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Boot camp exercises help put Tulane grads ahead

February 25, 2015


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New Jersey attorney Laura Gasiorowski (L ’94) advises students in the criminal practice track as they prepare to argue motions to suppress evidence.

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Students in the business transactions track consult with Brian Rosenblatt (L ’08) of Vinson & Elkins’ New York office (far right) on finalizing their deal.

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Laura Cannon (L ’16) and Alex Arbour (L ’15) introduce themselves prior to arguments before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael North (L ’97), the last phase of the civil litigation track.

The week before spring classes start has developed into a new Tulane Law tradition: long sessions of students working with law firm partners and practitioners, nightly drafting assignments and the intense pressure of arguing before a judge in court.

And those who eagerly cut short their winter break for Tulane’s innovative skills boot camp emerge with valuable insights into the realities of law practice — and into their own capabilities. 

“I’ve learned how much practice really helps,” said Hillary Khoury (L ’16). “I thought this was something you’re either good at or you’re not. But within even three days, I’ve seen so much improvement in myself and my classmates, and it’s been really cool to watch those changes.”

The 4th Annual Intersession boot camp in January, like previous editions, won praise from the second- and third-year students who attended and from lawyers and judges who volunteered their time to teach.

Built around realistic case scenarios, sessions cover big skills, such as how to question expert witnesses and conduct due diligence, but also small details, such as when to object during a deposition and how to introduce yourself in court.

“The most important thing I’ve learned is that you may come to law school and know the law really well, but that doesn’t mean you know the simple, real aspects of practicing — like where to stand when you’re arguing in court,” said Jay Farmer (L ’15). “Getting those practical, real-world skills is a must.”

New Jersey litigator Laura Gasiorowski (L ’94) is among the Tulane alumni who have donated their time to the boot camp since its inception because they saw great need to better prepare students for legal practice. 

“When I came here and taught the program my first year, I realized how incredibly rewarding it was to feel like I’m importing something of value to these students,” said Gasiorowski, who handles complex criminal defense matters. “The lack of practical training has been a significant flaw in the whole model of law schools, and I feel proud to be a part of something novel to change that.”

More than 130 students undertook the 2015 boot camp, which offered the option to learn skills in three alternative practice tracks: civil litigation, criminal litigation or business transactions. Guided by practitioners from across the country, students interviewed clients, deposed witnesses, argued motions in state and federal court and negotiated and closed business deals.

The program is a highlight of Tulane Law’s expanding focus on experiential learning opportunities to complement academic coursework and prepare new graduates to bring value to clients from the start of their legal careers. 

Bennett Fisher (L ’81) of Fisher & Associates in Houston called Tulane’s vision for the program “unmatched elsewhere.”

“Other law schools may be following suit now, but this is Tulane’s vision. The program is the perfect bridge between the theory of the classroom and the reality of practice,” Fisher said. 

Students echoed that the training expanded on their classroom education.

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Students thank Judge Byron Williams    (L ‘87) for presiding over their motions in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.

“Boot camp has been a bit more intense than I expected, but it’s been a great hands-on experience. And I’ve been able to develop better negotiation skills,” Kristine Ortiz (L ’15) said of the business transactions track.

“It’s been really helpful to actually do everything instead of just talking about it,” civil litigation student Karuna Davé (L ’16) said. “And because the program is all day every day for a week, it gives you an opportunity to grow a lot in a short amount of time.”

Criminal litigation participants questioned mock witnesses and argued a motion to suppress evidence in Criminal District Court. Transactions students closed a deal selling a craft brewery to a larger company. 

Civil litigation students focused on pretrial work in a wrongful death case. They learned deposition techniques during a dramatic exercise with New Orleans attorney Scott Bickford (L ’82) that many praised as their favorite part of the program. And in federal court, they argued a motion about deposing counsel for one of the parties in the case.

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U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo gives students feedback on their arguments.

An important aspect is exposing students to a variety of attorneys and judges to provide a range of perspectives from the bench and bar.

“My favorite thing about boot camp has been meeting different practitioners every day and getting to see their different styles and strategies,” said Sara Norval (L ’16). “Some pieces of each attorney’s style of practice will resonate with you, and it’s a great way to figure out what your own style is.”

Faculty volunteers, who have seen what’s needed to train new lawyers, attest that the program gives Tulane graduates a head start. 

“It helps students hit the ground running in firms, better prepares them for the law firm environment and what steps to take when they get there,” said Brian Rosenblatt (L ’08), a senior associate at Vinson & Elkins’ New York office.

“It’s been a frequent theme among the faculty that we all wish we would have had this program before starting out, but we had to learn everything the hard way,” said Warren Burns (L ’04), a partner at Susman Godfrey’s Dallas office. “Of course, the students will learn more when they graduate, but this is certainly a great start.”


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