From the Director: Experiential Learning at Georgia State Law

Lisa Radtke Bliss

Lisa Radtke Bliss, associate clinical professor, director of experiential education and co-director of HeLP Legal Services Clinic, teaches in the live-client civil clinic.

The most powerful learning for law students occurs when they are able to link theory and practice. Georgia State Law students receive a strong foundation in academics, blended with practical skills education throughout the three years of law school. Our experiential curriculum allows students to become immersed in the practice of law through clinics, specialized courses that incorporate clients, externships and other courses that simulate working in a firm solving client matters.

In addition to our innovative courses that are designed to focus specifically on experiential learning, we have continued to break down the walls between experiential and substantive learning by infusing practical application of legal skills throughout the curriculum in different ways. This newsletter introduces the variety of choices students have to integrate their study of law with its application in both real and simulated contexts.

During the last 10 years, the college has grown from having only one clinic, our award-winning Philip C. Cook Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, to offering six clinics through our experiential curriculum. The success of our clinical programs was reflected in the college’s first appearance in the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the top 35 law school clinical programs. We are tied for 30th.

Our newest clinic, the Olmstead Disability Rights Clinic, will open this fall. It is another partnership between Georgia State Law and the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, which initiated the case resulting in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. holding that individuals with mental disabilities have the right to live in a supported community setting rather than in institutions when appropriate. Our students will be engaged in assisting people with disabilities and increasing awareness of the rights conferred by the Olmstead decision.

This year brought transformative changes to our Externship Program with the naming of a new director and the addition of a classroom component to compliment students’ field work and encourage students’ growth and development as professionals. This fall, we also will introduce a new course that will provide transactional assistance to clients, the Transactional Assistance and Practice Program.

Our faculty continue to develop ways of bringing real practice problems into the classroom. You will learn about how students take a bus tour of Atlanta neighborhoods to help them better understand health disparities; how students are applying improvisation techniques to help them become better negotiators; and how a new practice-ready writing course simulates the day-to-day experience of working in a law firm.

As our experiential offerings continue to grow, our students benefit from the many available choices and experiences that help prepare for their careers. I invite you to contact me to learn more about our programs.

Lisa Radtke Bliss, associate clinical professor, director of experiential education and co-director of HeLP Legal Services Clinic, teaches in the live-client civil clinic that is part of an interdisciplinary community collaboration among Georgia State Law, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Atlanta Legal Aid Society.

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