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June 2014 - Getting Involved in Legal Education

by Lori A. Roberts

Acknowledging that many law school faculty have “little or no practical experience,” the State Bar of California Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform is encouraging lawyers to get involved in the critical task of skills-training for law students. The Phase I Final Report recommends that law schools expand opportunities for externship, clerkship, and apprenticeship experiences, and that more practicing lawyers be integrated into law school faculties, “perhaps by expanding the use of adjunct teaching roles.”

Whether you have only an hour or are able to offer a significant time commitment, there are many opportunities to participate in training students to be members of the legal community.

  1. Supervise an Extern: If you would like to take on the role of a teacher and mentor at your workplace, contact the Director of Externships at a local law school and see whether your office would be a suitable setting for an externship placement. Students can earn school credit rather than be paid because the programs are designed to provide an educational experience. Certain requirements apply at each law school, and externship programs differ in the externs’ time commitments and number of units they may earn.
  2. Hire a Student: Contact the Career Services Office at any local law school and tell them you want to hire a student for a semester or a summer. Students want “real” law practice experience, and are generally willing to work hard just to be in your presence.
  3. Coach or Judge Moot Court: Most law schools have a moot court team that competes nationally. These students need coaches and practice judges with expertise in their competition’s field. Coaching a team may require a significant time commitment, including travel, so if you just have a few hours, you might simply volunteer to judge practice rounds or a school’s 1L moot court competition on campus. Visit a law school’s website to contact the moot court team’s faculty liaison or the legal writing director; they will surely accept your offer.
  4. Speak to a Student Organization: Student groups relate to nearly every imaginable field of legal interest, including tort law, criminal law, family law, juvenile law, and animal law. Western State even has a newly chartered Surf Law Association! There are also minority student groups, including ones for women, Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinos, and members of the LGBTQ community. Whether you have expertise in that area or share common ground with a group, students would appreciate the opportunity to meet you. The student services office at any local law school can provide you with a list of student organizations and contact information.
  5. Just Say “Hi”: Most law schools pay for students to attend OCBA-related events, so if you see a person standing in the corner looking lost, it might be a student. You will make someone’s day if you ask about their law school experience and tell them about your practice. We teach students to network, but practicing those skills is sometimes difficult.

Other opportunities exist as well: apply to become an adjunct in an area of your expertise, donate money to a scholarship fund, offer to participate in mock interview sessions and other student networking events, or simply attend alumni events at your alma mater. The community of law students and legal educators alike will appreciate any time you can offer, and it will enhance students’ acquisition of practical skills.

Lori A. Roberts is a Professor of Law at Western State College of Law. She also serves as the Director of Legal Writing & Research and the Director of Competitions.

 
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