What are the differences between St. Francis School of Law and a traditional legal education?


The St. Francis School of Law online Juris Doctor program is breaking the mold on legal education in many different ways. In terms of the curriculum, St. Francis has improved on the curriculum provided in traditional legal education in several highly significant ways.

First the curriculum is taught by seasoned practitioners. This is often not the case in traditional legal education. The St. Francis Juris Doctor program provides coverage of the same subject matter as traditional legal education, but our professors can also discuss with you how the doctrine they are teaching is used in the real world practice of law. Our instructors can provide the real world insight that makes material meaningful. Their practical experience allows St. Francis to teach professional lawyering skills alongside the substantive legal doctrine that traditional legal education dwells upon in most substantive courses.

At St. Francis School of Law, we don’t just study the relevant legal rules, in the St. Francis program, we take that to the next level by introducing students to the professional skills needed to use the legal concepts in order to represent clients skillfully. Only a faculty with deep experience in practice can execute on this objective. That is innovative.

Another very distinct difference with the St. Francis J.D. program is the way our program helps students develop the ability to write like lawyers. In every St. Francis class, students write three or four assignments per week, with detailed graded feedback from professors. This is very unlike traditional legal education, where students commonly write one exam at the end of a substantive course.

What this means for the students is that they are able to rapidly develop a high level of proficiency in legal writing and to fine tune their legal writing skills, so that when they graduate, they can truly hit the ground running – they are ready to practice law.

A fourth year student at St. Francis has written contracts, pleadings, briefs, motions, oppositions to motions, intellectual property applications for patents and trademarks, and the types of memoranda lawyers write in the course of their practice, among other examples. Over the course of the four year program, students develop proficiency in writing the professional documents real lawyers write. In a traditional program, students write some documents in selected classes. At St. Francis, students write every week in every class. Over the four years of the St. Francis Juris Doctor program, this tremendous immersion in legal writing is what helps our students develop the skills needed to be successful as practicing lawyers. The St. Francis approach to legal education is highly distinctive.

The structure of the St. Francis program itself also is very innovative. We limit our class sizes to 15 students per class. This allows our students extensive contact with our faculty. Our students participate in every live online class session. With a small class size, there is time to interact with professors and fellow students.

Traditional legal education programs may place 50 to 70 students into a single class, or more. In this type of model, students will only be called on to interact with the professor a handful of times per semester. In the St. Francis model, almost all students are called upon to discuss the material every week, in every class. This helps St. Francis students develop the professional lawyering skills required to talk about the law, and gives our students the opportunity to argue and debate, just as practicing lawyers are called upon to do. This is a significant difference from traditional legal education.

At St. Francis, our pioneering approach is designed to develop not only professional writing, but also professional oral advocacy skills, every week in every class, when our students interact with seasoned legal practitioners.