Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Academic and Bar Support Scholarship Spotlight

This week in scholarship.

1. Benjamin Afton Cavanaugh (St. Mary's), The Next Generation Professional: An Opportunity to Reframe Legal Education to Center Student Wellness, 51 Hofstra L. Rev. 775 (2023).  

From the introduction:

Legal education has a serious design problem. The current rigorous design of legal education breeds depression, imposter syndrome, anxiety, and problems with substance abuse. The outcome of these issues is that too many graduates are not ready “for effective, ethical, and responsible participation as members of the legal profession” because their mental well-being is at an all-time low following graduation and preparation for the bar exam. Law schools across the nation need to undertake a self-evaluation of how to marry the rigor needed to prepare their students for law practice with the necessity of ensuring graduates leave the academic world with a strong sense of themselves as legal professionals and in a healthy state of mental wellness. This self-evaluation starts with being honest about how far programs geared at wellness can really go in resolving the impact the design of law school has on students....

Part II of this Article discusses the design of legal education as a disease that law schools have largely focused on treating the symptoms of rather than doing the hard work of identifying the disease and seeking to cure it. Though the problems with legal education have long been discussed, this Article calls into questions the practice of treating the symptoms rather than addressing the problems head on. Part III examines two change agents—the American Bar Association’s (“ABA”) revisions to Standard 303 and the NextGen Bar Exam—as the drivers to finally identify the diseased aspects of the legal curriculum design and make changes with these looming shifts in mind. Part IV presents an approach to evaluating and changing the first-year law school curriculum that centers student wellness. It lays out a path for law schools to adopt changes to the system of legal education that would shift the focus from treating symptoms of a bad design to resolving the bad design itself. Every law school has different considerations for their student population, a different mission, and different driving goals that should factor into such decisions. The purpose of this Article is not to suggest the method described is the only way forward, but to demonstrate how student wellness can be a core consideration in curriculum design. Thus, Part IV posits that the focus on molding law students for practice should rely on building well-being into the curriculum design rather than putting the onus totally on students to incorporate well-being into their professional identity formation.

2.  DeVito, Scott (Jacksonville), The Kids Are Definitely Not All Right: An Empirical Study Establishing a Statistically Significant Negative Relationship Between Receiving Accommodations in Law School and Passing the Bar Exam, 102 Oregon L. Rev. 1 (2023).

From the abstract:

Many factors can influence whether a person passes the bar examination on their first attempt. One factor that should not is whether that person has a “disability” that would mandate reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. Unfortunately, before the publication of this Article, there has been no publicly available data that could be used to assess the relationship between receiving accommodations and passing the bar examination. To begin to remedy this absence of data, the author filed public records requests with sixty public law schools seeking information as to the number of students accommodated by each law school for the years 2019, 2020, and 2021. This data was then analyzed to see whether the percentage of accommodated students at a law school was correlated with bar passage rates. This analysis shows that there is a statistically significant negative relationship between the percentage of a law school’s student body who received accommodations and the school’s bar pass rate (controlling for other relevant factors). In other words, the more accommodated students a school has, the lower its bar passage rate will be.

[Posted by:  Louis Schulze, FIU Law]




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