ILNews

Dean's Desk: Blend of theory and practice will make Tech Law unique

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

alexanderIn August of this year, Indiana Tech Law School opened its doors in Fort Wayne with a commitment to changing the way legal education prepares students. Despite the national news reporting that there are too many law schools and not enough jobs and the Internet blogs criticizing all new start-ups as a waste of a student’s money, Indiana Tech Law School was established, in part, to respond to the criticism that law schools are not adequately training students to become effective legal professionals.

The bench and the bar have been asking the Legal Academy for years to change the ways in which they prepare students for success in law or in whatever career path they may choose. Many schools have not taken that request seriously and, today, we see a shrinking national applicant pool and some law schools shrinking the sizes of their entering classes.

When my colleagues and I are asked why Indiana needs a fifth law school, we focus on how our school will be different from the hundreds of other institutions already in existence. For us, the answer is simple. We are committed to blending theory and practice from the very start of law school through experiential and collaborative learning. To that end, we have a number of innovative programs to give our students more confidence and more practical experience before they graduate.

Each of our law students will be mentored by a member of the Allen County bench and bar and the mentor will stay with their student through all three years of law school. Over 70 judges and lawyers have signed up to serve as mentors and several have told me that their mentees have already been in touch with them. Each mentor is asked to meet with his or her law student twice each semester, take the student to at least one networking event each year, and allow the student to shadow them on occasion. We suggest that the mentors meet with the students over a meal on occasion and invite their mentees to spend time with them on a boring day as well as when something exciting is happening.

The innovations continue in the curriculum as well. “Tech Law” requires all students to complete three courses in ethics and professionalism, with two courses being offered in the very first year of law school. In addition, every student must complete 30 hours of pro bono legal service as a condition of graduation. In their second and third years, every student will be able to work in either an in-house legal clinic or in an externship program to gain additional practical skills. Moreover, for students who are concentrating their studies in a particular field, we have created opportunities for them to spend one of their two last semesters in law school in a full-time “semester-in-practice” placement, working 40 hours per week for academic credit. This immersion into a particular field should give our students a minimum of four months of practical experience, prior to graduation, in addition to any summer experiences that they might have.

We also intend to share most of our classrooms with our colleagues in the practice of law. In every required course and in half of all the electives taught each semester, the faculty will give up 2 to 4 hours in each of their classes to invite a judge or an attorney to share real-life problems relating to the material that the class just covered. We think that applying history and theory to current situations will also help the students better prepare for life in the practice. During each guest’s visit, the professor will work with the judge or lawyer to create a written exercise for the students to complete so that, by the end of their three years in law school, each student will have a portfolio of written work to present to a prospective employer.

In my criminal law course this semester, we studied strict liability offenses (those crimes that don’t require the government to prove a mental state in addition to an act) and we reviewed cases that challenged the validity of strict liability offenses as being void for vagueness and/or overbroad. We invited an Allen County deputy prosecutor into the class to discuss how law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office view strict liability offenses, then he challenged the students to craft an ordinance banning people walking around with their pants sagging below their underwear. The students accepted the challenge and spent a lot of time discussing and writing what might seem to some as very simple legislation. The prosecutor returned to our class and discussed the students’ efforts with them. It was a great practical exercise for the students. In addition, I reviewed all of their submissions and gave them feedback on their written work.

To be sure, Tech Law is not turning legal education upside down, but everyone is committed to taking the best practices from around the country, bringing them together in one comprehensive program, and making them available to every law student. With our partners in the practice and on the bench, our law school plans to educate a new generation of lawyers who will be better prepared than any other students from any other school.

At Indiana Tech, we are trying to respond to the changing landscape by forming real and meaningful partnerships with those who are engaged in the practice of law and in other professions where a law degree might be very helpful. With their help, we believe that we will prepare the next generation of lawyers for success in law, leadership and life.•

__________

Peter C. Alexander became the founding dean of Indiana Tech Law School on Jan. 9, 2012. He served as a member of the faculty at the Southern Illinois University School of Law from 2003 until January 2012, and he served as dean of the law school from 2003 until 2009. Alexander received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and his Juris Doctor from Northeastern University in Boston.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Unneeded
    Indiana does not need another law school. This school will impoverish its graduates, who will owe $150-200k in student loans and earn $40-50k (maybe) upon graduation. Don't believe the law school industry if you're thinking about applying. Do some heavy research. The Los Angeles Times recently featured a USC law graduate who owes $215k and lives at home with his parents. Do prospective students think an Indiana Tech grad is going to fare better than a USC grad? This school will rob young people of their future and their lives in order to enrich the faculty and staff. Stay away.

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
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

  2. Wow, over a quarter million dollars? That is a a lot of commissary money! Over what time frame? Years I would guess. Anyone ever try to blow the whistle? Probably not, since most Hoosiers who take notice of such things realize that Hoosier whistleblowers are almost always pilloried. If someone did blow the whistle, they were likely fired. The persecution of whistleblowers is a sure sign of far too much government corruption. Details of my own personal experience at the top of Hoosier governance available upon request ... maybe a "fake news" media outlet will have the courage to tell the stories of Hoosier whistleblowers that the "real" Hoosier media (cough) will not deign to touch. (They are part of the problem.)

  3. So if I am reading it right, only if and when African American college students agree to receive checks labeling them as "Negroes" do they receive aid from the UNCF or the Quaker's Educational Fund? In other words, to borrow from the Indiana Appellate Court, "the [nonprofit] supposed to be [their] advocate, refers to [students] in a racially offensive manner. While there is no evidence that [the nonprofits] intended harm to [African American students], the harm was nonetheless inflicted. [Black students are] presented to [academia and future employers] in a racially offensive manner. For these reasons, [such] performance [is] deficient and also prejudice[ial]." Maybe even DEPLORABLE???

  4. I'm the poor soul who spent over 10 years in prison with many many other prisoners trying to kill me for being charged with a sex offense THAT I DID NOT COMMIT i was in jail for a battery charge for helping a friend leave a boyfriend who beat her I've been saying for over 28 years that i did not and would never hurt a child like that mine or anybody's child but NOBODY wants to believe that i might not be guilty of this horrible crime or think that when i say that ALL the paperwork concerning my conviction has strangely DISAPPEARED or even when the long beach judge re-sentenced me over 14 months on a already filed plea bargain out of another districts court then had it filed under a fake name so i could not find while trying to fight my conviction on appeal in a nut shell people are ALWAYS quick to believe the worst about some one well I DID NOT HURT ANY CHILD EVER IN MY LIFE AND HAVE SAID THIS FOR ALMOST 30 YEARS please if anybody can me get some kind of justice it would be greatly appreciated respectfully written wrongly accused Brian Valenti

  5. A high ranking Indiana supreme Court operative caught red handed leading a group using the uber offensive N word! She must denounce or be denounced! (Or not since she is an insider ... rules do not apply to them). Evidence here: http://m.indianacompanies.us/friends-educational-fund-for-negroes.364110.company.v2#top_info

ADVERTISEMENT