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The sequential curriculum path at California Western: First year Legal Skills Program, second year STEPPS Program, third year Clinical Internship Program

The STEPPS Program is part of a sequential curriculum in California Western’s experiential learning curriculum. The experiential learning curriculum evolved from two central themes: first, adult learners tend to absorb information through experience and application (as opposed to reading and passive listening); second, each phase of the curriculum should build on the previous level and prepare for the next level.

The experiential curriculum begins with the first year Legal Skills course. In this course, students develop the analytical ability necessary to understanding all substantive law. In addition, students learn the basic structure of legal arguments and legal writing.

In the second year, students engage with the STEPPS Program, where they are placed in the role of lawyer in a series of simulated cases. Students act as the lawyer under the guidance of an experienced practitioner.

In the third year, almost all California Western students participate in either a clinical program or the Internship Program. These courses allow students to act as lawyer on real cases under the direct supervision and guidance of an experienced practitioner.

The STEPPS Program is particularly important because it provides the link between the first-year legal skills program and the third-year clinical and internship programs. Students gain confidence and competence and often report that the STEPPS Program made a critical difference to their success in the third year and in the first years of practice.