Paul L. Caron

Saturday, June 9, 2007

New Study: "Law School Has a Corrosive Effect on the Well-Being, Values, and Motivation of Students"

Kennon M. Sheldon (Department of Psychology, University of Missouri-Columbia) & Lawrence S. Krieger (College of Law, Florida State) have published Understanding the Negative Effects of Legal Education on Law Students: A Longitudinal Test of Self-Determination Theory, 33 Pers. & Soc. Psychol. Bull. 883 (2007).  Here is the abstract:

Longitudinal studies suggest that , ostensibly because of its problematic institutional culture. In a 3-year study of two different law schools, the authors applied self-determination theory's (SDT) dynamic process model of thriving to explain such findings. Students at both schools declined in psychological need satisfaction and well-being over the 3 years. However, student reports of greater perceived autonomy support by faculty predicted less radical declines in need satisfaction, which in turn predicted better well-being in the 3rd year and also a higher grade point average, better bar exam results, and more self-determined motivation for the first job after graduation. Institution-level analyses showed that although students at both schools suffered, one school was perceived as more controlling than the other, predicting greater difficulties for its students. Implications for SDT and for legal education are discussed.

From the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog (Are Law Students Emotional Wrecks?):

The problem with most law schools, the authors write, is that they place little emphasis on hiring faculty members with proven records of teaching excellence. Instead, they tend to “emphasize theoretical scholarship and the teaching of legal theory, and many hire and reward faculty primarily based on scholarly potential and production,” say the authors. Observers suggest, they add, “that such priorities and processes train students to ignore their own values and moral sense, undermine students’ sense of identity and self-confidence, and create cynicism.”

See also the Chronicle of Higher Education (The Maddening Effects of Law School).

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