Georgetown Law School is on the cutting-edge in offering practicum courses to our students. Practicum courses combine a substantive seminar class and student field work in a related area. Practicum courses give students opportunities to “learn by doing.” In practicum courses, all of the students in the class take the same substantive seminar. Each student also is assigned either to a field placement at an external organization or to a project that relates to the seminar topic. During the seminar, students are encouraged to critically reflect on the meaning of their field work experiences and what it means to be a lawyer practicing in this field. These courses provide students the opportunity to cultivate a skill set relevant to practice in a smaller class setting, develop a relationship with a faculty member, do real lawyering work, and interact with peers. These courses also can help students test a hunch about their interest in a practice area or setting and network with lawyers who practice in this area.
The essential idea in a practicum course is that: (1) students will bring their field experiences into class discussion, (2) professors will actively assist students in making these seminar-field work connections, and (3) professors will provide multiple opportunities for students to critically reflect on the meaning of their field experiences.
Although these courses might take a number of different forms, there are two basic models that have been successful. In the first model, students are assigned to work on projects or cases that are related to the seminar course and are of practical value to the supervising professor or a partner organization. For example, public interest organizations identify projects that they currently lack capacity to do. Examples of projects include research into possible impact litigation, commentary on proposed regulations, community education, client intake or issue and policy development. Projects are assigned to groups of students in the class, and the students create a useful work product for the partner organization. In the second model, students are assigned to field work placements that look more like traditional externships. These placements could all be located at the organizational “home” of the adjunct professor or they could be located at different organizations with a related legal focus. During class, the professor draws out seminar-field work connections that integrate theory and practice