Friday, December 18, 2009

W&L Law Profiled Favorably in Washington Post

Hope everyone had a good end-of-finals wind-down; we heard Three was off the proverbial hook, although we got our kicks from watching Peyton Manning do work. We have a couple of things planned for the break blog-wise, but for the most part we'll be laying low.

Anyway, today's Washington Post featured an interesting profile of Washington & Lee Law School's third-year program. In it, students
[a]bandoned the lecture hall to spend their final year of law school learning how law is practiced -- including the mundanities of dressing for court and the intricacies of taking depositions and writing briefs on deadline.

Students are working court cases from complaint to verdict, matching wits with opposing counsel, currying favor with judges and managing difficult clients, real and simulated.

"You can act like a real attorney. It's kind of scary," said Elizabeth Clarke, who is spending part of her third year at Washington and Lee in an "externship" at the commonwealth's attorney's office in Botetourt County, 38 miles from campus. She recently watched, for the first time, a judge send to jail a man she had prosecuted under the supervision of an actual prosecutor.

Leaders at Washington and Lee say that within the hidebound world of legal education, their new curriculum amounts to revolutionary change.

So it's like a clinic . . . but all the time . . . with hypothetical clients? When would you play softball? The article notes that W&L kids are busy:

The new third year began with a two-week course that took students through a court case from start to finish. It was a grueling, sunup to sundown affair, not unlike the boot camp running next door at the Virginia Military Institute. Another two-week exercise will open the second semester.

But the core of the curriculum lies in 20 new practical courses, each designed to teach students an area of law by simulating legal proceedings.

. . .

There is a tradeoff in the new curriculum. Students lose the chance to take high-level courses offered in a traditional third year, classes typically taken by top students vying for prestigious clerkships with federal judges.

What do you guys think? Frankly, we like the opportunity to take courses my third year - and we kind of get the feeling that after this, we'll be working plenty.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I think it would be a nice option. Right now, law school seems less like "lawyer school" and more like "law professor school." I think it is good that students have the option to take higher level courses, the kinds that are generally understood to be required for clerkships. Still, it would be nice if the students who really want to be lawyers (believe it or not, we exist), got more of a chance to learn something, anything that will come in handy when we leave law school.

I would not want to force this on anyone, however. As the poster said, we'll all (well, some) have a chance to work hard very soon.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I believe this is why we have summer internships.

Anonymous said...

To 4:14,

3:05 here. Thank you for drawing my attention to the fact that summer internships exist. I actually did know about them however, and meant to indicate that a 3L internship year would be nice in addition to said summer opportunities.

Also, I appreciate the attitude, and think I had it coming, what, my having had the nerve to express an opinion. That'll teach me.

Anonymous said...

Jesus, 3:05/8:19, I don't think the commenter was necessarily snarking you -- the comment makes just as much sense as a response to the post (or even the program) itself!

Now here's some snark actually directed your way. A better response would have been:

"To 4:14,

3:05 here. Thank you for drawing my attention to the fact that summer internships exist. I had heard of this opportunity; however, since no one I know has been hired for one, I had concluded that this myth was only a ruse designed to allow young alumni to return to C-ville and drink on the firm's dime. Thank you for setting the record straight, and enjoy your last semester!"

Anonymous said...

9:58 PM,

3:05/8:19 here. Yeah, good point, 4:14 might have just been responding to the post and not my comment. If that's the case, I rescind my comment.

Oh, why do you assume it is 4:14's last semester?

Got you!

Anonymous said...

God, you people are pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Awww, 11:39, why the meanness? What did anybody do to you?

Anonymous said...

11:39 - you're so cool guy!

Anonymous said...

W&L is crazy! Law firms love and need students who took "theoretical foundations of civil rights" seminars. And clients love paying for it!

Anonymous said...

This seems like a good idea, if you want to be a trial attorney at a small firm. Of course, those trial heavy jobs might be the only jobs available these days.

It strikes me as a good idea to require a clinic 3rd year, or some kind of practical skills class where you get instruction on how to take a deposition, maybe have to write a memo/brief as a refresher, or heaven forbid, draft/mark up a contract, etc. But if you want to do corporate, or litigation at a big firm, I can't see how a full 3rd year of moot court is going to be helpful.

It's also worth noting that the architect of this new program, W&L's dean, jumped ship right as it started to be president of some university.

Anonymous said...

3:05: You had a good point. But, in expressing said point, you demonstrated that you are a douche. I hope you're a 1L, so you have a chance to correct this douchiness before you suffer irreparable harm from it. If you're a 2L or 3L, I'll bet quite a lot of money that you're still unemployed.

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