The Catholic University of America

The Chinese philosopher Confucius had it right 2,500 years ago: There is no substitute for doing it yourself. The embrace of hands-on, experiential learning has defined the Columbus School of Law’s approach to legal education for decades.

Recognizing that classes and textbooks alone do not quite complete the transformation of student to lawyer, the law school offers a wide range of hands-on opportunities for students to sample real-life lawyering before they graduate. In different settings, they can enjoy the challenge of representing clients, speaking in court, preparing briefs and background research, and most of all, knowing the satisfaction of positive outcomes as a result of their efforts.

Their legal skills are expertly honed along the way. Writing,speaking, reasoning and researching—all of the necessary skills of the successful lawyer—can be practiced and mastered in advance by the motivated student.

By acting as legal advocates for clients and causes, participating in true-to-life mock trials, working in prestigious externships, or being held to a legal writing standard that today’s employers demand, CUA Law’s “do it yourself” ethos produces confident graduates who enter the workforce undaunted by the transition from the classroom to the real world.

At CUA Law, Practice Ready is a condition, not a motto. It is reached by a number of proven paths, among them:

The Lawyering Skills Program

Mandatory for all first-year students, the Lawyering Skills Program is a series of courses designed to teach students how to become competent basic legal writers and researchers.  Students complete not only a trial motions brief, but are exposed to the complexities of constructing a full appellate brief as well. This is beyond the range of what is offered by the first-year curriculum at many law schools.
 
Legal Externship Program

Externships place students at organizations outside of the law school where they are supervised by lawyers who are not faculty members. Catholic University’s externship program reaches across the vast legal field of Washington, D.C. offering hundreds of our students the opportunity to learn and earn course credits each year by working at nonprofit organizations, government agencies, in congressional offices, or for judges, law firms, trade associations and corporations.
 
Clinical Education

The law school offers nine clinical options, affording students the chance to roll up their sleeves and plunge into casework in areas of interest to them, including clemency, immigration cases, prosecution and defense issues, consumer protection law, family law, and other areas. Consistently ranked among the nation’s top clinical legal education programs over its 40-plus year history, Catholic University’s legal clinic and its related programs continue to make an enormous difference in the lives of people without hope, power or money.
 
The emphasis on training lawyers who are ready to contribute immediately begins at the start. Our recently revised first-year curriculum now offers two courses, Civil Procedure and Contracts, which include a one credit-hour practicum component to facilitate integration of practical learning experiences with coverage of legal doctrine. After the first year, our students may design an individual study program that is best suited to their career goals.

The Meaning of Practice Ready

 “You get real clients with real cases. This is your chance to practice before you graduate. I’m here to pick up the pieces if you mess up, but that almost never happens. This is the kind of experience that can turn you into a lawyer even before you sit for the bar.”
 
      - Michael McGonnigal, Supervising Professor—Advocacy for the Elderly Clinic

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