Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Law School Innovation by Phil Weiser and Bryce Wilson

Last week, I talked about some of the innovative classes at the University of Colorado.  Following this up, here is a report written by the dean and a student concerning a roundtable on legal education reforms and how those reforms are being implemented at UC.

Law School Innovation by Phil Weiser and Bryce Wilson.  A sampling:

"On January 4, 2016, as part of its ongoing commitment to exploring law school innovation, Silicon Flatirons brought together thought leaders from academia, private practice, in-house legal departments, and alternative legal service providers to evaluate what is known about this changing education model and what important work lies ahead. Prior discussions hosted by Silicon Flatirons grappled with different elements of the law school innovation opportunity and the “Law 2.0” movement more generally. For this session, in order to develop a foundation for a specific set of reforms to legal education, the Roundtable participants focused on ongoing research efforts and data-driven analyses."

"Law schools and legal professionals have traditionally failed—outside of grades—to articulate specific learning outcomes that predict professional success."

"The Roundtable participants analyzed four principal data sources. First, Alexia Brunet Marks and Scott Moss, Professors of Law at University of Colorado Law School, discussed their findings on holistic admissions and how new metrics can better predict who will succeed in law school. Second, Gallup presented research assessing which educational experiences lead to law school satisfaction and successful career engagement. Third, participants discussed data from the Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers (“ETL”) initiative of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (“IAALS”) that focused on the importance of professional skills (as opposed to other competencies) to employers. Finally, Bill Henderson, Professor of Law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, presented a competency model for how lawyers develop and how law firms should recruit and train lawyers."

"Nonetheless, despite growing evidence that professional skills matter significantly in determining success, too few programs train employees for such skills and too few employers seek to hire employees based on them."

" In short, the research presented and discussed below provides support for the importance of non-GPA-related factors in law school and post-graduation success. Given the importance of experiences that raise the level of professionalism, readiness, and trust with employers, law schools need to think hard about how to design the law school experience."

"This report proceeds in five parts. After this Introduction, Part II reviews the research noted above, highlighting which competencies are most significant in predicting success in law school and the workplace. Part III evaluates strategies for developing key competencies, and Part IV discusses the importance of an ongoing dialogue between law schools and employers. Part V offers a short conclusion."

"V. Conclusion
With a changing legal landscape, the role of legal education needs to change. Unfortunately, many law schools remain locked into a traditional model that is starting to break under growing pressure. Advancements and innovations taking place at Colorado Law and elsewhere are an important phase in the process of bringing legal education in step with developments in the marketplace.

The promise of increased data collection and analysis about the critical competencies that best predict successful careers by law school graduates can point the way to data-driven innovations. The data discussed at the Roundtable suggests that law schools and employers can—and, in some cases, are starting to—determine value by using non-conventional indicators. As Henderson commented at the Roundtable, “It takes just as long to do selection badly as it does todo it well. So just do it well.” In the future, law schools will be able to innovate beyond admissions and developing competency-based learning pedagogies, thereby improving on their ability to select and prepare students for post-graduation employment. This process will take time, but over the next 5-10 years, those law schools and employers who move in this direction will be rewarded for getting out in front of a changing landscape."

(Scott Fruehwald)


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