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.
“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’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.”