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January 3rd, 2012:

LawWithoutWalls – Coolest Law School Program Ever

(cc) dbaron from Flickr

When I heard about LawWithoutWalls, my first question was, “Where was this when I was in law school?” This is the most unique academic experience I’ve heard of in a law school environment. It takes students from 12 law schools from all over the world and puts them into teams guided by an Academic Mentor, a Practitioner Mentor, a Subject Expert Advisor, an Entrepreneur Advisor, and an Alumni Advisor to identify and propose a solution to a problem affecting the way law is taught and practiced. At the end of the semester, each team presents their findings at “ConPosium,” where they were judged by a panel of experts in law, business, and entrepreneurship.

How cool is that?

We live in a world where our community is no longer defined by where we live, but with who we are connected, and yet the law is still constricted by state and national boundaries. LawWithoutWalls embraces technology and innovation to take a multicultural and multidisciplinary approach to the practice of law in a global economy. It questions age-old traditions and encourages students to be more creative and entrepreneurial. It teaches students that the practice of law needs to focus on providing a valuable service and running an effective business.

The program currently includes students from Fordham Law, Harvard Law, IE Business School (Spain), Indiana University School of Law, Miami Law, New York Law School, Peking University School of Transnational Law (China), Stanford Law School, Sydney Law School (Australia), Universidad de Los Andes Facultad de Derecho (Colombia), University College London Laws (England), and University of St. Gallen Law School (Switzerland). Everyone in the program participates in a weekly videoconference using Adobe Connect. This must be a crazy endeavor to coordinate schedules across that many time zones.

This collaborative academic experience was created by Michele DeStefano and Michael Bossone at the University of Miami School of Law and launched in January 2011. They are preparing to kick off the program’s second year this month in Switzerland. This year’s topics include publicly held law firms, ever-increasing law school debt, the role of women in the law, and creating the 21st century career services model.

I met Michael Bossone when he was an assistant dean at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. His entire job there was to meet with students to help them have the law school experience that will prepare them for their desired legal careers. He’s been listening to what law students want for over decade and co-created this program with Michele to fill a void in legal education. He will be presenting LawWithoutWalls at the American Association of Law Schools annual conference in Washington, DC this month.

LawWithoutWalls has garnered national media attention, including Time Magazine, and won a 2011 InnovAction Award from the College of Law Practice Management.

I am excited to see what comes out of this program. Through LawWithoutWalls, these innovative students and professionals will continue to push the envelope of legal education. Hopefully this program will inspire other academics to give up the traditional legal pedagogy and to take more risks and create the types of educational experiences that students want and need.

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