The case method and teaching by Socratic dialogue have been around for 160 years. Colorado Law still uses them effectively to teach critical analysis—thinking like a lawyer. However, the greatest change in legal education has been the introduction of multiple opportunities for practical experience. Experiential education includes lawyering activities outside the classroom—clinics, externships, appellate and trial competitions, and voluntary public service work—as well as experientially-oriented classroom learning. The Experiential Learning Program gives coherence to our entire curriculum and fulfills the school’s mission of providing a well-rounded learning experience. It builds linkages between experiential education and in traditional classroom teaching.
Colorado Law’s Clinical Education Program started in 1948 and now serves 700 clients each year. Clinics provide practical learning experiences for our students, much-needed assistance to those less fortunate in our community, and invaluable service to the public good.
Externships, field placements for academic credit, involve substantive legal work at a government agency or non-profit organization. Students may work in all three branches of the government, at all three levels of government, including state and federal judicial chambers, executive agencies, and congressional offices. Students may also extern with nonprofit organizations. Students develop professional lawyering skills, gain insight into various aspects of the legal system and profession, and cultivate a sense of professional responsibility.
Law students compete in appellate and trial court and transactional competitions to develop skills in appellate brief writing and oral argument, transactional drafting and negotiations and trial practice experience. Colorado Law teams have consistently been extremely competitive and the law school participates in and hosts more competitions each year. Selection of teams varies by competition and is overseen by the various sections of the Barrister's Council.
In this voluntary Public Service Pledge Program, Colorado Law students pledge to volunteer a minimum of 50 hours of law-related service during their time at the school. For those students who complete the hours, their public service is recognized on the students’ transcript. Faculty can help connect law students with organizations and lawyers who need pro bono assistance. In addition, there are several faculty-led projects for students to volunteer to work with each semester.
Colorado Law stands out from many other top schools with its wide range of innovative courses focused on various forms of experiential learning: simulating performative work that real-world attorneys do; drafting complex legal documents; and observing and reflecting upon actual legal proceedings that students visit. These courses include the following:
Transactional & Research Skills:
“I’m very much looking forward to participating in what’s really become an exciting range of experiential offerings at Colorado Law. When I started as a lawyer a generation ago, I had almost no useful skills, because law schools didn’t teach them. Colorado Law still teaches the core critical thinking, case analysis, and theoretical understanding that traditional legal education always covered and should cover, of course. But we now are as strong in experiential learning as any school in the country, with our range of clinics, simulation courses, externships, mock trial and appellate competitions, and volunteer public service opportunities – offerings that our small class sizes give every student a chance to exploit.”
- Professor Scott Moss, Schaden Chair in Experiential Learning