DEAN LAWRENCE MITCHELL — CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW — CURRICULUM CHANGES
The legal profession is changing, and legal education must change with it. On August 12, by a near-unanimous vote, our faculty adopted a new and exciting curriculum that will prepare our students for careers as 21st century lawyers. The Case Western Reserve Model of Legal Education retains the best of our first-rate doctrinal and theoretical education while building on our historic leadership in experiential education, and reflects the information and advice I’ve received in two years of visiting with legal employers throughout the country. Each year of legal education will be devoted to helping our students achieve specific objectives, summed up as: Foundation. Focus. Fusion.
The first year will provide students with the foundations of doctrinal law, practical skills, leadership, ethics, and professionalism. They will study the theoretical building blocks of the common law. They will study regulation and the way our legal system often works through the administrative state. They will study and be coached in the essential competencies of leadership and teamwork by the world-famous faculty of our own Weatherhead School of Management, led by Richard Boyatzis. They will learn to draft basic litigation and transactional documents, to make oral arguments, and to negotiate deals in carefully designed courses that integrate with their doctrinal coursework. They will attain financial literacy. They will work with real clients in real time, under the supervision of a lawyer, learning to interview clients, find solutions, and plan effective strategies. And they will write.
The second year gives students the chance to begin to specialize or, if they prefer, pursue a general practice education. No matter what path they choose, they will advance to study how the foundations they learned in their first year build core fields like business law, international law, health law, intellectual property law, administrative law, or criminal law, among others. Their education in law, leadership, skills, and professionalism will continue, in classes integrated with doctrinal courses. For example, students taking Business Associations will engage in client correspondence and draft corporate contracts. While studying Federal Courts, students will draft motions and correspondence. All students will learn appropriate client communication, using traditional methods, email, and social media, and how to give effective advice. Students can spend a semester abroad at one of our 26 partner schools around the globe, or work in one of our real client labs like our war crimes lab, our death penalty lab, or our national security lab. They will also be able to participate in one of our many, carefully chosen, externships, in Cleveland or abroad. By the end of their second year, our students will be ready to practice what they have learned.
It all comes together in the third year. Our Capstone semester will put students in full-time practice. Students can choose their jobs from among our clinics or from a variety of externships around the world. Unlike almost any other law school, we provide enough spaces in our clinics, taught by full time clinicians with a collective 179 years of experience in practice, for every student who wants one. Unlike many law schools’ externships, our externships are rigorously supervised by our full-time faculty to ensure that students are using the integrated education they received during their first two years. During the Capstone semester, students will also engage in periodic classroom work (remotely, if they are externing somewhere else in the world), designed to help integrate their work experience with their classroom education. They will also take a capstone course in law, leadership, skills, and professionalism, designed to fuse together everything they have learned. In the final classroom semester, students may choose from among our traditional courses or study abroad.
Some students may elect a different path, by taking their LL.M. concurrently with the last year of their J.D. at one of our European partner schools, at no additional cost beyond their JD tuition.
Students will have to fulfill 17 credit hours of writing-intensive courses in order to graduate. While some students can elect to fulfill part of this requirement with traditional academic writing, all students must fulfill part or all of it with professional and technical writing.
We will provide summer sessions, at no additional cost, to students who choose to extend their Capstone job over a six month period, or to students who simply want to free up time during the regular school year by taking summer courses.
Finally, each student will work with our Career Development Office to develop an electronic portfolio of the work they have done in law school, including written work and videotapes of their negotiations and arguments, that will be easily accessible to employers.
While the new curriculum will be fully effective for the class entering in August 2014, current first and second year students will be able to take significant portions of this new curriculum.
We are all very excited and proud of the Case Western Reserve Model. As law schools around the country examine their own approaches to legal education, we stand ready to serve as an example and a resource. I look forward to working with you as we grow in our second century of innovation in legal education.
Law school curriculum undergoes sweeping changes at Case Western Reserve University [Cleveland Plain Dealer]