Lawyering Skills Program: Learning by Doing

Program Overview

The Lawyering Skills Program is a skills training center in the Law School. The Program offers courses that teach core lawyering skills in a learning-by-doing class format. The spring 11-week touchstone course, known as the Lawyering Skills Course, teaches law practice through simulations in which each student has ample opportunities to practice such fundamental lawyering skills as negotiation, oral advocacy, and communication, interviewing and counseling, drafting and problem solving. Other skills courses, Negotiation and Oral Communication are offered through the Lawyering Skills Program.

Professor Gretchen Viney, Director
Telephone (608) 262-8048
Fax (608) 263-6365

Joanna Binsfeld, Program Administrator
Telephone (608) 262-8561
Fax (608) 263-6365

Courses Offered Through the Lawyering Skills Program

The Lawyering Skills Course

The Lawyering Skills Course teaches law practice through simulations in which each student has opportunities to practice such fundamental lawyering skills as negotiation, oral advocacy and communication, interviewing and counseling, drafting and problem solving. Students also examine how practicing lawyers address difficult ethical and professional problems, manage their practices, and balance their professional and personal lives.

Course Description
Please "click" on the title "Course Description" to see a more extensive entry about the course. 

In addition to nine substantive segments of the course and a variety of workshops, the course includes a Skills Intensive Training Week. More than twenty lawyers participate as faculty in a two-day exercise in which students represent clients on both sides of a comprehensive legal transaction. Skills Week allows students to practice the skills they have learned throughout the course and receive individualized feedback from different practitioners on their performance.

A unique feature of the Lawyering Skills Course is that it is taught by a faculty of approximately 60 practicing lawyers and other professionals who are selected not only for their professional reputation and accomplishment, but also to reflect the diversity of the legal profession.

Teams of practitioners teach each of nine weekly segments in both large group and small group classes. The practitioners lead class discussions, demonstrate practice situations, share experiences and perspectives, evaluate student work, and serve as resources for student questions about the "nuts and bolts" of law practice and a legal career.

The course is led by Professor Gretchen Viney and Program Assistant Joanna Binsfeld.  Together, they develop the overall curriculum, recruit and train the faculty, coordinate instruction, teach individual skills workshops, and monitor the development of each student. Professor Viney has extensive law practice experience, is active in bar activities related to improving the legal profession, and frequently teaches continuing education programs for lawyers and other professionals.

Fall and Spring Semester Lawyering Skills Program Course Offerings

The Lawyering Skills Program offers a variety of courses that teach core lawyering skills in a learning-by-doing class format, including:

(Cagle, 2 cr. Fall Semester)
Get hands-on experience and individually critiqued training in planning, executing and learning from deal-making and conflict resolution negotiations. Learn to conduct and represent clients in mediation.

Client Interviewing and Counseling
(Viney, 2 cr. Fall Semester)
Discover how lawyers interact with clients, accurately identify their legal needs, and assist them in effective decision-making.

Oral Communications
(Plum,  1 cr. Fall/Spring Semester)
Learn and practice the strategies and techniques of effective oral communication in many settings in which you will be called on to speak as a lawyer. The course is taught by experienced lawyer-communicators and uses a learning-by-doing model. Each student has the opportunity to hone his or her skills by making increasingly complex oral presentations. First the in-class faculty critiques the student presentation, with helpful suggestions for improvement. Then the student goes to video review where he or she works with a second faculty member in a one-on-one critique of the in-class presentation. By this method of double instruction and personal attention students improve their oral communication skills, leaving the course equipped to communicate effectively, confidently and persuasively with clients, colleagues, associates, and judges.

Summer Work Experience Program

The Lawyering Skills Program sponsors a summer clerkship opportunity, placing up to five UW law students in summer clerkship positions with selected law firms in small-to-mid-sized Wisconsin communities.  Through these placements, students gain practical skills and experience while living and working in typical but non-metropolitan Wisconsin communities.

This placement is open to all 2L's.  Students selected for placement must complete the 8-credit Lawyering Skills Course during the Spring semester.


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