VU law school stu­dents add jour­nal­ism course to skills

Post-Tribune - - Post-Tribune Local - BY MON­ICA AL­BERS

Val­paraiso Uni­ver­sity’s Law School has re­cently made changes to its cur­ricu­lum with a stronger em­pha­sis on prac­ti­cal skills train­ing – in­clud­ing in­tro­duc­ing a Legal Jour­nal­ism course.

“Cur­ricu­lum-wise, we were try­ing to in­tro­duce cour­ses that would give more prac­ti­cal legal skills that grad­u­ates can pick up and run with,” said Faisal Kutty, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of Law at VU who taught Legal Jour­nal­ism for the Fall 2014 se­mes­ter. “In this course we get them the skills and the train­ing and al­low them to pur­sue a legal-re­lated topic that they can ex­plore.”

The class re­quires as­sign­ments rang­ing from writ­ing Let­ters to the Edi­tor as in­tro­duc­tory jour­nal­is­tic writ­ing, to blog­ging on var­i­ous legal top­ics and cases, to de­vel­op­ing talk­ing points to have on hand when be­ing in­ter­viewed by a re­porter. Ac­cord­ing to Kutty, with more stu­dents go­ing into jour­nal­ism af­ter law school, it was im­por­tant for the cur­ricu­lum to in­clude cour­ses cater­ing to those stu­dents.

“The class kind of in­spired me to pur­sue a ca­reer in legal jour­nal­ism, which I hadn’t pre­vi­ously ac­tu­ally con­sid­ered,” said sec­ond-year law stu­dent Cliff Ma­son.

Be­ing reg­u­larly chal­lenged by Kutty dur­ing the course to sup­port his ar­gu­ments was some­thing he found ben­e­fi­cial. “En­coun­ter­ing that chal­lenge ver­bally in class and in­cor­po­rat­ing the men­tal skill of de­fend­ing what­ever our premise was, and us­ing that to strengthen our premise I found to be valu­able as a legal writer.”

The course re­quires stu­dents to learn new com­mu­ni­ca­tion and writ­ing styles of­ten not in­cluded in most legal cour­ses.

“One of the big­gest things I took away from the class was the abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate legal news in a read­able man­ner to the ev­ery­day reader,” said sec­ond-year law stu­dent Pauline Wein, whose ar­ti­cle on hu­man traf­fick­ing was re­cently pub­lished by an on­line legal web­site. “In our legal writ­ing classes we’re taught to think and write in a way that’s very dif­fer­ent from writ­ing sto­ries or es­says in un­der­grad, and so when we were taught to write through blogs or Let­ters to the Edi­tor or commentaries on­line, we had to share the same news, but in a much more read­able way.”

Even over the se­mes­ter break, Kutty said, stu­dents had been con­tact­ing him with ques­tions on how to con­tinue work­ing on the pa­pers they had al­ready com­pleted for the term, with the goal of be­ing pub­lished this spring.

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