For The Record

Dear friends,

Legal education has long been known for teaching students to think like lawyers, but here at Richmond Law, we recognize that it is important for students to learn to be lawyers. Being a lawyer requires not only lawyering skills, but also the mindset of a professional with the character, judgment, empathy, and confidence that this entails. And developing those skills and mindset requires practice — lots of practice.

In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell argues that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. By my estimate, over the course of three years of law school, law students will have spent about 5,000 hours going to class, studying, doing co-curricular activities such as moot court and law review, and working at summer internships. This means that even the most engaged law students still need more hours of practice after graduation before they can function at their full potential as lawyers.

While we can’t add 5,000 more hours of skills-building to our students’ schedules, what we can do — and have done — at Richmond Law is make the best possible use of the 5,000 hours we have
to assure that students get what Gladwell calls “deliberate practice.”

In this issue of the magazine, we highlight a few of the many opportunities our students have to practice being a lawyer. Students studying international corruption spent a week in South Korea interviewing government officials in preparation for writing a comprehensive report on corruption in connection with the upcoming Olympics in that country. Students in the Institute for Actual Innocence not only learned about the presidential clemency procedure, but also spent hundreds of hours preparing a clemency petition. Students studying international law did a research project for the Codification Division of the United Nations and then presented their conclusions in person at the U.N. to lawyers in the legal office of the U.N. Secretariat. In each of the cases, students were put in challenging situations, were guided by dedicated faculty, and were then held to the highest standards. It is this type of deliberate practice that helps our students fast-track their way to becoming expert attorneys.

As always, I encourage you to come visit us back at the law school to meet some of these exceptional students, reconnect with faculty and staff, take advantage of one of our free CLE events, or just take a stroll around campus. We’re always ready to welcome you back.

Wendy C. Perdue
Dean and Professor of Law