Start Learning Skills On Day One
The Skills and Professionalism labs are mandatory for first-year students. Students are sorted into four-to-six member “firms,” which are assigned a series of simulation exercises. These exercises are designed to teach such technical skills as how to conduct a deposition or prepare and present an oral argument. Working in small groups, students also learn the value of collaboration.
The labs use as content the substantive law being taught concurrently in a set of doctrinal courses. In the fall, students study Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, and Torts; in the spring, they study Contracts and Property.
To perform the skills lab exercises, students must master the law behind them.
The Experience of Labs
Bringing Concepts to Life
“I think when you have your doctrinal classes, they’re like these wooden concepts. They’re concepts that exist outside reality a little bit. The Litigation Skills Lab is like where Pinocchio becomes a little boy. These wooden concepts come to life and are expressed in ways that are relevant.” ~Thomas Limon
Prepping for the Real Work an Attorney Does
“Traditionally, the focus is on reading and class prep; whereas for us, it was much more taking what we read and synthesizing it into an exercise: “Okay, we’re going to do a deposition today, or we’re going to work it into whatever the class assignment was.” So that made it very different. Lots of smaller assignments versus the big picture of just reading, reading, reading, and that’s it.”
“When I listen to my husband talking about what he does as an attorney, he is doing all of these these things; he’s sitting in on depositions, he’s interviewing clients, he’s arguing summary judgment motions. So all these things that we’ve talked about and practiced in the lab, I realize that it’s been preparing me for the real work an attorney does.” ~Corey Digiacinto
Walk in the Shoes of a Lawyer
“The doctrinal classes passed on large quantities of information, but often left us confused on how to apply the principles being taught. The Skills Lab almost took the opposite approach. Fewer principles of law were taught, but the focus was on the application of the information, which allowed us to see how things applied to the ‘real’ world of law. The most enjoyable aspect of this method was that students had the opportunity to walk in the shoes of a lawyer and participate in simulated oral arguments, client counseling sessions, and settlement negotiations.”
“There was a moment during the first semester that I recognized why certain professors taught in a certain way, or what was expected of me as a law student. I definitely found myself being more analytical as the semester wore on and started thinking more critically. The skills lab certainly helped me look at things from a lawyer’s perspective and to apply information to different situations within the framework of litigation.” ~Brett Nelson
Get Better at Practicing Law
“I came into law school not wanting to practice law … because the things lawyers have to do just never really appealed to me. The Skills Lab forced me to do those things that prior to that I had not had any desire to do – and I had fun doing them.”
“Prior to my oral argument, I was very nervous. I got up there and did my little oral argument and I thought it was horrible and awful but the professor did something with the oral argument that a good teacher always does – he evaluated the oral argument. And it wasn’t just him doing the evaluating but your peers too. So four other people, who were from a different firm, evaluated it. When when I got the sheets back, it was all this “wow!”, “great!” – all this really nice stuff. At first I thought they were just being nice, just wanting to support each other, but then the professor gave me his evaluation and the two combined showed me that my oral argument wasn’t as bad as I thought it had been.”
“(The Skills Lab) definitely forced us to do things we weren’t ready for yet – or that we thought we weren’t ready for. I can say that with every new experience I get better and better.” ~Ella Trujillo