Thursday, May 15, 2014

Save a class

One of my old law professors wrote to me today. University of Florida is scaling back his class, one of the few practical courses the law school offers. He believes that the program is in danger of being canceled all together. He asked me and I imagine of sizable group of his former students to write emails to the Deans and administration if we found it useful. I decided to do more than that- and vent about it on my blog. Let me start by saying that the class was not enjoyable at all and many times throughout the semester I felt I was in over my head. But then again, school isn't supposed to be fun. I finished the class with the worst grade in my American academic history. I didn't even know there was a grade like that given. That entire semester ruined my until that point pretty good GPA and any chances at graduating with honors. I can't be to hard on myself - that was the semester when all my green card petitions were getting turned down. I thought I was getting deported until 8 months later everything worked out. That was also the semester when my parents flew in for Poland for my graduation, stayed over Christmas with me in my tiny studio room, while making it more accessible with me, all while I was running around like crazy trying to finish my assignments. I signed up for the class because I wanted to know how to actually "do" something. That's why I decided to take  most of the practical courses in the curriculum. On the specific elements of some exotic tort or a crime I can read up. But I didn't want to caught unprepared on my first day of work if I'm asked to do something. I could get that skill  it in school, or then spend hundreds, thousands of dollars taking continuous education courses. Between law practice management, trial practice, advanced litigation and the only mandatory one- legal drafting I've learnt how to actually help a client rather than a bunch of  theories and definition. When I was first asked to help a client I didn't even know how to get started. Then I remembered that in LPM we were introduced to a practice manual of sorts- The Florida Legal Secretary. My drafting skills, from my legal writing classes, how my writing professor tortured us with English grammar and punctuation are my bread and butter today. I never worked at a law firm, I had no one to teach me. And one of the first things that I had to teach myself before I could even help anybody was what document to file when and to response to what. If you ask me, there's not enough practical courses offered that teach you to deal with real world problems. I was lucky to have friends who have practiced much longer than I have always willing to answer questions, yet there were times when I managed to surprised them with something they never dealt before. There's no "beginner level" for lawyers and when you get started, layered issues come at you at once. Nobody cares this is your first time. Now, the UF Law school has done a lot to accommodate the students - we had a curve meaning that the professor couldn't flunk the bottom 40% of the class even if they deserved it. Courses need to be popular with students or may not return- focusing on what the students want rather than what they need- as it is with Disability Law that pops up on the schedule once every few semesters. But I think that it needs to stop. I suspect people don't like the strict rules of some of those courses- in trial practice we were not allowed one absence. LPM challenged me in many ways to do everything as a one man law firm- from my case file to things like spreadsheets and invoices. That class taught me how to log my own hours - which is not hard to do, but would be embarrassing to have somebody show me.   You need practice to do the job that you're supposed to be doing and do it well. I think it's better to train and make mistakes in classrooms rather than learn on them in real life where stakes are much higher than a great

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