February 21, 2008
The Work of the Lawyer
Posted by Brett McDonnell

One thing that has kept me busy over the past year or so is a fairly substantial reform of the first year curriculum in which we are engaged here at Minnesota.  To any experienced law professor, the phrase "reform of the first year curriculum" is likely to induce serious queasiness if not a full blown panic attack.  Actually, it hasn't been that bad for us.  It has been a lot of work, but the faculty has pulled together on the project.  Indeed, the final vote to approve the package was unanimous.

The centerpiece is a new course tentatively called "The Work of the Lawyer."  The course will introduce students to important lawyering skills such as interviewing, counseling, and negotiation.  It will be simulation-based, with a series of connected exercises following one scenario over the course of a semester.  Although skills-based, we will also build in a strong theoretical element, pushing students to reflect on the lawyer-client relationship and the role of lawyers in society.  We will also build in a number of ethical issues into the simulations--we think this is a better way of teaching professional responsibility than the standard PR course.  Of particular interest for this blog, the plan is for the basic scenario to be transactional rather than litigation-based, although the skills taught are relevant for both types of practice.

The course is set to start next spring.  It's a logistical nightmare--we are currently hiring a director for the course, and if anyone happens to know if Superman is available, I'd appreciate a pointer.  The course involves both in-class teaching by full-time faculty and also adjuncts working in smaller groups on the simulations.  Anyway, we will see how it goes.  A lot of schools are working on somewhat similar ideas at this point.  I hope to learn more about what others are doing at the Georgia State conference I mentioned in my introductory post.

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