DU was chosen from a field of over forty law schools that responded to an invitation from Prelaw Magazine to submit an explanation of their most innovative curriculum techniques. Other schools receiving mention in the ranking include Stanford Law School, New York Law School and Syracuse College of Law.
DU’s innovation is patterned after the “medical school model” of law education, in which students receive practical training from clinics, participate in externships where they shadow practicing attorneys and have other hands-on opportunities inside and outside the classroom before earning their degrees.
According to Ann Vessels, director of the Legal Externship Program, the program has been in place since at least the late 1990s. However, the school began really focusing attention on developing the externship and “med school model” program in early 2006.
These clinics and externships give students an opportunity to work with people from under-served populations through mediation, counseling and case work under the supervision of faculty.
With these programs, the school aims to give its students applicable real-life training while still in school.
The program seeks to educate students about theoretical and real-life applications of law.
“For years and years, schools have done a great job of teaching doctrine, but they have not integrated that with what you will be doing in practice,” said Martin Katz, Dean of the Sturm College of Law.
Students have the opportunity to be placed in a variety of externship programs, including programs in criminal prosecution, child advocacy, government agencies, private firms and others. Students have recieved externships in the US attorney’s office, state government, attorney general’s office, and in numerous other settings both within Colorado and in other states as well.
According to Katz, DU is unique because while almost every law school offers clinic opportunities, DU was the first in the country to employ it.
“We have been known for producing practice-ready lawyers through giving them the opportunity to work full-time in the field,” said Vessels.
Prelaw Magazine, a publication of National Jurist, is a magazine published for prospective law school applicants and provides information about law schools and law educators.