The Legal Communication and Research Skills (LComm) program was unveiled to the legal community this week. At the event, held in downtown Miami at the K&L Gates law firm, first-year law students were able to interact with some of the most reputable lawyers in the business. Exposing law students to the real-world brings to light the most important aspect of the LComm program - practice skills and professionalism.
"It was exciting to see the members of the judiciary that were there, as well as other attorneys and members of the bar because it reflects not only the community's interest in the School of Law but also our support for this new program's initiative," said Jeff Kucera, partner at K&L Gates.
Among the guests were U.S. District Court Judge Patricia Seitz, Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres and 11th Circuit Court Judges Myriam Lehr, Gladys Perez and Lisa Walsh. Miami Law faculty, students and administrators were also in attendance.
Kucera commends the program for taking a real, practical approach to teaching necessary fundamentals of the law profession. "Communication plays a central part in all of our roles in the legal system as judges, advocates, counselors or educators," he said.
The Miami office of a leading global law firm was a fitting backdrop for the occasion. When K&L Gates opened its office 25 years ago, it was among the first national firms to enter the South Florida market. Consistent with the firm's overall platform, K&L Gates' Miami attorneys work with local, national, and global clients in transactional, litigation, bankruptcy, and regulatory matters.
"We want Legal Communication and Research Skills Program at Miami Law to be the best program of its sort in the country," Dean Patricia D. White told the audience.
The LComm course started in August with a focus on getting students practice ready. The curriculum emphasizes an organized and disciplined approach to legal research, analysis, writing, and other forms of communication. Throughout the course, students draft legal memoranda, professional correspondence, motions and appellate briefs. Student also learn that technology can be effectively used in legal practice but cannot replace the human interaction that is critical to lawyering - a contemporary approach that zeroes in on what students need to compete in today's job market.
U.S. District Court Judge Patricia Seitz agreed that these skills are not only necessary but can make the difference between getting a job and keeping it. "In today's market, law firms cannot afford to provide (because clients will not pay for) remedial training for what the law school graduate paid good money to learn. They are looking for someone who can hit the ground running."
On the first day of class, 1L students were asked to assume the role of attorneys. They're expected to act accordingly as they develop oral and written communication skills during the two-semester course, which is directed by Miami Law Professor Rosario Lozada Schrier.
"Given how competitive the legal market has become, it is essential for law students to develop meaningful practical skills at the earliest opportunity," said Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres. "A learning-by-doing program that emphasizes professionalism and writing skills is invaluable."
The LComm faculty is made up of 12 lawyers, each with highly regarded accomplishments. Of the group, six have worked as federal and state law clerks for such courts as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Ellen Ross Belfer graduated first in her class from Miami Law, served as a federal clerk to the Hon. Peter T. Fay on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and was an associate at Hunton & Williams LLP, where her practice focused on complex commercial litigation.
Christina Frohock has litigated cases in New York City and Miami at the law firms of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, White & Case LLP, and Kenny Nachwalter, P.A. She has taught courses in advanced legal writing and constitutional law. In addition to a J.D., she holds an M.A. in Philosophy.
Rachel Stabler clerked for the Hon. Joel F. Dubina, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and subsequently practiced law with Burr & Forman in Alabama.
"Our students are learning to communicate clearly and effectively with diverse audiences in a variety of professional settings," said Schrier. "They will be equipped to excel in any area of practice."