The Association of American Law Schools shares examples of innovative and outstanding programs to foster ideas and showcase the diverse approaches to legal education at AALS Member Schools. The programs below were previously featured on the AALS homepage. A list of recent programs can be found at the main Innovative and Outstanding Programs page.
Northwestern Pritzker School of Law has partnered with the Kellogg School of Management to launch five core Kellogg courses solely for JD and LLM students. The courses will be identical in content and format to those taught to Kellogg MBA students. The five offerings include the following: Accounting for Decisionmaking; Business Analytics; Business Strategy; Finance 1; and Leadership in Organizations. This partnership will help prepare business-minded lawyers and help break down silos within professional education.
The University of Nebraska College of Law has launched its fifth legal clinic, The Children’s Justice Clinic. The new clinic will provide eight 3L students with the opportunity to serve as a guardian ad litem for children in the child welfare system. In addition, the clinic will provide cross-disciplinary training through working closely with experts at the university’s Center on Children, Families and the Law. Students in the clinic will focus on courtroom skills, federal and state child welfare laws, the child welfare process, child development and trauma in young children. Students also will train in areas such as drug and substance abuse and mental health.
The Law Entrepreneurs for Access Program (LEAP) is a year-long incubator program that provides advanced legal and business training to JD students who want to run successful solo practices. In addition, JD students receive client experience and exposure to several practice areas of interest. Now in its second year, LEAP is a joint project of the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and the University of Baltimore School of Law; the Maryland State Bar Association; and Civil Justice, a Baltimore-based non-profit organization which trains and mentors the new solo practitioners.
The Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School provides law students with first-hand experience in human rights advocacy and a critical exploration of human rights theory and practice. Students in the clinic get practical experience with the variety of work lawyers do to advance human rights. By collaborating with partner organizations and clients, students contribute to efforts to protect human rights in the United States and around the world. Many Yale Law students also pursue human rights work over the summer through the Kirby Simon Summer Human Rights Fellowship. The article features Yale Law graduate Colleen Gilg who, while working at the Center for Justice Accountability as a Simon Summer Human Rights Fellow, spent six weeks investigating the arms trafficking and torture case of Charles Taylor, Jr., son of the former president of Liberia.
The University of Georgia School of Law launched a unique mentoring program for incoming students. Starting with the Class of 2019, each student is matched with a four-person mentorship team consisting of a faculty member, a career development counselor, an upper-level law student and a law school graduate or legal professional. Mentors receive contact information as well as resources to guide them in their task. The program is also flexible for mentors to determine along with their mentee the communication style and frequency that works best for the team.
The Bankruptcy Assistance and Practice Program at Georgia State University College of Law gives JD students the opportunity to meet Atlanta-based bankruptcy judges, attorneys and trustees while the students work with clients on bankruptcy cases. Students work in teams of two to handle consumer bankruptcy cases under the supervision of a local bankruptcy attorney. Students also work with the Pro Se Assistance Project to help provide information about the bankruptcy process and limited case-specific advice to individuals who are representing themselves in bankruptcy court.
St. John’s University School of Law has introduced an innovative curriculum that prepares incoming 1L students for the scope and rigor of a legal education. Introduction to Law is a two-week course that covers the basics of the U.S. legal system, case analysis, statutory analysis, and legal writing. In addition, students learn the basic skills necessary to succeed in their other classes, including how to brief cases, how to outline course material, and how to approach law school exams. Complementing Introduction to Law is the full-year Legal Writing course, which includes instruction in legal research, the preparation of a memorandum of law and a brief, as well as the presentation of an oral argument. Students also take the Lawyering course, which focuses on negotiation skills and the companion skills of interviewing clients and drafting agreements.
Penn State Law School’s Community Fellows Program places law students in summer work experiences with solo practitioners and smaller law firms in non-urban areas across Pennsylvania. The new program is designed to expose JD students to the broad range of legal practice opportunities that exist in Pennsylvania outside of the state’s three largest urban areas—Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. It will support up to four 2L students each year in completion of a 10-week summer fellowship with an attorney or a small law firm.
A collaborative effort between Penn State Dickinson Law’s Center for International Trial Advocacy and the International Criminal Court Bar Association has led to the creation of a new international trial advocacy training program. The specialist advocacy training course is the first of its kind at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. JD students help lawyers practicing before international tribunals improve skills in developing a legal theory in an international criminal case and develop effective openings, examinations and closing arguments. Experienced lawyers also give presentations on competencies that are essential for practicing before international courts.
Boston University School of Law has launched a new concentration in Risk Management and Compliance. JD students learn the core legal concepts underlying compliance and their impact on business operations. Students can opt to specialize in corporate compliance, cyberlaw and security, financial services regulations, or compliance issues in health care and biotechnology. The 21-credit concentration includes required courses in Corporations, Introduction to Business Fundamentals, Administrative Law, and Introduction to Risk Management and Compliance.
The Center for Practice Engagement and Innovation at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law has established a new pilot program that enhances relationships between clients and lawyers. Client Strategies is an entrepreneurship simulation program that offers JD students practical experience on a specific legal issue for a client. The program involves a combination of direct instruction, in-class client problem solving simulations, and group work. Facilitators play the client role, allowing students to put their skills into practice. The program addresses relevant skills in business communication, financial literacy, organizational behavior/decision-making, project management, marketing/business development, and law practice economics.
Pace Law has launched a new clinic that offers free legal services to small- and medium-sized farms, mission-oriented food and beverage entrepreneurs, and food justice non-profit organizations. A small group of second- and third-year students in the Food and Beverage Law Clinic attend a weekly seminar and complete projects that focus on transactional work, including business formation, contract negotiation, real estate transactions, and food safety and marketing regulations. The clinic is part of the Pace-NRDC Food Law initiative, a collaboration between the law school and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to expand the capacity of the legal community to help build sustainable and equitable regional food systems.
The University of Baltimore School of Law has established the nation’s first post-J.D. Certificate in Family Law. The curriculum, which offers a blend of theory and practice, seeks to prepare lawyers to handle not just the increasing volume of family law cases but also the mounting complexity of these cases, as well as the shift away from family law litigation toward alternative dispute resolution. The program is intended for new attorneys beginning to practice family law and for experienced attorneys who want to add family law expertise to their practice.
Penn Law students now have the option to pursue three unique joint-degree and certificate programs through the Penn School of Social Policy & Practice: JD/Master of Social Work, JD/MS in Social Policy, JD/MS in Nonprofit Leadership, and Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership. The joint-degree programs enhance students’ understanding of the intersection of law and social change. Students can apply their legal interests to address complex social problems and engage with social issues from a wide range of perspectives.
Albany Law School has developed a pilot program that brings legal services with a focus on business creation to rural communities in the state of New York. The Rural Law Initiative partners law students with rural lawyers and judges to learn about rural legal practice while providing educational programs and legal services to small and startup businesses. The pilot program aims to bridge the gap between the needs of businesses and legal service providers.
Denver Law has launched a program to help Native American tribes draft free wills. The Tribal Wills Project gives students the opportunity to gain practice experience interviewing clients, reviewing documentation, and drafting the wills. Supervising volunteer attorneys review the wills and power of attorney documents before preparing them for signing. The program has helped over 75 Native American clients in Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Utah.
Seattle U Law has opened its ABA-approved Alaska Satellite Campus in Anchorage, Alaska, making it the first law school in the state. It offers an Alaska-centered curriculum and experiential learning opportunities to students from any ABA accredited law school who may join the Alaska Summer and 3L Programs.
Colorado Law has partnered with Bryan Cave LLP and tech company Fathym, Inc. for an internship program in which students who have completed the Tech Lawyer Accelerator Program, work with a start-up organization in its early stages. Students will help the start-up with affordable legal services while immersing them in technology law and practice.
The George Washington University Law School introduces new students to public interest and pro bono work through its pre-orientation program. The three-day program allows students a close look at these potential career choices, which often inspires 1L students to follow a career path in public interest or public service.
The Unemployment Insurance Clinic at Michigan Law allows 1L students to get first-hand experience working with social justice issues and to put what they learn in the classroom into practice. Second- and third-year students also have the opportunity to mentor students in the clinic and work on advanced oral and written advocacy.
Duke Law’s dual-degree JD/MA in Bioethics and Science Policy immerses students in the interrelationships of law, science, ethics, and policy. This unique program allows students to complete both degrees in three years, to work collaboratively and across disciplines on briefs that translate science and emerging technologies for the courts, and to work side-by-side with faculty members.
Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, has launched Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Law programs, the first of their kind on the West Coast. These programs allow students to interact with the advanced technological community surrounding them and provide experiential education. The interdisciplinary program includes classes taught at the Seaver College of Science and Engineering on the Silicon Beach campus of Loyola Marymount University.
The Delaware Patent Pro Bono Program provides inventors in the state with free legal guidance throughout the patent application process. The program operates in cooperation with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and students can assist registered patent attorneys.
UC Berkeley Law’s Death Penalty Clinic has been named as one of the 15 most innovative law school clinics in the country by a national education magazine. Although located in California, the clinic focuses most of its work in the South where there is a chronic shortage of resources and qualified counsel. Students work on capital cases at all levels—pre-trial, direct appeal, and post-conviction.
The Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic helps small business owners tackle legal obstacles. Most recently, they have provided transactional law assistance to individuals in hoping to get their food truck businesses up and running and work through various regulations. Each semester, students work in teams under attorney supervision, assisting three or four clients who would otherwise be unable to afford legal assistance to start their businesses.
The Re-entry Clinic offers students exposure to public sector practice while allowing them to assist clients in applying for employment certificates, sealing convictions, seeking pardons, and expunging criminal records for victims of human trafficking.
Law students at the Legal Advocacy for People with Cancer Clinic assist low-income cancer patients in the Detroit metropolitan area. Partnering with the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center, the clinic offers students the opportunity to learn practical skills while serving the needs of patients receiving treatment at the center.
The Whittier Legal Access Program links recent law graduates with clients in need of affordable legal services. The program was created with the non-profit Legal Aid Society of Orange County, which provides client referrals and shares space and infrastructure with the new attorneys. Both organizations provide mentoring to recent graduates on legal and business issues.
Baylor Law’s professional development seminars impart the practical skills of being a lawyer, including dealing with clients, ethical issues, law firm economics, billing and time management so students learn acquire business acumen even as well as professionalism and are prepared to succeed from the outset of their careers.
A unique program at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law gives students the option of converting their first-year credits toward a Master’s of Legal Studies degree awarded with just one additional course. The risk-free option spares students the expense of pursuing three-year J.D. degrees and gives them knowledge valued in many other careers, including dealing with healthcare regulation, law enforcement, compliance and contracts.
The Pro Bono Collaborative links Roger Williams University law students with mentors in law firms and community leaders to identify and address the unmet needs of Rhode Island’s poorest residents. With a score of projects ranging from helping victims of domestic violence to assistance for the homeless to providing expungement advice, the three-way partnership has been lauded by the Legal Services Corporation and held out as a national model by the Consortium for Access to Justice.
With support from major law firms and foundations, students at UC Hastings College of the Law are helping aspiring women and minority tech entrepreneurs get businesses started in the largely male-dominated Silicon Valley world. The Startup Legal Garage provides corporate and intellectual property advice to early-stage startups, with leading attorneys in the Bay Area supervising students’ pro bono work.
To submit a program for consideration for Innovative and Outstanding Programs, contact Jim Greif, Director of Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.