Workplace Law “Semester In Practice” Externship Debuts With Great Results

A new addition to the list of externship opportunities Workplace Law (WPL) program students may participate in is the “Semester In Practice” program (SIP) an intensive fieldwork experience in the offices of a local employment law attorney. “It has been the most rewarding experience I’ve had in law school,” reports third-year student Alex Smith. “I find it similar to learning a language, where one only truly becomes fluent when one is immersed in the language.”

The Semester-In-Practice was developed by Director of Externships Professor Ann Vessels and Professor Lindsey Webb, who served as faculty supervisors. “It’s an outstanding program,” says Ann Vessels. “It gives students the opportunity to develop their practice skills by participating in a full time externship, working forty hours per week, and also taking a weekly seminar. The student gets significant exposure to the substantive law in the externship. In the seminar he or she focuses on skills and professional identity.”

The WPL position placed Alex Smith with Doris Truhlar, JD’80, and Robert Truhlar, JD’81, of Truhlar and Truhlar, LLP. “We were incredibly honored to be included as the ‘beta tester’ for this program,” says Doris Truhlar. “Having Alex Smith with us every day was an extremely positive experience, both for us and for Alex. One of the big benefits to the student is that it permits her or him to have much more in-depth contact with clients. The student is part of forming a bond with the client, and also gets to see how attorneys advise clients.”

“The program offers students a wonderful opportunity to witness, first hand, how attorneys in practice do their jobs, and how law firm operate,” adds Bob Truhlar. “The student gets to know the attorneys well, and at the end of the externship should be prepared to start her or his career, with many of the tools necessary for a first-year attorney.”

For Alex Smith, the first Denver Law student to participate in a workplace law Semester In Practice, the on-the-ground learning had tangible benefits. “The amount of information I retained through a practical learning experience added tremendously to what I learned in the classroom setting,“ he reports. “After working at Truhlar & Truhlar, I have a much greater understanding of everything from unemployment benefits and severance agreements to retaliation claims under Sarbanes-Oxley.”

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