LAWS to the Power of Three
New program provides first-year students with three choices in advocacy training
A recognized innovator of legal writing programs, Southwestern has announced a new ground-breaking three-track approach to its Legal Analysis, Writing and Skills (LAWS) program. Commencing in Fall 2009, first-year students will be able to choose from three areas of focus for their LAWS course: Appellate Advocacy, Negotiation or Trial Practice. All students will receive the same instruction in LAWS I before concentrating on their specific areas of advocacy during LAWS II. While the negotiation and trial practice tracks are new, what was the traditional appellate advocacy track will also evolve within the new program. This three-track approach is believed to be the first program of its kind at any law school in the nation.
"Our LAWS course has always focused on providing students with a strong foundation in the basic skills of legal practice," said Professor Tracy Turner, Director of the LAWS program. "However, until now, we have not had the opportunity to introduce first-year students to negotiation and trial skills. We are thrilled about our new program. Students' experiences in the first year can affect how they approach law school in their upper division years and the choices they consider for their careers. We hope that broadening their exposure to skills in the first year will open up new viewpoints and options for them."
Under the new format, students will select their track preferences prior to the start of classes so that they can be placed with the appropriate professor during their first semester and will continue working with that professor throughout the academic year. During the Fall semester, all first-year students take LAWS I, a three-unit course designed to prepare them for the real-world demands of law practice. The course explores issues of professionalism; develops broad-based analytical, research and writing skills; and provides concentrated instruction in the basics of legal methods, legal reasoning and legal processes.
During the Spring semester, students take the three-unit LAWS II course to further refine their legal research, analysis and writing techniques in the context of their selected track. In the Appellate Advocacy track, students handle an appeal of a hypothetical legal case, conducting legal research, drafting an appellate court brief and presenting oral arguments. The Trial Practice track emphasizes the work of a trial attorney, with students mastering multiple tasks involved in pre-trial and trial stages of litigation in a hypothetical legal case. The Negotiation track applies the skills of legal research, writing, advocacy and client counseling through negotiation exercises that include meeting with clients, drafting a trial court motion, and participating in simulated contractual negotiations.
"Southwestern's unique three-track system will enable first-year students not only to enhance practical skills that fit their career ambitions, but also to get a head start toward honing those skills further through hands-on training and competition," said Dean Bryant Garth.
The ABA's Survey of Law School Curricula, the Carnegie Foundation's Educating Lawyers and the Clinical Legal Education Association's Best Practices for Legal Education, as well as the recent Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) report have all urged law schools to adopt more professionalism and practice-oriented approaches in their curricula. Many have called upon law schools to do a better job of training law students for the practice of law and for the many variations of law practice that they may encounter. The creation of the new three-track program addresses this concern and keeps Southwestern at the vanguard of curricular reform, specifically with regard to legal writing programs."Few schools have devoted as many resources or made legal writing such a cornerstone of the first-year experience as Southwestern has," said Vice Dean Austen Parrish
. "The latest changes, however, really make Southwestern unique. We are aware of no other school with a three-track program, or one that provides students as much flexibility in their first year to tailor their legal education."
More detailed information about the new LAWS program structure will be posted on Southwestern's website in the coming weeks.