First-Year Students to Learn Real-World Lawyering Skills in New Lawyering Lab

Students will experience client counseling, negotiation, legal analysis and agreement drafting

professor teaching studentsBoston University School of Law students will now get an intensive introduction to “real world” lawyering skills during their first year of law school in BU Law’s new Lawyering Lab. In this one-week, one-credit, required first-year course, students will learn lawyering skills that are applicable across a range of practice areas. The Lab will be taught by BU Law faculty the week before the start of the spring semester.

“The course requires students to marshal the legal concepts they have learned, and to bring them to bear on a real world problem,” says Transactional Law Program Director Kent Coit, one of the professors who will be teaching the Lawyering Lab. “Students will practice key lawyering skills to achieve a client’s objectives within the bounds of the law.”

Teams of students will take on the roles of attorney for corporate clients in a business transaction. Just like practicing lawyers, students will be presented with a problem and asked to view it through their client’s perspective. The problem is based on an actual transaction between a large U.S. company and a small foreign firm to commercialize medical device technology owned by the foreign company, and the subsequent litigation between the companies.

“Students will review a supply agreement between the two companies and consider how the contract might have been drafted to avoid the expensive litigation that later ensued,” explains Professor of Law Fred Tung, who heads the Lawyering Lab. “Through interactive discussions and hands-on exercises, the students will consider whether a business deal should be pursued by their respective clients, and what that deal should look like.”

Working together to determine their client’s goals and identify the legal constraints and opportunities presented, students will collaborate under tight deadlines to identify, assess and recommend options for action. Students will counsel their client on a course of action, and negotiate and draft contractual provisions with opposing counsel.

“The Lawyering Lab is part of a comprehensive effort by BU Law to increase student understanding of the competencies that they will need as practicing lawyers, deliver a curriculum that builds on the School’s excellent teaching while introducing students to a wider range of lawyering skills, and teach students how to both assess their own professional development and strengthen any skill deficiencies,” explains BU Law Dean Maureen O’Rourke.

Prior to the Lawyering Lab, first-year students will be provided with a confidential self-assessment tool that will evaluate their strengths and the areas in which they need to develop as professionals. In the semester following the Lawyering Lab, students will take courses that integrate small-scale simulations into the classroom lectures, thereby building on and reinforcing the work that they have done in the Lawyering Lab.

The Lawyering Lab is the result of a faculty task force established by Dean O’Rourke to consider systematic instruction in the competencies required by practicing attorneys. The task force, headed by Professor of Law Katharine Silbaugh and Clinical Associate Professor of Law Naomi Mann, determined that the School should supplement its already strong first-year curriculum with additional competencies-based learning in a format that emphasizes teamwork and collaborative problem-solving.

Reported June 26, 2014

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