Skill Session Offers Students Unique Experience Through Noteworthy Professionals

LeCroy's class with Mike Cockrell, chief financial officer and treasurer of Sanderson Farms, Inc.

LeCroy’s class with Mike Cockrell, chief financial officer and treasurer of Sanderson Farms, Inc.

OXFORD, Miss.–The January Skill Session, with just over 25 elite practitioners from around the area coming to teach, gives students a chance to learn real lawyering tasks from some of the profession’s leading experts.

This year’s Session, the third year of the program, was structured much the same as previous years, with a few new courses added.

One such course was International Economic Sanctions, which had a focus on the recent Ukraine-related sanctions and the relaxation of the Cuban sanctions, both of which affect Mississippi export-related businesses.  The course was taught by Jessica LeCroy, a former U.S. diplomat for 25 years, who spent much of that time in conflict zones.

LeCroy’s career experiences, in particular, highlight what the Skill Session hopes to bring to law students.

“I’ve actually lived international law: human rights law, trade law, financial crimes law, the law of war,” she said.  “I’ve spent my professional life in the field, applying the principles of international law in real time, not in the ivory tower theorizing.”

Much like the law school’s philosophy, in that substantive doctrine is balanced with real-world learning experiences, LeCroy says both played an important role in her work.

“The theorists are important because they have the ability and time to assess data for lessons learned and to convey this information to those of us who need it – from diplomats to students of international law to the public.   I consulted frequently with the Office of the Legal Advisor at the State Department, and did some theorizing myself as a former visiting senior fellow in geoeconomics at the Council on Foreign Relations, which I could then balance against short stints of actual law practice and longer term field work.”

Kye Handy, a third year student, said she took the class because she wants to practice international business law.  Instead of learning abstract principles, LeCroy’s class allowed her to learn real life international business law.

“The highlight of the class was the variety of speakers she [LeCroy] brought in to speak,” Handy said.

“We had visits from the CFO of Sanderson Farms, compliance officers from Regions Bank, and even the former director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.  Meeting these people and asking them questions really put the class and all we were learning in perspective.”

In addition to LeCroy’s class, there were 20 electives from which second and third year students could choose.  First year students took Contract Negotiation and Drafting.

Jim Warren, managing member at Carroll Warren & Parker, was one of the practitioners who taught first year students.  As a third year Skill Session instructor, he said he teaches to give back to the school.

“The Law School gave me a lot, and I wanted to give back. I liked the idea of giving students a practical, real world course. I liked the idea of trying my hand at teaching, though I have to admit it was much harder than I thought it would be.”

Much of Warren’s practice is focused on insurance coverage as well as complex commercial litigation.  He said he has been surprised by a few things since teaching in the Session.

“Things have changed so much in 27 years. Technology is so integral to the law school experience, as it is everywhere. While I knew this going in, it was a bit unsettling because my view of law school is based on a world without email, computers, or handheld devices.

After three years of teaching, I’m getting comfortable with it.”

Skill Session classes focus on practical workshops and exercises.  Drafting a pleading, negotiating a film deal or conducting a mock courtroom hearing are additional examples of the exercises students undertake.

Unlike a typical semester course, what the student learns is applicable for all areas of the law.

“The Skill Session gives students a chance to dabble in areas that interest them,” Handy said.  “Professor LeCroy’s class gave me a great foundation for continuing compliance work.”

Anyone interested in teaching in the 2016 January Skill Session should contact Matthew Hall: mrhall@olemiss.edu.

View the full list of Skill Session Teachers and find additional information on the Skill Session page.