University of Wisconsin–Madison

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 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 coursesare occasionally offered through the Lawyering Skills Program.

Professor Gretchen Viney, Director
608-262-8048
gretchen.viney@wisc.edu

Angela Nash, Program Assistant
608-262-8561
angela.nash@wisc.edu

The Lawyering Skills Course

Overview

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.

Faculty

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.  She develops the overall curriculum, recruits and trains the faculty, coordinates instruction, teaches individual skills workshops, and monitors 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.

Other Course Offerings

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

  • Guardian ad Litem Practice in Wisconsin
  • Negotiation/Mediation: 
    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.

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