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College Preparation Program: IN FOCUS Seminar

Legal Interpretation and Communication

The American legal system is premised on the idea that legal rules are subject to creation, change, and interpretation.  In our common law system, government actors and private citizens alike take part in the process of defining the legal principles and understanding how those principles apply to resolve disputes and controversies.  In this intensive seminar, you will learn the fundamentals of creative legal interpretation, the cornerstone of law school learning and the legal profession. This process of interpretation and re-interpretation of legal ideas (often called “thinking like a lawyer”) is what students learn through the Socratic dialogue in law school and must master to succeed on law school exams, and it serves as a the foundation for oral and written communication in all areas of legal practice.

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  • Dates: July 3 - 14, 2017
  • Instructor: Lesley Kagan Wynes, Clinical Assistant Professor of Management, Assistant Dean for Academic Experience, Kellogg School of Management
  • Enrollment Capacity: 28

Methodology

During the two weeks of this program, we will survey five main topics: 

  • Introduction to the American legal system and sources of law
  • Reading and briefing cases
  • Mastering the Socratic Method
  • Legal reasoning and analysis
  • Oral advocacy and persuasion

In the classroom, you will hone your critical thinking skills as you work on a client-based legal problem and communicate your analysis of how the law applies to the client’s problem in a clear, concise written form. You will also learn the fundamentals of law school exam success and participate in a mock oral argument exercise. Last, you will develop teamwork and collaboration skills by working in groups inside and outside of class. Outside the classroom, you will take part in the lawyering process — from the federal courthouse to the Northwestern Law Bluhm Legal Clinic to the conference room of a Chicago law firm. Through these experiences, will get practical perspectives on future careers in the law and insight into how the legal system operates. 

Objectives

  • Preview the experience of law school and introduce strategies for successful student behavior (on the pre-law and law school levels)
  • Teach students how to read and analyze legal sources and apply the law to a client’s problem
  • Understand the unique ways that lawyers communicate with other lawyers, clients, and judges
  • Develop teamwork and collaboration skills
  • Prepare students to conquer the college admission process and to maximize pre-law learning opportunities during the undergraduate years
  • Inspire students to select the professional path that best suits their personality traits, analytical strengths, and intellectual interests

Applicants

This seminar is appropriate for high school students who are interested in a career in the law or government and want to better their critical thinking and analytical skills. No previous knowledge or experience with legal studies is required.

A Typical Classroom Session

While this session would be a half day held on the Evanston campus, some days will be full days with field trips offsite or on-campus activities. A detailed daily schedule will be provided before the program begins.

9:30–10:15am:

Understanding the Socratic Method

10:15–11am:

Law School 101: Understanding Legal Education -Open discussion of readings about the purpose of legal education, teaching methodologies employed by law professors, and the types of legal education (doctrinal, theoretical, and clinical).

11–11:15am:

Break

11:15–noon:

Reading and Briefing Cases. Lecture and discussion on reading a legal decision (a “case”)
Introductory lecture on “case briefing” (a law school classroom preparatory strategy)

noon–12:45pm:

Rule Development and Application. Introductory lecture on rule development. Analytical exercise: understanding rules and how to apply them to a client’s story

Tentative Field Trips / Afternoon Activities may include:
  • Understanding the Judicial Process
    Tour of the federal courthouse and visit with Federal District Court judge; opportunity to observe lawyers presenting argument in court; lunch with Assistant United States Attorney.
  • Careers in the Law
    Panel discussion with practicing attorneys about the legal profession.
  • Inside the Mind of a Defendant
    Program on criminal confessions and Miranda rights in the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University School of Law.
  • Life as a Law Student
    Tour of Northwestern University School of Law and brown bag lunch sessions on successful student behavior, study strategies, and best undergraduate practices in preparation for law school.

Resources and Materials

Required text for the course will be Writing a Legal Memo by John Bronsteen.  Students are expected to bring the book to the first class. Other reading and analytical assignments will be provided for the students. Readings will be excerpted from textbooks on legal reasoning and analysis.  Additionally, students will read edited legal decisions and complete exercises designed by the seminar’s professor.