New Hands-on Learning Opportunities Prepare Students to Enter Legal Profession

New seminars in legislative lawyering, immigrant women advocacy, and in-house counsel lawyering

New hands-on seminars this fall in legislative lawyering, immigrant women advocacy, and course on in-house counsel lawyering offered American University Washington College of Law students practical skills for launching legal careers in a competitive job market. 

“These new offerings join American University Washington College of Law’s tremendous array of experiential learning opportunities available through our ten in-house clinics, Trial Advocacy Program, and an Externship Program that is one of the largest of its kind in the country, with externships both here and abroad,” said Claudio Grossman, dean, American University Washington College of Law.  “All of these options give students solid experience to prepare them to enter the legal profession.”

Legislative Lawyering Practicum

The Legislative Lawyering Practicum combined classes with hands-on experience to prepare students for work as successful legislative lawyers.  Legislative lawyers help to make and interpret laws by employing their knowledge of how laws are created and enforced.

This fall, 12 students explored the intersection of law and politics through two parts of the program.   

For the first part of the program, students took a seminar each week taught by Professor William Yeomans, and adjuncts James Flug and Samuel Goodstein.  Flug, is former Chief Counsel for the late Senator Edward Kennedy. Goodstein is chief of staff for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D – RI).  Yeomans served as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s Chief Counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee.   

The seminar covered the essential basics; from the structure of congress, to legislation development, and political coalitions. The students also participated in simulations of a U.S. Supreme Court simulation hearing, legislative markup, and Constitutional convention.

Simultaneously, students were placed in key offices in Congress, and the Executive Branch, and in public interest organizations to work in a legislative capacity, including in the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, the Senate HELP Committee, and personal offices in the House and Senate. Duties included working on the development and committee markup of legislation, participating in oversight, conducting background research, and attending hearings and meetings.

“Our hope is that students in the program come out with an understanding of what it is like to work with the legal issues involved with Congressional oversight,” said William Yeomans. 

The practicum will be offered again in the spring 2013 semester.

“At least one person is continuing their externship, and one student continued in their legislative position well after they had completed the hours required by the course,” said Yeomans. “This semester’s feedback was very positive, and I think we’ll be able to make the experience even better next semester.”

Immigrant Women: Law and Policy

The newly created National Immigrant Women's Advocacy Project (NIWAP) hosted a seminar this fall, “Immigrant Women: Law and Policy,” examining the role lawyers play in achieving legislative, administrative, and policy gains in legal rights under U.S. laws that have been made on behalf of immigrant women, children and particularly immigrant victims of violence against women.

According to Leslye Orloff, director of NIWAP, the goal of the course is to see and experience how to work with or within government to “make the world a better place.”

The classroom component of the seminar taught by Orloff and Rocio Molina, assistant director, focused on practical topics such as how to write a regulation or amend a statute. Each student was also assigned a public policy project for course credit.

These projects responded to unmet needs of immigrant crime victims, women, and children. The projects were for organizations or government agencies outside of the American University community, and many of the research and deliverables from these projects are being implemented.

“The students were able to see firsthand the intersection between different areas of the law,” said Orloff.

For example, student Brittnay Roberts spent the semester researching the rulings from family court, Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), and immigration judges rulings with regard to battering or extreme cruelty. The student’s research will be issued as a report by NIWAP that will help immigration judges and the BIA better understand the forms of psychological abuse, intimidation, and isolation that constitute extreme cruelty. The report will catalogue how state family laws and family courts have defined “battering” and “extreme cruelty” in for cause divorce, alimony, protection order and custody cases.

The research has already been submitted to Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and is being used to create training materials for DHS and BIA on battering and extreme cruelty in Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) cases. The goal of the research is to promote consistency between DHS adjudications and BIA and immigration court findings of battering and extreme cruelty in all VAWA immigration cases (self-petitioning and VAWA cancellation of removal.)

Although the work of NIWAP occurs year-round, the course will be offered again next fall.

In-House Counsel Lawyering

Corporations, non-profit organizations and government provide excellent and prestigious employment opportunities for lawyers. The law school developed an in-house counsel lawyering course for the fall semester to equip students to for these roles.

 The course, “Beyond the Law Firm: The Role of Corporate, Government and Non-Profit Institution Counsel,” addressed the experiences of in-house counsel in both for-profit and not-for-profit settings.  This covers law firm practice management, business and legal regulatory compliance, and legal ethics issues confronting in-house counsel (such as “who is the client?” and “to whom does the duty of confidentiality run?”).

Instructors included adjunct faculty Jeremiah S. Buckley (founding partner of BuckleySandler LLP), Andrea Lee Negroni (Of Counsel with BuckleySandler LLP), and high-profile corporate and government general counsels or chief legal officers from organizations such as the U.S. Department of Housing or Goldman Sachs as regular guest lecturers. Instructors and guest experts shared real-life examples of the principles discussed in the course.