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Western State At A Glance
Learn more about our graduates, their careers and how they are helping to shape the future.
Western State seeks to foster law students’ development as legal professionals throughout law school. When faculty brings examples from their practical legal experience into the classroom, they engage their students and illustrate how theory comes together in practice. These exercises provide a lens outside of the standard case method of instruction to help students understand the law and its application and helps students prepare for the day to day reality of practicing law.
Some classroom examples include:
Professor Jennifer Koh bridges theory and practice in her Immigration Law class when she devotes a session to a simulated deportation hearing before an immigration court. Students play the role of the attorney for a non-citizen facing deportation, or the attorney presenting the government’s case for removal. Students also have the chance to place themselves in the role of the immigration judge deciding the case.
Students must examine the documentary evidence, evaluate the witness testimony, and understand immigration court procedure throughout the simulation. In another exercise, students examine actual charging documents (redacted to preserve client privilege) from a case that Prof. Koh worked on in practice, in order to understand the different ways in which criminal convictions can affect a lawful permanent resident’s ability to remain in the United States.
The use of real world practical exercises makes the law more concrete and immediate. Students have the opportunity to learn first hand the importance of reading statutes carefully, viewing the law through different perspectives, and seeing the human side of the legal system.
"I see the law school classroom as a precursor to practice. Learning the law is only the beginning. The real work comes in seeing how it plays out in the real world, from the perspective of the many players who are affected by those laws."
Civil Procedure comes to life for our first year students when Professor Ryan Williams introduces a case he worked on as a first year associate in litigation practice. Prof. Williams brings in actual pleadings from the case, and students go through the discovery process. They then prepare and present oral arguments in front of Prof. Williams.
These experiences help make civil procedure more real for the students, adding context that helps the information gel on a macro level; students can see how rules and concepts are applied in a law practice. This working knowledge of the discovery process also puts students ahead of their peers when they go to work in law firms as summer interns.
Estates takes a historical turn when Professor Tracie Porter assigns her class to work on the actual will of Jacqueline Onassis. The students comb through the document, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and discuss drafting techniques that could improve the document. Working on such a high profile individual’s will is a great way to engage students in the subject matter and helps make the theory real for the students.
Prof. Porter also incorporates the application of real world activity into her Property class. She has the students work in groups as buyers and sellers to identify what issues are most important before eventually going through the negotiation process and completing a real estate transaction. Stepping beyond paperwork and into actual negotiations is a very practical skill to build, applicable across all areas of the law.
Not only does this integration of legal concepts help students learn how things work in the real world versus text books, but it also appeals to students with different learning styles. Working in a collaborative setting helps prepare students for the day to day interactions within the legal community that make up so much of a lawyer’s duties in practice.