W&L Law's rigorous third year expands upon the lessons and law of the first- and second-year curriculum, moving students out of the classroom and into the real world of legal practice.
The third year consists of four components that blend the practical and the intellectual into a diverse range of simulated and real practice-oriented experiences:
The third year allows students to explore topics more deeply and engage in the most professionally relevant work of their law school careers. It affords them the unique opportunity to cultivate the skills essential for professional success while working closely with permanent faculty as well as practicing attorneys on a diverse range of legal topics, encountering the law as they will as practitioners: through their client's problems. As a result, W&L graduates will have a more realistic sense of the day-to-day functioning of a lawyer, and a more focused notion of their own professional interests and ambitions. In short, they will be prepared to practice:
Strategic Thinking. The third year's focus is squarely upon the student. Students learn to move beyond simply solving a specific academic problem to embracing the multi-faceted nature of effective legal practice. Students exercise judgment, take initiative and determine what questions to ask, how to engage a client's problems, and how best to proceed in light of the relevant law, the client's goals and competing ethical considerations. In sum, they begin to think not simply as law students but as practicing lawyers.
Project Management. Throughout their third year, students operate within the fluid deadline regime of the legal profession, juggling competing assignments just as they will in practice. With each class requiring at least twenty to twenty-five hours of work per week, students' schedules take on a more professional cast, placing significant value on organization and planning.
Writing. Throughout the year, students produce the kind of work product lawyers produce, drafting a wide variety of documents ranging from memoranda and motions to letters and contracts.
Interpersonal Skills. The third year places a premium on a student's ability to effectively communicate with lawyers and non-lawyers alike. In their elective courses, students regularly work in teams. They also routinely report to professors who, within the context of these classes, function as senior-level attorneys. Furthermore, in their real-client experience, students interact with clients, cultivating the emotional intelligence and interpersonal acumen essential for effective representation. Through their real-client experiences, they learn how to manage client expectations, address ethical complications, and deal with the messy and often unpredictable nature of legal practice.
Maturity. As a result of the third year, students have already begun the transition from law student to lawyer. They have encountered many of the challenges and frustrations regularly experienced by first-year associates but within the context of law school, where faculty and practitioners serve as mentors, providing students with focused feedback and instruction intended to address missteps and promote introspection, development and improvement.
Values. The third year emphasizes that a lawyer's role in society is to serve. Students perform at least forty hours of law-related service and often work in the public interest in their clinical or externship experiences. In addition, through the professionalism program, students investigate and discuss a variety of current issues confronting the legal profession including the legal economic model, ethical challenges and client management. Building upon the core principles of the W&L educational experience, the third year promotes critical engagement with the central values of the legal profession, the nature of effective legal practice and the development of professional identity.