“Experiential” and “collaborative” are today’s hot buttons in legal education. But at Northeastern University School of Law, those buttons have been hot for more than 40 years. We developed our practical learning education model in 1968. Central to it is our Cooperative Legal Education Program (co-op), which allows students to graduate with four quarter-length, full-time jobs on their resumes.
Through our integrated program, combining classroom study with co-ops, clinics and a variety of other hands-on experiences, Northeastern law students are uniquely prepared for the world of practice. On co-op, students work full time in real legal settings — at law firms, with judges, and in public interest law settings, including government and service organizations. They can go on co-op with a large law firm in Boston or New York, a government agency in Washington, DC, or an international human rights organization in Geneva. With more than 900 co-op employers in more than 40 states and a number of foreign countries, NUSL lets students tailor their co-op experience to their professional interests.
In addition, our clinical program, covering domestic violence, poverty law, prisoners’ rights, criminal advocacy, public health and civil rights, allows students to participate in hands-on advocacy during their academic quarters. Under close faculty supervision, students work on real, substantive cases and gain significant field expertise.
And, before students get to our co-op and clinical programs in their upper-level years, they complete the first-year Legal Skills in Social Context program, a one-of-a-kind, yearlong course introducing the central skills of effective lawyering — legal research, objective and persuasive legal writing, client representation, critical analysis and oral skills — all heavily grounded in the social contexts in which the law is practiced. The program effectively prepares students for upper-level courses and provides the lawyering skills they will need for co-op and their professional careers.
Woven through this experience-based approach to education is a commitment to collaboration. Instead of grades, students receive written evaluations from their professors and co-op employers. Without a class rank to compete for, students are free to work together and take intellectual risks they might not be able to if they felt they had to always watch their backs.
Providing the foundation for all of this is our outstanding faculty — who publish in the most prestigious journals while also acting as hands-on leaders in advancing the rule of law and social justice. As role models and mentors for our students, they engage with community groups, provide pro bono representation, do test litigation in fields ranging from human rights to public health to corporate taxation, and serve on boards of local and national institutions.