Minnesota Law

Winter 2024
For the Record

Law in Practice Continues to Be a Leader in Innovative Legal Education

Bloomberg Law honors Law in Practice for overall excellence in practical skills training for the second year in a row

Caption: Back Row L-R: Law in Practice Director Prof. Randall Ryder ’09; Adjunct Prof. Michael Reif ’06; Adjunct Prof. Robert Ambrose; Janelle Walkden ’25; Emma Kruger ’24; Mollie Ahsan ’24; Savannah Klein ’25; Cheyenne Petrich ’25; Benjamin White ’24; and Phillip Mellon ’24.Front Row L-R: Adjunct Prof. Erin Conlin ’18; Adjunct Prof. Maria de Sam Lazaro ’19; Adjunct Prof. Imani Jaafar; Ali Casey ’24; Ashley Kim ’25; Suzanne Mead ’24; Kayla Haeg ’24; and Jack Tate ’24.

Imani Jaafar wasn’t surprised to learn that the Law in Practice (LiP) course at Minnesota Law earned national recognition from Bloomberg Law for the second year running. In her four years as an adjunct professor for the class, Jaafar has witnessed its innovative approach to teaching 1Ls the day-to-day skills they will need to practice law.

“You really get to see students grow right in front of you,” says Jaafar, a lead compliance governance consultant at Target Corporation. “You see them find their own voice and learn how they will present themselves as a lawyer. It really builds confidence.” 

Jaafar has been an adjunct professor for 15 years, teaching a variety of courses. She observes that LiP truly stands out for its approach to helping students master the art of being a lawyer. Students work on two simulated cases during the semester—one litigation and one transactional—that steer them through typical case development, from client interview to deposition to chambers conference or mediation. 

Bloomberg Law started its Law School Innovation Program in 2023 and named Law in Practice to its first class of winners. It recognized LiP as one of ten honorees in its “Innovation & Experience” category. This year, Bloomberg highlighted innovative law schools that prioritize practical skills development, selecting LiP as one of 12 overall honorees who excel at innovation in legal education. Bloomberg specifically recognized LiP as a top leader in pedagogy for its unique methods to advance instruction for all students. 

LiP was ahead of its time when Minnesota Law launched the course in 2013, and it has maintained that edge ever since by continuing to evolve the program, says Randall Ryder ’09, LiP director and assistant professor of appellate advocacy. He points out that, compared to similar programs at peer schools, LiP is distinctive for the depth and breadth of its practical skills education for first-year students. 

LiP is an integral part of Minnesota Law’s approach to preparing students to thrive as lawyers. “Law in Practice is the crown jewel of our experiential education program,” said Interim Dean William McGeveran, Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett Professor of Law. “Ever since it was created by Professor Prentiss Cox ’90 and now-Judge Laura Thomas, LiP has given our 1Ls unique hands-on opportunities. They can act like a lawyer as well as think like one. We consistently hear from summer employers that our 1Ls are better prepared than most, and this is a big reason why.”

Randall Ryder '09, director of Law in Practice, and Diana Witt, experiential education administrator

Teaching students practical lawyering skills is more important than ever, with the NextGen bar exam set to launch in summer 2026, says Diana Witt, Minnesota Law’s experiential education administrator. The new exam will include a more robust assessment of foundational skills such as issue spotting and analysis, case evaluation, and client counseling—areas Minnesota Law students dive into from day one of LiP. 

Students benefit from the course’s highly realistic experience, Witt says. They have regular interactions with simulated clients, who are trained actors while practicing judges and mediators play their parts during proceedings. The practicing professionals, including adjunct professors from multiple practice areas, then provide detailed, real-time feedback that helps students refine their abilities throughout the semester.  

“It can be very daunting when you start meeting clients,” Jaafar says. “The fact that students get to practice these skills before they get out into the real world and their first job is great.” 

LiP prepares students for legal practice by helping them hone important skills. They learn to take complex sets of facts, evaluate clients’ situations, apply the law to them, and then pick the best approach to advocate for clients, Ryder says. Students are graded pass/fail, which gives them the freedom to try different styles and be bold in their choices as they represent their clients. 

“They have to think like a lawyer and make decisions as a lawyer that have consequences,” Ryder says. “Students realize that most of the time they are making the right decisions, and it’s a huge boost to their confidence. If they don’t make the right decision, they are in a safe space, so it’s an excellent opportunity to learn with no downside.” 

Importantly, LiP lets students make the mistakes of new lawyers. As they start their first summer clerkships or begin work in a Minnesota Law clinic, Witt says, they arrive with the practical abilities they need to succeed.