The Legal Practice Program, under the direction of Professor Nancy Soonpaa and with a faculty of experienced professors, offers first-year law students a two-semester sequence of courses designed to let them apply the law they are learning in their other first-year courses.
Although learning the rules, principles, and doctrines of law is fundamental to a legal education, that knowledge alone is not enough to prepare law students to practice. A course that teaches students to apply that knowledge in a variety of ways serves to introduce students to the practical skills they will use in their professional lives.
The Texas Tech University School of Law differs from many other schools by offering a full six hours of credit during the first year for the Legal Practice ("LP") courses, which introduce practice skills. Legal Practice I and II are part of a two-semester sequence that introduces first-year students to a variety of skills taught in the context of client-centered representation, including the following:
- Ethical responsibilities and professionalism
- Client interviewing and counseling
- Objective and persuasive writing
- Alternative dispute resolution
- Oral advocacy
The emphasis on professional skills requires an experienced group of professors to teach Legal Practice I and II. Every member of the Legal Practice Program has significant practice experience that ranges from practicing with a firm to clerking for trial and appellate judges. The breadth of experience that these professors bring to the classroom not only enriches the education of their students but also introduces students to the professional world and its expectations.
Legal Practice I
This three-hour course is an introduction to the legal system covering case synthesis and statutory analysis, as well as the principles and practice of legal writing (the office memorandum and the client letter), client interviewing, client counseling, and legal research, both in books and on-line.
In Legal Practice I, students will:
- Meet with and interview a mock client
- Research the law related to the issues for which the client needs legal advice
- Write an analysis of the law and facts in order to counsel the client about the best course of action
Legal Practice II
Legal Practice II, also a three-hour course, focuses on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and persuasive legal writing and oral argument. The ADR component introduces negotiation skills, mediation, and arbitration, as well as an overview of other processes such as settlement conferences, mini-trials, and summary jury trial. The persuasive advocacy component includes drafting both trial and appellate briefs and presenting an oral argument.
In Legal Practice II, students will:
- Represent a different client from Legal Practice I
- Learn to write to a judge and file various court documents
- Attempt to resolve the problems of their clients through negotiation and mediation
- Represent their clients both at the trial level and on appeal to a higher court
- Present the issues through writing and oral argument to one or more judges.