The Bridge to Practice program, delivered in partnership with more than sixty local attorneys, judges and legal professionals, introduces incoming law students to the profession and seeks to augment coursework through experiential learning in true-to-life scenarios.
Supported by the guidance of a cross-section of mentors — representing business, government and nonprofit sectors —students build professional confidence and expertise from the moment they arrive on campus through structured workshops, mock trials and case assignments.
With a marquee event geared toward each year of study in law school, students continually build upon the knowledge they gain through coursework, clinics and internships in preparation for a successful and seamless foray into practice upon passing the bar exam.
Foundations of Practice challenges first-year law students to reflect on their own professional identities and explore the foundations of legal practice. This one-credit course supports the profession’s core values and emphasizes the belief that lawyers are problem-solvers.
The course is practitioner-led, with students assigned to a small group with a practicing attorney as their professor for the year. These small groups will meet five times between August and May, with regular sessions featuring a presentation as well as small-group breakout sessions. Throughout the year, students will be encouraged to explore topics including ethics and professionalism, personal well-being, problem-solving and interviewing, client counseling, negotiation and professional identity planning.
The Foundations of Practice course primes 1L students for an even richer Gateway to Practice experience, since it starts conversations about professional identity well before the January event. The Bridge to Practice series also includes the Business and Financial Concepts Workshop for 2L students and the Transition to Practice Workshop for 3L and 4L students.
Following the Foundations to Practice course, 1L students will participate in Gateway to Practice — a two-day workshop in law and lawyering held at the start of the second semester that brings more than 60 active practitioners to campus for guided teaching, learning and mentorship.
During Gateway to Practice, students serve as junior associates and work with practitioners who act as partners for mock law firms. Together, these groups collaborate to take on cases for fictional clients and tackle the elements of practice in an environment that mimics true-to-life experiences.
The program provides several benefits to aspiring legal practitioners:
First-year students learn the basics of law and legal analysis. This program shows students how lawyers use doctrine and basic legal skills to assist clients in the everyday practice of law.
Students supplement their classroom experience with activities ordinarily not part of the first-year curriculum, including deriving facts from a client interview, brainstorming strategies with law firm colleagues, explaining options to clients and engaging clients in decision-making.
The program integrates transactional lawyering and litigation and helps students to better understand the relationship between legal theory and practice.
The program helps students prepare for summer employment and gives them a start in developing networking skills.
Building on the momentum from programming during the first year in law school, the Business and Financial Concepts Workshop is an intensive two-day program designed for 2L students returning at the start of the Fall semester. This practitioner-led program draws upon the expertise of attorneys and legal representatives from businesses, government and nonprofits to encourage students to explore the financial considerations their clients will face when pursuing legal matters.
The two-day program features both panel presentations and interactive, hands-on workshops. Students will sit in as lawyers that specialize in a particular field discuss the types of clients served in their practice, the types of problems these clients present and the skills and substantive legal expertise needed to work in the area. The practitioner will then lead the students in solving a typical client problem using the business and financial concepts the students learned in earlier sessions of the workshop.
The program is especially beneficial for students who intend to practice business law but also appeals to those who will practice in other specialties such as litigation or family law.
After completing the Business and Financial Concepts Workshop, students will:
Understand the business context for doctrinal principles in upper-level courses.
Address employer concerns about the lack of business and financial literacy among new lawyers.
Demonstrate that an understanding of business concepts is critical in all areas of practice: private, government, public interest and nonprofit.
Better understand public policy debates.
The Transition to Practice workshop is a practitioner-led program that enables 3L and 4L students to examine the business aspect of law and the keys to running a successful practice.
While the 1L and 2L segments of the Bridge to Practice trilogy focus on the business of clients as the context for lawyers’ work, this workshop emphasizes the business aspects of the lawyer’s own work. Legal employers of all types — private firms, in-house counsel, government and public interest groups — have to deal with the economics of serving clients.
Throughout the workshops, panels of practitioners and recent graduates explain the business aspects of the practice of law across private practice, government and public interest. Frequent topics include the economics of practice, timekeeping, billing, marketing, project management, innovation and work-life balance. Students may also attend workshops with practitioners related to the practice environment they hope to join upon graduation.