History of the Legal Practice Center

Historical highlights:

The development of practical skills education at William Mitchell


A distinguished group of St. Paul lawyers incorporated what was then the St. Paul College of Law and launched a night law school program.


United Charities of St. Paul established a legal clinic in cooperation with the St. Paul College of Law to train students in case work and trial preparation.


Minneapolis College of Law (another William Mitchell predecessor school) was the only U.S. law school offering a four-year course in court practice.


The predecessor Minneapolis law schools merged and became the Minneapolis-Minnesota College of Law, which continued to recognize the value of practical experiences in legal education.


The Minneapolis-Minnesota College of Law was renamed after Minnesota Justice William Mitchell.

1959–early 1960s

Mitchell began offering a Seminar on Legal Writing and a Legal Drafting course.


Elective skills courses such as the Poverty Law Seminar and the Trial Advocacy Seminar offered.


Rosalie Wahl and Professor Roger S. Haydock develop and lead the law school’s new law clinic. Professor Roger Haydock, with the advice and consent of Dean Doug Heidenreich, buys a reel-to-reel video machine and proceeds to make short taped lawyering skills examples for his clinic class. He also begins to videotape students’ skills exercise performances and use the tape for instant feedback.


Faculty revise and expand the skills curriculum to better prepare students for clinical fieldwork with clients, making . Trial Advocacy and other simulation courses prerequisites for enrolling in a clinic.

Legal Assistance to Minnesota Prisoners (LAMP) clinic started.


William Mitchell’s Trial Advocacy course wins the national Emil Gumpert Award for Excellence in Teaching Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers.


Professor John Sonsteng and Roger Haydock create and lead the Legal Practicum Program where students work as a four-person law firm handling a series of simulated cases under the guidance of a full-time faculty and tutors.


The “Lawyering” skills course is added,

created by combining aspects of Trial Advocacy and Civil Practice.

Classroom instruction and small group simulation exercises introduce students to the skills needed to interview and counsel clients, to negotiate, and to work as advocates in court and administrative settings.


Faculty again rethink and redesign the required skills curriculum in order to send graduates into practice with exposure to the basics of client representation and advoccacy. The first-year course, Writing and Representation: Advice and Persuasion (WRAP), and second- or third-year Advocacy course are phased in, replacing the Legal Research and Writing and Lawyering Course. Interviewing, counseling, negotiation, and mediation are now taught in the first year alongside the research and writing course. The upper-level required course, Advocacy, again focuses on the skills of persuading others to act in a client’s interest, whether through litigation or alternative means.


The Re-Entry Clinic, serving women leaving the state women’s prison in Shakopee, Minnesota, and the Intellectual Property Clinic added.



Professors Haydock and Sonsteng: Innovators of Practical Legal Education

View an interactive timeline of their careers at William Mitchell and video tribute to these pioneering professors



Rosalie Wahl

Justice Rosalie E. Wahl ’67

The center was named in honor of retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Rosalie E. Wahl ’67, one of the founders of William Mitchell’s clinic program in 1973. Justice Wahl was the first woman to be appointed to the state’s highest court. In her 17 years on the bench, she earned a reputation as the voice for those living on the edges of society—the poor, the accused, and the powerless. She is nationally recognized as a pioneer in legal education.