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New academic requirement offers Wayne Law students hands-on experience

August 28, 2013

DETROIT -- Wayne Law students will be required to dive deeper into the actual practice of law to make them the best candidates for jobs in any legal field.

All incoming students will be required to take a minimum of six credits that offer substantial instruction in professional skills beyond the traditional legal classroom work of research, writing and analysis. That hands-on learning can come from law clinics and/or credited internships, and the requirement applies to all students who entered Wayne Law this fall and thereafter.

“The new academic requirement guarantees that students will have opportunities to take law courses that focus on experiential learning, such as working with real clients in clinics and internships or learning in-depth practice skills,” said Associate Dean Lance Gable. “These opportunities will help ensure our graduates continue to be the best trained lawyers in Michigan and beyond.”

Wayne Law’s clinics — including the Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic, Business and Community Law Clinic, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Clinic, Disability Law Clinic, Free Legal Aid Clinic, Patent Procurement Clinic and Transnational Environmental Law Clinic — offer students a chance to practice hands-on law as advocates under the supervision of experienced attorneys working for real clients. The clinics also afford students a chance to benefit the Detroit area community.

Legal job recruiters are applauding Wayne Law’s new experiential requirement.

“Requiring students to take a number of credits by working in clinics or through internships enhances the students’ marketability to law firms by giving those students the opportunity to begin learning how to be an advocate for a client,” said Elizabeth Luckenbach, a partner at Jaffee Raitt Heuer & Weiss PC and head of the firm’s recruiting committee. “In the classroom, most of the student’s learning is through analysis. Once practicing, the lawyer’s job isn’t just to analyze; it’s also to advocate. We’ve found that students who truly get the chance to advocate for a client through practical experience in law school make an easier transition to the practice of law in the firm setting.”

John Mitchell, a 1986 Wayne Law alumnus and an executive partner and hiring partner with Secrest Wardle, agrees.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the best prepared students are those who do something beyond taking classes in law school,” Mitchell said. “Having actual experience is far, far better for their development and for what it takes to be a practicing lawyer. And, frankly, I think they do better on the bar exam. They get a sharper sense of what it takes to be a lawyer and they get career objectives.”

The skills gained through hands-on experience can include advocacy, case planning, dispute resolution, interacting with government regulators, interviewing clients, drafting legal opinions, planning business transactions, making presentations, and recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas.

Third-year student Christopher Attar of Farmington Hills said his work with the Business and Community Law Clinic last year gave him valuable experience and a chance to contribute to Detroit’s economic growth.

“Overall, the clinic allowed me to interact on my own with real clients who were starting real businesses, while also learning the technical and legal requirements for the documents I was drafting or the issues I was evaluating.”

Advocating for justice, serving the community, revitalizing Detroit and Michigan