Legal Practice Curriculum
Professors Newcombe & Werbel helping to shape LRW curriculum while teaching foundation skills
Professors Amy Newcombe and Jamie Pukl-Werbel '98 are beginning their second year as Seton Hall Law School's Assistant Legal Practice Professors. Professors Newcombe and Pukl-Werbel teach legal research and writing to first year students, but in addition, they are also responsible for helping to shape the curriculum component.
"Last year we enhanced the research curriculum to include research workshops," says Professor Pukl-Werbel. "The research workshops are designed to give the 1Ls a 'hands on' experience using the research platforms available. Students have a series of five workshops, which are each focused on different areas of research, whether that is secondary sources, cases, statutes, or administrative materials. The workshops involve a lecture program and an interactive portion where students begin an interactive project during the workshop."
Professor Newcombe further explains, saying, "Rather than present material in the abstract, we equip students for assignments by having them participate in an interactive portion first, getting their feet wet in the workshops. The results are clear: this past year we met with legal writing faculty at end of the academic year and they specifically commented that students were researching more thoroughly."
Professor Newcombe and Professor Pukl-Werbel have continued off of last year's pilot program's success and have worked to further improve this year's program. "We asked last year's students to evaluate the program and we made changes in response," says Professor Newcombe. "For example, groups were very large last year, and we made changes for that so that we will be meeting in lectures of 60 students, which will then be broken up with LRW professors into their specific sections to do the interactive portion."
Professor Pukl-Werbel spoke about some of the program's changes, saying, "We are doing things differently this year. The faculty is based on adjuncts, as it has been, but we are having meetings more regularly so that faculty can share ideas on teaching techniques, responding to student questions, and free flowing exchange of ideas. The second change in the program will be anonymous grading. This change was also implemented in response to student concerns."
The first-year legal research and writing program changes also attempt to incorporate more practical legal skills. "We will have a client counseling component," says Professor Newcombe. "When students do the open memo assignment, they will interview someone who is playing the client in order to get the facts for the assignment. When students have completed the writing assignment, the students will sit with someone again who is sitting as client, and counsel the client, keeping client's goals in mind as well as legal analysis."
Professor Pukl-Werbel says, "This change was implemented to give students more exercises, more experiential learning than the typical Socratic or doctrinal method you would get in a class. This class is more practical, students will learn more by doing than by listening. While at law school students will be provided with a multitude of experience that begin with legal writing, to Persuasion and Advocacy, to Moot Court, to clinic. Each of these experiences depends on a strong core of legal writing. We have adapted the program so instead of churning out papers, students will begin connecting with real work practical as first-year students."
"My favorite thing about the new position, the new program, is being available to students on a drop-in basis," says Professor Newcombe. "We have our own office so we are more available to conference with students."
Professors Newcombe and Pukl-Werbl invite students to contact them with comments or questions: