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

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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.
 

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  • 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.

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  1. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

  2. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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