Ed. note: Temple Law piloted an innovative new experiential program this summer. T-SPEC, which stands for Temple Summer Professional Experience Curriculum, was an integrated experience that connected internships with classroom work, paired students with formal mentors and provided them with informal networking opportunities. In this article, Director of Experiential Programs Jen Bretschneider explains why a group of faculty and administrators developed T-SPEC and how it contributes to the legal education of Temple Law students.
The Temple Summer Professional Experience Curriculum (T-SPEC) was created as a way for students to begin to understand the responsibility that lawyers assume when they enter the profession of law. Because the law is a powerful tool for achieving justice and equality in society it was important to us to create an opportunity for students to thoughtfully examine the profession and their place it.
To accomplish this, we wanted rising second year day and third year evening students to experience their summer internships in a unique and innovative way. In T-SPEC the students learned using a multi-dimensional curriculum. First, each student was placed in an internship for 10 weeks, working Monday through Thursday for thirty-two hours a week. At the placement, each student worked on real issues, observed courtroom proceedings and saw how the law changed lives. Second, the students were paired with mentors; attorneys outside of their placements who met with the students to answer questions, think through professional goals and serve as a link to the broader legal community. Third, the students created a private blog called Do.Process. and used this tool to process their experiences and share information. Fourth, the students attended a classroom component every Friday where they came prepared to discuss the professional and ethical issues that arose during their week and considered relevant material on an eclectic array of topics, such as defining success, considering cultural competence in lawyering, exploring the value of pro bono work and honing practical skills such as interviewing and networking. Fifth, the students networked with area leaders. They attended panel presentations during which yet another group of local lawyers spoke to the students about professionalism. Students also went to evening events where they met alumni and other attorneys. Finally, the students synthesized what they learned by preparing and delivering a presentation on a current ethical or professional issue. The presentations explored topics such as discretion in federal sentencing, the use of informants, the limitations on using social media while working as a federal law clerk, the criminalization of mental health and the appropriateness of using the adversarial system in family court. The presentations resulted in a rich dialogue about the issues and a glimpse into the many areas of law that are open to our students after graduation.
By spending their summer in this new way, Temple Law T-SPEC students had an opportunity to reflect on how the law comes to life in the various courtrooms and workplace settings that make up the Philadelphia area legal community. Through a partnership with area attorneys, we were able to provide a ten week experience that left each student with a new perspective and new skills. As one T-SPEC student wrote, “No legal opinion could teach me what I have learned this summer. Being a lawyer is a challenging and delicate balance of interests, and we must always respect that challenge using our intuition and intellect to tackle tough problems that change lives.” That is T-SPEC.