With many law schools facing criticism for failing to train students to practice law, a long series of recent national awards shows that the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law achieves the opposite result. Recent accolades include a second-place clinical program ranking in National Jurist magazine, awards in two different national moot court competitions, and a national student legal writing award.
The College of Law climbed to second in the nation for student clinical opportunities, behind Yale Law School, according to data compiled by the National Jurist magazine and reported in the winter issue of the National Jurist’s sister magazine, Prelaw. Law schools were ranked in order of most clinical opportunities and the rankings were calculated by dividing the number of clinical course positions filled by the number of students in the school. The data combined both faculty-supervised clinics and field placements of 200 law schools.
In 2012-2013, the College of Law provided 320 Clinical Program placements to its 381 students. As a result, College of Law students devote more than 40,000 hours annually to clinical work in the community.
Professor Linda F. Smith, Director of the college’s Clinical Program, commented that the College’s long history of service learning serves multiple objectives, including better-trained attorneys. “It is important for students to have community-engaged learning opportunities to prepare them for their careers, but it also fills important needs in our community for those who lack access to legal services and the justice system.”
Smith also noted that because the College of Law draws on external placements as well as clinics supervised by faculty members, it can accommodate all students who want a lawyering experience each and every semester beginning their second year. “Taking advantage of the school’s vast range of clinical opportunities, many students enroll in several different clinics during law school,” Smith said.
The effectiveness of the College of Law’s advocacy training is also demonstrated by high-level awards from national moot court competitions. Following on the heels of last year’s award for Best Brief at the National Moot Court Competition, at this year’s competition, held February 10-13 in New York City, the College of Law’s team of Jeremy Christiansen and Stephen Dent won the award for Second-Best Brief in the nation. Team coach Troy Booher said, “To put things into perspective, there were 194 briefs submitted in this competition, and the brief by our team was better than 192 of them.”
Only weeks later, the College’s Environmental Law Moot Court Team of Haley Carmer, Doug Naftz and John Robinson won Best Overall Brief at the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition in White Plains, New York.
That team also made the finals of the competition, meaning that they were one of the top three teams in the nation this year. “This is a terrific accomplishment, because advancement to the finals is based on the students’ oral arguments at the competition,” said team coach Lincoln Davies, a Professor at the College of Law. “Thus, the Utah team was deemed the best writers in the competition and one of the top three in terms of oral advocacy.”
Finally, a second-year law student at the College of Law, Larissa Lee, recently won a nationwide student legal writing competition sponsored by The National Law Review. Lee’s article, which won that publication’s Fall 2013 Student Legal Writing Contest, focused on climate change and securities law disclosure.
Interim Dean Bob Adler attributes the College of Law’s slate of impressive and increasingly consistent results to several factors. “To begin, we must credit a very capable and hard-working student body,” he said. “Our students contribute extraordinary levels of service while gaining valuable skills that will help them become better prepared for practice upon graduation.”
Adler also lauded the school’s “very strong” legal research, writing and analysis program, which begins with the first-year Legal Methods course that teaches students to think, read, research, write, speak, and problem-solve like a lawyer. The emphasis on developing practical skills continues through the College’s upper-division curriculum and is embodied in clinical and pro bono opportunities, simulations, advanced document drafting classes, interdisciplinary research centers, and moot court and competition teams, among others, he said.
“At a time when some law schools are under attack for not teaching students how to practice law and others are being criticized for moving in the direction of becoming ‘trade schools,’ our curriculum is designed to provide students with a carefully structured balance of substance and skills. Based on these recent recognitions and results, we believe we are moving in the right direction,” Adler said.