Boot camp: An intensive week of real-world legal skills

Law school has you committed to succeeding like never before: You attend class without fail, tackle your legal research and writing assignments and study diligently for exams. But do you really know what it means to practice law?

Tulane Law is filling the gap between classroom learning and real-world work through innovative and challenging programs like the Intersession boot camp each January. This year, more than 130 students tackled a week’s worth of intensive exercises that provided eye-opening, hands-on insight into civil litigation, criminal litigation and corporate transactions. Guided by top attorneys and judges from across the country (many of them Tulane Law alumni), boot camp students took on the role of lawyers – deposing witnesses, writing briefs, arguing motions in state and federal court and closing business deals.

By the end of the program, students and faculty were eager to share their experiences and explain how boot camp has become a key resource for teaching practical skills that prepare Tulane graduates for the realities of the profession.

Student perspectives

Why are you participating in boot camp?

Scott Bickford (L '82) deposes Andrew Leach (L '16) with Lynn Luker (L ’81, LLM ’85, LLM ’92), co-director of the civil litigation track.

Scott Bickford (L ’82) deposes Andrew Leach (L ’16) with Lynn Luker (L ’81, LLM ’85, LLM ’92), co-director of the civil litigation track.

“Boot camp makes you learn more about the practical ‘what to do’ as opposed to the more academic ‘how to think.’ It’s also been great to work with experienced practitioners who have been extremely helpful and willing to share their knowledge and strategy with us.”

— Graham Williams (L ’15); New Orleans; University of Virginia; criminal litigation

 

“Boot camp is a great baseline foundational experience, and I think it’s going to give me much more confidence in a summer work situation.”

Tray Smith (L ’16); Atmore, Alabama; University of Alabama; business transactions

Tulane Law | Boot Camp

Karuna Davé (L ’16) and fellow civil litigation students wait to argue motions in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

“To get skills-training — things I wouldn’t learn in the classroom. It’s been really helpful to actually do everything instead of just talking about it, like preparing witnesses for depositions, taking depositions and arguing a motion in court. And because the program is all day, every day, for a week, it gives you an opportunity to grow a lot in a short amount of time.”

— Karuna Davé (L ’16); Princeton, New Jersey; Rutgers University; civil litigation

What’s your favorite part of boot camp?

“Getting hands-on experience in law. It’s one thing to learn something in class, and it’s an entirely different thing to actually apply it.”

— Alex Arbor (L ’15); Detroit; Kalamazoo College; civil litigation

“My favorite thing has been meeting different practitioners every day and getting to see their different styles and strategies. Ultimately, some pieces of each attorney’s style of practice will resonate with you, and it’s a great way to figure out what your own style is.”

— Sara Norval (L ’16); New Orleans; University of Chicago; civil litigation

Judge Byron Williams (L '87) of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court questions a student arguing a motion to suppress evidence.

Judge Byron Williams (L ’87) of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court questions a student arguing a motion to suppress evidence.

“The most important thing I’ve learned is that you may come to law school and know the law really well, but that doesn’t mean you know the simple, real aspects of practicing – like where to stand when you’re arguing in court. Getting those practical, real-world skills is a must.”

— Jay Farmer (L ’15); Boston; Boston College; criminal litigation

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned in boot camp?

Hillary Khoury (L '16) interviews a "witness" during the criminal litigation track.

Hillary Khoury (L ’16) interviews a “witness” during the criminal litigation track.

“How much practice really helps. Before boot camp, I thought this was something you’re either good at or you’re not. But within even three days, I’ve seen so much improvement in myself and my classmates, and it’s been really cool to watch those changes.”

— Hillary Khoury (L ’16); Burbank, California; Loyola Marymount University; criminal litigation

“That there’s significant overlap in the skills needed for transactional and litigation practices, because a big part of litigation is negotiation and settlement. So we’re learning transferable skills in the transactional track this week that can help in any practice.”

— John Bicknell (L ’15); Shreveport, Louisiana; Trinity University; business transactions

Faculty perspectives

Why do you teach in Tulane’s boot camp?

“I’m doing this because I see how valuable it is for students to get experience beyond academics, so they know there’s a courtroom outside the classroom. Their development from Monday morning to Friday afternoon is amazing. They’re so much more comfortable and confident in their skills.”

— Joseph Ettinger (L ’56); retired attorney; Chicago; criminal litigation, fourth year

Laura Gasiorowski (L ’94) helps criminal litigation students prepare to argue motions in court.

Laura Gasiorowski (L ’94) helps criminal litigation students prepare to argue motions in court.

“When I came here and taught the program in its first year, I realized how incredibly rewarding it was to import something of value to these students. The lack of practical training has been a significant flaw in the whole model of law schools, and I feel proud to be a part of something novel to change that.”

— Laura Gasiorowski (L ’94); The Law Offices of Robert G. Stahl, LLC; Westfield, New Jersey; criminal litigation, fourth year

“Dean Meyer’s vision for this is really unmatched elsewhere. Other law schools may be following suit now, but this is Tulane’s vision. The program is the perfect bridge between the theory of the classroom and the reality of practice.”

— Bennett Fisher (L ’81); Fisher & Associates; Houston; business transactions, fourth year

Brian Rosenblatt (L ’08) helps transactional students negotiate to close a deal.

Brian Rosenblatt (L ’08) helps transactional students negotiate to close a deal.

How does boot camp prepare students for practice?

“It gives students a real understanding of what real lawyers do. It helps students hit the ground running in firms, and it better prepares them for the law firm environment and what steps to take when they get there.”

— Brian Rosenblatt (L ’08); Vinson & Elkins; New York; business transactions

“I think students crave something beyond the traditional classroom experience, and boot camp is just that. It gives them a leg up and exposes them to practice areas and concepts in a way they wouldn’t get until they were out practicing.”

— Warren Burns (L ’04); Susman Godfrey; Dallas; civil litigation, second year

“This program fulfills a niche. No part of the typical law school education focuses on pre-trial litigation – it focuses on trials. This program is a good start for students to gain pragmatic skills in pre-trial practice in a different and broader sense than they would get in the law clinics or elsewhere.”

— Scott Sherman; Orleans Public Defenders; New Orleans; criminal litigation, fourth year

Want more information on Tulane Law’s boot camp program? Watch the video below.

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