The goal of the Clinical Program has always been to provide students with conceptual understandings that allow them to make reasoned strategic judgments and to execute their decisions in a professionally competent manner. This goal explains why UCLA has built a curriculum around important lawyering processes that cut across substantive law areas. Core clinical courses are "process based," examining the processes of interviewing and counseling, neogotiation, drafting, public policy advocacy, fact investigation, depositions questioning strategies and techniques, and trial strategies and techniques.
Importance of Teaching Transferable Skills
Transferable skills training forms the basis of all clinical teaching at UCLA. Starting from the first year, students are introduced to conceptual frameworks or models that underlie the particular lawyering skill being taught, so that students can apply those models across substantive areas. Students are taught specific techniques that flow from these conceptual models, for performing important lawyering skills such as identifying evidence to support the elements of a claim for relief, interviewing a client in a new matter, questioning an adverse witness at trial, or counseling a client who may be making a mistaken decision. Once they have learned these models and techniques, students in our more specialized clinics are given the opportunity to put them into practice in representing actual clients or working on a simulated legal problem in a specific practice area.
Strong Trial Advocacy Program
We also boast an extensive program to prepare students in civil and criminal trial advocacy. We offer both simulated and live-client trial advocacy courses. Simulated Civil Trial Advocacy and Criminal Trial Advocacy culminate in mock trials at the end of the semester before real judges and juries. The year-long, live-client Trial Advocacy Clinic commences in the Fall semester when students are trained in trial advocacy techniques. During the Spring semester, the students represent clients at actual hearings such as unemployment compensation appeals hearings, wage claim hearings, political asylum cases, employment discrimination cases, and small claims appeal hearings.
The "Borrowing Model"
The Clinical Program has developed an innovative solution to the problem of identifying suitable cases to train students effectively in complex legal matters: Our clinics "borrow" appropriate portions of cases from local public interest organizations and law firms by becoming co-counsel with them. By "borrowing" complex cases at appropriate stages of development, we are able to teach the specific lawyering skills we want to focus on (deposition-taking, for example) and give students exposure to large, significant legal matters that we would not be able to handle as lead counsel. At the same time, we are able to provide needed assistance to public interest law firms working on issues of major importance to the community.
Sophisticated transactional clinical training
The law school has recently developed a wide range of clinical courses for those students who intend to pursue transactional law in both the private and public settings. Advanced transactional courses offer skills development that will help students enter business law practices with a broad exposure to the relevant substantive law, an understanding of what business lawyers do, and how they go about doing it ethically and competently. In these courses students learn to identify the objectives of the business client and organization who wants to enter into a particular transaction, and how to structure, negotiate and draft appropriate documents.
The Witness Program
Because the Clinical Program uses simulation extensively to train students in lawyering skills, we have developed a pool of volunteers from the community who act as clients, witnesses, and jurors for the simulated exercises. The "mock" client might come to the student-lawyer with a problem over a leaky roof. Or a criminal defendant might be charged with drug possession. Most of the simulations are quite complex and involve supporting documents, a "script" that details the events forming the basis for the client's problem, and an explanation of the goals of the exercise. The volunteers learn the facts of the case and then bring those facts to life by injecting their personalities and attitudes toward law and the legal system. This means that the student lawyer must learn how to communicate with their client, deal with the anxiety, anger and suspicion a deponent might have over being questioned by an opposing lawyer, or cross-examine an adverse witness on the stand.