Roger Williams opens experiential center, guarantees hands-on training

Roger Williams University School of Law has introduced a new experiential learning center, and an explicit guarantee that students will get the hands-on training while in school.

The Feinstein Center for Pro Bono and Experiential Education will be the school’s flagship for coordinating experiential learning opportunities for students. It is the vehicle through which the school will fulfill a new guarantee that every qualified student will be afforded a substantial clinical experience, either via in-house legal clinics or through externship programs.

“What we’re offering is a continuum of opportunities,” said Laurie Barron, the Center’s executive director. “Whether a student wants to forge a career in business law, immigration law, criminal law or anything in between, they can come to us and plan for a structured sequence of legal experiences. Whatever the specialty, we’ll guarantee them a semester in the trenches gaining real-world legal skills.”

While the law school has offered clinical experiences since its early years, the guarantee that every qualified student can participate in at least one clinical experience before graduation makes Roger Williams one of the few schools in the country to commit to such a promise.

“There is really no substitute for learning from experience,” said Professor Andrew Horwitz, director of clinical programs. “Real life presents an array of challenges and situations that can never be replicated in a simulated exercise.”

The Center grew out of the Feinstein Institute for Legal Service, founded in 1996 as the hub of Roger Williams’ public service initiatives and offering pro bono legal services for low-income populations.

Dean David Logan said the school was founded in 1993 with a strong focus on practical skills.

“The school built into its initial curriculum a greater attention to skills training than was prevalent at the time,” Logan said. “Since then, the number and type of experiential opportunities have dramatically multiplied. The result is practice-ready graduates who are prepared to give back to their communities and enhance their profession.”