Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Bard:  Law Schools As Baskin Robbins? Disentangling Correlation From Causation In Addressing Curriculum Challenges

BRJennifer S. Bard (Dean, Cincinnati), Disentangling Correlation from Causation in Addressing the Contemporary Challenges of the Law School Curriculum:

The disconnect between the actual curriculum of law schools in the United States meeting the ABA Standards for Accreditation and the multiple calls to reform that curriculum in order to create “practice ready” lawyers and increase bar passage is national in its scope and has led to considerable tension both in and out of the academy. I wrote this piece, Not Your Parents' Law School, last February to put the balance of classroom and experiential learning in context, but the on-going calls to increase bar passage, lower costs, cut a year out of the curriculum, and increase hands-on skills instruction continue to create a climate of considerable dissonance. If that wasn't hard enough, we are trying to address these issues in an environment where everyone involved has not just their own opinion, but their own facts. Baskin Robbins wouldn't launch a new flavor based on evidence equal to the paucity of reproducible research that supports either the claims about the scope of legal academe's problems or the proposals for solving them.

Over the next weeks I will highlight the facts in dispute and address this disconnection and dissonance in a way that questions correlative explanations of low bar passage and decreases in employment opportunities.

Legal Education | Permalink


The skills-based training movement was invented by law deans to distract from the concerns regarding costs. No prospective students care about skills based training. Law deans tried to move the conversation in this direction because they are completely unwilling to compromise on cost, especially when it comes to faculty salaries. This has been a red-herring invented by law schools from the get-go. Go ahead and get rid of it if the curriculum reforms are an inconvenience, no one cares.

Posted by: JM | Sep 7, 2016 6:44:24 AM

I'm a huge critic of legal Ed, which has been broken for a long, long time. I really don't think the insiders can fix it. That said, I'm not sure that any of the proposed changes (other than mandatory residencies a la the trainee solicitor model plus more Required writing projects). have any merit at all.

I write only to point out that the glaring hole in this ill reasoned article is that there is a paucity of research supporting the validity of the Langdellian model too! Legal educators have little to do with actual law and even less to do with educational methods.

Langdell survives as the flavor vanilla, the first consensus approach agreed upon in the 19th century. It is not the status quo because it is a great methodology. Rather, it is the dominant methodology because it is status quo.

Posted by: Jojo | Sep 7, 2016 6:12:29 AM