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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Beginning to Solve Some Legal Education Issues

Dear Colleagues:

Many of us lately have bemoaned the current state of the legal profession, both at work and in academia. We face many challenges, some driven by technology, others by greed, and some perhaps by a consumer first mentality that discounts personal accountability while reinforcing a "make the student happy" mantra that is driven by fear. At the same time, many of us have been working on ways to push legal education forward, to find a new paradigm which goes beyond the the world as it is into the world as it might be. I've been struggling with those questions myself, and many of the initiatives I have championed at Stetson and in CLE education have been designed to work through some of those challenges with an eye towards sustainable solutions providing value added.

Last year I told you about our first class of the Stetson Online Advocacy LLM. We seated our second class this fall, doubling our enrollment from the first year. More importantly, the interaction across the web has been profoundly positive, and our LLM students, despite their physical distance, have become a part of the Stetson/EATS family. Some of you have helped make that program work by your generous teaching contributions and I am extremely grateful. Collectively we are so much stronger than we are individually - and when we work collectively we often find ways to collaborate which makes each of us a better professor, lawyer and mentor. I wanted to share with you our next step.

One of the pernicious issues in legal education is the balance between substantive doctrinal theory and robust skills teaching. I believe that they are actually two sides of the same coin, separated only by our own attitudes in how we address each. That being said, it is difficult in three years to truly develop lawyering skills that make excellent practicing attorneys. Many of us have programs that do a good job of that, but there is always room for improvement. Some of us don't address this at all, and the recent downturn in job placements and bar passage can by attributed to our refusal to really look at the practice of law and its direct connection to law school. We have thought about this at Stetson, and rather than ditch the third year curriculum we've gone in a different direction for those students truly focused on becoming a practicing lawyer - a joint JD/LLM degree which can be achieved in 3 years of study.

Starting this spring we will enroll our first joint JD/LLM students in the LLM portion of their degree program. This program will allow our students to develop competencies in those areas most important to firms and agencies. They will take 12 credits over one or two semesters asynchronously using our distance learning platform while enrolled in the LLM. They are allowed to apply 12 credits from their JD degree towards the LLM degree. We have approved certain JD courses for this cross application, based upon their nature and our school's focus.

A partial listing of the courses we will offer in the LLM include:

Persuasion Theory
Law Practice Management
Mastering Voir Dire
Advanced Evidence
Conducting Effective Discovery
Advanced Legal Drafting
Advanced Pretrial Practice
Motions Practice
Technology Enhanced Advocacy
Complex Negotiations

Each of these are two credit courses. Students must take a minimum of 6, but may enroll in more if they so desire. The students will come away with a portfolio of competencies, along with writing samples and presentation examples to share with prospective employers. We view this program as a compliment to the JD program for those students truly focused on being practice ready. It is also a way for young litigators to differentiate themselves quickly.

If you'd like to talk about what we are doing, and how, just drop me an email. Till then I wish each of you even more success this year than last year.

All the best,


1 comment:

  1. Aside from FTI, which elelectronic discovery companies make good litigation tools/software?