Getting Ready for Students to Return

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BY MATTHEW BOLES 

Now that the 4th of July is behind us, students are nearing or have completed the first half of their internships or externships,1 assuming that it is for the full summer. While these opportunities are generally available year-round, the summer provides students with the opportunity to work full-time and learn invaluable skills that complement education in the classroom.

With the second half of the summer starting, now is a good time to reflect on how to best incorporate students’ summer experiences into the classroom in the fall semester. Below are some tips from the perspective of an attorney who has supervised several law students, both directly and indirectly, for the past six years:

  1. Foster practical and theoretical learning. Reuters reported in April 2024 that, according to a survey, 45% of associates feel that law school did not adequately prepare them to practice law.2 Undoubtedly, students need both practical training and theoretical learning to be well prepared for their careers.3 Students are absorbing and learning in offices nationwide each day and will be able to connect what they’ve learned while in class.
  2. Explain how the course connects with other areas of the law. I struggled in law school to understand how topics intersected. I am an immigration lawyer, but I must understand my clients’ full legal history. This can include administrative, criminal, family, tax, state, and international law.4 Pointing out the connections to students will help prepare them when advocating for their clients as attorneys.
  3. Finally, encourage students who may not have had positive summer experiences. You’ve probably heard the proverb, “Experience is the best teacher.”5 Students may learn that an area of law they always thought they wanted to practice is not right for them. Other students may have not had a positive experience due to inadequate supervision or other problems not related to the area of law. Let them know this has happened before and that it is not a reflection of the student, or that the student cannot figure out a different type of law to pursue.

With the fall semester fast approaching, use these three tips once students return after completing experiential learning. Have other tips? Please share them with us and other colleagues.

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