BUFFALO, N.Y. -- January is the season for one of University at
Buffalo Law School's most distinctive traditions: the intensive
learning experiences known as bridge courses.
Ranging from one to three credits, students can choose from
among 39 courses offered from start to finish in January, with some
taking as many as three bridge courses this session. Some seize the
opportunity to explore an area of the law that intrigues them;
others pile on the credits to lighten their course load during the
coming spring semester. In every case, though, the experience
broadens students' legal horizons and imparts some of the essential
skills of legal practice.
"I don't know of any other school that does what we do, which is
to open a distinct space in the curriculum that serves as a
showcase for our adjunct faculty, our judges and our
practitioners," says SUNY Distinguished Professor James A. Gardner,
vice dean for academic affairs. "Other schools have adjunct-taught
courses, and often those courses are skills-oriented or highly
focused as ours are. But the idea of having a dedicated portion of
the year devoted to this is unique to us."
In keeping with the UB Law School's emphasis on imparting
practical legal skills, many of the bridge-term courses address
those skills directly, such as learning how to choose a jury or how
to take a deposition. "But all of them are skills courses in the
sense that they provide a close and focused and practice-oriented
look at a very narrow area of law," Gardner says. "That's distinct
from the normal classroom experience. Even a focused course in law
school tends to be a survey course. This is sort of an
apprentice's-eye view of what practice is like."
Most bridge courses at UB Law School are taught by alumni and
other practitioners – attorneys, judges and government
officials among them – supplemented by UB Law School faculty.
Often, teaching a bridge course is a chance for alumni to reconnect
with the school and share with law students some of their hard-won
expertise in their area of specialization.
The courses include opportunities for clinical experience and
judicial clerkships in Social Security disability law and habeas
corpus law, and such emerging practice areas as Alternative Dispute
Resolution and sexual harassment mediation.
Among the highlights of the bridge-term courses:
* A course on Buffalo's financial control board looks at "the
amenability of economic and fiscal problems such as those of the
city to resolution by subordination of democratic politics to
control by a board of appointed experts." The course examines the
basis in the state Constitution for establishing the Buffalo Fiscal
Stability Authority, whose chair is former UB Law School Dean R.
Nils Olsen, and looks at the political context in which the board
was created. It's taught by James Magavern '59 and Richard Tobe
'74, who was recently appointed deputy Erie County executive.
* Longtime City Court judge Robert T. Russell's bridge-term
course looks at Housing Court and its relationship with Housing and
Landlord-Tenant Court. The course explores housing and health code
violations, property nuisance laws, the "Bawdy House Statute," the
doctrine of the "Warranty of Habitability," demolitions and other
* Students in a course taught by Helen Drew '88, Professional
Sports Contract Negotiation & Arbitration, get hands-on
experience in the legal and practical skills necessary to negotiate
and arbitrate a professional sports employment contract. The class
will be divided into two-person teams representing management and
players, and each team will research, prepare and actively
negotiate and arbitrate a professional athlete's contract.
* A bridge-term course in bankruptcy practice covers issues in
consumer bankruptcy, a useful offering because most UB Law School
courses address corporate, rather than consumer, bankruptcy. Taught
by Morris L. Horwitz '74, the course follows the handling of a
consumer bankruptcy from client intake, through the analysis of
assets and liabilities, choice of chapter (7 or 13), preparation of
the petition and schedules, electronic filing, court proceedings
and post-petition challenges.
Since its founding in 1887, the University at Buffalo Law
School – the State University of New York system's only law
school – has established an excellent reputation and is
widely regarded as a leader in legal education. Its cutting-edge
curriculum provides both a strong theoretical foundation and the
practical tools graduates need to succeed in a competitive
marketplace, wherever they choose to practice. A special emphasis
on interdisciplinary studies, public service and opportunities for
hands-on clinical education makes UB Law unique among the nation's
premier public law schools.