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Mitchell Hamline School of Law (MHSL) is in a privileged position to help redefine legal education in the United States. Its two predecessor schools, William Mitchell College of Law and Hamline University School of Law, were regarded as practice-focused and devoted to public service. As it goes through its first year since the law schools combined, MHSL’s new Dean and President, Mark C. Gordon, is positioned to carve out a bright future for the school’s next 100 years. If the model MHSL implements proves to be groundbreaking—as the Langdellian model was for American legal education starting in Harvard Law School in the 1870s—MHSL will transform the history of American legal education.

One of the best ways for this to happen is to allow first-year law students (1L) to intern in courthouses doing clerical and administrative work. Observing proceedings, drafting boilerplate orders, making scheduling calls, and the like are invaluable for students exploring their law career options. If the work they do varies week to week, then 1L students will get a taste of different practices, styles, demeanors, and idiosyncrasies from the bench and from the bar. This exposure would enrich classroom simulation exercises and doctrinal discussions.

The proposed See.Act.Do model of experiential learning establishes that law students become better lawyers if they first see practitioners advocate in court, followed by acting or simulating exercises in class, and then doing the legal work on behalf of real clients in a clinic or externship setting, or as licensed attorneys. MHSL’s simulation courses set a terrific framework for students to glimpse legal practice in a controlled environment. However, simulation alone is insufficient to provide a realistic context for an assigned exercise.

This research report is based on the successful experience of judicial internships required for all law students starting within their first year of studies in the Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana (UNITEC) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. By incorporating the views of Minnesota judges, and MHSL alumni graduating between 1975 and 2015, this paper adapts the model to Minnesota’s reality, and to a MHSL objective: producing practice-ready attorneys.

First-year Judicial Internships also would be beneficial in reducing the Expectations-Reality Gap of students as they go into legal practice. A large majority of the sampled MHSL alumni from 1975-2015 were not practice-ready upon graduation; their expectations of legal practice were distorted. A majority of the surveyed alumni believe that 1L Judicial Internships would help students become more practice-ready and would reduce the Expectations-Reality Gap.

The proposed 1L Judicial Internship Program complies with the American Bar Association (ABA) Standards for field placements, as offered in this study.