Albany Law School challenges students to think like professionals from the first day of law school. Introduced almost twenty years ago, Albany's Introduction to Lawyering program integrates theory with practice by engaging first year students in problem solving and client-centered practice along with research, reasoning, and extensive legal analysis, and writing. Students are assigned to "firms" representing parties in a year-long simulated legal dispute and are introduced to the legal system, ethics, and the skills and values of the profession in a practice-based context.
In the course of representing a client throughout two semesters, students begin fact development by interviewing clients, learn to research by finding the statutes and cases relevant to the client's situation, and learn analytical and writing skills by producing legal documents needed to represent the client. The skills introduced through highly structured research and writing assignments in the first semester are honed in the second semester as students engage in fact development through a discovery-like process that emphasizes the relationship between law and fact. Students further conduct independent legal research, and write and re-write the relevant legal analysis first in a trial court memo and then in an appellate brief. Through this process, students receive a thorough grounding in statutory analysis, rule synthesis, and analytical legal writing. By participating in settlement negotiations and appellate arguments, students also develop their analytical skills through oral communication exercises that reinforce the written assignments.
Albany Law has long recognized what many other law schools have only more recently begun to discover: that teaching lawyering in context results in greater understanding of the relationship between legal research, writing, theory, and practice, and fosters a sense of professionalism critical for starting law students off on the right foot.
Looking to develop a Lawyering or Legal Research and Writing Program that follows Best Practices? Look to the successful model that Albany Law was in the forefront of pioneering nearly 20 years ago.