The College of Law has added two new experiential courses designed to give students a closer look at two highly-specialized legal areas: Mental Health & Criminal Law Practicum and Legal Technology Competencies & Operations.
The former will be taught next semester by professor Annie Deets, a mental health division public defender in DeKalb County. The course is for students interested in pursuing criminal law, health law, and/or looking to improve their trial advocacy skills through court simulation exercises.
The course is designed around a midterm bench trial and final jury trial. In between, students learn how to handle competency to stand trial hearings and develop an understanding of the Durham Rule, which is a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
“Prisons in the U.S. have become de facto mental health hospitals,” said Deets. “Learning how to spot and litigate mental health issues is essential.”
Paul Panusky (J.D. ’19) took the class in spring 2019 and says that the class opened his eyes to the intersection of the law and mental health.
“This class helped frame appropriate litigation strategies tailored to specific challenges the clients faced, as well as how to assist them during trial and think of future support and resources to help keep them out of the system,” said Panusky.
Because employers want to hire practice-ready students, experiential classes such as this one is important. To that end, developing day-to—day lawyering skills and staying on top of the latest technology are also essential. In Legal Technology Competencies & Operations, Patrick Parsons, research instructional services librarian, teaches students how to use everything from Microsoft Office to Clio, a management tool for legal practices.
“All law students seem to think they’re really great at Microsoft Office programs and PDF editors,” said Parsons. “When they start taking the course, they realize how much they don’t know.”
Understanding how to take advantage of the functionality of the different platforms relates to the productivity levels of the firm and ethical billing procedures of the lawyer. In class, Parsons gives students projects so they can see how various software works together. This is not just for the purpose of efficiency, but also in order to ensure documents are handled in the appropriate manner.
Parsons used Paul Manafort as a real-life example of how the failure to properly redact legal documents led to prosecutors having access to Manafort’s secrets. And as one of, if not the only, schools with a full Legal Technology course, GSU students have the chance to gain the competitive edge in this area.
Arlissa Jennings (J.D. ’19) came into the class this semester with 15 years of experience working as a litigation paralegal, but was blown away by how much she didn’t know.
“The tricks of the trade taught in this class have more than doubled my efficiency rate at work,” Jennings said. “My increased efficiency has been noticed by my co-workers who have asked for training. This class should be required!”
Written by By Cat Gavrilidis