Here it is in a nutshell. There is empirical evidence that Washington & Lee’s experiential 3L curriculum
is delivering a significantly better education to 3L
students—significantly better than prior graduating classes at W&L,
and significantly better than W&L’s primary competitors. Moreover,
at a time when total law school applicants are on the decline, W&L’s
getting more than its historical share of applicants and getting a much
higher yield. When many schools are worried about revenues to survive
next year and the year after, W&L is worried about creating the
bandwidth needed to educate the surplus of students who enrolled in the
fall of 2012, and the backlog of applicants that the school deferred to
the fall of 2013. ...
Alas, now we know: There is a market for high quality legal education.
It consists of college graduates who don’t want to cast their lot with
law schools who cannot guarantee students entree to meaningful practical
training. Some might argue that W&L is not objectively better --
that the 3L curriculum is a marketing ploy where the reality falls well
short of promotional materials and that, regardless, prospective
students can't judge quality.
Well, in fact there is substantial evidence that the W&L 3L program
delivers comparative value. The evidence is based on several years'
worth of data from the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE). I received permission from Professor James Moliterno,
someone who took a leadership role in building W&L’s third year
program, to share some of the key results (each school controls access
to its LSSSE data.). ...
There are three takeaways from this blog post:
- A sizeable number of prospective students really do care about
practical skills training and are voting with their feet. W&L has
therefore become a big winner in the race for applicants.
- W&L's 3L experiential curriculum is substantial improvement over
the curriculum W&L offered in 2004 and 2008; moreover, there is
room for even more improvement.
- There is substantial evidence that W&L, with some modest focused
energy on the curriculum, is now offering a better educational
experience than its peer schools -- albeit, the current grade is a "B"
at best for W&L and likely lower for the rest of us. We all,
therefore, have a lot of work to do.
The example of the Washington & Lee
3L experiential year ought to be a watershed for legal education. We can no
longer afford to ignore data. Through
LSSSE, high quality comparative data are cheap and comprehensive. And that information, as we have seen, can
significantly improve the value of a legal education.