In a recent vote, California Western faculty approved an expansion of the law school's requirement for practical education to 15 units—1/6 of the 90 total units required to graduate—more than doubling the ABA's standard of six units. The new requirement will be implemented with the incoming fall 2016 class—but opportunities to fulfill the requirement have anchored California Western's curriculum for decades.
"The vote to require 15 units demonstrates our institution's commitment to a 21st century curriculum, in which students gain the hands-on education and training they need to be competent, effective attorneys upon graduation," says Associate Dean Linda Morton. "The value of experiential learning is ingrained in the foundation of California Western. We believe in it, and always have."
Learning to Do What Lawyers Do
There are myriad ways for students to fulfill this new requirement, but the truth is, many are already doing so because they recognize the benefits to their education—and ultimately their careers—that real-world lawyering skills provide.
California Western currently offers:
- More than 30 simulation courses, which afford a substantial lawyering experience through in-class practice with hypothetical facts. Students gain professional skills and subject area knowledge that prepare them for clinics and internship placements.
- 7 clinics in a variety of areas, combining a faculty-supervised classroom component and representation of real clients with real issues. Clinics include: the California Innocence Project, Community Law Project, New Media Rights, and the Immigration, Mediation, Trademark, and Traffic Court Clinics.
- More than 100 internship opportunities, which are full- or part-time field placements anywhere in the world, supervised by an attorney in practice or a judge. Students are also supervised by a full-time California Western faculty member, and participate in a classroom component in order to discuss and reflect on their experiences.
For decades, California Western has guaranteed a clinical experience to each and every student who wants one. Just four other law schools in the nation have adopted a 15-unit experiential learning requirement: CUNY, University of the District of Columbia, Washington & Lee, and Pepperdine.
"While most law schools make the claim, we actually walk the talk of a 'profession-ready' education," says Professor Jessica K. Fink, who chairs a committee of faculty and staff that began exploring the proposed requirement more than a year ago. "This is a critical step in the transition from the classroom to practice."