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Touro Law Students Return to In-Person Court Observation Program

Every Friday this semester Professor Lynne Kramer heads to court, like she has for many years, with a group of Touro Law students. She takes students to a courtroom, to meet with judges, talk with attorneys – many of whom were Kramer’s students and colleagues over the years – and give students a true look at what life is like as a legal professional on Long Island.

The unique program is a mandatory part of Touro Law’s first-year curriculum, getting students in the courtroom and learning from experience before many even draft their first brief as a class assignment. The Covid pandemic forced a program change because courthouses were not open for visits. During that time, Professor Kramer conducted Zoom interviews for unedited, unfiltered discussions with judges and attorneys. Additionally, court personnel recorded a tour for students. These videos were posted and became mandatory viewing assignments. With the pandemic behind us and courts open and operating normally again, students are back to in-person programming – much to the delight of students, professors and court personnel alike.

“This program provides students with a dynamic perspective for experiencing the law,” stated Professor Kramer, who is the director of the program. “While we adjusted the program to make the best of the situation we were in during the pandemic, there is no substitution for being in person for this program. The students truly get a sense of the environment of working in court and have the opportunity to meet with and hear from members of the bench and bar in practical hands-on settings. The conversations they have, advice they hear and law in action that they witness throughout this program are invaluable.”

This year, among other things, students witnessed a Treatment Court graduation ceremony for defendants who completed the court-mandated diversion program providing treatment in lieu of incarceration, showing the other side of what the court does. “Students need to be reminded that more happens in a courthouse than litigation,” stated Kramer. “Seeing how the court operates and witnessing how lives can change is a powerful lesson.”

Following their visits to the courthouse, the students gather back at the law center to discuss what they witnessed and experienced throughout the day. “The de-brief gives us a chance to talk about people, problems, and techniques they saw in action,” said Kramer. “It’s an important part of teaching the students and helps students make connections between what they learn in the classroom and what they observe in the courtroom.”

 


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