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New Year’s resolution: Boot camp gets students fit for law practice

January 03, 2014

Eager to get a jump on the spring semester with hands-on preparation for their legal careers, more than 160 second- and third-year Tulane Law School students return to campus Jan. 6 for the 3rd Annual Intersession, a boot camp-style immersion in the intricacies of practicing law.

The boot camp, for which National Jurist recognized Tulane as one of the nation's 20 "most innovative law schools" in 2012, starts the week before regular classes. The program is the keystone of a creative and expanding array of experiential learning options aimed at translating doctrine into skills that new law graduates can use to help clients solve real problems from the very start of their careers.

Boot camp participants can choose one of three tracks: civil litigation, criminal practice or business transactions. They work in small groups with top-notch attorneys from around the country as well as Louisiana. Close to 100 lawyers and judges, many of them Tulane Law graduates, volunteer their time to share their expertise.

Instructors include partners from Susman Godfrey, the Texas-based commercial litigation boutique; Cynthia Shoss (L '74), who co-leads the insurance transactions & products practice at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan in New York; Michelle Bergman (L/MBA '94), a former general counsel for the Duane Reade drugstore chain; and Joseph Ettinger (L '56), who established a national reputation as a leading criminal defense attorney and after retiring provided the law school with an endowment that helps sustain the boot camp. The civil litigation track is led by New Orleans attorneys Lynn Luker (L '81, LLM '85, LLM '92), who has her own firm, and Chris Teske (L '00), a member of Gieger, Laborde & Laperouse.

The week is designed to simulate the challenges – and pressures – of real law practice. For instance, in the transactional track, students will prepare a company to purchase a craft brewery, structuring the deal, performing due diligence, negotiating the purchase agreement and preparing necessary documents.

Those learning civil litigation techniques or criminal pre-trial preparation also will draft documents, take depositions and prepare cases for court. They conclude the week by presenting arguments before sitting judges in U.S. District Court or Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.

An essential aspect of the training is learning specifics of what law firms and other legal employers expect of new lawyers – and what judges want and don't want to see.

"We see this as a model for the future of legal education," Dean David Meyer said, "not only because it takes seriously the obligation to prepare students for successful careers in law practice, but also because it reflects a remarkable partnership between academics, practitioners and judges in educating the next generation of the legal profession."


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