Liberty University School of Law Lawyering Skills Program
If you are going to devote three years of your life to intense classroom discussion, long hours of study, and sleepless nights in law school … shouldn’t you know how to practice law when you graduate?
At Liberty University School of Law we believe that a quality legal education can only be achieved when traditional, substantive courses of law are integrated with a complete lawyering skills curriculum and a solid grounding in the foundations of law within a Christian worldview. We want to prepare our graduates to be able to perform the tasks required of lawyers every day.
For many years, legal education in this country has been criticized for being impractical. Devotion to law theory often comes at the expense of learning practical legal skills. At Liberty we build in-depth training in legal skills into the entire law school experience. In fact, our required six semesters of lawyering skills courses has set a new standard among law schools.
In just a few years, our innovative and practice-oriented program has had a transformational impact on the way law is taught across the nation. Our groundbreaking Center for Lawyering Skills has positioned Liberty University School of Law as the recognized leader in legal skills education. Such a bold statement has the backing of many judges, private practitioners and other members of the legal community. We’ve received rave reviews from both the bench and the bar because lawyers and judges see that our students are better trained than their peers to practice law.
The Liberty Law program of comprehensive, yet practical, lawyering skills consists of two threads woven throughout the three-year law school experience. Law students at Liberty are required to develop a high level of communications skills, learning how to write clearly and speak persuasively. Analytical and problem-solving skills are honed in the context of litigation and dispute resolution, and by learning how to help clients achieve future goals through planning.
Students must leave law school with the practical knowledge and skills necessary to try a case in court, moving from initial client interview to final verdict, and the appellate process. Over the course of three years, every Liberty Law student works through all skills necessary to prosecute a lawsuit from interview through trial. Students learn how to:
• Interview clients
• Draft pleadings
• Make discovery requests
• Take depositions
• Engage in oral argument
• Write memoranda
• Direct and cross examine witnesses
• Give jury instructions
• Request appeals
• Perform other essential litigation tasks
Our goal is that every law graduate be proficient in these and other legal skills, with the confidence required to be a successful litigation attorney.
Law is not just an instrument for adjudicating disputes. Much of law involves proper and orderly planning in both private and public sectors with the client's goals in mind, avoiding litigation whenever possible. At Liberty University School of Law, we teach that the importance of law in ordering a client’s affairs is of equal or greater value to just knowing how to resolve disputes. Students learn how to draft documents related to sales contracts, real estate transactions, business associations, and legislation. Some of the many skills learned within this thread include:
• Counseling clients
• Drafting and analyzing contracts
• Writing real estate agreements
• Searching legal title
• Drafting client advisory letters
• Drafting wills and trusts
• Mediating disputes
• Drafting legislation
Both threads of the Liberty University lawyering skills curriculum inculcate the skills every attorney should possess, such as problem solving, legal analysis, legal research, factual investigation, communication, counseling, alternative dispute resolution, practice management, and professionalism and ethics.
Every Liberty Law professor is involved in teaching lawyering skills. Even professors who primarily teach rigorous substantive courses, such as Torts, Contracts, Criminal Law, Evidence and others, assist in developing students' legal skills by weaving practical applications into the classroom. The required substantive law courses and the lawyering skills program are designed to be mutually reinforcing.
Liberty University School of Law offers comprehensive externship opportunities providing students with real-life legal experience in prosecution, public defense, public interest and policy organizations, trial and appellate courts, government agencies, media and entertainment law, business, finance and many other areas. Students interested in constitutional law may gain experience with Liberty Counsel, an international nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life and the family. Liberty Law students may also take advantage of clinic opportunities that include:
• Constitutional Litigation Clinic
• Prosecution Clinic
In addition to incorporating lawyering skills into every classroom, Liberty University School of Law has excellent facilities dedicated to skills development. These include three courtrooms. Our two state-of-the-art Liberty and Justice mock trial courtrooms are designed for learning. Each courtroom is equipped with cameras and monitors to allow students to observe the proceedings from all angles. Our large 400-seat appellate courtroom, aptly named the Supreme Courtroom contains the only known replica of the U.S. Supreme Court bench, down to the angles and measurements. All 1L students are required to engage in oral argument as part of a moot court tournament.
The lawyering skills classroom consists of a large regular classroom surrounded by a series of small rooms, each separated by one-way mirrors. Instructors can be situated in a middle room to view and hear client interviews, negotiations, and depositions unseen by students. Simulations can also be recorded for critique by the instructor and review by the student at a later time.
Liberty Law students successfully demonstrate their legal skills in competition with students from other law schools around the country. Within a short time Liberty University School of Law competitive teams have become recognized as top finishers in a variety of regional and national tournaments that require practical real-world legal skills. These include Moot Court, Negotiations, Mock Trial, Arbitration, and Client Counseling. Liberty Law students regularly place among the top participants in these events, with a number of first and second place regional and national team finishes as well as numerous individual awards.
A more in-depth discussion of the rationale behind the Lawyering Skills curriculum at Liberty University School of Law can be found in these two law review articles by former dean, Mathew D. Staver, and Professor Scott E. Thompson: