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    Changes to Curriculum Provide More Flexibility, Broaden Course Offerings

    Beginning in the fall 2010, the School of Law's innovative Lawyer as Problem Solver curriculum will undergo modest changes to better meet students' needs, provide flexible course scheduling and allow the School to broaden and deepen its upper-level course offerings.

    Changes to the curriculum will be phased in, beginning in the fall 2010. Full implementation of the revisions to the curriculum will begin with the class entering in May 2011.

    "We believe these changes will retain the core aspects of the Lawyer as Problem Solver curriculum while maintaining the School's commitment to curricular innovation," said Rick Perna, associate dean for academic affairs.

    A committee of faculty and administrators, charged by Dean Lisa Kloppenberg, has been reviewing the Lawyer as Problem Solver curriculum for three years, and faculty approved the changes earlier this year.

    The review is part of the School's efforts to continuously seek to improve its curriculum and operations. And the updates come at a natural time to review the Lawyer as Problem Solver program, which has been in place for six years.

    "We are always seeking opportunities to improve our programs and curriculum," Perna said. "This was an opportune time to review and update the curriculum and continue the momentum we started with the adoption of the original Lawyer as Problem Solver curriculum."

    The School will retain the most innovative aspects of the Lawyer as Problem Solver curriculum, including the two-year option. In addition, the faculty reaffirmed the School's commitment to the core aspects of the curriculum, especially the focus on skills development through experiential and integrated learning. Each student will continue to be required to take a clinic or externship course, a capstone course and a course in dispute resolution.

    The committee explored options to reduce initial costs for six-semester students and to create efficiencies in the academic sequencing of courses and size of offerings. The curricular changes include reducing the number of course hours for first-year students and creating curriculum "concentrations" instead of tracks.

    Changing the tracks to concentrations is expected to increase flexibility, improve efficiency and provide for the possible addition of upper-level courses and concentrations over time.

    Initially, the School will likely offer certificate concentrations that capitalize on the strengths of the existing track programs. The possibilities include Intellectual Property/Technology, Advocacy (criminal and civil) and Business/Commercial Transactions. To qualify for a certificate, students will be required to take required certificate courses and select certificate electives within the concentration. But students will not be required to attempt to obtain a certificate.

    Eventually, students may be able to craft custom concentrations, with faculty or committee approval and direction.

    The curricular concentrations will still provide students with a carefully focused curriculum that prepares them for the type of practices areas they are most likely to encounter after they graduate, Perna said.

    The certificate program will allow the School to avoid scheduling problems experienced under the track system, which was very rigid, and eventually expand the upper-level curriculum. "Ultimately we'll be able to increase the depth and breadth of our upper-level courses as compared to the rigid track system," Perna said.

    The tracks offered under the Lawyer as Problem Solver curriculum were Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, Personal and Transactional Law, and Intellectual Property, Cyberlaw and Creativity. Current students will be able to complete their program in their chosen track, though they will not be required to do so.

    Another significant change to curriculum is reducing the number of credits first-year students are required to take. First-year students will take 31 credit hours during their first two semesters, compared to 36 hours for students in the accelerated program and 33 credit hours for students in the previous three-year program. The reduction of hours is expected to help new students adjust to rigors and intensity of law school. Students will still be required to take 90 total credit hours to graduate.

    Other changes to the curriculum include adjusting some course credits and making some currently required upper-level courses elective. In addition, first-year students won't be required to take an intrasession course, which are weeklong courses held during a break in the fall and spring semesters.