Monday, June 25, 2012

A preview of the ABA report on trends in law school curricula

The full report, A Survey of Law School Curricula: 2002–2010, won't be released by the ABA Curriculum Committee on until next month but the June issue of Bar Examiner Magazine has got a preview from the committee chair, Professor Catherine L. Carpenter (Southwestern). First, a brief description of the survey itself by Professor Carpenter.

A Survey of Law School Curricula: 2002–2010, . . . . offers comprehensive statistical information on significant aspects of current law school curricula as well as comparative curricular information from that time period.  The 2010 Survey is the result of a two-year project conducted by the Curriculum Committee of the American
Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar at the request of Hulett (Bucky) Askew, ABA Consultant on Legal Education. The Survey also serves as a follow-up to its predecessor published in 2004, A Survey of Law School Curricula: 1992–2002, which offered comparative curricular information from that decade.

And here is a summary of some of the key findings related to legal skills training according to the committee chair:

Producing Practice-Ready Professionals

In growing numbers, law schools reported that curricular changes were impelled by the desire to produce practice-ready professionals. This commitment
has taken many forms, including redesigned courses that emphasize legal writing, an increase in professional skills offerings, and retooled courses that boast integrated doctrine and skills. Included within this overarching commitment are two thematic

Rise in Prominence of Legal Research and Writing

One emerging story from the 2010 Survey is the continued rise in prominence of Legal Research and Writing. Under the traditional model described by Donald Jackson and E. Gordon Gee in their 1975 pioneering study on law school curricula, Legal Research and Writing was a first-year course designed with a narrow curricular view and afforded an average of two units. The 2002 Survey observed changes to
that model, with law schools affording on average three or four units and broadening the course’s scope to include persuasive writing.
By 2010, law schools had reported even greater change. Many law schools were now providing first-year Legal Research and Writing five or six units and had expanded the subject matter of the course to include lawyering skills beyond traditional advocacy. Additionally, in response to the criticism that the upper-division curriculum was filled with knowledge-based courses to the exclusion of professional skills offerings, respondents reported adding upper-division Legal Research and Writing courses to augment lawyering skills taught in the curriculum.
Commitment to Professional Skills Education and Professionalism
Law schools reported an abiding commitment to professional skills education, and that commitment can be seen in recently retooled and redesigned professional skills training with increased live-client clinical opportunities and externship placements,
the introduction of professional skills into existing doctrinal courses, and the addition of separate labor-intensive professional skills offerings. Survey
respondents reported offering a variety of professional skills courses, and half noted offering 10 or more courses in 2010.
While certain courses such as Trial Advocacy and Alternative Dispute Resolution were widely offered in both 2002 and 2010, other courses grew in popularity. Between 2002 and 2010, Appellate Advocacy grew from 77% in 2002 to 89% in 2010; Arbitration from 50% in 2002 to 60% in 2010; and Interviewing and Counseling from 59% in 2002 to 73% in 2010.
And in concert is the increased emphasis on professionalism and professional identity. Respondents noted new courses or components to existing courses on professionalism that were offered not only in the upper division but also in the first year, in an effort to expose students earlier to the various roles and obligations of attorneys. Additionally, by 2010, several law schools had created professional development centers and institutes to address the roles and obligations of the legal profession.
Academic Support and Bar Readiness
Many law schools reported that, since 2002, they had instituted new academic support or bar preparation courses and programs. Aware of the external pressures
associated with the cost of legal education and the changing job market, respondents wrote that they had designed and developed bar preparation courses and enhanced academic support offerings to increase their students’ chances of success in law
school and on the bar examination.
As of 2010, nearly all respondents provided academic support, in the form of either a program, a course, or both, and nearly three-fourths of respondents offered academic support services to both firstyear and upper-division students. If the program was offered to one group only, that one group was overwhelmingly likely to be first-year students.
In addition to academic support offerings, nearly half the respondents indicated that by 2010, they offered a bar preparation course for credit. This number of bar preparation courses for credit may be tied quite directly to the repeal in 2008 of ABA Standard 302, Interpretation 302-7, which severely restricted the use of bar preparation courses for credit.
The range of topics in bar preparation courses included multistate essay, multistate multiple-choice, multistate practice/performance, multistate professional
responsibility, and state essay—with the most popular topics being multistate multiple-choice and state essay. For most law schools, the course was voluntary. . . .  [i]n two-thirds of the bar preparation courses, full-time faculty resources were used to teach the courses—either alone or in combination with adjunct faculty resources.

Read the full summary by clicking right here.


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