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Fundamentals of Law Practice

Submitted by Clark Cunningham on Tue, 05-16-2017
Long title
Fundamentals of Law Practice Course - Georgia State University
Teacher(s)/ Author(s)
Cunningham, Clark D.
Alexander, Charlotte S.
Roberts, Tiffany
Teacher(s)'/ Author(s)' contact information
United States
This four-credit course provides an accelerated transition to practice for law students by teaching fundamental knowledge, skills and values needed to begin a legal career in a wide variety of settings. Students learn how to handle a case from initial client meeting through conclusion of representation, first with a simulated case using on-line practice management software and in-class role plays, and then by representing actual domestic violence victims to obtain orders of protection. Students also learn about managing a law firm through both classroom instruction and fieldwork with a private attorney working in a practice area of interest to them.
This course was developed and co-taught by Clark Cunningham and Charlotte Alexander at the Georgia State College of Law in Spring 2010 For an account of how this course was initially taught: Charlotte S. Alexander, Learning to be Lawyers: Professional Identity and the Law School Curriculum, 70 Maryland Law Review 462 (2011): The course has continued to evolve, significantly by the addition of the live client clinical component and is now co-taught by Clark Cunningham and Tiffany Roberts. In Fall 2017 it will be co-taught by Tiffany Roberts and Kate Gaffney. An experimental six-credit version designed to satisfy the ABA professional responsibility requirement, called Transition to Practice, was taught in 2015. See:
Development of professional judgment and reflective learning about identity formation are learning objectives. Starting in 2015, Georgia State has administered a questionnaire to entering students that includes questions related to professional identity. See Kendall Kerew, Academic and Career Advisement Form - Georgia State College of Law, available at: . Modified versions of the questionnaire are administered at the beginning and end of this course; see attached copies.
This is a graded course. The course grade is calculated based on the following components as follows: 30% Fieldwork Report, 40% Course Portfolio (including class participation), 30% client representation case work. There is no final exam.
Client Representation Case Work: Under the supervision of the course instructors, students represent persons seeking Orders of Protection against domestic violence. Under the Georgia Student Practice Rules, adopted by the Georgia Supreme Court, students are eligible tor all forms of supervised student practice, including appearing in court, after completing two semesters (or the part-time equivalent). See: Student performance is evaluated against the requirements of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct and as to students' effective use of case management practices in the conducting of their case. Representation is limited to preparation and representation in obtaining a 12 month order of protection following the grant of an ex parte temporary order of protection. Each case is a very short-term but intensive clinical experience typically lasting less than 2 weeks from initial client interview to court hearing.
Fieldwork Requirement: The major writing assignment is a report in which the student addresses the following four topics, with reference to specific examples and quotations drawn from the fieldwork.
1. An engaging description of the attorney and the attorney’s practice.
2. An account of what the attorney finds satisfying and meaningful in his or her practice.
3. Information about the business model of the law firm.
4. Analysis of the kinds of knowledge, skills, and professional qualities a law student should aim to acquire to prepare for entry into a practice like what the student has observed.
The student is required to schedule at least the following interactions with the field placement attorney:
a. An initial meeting to plan the fieldwork;
b. An in-depth interview (which may be combined with the initial meeting);
b. At least two observations of the attorney's work; and
c. Attorney review of and feedback on an initial and any subsequent report drafts.
Fieldwork instructions, which include guidelines for conducting the in-depth interview, are attached. Also attached are sample fieldwork agreements and fieldwork report approval forms.
Course Portfolio: Students have free access to a leading, web-based case management software called Clio ( and are required to use this software throughout the semester to record all the time expended for the course and to use the other features of the software for time and task management for their fieldwork and case work. Students are graded based on their competent and thorough use of the software and the diligence of their course work as recorded in Clio and the completion of a series of journals. Journal instructions are attached.
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