Students in the School of Law's Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic interact with doctors at the KU Med Center, where the clinic has an office in the Department of Family Medicine. Photo by Steve Puppe.
LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Law ranks 19th in the nation for providing hands-on learning opportunities through clinical positions for its students, according to National Jurist magazine.
Faced with a tough legal job market and law firms that want new associates who can hit the ground running, law schools are ramping up their practical skills training – especially with clinics, the magazine notes in its September issue. The KU law school offers 12 clinics and externships in a variety of practice areas. Each program allows students to develop legal skills and learn professional values in actual practice settings.
“At the KU School of Law, we do our best to provide students with a good balance of theory and practice in their legal education,” said Stephen Mazza, dean and professor of law. “Once they have a strong foundation built in the classroom, it’s crucial – especially in the current economic climate – that they learn to practice their craft in real-world situations.
“Employers who hire our graduates appreciate the fact that they have already worked with real clients on real cases and are ready to be productive team members from day one. And we’re proud that our students and faculty can provide valuable legal services to Kansans through the pro bono work of clinics like the Medical-Legal Partnership and the Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies.”
Law alumna Stacey Donovan, an assistant public defender in Topeka, can attest to the value of gaining clinical experience as a law student. She participated in both the Legal Aid Clinic and the Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies.
“I would have to say that being a student attorney for Legal Aid was, by far, the best preparation I had in law school for becoming an attorney,” said Donovan, who graduated in 1997. “We were taught proper courtroom dress and decorum, how to interact with other members of the bar and how to acclimate to different judges by our professors who were – and are – skilled litigators.”
Students in the Legal Aid Clinic, under faculty supervision, represent clients in misdemeanor criminal cases, juvenile criminal cases, divorces and landlord-tenant disputes.
“When looking over resumes from applicants, our office always looks for attorneys who have real-world experience,” Donovan said. “So the brand new attorneys who have clinical experience are three steps ahead of any other law school graduate.”
Because of the number of clinical positions offered at KU, each student who wishes to enroll in a clinic or externship has the opportunity to do so at least once, although many students participate in multiple clinics.
KU’s clinical courses come in two varieties. The "in-house" programs involve students in client representation from offices at the law school, with full-time faculty and staff attorneys employed by the law school acting as supervisors. Externship programs allow students to work under the supervision of attorneys, judges or legislators in the community. Externship programs also include a classroom component taught by a KU faculty member. Clinics and externships offered by the KU School of Law include:
• Criminal Prosecution Clinic
• Elder Law Externship
• Externship Clinic
• Immigration/Asylum Law Clinic
• Judicial Clerkship Clinic
• Legal Aid Clinic
• Legislative Clinic
• Media Law Clinic
• Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic
• Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies
• Public Policy Clinic
• Tribal Judicial Support Clinic
In addition, the law school offers a Deposition Skills Workshop, an intensive short course in which students learn to take and defend depositions under the tutelage of KU faculty and practicing attorneys. Visit www.law.ku.edu/clinics for more detailed information about KU law school clinics.