Thursday, December 17, 2009

Does reforming law school curriculum to focus on practice skills lead to increased applicants?

There's an article in today's online ABA Journal discussing the departure after three years of Washington & Lee Dean Rod Smolla for Furman College where he'll serve as president.  The article mentions the curriculum reforms that Dean Smolla implemented which place a heavy emphasis on preparing students to actually practice law.  (We'd previously blogged about the curriculum changes at W & L here and here).  The reforms "eliminate traditional coursework and [focus]  on the practice of law through simulated or real-work situations. More than 50 percent of Washington & Lee’s 3L’s are participating in the currently optional program, which will become mandatory in 2011."

The ABA story states that the curriculum changes have accounted for a 33% increase in applicants this fall.  While the school claims there's a connection between its newly revamped curriculum and an increase in applications, other factors could also explain the change including the poor economy which has led to a significant increase in the number of applications at many law schools.  But it would be nice to think that the applicant market responds this favorably to a school that emphasizes practice skills as much as W & L.  If you know of any other schools that report similar results from implementing a practice-oriented curriculum, please let us know in the comments below.

I am the scholarship dude.


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