CAMDEN —Collaboration between legal writing, clinical, and pro bono programs is one way law schools can meet the market demand for more practice-ready law graduates while fulfilling their public service missions.
This collaboration is becoming a national trend and was the topic at hand during the 2012 Empire State Legal Writing Conference at SUNY Buffalo Law School, where Rutgers–Camden clinical law professor Sarah Ricks delivered the keynote address.
“Students benefit from increased opportunities for experiential learning,” says Ricks, a Philadelphia resident. “It motivates students to know that their legal analysis will be used by a real outside lawyer instead of going into a recycling bin. Experiential opportunities in law school can help students develop professional skills, such as learning to orally present a legal analysis or to peer review another student’s work. Practical experience in law school classes can help improve students’ market value.”
In her comments to more than 50 legal writing professors from across the country, Ricks highlighted the national trend toward overlap among legal writing, clinical, and pro bono programs, and focused on the Rutgers School of Law–Camden’s leading role in that trend.
Each year, clinics at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden handle hundreds of cases with student attorneys providing free legal services to the Camden community.
Ricks is a co-director of the Pro Bono Research Project at Rutgers–Camden, which offers free legal research services to law practitioners. Since 2003, up to 20 students annually complete real legal research assignments through the program for nonprofit organizations, government agencies, or lawyers working pro bono.
Ricks says law schools benefit from increasing student opportunities for experiential learning.
“Collaboration among legal writing, clinical, and pro bono programs responds to calls to make students more practice-ready, exposes students to sophisticated legal issues they may not see in summer jobs, and helps achieve the public service mission of the law school,” she says.
In 2009, Ricks created a class based on the Pro Bono Research Project model by adding research training, casting students as peer reviewers of one another’s written work and oral presentations, and offering academic and intensive writing credit.
Ricks is the author of Current Issues in Constitutional Litigation: A Context and Practice Casebook (Carolina Academic Press, 2011), a textbook that integrates the teaching of skills and doctrine.
She has presented at both regional and national conferences on her integrated clinical/writing course and on teaching research, writing, and professional communication skills through pro bono programs, including the 2012 conferences of the American Association of Law Schools (with Eve Biskind Klothen, assistant dean for pro bono and public interest programs at Rutgers–Camden) and the Legal Writing Institute.
Ricks co-chairs the Section 1983 Subcommittee of the American Bar Association Civil Rights Litigation Committee; serves as commissioner on the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, the City’s antidiscrimination agency; is a member of the American Law Institute; and is a Women’s Law Project board member.
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Media Contact: Ed Moorhouse