California Western -- Roberta Thyfault
Courses Taught - Roberta K. Thyfault

Introduction to Legal Skills

Legal Skills I

Legal Skills II

Legal Research & Writing: Selected Topics

Legal Scholarship Training Seminar

Internship Seminar


Required one-week course, which students attend during the first week of school (the week before substantive courses begin).  Focuses on teaching students those skills that make the successful law student and ultimately the successful lawyer.  These skills include the structure of the court system, case briefing, rule synthesis, deductive reasoning, analogical reasoning, and issue analysis.  Students will also receive instruction on outlining, exam preparation, use of study aids and study groups, and time management.  No credit, as this course is considered part of Legal Skills I.
LEGAL SKILLS I - Legal Research, Analysis, and Objective Writing (2 units)
Required first trimester course.  An intensive, comprehensive, and practical learning experience.  Focuses on developing the research, analytical, and writing skills necessary to be a successful lawyer in today's world.  Students are introduced to legal research  through use of the major tools available for actual problem research.  Students are also introduced to objective legal writing, including instruction and practice in skills of legal problem analysis and in techniques of clear, concise writings.  Students will research and write at least one interoffice legal memorandum.  Emphasis is on giving students a foundation they can use independently in evaluating and improving their own legal work throughout their careers.
LEGAL SKILLS II - Legal Research, Analysis, Persuasive Writing, and Oral Advocacy (2 units)
Required second trimester course (or third semester for part-time students).  An intensive, comprehensive, and practical learning experience.  Building on the skills learned in Legal Skills I, students will focus on honing and refining their research skills, writing persuasively, and oral advocacy.  At a minimum, students will research and write a memorandum of points and authorities and an appellate brief.  Students will also prepare and engage in oral argument.
Topic: Criminal Law Practice
This is an advanced legal research, writing, and oral advocacy class, during which students will build on and refine the skills they learned in Legal Skills I and II. At the beginning of this practice-oriented class, each student will be assigned to either a prosecution or criminal defense office.  Working in the role of an attorney, students will perform a variety of legal research, writing, and oral advocacy tasks that are commonly seen by attorneys practicing criminal law.  These may include interviewing witnesses; researching and drafting evidentiary issue memos; researching and drafting retainer agreements for expert witnesses; and researching, writing, and orally arguing motions.  Students will also visit the superior court to observe a court proceeding.  Although the subject matter of this course is directed toward criminal law issues, the skills the students learn during the course can be used in any area of law practice.
This course introduces students to scholarly writing for seminar papers and law reviews.  This course will cover topic selection, advanced research strategies, thesis development, citation for law reviews and other scholarly works, and the writing process.  Various scholarly writing techniques will be evaluated.  Basic citation formats, grammar, and composition rules will be reviewed.  Skills necessary to provide proper attribution and avoid plagiarism will be emphasized.
This Seminar provides a forum for student interns to discuss their internship experiences with one another on a weekly basis.  These seminar meetings are in addition to individual private meetings with faculty supervisors.  Students are required to keep a daily journal and do short weekly readings on current topics related to the practice of law.  Topics include Advocacy, Law Reform, Ethics, and Equality.  Emphasis is on the often conflicting moral, professional, financial, personal and political values inherent in the profession.  There is no final exam or other written work requirement.  Enrollment may be limited.

Full course descriptions are available in PDF format on the J.D. Curriculum page.

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