Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

W&L Announces "Dramatic Third Year Reform"

Washington & Lee yesterday announced a "dramatic" reform of the third year curriculum:

"For some time, members of the legal profession, practitioners, judges and scholars alike, have urged law schools to place greater emphasis on professionalism and learning in context," said Dean Rodney A. Smolla. "W&L's new third year responds to these needs by requiring students to exercise professional judgment, work in teams, solve problems, counsel clients, negotiate solutions, serve as advocates and counselors—the full complement of professional activity that engages practicing lawyers."

The new third-year curriculum, approved unanimously by the Law School faculty, will be entirely experiential in nature. Traditional classroom instruction will be replaced by practice simulations, real-client interactions and the development of law practice skills. All third year students will be required to obtain a Virginia practice certificate and participate in at least one real-client experience during the year.

At the same time, students will be immersed in a yearlong professionalism program that explores what it means to "live one's life in the law." This part of the curriculum features study and reflection on legal ethics, civility in practice, civic leadership and pro bono service. ...

Courses in the new curriculum will be offered in the traditional clinic and externship environments as well as in new practicum studies. These project simulations will span the array of traditional legal subject matter ....

For the Wealth Transfer Planning Practicum by Robert Danforth, see below the fold:

This course considers the principal tax and asset-management issues encountered in a sophisticated estate planning practice. The emphasis is on planning and drafting to accomplish tax-efficient inter-generational transfers of wealth. The course also considers asset-management issues, including such topics as planning for incapacity, devising strategies to protect assets from creditors' claims, planning for business succession, and estate and trust administration.

Students will acquire a solid grounding in estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxation, as well as the special income tax rules that apply to trusts and estates and their beneficiaries. Students will also be exposed to the law of wills and the laws governing executors and trustees.

All topics will be approached through simulated live-client experiences, in which students will interview and advise clients concerning wealth transmission issues, draft estate planning documents, counsel executors and trustees, counsel trust and estate beneficiaries, negotiate with the Internal Revenue Service, and the like. There will no final examination, and grades will be based entirely on students' performance in the various mock exercises.

Update:  See Inside Higher Ed.

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In response to the anonymous comment, I have taught Business Planning this way at W&L for over 20 years and the second-semester 3Ls work extremely hard in that class because it pertains to what they want to do. Too often we systematically disparage 3Ls when, in fact, what many future lawyers want is more close, high-level faculty supervision and review that will truly help them become lawyers. Provide that,while insisting that students produce the work and explain why they did what they did,and interest skyrockets.

Posted by: lyman johnson | Mar 12, 2008 7:06:05 AM

Getting something out of the third year of law school is like trying to squeeze orange juice out of a bowling ball. Third year grades mean nothing, so W&L 3Ls will just mail it in for these new classes, just like 3Ls all across the nation mail it in.

Posted by: anon | Mar 11, 2008 4:49:51 PM