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Drake Law School: 150 Years of Preparing Students: Practical Skills

Cole's Vision

Drake Law School has always emphasized practical skills. When founder Justice Chester Cole re-organized the school in Des Moines, he noted, "[T]he course of study is quite extended and eminently practical."
— Chester C. Cole, The Iowa College of Law, 9 W. Jurist 451, 453 (1875) (emphasis in original).

Like today's Drake Law faculty who have practice experience, Cole was not isolated in the ivory tower. He continued to practice law and tried a six-day jury trial at the age of eighty-eight.”
— David S. Walker, Teaching and Learning Professionalism in the First Year with Some Thoughts on the Role of the Dean, 40 U. Tol. L. Rev. 421, 448 (2009). This long-standing commitment to skills development is reflected in Drake recently being named one of the best law schools for practical training.

Tiered Skill Building: Click on the Tabs Below

2002 First-Year Trial Practicum

Photo of 2002 First-Year Trial Practicum

The First-Year Trial Practicum (FYTP), a unique Drake offering dating to 1998, highlights the Law School’s practice-orientation. All 1Ls have the opportunity to observe an actual trial in the Drake Legal Clinic, discuss their experiences during the trial with members of the bench and bar, and interact with the participants at the conclusion of the trial.



1907 Drake Law Practice Court

Photo from 1907 Drake University Record 

In the early 1900s, all second and third year law students participated in practice court, preparing and trying trial-level and appellate cases.

As the 1907 course catalog explained, "The purpose of the practice court work is to facilitate the study of the law of procedure and of evidence from the practitioner's standpoint, and to give students a familiarity with and readiness in conducting the lawsuit. A careful study of the statutes, authorities and forms is therefore essential, and will be required."

Today, simulations are found throughout the curriculum, not only in simulation classes such as Trial Advocacy and Negotiations, but also in doctrinal classes that include simulation exercises.



Drake Student Attorneys and Professor Bob Rigg prepare for a legal clinic murder trial.

Matt Lindholm (LW 2002), Professor Robert Rigg, and Patrick Dillon (LW 2004) prepare for a 2003 murder trial, part of the Criminal Law Clinic.

The majority of Drake Law students participate in one of the school's five clinics, wherein they help real clients. Drake law students have been providing actual legal services as far back as 1950, as part of the Des Moines Legal Clinic. Read more about the history of the Drake Legal Clinic and Campus Legal Services, its precursor, established in 1968.

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