Monday, February 13, 2023

37 Pages of Love

I have spent the last few months helping to draft an internal document for my law school that is supposed to evaluate the current state of the entire upper-level curriculum and make some recommendations based on those assessments. I will preface my list below by stating that my school has been amazingly cognizant of the issues we’ve raised, but my little committee also did some outside research that identified these general issues. Writing this report has been both an overwhelming and incredibly nebulous task, but here are some things I’ve learned on the way to dropping off those 37 pages of love off to the higher powers:

  1. Some of our recommendations aren’t going to matter much if the NextGen bar exam is adopted by our state bar. No one will need to take Secured Transactions anymore….
  2. Students in academic distress will tend to stay there (Newton’s Law of Academic Warning?) because while we are (understandably) concerned about them passing the bar, we are sending them to classes that are quite similar to the ones that caused the initial distress. More big classes where the curve is required are not the answer to doing poorly in big classes where the curve is required. It is like giving students who are stuck in a ditch a shovel rather than a ladder.
  3. We should try to ensure that every student, and especially those in academic distress, has as many different types of legal instruction as possible: doctrinal, skills-based, experiential, transactional, etc. Students who are limited will not see themselves as lawyers, just mediocre law students. This isn’t good for their confidence while still in law school and it could honestly exacerbate mental health issues. If a large class, with a curved exam, that employs lectures doesn’t work for a student, why make that a big chunk of what they need to take to continue in law school?
  4. Smaller classes would most likely benefit both students and faculty. I think this is particularly true of classes required for students in academic difficulty, but I do not want my report to be the reason our Dean is sneaking out of the building to buy lottery tickets. Sure, more funding for all of this would be great, but then law school tuition would be out of reach for most and that is exactly what we are trying to avoid.
  5. While writing this report was time-consuming and sometimes frustrating, it is worthwhile to take the time to see where we are and make recommendations (big and small) that can take us to a better place. Sure, some of what we recommended was purely aspirational, but if the Dean gets the Powerball jackpot, you never know what is possible….

(Liz Stillman)

Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Program Evaluation | Permalink


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