Mock Law Class: Version 2021

With a random number generator in hand, Val Ricks, Professor at South Texas College of Law, introduced himself to 16 pre-law students who registered to attend a virtual Mock Law School class on March 3, 2021. The class was taught by Professor Val Ricks, whose qualifications include a Juris Doctorate from Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, legal work as an associate attorney with Kirton & McConkle, and almost 25 years teaching at South Texas College of Law. The Mock Law School class is a unique partnership between SHSU’s Center for Law, Engagement, And Politics and South Texas College of Law.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, South Texas College of Law, Professor Val Ricks, Pre-Law

The students came to class prepared; they had already read and briefed the case which involved a contract dispute between the singer Mariah Carey and her stepfather. After Professor Ricks recited the facts of the case, he used the random number generator to select a student to discuss the legal issue of the case. Employing the Socratic Method of questioning, Professor Ricks skillfully led the pre-law students through the analysis of the legal issues in the case, the rule of law, and how the court applied the rule of law.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, South Texas College of Law, Professor Val Ricks, Pre-Law

In evaluating the Class, several students commented that the Mock Law School Class gave them an opportunity to experience the real feel of law school while still being an undergraduate. Jessica Cuevas was grateful for the “amazing opportunity for a glance into the future of how my law school experience may be like regarding study habits and classroom settings. Attending the Mock Law Class solidified my decision to attend law school.”

In working through the logic of the Mariah Carey case, Professor Ricks homed in on some specific word choices in the opinion and mentioned synonyms for the legal terms. In this way, Ricks alluded to how language and law are closely linked.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, South Texas College of Law, Professor Val Ricks, Pre-Law

After discussing the case, Professor Ricks asked some thought-provoking questions regarding the policies underlying the rule of law in the case and whether the court reached the correct result. In addition, like a question on a final law school exam, Ricks presented a hypothetical set of facts and asked the class to analyze the issue of the hypothetical based on the facts. Then, using the Mariah Carey case as precedent, he asked how a court would rule on the issue in the hypothetical case and what reasoning the court would use.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, South Texas College of Law, Professor Val Ricks, Pre-Law

Professor Ricks followed up with some valuable advice for the pre-law students. He explained that law school is about studying old settled law so that as a practicing attorney, you have confidence in applying the law correctly to new fact patterns presented by clients. He suggested that students in law school take the Socratic questioning by law professors in class as a challenge and an opportunity to have a conversation with the professor. Ricks emphasized that the process of learning the law and applying it is more important than the specific legal cases. Yvette Mendoza commented, “ I loved this last part of the class because I was able to ask the law professor questions about law school.”

Professor Ricks advised the students of the importance of clearing everything off their calendar and devoting time to law school, especially in the first year of law school. Ruona Odharo asked a question about paying for law school. Ricks pointed out that South Texas College of Law strives to keep tuition as low as possible.

In response to Yvette Mendoza’s question on whether a student needs to go to a prestigious law school to get a good legal job, Ricks said that every law school teaches the same material using the Socratic Method, and that “excellence depends on you.” A great lawyer can come from any law school.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, South Texas College of Law, Professor Val Ricks, Pre-Law

Learning the Law–Mock Law Class with Professor Val Ricks

Every Spring, the Center for Law, Engagement, and Politics invites Professor Val Ricks to teach a Mock Law class on the SHSU Campus. He teaches a class on contract law exactly as he teaches it down in his own classroom at South Texas College of Law in Houston. Students that sign up are emailed the cases about a week before the class and are expected to read and brief them by class time. Professor Ricks teaches the class using the Socratic method, a form of interlocutory discussion, which is commonly used in law schools to develop critical thinking in students.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Pre-Law, South Texas College of Law, STCL, Professor Val Ricks, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

The lesson focused on the concept of consideration and how it is an essential element of every contract. We learned all about how both parties in an agreement must each offer something in exchange for the agreement to be considered valid.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Pre-Law, South Texas College of Law, STCL, Professor Val Ricks, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

We answered questions about the facts of the case and discussed several different scenarios in which consideration from one of the parties in an agreement was lacking and how it affected the ruling in each case.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Pre-Law, South Texas College of Law, STCL, Professor Val Ricks, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

It was a unique opportunity for many of the students who had never been exposed to law school to experience what it’s like inside a law classroom.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Pre-Law, South Texas College of Law, STCL, Professor Val Ricks, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

Toward the end of class, Professor Ricks invited anyone who had questions to approach him and ask, to which many students did.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Pre-Law, South Texas College of Law, STCL, Professor Val Ricks, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

Before bidding us goodbye, he shared that we performed about as well as his usual first-year students that he teaches down in Houston. As a group, we thanked him for making the drive up to Huntsville and expressed hope that he’d join us again next spring.

Mock Law Class Comes to SHSU

The LEAP center partnered with South Texas College of Law from Houston to offer a Mock Law Class for SHSU students. Prior to the class, students were sent the case reading and expected to be ready to analyze the cases in class just as actual law students at South Texas College of Law (STCL) would do.

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In fact, Professor Val Ricks–who taught the class–teaches at STCL.  He began class with open-ended questions to lead the discussion toward the rules of each case. He then let students guide themselves through their answers, although he was quick to question–and correct them–when needed.

Professor Val Ricks
                         Professor Val Ricks

The Mock Law Class gave students a clear idea on the structure and expectations of law school. Additionally, students realized the importance of reading prior to class and being prepared for discussion. Professor Val Ricks and STCL Admissions Coordinator, Ms. Denee Page, were also available to answer student’s questions after the class. Students took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the law school admissions process and the philosophies of South Texas’s College of Law.

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This event helped students gain a greater understanding of the reality and rigor of law school. For many, the Mock Law Class helped give a sense of direction for students on how to begin their law school journey. Many thanks to Professor Val Ricks and Ms. Denee Page for helping SHSU students learn and helping them prepare for their next steps toward a career in law.