As I write this, we are beginning a new school year and have welcomed a new class of 1Ls. They are all filled with excitement, anticipation, and more than a little anxiety. Our task is to begin to prepare them for entry into the legal profession in the next three years.
When we survey experienced lawyers they consistently indicate practical legal experience is among the most marketable attributes a law school graduate can possess. They make it clear that those skills can immediately add value to the firm or legal organization where the young lawyer will work after graduation. Coastal Law strongly believes in the importance of legal work experience and I am pleased to report the school is continuing to work to increase the already numerous opportunities we make available to our students.
Currently Coastal Law students earn academic credit while acquiring practical skills through our legal clinics – Family Law, Consumer Law, Immigrant Rights, Housing Rights, Disabilities and Benefits and, in 2012, Criminal Defense. Students may also choose to participate in the Caribbean Law Clinic where they will work to assess legal problems confronting individual Caribbean countries or states.
Another way our students obtain practical experience is through our Skills Labs, which I am proud to say are unique to Coastal Law. In the Labs, students work in small groups under direct faculty supervision to resolve pro bono cases in Northeast Florida. These courses also permit students the chance to experience one or more practice areas and to assess their interest in practicing in that area upon graduation.
Students also earn course credit while obtaining legal work experience through our externship programs. As you will read elsewhere in this issue, we have recently taken the program to a national level so Coastal Law students may both acquire legal work experience and make connections in the communities in which they hope to eventually start careers.
Many other students obtain practical skills by working on pro bono cases identified through our Pro Bono Program. Last year, Coastal Law students contributed more than 22,000 hours of legal pro bono hours!
Finally, later this fall we will launch the Florida Coastal School of Law Public Interest Research Bureau, which will provide free legal research services to lawyers working for public interest law organizations. The service will also be provided at no cost to participating legal services programs.
We are very committed to providing Coastal Law students with vast opportunities to obtain meaningful legal work experience. We do this, not just because it is consistent with our mission to be a leader in legal education, but because we are certain the skills they acquire and connections they make will benefit them long into their successful careers wherever they choose to practice.
Thank you again for your continued support of Coastal Law. Whether one of our law school contemporaries, a prospective student, a member of the legal community or one of our more than 4,000 alumni, I hope you enjoy our latest issue of Coastal Law Magazine.
C. Peter Goplerud III