William & Mary Provides LL.M. Students with Practical Training in U.S. Legal Skills

  • LL.M. Program
    LL.M. Program  Professor Eric Joss, second from left, is one of three faculty who teach Lawyering Skills courses, which provide LL.M. students with the foundational building blocks necessary to excel in today‚Äôs legal market.  David F. Morrill
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As part of its comprehensive LL.M. program, centered around both the doctrinal and practical knowledge of the U.S. legal system, William & Mary Law School offers its LL.M. students the opportunity to participate in introductory and advanced Lawyering Skills courses throughout two semesters. The courses introduce LL.M. students to practical, transferable skills within the U.S. legal market.

The Lawyering Skills courses cover a wide range of topics including how to present research and case status updates to senior attorneys, conduct client interviews, and counsel clients. The courses are taught through a combination of lectures and simulations in which the students demonstrate the skills using hypothetical legal issues. The lectures are led by Professor Jen Stevenson, Associate Director of the LL.M. Program, and a former staff attorney with Perkins Coie LLP, and practitioners Eric Joss, an adjunct professor and former partner at Paul Hastings LLP, and Nicole Fisher J.D. '14, an adjunct professor and staff attorney at Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc.  Professor Joss is also a consulting advisor in the Office of Career Services. The courses are designed to help students learn how to balance the demands of legal professionalism with the need to connect with clients and to communicate effectively.

Photo by David F. MorrillThe LL.M. program is mindful of the fact that a well-rounded attorney must be competent in both the substance of the law and its practical operation. The Lawyering Skills classes allow LL.M. students to demonstrate their substantive knowledge of U.S. law through simulated exercises. Students are assigned the role of junior associates in scenarios that mimic what young associates' experience in U.S. law firms. In order to succeed in these simulations, students must approach each scenario aware of their role and must understand the needs of their hypothetical clients or the senior attorney who they are assisting. 

Although the simulations present the students with difficult legal issues modeled on real cases, students welcome the challenge.  Xiaoping Liu, who took the introductory Lawyering Skills course in the fall and is now a student in the advanced course, described the mock interview simulation during the fall course as her favorite part of that class and explained how the simulations have helped her to understand the attorney-client relationship and lawyers’ obligations to their clients. Her classmate Shruthi Khetan has completed both courses and agreed that simulations are a key component of the curriculum. Khetan noted how the simulations help to teach students teamwork by giving them a sense of law firm culture and the dynamics between junior and senior attorneys.  “Simulations are the best part of the class,” echoed Benjamin Daily, a third-year law student and teaching assistant for the LL.M. program.  “Students get the chance to flex their problem-solving skills, and it is very rewarding to see them apply what they learned in class.”

Professor Jen Stevenson observed that “our program’s emphasis on practical lawyering skills is unique among LL.M. programs.” The goal of the courses, she said, is to provide LL.M. students with the foundational building blocks necessary to participate and excel in today’s legal market.  Professor Joss described the introductory Lawyering Skills class as providing LL.M. students with “hands on experience and practical insight to help them work and interact with U.S. lawyers.”  Coupled with doctrinal, substantive coursework and Legal Research and Writing, the Lawyering Skills courses undoubtedly provide LL.M. students with a comprehensive study of U.S. law and its application.

Shruthi Khetan LL.M. '18 and Benjamin Daily J.D. '18 also contributed to this story.

About William & Mary Law School

Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.