Regent University moot court team (right) making final preparations during the University of Oxford Price Media Law Moot Court Programme where they won second place.
With distinction in courtrooms and classrooms, halls of government and boardrooms, Regent University School of Law has skillfully prepared students for more than 25 years to practice law. Recent accolades include finishing second in the Global Moot Court Championship (University of Oxford Price Media Law Moot Court Programme), a Top 10 Law Faculty ranking (The Princeton Review), and nearly 70 national and international competition wins.
“Twenty-five years ago, no one was sure about the idea of a Christian law school,” says Jeffrey Brauch, dean of Regent School of Law. “Today it is clear that a truly Christian law school can produce national champion students and graduates who pass the bar at high rates and become outstanding community leaders. A law school can be both thoroughly Christian and thoroughly excellent.”
Law schools have traditionally excelled at teaching students the law, he notes, but have not adequately prepared them in the areas of practical skills or ethics. “Regent Law teaches you to think and write well as a lawyer, to gain the skills you need to practice successfully, and we go a step further—helping you develop the character and ethical commitment to do it well and with integrity.”
Yet, even as Regent Law provides a distinctly rigorous program, the school— and the legal field as a whole—is pointedly being called on to respond to a shifting economic climate. True to form, Regent Law has aggressively restructured its programs to meet these new opportunities. The school is producing highly skilled lawyers prepared to practice in the growing areas of civil litigation, alternative dispute resolution, health care, bankruptcy, labor and employment, and intellectual property, as well as constitutional law and others.
In addition, Regent proactively continues to seek ways to increase the affordability and convenience of earning a law degree.
“We know that cost concerns are a big part of what causes students to wonder about law school,” explains Brauch. “One way Regent addresses this is through our new accelerated two-year J.D. program. It gets students into the job market a year earlier and cuts out nine months of school-related living expenses.” Also, in fall 2014, the law school will begin offering evening courses so busy professionals can continue to work while they earn their law degree.
Regent also offers a new Master of Arts in Law, a one-year program for those who would benefit from legal training but do not plan to practice law. It is a degree that appeals to professionals across a wide array of industries—from health care and immigration to human resources and more. “Since every industry is now affected by law, those professionals seeking a competitive advantage for employment or promotion will find this training in and knowledge of law very useful,” explains James A. Davids, associate professor of law and director of the M.A. in Law program.
In fact, armed with an entrepreneurial spirit that distinguishes Regent, the school is pushing ahead of the curve to adjust to the changing needs of the marketplace. Regent’s focus on ethics and Christian leadership is also setting graduates apart as they begin practicing law.
Another competitive advantage for Regent Law students is the extensive practical training they receive. Moot court, mock trial and negotiation competitions that also include schools such as Harvard, Yale and the University of Oxford sharpen their research, collaboration and presentation skills. Strategic internships and judicial clerkships place Regent Law students in their field where they further hone their practical skills.
Regent is continuing its dedication to thoroughly prepare students for law practice with the launch of the new Integrated Lawyer Training (ILT) initiative. The program provides professional, hands-on training to develop skills young lawyers need. Students are paired with mentors from the legal community, and they develop a portfolio of documents and practical skills within their area of practice. In addition, they can take advantage of field placements for academic credit, and select third-year students may complete semester-long apprenticeships with local attorneys. Students will also learn the business side of law, exploring how to create a business plan, run a law firm and use the latest technology. “It is making sure that from day one of their practice, our students are ready to go,” Brauch explains.
For Kevin Hoffman, a third-year law student, it is this wealth of practical training that sets Regent apart. He served on the moot court team that finished second in the world last year at the Price Media International Moot Court tournament held in Oxford, England—finishing ahead of both Oxford and Cambridge universities.
The team spent months preparing for the regional competition where they placed second, arguing before prestigious judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit and the United Nations Human Rights Committee, among others. “For me as a second-year student, it was my first time arguing an important case in front of these fantastic judges. It was a really interesting experience,” Hoffman says.
The team returned home and spent countless more hours preparing for the international round of the competition—Regent’s first time competing at the international level. Their second-place finish came just behind a team from India in the finals.
“Our students can compete with the best out there in skills like negotiation, trial practice and appellate advocacy,” Brauch says. Regent Law’s advocacy teams have won more than 65 championships, and “Best Brief” and “Best Oralist” awards. The moot court team also recently won the award for the 2nd Best Brief in the nation at the prestigious New York Bar Association National Moot Court Championship.
“I would put our students up against any students in the country in these skills,” Brauch says, “and that gives me real encouragement that even in a down market what we’re offering is excellent for our students.”
Outside of the classroom and school competitions, Hoffman has had the opportunity to further his practical training through internships, one in Rwanda assisting the International Justice Mission and an internship last summer with a federal district court judge in Norfolk, Va. Currently he is working for the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Chesapeake, Va.
“The ability to prosecute cases, to negotiate on behalf of the state, to do all those kinds of things while still in law school, that’s the pinnacle of where legal education needs to go,” Hoffman says. “Regent has done a great job of expanding these opportunities.”
He recalls how experienced lawyers have been impressed at the things he knows how to do—skills they weren’t taught until they finished school and began practicing law. “I think we win over a lot of people in the community with how well our students perform internship duties,” Hoffman explains. “It would have taken a year or two of actual practice for me to catch up to where I am now practically if I had gone to another school.”
Another advantage Regent has over other schools, he says, is the relationships that students form with faculty. The Princeton Review recently placed Regent Law’s faculty as among the Top 10 in the nation, with a select group of law schools including Duke, Stanford, the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia. The close relationships and accessibility between faculty and students sets Regent apart.
“To be able to pray with a faculty member or to talk with them for career advice, that’s not unusual here,” Hoffman says, “but I think that’s very unusual almost anywhere else.”
Alumna Rachel Bauer ’13 also found this to be the case during her time at Regent. “The professors were awesome,” she says. “They are such great people of God. I was always struck by their approachability. Whether you need academic advice or want to talk about spiritual or personal things, they are welcoming and willing to mentor you.”
Bauer is a prosecutor with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office in Florida. She works misdemeanor and traffic cases, interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence to assess if the case should move forward to trial.
She has found the job to be rewarding as she works to help victims seek justice and healing after their rights have been violated. “I really enjoy getting to help people,” Bauer says. “I get to help a lot of people in a small way every day.”
Bauer admits it’s a tough environment, and she draws on the foundations she formed at Regent to guide her. “It is very different being in Miami; it is very secular,” she explains. “Regent gave me the perspective that it’s okay to be a different attorney than what the world thinks of as an attorney.”
Her job came as a bit of a surprise to her as she had applied to mostly clerkships during her last year of law school. She was initially hesitant to even attend Regent, favoring bigger law schools that she thought would provide better employment opportunities. Ultimately, she knew Regent was where God was leading her, so she took a step of faith and enrolled.
“My hesitations were consistently proven wrong,” she says. “I enjoyed internships where I was next to students from Columbia and Georgetown, and now I work alongside people from Harvard and the University of Miami. The reality is that there are Regent alumni doing very prestigious, impressive jobs all over the country.”
Bauer believes it is often the efforts students put into their studies, rather than rankings or school size, which determine their success.
“My job allows me to make a difference every day. … It’s like the saying, ‘Speak the gospel every day, and when necessary use words.’ That’s what I’m called to do, and my degree is just the vehicle I’m using to carry that out.”
Regent Law’s reach isn’t just nationwide; it stretches around the world. The Center for Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law will hold a conference for Christian lawyers in South Sudan, and alumni are currently working in Nepal and India to combat human trafficking.
The university is expanding this global reach by offering a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in American Legal Studies online. The program allows lawyers in other countries to continue their practice while receiving training on American law from a Christian perspective.
“We want to train men and women who will make a difference in the culture,” Brauch explains. “We’re hoping to see more judges, more men and women who become leaders in business, more who are human rights activists so that down the road, the law in this country looks different than it does today because we were here.”
One alumnus working internationally is Kyle Westaway ’07 (Law and Government), a social entrepreneur and attorney based in New York City. He founded Westaway Law, an innovative law firm that serves social entrepreneurs, many who work to improve living and working conditions for people around the world.
Westaway earned a master’s degree in public policy at Regent before enrolling in the law school. As part of that program, he wrote his thesis about economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. “I started to have my eyes opened to the idea that if you can change macro-economic conditions, you might be able to affect the quality of life for people on the ground,” he explains. “Then in law school I became interested in issues of social justice, especially sex trafficking and people living in extreme poverty.”
After he graduated and launched his law practice, he connected with friends who were working to combat sex trafficking in Southeast Asia. Working together, they founded a business that employed women rescued from the sex trade to help the women achieve financial independence. That’s when he was first exposed to the idea of social entrepreneurship.
“That opened my eyes up to a whole sector, and I dove in head first. I realized this is who I am,” Westaway says. “A big part of my calling is really around leveraging the market to do good.”
Now his practice solely serves social entrepreneurs, and he is one of the emerging thought leaders in the field. Westaway often writes for The Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review and Huffington Post, and he lectures at Harvard Law and Stanford Law. He has also been on the leading edge of the changing nature of the field, structuring his law firm in a way that addresses the shifts in the marketplace. He has moved from billable hours to flat fees in most cases and keeps overhead costs low by using a virtual assistant and outsourcing work as needed to a network of lawyers around the country.
He says the shift in the legal field isn’t necessarily bad; it will just mean new ways of doing business. “I think this is actually great for the consumer. It’s great for the entrepreneurial lawyer. It’s probably bad for the big firm lawyer, but it puts a lot of opportunity on the table if you are savvy enough to know how to ride it.”
The new trends offer a good opportunity to examine what Regent offers its students, says Brauch. “It’s been good for us to think through what we are doing and how we can do it the very best.”
“If God is leading our students here, He will open the door to a job and to a meaningful role where they are making a difference in people’s lives,” he says, “and we are seeing that happen.”
Hoffman is one student who has already seen that happen. Days after the interview for this story, he accepted a law clerk position with a federal district court judge in Norfolk, Va., for the year after his graduation. It’s just one more step along the journey as he pursues his calling in the legal field.
“I am satisfied with the decision to come to law school,” he says. “Regent has been the perfect place for my family and me.”
* Law School Survey of Student Engagement, 2012