Student, Esquire?: The Practice of Law in the Collaborative Classroom

Clinical Law Review, 2014, Forthcoming

U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-03

43 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2013

See all articles by Nantiya Ruan

Nantiya Ruan

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Date Written: October 7, 2013


Law faculty and non-profit lawyers are working together in a variety of partnerships to offer students exposure to “real life” clients in the first year of law school, as well as in advanced courses in substantive areas. Teachers engaged in client-centered advocacy through experiential frameworks have broken out of their isolated silos in the law school (e.g., legal writing, clinical, externship, and doctrinal) and begun to work together. To help students develop a sense of professional identity, cultivate professional values, and tap into key intrinsic motivations for lawyering, such as serving the public good, collaborative classrooms have an important role in meeting the needs of twenty-first century law schools.

But implementing innovation without planning and forethought spells disaster. These partnerships amongst faculty, students, and lawyers have not yet seriously engaged with the ongoing conversation about ethical representation in student legal work for real clients. For collaborative classrooms to remain within ethical boundaries, teachers creating innovative classroom experiences with clients need to define the legal tasks being completed by students early on and examine local unauthorized practice of law (UPL) rules to determine whether students’ work implicates these ethics rules. By engaging in this conversation, we model the ethical professional behavior that modern learning initiatives challenge us to address, and we encourage students to consider a critical question: how to be innovative, creative, justice-seeking lawyers within the ethical contours of our profession? This Article hopes to spark the beginning of that conversation.

Suggested Citation

Ruan, Nantiya, Student, Esquire?: The Practice of Law in the Collaborative Classroom (October 7, 2013). Clinical Law Review, 2014, Forthcoming; U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-03. Available at SSRN:

Nantiya Ruan (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States

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