Expert Learning Program allows students at Chicago law school to set a strong foundation

Lauren Williams's picture

A new one-credit course at Chicago’s John Marshall Law School is designed to give students the foundation they need for success by providing them with a truer understanding of the courts and legal system, strong study habits and a sound approach to exam-taking. 

First-year students will start their law school careers with a proper foundation through the new Expert Learning (Ex L, pronounced “excel”) course being offered this fall semester at The John Marshall Law School.

The seven-week course is designed around three strategies: understanding the law in a bigger context; steps for a successful classroom experience; and preparing for exam success.

“The Ex L program is going to give students the foundation they need to build their law school careers upon,” said Ex L Director and Professor Sonia Green. “I’m excited about it. I see Ex L as a necessary step for any student, and any successful lawyer. We are at the forefront of a new trend, one of helping law students succeed in law school from the start. Giving students these best practices for a legal education also will advance the value of the education we provide.”

Ex L gives each student the foundation needed for law school success. Topics will include the structure and function of the courts, reading and briefing cases, the interplay between case law and statutes, and the function of legal precedent. 

Instruction also will focus on reading and understanding cases and other assignments, briefing cases, outlining successfully, and tips on time management, exam taking and how to assess one’s own learning style.

“Learning these strategies will help students with their critical thinking, as well as their ability to develop good learning skills. These are strategies that all students can employ for a richer law school experience, and I believe will be helpful well beyond law school.”

For Ex L, the incoming class will be divided into small groups of no more than 15 students, to enhance the discussion and encourage students to work together. Students will be given assignments and will be graded. Green said her faculty colleagues offered input on how best to structure Ex L. They recognize the students will set their own pace in this class.

“Today’s law student isn’t necessarily a political science major. We have students with degrees in the arts, the hard sciences, social sciences, medicine. They need a better transition from their fields into law. Some learn more quickly than others. Some have been out of college for a time, and even if they are coming directly from undergraduate work, law school requires much more of a student,” Green stressed. “We believe with a strong foundation, all of our students will find success. This course will be structured around what all our students need.”

About The John Marshall Law School
The John Marshall Law School, founded in 1899, is an independent law school located in the heart of Chicago’s legal, financial and commercial districts. Through classes, clinics and special programs, students develop the strategic, analytical and transactional lawyering skills that are so valuable to employers. Its excellent curriculum, coupled with outstanding skills and experiential learning, help make John Marshall graduates practice-ready from day one. For practicing attorneys, John Marshall offers nine LLM degrees, more than any other law school in the Midwest.  John Marshall is also a leader in providing distance education options in intellectual property, estate planning and employee benefits at the advanced graduate degree level.   John Marshall offers six clinical experiences, including the nationally recognized Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic and the Fair Housing Legal Clinic.  U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Graduate Schools 2014 edition ranks John Marshall’s Lawyering Skills Program second and its Intellectual Property Law program 12th in the nation.