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Eleanor Barrett L’05 discusses the newly expanded Legal Practice Skills program

June 12, 2013

The Legal Practice Skills Program provides Penn Law students the opportunity to gain hands-on, practical, and in-depth experience of the communications and presentation skills required of lawyers in today’s increasingly technological and interdisciplinary world.

In a video feature, Eleanor Barrett L’05, Associate Dean for Legal Writing and Communications, discusses the newly expanded skills program in legal writing, drafting, and communication, building on Penn Law’s strong first-year legal research and writing program in ways that prepare students for the realities of modern legal practice.




The Legal Practice Skills program is our students’ first introduction to the profession of law. Our goal is to help our students begin the transition from students to a professional who works on a case or a legal problem over a series of events. 

We focus on a number of skills, most important of which are legal analysis and legal writing. We also work on informal communication, email communication, informal meetings, simulations designed to get our students practicing the skills that they will be using once they are out in the real world. 

We have also broadened the curriculum, so now we are working not just on predictive analysis and persuasive writing, but also adding more fact-development skills, interviewing, [and] working with primary documents. Also, contract drafting, interviewing witnesses and clients, and negotiation skills to help them get a sense of the broad range of things that lawyers do. 

Within the Legal Practice Skills program there are a number of competitions, and as an institution we have sponsored a lot of students competing not just in traditional moot court competitions, but in other types of skills competitions, too. Penn Law students won this year’s IP Law Meet and last year’s Corporate Law Meet, which are both transactional equivalents of a moot court competition. But, we also have our internal moot court competition, which begins in the second year in the spring with a brief writing and oral advocacy competition and and culminates in the winter of the 3L year with the Keedy Cup, which is our in-house moot court competition. 

Legal Practice Skills is a full-year class, but we offer a number of skills opportunities to our students though out their three years and we encourage them to take advantage of skill building throughout their three years  beginning in the first year with Legal Practice Skills but continuing though some skill simulation courses and clinics and externships in the upper level. It has been a big focus of ours to improve our students access to skills based training and we are working on that all the time.   

Transcript edited for length.