Today’s legal employers demand that new lawyers be able to “hit the ground running” when they graduate. This means that today’s law schools must train students “how” to practice law. At Whittier Law School, we have a long and proud tradition of preparing our students for the practice of law through experiential learning.
Whittier Law School offers a curriculum rich with opportunities for students to acquire the skills required for the effective practice of law. Alumni frequently comment that their education at Whittier Law School prepared them well for the practice of law and helped them secure employment. Several programs at Whittier provide impressive experiential learning opportunities for students.
- Live-Client Clinics – Students represent clients in one of three on-campus legal clinics – Children’s Rights, Domestic Violence, and Special Education. Students’ representation of actual clients and their involvement in cutting edge legal policy issues provides a context for classroom pedagogy and enables students to provide both pro bono representation to indigent clients and to begin to develop a professional and ethical identity. In addition to learning practical lawyering skills such as interviewing, counseling, negotiation, fact investigation, legal drafting and oral advocacy, students work closely with clinical faculty who help students reflect on and grow from their experiences as legal advocates. Many students find their clinic involvement one of the most formative, memorable, and important law school experiences.
- Public and Private Externships – Whittier Law School offers practical training through externship placements with trial and appellate courts, governmental agencies, law firms, corporate legal departments and non-profit legal services organizations. Working under the supervision of experienced attorneys or bench officers, students are able to gain valuable insights into the operation of legal institutions while dealing with actual client matters. They also are able to develop a better understanding of the legal and socioeconomic problems common in the practice of law.
- Institute of Trial and Appellate Practice – The Institute for Trial and Appellate Practice supports numerous courses in trial and appellate advocacy and interfaces with several student organizations. It also includes the Trial Advocacy Honors Board (TAHB) and the Moot Court Honors Board (MCHB). The Trial Court Program allows students to learn the art and strategy of trial and oral advocacy, from how to enter exhibits or examine expert witnesses to the subtleties of the effect of body language and attitude upon a jury. Those that perform well in internal competitions may advance to full membership and become eligible to compete in external national competitions. The Moot Court Program allows students to participate in a number of national competitions in which they submit appellate briefs and make oral arguments before a court.
- Specialized Skills Courses – Students can experience the practice of law in a wide array of classes, including Appellate Advocacy, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Child Custody Law, Civil, Criminal, and Juvenile Trial Advocacy, Mediation, Criminal Motions Practice, International Business Negotiations, Arbitration, Environmental Enforcement, Patent Drafting and many more.
- Legal Writing Curriculum – The Legal Writing curriculum is one of the most extensive in the nation. Students receive four semesters of training in how to draft essential legal documents including client letters, briefs, contracts, and settlement agreements. During the first year, the legal writing classes are coupled with first year substantive law classes in order for students to master the content in a particular course while simultaneously working to master the essential skills of legal writing and thinking like a lawyer. This curriculum also offers an opportunity to obtain a specialization certificate in legal writing.
- Centers and Student Groups – A newly founded student group – currently called Lawyering Procedures – provides opportunities for students to learn and practice a variety of legal skills such as negotiation, mediation, arbitration and interviewing and counseling. Each of our Centers also offer competition opportunities. The Center for Intellectual Property provides the National Entertainment Law competition, the Giles Rich Patent Law competition and the Lefkowitz Trademark competition. The Center for Children’s Rights hosts the only moot court competition devoted to children’s issue and is called the National Juvenile Law Competition. Finally, the Center of International & Comparative Law works with students to compete in the Jessup International Moot Court Competition.
- International Outreach – Whittier Law School prepares students for the modern practice of law and its increasingly global nature. Our Center of International and Comparative Law supports a robust international law curriculum which offers colloquia throughout the year that expose students to various international issues and experts and sponsors a year symposium on an important cutting edge issue of international and comparative law. Our summer abroad programs provide interesting substantive courses that supplement various specialties and expose our students to different cultures and legal systems. In most of our programs our students have the opportunity to serve as externs in law firms, the judiciary and public interest groups. These programs provide exciting and many times life-changing opportunities for students to immerse themselves in another legal and social cultures and prepare them for the modern day practice of law.
Experiential learning allows students to act as apprentices within the protective and supportive environment of the law school. Learning by seeing, and then doing, builds skills, confidence and a deeper understanding of the integration of law, theory, and practice.