Vision, Mission, Goals

Our Program Learning Goals

  1. Legal Doctrine and Substantive Knowledge. Lawyers use specialized words and concepts. To practice effectively, a lawyer must know a core set of legal concepts, the rules governing professional responsibility, and specialized doctrine in the lawyer’s practice area. Legal “doctrine,” moreover, encompasses more than the black-letter rules in a field; it includes the ambiguities and open issues within that field.
  2. Ability to Use Law-Related Materials and Processes. Lawyers use specialized materials, including judicial opinions, statutes, regulations, contracts, disclosure statements, depositions, jury instructions, etc. Legal professionals must know how to find, interpret, and apply these materials. Similarly, lawyers participate in a large number of law-related processes, such as contract negotiations, real estate closings, divorce settlements, administrative hearings, will preparation, trials, settlement conferences, and appeals. Legal professionals know how to navigate successfully the processes relevant to their practice areas.
  3. Critical Thinking and Problem-solving. Lawyers think critically about problems. Most lawyers use at least four types of critical thinking: (1) deductive reasoning, (2) cost-benefit analysis, (3) thinking by analogy, and (4) viewing problems from competing perspectives. Lawyers apply these thought processes both to specific legal materials (e.g., analyzing a case) and to resolving an overall problem (e.g., advising a client on a course of action).
  4. Communication. Legal work relies upon many communication methods. In fact, lawyers may employ more types of communication than any other professionals. “Communication” includes both receiving information and imparting it. Some of the many communication modes that lawyers use are: gathering information from clients; interviewing witnesses; corresponding with clients, colleagues, and others by email; advising clients by letter; writing memos; participating in meetings; drafting contracts; writing briefs; persuading juries; lobbying legislators and regulators; and making appellate arguments.
  5. Skills for Continued Development (Meta-cognition). Meta-cognition means the ability to reflect on one’s own thought processes, to improve those processes, and to adapt them to new situations. Law is a profession that requires constant learning and adaptation. Lawyers, therefore, must be able to recognize shortfalls in their own knowledge or training, devise ways to remedy those shortfalls, and pursue those remedies. Some cognitive scientists describe meta-cognition as the most essential intellectual ability in any professional field, because it allows a practitioner to move from competence to excellence.
  6. Interpersonal Skills and Professionalism. Lawyers interact with many different people, including clients, peers, supervisors, staff members, judges, and legislators. To succeed, lawyers need skills such as motivating others; influencing others; working as a team; and relating to people who differ culturally, economically, linguistically, or in other ways. In addition, successful lawyers must demonstrate professionalism for effective and ethical participation in the legal profession.
  7. Professional Judgment. At a minimum, professional judgment requires combining the above elements to solve a particular problem. But effective judgment seems to be more than the sum of these parts. In addition to knowing the rules of professional responsibility and applying them critically to a particular case, for example, a lawyer’s professional judgment includes a special sensitivity to ethical issues. Expert lawyers also have the ability to recognize key elements in complex problems: One situation may require sophisticated research and case analysis, while another will respond to a simple nonlegal solution. Professional judgment also encompasses the ability to change tactics as a client’s needs evolve; few legal situations are static.

Methods of Assessment

Direct Measures Indirect Measures
Licensure examination Student survey
Classroom assessment Employer feedback
Seminar requirement Student evaluation of instruction
Professional skills requirement Job placement
External review

Use of Data

  • Analyze, discuss, and adapt curricular and programmatic content
  • Accreditation and program reviews
  • Periodic self-study of pedagogy