Monday, January 11, 2010

Will the focus on learning outcomes help skills courses like legal writing?

The Chronicle of Higher Ed is reporting on the current movement towards "outcome assessments" in law school and the pressure that's being placed on law schools to produce students who have the skills employers want:

[S]upporters of the proposed revisions said law schools can no longer afford to churn out graduates who lack the skills employers want, especially when jobs are so hard to come by.

The blog Law Shucks reported last week that 12,196 people were laid off at 138 large law firms in 2009, the worst year ever for such layoffs. The job cuts included 4,633 lawyers and 7,563 staff workers.

. . . .

Among those who support [outcome assessments] is James G. Leipold, executive director of NALP: the Association for Legal Career Professionals. He said hiring partners at law firms regularly complain to him that they have to spend too much time training new associates in skills they haven't learned in law school. But he added that there is a natural tension between legal educators who favor a more theoretical-based legal education and those who are increasingly pushing for a more skills-based curriculum.

NALP, which was previously known as the National Association for Law Placement, held a round-table discussion last month in which Phillip A. Bradley, senior vice president and general counsel for Duane Reade, a large drugstore chain, likened law schools to car companies that are "manufacturing something that nobody wants."

Mr. Bradley said many law firms are developing core competencies they expect of their lawyers, but many law schools aren't delivering graduates who come close to meeting them.

"Some law schools are of the view that delivering law graduates who have been trained 'to think like a lawyer' is sufficient. It is then the law firm's responsibility to train the law graduate to 'be a lawyer,'" Mr. Bradley said in an e-mail message to The Chronicle.

In this market, clients are less willing to pay law firms the high prices they charge, in part to cover the firms' staff training costs, he wrote. He said appropriately designed outcomes testing could help firms identify graduates who are ready to hit the ground running.

With the exception of the elite schools, in this ferociously competitive market, if a dean wants employers to hire her students, her school is going to have to do more to train students to meet employers' expectations.  Otherwise those employers will look elsewhere.

You can read the rest here.

I am the scholarship dude.'


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