Experiential learning has always been the cornerstone of the Lawyering Process Course. With over 80 years of combined experience in skills-based learning, LP faculty are constantly researching and experimenting with ways to put students in the roles of attorneys. Some advances include:
- Teaching in a “flipped” classroom to increase “work” time during class;
- Replacing one weekly lecture with weekly small-group writing labs;
- Teaching with live cases, including the nation’s first public-interest partnership;
- Incorporating advanced technologies such as SmartBoard™; and
- Using distance learning technology to teach a student who was deployed to Afghanistan.
For nearly two decades, LP faculty have also been teaching the type of upper-level integrated courses so important to the Experiential Advantage™ curriculum. They bring drafting and other practice skills to doctrinal courses on such topics as employment law, torts, and environmental law. At the same time, they are increasingly teaching doctrine in skills-focused courses such as negotiations, discovery, and advanced legal research.
High Quality Feedback
Students submit approximately ten writing assignments each semester. These vary in length and difficulty, and students receive feedback such as oral critiques, peer edits, in-class workshops, and extensive review by LP faculty. Early assignments carry less weight so students can learn by experimenting, and receive feedback on their analysis that is focused on improving the work product.
After students have participated in several low pressure/high value assignments and reviews, they prepare both initial and revised versions of major assignments. To help with revisions, LP professors provide comments on content, organization, style and mechanics. Each major assignment also includes an overall assessment so students can gain perspective on their work and prioritize what they can do to improve.
The program incorporates at least two individual or small group conferences each semester, both before assignments are due and between revisions when students are focused on putting the critique to immediate use.
Oral communication is often as critical to an attorney’s practice as written communication. Each semester, LP students are provided with opportunities to discuss and present their analysis orally, including:
- A one-on-one oral report to an experienced practitioner
- A practice oral argument
- A final oral argument before a panel of practicing attorneys and judges in the courtrooms of the Tenth Circuit Courts of Appeals, the Colorado Supreme Court, and the Colorado Court of Appeals.
Fusion of Writing and Oral Skills
The timing of most oral assignments in LP is unique; the initial oral assignment takes place between an original writing assignment and the rewrite. Because of this timing, the LP oral assignments not only serve to hone students’ oral skills, they also assist in sharpening students’ legal analysis. The exercise of preparing for questions and orally discussing their reasoning deepens students’ understanding of the assignment and enriches the quality of their revisions.
A Continuing Partnership with the Practice
DU Sturm College of Law has a tradition of working hand-in-hand with judges and practicing attorneys who provide a continuous connection to the real-world practice of law that students are preparing to join. The law school was once housed above Mapelli’s Meat Market in Civic Center, just steps away from Colorado’s capital dome, downtown Denver law firms, and federal and state courtrooms. The synergy created by the law school’s proximity to local government, law firms, and the courts fueled innovation in DU Sturm College of Law’s teaching programs. DU Sturm College of Law founded the first student law clinic in the country over 100 years ago, and the LP Program continues that spirit of innovation.
Student Learning Outcomes
Program Areas of Consistency
For over thirty years, practitioners have worked 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.
Sitting 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. Judges who volunteer to work with LP students hail from almost every type of court.
On Judges’ Day, the Colorado Court of Appeals hears oral arguments in two active cases, and all LP students attend. After the arguments, students are allowed to ask the attorneys questions. The arguments are followed by a reception for students who are selected to attend by their LP Professor where they have the opportunity to ask questions of the Appeals Court Judges who just heard the cases at the law school.
Students have school-wide resources beyond the LP professors, upper-class teaching assistants, practitioners, and librarians that are the mainstay of LP courses. The Legal Writing Clinic and the Academic Achievement Program are also fundamental to the success of students in the LP Program.