Opening Statements

Chicago law school adds clinical rotation for 1Ls

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Harold Krent, dean of Chicago-Kent College of Law. Photo by Wayne Slezak.

Criminal defense. Employment discrimination. Tax law. Immigration law. Sounds like the course load for a typical 2L or 3L, right?

But 1Ls at Chicago-Kent College of Law will have the opportunity to take these classes as part of an optional new clinical rotation next fall.

While first-year curricula traditionally have not included this level of specialization, the challenges of the legal job market during the past several years have made the new 1L Your Way program very timely, says Chicago-Kent’s dean, Harold Krent. Krent says the program will be the first of its kind.

“Students benefit, in this challenging job environment, to the extent that they can determine what they want to focus on at the earliest point possible,” Krent says. “I used to say, ‘Sample the wares, experience what you can. You don’t have to make a decision until the third year.’ That handicaps students now.”

The clinical rotation will be based in Chicago-Kent’s in-house law firm, where faculty practitioners serve as teachers and mentors, guiding students through hands-on, practical skills for firm clients.

Barry Currier, managing director of accreditation and legal education for the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, says schools have been increasingly experimenting with the first-year curriculum during the past 10 to 15 years. “They’re designing something that looks a little more targeted, perhaps, than other schools have done,” he says. “This is interesting—and good for them for trying it.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “The Early Bird Gets the Job: Chicago law school rolls out new first-year curriculum.”

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