ILNews

Dean's Desk: A new curriculum at Valparaiso Law School

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Jay ConisonLaw schools have two natures. On the one hand, they are graduate academic programs, generally in universities. These programs are designed to impart knowledge and to teach graduates ways in which they can acquire and communicate knowledge – specifically knowledge about law. On the other hand, a law school is a path to a career. Through the educational program and other services, it develops professional skills in students and supports their entry into law or other professional practice.

Historically, law schools have emphasized their academic aspect. Thus, they have devoted most of their energies and resources to curricula that focus on knowledge acquisition by students and that are rich with courses in the many fields in which lawyers can practice. Increasingly, however, law schools have shifted their emphasis toward the career-preparation aspect. As part of this shift, law schools are devoting more resources to practice skills, career development and to services and forms of education that focus on what law school graduates do, rather than what they know. In some schools, this shift has led to very substantial changes in the curriculum.

Valparaiso is one of those schools. At Valparaiso, we have put aside small-scale tinkering with the curriculum and instead launched a complete restructuring. We started the process by asking fundamental questions about who our students are and what valuable knowledge, skills and resources we should provide them. After asking and answering these questions, we built the curriculum from ground up. We confirmed that our graduates pursue careers mainly in small- and medium-sized law firms, government and business. Confirming this enabled us to give important focus to our program. We also intensively studied how today’s students learn and what preparation they bring to law school. This allows us to adapt our pedagogy to today’s students, rather than to students at the time the professors were in law school. Finally, we worked with employers (and other experts) to identify the skills and capabilities students need to ensure they will be successful when they leave law school and pursue their careers.

The result is a very strategic curriculum with a distinctive purpose, focus and structure in each of the three years.

In the first year under the new curriculum, the focus is on developing core competencies, including problem-solving and client skills. The curriculum is presented in four seven-week sessions rather than in two fourteen week semesters to allow better staging of the program. There is tight integration of professors and instruction across each seven-week session and from one session to another. In the first year there is also an emphasis on developing problem-solving skills (through both an introductory course and a course on remedies). There is also an introduction to working with clients, a strong emphasis on writing and research, integration of practice skills with doctrinal instruction, and introduction to bar examination related skills. The new first-year curriculum will be implemented in fall 2013.

The second year will focus on core doctrinal courses, experiential education in the three areas where our students are likely to focus their practice and careers, intensive instruction in research and writing, and further instruction in bar examination related skills. The goal is for students, at the end of the second year, to be sufficiently well prepared to sit for the bar examination and provide basic legal representation – which they will be able to do in the third year.

The third year will consist of an immersion curriculum. It will provide students with enriched practice experience and focused, advanced substantive education. The goal is for the third year to facilitate a smooth transition from law school to career and practice. The third year will feature many clinical and externship offerings. It will also closely integrate the academic enterprise with the career planning enterprise, by having students develop (and begin to implement) personal career plans.

We believe that this new approach to law school education will better prepare our students for their careers and strongly support them in whatever path they choose after graduation. We also believe that it will increase the satisfaction of students and graduates. Finally, it is a collaborative product of our faculty, and as it is implemented will increase our faculty’s satisfaction with the education and mentoring they provide every day.•



Jay Conison has been dean of Valparaiso University Law School since 1998. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  2. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  3. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  4. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  5. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

ADVERTISEMENT