The University of Minnesota Law School capstone experiences are intensive course offerings that integrate doctrinal instruction with skills and professionalism training. As described below, the Law School offers two types of capstone experience—simulation capstones and policy development capstones.
Doctrinal Instruction. In each capstone offering, students are immersed in a specialized substantive area of the law, such as environmental law, health law compliance, or labor and employment law. Students learn the relevant legal doctrines, policies, and practice issues. The offerings often are interdisciplinary and involve multiple related areas of law.
Skills Instruction. The capstone offerings train students in a wide range of legal practice skills, including:
- Legal research and writing
- Client interviewing and counseling
- Contract drafting and negotiating
- Presentations at community meetings and city council meetings
- Subpoena responses
- Mediation and arbitration
- Motion practice
- Complex problem-solving
- Communicating with nonlawyer clients
Professionalism. In the capstone offerings, students assume various roles, including lawyer, client, expert, or government official. They consider ethical issues, exercise independent judgment, and arrive at practical solutions. They work collaboratively in groups and, together with their faculty, experienced professionals, and student colleagues, consider the roles that lawyers play in solving clients’ legal, ethical, and practical problems. They also focus on methods of law reform.
Capstone Experience Structure
A key feature of the capstone experiences is a high level of faculty supervision and the regular participation of outside experts as adjunct professors, guest lecturers, mentors, role players, and reviewers. The offerings have been for as many as seven academic credits, which is roughly twice the number of credits for a typical law school course. In addition to regular class meetings to discuss assigned readings, professors frequently meet with their students to review draft documents and to supervise team decision-making. Professors and guest lecturers discuss with their students the necessary professional skills for class projects and the relevant professionalism considerations.
The primary difference between the two types of capstone experiences—simulation capstones and policy development capstones—is whether the students work on hypothetical situations or on a current community issue. In a simulation capstone, students work on a variety of simulated exercises that provide practice-based experiences in a substantive area of law. In a policy development capstone, students work with a community organization or with a government entity on a project that results in a written report or draft legislation. Research for the project requires students to interact with community members and with policy makers.