Magazine Feature

ASCEND: Modern learning chair supports innovations in legal education

What is the value of a law degree? In recent years, that question has been top of mind for every aspiring attorney. An ASCEND gift is ensuring that students at the Sturm College of Law are earning degrees that not only will give them legal knowledge, but also the practical skills and ethical foundation to become effective, practicing attorneys upon graduation. And in turn, they will be stronger job candidates.

When James “Jim” Mulligan (JD ’74) earned his law degree at DU, he worked for the general counsel of a real estate company and balanced his part-time work schedule with law classes. Mulligan considered this informal apprenticeship to be the key to his success as an attorney. Wanting to create an opportunity for other students to benefit from a similar experience, he and his wife, Joan Burleson (JD ’85), made a lead gift that created the Mulligan Burleson Chair of Modern Learning, the first of its kind in the nation. Alumnus and Board of Trustees chair Doug Scrivner (JD ’77) and his wife, Mary Scrivner, also supported the endowed chair.

Currently held by Professor Roberto Corrada, the chair ensures that law students at the University have access to experiential learning that integrates three fundamental aspects of legal education: analytical skills (how lawyers think); professional skills (what lawyers do); and professional formation (ethical considerations lawyers face). By combining robust courses that include innovative simulation methods with clinical courses and an extensive externship program, all Sturm College of Law students can spend one full year of law school in a hands-on, experiential-learning environment. The Sturm College of Law is one of only 16 law schools in the U.S. to offer this innovative curriculum.

“We are bridging the gap between a traditional academic degree and professional experience,” Corrada says. “We are taking bold steps to ensure that by the time they graduate, our students will know exactly what is expected of them when they step into a courtroom or join the legal team at a firm.”


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