Tuesday, September 5, 2006

How Successful Law Students Read Judicial Opinions

A important new working paper by Leah M. Christensen, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, examines the differences in the way high performing and low performing law students read legal texts.  The article, "Legal Reading and Success in Law School:  An Empirical Study," will be published in the Seattle University Law Review this spring.  Below is an abstract of the article, and you can click on its title above to access the paper itself in the SSRN Electronic Paper Collection.  This paper is a must read for those of us in Academic Support. (dbw)

Abstract: Does the way in which law students read legal text impact their success? This
article describes important new research on how law students read legal text. This study
examined the way in which first year law students in the top and bottom 50% of their
class read a judicial opinion and whether their use of particular reading strategies
impacts their law school grades. The results were significant: even when students had
gone through the same first-semester classes, the more successful law students read a
judicial opinion differently than those students who were less successful. In addition,
there is a correlation between the reading strategies of the top law students and their
first-semester grades. This article describes the results of the study using both empirical
data and actual student transcripts to show how the most successful law students read
legal text. This article also offers practical suggestions for legal educators to help
students learn to internalize the most useful and efficient reading strategies.


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