Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Academic and Bar Support Scholarship Spotlight

Before I get started, let me take a moment to encourage readers to send me their scholarship or the works of others you have found helpful.    

This week in Academic/ Bar Support scholarship:

1.  Benjamin Afton Cavanaugh (St. Mary's), Testing Privilege: Coaching Bar Testing Privilege: Coaching Bar Takers Towards “Minimum Competency” During the 2020 Pandemic, 23 THE SCHOLAR 357 (2021).

From the article:

Part I of this paper provides an overview of the history of the bar exam and its role in acting as a significant obstacle to licensure for people from communities of color. Though this issue was discussed long before 2020, this paper also looks at the way in which the pandemic’s impact on
the bar exam highlighted the fact that the bar exam tests the privilege of its individual applicants at least as much as it tests their skills. 

Part II presents an approach to helping graduates prepare for and overcome the bar exam even when the odds are seemingly stacked against their success. It delves into the unique advantage that intensive coaching provides over more generalized guidance on bar success. The success and challenges of this method of assistance will be analyzed with an eye towards how other law schools looking to adopt a similar program might go about mitigating the challenges faced by their students in attempting to pass the bar exam.

Finally, this paper explores how Raise the Bar served as an important support for bar takers in an unprecedented time of crisis. Until the problems posed by the bar exam can be resolved, it is incumbent upon law schools to assist their students in overcoming the bar exam barrier.

2.  Marsha Griggs (Washburn), Race, Rules, and Disregarded Reality, 82 Ohio State L. J. __ (forthcoming 2021).

From the abstract:

Exploring issues of racial bias and social injustice in the law school classroom is a modern imperative. Yet, important conversations about systemic inequality in the law and legal profession are too often dissociated from core doctrinal courses and woodenly siloed to the periphery of the curriculum. This dissociation creates a paradigm of irrelevancy by omission that disregards the realities of the lived experiences of our students and the clients they will ultimately serve. Using Evidence as a launch pad, Professor Deborah Merritt has paved a pathway to incorporate these disregarded realities in doctrinal teaching. This important pathway leads to safe spaces necessary for both faculty and students to explore the historical context of racial subordination in law. Professor Merritt’s disruptive pedagogy upends the casebook method of law school teaching. Her groundbreaking “uncasebook” has prompted deeper thinking about the meaning, purpose, and role of law. This Article serves dual aims. First, it lauds Professor Merritt’s career-long commitment to the goals of equity and inclusion in law teaching and the legal profession. Second, it complements the existing discourse on the role of race and the record of racial disparity in the Rules of Evidence by adding the personal narrative of an outgroup insider. We can do more to promote equity and inclusion in the law school classroom. This Article offers a revealing example of why we must.

3.  Jamie R. Abrams (Louisville), Legal Education's Curricular Tipping Point Toward Inclusive Socratic Teaching, 49 Hofstra L. Rev. 897 (2021).

From the abstract:

Two seismic curricular disruptions create a tipping point for legal education to reform and transform. COVID-19 abruptly disrupted the delivery of legal education. It aligned with a tectonic racial justice reckoning, as more professors and institutions reconsidered their content and classroom cultures, allying with faculty of color who had long confronted these issues actively. The frenzy of these dual disruptions starkly contrasts with the steady drumbeat of critical legal scholars advocating for decades to reduce hierarchies and inequalities in legal education pedagogy.

This context presents a tipping point supporting two pedagogical reforms that leverage this unique moment. First, it is time to abandon the presumptive reverence and implicit immunity given to problematic Socratic teaching despite the harms and inadequacies of such performances. Professor Kingsfield depicted an archetype of Socratic teaching where the professor wields power over students instead of wielding knowledge to empower students. He used strategic tools of humiliation, degradation, mockery, fear, and shame. Socratic performances that are professor-centered and power-centered do not merit the reverence and immunity they still receive after decades of sound critiques. This critique is framed as a call to “cancel Kingsfield.” Socratic teaching can (must) be performed inclusively. This Article proposes a set of shared Socratic values that are student-centered, skills-centered, client-centered, and community-centered.

Second, this Article proposes refining law school accreditation standards to ensure that students achieve learning outcomes equitably in inclusive classrooms. Accreditation reforms cannot happen around the architectural perimeter of legal education. Nor can reforms be implemented solely in episodic siloes by staff, external speakers, or even robust seminar courses. Rather, accreditation standards need to hold institutions accountable to measuring learning outcomes and addressing identified disparities and inadequacies in the curricular core of legal education.

L. Schulze (FIU Law)


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