Students can specialize during first year in new 1L Your Way program
October 15, 2013
Signaling a departure from 100 years of law school protocol, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law will allow next year's entering students to begin specializing during their first year of studies rather than waiting until they have satisfied all of their first-year law school requirements.
Chicago-Kent's new 1L Your Way program, debuting next fall, permits new students to defer selected first-year course work to a subsequent year in favor of taking an upper-division elective, such as patent law or business organizations. This option is designed for first-year students with defined practice goals. For example, students who plan to practice intellectual property law or corporate law often begin law school with that goal in mind.
"We're providing new opportunities for students who want to hit the ground running," said Dean Harold J. Krent. "Those of our students who know that they want to concentrate in a particular practice area are eager to start specializing in the first year, and the summer job market often rewards them for doing so."
Chicago-Kent's break with the traditional first-year model represents the faculty's contention that specialization can and often should begin early in law school. "Changing employment markets place increasing value on new graduates who have already cultivated skills and contacts in specific practice areas," said Dean Krent.
1L Your Way also offers an alternative plan for first-year students who are undecided about their practice area. This option permits new students to defer selected first-year course work in favor of taking a unique clinical rotation course designed to help students gain exposure to law practice and refine their career interests.
Based on the medical school model, the course matches first-year students with a trio of faculty practitioners, allowing students to immerse themselves in several diverse practice areas and to learn applicable skills.
"Many undecided students seek opportunities to try on different practice roles as soon as they can," said Dean Krent. "For these students, the clinical rotation experience is invaluable in its intensity and breadth as well as in the quality of the faculty practitioners who teach it."
Based in Chicago-Kent's in-house law firm, the new clinical rotation course will be the first of its kind in the country. All nine of the law firm's faculty practitioners are slated to participate as teachers and mentors. Students enrolled in the rotation will spend four weeks with each of three practitioners, shadowing them as they work and taking part in virtually every phase of the cases they handle.
Practice areas will include criminal defense, employment discrimination, entrepreneurial law, tax law, immigration law, health and disability law, and family law. Students will participate in legal and factual research, client interviews, document drafting, discovery review, administrative hearings and negotiations, trial team strategy sessions, court appearances, and motion calls.
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