Whittier Law School Students “Experience the Law”

Whittier Law School breaks the traditional model and launches a new curriculum that provides practical training to students throughout law school

COSTA MESA, Calif. – August 8, 2013 – For more than 100 years, legal education has emphasized theory over practical skills. All law graduates typically arrived at law firms with a J.D. degree and little practical experience. They learned on the job. Today, law firms, bar associations and students themselves are pressuring law schools to produce graduates with practical skills as well as legal knowledge.

“A revolution is taking place in legal education,” says Martin Pritikin, Associate Dean of Experiential Learning at Whittier Law School. “Law schools are shifting towards experiential learning, and we are at the forefront of that revolution.”

Whittier Law School has just approved an innovative new curriculum called “Experience the Law” in which students develop practical skills integrated with legal knowledge starting from the first day of law school. In fact, 29 units — more than half of the curriculum’s 56 required units — will integrate experiential learning. Students also may take additional experiential courses to satisfy the 89 units required for graduation. A pilot version of the program will begin in 2013-2014, with full implementation in fall 2014.

“Whittier Law School’s program is unique,” says Pritikin. “While other schools offer experiential learning in the second or third year, we begin their first year of law school. In addition, we integrate experiential learning into the classroom, so students learn concepts and then immediately put them into practice. While many schools rely on clinics or externships for experiential learning, we provide a more comprehensive approach.”

Whittier Law School is also acting ahead of the State Bar of California, which has proposed new bar admission requirements that include a significant practical skills component. Whittier Law’s new curriculum exceeds the requirement that California is expected to adopt in 2017.

The new Kiesel Advocacy Center, Whittier Law School’s recently finished state-of-the-art courtroom, will play a key role in the practical curriculum. Students will gain experience there by training as advocates, observing public trials, and competing in trial and moot court competitions.

“Our top priority is to graduate students who are fully prepared with the knowledge, skills and professionalism needed to successfully practice law,” says Penelope Bryan, Dean of Whittier Law School. “Our ‘Experience the Law’ curriculum gives our students three full years of experience that will differentiate them in the profession.”

About Whittier Law School
Founded nearly 50 years ago and accredited by the American Bar Association since 1978, Whittier Law School offers a practical, hands-on legal education with experiences in the legal field to prepare lawyers for today’s practice. Whittier Law School is located at 3333 S. Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa, California.

Contact: Judy DeVine, Director of Communications, Whittier Law School: (714) 444-4141 ext. 131, jdevine@law.whittier.edu.

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