Oxford, Miss.—The second annual January Skill Session just wrapped at the law school, with 25 elite practitioners from around the area leading the way to train School of Law students in a diverse set of practical lawyering skills.
“This year’s Session was only made possible because of the participation of our alumni and the practicing bar,” said Matthew Hall, senior associate dean at the School of Law. “They did a tremendous service to the school and to our students by giving up their time and vacation days to teach.”
The Session brought in a diverse lot of professionals with varied practice areas, including three judges (Sanders, Griffis and Owens), defense and plaintiff lawyers and public interest attorneys from areas large and small.
Orchestrated by Hall, the Skill Session takes place the first two weeks of the new year each year, just prior to the start of spring semester. Its purpose is for students to learn practical skills from practicing lawyers, so they are better equipped for a career when they graduate.
While this year marked the second year for the program, it was the first year that second and third year law students participated. Last year’s session was limited to and mandatory for first year students. All students will graduate with a minimum of three skills classes before they graduate, or nearly 10% or their workload while in law school. The classes taught ranged from Entertainment Law Practicum to How to Do a Film Deal for upper level students, and Contract Negotiation and Drafting for first year students.
According to Hall, another major benefit, particularly for second and third year students, is that they’re able to learn from a practicing attorney in the field in which they’re interested.
“In the Skill Session, upper level students are more likely to find a class oriented to the area of law they want to practice and learn a skill set that will be reusable,” he said. “Since the classes are also taught by experts in a field they could enter, motivation for students is much higher.”
The Session also differs from a typical semester course because, despite the substantive area of law being taught, what the student learns is applicable for all areas of the law. Rather than doctrinal learning, the classes focus on practical workshops and exercises. Drafting a pleading, negotiating a film deal or conducting a mock courtroom hearing are examples of classroom exercises.
“Students have to be well enough prepared each day to do real work of a lawyer, not just be a law student,” Hall said.
Skill Session courses average about 13 students per instructor, with a total of 24 different classes offered.
In addition to the Skill Session, law students can also gain practical experience through the law school’s eleven clinical and pro bono programs, led by Debbie Bell, associate dean for clinical programs and professor of law.
Six of the Skills Session teachers taught for free this year, allowing semester costs to remain the same and therefore help students keep their debt burden low. Anyone interested in teaching in the 2015 January Skill Session should contact Matthew Hall: firstname.lastname@example.org.
View the full list of Skill Session Teachers on the Faculty Directory page.