It may strike you as odd that we emphasize practical-skills education as one of our core values and strengths. Perhaps you presume that, of course, law school is where you go to learn how to be a lawyer.
But historically, the answer to “What will I learn in law school?” has been simply, “how to think like a lawyer.” At many schools, the actual craft was long expected to be picked up on the job later.
The Michigan Law Approach
We’ll certainly teach you how to think like a lawyer—and we will excel at doing so—but since its inception, Michigan Law has been committed to providing hands-on as well as scholarly training.
The 1860 course catalog explained that “the effort here will be to make, not theoretical merely, but practical lawyers; not to teach principles merely, but how to apply them[.]”
Today, that effort begins with one of the nation’s most comprehensive 1L legal writing programs, taught by full-time clinical faculty. But the effort does not end there.
Second- and third-year students may pick from an extensive suite of clinical programs, practice simulations, pro bono offerings, upper-level writing courses, externships, and internships.
This allows our aspiring lawyers to undergo their initial practical training in a learning environment, surrounded by supportive faculty and mentors, rather than having to endure what the first dean of the Law School, Michigan Supreme Court Justice James Campbell, termed the “mortifying mistakes and painful exposures” that come with exclusively on-the-job learning.
One of the largest and most comprehensive in the nation, Michigan Law's clinical program allows students to represent real clients under the supervision of experienced, full-time faculty.
Externships offer an exciting opportunity to augment classroom study with real-world work experience.
Under the guidance of Michigan faculty and a field placement supervisor, students immerse themselves in legal work with local, state, and federal governmental agencies, and with nonprofit organizations throughout the country and world.
Pro Bono Program
Our pro bono program offers practical experience with case preparation, research and writing skills, professionalism, leadership, networking, client contact, and interviewing skills—basically, all of those skills that are easier to teach in the "real world" than the classroom.
Plus, you'll have the opportunity to explore a practice area that interests you without having to spend one of your summers or class choices trying it out.
Legal Practice Program (1Ls)
Michigan Law’s nationally ranked Legal Practice Program is a year-long set of courses taken by all first-year students. In these courses, you will receive individualized instruction to begin developing necessary skills for practicing law.
We offer a wide selection of practice simulations—taught by practitioners at the top of their fields—that combine doctrinal and experiential learning.
By working through the stages of both mock and actual cases, you’ll acquire extensive practical experience and develop specialized expertise in a particular area of law. This hands-on experience will help you appreciate and think about the theoretical underpinnings of the law and equip you for practice.
In a typical academic year, we offer nearly 40 practice simulation courses with varied formats and topics. They cover a broad range of topics, including corporate criminality, tax planning for business, real estate entrepreneurship, joint ventures, alternative dispute resolution, and antitrust advocacy.
Problem Solving Initiative
Michigan Law launched the Problem Solving Initiative in Winter 2017 to bring together students and faculty from law and other disciplines to actively apply creative problem solving, collaboration, and design thinking skills to complex, pressing challenges in a classroom setting.
Since 2017, students and faculty from a range of U-M units, including Nursing, the Campus Farm, Engineering, History of Art, Information, Sociology, SEAS, Medicine, and Business, have worked on a wide array of challenges as part of the Problem Solving Initiative.
PSI classes allow students to learn about topics such as sustainable food systems, connected and automated vehicles, human trafficking, “fake news,” firearm violence, and new music business models. At the same time, these classes allow students to learn about and apply tools, such as problem reframing, practicing empathy, prototyping, and more, that they will continue to apply in other classes, collaborative efforts, and the workplace.