After successful first year, Skills Lab offerings to expand

Florida Coastal School of Law’s Skills Lab program recently celebrated its first year of course offerings, with plans to increase the number and scope of its classes. Skills Lab courses emphasize practical skills and have become increasingly popular with Coastal Law students.

“The main thing we heard from law offices is that they wanted candidates with experience,” said Rosa DuBose, Coastal Law’s Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, who oversees the program. “Experiential learning is becoming increasingly important. That’s why we developed the Skills Lab courses.”

In these specialized courses, students work closely with Coastal Law faculty members on pro bono cases brought from the faculty’s own practices and firms. With the faculty member now in the role of practicing attorney, students obtain “live client” experience, learn practical skills and professionalism, receive additional advice and mentoring, and develop an appreciation for the importance of pro bono work.

“The students I have talked to describe the Skills Lab as an amazing experience,” said DuBose. “The work energizes them. Many have told me, ‘This is why I came to law school.’”

Current Skills Lab courses have centered on family law, with petitions, notices of hearing, settlement agreements and final orders; and trusts and estates, covering such matters as powers of attorney, wills, living wills and healthcare surrogates. Upcoming Skills Lab courses will deal with criminal law, in conjunction with The Office of the Public Defender, and wrongful convictions.

And while Skills Lab courses are only a year old, DuBose believes the program has already enhanced the school’s reputation within both the profession and the community.

“Academics and theory are very important, of course,” said DuBose. “But our goal in teaching is to have students ready to enter the legal profession as practitioners. With Skills Lab, the live client and practical experiences gained in the pro bono work look great on a resume, and give our graduates a leg up on the competition.”