Lawyering serves as an introduction to the theory and practice of the practice of law. NYU School of Law is the only top-tier law school committed to giving first-year law students this manner of sophisticated, in-depth grounding in the interactive, fact-sensitive, and interpretive work that is fundamental to excellence in the law.
In 1986 NYU Law expanded its first-year curriculum to include a Lawyering Program that was unique in American law school education, encouraging students to see that law develops interactively, as it is used. Five years later, in 1991, a multidisciplinary group led by Anthony Amsterdam, cultural psychologist Jerome Bruner, and Peggy Cooper Davis began a program of research and colloquia at NYU School of Law designed to deepen understanding about the disciplines and pedagogies appropriate to the study of law. As a result, Lawyering’s goal is for students to develop foundational legal skills and a parallel process of thoughtful inquiry. Highlighted in the Carnegie Report on Legal Education, the Lawyering Program uses a series of increasingly complex simulated exercises to encourage approaching legal problems by understanding a question, planning, executing, and critically reflecting on the consequences of choices. Each simulation is an opportunity to experiment as a lawyer, in order to enhance performance and professionalism. Because each practice simulation is followed by self-evaluation and critical feedback, Lawyering students become skilled practitioners who constantly reconsider and refine their approaches to legal problems.
In order to successfully develop this depth of professionalism in our students, members of the Lawyering Faculty are selected, in part, based on a demonstrated experience and understanding of excellence in legal practice.
The fall semester introduces students to legal interpretation, written advocacy and analysis, fact development, and client counseling. The semester begins with an introduction to reading, briefing, and analyzing a case. This is quickly followed by synthesizing a closed universe of cases and drafting the argument section of a related brief. The course next turns to the development of facts through the experience of interviewing a witness and drafting an affidavit. The fall semester concludes by bringing these skills together in an open universe research client counseling simulation: interviewing a client, researching and drafting a subsequent research memo, and counseling the client based on the memo.
While the fall semester focuses on understanding a legal problem, the spring semester requires students to advocate based on that understanding. The spring begins with a transactional negotiation: interviewing a client, negotiating a satisfactory deal, drafting the resulting contract when applicable, and presenting the results to the client. The final, and most extensive, phase of the spring semester requires a memorandum of law, supporting declaration, and oral argument on the motion before a lawyer or judge, often in an off-campus setting such as a courtroom, judge’s chambers, or law office. This exercise represents the culmination of the lawyering skills and theories introduced and developed throughout the year.