Monday, July 28, 2014

University of North Texas Dallas College of Law: A New Law School with the Right Attitude

There have been several articles recently on the University of North Texas Dallas College of Law's success in recruiting students.  (herehere, here)  While the school expected about 350 applications, it received over 600, and approximately 140 students have enrolled with about a month to go before classes start.   This success is probably due to the low in-state tuition and fees: $14,540 a year.  Notably, the school does not give merit scholarships to attract students with high LSATs and GPAs.  Such scholarships have been harshly criticized by several studies and commentators, including on this blog.  (e.g., here, here, here)

What impresses me most about this law school is its commitment to skills training.  Last summer, I had a long phone conversation with North Texas's associate dean, Ellen Pryor.  She had been calling legal education experts throughout the country to get their views on how her school could use the lessons of recent legal education scholarship.

The school seems dedicated to following the lessons of legal education reform.  The message from the dean, Royal Furgeson, states:

"Our goal is to be a teaching law school, concentrating on student learning, but with a different vision of what that means. For one thing, in the first year and beyond, your courses will include periodic feedback and assessments during the course, not the usual single test at the end of each semester. This will help you know how well you are learning the material, and how to improve.  It also will help us monitor how effectively we are teaching. We don’t want anyone to fall behind if we can prevent it."  (here)

He continues:

"Another goal is for you to spend as much time as possible "doing" law, and not just studying law. Most of our upper level courses will have a "lab" component in which you will apply the subject matter of the course through activities that law practice involves. We also will have opportunities for you to work with and be mentored by practicing lawyers."

The chancellor, Lee Jackson writes:

"It’s a good time to discuss how to balance the two factors—conceptual analysis and practical skills—that are required to practice law for the benefit of society. And we’re committed to an innovative curriculum that will stress rigorous analysis of the principles and precedents that form our legal system, with an equal commitment to the practical application of that knowledge. We want to produce graduates who are ready to apply their skills after hands-on experience in the real world of legal practice."  (here)

Elsewhere, the website states:

"We offer an innovative approach to legal education.

We are a new law school, with a fresh emphasis on learning by doing. We utilize the best instructional practices, offer engaged, experiential and collaborative learning, and provide ongoing assessment for our students. Since sound legal judgment is cultivated by experience, we give you ample opportunities to do real law. Most of our upper level courses include a “lab” component that applies the subject matter while developing practical competencies. And our students actively participate in practice settings while receiving mentoring and guidance."  (here)

See here for their curriculum plan, which includes mapping--"individual courses and the curriculum as a whole will be designed in a way that links to the full range of practice-related competencies."

I look forward to watching how this law school develops in its early years.  At this point, it is clear that it has a plan to meet the challenges of 21st-century legal education.  Good luck to the administration and faculty of North Texas.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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It's good to see that more and more are seeing through the law school scam. Hopefully more schools switch to this model, a model that helps prepare students to actually be lawyers rather than law professors.

Posted by: Alphonsus Jr. | Jul 28, 2014 11:07:12 AM

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