Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Academic and Bar Support Scholarship Spotlight

First, a big thank you and congrats to those who planned, attended, and/ or presented at last week's Annual AASE Conference.  To say it was a great event would be an understatement.  

As for the scholarship spotlight, we have a lot of ground to cover.  Please see below.  

1.    Patrick Meyer (UDM), Adding Legal Research to the Bar Exam: What Would The Exercise Look Like, 53 Akron L. Rev. 109 (2019, posted 2022).

Various authors have criticized the current bar exam format and have offered meaningful suggested changes. This article will focus on deficiencies pertaining to a lack of legal research readiness in the practice of law: A recent study found that 45% of a new attorney’s time will be spent researching. The authors of the MacCrate Report found ten practice skills that are “essential for competent representation,” which are universally referred to as Fundamental Lawyering Skills. One of the ten Fundamental Lawyering Skills is legal research. The report states that “if anything, the bar examination discourages” the teaching of lawyering skills in law school. My proposal is to add an interactive legal research exercise to the MPT, meaning that applicants would have to conduct research in one or more databases to answer questions. By making the exercise interactive, other Fundamental Lawyering Skills will be tested, as explained in this article.

2.     Christine A. Corcos (LSU), Legal Uncertainties: COVID-19, Distance Learning, Bar Exams, and the Future of U.S. Legal Education, 8 Canadian J. of Compar. & Contemp. L. 1 (2022).

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the U.S. legal academy and legal profession to make changes to legal education and training very rapidly in order to accommodate the needs of students, graduates, practitioners, clients, and the public. Like most of the public, members of the profession assumed that most, if not all, of the changes would be temporary, and life would return to a pre-pandemic normal.

These assumed temporary changes included a rapid and massive shift to online teaching for legal education, to online administration of the bar exam in some jurisdictions, or the option to offer the diploma privilege in others. Many employers made efforts to accommodate new law graduates and employees who needed to work from home.

As legal educators and the legal profession shift back to ‘normal’, we are now discovering that some of these changes might be rather desirable. Thus, we can begin to look at the last two years as an opportunity to re-evaluate how we teach and learn law and how we might evaluate the competence of those entering the profession in different ways. As we move forward, instead of automatically readopting to the status quo, we can instead examine approaches that would allow us to make headway on solving problems that have been with us for decades.

3.    Christopher Birdsall (Boise State) & Seth Gershenson (American University), The Pro Bono Penalty: Extracurricular Activities and Demographic Disparities in Bar Exam Success, posted to SSRN 19 May 2022.

Demographic disparities in bar exam pass rates are problematic but poorly understood. We investigate a possible explanation: participation in extracurricular activities, which could either distract from bar exam preparation or motivate and prepare students to succeed. Generally, participation in extracurricular activities while in law school does not play a large role in bar exam success. However, there is a significant, arguably causal, penalty associated with one particular activity–pro bono work–most notably in lower-ranked law schools. This penalty is sizable: pro bono work is associated with a 5 percentage point (6%) decrease in the chances of passing the bar exam on the first attempt. This penalty is largest for Black and female students and may explain as much as 20% of the Black-white gap in first-attempt bar pass rates.

4.    Edwin S. Fruehwald, A Companion to Torts: Thinking Like A Torts Lawyer, Chapter One, posted to SSRN 27 May 2022. 

The goal of this book is to teach law students to think like torts lawyers. Thinking like a lawyer means solving a problem to produce a legal solution. This process involves using several types of reasoning in combination, including synthesis (synthesizing rules; inductive reasoning), rule-based reasoning (deductive reasoning), analogical reasoning (reasoning by precedent), distinguishing cases (the opposite of reasoning by analogy), policy-based reasoning, and creativity. A torts lawyer uses these reasoning methods to solve torts problems. This book will 2 include a variety of torts exercises on the different types of legal reasoning to achieve the goal of teaching students to think like torts lawyers.

5.    Andrele Brutus St. Val (Pittsburgh), Survey Says—How to Engage Law Students in the Online Learning Environment, 70 J. Legal Educ. __ (2021).  (H/t, TaxProf Blog).

The pandemic experience has made it clear that not everyone loves teaching or learning remotely. Many professors and students alike are eager to return to the classroom. However, our experiences over the last year and a half have also demonstrated the potentials and possibilities of learning online and have caused many professors to recalibrate their approaches to digital learning. While the tools for online learning were available well before March of 2020, many instructors are only now beginning to capitalize on their potential. The author of this article worked in online legal education before the pandemic, utilizing these tools and exploring ways to make the online experience more effective. This article is the result of her research on online legal education prior to the pandemic, which sheds light on future possibilities for online learning in law schools in post-pandemic times.

The discussion explores various engagement strategies used by online legal educators, assesses students’ perceptions of those strategies, and examines these findings against the backdrop of existing learning theories. The article contributes to the scholarly literature on legal education and pedagogy by tying empirical evidence of student learning preferences to educational theory and identifying concrete strategies for increasing law student engagement and enjoyment.

[Louis Schulze, FIU Law]


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