The Lawyering Program

The Lawyering Program focuses on teaching the real-life skills employed by practicing attorneys. The Program is comprised of six full-time faculty members, including a program director, who are devoted to the integration of theory into practice. These professors commonly teach other skills-related, upper-class courses as well.

Prof. Kelley-Widmer presenting powerpoint slides

Each first-year student is enrolled in the full-year lawyering course, which is taught in small sections. The course curriculum incorporates myriad lawyering skills, including legal writing, legal analysis, legal research, client counseling and interviewing, and oral advocacy. Written assignments are set in the context of working in a simulated law office (or judge’s chambers). Students’ written work is extensively critiqued (by the professor and teaching assistants), and regular professor-student conferences are the norm.

Cornell Law Library

In the Fall semester, students work primarily on predictive memoranda (memoranda that objectively analyze the merit of a potential or ongoing legal dispute). In the Spring semester, students focus on preparing persuasive documents (those that might be submitted to a court). The Spring semester of the course culminates with a moot court argument, in which students orally argue the position taken in their written document.

Throughout the academic year, skilled law librarians teach the fundamentals of conducting legal research through both print and on-line resources. Various assignments, moreover, allow students to enhance and refine their research skills.

Two students sitting at a table with a laptop

A notable part of The Lawyering Program is the component known as the Honors Fellows Program. Each year, a small number of upper-class students are selected to serve as teaching assistants for the lawyering course. Honors Fellows, who receive both individual and group training, work closely with their professor and the first-year students. The Honors Fellows’ tasks are varied: they may help design course assignments; prepare sample memoranda and legal documents; participate in simulations related to interviewing, negotiation, or moot-court proceedings; and assist the librarians with teaching research. All Honors Fellows regularly discuss the writing assignments with students and critique the students’ work. By all accounts, Honors Fellows not only greatly aid the first-year students but also benefit from a highly rewarding and immensely educational experience.