When Gilbert Holmes became Dean of the University of La Verne College of Law in June 2013, he brought along more than his years of experience in legal education and the successful practice of law. He carried with him an awareness of the discussions taking place across the country involving the landscape of legal education and the challenges facing it.
He also came with an idea of what La Verne Law could be.
“My vision for La Verne Law is for it to be a place that produces graduates who possess the tools to be successful on the bar exam and in the practice of law, who pass the bar at a high rate, and who have the skills that the legal and local communities they serve desire in their attorneys,” said Holmes. “It will be a place that serves as a beacon of hope; a place of discourse and inspiration on important issues and concerns; a place that makes affordability a hallmark of its operation and where legal education is efficient, effective and value-laden.”
To realize such a vision, Holmes knew he needed to expand on what was already in place to create an enhanced framework. So he began collaborative efforts involving La Verne Law faculty, administrators, staff, alumni and supporters as well as members of the university and local legal communities. Those efforts shaped the five core concepts that form the foundation of the La Verne Law Model of Legal Education.
Five Core Concepts at Heart of La Verne Law Model of Legal Education
Basic Skills for Success
It all starts with the belief that the success of its students and graduates – in the classroom, on the bar exam, and in the practice of law – is the focus of La Verne Law. The basic skills revolve around the ability to Read, Analyze and Present (RAP). Those essential concepts are introduced during orientation, maintained and expanded upon throughout the curriculum, and finely honed during postgraduate bar exam preparation.
High Bar Performance
Because nearly all students begin law school with the goal of becoming a licensed attorney, preparing students for success on the bar exam is both an essential expectation by the students and the responsibility of La Verne Law. The Center for Academic & Bar Readiness (CABR) introduces students to bar success concepts and, through each class and every stage of their law school career, emphasizes what it will take for them to be successful. The capstone experience is the Bar Exam Strategic Training (BEST) program offered to every graduate in preparation for their first bar exam.
Ready to Practice Curriculum
The goal is to equip students with the skills and experiences that lawyers, judges, clients and the community expect from a law school graduate, preparing them to enter the legal profession. The La Verne Law Model of Legal Education incorporates legal writing into two first-year courses as well as doctrine, values and skills into two other first-year courses. It continues with doctrine and skills being taught during two semester-long simulation tracks in the second year (one taken each semester). And in the third year, students must meet the requirement of an experiential learning experience through a clinic, externship or practicum course. Exposure to the interconnection of knowledge, skills and experience makes La Verne Law students highly attractive to potential employers.
Being a Beacon of Hope and Inspiration
Along with its educational mission, La Verne Law is a resource. It serves as an institution involved in advancing and understanding the law and as a resource to the community. It sponsors discussions, symposia, scholarships and other opportunities with the law and the legal community, and promotes interaction with the local and regional communities. By hosting academic events, meetings, and even cultural outreach in its new art gallery, and through close interaction with area Bar Associations, city and county governments and San Bernardino and Riverside county judiciary, it establishes itself as an interested and engaged community partner.
Commitment to Access and Affordability
Because the majority of law schools in the United States use merit scholarships in tandem with a high tuition, high scores on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) serve as the primary criteria on how such scholarships are awarded. Those achieving high LSAT scores are, for the most part, applicants who have had advantages in terms of educations and resources. The Law School Admissions Council, administrators of the LSAT, has acknowledged there are disparities in LSAT performance based on race, ethnicity and socioeconomic factors. So it is the applicants who have had the greater advantages both in preparation and their personal backgrounds who enjoy the lower tuition costs when attending law schools. In this model, those applicants who do not achieve high LSAT scores – individuals who have had fewer advantages and opportunities in preparation and personal background – wind up paying higher tuition, essentially funding the education of those with the greater advantages.
By establishing its True Tuition Model, La Verne Law has removed merit scholarships from the equation, charging one tuition for all full-time students and one tuition for part-time students. “Once you recognize that the merit scholarship model is contrary to the University’s core value of Diversity and Inclusivity, you are then committed by another core value, Ethical Reasoning, to change your model,” said Holmes. “Our True Tuition Model expands access to all individuals by not charging some very little and others a tremendous amount for their tuition.”
With its five core concepts forming a sound foundation, La Verne Law provides prospective students a place where they can focus on learning and preparing for a successful and rewarding legal career. It also establishes a new trail across the landscape of legal education.
“I truly believe that La Verne Law is in a position to provide leadership as an institution that can produce graduates who will be successful in every aspect of the communities they serve and as an institution that will develop and implement innovative and effective ways to educate and train the lawyers and leaders of the future,” said Holmes.