VU law school students add journalism course to skills
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.