In the legal world, how things work in theory isn't always how they play out in practice.

That's one reason University of Virginia School of Law professors often team up with outside legal experts to teach January Term courses. This year's J-Term offerings, one-credit short courses that began Jan. 8 and continue through Jan. 22, feature first-hand insights in diverse areas of practice — from setting the foundation for a startup company to navigating the framework of the health care marketplace.

Here are seven J-Term classes that provide the latest legal knowledge from the trenches.

Building the Rule of Law

How do less-developed countries and nations in transition, independently or with outside assistance, facilitate the rule of law? This seminar, taught by Abraham Sutherland and UVA Law professor Michael Gilbert, explores that question through the writings and experience of scholars, policymakers and others working in the field of law and development. Sutherland was the State Department's rule of law adviser in northeast Afghanistan's Kunar Province from 2009-12. Gilbert is an expert in democratic processes and judicial decision-making. More

This course, taught by Hunter Hughes '70 and UVA Law professor Greg Mitchell, discusses the settlement of disputes from legal, psychological and practical perspectives. Hughes has successfully served as a mediator in numerous class actions, including the Publix class action, which was the largest certified employment class action in the country, the Home Depot and Winn Dixie class actions, and the Burlington Northern genetic testing litigation. Mitchell's scholarship focuses on legal judgment and decision-making, the psychology of justice, and the application of social science to legal theory and policy.

Judicial Philosophy in Theory and Practice

One of the most important roles of an attorney is to convince judges to rule for her client. An exceptional attorney tries to understand how a judge thinks before she sits down to write a brief or makes an argument. This course, taught by U.S. Federal Judge Amul Thapar and UVA Law professor emeritus Lillian BeVier, introduces students to the art of judging. Thapar presides in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. BeVier taught constitutional law (with special emphasis on First Amendment issues), intellectual property, real property and torts from 1973-2010 at the Law School. More

Applied Problem Solving

This course, taught by Jack Esterhay '06 and Vice Dean George Geis, surveys applied problem-solving concepts that can be used to find the optimal solution to a given business opportunity or challenge. The course culminates in a live presentation to a panel of distinguished business executives. Esteray is a private equity professional at Quad-C Management, where he focuses on portfolio company operations in business services, consumer, general industrial, health care, specialty distribution and logistics. Previously, Esterhay was an executive director at JPMorgan Chase, where he led company strategy, operational improvement and corporate development initiatives. Geis' scholarship focuses on problems related to contract theory, business alliances, shareholder litigation, and other issues involving the intersection of law and business.

Health Care Marketplace: Competition, Regulation and Reform

Taught by Walter Thomas McGough '78 and UVA Law professor Mimi Riley, this course examines salient features of the legal and economic framework in which medical care is provided in the United States. McGough is senior vice president and chief legal officer of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's 20-hospital, not-for-profit health system and a former partner at Reed Smith. Riley teaches and writes about health care law, biomedical research and health disparities, among other topics. She serves as chair of UVA's Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee and as legal adviser to the Health Sciences Institutional Review Board.


Lawyers of all practice areas are called upon regularly to persuade clients, colleagues and decision-makers both in and out of court by using verbal presentation skills, and this course offers a quick but intensive training in effective verbal communications. The class is taught by Ben Cooper '11, a trial lawyer with the Columbus litigation boutique Cooper & Elliott, and UVA Law professors Robert Sayler and Molly Shadel, who teach rhetoric at the law school and co-authored the book "Tongue-Tied America: Reviving the Art of Verbal Persuasion."

Legal Practice and the Startup Company: An Inside Look

This course, taught by Rob Masri '96 and UVA Law professor Quinn Curtis, provides students with insight into the many aspects of a startup business — from creation and capitalization to intellectual property protection and skills needed for day-to-day operations. Masri is an attorney and entrepreneur who has started several businesses, including Cardagin Networks Inc., a mobile marketing company that helps businesses build loyalty and customer rewards programs. He also directs the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic at UVA. Curtis teaches corporations, securities and real estate law, and his research focuses on empirical law and finance. More

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.