The Modern Learning Initiative

In today’s legal market, we must strive to graduate students who are practice-ready, rather than students who will need to learn essential skills on the job. By a practice-ready student, we mean one who has attained entry level proficiency in a significant number of important professional skills. There are some skills lawyers must learn on the job, but there are many skills that can and should be taught or introduced in law school.

We recognize that effective legal education requires a balanced curriculum – one that offers exposure to each of the three Carnegie apprenticeships: doctrine, skills (with an emphasis on writing), and professional identity. We will build upon our faculty’s commitment to teaching and the law school’s interactive environment as we further integrate experiential learning into the curriculum.

Fortunately, Denver Law has been at the forefront of skills education. The law school has prominent and well-established clinics (which include both litigation and transactional live client opportunities), the largest externship program in the country, an extensive trial advocacy program and more. This commitment to integration of doctrine, skills, and professional identity is also exemplified by our Lawyering Process Program, and an increasing number of simulation-based courses.

Denver Law will prepare students for the legal profession or their chosen career by building upon these existing strengths, and by offering more integrated and experiential learning in a well-balanced curriculum.

First and second years of law school

  • Develop new ways to integrate skills learning, doctrinal learning, and professional identity.
  • Encourage experimentation with integrated learning.
  • Facilitate specific coverage of professional identity (including ethics) throughout the curriculum.
  • Require for every student an additional semester-long second- or third-year course of required skills training.

Second and third years of law school

We will provide more options for integration of doctrine, skills, and professional identity in experiential modes, including:

  • Practice simulation courses (“capstones”): small, integrative courses centered on particular substantive legal problems treated through simulated law practice experiences.
  • Externships of various credit allocations with enhanced faculty participation and supervision, including our fully immersed Semester-in-Practice program.
  • Additional clinical opportunities.
  • We commit to provide every third-year student who desires it at least one of the above opportunities.
  • By 2015, we plan to provide every student who desires it the opportunity to spend a full year of their law school career immersed in these experiential opportunities. These students will have the equivalent of a full year of on the job training by the time they graduate.

These offerings will train well-balanced lawyers who are practice-ready and prepared to lead. The doctrinal aspects of these offerings will be enhanced by the specialization initiative. The skills aspects of these offerings will focus on writing and advocacy, as well as on financial and business skills, litigation skills, and problem solving skills. The professional identity aspects of these offerings will focus on client-centered representation, as well as on leadership within the legal and broader community. By integrating these three apprenticeships, we will produce “whole” lawyers who are prepared and competitive as they start their careers.

In addition, our new Legal Practice Institute (built upon the foundation of our pioneering Masters of Science in Legal Administration program) will train our students to understand the business of law, whether they plan on entering large or small firm practice, government or public interest work, or in-house counsel jobs. A new Mentoring Program will provide every student support not only during the time they are in law school, but for the first two years they are in practice. Our Office of Career Development and Opportunities will offer guidance and essential skills enabling students to be competitive in seeking the best legal job opportunities.

These initiatives will require the strong involvement of the local bench and bar. Students benefit significantly from hands-on learning in the real world and through interacting with successful professionals who can help chart future careers.

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