When law firms and other legal organizations started shortening, canceling and moving their summer programs online, Darby Dickerson, Dean and Professor of Law at UIC John Marshall Law School, and the current president of the Association of American Law Schools, zoomed into action to help students by designing a 10-week Summer Associate Training Academy that she will be hosting online each Friday from May 22–July 31, 2020.
Dickerson selected topics that law students hopefully would have been exposed to if they were working onsite at a law firm or other legal organization. These topics include communicating effectively with supervisors and support staff; incorporating constructive criticism; drafting effective time entries; revising and proofreading your own work; using forms and templates appropriately; understanding canons of statutory construction; negotiating and drafting settlement agreements; appreciating ethical, civility and professionalism norms; understanding ethics associated with social media use; appreciating the intersection of legal ethics and attorney wellness; promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal profession; recognizing various legal and ethical issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic; the importance of pro bono; and identifying key employee benefits issues when negotiating a job offer.
In addition to learning substance through live sessions, assigned reading and some asynchronous videos, students will have opportunities to participate in online simulations. For example, students will roleplay being a summer associate who received an assignment from a supervisor; practice interacting with a supervisor who has given the associate replete with ethical concerns; and negotiate a benefits package for a permanent job. Students will also prepare and receive feedback from attorneys and judges on a drafting assignment, which, depending on the student’s selected pathway, will be a motion in limine, non-disclosure agreement or bench memorandum. Students will conclude the program with a reflective writing assignment.
Throughout the program, students will interact with Dean Dickerson and members of the UIC John Marshall faculty, alumni and other prominent members of the legal community including former ABA President Bob Carlson; John G. Browning, Dallas practitioner and co-author of Legal Ethics and Social Media: A Practitioner’s Handbook; Matthew Butterick, typographer and lawyer; Virginia G. Essandoh, Chief Diversity Officer at Ballard Spahr LLP; Wisconsin state bar ethics counsel Aviva Kaiser; former Chicago Bar Association President Dan Cotter; and Jayne Reardon, Executive Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.
Dickerson has served as a dean for 17 years and at four law schools. She started her career as director of legal research and writing at Stetson University College of Law, practiced commercial litigation at the firm now known as Locke Lord in Dallas, Texas, and clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In these roles, she has been the client and the lawyer and has been privy to decision-making from the judicial perspective. As such, she brings a valuable perspective to Training Academy students. “Although I am sad that many students are losing valuable time working inside law firms, legal departments and legal-aid organizations, I’m proud that we are able to provide them with information and experiences they can add to their toolkit to serve clients in the future.”
All UIC John Marshall Law School students and recent graduates are able to participate, and law schools that are institutional members of Scribes—The American Association of Legal Writers were invited to nominate two students each to participate. UIC John Marshall serves as the national headquarters for Scribes. To date, about 90 students have registered for the program.