The Sturm College of Law has long been recognized as a pioneer in experiential learning, opening the nation’s first law school clinic in 1904. The school was cited in 2012 by U.S. News & World Report as one of three law schools demonstrating “best practices” in the field. Our new Experiential Advantage Curriculum™ combines live client clinics, high-quality externships—including a new Semester in Practice Externship—and legal simulation courses. Every student who so desires will have the opportunity to take at least 30 credits of experiential learning, and, as part of that 30 credits, may choose a live client experience consisting of either a clinic or externship opportunity. Students who do not choose this option may still access these same experiential learning opportunities.
Among the simulation courses are the Carnegie Integrated Courses, also new, which provide training in doctrine, written and oral skills, and emphasize the development of professional identity. The links below provide more information our innovative approaches to teaching, scholarship and, most importantly, experiential learning opportunities for all Denver Law students.
Modern Learning Chair | Upper level simulation courses | Lawyering Process | Trial practice/The Advocacy Program | Legal Externship Program | Public Service Requirement | Lawyering in Spanish | Clinical Programs | Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers
The University of Denver Sturm College of Law Chair in Modern Learning coordinates and encourages integrated and experiential learning throughout the law school, and also engages in outreach to other law schools and law organizations to learn of their efforts and other units at the University to explore potential synergies. The Chair also is responsible for assessment of modern learning initiatives at the SCOL.
The Sturm College of Law Chair in Modern Learning and the SCOL Modern Learning Committee have developed criteria for a series of classroom simulation and experiential learning courses that effectively incorporate all three Carnegie apprenticeships: analytical thinking, expert practice, and professional identity formation. A number of existing, traditional law courses have been modified for integration. These “Carnegie Integrated Courses (CIC)” are being piloted at the SCOL, and the expectation is that more will be added every year. Current CIC courses include: Discovery Practicum, Insurance Law, Labor Law, Student Law Office: Civil Rights, Civil, Criminal, and Domestic Violence Clinics, Evidence Practicum, Energy & Mining Law, Corporate Drafting, Semester in Practice Internship, Upper Level Legal Writing, Administrative Law, and Public Sector Labor & Employment Law.
Over twenty years ago, DU Sturm College of Law converted its first-year legal research course into the Lawyering Process Program, a broader legal writing, research, and skills course simulating practice in a law firm or similar legal environment. In LP, practitioners work directly with LP classes as “Senior Partners” in a law firm model. These practitioners provide concrete advice to students about skills and ethical concerns as well as about legal research and legal writing. Also, judges also participate actively in the LP program, providing an integral link between the skills training that students receive and the work of the most prominent figures in the legal community who will evaluate the quality of those skills in the students’ practices.
The University of Denver Sturm College of Law understands the value of graduating students who can succeed in the courtroom on their first day in the profession. Thus, Sturm places a strong emphasis on trial and appellate advocacy in its curriculum. And not surprisingly, the students of Sturm perennially respond by passionately embracing the courses, programs and tournaments offered. Courses include everything from Basic and Advanced Trial Practice, to Appellate Advocacy and Legal Writing, to the more hands-on focused clinic and “Street Law” courses. Sturm compliments its courtroom-focused curriculum by also educating its students on how to effectively prepare a case prior to entering the courtroom. The law school offers a panoply of courses focusing on Depositions, Negotiations, Motions Practice, Pleadings, and Client Counseling, just to name a few. The fruits of the school’s efforts are illuminated on the national stage. Sturm’s competitive advocacy corps includes ten different teams that travel to tournaments across the country. These teams include their nationally-recognized ABA, AAJ, Ethics, International Law, and Client Counseling teams. With the support of award-winning faculty, seasoned trial practitioners, and student organizations such as the Student Trial Lawyers Association, the Moot Court Board, and the Student Bar Association, every academic year is filled with opportunities for Sturm students to continually participate in advocacy courses and programs, and receive the mentoring support that is vital, for Sturm graduates to excel in the profession.
Day One courses
These professional skills courses – both civil and criminal — provide the fundamental skills students need to practice law on day one of their legal career in the civil and criminal arenas. These lab-courses employ a faux case through the major stages of the case. In criminal: Defendant (Client) Interview; Victim Interview; Retainer Issues; Charging (Summons & Complaint); Jury Instructions; Docket Management; Bond Issues; Arraignment; Grand Juries; Misdemeanors and Felonies; Investigators; Rule 16 Discovery; Plea Considerations; Protective Orders; Restitution; Ethical Obligations of Prosecution & Defense Counsel; Motion to Suppress & Hearings; Witness & Victim Prep; Sentencing Issues; Post-Trial Issues. The overall purpose of this course is for students to see the big picture — to see all of the major components of a case as they develop from the initial action to the eve of the first day of trial. Classes are held at the law school and the major state district courthouses.
With approximately 450 placements each year, Denver Law’s Legal Externship Program effectively bridges the gap between classroom learning and the application of legal skills in the workplace. The Legal Externship Program is organized into ten clearly defined programs specifically focused on practice areas ranging from private firm practice to nonprofit work. Each of the programs requires students to earn field work credits through work in a legal setting. Students in each program also participate in an accompanying one-credit seminar taught by Legal Externship Program faculty that focuses on legal skills and professional identity. During the semester, students obtain valuable feedback from a supervising attorney in the field while actively reflecting on their work experience under the oversight of an Externship faculty member.
Semester in Practice
Third year students interested in undertaking a more encompassing externship experience may enroll in Denver Law’s Semester in Practice program. This cutting-edge, semester-long program allows students to immerse themselves in full-time legal work. Under the auspices of supervising attorneys in the workplace, students receive eleven field work credits coupled with a three-credit classroom-based practicum taught by members of the Legal Externship Program faculty. The Semester-in-Practice program enhances the traditional doctrinal learning experience by incorporating faculty-monitored real work experience into legal education.
The VAP pairs individual Veterans with teams of Colorado attorneys and Denver Law students. These teams work primarily on VA Disability Benefit Compensation cases at the regional level and up to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Washington DC.; and on Discharge Upgrade cases. Through their work with clients, students develop knowledge in the substantive area of Veterans Benefits and Discharge Upgrades, and develop legal skills and professional values. The VAP is the only pro bono legal clinic in Colorado doing this work. The VAP works with all Veterans needing services, but focuses on homeless and low income Veterans.
Crafted to educate students about their professional obligation to perform public service work as practicing attorneys, the PSR is more than a graduation requirement. The PSR helps students develop practical lawyering skills by placing them in real work situations while raising awareness among students of meaningful public interest opportunities in the community. There are a variety of ways to satisfy the PSR. Most students satisfy the PSR by completing a qualifying Legal Externship, a Student Law Office Clinic, or other pre-approved law course with an experiential component. Students also have the option of satisfying the PSR through enrollment in a Volunteer Legal Experience, in which students complete “mini-externships” at a public sector placement or private firm, provided the work is pro bono. In this capacity, students are able to give back to the community by working on 50-hour public interest projects for qualifying organizations.
Effective legal representation of Spanish-speaking clients in the U.S. and overseas requires a sophisticated set of legal, cultural and language skills. By offering highly specialized courses, this program is training law students to use language skills in various legal and cultural contexts and at different levels of complexity. The Summer Program in Guatemala provides students the opportunity to take law classes in a bilingual and inter-cultural environment, offering substantive law classes about Latin America taught in Spanish and Spanish-language externship placements.
The Student Law Office (SLO) is the in-house clinical program of the Sturm College of Law. Founded as the “Legal Aid Dispensary” in 1904, the SLO is believed to be one of the oldest clinical programs in the United States. With 12 full-time clinical faculty in six clinics, the SLO provides students the opportunity to practice law in a broad range of areas, including civil litigation, criminal defense, environmental law, mediation, community economic development and civil rights. Through their work with clients, attorneys, judges, and legislators, clinic students develop their knowledge of substantive law, legal skills and professional values while providing quality legal representation to under-represented individuals and organizations.
The result of a dynamic partnership between Denver Law and the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers (ETL) is a program dedicated to changing the way law schools educate students. “Our goal is to help law schools graduate more practice-ready lawyers who can better meet the needs of an evolving profession,” says law school Dean Martin J. Katz. “To accomplish this goal, we have provided a platform to facilitate and measure innovation in law teaching designed to integrate doctrine, skills, and professional identity.”
ETL is building a national consortium of law schools committed to education in the spirit of the Carnegie Model. The consortium serves as a resource and forum for the exchange, dissemination, implementation and assessment of reform.