, were recently integrated into the curriculum. They are designed to encourage student engagement during the second, third, and (where applicable) fourth years of study, respond to issues identified through the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE), and extend the momentum created by Southwestern's new first-year curricular reforms. The latter have been well received by students and commended by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
This series of upper level curricular initiatives further confirms the recognition Southwestern already received from the Carnegie Endowment as one of the few law schools truly embracing the challenge of developing a curriculum that incorporates theory, practice and integration into the profession.
The January Intersession consists of a one-week term held before the regular Spring Semester begins and features a selection of about a dozen innovative courses that are more suited to short-term, intensive treatment than to a traditional semester. Students have the opportunity to enroll in one-unit courses focusing on a discrete topic with a skills or practice focus. The classes meet three to four hours a day for five days and most are graded on the performance of skills or final paper. Enrollment in the January Intersession is limited to upper division Day and Evening students and second year SCALE students. While it is mandatory for SCALE II students, it is discretionary (rather than mandatory) for all other upper division students. Invitations to teach these special short courses are being directed to potential visitors, adjuncts, interested full-time faculty, and other experts in the field who otherwise might not be available for a full semester.
Among the January Intersession courses approved by the faculty are:
- Appellate Process and Opinion Drafting
- The Art of Persuasion
- Business Concepts for Liberal Arts Majors
- Criminal Law in Action
- Effective Communication in Criminal Practice
- Fashion Law
- Legal Spanish for International Practice
- Media Litigation
- Prosecution and Defense of Domestic Violence Cases
- Reproductive Technologies and the Law
- Selected Problems in Evidence (Evidence Lab)
- VITA Income Tax Course
Capstone Courses provide the opportunity for advanced study, with special emphasis on teaching the Carnegie Foundation Report principles of theory to practice and professionalism. A given Capstone could be interdisciplinary, cover multiple subjects, and be team-taught. Students might opt to enroll in such a course during their final semester or year of study, after having completed the applicable prerequisites. Enrollment is limited to ensure individual attention, as well as sufficient time and resources for simulations - including but not limited to advocacy, alternative dispute resolution, and transactional skills. Evaluation is based on skills versus an exam. Students in all programs - Day, PLEAS, Evening, and SCALE - are eligible to take Capstones. These courses are taught primarily by full-time faculty, in some cases team-teaching with practitioners serving in the capacity of adjunct or visiting professors, or perhaps as guest speakers.
Capstone offerings include:
- California Civil Litigation (Capstone)
- Complex Criminal Litigation (Capstone)
- Employment Law (Capstone)
- Entertainment Law (Capstone)
- Mass Tort Litigation (Capstone)
The Floating Mini-Term concept is somewhere in between the January Intersession and Capstone Courses. A course offered on a Floating Mini-Term basis will treat a traditional subject, but during a period of four to seven weeks, rather than a traditional 14-week semester. The precise length will vary, depending on curricular interest, the availability of the anticipated professor, and the nature of the subject. The Mini-Term program enables Southwestern to enlist distinguished guest faculty from around the country or even internationally to teach specialized courses.Examples of mini-term courses that have been offered are: Animal Law, Islamic Law and Law of the European Union.