Transition to Practice


6 credit hours
Satisfies Professional Responsibility Requirement
(Students who have already taken Professional Responsibility are not eligible)

Limited Enrollment
Application Required

Course Website:

Semester: Fall 2015
Wed 8:40 - 10:20 Fri 9:00 - 12:50

Not offered Fall 2016 or Spring 2017

Fundamentals of Law Practice, a 4 credit version of this course that does NOT satisfy the professional responsibility requirement and is open to both 2L and 3L students will be offered in Spring 2017
Student comments about Fundamentals of Law Practice

"This has been one of the most awesome experiences I have ever had. I have been on military combat training missions, and this class provides the same level of excitement."
"This will be one of the memorable classes of all time."
"One of the most valuable things that I have received educationally in law school."
"The practical experience is what I wanted ... and it was exactly what I received."
"Overall a great experience. I would definitely recommend it, and in fact already have."
"What makes this class so great is that you're doing REAL work -- helping real people with real problems."
"The practical aspect of this course is amazing."
"I saw a new vision for what being a practicing lawyer can be."
"Fieldwork observation was awesome."
"I would MOST CERTAINLY recommend this course to others. I cannot explain how valuable this course is !!!!!!!!"


Clark D. Cunningham
W. Lee Burge Professor of Law & Ethics
Tiffany Williams Roberts
Adjunct Professor of Law
and Deputy Director,
National Institute for Teaching Ethics & Professionalism
Kate Gaffney, Staff Attorney
Legal Aid of Cobb County
Last updated March 20, 2016
Copyright © 2016

If you are interested in Transition to Practice, which will NOT be offered in Fall 2016 or Spring 2017, please visit the course website of Fundamentals of Law Practice, offered in Spring 2017, by clicking here.

Course Description

This course provides an accelerated transition to practice for law students in the midpoint of their law school experience by teaching fundamental knowledge, skills and values needed to begin a legal career in a wide variety of settings. Students will learn how to handle a case from initial client meeting through conclusion of representation, first with a simulated case using on-line practice management software and in-class role plays, and then by representing actual domestic violence victims to obtain orders of protection in Superior Court. Students will also learn about managing a law firm through both classroom instruction and fieldwork with a private attorney working in a practice area of interest to them.  Students will become competent in interpreting and applying the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct in real-life situations and will understand the attorney discipline system in Georgia as well as basic common law principles arising from malpractice and attorney disqualification decisions. Significant differences between the Georgia and ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct will be covered.  This course satisfies the Professional Responsibility requirement.

This course does not count against the credit hour cap for externship courses. This is a limited enrollment course and permission of the instructors, based on the application, is required for registration.

The course has four inter-related components:

1) Client Representation Case Work: Under the supervision of the course instructors, students will represent persons seeking Orders of Protection against domestic violence from the Cobb County Superior Court, located in downtown Marietta. At present court hearings take place on Friday mornings but students must indicate on their application willingness to go to court on other days if the court schedule changes. Under the new Student Practice Rule, adopted by the Georgia Supreme Court on March 12, 2015, students will be eligible tor all forms of supervised student practice, including appearing in court, after completing two semesters (or the part-time equivalent). Student performance will be evaluated against the requirements of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct and as to students' effective use of case management practices in the conducting of their cases. It is planned that every student will have at least two cases during the semester. Each case is a very short-term but intensive clinical experience typically lasting less than 2 weeks from initial client interview to court hearing. Students may need to conduct client meetings, team meetings, fact investigation and other case-related tasks outside of the scheduled class times for this course and will need to adjust non-law school related responsibilities to meet these obligations.

2) Fieldwork: Each student conducts fieldwork with a private attorney working in a field of interest to the student. The student conducts an initial interview and then observes the attorney in practice on at least two occasions. This is fieldwork, not an externship, and the student does not do work for the attorney. The instructors are responsible for arranging the fieldwork placement. Students should NOT attempt to arrange their own placement in advance, although students are invited to submit names of possible placement attorneys. The fieldwork placement cannot be with a current or past employer or a family member. Students will write a report in which the student provides a description of the realities of the fieldwork attorney's practice and answers the following questions, with reference to specific examples and quotations drawn from the field work:
1. What is it like to manage a law practice?
2. What is required to start and sustain a law practice?
3. What knowledge, skills, and professional qualities should a law student aim to acquire for managing a law practice?
4. How can law school better assist law students to acquire such knowledge, skills and professional qualities?

3) Professional Responsibility: Students take this course instead of a section of Professional Responsibility or The Client Relationship. Students will learn how the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct apply in in real life, drawing from observation of the fieldwork attorney's practice and from
their domestic violence client representation as well as the experience of their classmates. Domestic violence cases will be planned, analyzed and debriefed in class.

4) Course Portfolio: Students will have free access to a leading, web-based practice management software called Clio ( and are required to use this software throughout the semester to record all the time expended for the course and to use the other features of the software for time and task management for their fieldwork and client representation work. Students will compile a printed portfolio of all their work in the course from the Clio data base (excluding their client representation case work, which is separately evaluated) and be graded based on their competent and thorough use of the software and the diligence of their course work as recorded in Clio.

Final Exam: The final examination will count for 20% of the course grade and will be a two-hour closed book multiple choice exam consisting of 40 questions. Students need to know the content of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct specifically assigned on the course syllabus (including the comments) but are not expected to identify them by rule number. If  asked to compare a specific Georgia rule with an ABA model rule, the text of the ABA model rule will be attached to the exam. Except for such comparison questions, exam questions that refer to a specific rule will provide a description of the topic of the rule rather than the rule number (e.g. "the Georgia rule of professional conduct for lawyers who represent corporations" rather than "GRPC 1.13"). 

Some of the questions will be MPRE type questions that ask students to apply the rules of professional conduct to a hypothetical fact pattern. Some questions will test knowledge and comprehension of court decisions and other materials assigned for reading. Some of the questions may be based on fact patterns from class simulations and role plays and from domestic violence cases discussed in class and will focus on issues of ethical decisionmaking and professional judgment.

The final exam will contain the following instructions:
No notes or outlines. No copy of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct or the ABA Model Code or Model Rules other than the ABA Model Rules which are attached to the end of this exam.

Assume the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct of Professional Conduct apply. MUST, REQUIRED, PROHIBITED or SUBJECT TO DISCIPLINE asks whether the conduct referred to or described in the question subjects the attorney to discipline under one or more provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct. MAY, PERMITTED OR PROPER asks whether the conduct referred to or described in the question is professionally appropriate in that it would not subject the attorney to discipline under one or more provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct

The course grade will be calculated as follows:
Professional Responsibility in-class quizzes: 10%*
Professional Responsibility final exam (2 hours/multiple choice): 20%*
Client Representation Casework: 25%
Fieldwork Report: 25%
Course Portfolio (use of Clio and written class assignments): 20%
  * The raw score on the final exam and total of quiz scores will be converted into letter grades using the mandatory curve for professional responsibility courses (the class average must fall between 2.9 and 3.1). The other components of the course grade and the final course grade will not be calculated on a curve.


Clark D. Cunningham
Office: Law School 442
Phone: (404) 413-9168
Fax: (404) 413-9225
Faculty Assistant: Karen P. Butler
    Room 402   (404) 413-9082
Kate Gaffney, Staff Attorney
Legal Aid of Cobb County
30 South Park Square, Suite 101
Marietta, GA 30060-8613
Tiffany Williams Roberts, Deputy Director
National Institute for Teaching Ethics & Professionalism (NIFTEP)
Office: Law School 462

Phone: (404) 413-9178
Law Firm Website: